July 29, 10:00 a.m.
Q Train – 7th Avenue to Times Square
He waits for the train to pass. It’s especially noisy right now, at 9:55 am, as two B trains pass in opposite directions.
So the busker waits, then pricks his guitars in the opening notes of a bluegrass ditty. He’s sitting on a three-legged drum seat, no drum set in sight. He has shaggy blonde hair with a few dozen strands hanging down over his eyes and a dozen more forking off from his sideburns out over his brown glasses.
Another train, a Q, passes on the opposite platform. He pauses.
He’s in a red plaid shirt and holds his guitar on his lap, resting on jeans torn at the right knee. A Manhattan bound Q approaches. He looks up from his guitar and stops playing.
The train is crowded this morning, but there’s no music. There is one man with a bike, an older bike, splotchy silver coating and 12 speeds. He forces it to the side as several women depart at Atlantic St., then apologizes for hitting another rider with the right handlebar while accommodating a boarding stroller.
Two vehicles – the bike and the stroller – now squeeze against one door in the car. The bike is owned by a tall black man, made to look taller by the peak of the black bandanna covering his head, an accessory the extends seamlessly southward into a full black beard that cascades into a three inch waterfall of hair raggedly cascading off his chin. He wears a black and gray and white camouflage t-shirt and classic blue jeans, no wash or stylings, cuffed two inches above his tan, low-rise work boots. White shin-length socks peek between the gap. He has long fingernails, two centimeters beyond his right thumb, and a dark green cell phone pouch attached to a fraying messenger bag strap. In the middle of his camouflage shirt, there is a color picture of a green bird in a forest walking by a sign that reads, cryptically, ‘KUKUS’.
We cross over the Manhattan Bridge and he pulls out his phone, which doubles as a walkie talkie. He makes a call, seeming to notify someone, somewhere, of his location. His phone tweets a minute later and he pulls it out, looks at it, but then places it back in it’s worn pouch.
By now, the woman with the stroller is seated. It’s a bulky stroller, but not unreasonably fancy. She is Hispanic and wears a white t-shirt and jeans. Her baby looks comfortable, reclined in a nearly horizontal position, raised just enough to expose spiky hair sticking straight up. He mauls a pacifier, and looks up and around with seemingly no expression. His mom sits, seemingly quite happy with something. She’s well prepared: a bottle, a few toys in the basket beneath, a baby-blue cotton blanket draped over the handle that matches the dark blue stroller and the navy blue shirt the child wears.
They exit at Canal St., and one stop later the bike is gone as well. It leaves a large open space in what was once a loosely-packed sardine can of a car. Now, only a young Asian woman, probably Chinese, stands in the door well. She’s dressed for this strangely cool New York summer, a short-sleeved button down shirt that nadirs in a sharp V just above her waist. It’s in pastel plaid, with lime green and baby blue and magenta and peppercorn – and a light brown thrown in for some earth tone. Her cuffed jeans, designed by Lucky and all-white Chuck Taylors suggest either work or play today. She has her earbuds plugged in and, like many this morning, appears to be staring off at nothing. As I leave the train at 42nd Street, she remains immobile, lodged in the corner of the door and the hand rail, barely having moved a step since I first saw her, after the bike and stroller were gone.