Tag Archives: Mass Transit

On Board #31

Sept. 28, 9:35 a.m.
Northeast Regional, Amtrak, Washington D.C. to New York City

Cindy, I just had to call to tell you something. Have you been to Canal Street? In New York City? I’m going up there, and I’m looking for a Burberry purse, and I thought if I didn’t call you you’d be upset because…have you been back in the secret rooms? Well I was just talking to my girlfriend Sally, and she was telling me about them, and she was saying all these stores have these secret purses in the back, in these secret rooms, and in the secret rooms they have the better quality ones, or something. I thought you’d want to know? Well yeah, they’re probably illegal. Is ther anything you want me to look for, for you? A belt? [To Sally: Do they have belts in the secret rooms, or just purses?]. OK, I’ll look for the belt. Yeah, it sounds too good to be true. Mark will probably be mad, but whatever. Sally? She was up with her two brothers and sisters and she actually had addresses, and she’d walk down the streets stopping at the places she knew were good. They have like these storefront business offices, like a dentist office. I had never heard of it. But the police only want the big dogs, they’re not gonna waste time with these small time dealers.

More details, here. Submit yours to meanderingstalk@gmail.com

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On Board #30

We made it to 30. Keep your submissions coming: meanderingstalk@gmail.com.

Sept. 21, 8:16 p.m.
2 Train – 96th St. to Bergen St.

Kareem – A Drama In One Act

INT. BROOKLYN BOUND 2 SUBWAY TRAIN – EVENING

SUSAN boards the train at 96th Street. She spots an open row and sits next to DONALD, leaving an open seat between them. A 19-year old Asian, about 5’4″, she’s dressed like she’s off  to catch a bus home to suburban New Jersey. DONALD is black and overweight with unkempt dreadlocks. His loose white oxford, the bottom three buttons unhooked, makes him look even bigger. He has several items scattered on the bench – a stack of newspapers, a bag of bamboo shoots, and a once-black backpack – putting a buffer between him and SUSAN.

DONALD turns to SUSAN.

DONALD
Have you ever heard of Kareem Abdul Jabaar?

SUSAN
No.

DONALD
Have you heard of Bruce lee?

SUSAN
Yes.

DONALD
Well, Kareem Abudl-Jabaar taught Bruce Lee everything he knows.

DONALD pauses. SUSAN looks down and away.

DONALD
You don’t believe me? Ask your people. They did a movie. You ever seen Enter the Dragon?

SUSAN
No.

DONALD
You ever seen a Bruce Lee movie?

SUSAN
Yes.

DONALD
No you haven’t, everybody says they have, but they haven’t.

SUSAN
Yes I have.

DONALD
No you haven’t.

SUSAN
When I was a kid.

DONALD
Ohhh when you was a kid. Well, go see this movie, it’s called Enter the Dragon. You’ll see a tall black guy. That’s Kareem Abdul-Jabaar.

They sit in silence for over a minute as the train rumbles on. SUSAN desperately tries to avoid eye contact, wishing she had a book to stare blankly into. The train pulls into Times Square, DONALD collects his things, and departs. SUSAN waits, looks up to where DONALD was, then quickly sneaks out of the car at the same station.

On Board #29

Sept. 21, 3:53 a.m.
Q Train – Herald Square to 7th Avenue

A 50-year old man in an unbuttoned blue work shirt and floppy cap has what may be the very first copy of the Monday New York Times, mildly warm of the press. It’s folded in both hands, resting on top of his lap and beneath a red black and silver mountain bike with a brown leather seat. It’s scratched and dirty, but appears in working order. He nods in and out, and, thankfully, back in, just in time to exit the train at Canal St.

Details here. Send yours to meanderingstalk@gmail.com.

On Board #28

Sept. 14, 11:23 p.m.
4 Train – Grand Central to Atlantic Avenue

The subway is not for the easily shamed, and thankfully for those bored on this late night ride, it does not appear the young white man at the end of the car has any: He’s twisted a white t-shirt around the center pole of the train like a French braid, and – headphones plugged in – is dancing and lip-syncing.

His sports allegiances are mixed, with an all-black Red Sox cap, a black and gold Jordan t-shirt, and black Iversons. If one wants to go there, and I suppose we will, his white tee is perfectly placed as an inappropriate fifth appendage.

He has several dance moves. The thrust is his favorite. While going in and out, his body also vibrates.There is also the splayed fingers, gun-shaped, jostling up and down and pointing in directions unknown. When not thrusting – and sometimes while thrusting – he bobs his head side to side. He rotates around the pole and loses his braid, retying it quickly, but without the braid. The song appears to be at the bridge, and he’s calmed into a slow slide, back an forth.

As the train gets ready to depart Atlantic Avenue he stands in the door, looking out, the white tee bundled in his hand, still thrusting, still lip syncing, not stopping even when the door, his curtain, closes. He’s got other audiences to entertain.

Details here. Send yours to meanderingstalk@gmail.com.

On Board #27

Sept. 4, 8:10 p.m.
167 Bus – Port Authority to Haworth, NJ

The most awe-inspiring view of Manhattan is not from the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Promenade, or the George Washington Bridge. It’s on a bus to New Jersey, after sunset, exiting the Lincoln Tunnel and curving toward Weehawken. It’s a sight whose description wouldn’t do it justice, so that’s all I will say.

The windows on a bus provide this view, distinguish it from the underground subway, and help alleviate an otherwise painfully boring ride. Unlike a subway, you can only see, at best, 6 or 8 people from your seat. On an off peak bus, like the one I’m on now, there’s far fewer.

In this case, there’s only one, an older woman, about 58 years old. She’s got a large black purse in the seat next to her, which is fine because the 60-person bus has just under two dozen passengers. She’s reading what at first appears to be a newspaper but turns out to be a circular for a grocery store. She has a black ballpoint pen and is circling items beneath the garish light above.

But, again, you can see outside. An armory. A group of men eating at the corner table of a Burger King. A corner store with it’s door open. A middle school. Two people investigating the menu outside of a Chinese restaurant, then entering. A barely-lit church. A full 7/11 parking lot. A Walgreens offering a gallon of milk for 2.79.

The woman puts a navy blue blazer on over her drywall-colored top (with, it must be noted, a rather plunging neckline) and pulls another circular from her purse. She has two bags, both black, one sitting on the floor.

She yawns.

I request my stop, the sign telling me to walk alertly. Innumerable homes with no lights on. A cul de sac.  A baseball field. When I exit she’s the only one left on the bus: in a bus of 25, half the rows unfilled, we had sat in the same row throughout the ride. There’s only one stop left. I know where she’s going, and, if she cares, she knows where I am.

Send your On Board submissions to meanderingstalk@gmail.com

On Board #26

Sept. 16, 9:48 a.m.
Q Train – 7th Avenue to Times Square

Few human beings do blank stares quite like toddlers, and this particular toddler’s got a particularly blank one beneath his curly brown hair. He barely responds when Mom hands him a toy school bus, instinctively lifting his left hand to grab it but not moving his gaze. In his right hand he lazily holds a sippy cup at just enough of an angle so that there isn’t a pool of milk on the floor.

His mother is young and well heeled, her hair in shades of Jackie O and her pale blue trench and silver watch distinctly Fifth Avenue.

His head now rolls from side to side, though there’s no more look of comprehension in his eyes. He does have two moments of excitement, one as he stretches beneath the straps of his stroller to glimpse at a man loudly selling Rubik’s Cubes out of a cardboard box, and later, several stops into the ride, when he realizes he’s on a train of sorts and cries out, almost inaudibly, “choo choo.”

Submit your On Board stories to meanderingstalk@gmail.com.

On Board #25

Sept. 13, 11:04 a.m.
2 Train – Bergen St. to Fulton St.

A gym bag and bagel with cream cheese – an incongruous combo if ever there was, though their owner, a young man seems to have enjoyed a few more bagels than sweaty trainig session. But with a piece of coffee cake sitting in one’s own bag, who’s to judge?

Certainly not the three young women who look like they’ve never seen a meal they couldn’t satisfy with a Nutri-Grain bar. All three are pretty, as is the red head’s mother, who has taken on a classic matronly look but her toes – painted the same magenta as another woman’s Dunkin Donuts cup – suggest a different past. They look primed for a shopping trip, and one wonders if the black rolling bag is for someone’s trip home or to accomodate a few dresses and shoes. A conversation:

He tells stories like an old man.

He’s kind of boring.

He just bought a house.

I don’t know how old he is.

I can’t remember how they met.

And he’s short.

It’s amazing what happens when you fall in love.

Details here. Send your stories to meanderingstalk@gmail.com.