New York Stories: A Few of My Favorite Things

Submitted by illuminator on September 2, 2003 - 10:11am

January, 1996

Yesterday, I was heading home from seeing a client at TRS. Torrential, windy rain was melting the snow from the Blizzard

of the Century, threatening to create the Flood of the Century. I stepped gingerly down the subway stairs, carefully avoiding iced spots while holding down the fake fur-lined hood of my drenched coat over my head.

Standing on the crowded 34th Street subway platform, I settled into the wait for the F train that would take me to 14th Street and my transfer to the "L"a quick shot from the east to the west side of town. I started thinking about some of my favorite things in NYC.

Inspirationright there, undergroundwhile I watched trains race by at amazing speeds in both directions on the three or four other tracks beyond the one where my train was soon to arrive. What a turn on, standing close to these speeding subway trains.

I felt the tremendous force that propels the trains, commanding respect and caution, an energy so very much bigger and physically more powerful than I. It reminded me of the force of nature in its ability to have its way, so convincing that it knows what is best.

I am always mesmerized by the sight of the blurring profiles of people seated on the trains going by. All those people, so oblivious to their audiences on the station platforms as they sit, stand, read, stare and doze. So vulnerable and trusting they look, whizzing by, giving over their lives to the engineering of that tremendous force that is to get them to their destination.

My visual sensations were suddenly heightened by a wonderful olfactory one that I have noticed before in this same setting. It was the scent of aftershave on the man standing beside me. It never matters who the man is. In this particular instance, it was a very professional looking African-American man, wearing a black cashmere-looking wool dress coat.

One time, it was an Asianshort, clean-shaven fellow, wearing a baseball jacketwhose aftershave turned my head. I suppose that the brand of lotion has more to do with it than the man wearing it. It must be something close to Old Spice like my Gramps wore, or Aqua Velvamy father's usuala scent which instantly triggers warm, cozy feelings of safety and securityof being loved.

The speed thing didn't surprise me. Many years ago, when my life was full of more illusions than realities, this near-fetish became identifiable. During the dating period with my eventual ex-husband, we drove many fast miles in his British racing green MGT. We had numerous excursions in and around his native Marin Country, Big Sur, the Wine Country and "the Motherload" of northern California.

Roaring through tunnel or over a covered bridges, I could not restrain myself from squealing with delight at the sound of the amplified, mufflered engine roar of the sports car. A close second to this auditory turn-on for me was to hear a few of the lowest notes of a tenoror basssaxophone.

These sensations filled my ten to fifteen minute wait, replacing impatience with pleasureall there, on the subway platform. The L train arrived and my emersion into sights, sounds and scents ended abruptly.

Suddenly, I was carried by a stampeding herd of commuterssomething similar-to-but-not-quite-like the body-moving crowd maneuver at rock concertsinto the subway car. I was jarred into a jumble of unpleasant sensations while being shoved into standing room only.

Halitosis wafted from a man who resembled the Russian cabbie who rushed me over to 32nd Street that morning. I was further distracted by a peculiar, annoying mildew smell. Once I stepped off the train at 14th Street and began to walk through the muggy subway catacombs to transfer to the "L," I realized that the unpleasant odor was from the damp fake fur on my coat hood.

One more train and only one more stop, I climbed up the stairs and out onto 14th Street and 6th Avenue. Streets were flooded from the torrents of rain, worsened by clogged storm drains and stray garbage left from the latest dumpster drivers' strike. I felt like a desperate dog, attempting to cross at any intersection, pacing back and forth to find the least treacherous, shallowest gutter over which to step.

Each attempt to cross meant a deeper dunking of my boots, proving them unworthy of their waterproof guarantee. At one curb I stepped into a foot-deep gutter river that forced its entry and dirty water into my boots through the dissapointing, spineless zipper.

Walking home the last few blocksdrenched coat and sweater, squishy boots, soggy socks, smelly hoodI thought that I would think about of my favorite NYC things, another day.