Even your emotions have an echo in so much space [...]. Come on now, who do you
Who do you, who do you, who do you think you are? Ha, ha, ha bless your soul. You really think you're in control? -Crazy (originally performed by Gnarles Barkley)
"The words of the prophet are written on the subway walls.." -Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel
I will attempt to list most of the crazy incidents that I have been witness to on the subway. This compilation is due to the fact that I seem to magnetize crazy people, and they literally seek me out. I think it's largely because I am partially crazy myself, and you know what, I embrace it. Hell yea, it feels good to be a little crazy! (in a good way)
The following piece is an homage to those interesting people who pass me by all the time and often go unnoticed in a city where being a little 'touched in the head' is the water we drink and air we breathe in. All of the following pieces are bits from various observations I've made and recall of run-ins with the unusual.
One time while I was standing on the platform, I saw an older man with white hair, perhaps in his 60's, who was doing Tai-Chi (is it?) He looked at me on the opposite side of the platform for the uptown Bronx bound B train, while I stood on the downtown Brooklyn bound side. But, what the hell was he doing? He was moving his arms and hands around in small circles, positioning his feet in a way that totally weirded me out. Thank goodness he was far away! How many times has this exact thing happened? I'm here, the weirdo over there. Or am I also the weirdo, and 'they' stare at me thinking what I am about them.
Always while waiting for a train or while actually on the subway, I see the weirdest shit possible. I always wonder if anyone else is watching but me? Now that I live here, in New York, it's like a cattle call, open casting audition for lunatics. Like how taxi and car services send a dispatch for waiting customers. Or, how day laborers sit on a bench waiting for that job to get their daily pay stub to feed their family.
Just in the past few days, I've seen a hell of a lot. Yesterday evening, while waiting for the Q, I saw a man dressed nicely in a white button down shirt, black dress shoes, nice dress slacks, and a chapeau. He kept laughing and going 'ehh ahh ecch ahh' in the back of his throat. He was holding a conversation with someone who wasn't there. He kept looking at people, standing on the opposite platform, standing around him, pointing and laughing. He kept moving his eyebrows up and down opening his eyes wide. His smile was eerie, his laugh a little sinister. He kept this performance up on the train as well. The yuppies around me told themselves that if this man came near them, they'd drop kick him onto the tracks.
Then, the other day, I saw a rapping transexual. She was dressed in a tight leopard print skirt, some colorful print stockings, and a tight fitting shiny top. She was colorful, wore lots of clinky jewelry, and had bright red hair. Her face had lots of piercings and she wore spikey heels. Everyone looked at her because they could tell she wasn't 'truly' a woman in their opinion. To me, she was 'born this way'; I didn't really care. The thing is, if she were born a woman, this outfit would be considered outlandish (though the transexual part is beside the point). What made this woman stand out was the fact that she was hardcore rapping. When I say hardcore, I mean every other word was a cuss word. She was gangsta rapping using swears and rapping overtly sexual lyrics. The woman next to me was offended because there might be kids around and didn't like the language. I agreed. Then on the train, I had a conversation with an African American woman about how this transexual rapper needed to be on stage. It was so entertaining to watch her, the outfit combined with her low voice and choice of lyrics. She was a good rapper too, very talented.
The day before this, I was on a G train on the way to an interview. I was late. The reason? A woman (crazy) decided to threaten to jump in front of the train. So, they had to stop the train and call the police. They had to contain us inside the car without opening the door for at least 15-20 minutes. The woman also threw a jacket on top of the train car. She muttered something about the enemy putting a computer/laser control device in her head. She had to get away before her mind was taken over, before it was too late. These are the facts I gathered from the subway control operator and other passerbys.
That's not all though! One time, I saw a man open a gym bag, only to reveal a three foot Boa Constrictor. As soon as the snake came out of the bag, the man started slapping/petting the snake. People freaked out and moved away to one side of the subway car. I couldn't believe it when I saw it. My mouth/jaw dropped wide open. I couldn't believe that I was seeing a snake on the subway. Forget snakes on a plane, man! What is even more hilarious is that this man was selling exotic animals on his phone. He had alligators, lizards, other snakes, and iguanas. Not all in the bag though. They were on his farm somewhere upstate. He was handing out his name and phone number for people interested in buying his pets. Unbelievable!! That's not all, though. As I went upstairs to Union Square, the Occupy Wall Street protesters were making noise and attracting a crowd. Then, I saw a woman, bare breasted (with no shirt) taking pictures/video of people walking around her (who were mostly taking pictures/video of her). She also had a moustache drawn on her upper lip and a blonde wig! Performance art? Or was she just another crazy person?
Here's the thing! Sometimes, I imagine a room, maybe padded, where the world's crazies wait and then...'Calling all nuts and weirdos..here comes Charlie!..calling all nuts...Charlie is walking down 14th and Broadway..send out 'Screaming Jesus' or 'Psychedelic Suzie'. It's like the movie 'Running Man', a 1980's not quite cult classic with Arnold Schwarzenegger as the star. The basic premise is that he is placed in a game/reality show for criminals (though he and his delinquent friends are all innocent due to being framed by host Richard Dawson). 'The Terminator' has to battle different characters including an opera singing fat guy in an electric suit. I've digressed from the main point here, but I feel like the governor of California when I walk through the subway. I'm minding my business and all of a sudden a Chinese man in a hockey suit is blocking my path toward safety.
Best subway rides of all time:
C) Female preaching how females wearing pants is against the Bible, and she knows because it's right next to the prohibition on homosexuals (which she also talks about). Then, she starts telling everyone how to pray, not to Allah, Hashem (which I think she pronounces like Hashish), or Mary but to the big J-man. There were many older people on the train, and she said that for them, time was slipping away fast. They had, five, maybe ten good years left on them, describing these senior citizens like they are a vacuum cleaner or a washing machine. She pointed to them, especially, making them more aware of Jesus (did I mention there was a man sitting by her with a Bible making sure she was quoting it correctly?), but more importantly what they knew already, that they were going to die. In the words of Stephanie Tanner from 'Full House': HOW RUDE!
R) Oh, and how can I forget the woman asking for money for food. She was an older woman, too rouged up in old sweats. Maybe a power walker going on some errands or a love sick Jane Fonda workout groupie. She looked like she had been jogging for the last fifteen years. She started bending down like she was trying to sit in an invisible chair. She had her eyes closed and kept doing it slowly, over and over again. I thought that maybe she was delirious and tired from hunger, or perhaps she would just keel over right there. Maybe she was sick. She just kept rising an falling like that in a tiresome, repetitive motion. She was like this sad, slow, old elevator. Then, she just stopped, departed, and went on her merry way.
A) Then, what about this one woman who was opening and closing her mouth wide and stretching her fingers. She was tapping her nose and moving her hands and wrist like she was drumming for a band only she could hear. I watched her for the duration of my subway ride. I suppose that she had some tics, but it was beyond something one can just ignore. Was she a marionette?
Z) Or, the guy who preached that homosexuality was a conspiracy of evil and sent by aliens to corrupt us. We should all be watchful of evil crumbling priests who are really robots in disguise. Or, something along those lines. I lost his train of logic after he mentioned homosexuals and aliens.
Y) The famous one that I tell all the time, is of this Indian looking guy with most of his teeth missing. He had wiry, gray hair and was wearing beach wear for what was now mid-November. He was rocking back and forth very fervently like he was in an Orthodox synagogue. I was watching him closely to make sure he didn't get close to the group I was with. I got on the subway car, and watched our guy to make sure he didn't get in with us. He did one better than that. As the car was pulling away, he started moving toward it. He looked right at me and waved. I looked around in a state of confusion. He pointed his bony finger at me, smiled a wry, toothless grin and waved again. Then he started saying something emphatic as if we knew each other for years. I was astounded at this expression of gratitude, like I was a god of craziness and he was merely paying homage.
What is it about me and crazy people? Sometimes I think that other people on the subway look at me and stare thinking, wow, look at that guy. OR, maybe crazies flock to me because they feel safe, like I'd understand them and their plight. Maybe that I landed off of the same spaceship they did. Well, at least they aren't me, and next to me their flaring shit for brains space antics are barely noticeable. All of these people who I've seen that I classify as deranged either talk to themselves in muli-harmony voices, look like they might erupt with violent outbursts, or dress like they selected their wardrobe in a blackout.
I don't know why so-called batshit crazy people flock to me. Since, I've moved to NYC, it seems I always have some story involving public transit though. Like the time I was on the bus and this man going to the hospital could barely stand up, let alone keep his pants up, because he was so drunk. Then, the time that the subway got delayed because someone got sick and passed out. That isn't the bizarre part though; Right before the authorities came, everyone was crowding on the platform and there was this woman trying to box fight this guy for no apparent reason other than being annoyed that he was trying to sell candy bars on the train. By the way, this prize fighting woman looked just like Flavor Flav's little sister!
I also recall the guy who had too much to drink the night before. I was on the train with my brother-in-law at the time of this incident, so he can vouch for it's authenticity. The drunken party guy was eating Funions and not very gracefully might I add. He was playing darts with the chips and his mouth, and losing badly. He also was drinking something out of a paper bag, and I guess it was of the alcoholic variety. He began to pass out and spill beer all over himself while also slumping on my brother-in-law. My brother-in-law told me that as we got off the train, to get up slowly so that he'd spring release the drunk onto the seat. As we did, he spilled bear all over himself, but did not wake out of his drug induced/drunken stupor.
I figure that in New York, dressing like it's Halloween when it's March or dancing and singing in a line a the post office or Associated supermarket like it's an American Idol audition just adds to the flavor of this place. Why not tell the checkout girl that you're so angry that you'll blow the place up? By the way, all of the suggested scenarios have happened to me in some shape or form. Right now, you're probably scratching your head, going Oh shit, this guy really does have a crazy magnet.
When does the noticeably idiosyncratic get abrasive and plain terrifying though? Once, when I was on the subway, and it was packed to the brim during rush hour. About five or six kids thought it would be funny to get into the car, begin talk/beat boxing/rapping very loudly and treating the car like their own personal mosh pit. Then, they were telling obscene jokes and commenting on various women's (on the train) anatomy while telling anyone who challenged them to 'shut the fuck up'. I think I have a pretty high tolerance for erratic behavior. But, in that situation, even I made sure to alert the MTA woman, hanging out the window of the train, as I walked off the train.
All my life, no matter how or where I travel, I'm followed by some strange individual who wants to reach out and embrace me with 31 flavors of insanity. The person always looks me in the eye as if acknowledging that I'd understand my compatriots' point of view. Sometimes, I really do wonder if these people see me and think, "Wow he's crazier than I am! That makes me feel much better.
I embrace my craziness. I know it takes one to know one. I also dedicate this post to my dear friend, Mary. She understands this concept and we are kindred souls, peas out of the same pod. Mary, I wouldn't change my artsy fartsy crazy ways for anything in the world! Embrace your crazy!!
Crazy is as crazy does,
Note to crazy people (in a sarcastic tone): Leave me alone. The joke's not funny anymore. Don't speak, look, terrorize, or bother me. Go find some Wall Street suit or German tourist. Let's make a deal; take your technicolor hallucination fantasy that you really are Abraham Lincoln and go enlist in a Civil War reenactment ceremony.