The slow Friday haul home from Jamaica turns to fits and starts just beyond Roosevelt, and by Manhattan, two trains ahead of us are stalled. We creep south in increments, and grind to a halt at 23rd. I get off the train, grab a coffee, hit the bank, and walk down to 14th. On the platform, some poor sod strumming a guitar plays the same chord over and over and over, and affects a Neil Young whine. I love Neil Young, but this is relentless. The song goes nowhere endlessly. The longest more cheerless subway song in history. .At the same time, a ragged man beside me walks from the bench by the wall forward to the edge of the tracks, and shuffles backwards back again, Forwards, back, forwards back, like an animal half-mad, bound to repeat its movements in a too small cage in perpetuity.
When it finally comes, the train is teeming, and the atmosphere inside more anchovy than sardine. It's so crowded even the familiar vet. panhandler "I'm homeless and I'm hungry ..." can barely make his way along the car, and his voice, like the singer's, has a grinding, monotonous register. It feels like a ride from hell. Next to me a European tourist talks softly to his friend in a language I don't recognize, every so often breaking the flow with English - "Greenwich Veeeledge, "Madeeson Square Park", the "Brookleeen Bridge."
This is how the weekend begins.