After spending a lot of time in New York City, people become desensitized to those "only in New York" moments. An immunity to the unusual develops, because you come to expect it.
I never developed that immunity. I still get a little tingle when I come out of the ground and see the daylight-at-nighttime of Times Square, when I hear the hustle and bustle of a Saturday night downtown, when I buy my paper in the morning and wait for the bus to take me across the Triboro bridge, when I see the skyline behind the river a thousand feet below. When I realize it is 11:59 and I go to my window and wait for that last minute when the illuminated Empire State Building flicks off. It's a crowded, frustrating and hateful place, but I still love New York. Sometimes, I even stop and watch the street performers. After you've seen fifty different Silver Robot Men it gets tired, but sometimes there are...people of interest.
The other day I finished up at work and got on the subway. I was tired and irritable, happy to have a seat, making a to-do list and balancing my checkbook in my head. Everyone else was similarly involved in their own minds, expressionless, wrapped in their scarves and absorbed in their reading materials.
The doors opened at 103rd Street, and two dreadlock rastas came on board with their big ass drums and fold-up chairs. They took their seats right there in the middle of the train and announced that they intended to bang their drums for us. Before they started, they gave a little tag-team hype-up for the crowd. Some people looked up from their books. Some people tried to ignore it. But they were having no such thing. The bigger of the two insisted the woman across from me smile. The skinny one pointed out the lovebirds who were grinning ear-to-ear. The big one said something in Hebrew (?) to a young guy in a yarmuckle.
Then the doors closed, and they started banging on those drums. Everyone was at full attention. It was the most compelling display of musical talent I have experienced in a long, long time. The skinny one looked directly at me and smiled the whole time. It seemed exhausting, all that drumming, but to those of us on the train, it was energizing. The train stopped, and there was a moment of applause. I put the change from my pocket in the raggady ass hat as they came around for the tips.
The girl member of the lovebirds put a handful of candy in the hat.
The skinny one took one out, unwrapped it, and ate it immediately. He read the wrapper: "Super Juicy!"
The big one made some comment about love and the beauty of it. Then he said, "You see, it's these gifts that mean the most to us, because there are a million things you can give someone besides money."
No sooner had it all started than they were off to the next car, to entertain another slew of dispondent passengers.
I love New York.