Sitting in Penn Station, watching the lights flicker. Penn Station, for those who haven't been to New York City, is the ugly sister to beautiful Grand Central. Deprived of eloquence and grandeur, it has all the ambiance of a public lavo. Probably has something to do with the place lacking natural light.


A policeman wearing an orange florescent vest comes by. "Tickets out!" he yells. "Everyone tickets out!"

Some kind of drill? Find the ticketless terrorists? Or harassment of the homeless?

"TICKETS OUT!" he yells.

People shuffle Starbucks coffee, $3.25 ham & cheese croissants, baggage, jackets, young children.

"Can you believe this shit?" says the guy next to me. I turn. Guy is well dressed in a business suit. High class. Well manicured. Black and white watch. Cell phone. Perfect tie. Brief case. Shined & polished. He speaks wealthy in a subtle way. "I'm just fed up with this harrassment," he says. "They treat us like criminals. This guy should be fired."

I fix a half-quirky smile, half blank, noncommittal, though I want to stand up and yell FUCK YAH at the moment.

I turn. "That's interesting to hear the public dissent," I say.
He looks unperturbed.

"As if they'll find who they're looking for like this," he says. "Harassing you and me. I'm so fed up with all this incompetence. It's bureaucratic and inept."

I lean back, as if savouring the commentary. Which I am. But I say nothing. Who was this guy?

The cop meanwhile has found one passed out man, umbrella, hat, without a ticket. Undoubtedly homeless. He exits quickly and says he is "heading to his track." Cop does not follow.

The businessman goes back to checking his cell phone. Rapidly. A few minutes later he gets up and leaves. I raise my Starbucks to him and smile but he doesn't seem to notice.

Well. Public dissent? Effect of the Democratic election results? Or CIA man -- FBI agent?

Well placed too: the cops come in for the sweep. A well-dressed citizen with no bones of expressing opinion sits next to a well-dressed but brightly-coloured youth with no qualms of transgressing NYC's uniform of black and grey. Sound out the populace. Perhaps I was the target. A good entrapment plan.

Can't say too much in the States as a foreign citizen.
Caught in the paradox of fear, then. Can't express support. F is for faked. Fooled?

I think about all this, the fear, the paranoia, not of the cop but of a willingness to speak in public. This citizen was probably some radical in his day -- or just an intelligent man of business well and truly able to see the incompetent strategies deployed on a daily basis. NYC is Dem territory, after all.

My eyes open. Still in Penn Station. A kid collapses into the seat across of me. Red eyes, grey NIKE hoodie, big jeans. Kinda' damp looking. He smiles at nobody and I kind of catch his smile. For reasons unknown all is known and we chuckle.

"You made it," I say. I lift my cup in salute.
"Fuck yah I can't believe it I've been up all night and man I am wasted."
He says.

We talk a bit. He's going to Saratoga Springs, on my train. He's a little confused. Never taken the train before.

"I got in last night see, midnight."
I nod, sip.
"But my train doesn't leave until 8 o'clock!"

"Fuck," I say. "What did you do?"
"Walk around."
Wow, I think.

"I ran into some bums. But they were alright! They bought me some 40s. I went and bought some food for them, these guys probably haven't eaten in weeks! We hung out. It was alright."

I wonder if the kid has checked for his wallet yet. He has his ticket, MP3 player in the hoodie pocket, no visible luggage.

"Then I met this hot girl. But she was a lesbian. But she was street smart. I mean holy shit the shit she knew she had it all going on."

The kid has short blond hair. He's probably somewhere around 18. He's passing out second to second.

Our train is called. He's about to see me off but I tell him it's his train too so I bring him along.

"Fuck it's a good thing I run into people like you man, I'd be fucked without people like you."

Kid seems to be doing alright. He's from North Carolina. "Sounds like you had the quintessential New York Experience," I say.

We're split off as he gets to his car. We yell some good riddance and I hope he wakes up for Saratoga Springs -- after that he's got to walk some 10 or 15 miles to get where he's going. He says.


posted. Mon - November 13, 2006 @ 08:30 AM           |