Train Science

I am on my way to my birthday dinner in Manhattan. I enter the subway and get down to the platform just as an F train is pulling into the station. I hop on the train and grab a seat between a couple of white college looking kids and a middle aged black man.

The train has barely left the station when a homeless man enters the car and starts singing a song about chicken.

Kind of.

He is “playing” the harmonica and I can’t really tell what he is saying but it sounds like he is singing the song “Feelings” except every time the word ‘feelings’ should appear, he is using the word ‘chicken.’ It is apparently an appeal for somebody to give him some food.

Typically in this situation I don’t make eye contact, I just look down, which is what I am doing now.

I have my legs crossed and am staring at my knee as the homeless man works his way through the train asking people for money. Of course I was the only one he touched on the knee. I can’t stop staring at my knee praying for something else to happen.

So he passes through our car and moves on to the next. The black man to my right takes this as his cue to rant about how dumb it is to sing about chicken.

I have no iPod with me, no reading materials. I can’t even pretend to be immersed in anything. I had planned to lose myself in self-reflective birthday thoughts, but instead I am suddenly part of a conversation I am not participating in.

The black guy next to me is cracking jokes and being extremely loud about the homeless man who just left the train. He is hitting me on the arm like we are old buddies. It is when I turn to acknowledge him that I smell the hot wind of brandy.

And sure enough he pulls out a fifth of V.S.O.P. wrapped in a black plastic bag and takes a big sip.

I don’t say anything, I just smile politely and nod.

The two white kids to my left however, see this as an opportunity to make a new friend. So now drunk guy on my right, and white kids on my right are talking. The white kids start using slang they hadn’t been using before, saying things like “you gotta do what you gotta do” and using words like “hustle.”

My mouth remains shut. And then the drunk guy starts talking about his career in Mortuary Science.

Yep that’s right, he’s a mortician.

And anybody can do it too. Do you know how I know? Well because my new friend tells me right off the bat that he did ten years in prison before getting his Mortuary Science degree and if he can do it, anybody can do it.

He says other things as well but all I can focus on is the fact that I have never sat this close to anybody who has been to prison.

But he goes on. Being a mortician is quite easy. He shares that all you need to do is take the glue and plug the holes.

It’s just all holes. Nose holes, ear holes, pee holes.

At this point the white kids are just eating this stuff up. I have yet to speak but they are asking all kinds of questions. Where he went to school, when he went to school, etc.

And he's not quiet. He is talking loudly, not yelling exactly, but the train is quiet and his voice carries. And I imagine the rest of the train is just as eager to hear his story as we are.

He then tells us a story about how when you die it is possible to die with an erection. How does our friend know this? Well apparently a girl in his Mortuary Science class got kicked out of school for having sex with a cadaver.

And then he makes gigantic masturbatory gesticulations while laughing wildly.

At this point my insides are folding themselves into origamied discomfort.

I also learn that he loves being a mortician it because the gas that preserves dead bodies gets you high:

Ya know because it’s basically just Angel dust. That’s true!

He says that aside from the fact that he gets high, a dead body is

The worst smelling shit of your life. And women stink more than men because…

I’ll spare you the details on that one.

I still have not spoken but the white kids keep egging him on and making puns, acting like this was the first black person they have ever spoken to in their life.

You know what they say about Mortuary Science, people are dying to get into it.

I am so uncomfortable yet I am about as still as a cadaver, somehow thinking that will make this stop. But it doesn’t.

He’s doing quite well for himself. Apparently he is making $120,000 a year but he really wants to go back to school for autopsies.

Because you know, basically I’m a doctor then.

I nod. Because that is the only thing my body will let me do. But now I’m straining my neck trying to see what kind of watch he has on, trying to indiscreetly check out his sneakers. I am trying to gage if this guy is making six figures why is he sitting on a train drinking a fifth of brandy.

He touches on other topics like how he has no idea how to use a computer. And then, he asks me a direct question, which means I have to actually speak. He asks me what I am in school for. I tell him I have been working for six years.

The only benefit of this is he can stop telling me to major in Mortuary Science. But he doesn’t stop leaning into me, over me, exhaling his 80 proof beliefs upon my ears.

Eventually he tells me it makes sense that he hangs out with dead bodies because:

You know, I done killed some ninjas.

Except he didn’t say ninjas. Understand?

So now my heart is in a full out rave panic mode as I try to comprehend when this train ride is going to end and how I am going to get away from the mass murdering mortician who spent a decade in prison.

The train pulls into Queensbridge and he tells us this is his stop. He then gives us all five and leaves us with this piece of advice.

Get into mortuary science.

Then he stood up and I saw he was wearing a Spider-Man t-shirt.

The Accident

I spent 2 hours with Roman 10 years ago. He was a short, bald, monosyllabic Eastern European who, as we would find out later, was prone to unpredictable blackouts. I had never delivered furniture with Roman before, nor would I ever again.

I usually delivered furniture with the owner Al or his son Mark. We’d load up a gutted 15 passenger van with tables, chairs and movers’ blankets and deliver our goods, sometimes stopping for a sandwich or soda along the way.

The job was an easy one. Load the van, drive to the customer, unload, set up, and then drive back. We would deliver beds, dressers and entertainment centers to everybody from dog breeders to drug dealers.

This particular Saturday morning Al said he had a delivery that would take a couple of hours tops. I get to the store and find out I will be going with Roman. I shake Roman’s hand but he doesn't say much.

The van is already loaded up so we take off. Roman is hungry so we park on the street across from a 7-Eleven.




We run across the street and I get a snack and a Red Bull. I have never had a Red Bull before but they are getting quite popular and I am curious.

We cross back to the van while the light is still red and get in. I don’t recall Roman or I putting our seat belts on. I do remember taking a sip of the Red Bull. I also remember the city bus next to us at the light.

The light turns green and instead of waiting for traffic to pass and then merging into the lane behind the bus, Roman starts to drive parallel to the bus. I worry that this is not legal or safe since we are not technically in a lane yet.



We accelerate quickly. The bus crosses in front of us to stop and drop off passengers in front of the Pizza Hut.

We don't slow. I don't look at Roman but if I did I would see that he is unconscious.

My awareness of what is about to happen quickly heightens and I shout Roman... ROMAN while clutching the armrest with my left hand and holding the Red Bull in my right.

I can't tell you how fast we are going, as fast as it takes a 15 passenger van to go from a standstill and cross a major intersection. Whether it was true or an illusion caused by the stopped bus in front of us, it feels like we are accelerating the whole time. It feels like we are going 40.

I close my eyes and brace myself.

There is a sound of heavy metal crunching and when I open my eyes and turn to my left I see bloodied Roman slumped over a steering wheel that is now bent in half. The windshield is smashed and spider webbed where his face hit it. I immediately try to get out of the van and run for help but can't because my seat belt is on.

When did I do that?

I unbuckle and run into the Pizza Hut. I am frenetic uncontolled adrenaline. I feel nothing and nothing is in focus. I shout for somebody to call 911, that there was a car accident. A room full of blank faces stares back at me almost as if the entire restaurant has been paused. Nobody moves.

Police are called. Bloodied Roman makes his way into the Pizza Hut bathroom. Ambulances come.

I leave my boss a voicemail. I don't call my parents. I want to know exactly what is happening before I make my mother panic. This is something I will replicate at later points in life. Something I give great care to replicate.... something my sister however will miss in this scenario.

I don’t know what I would say anyway:

Hi Mom I am fine but... how do you get glass out of someone’s face?

Pass.

I feel like I have whiplash but nothing else is injured. The police ask me if I want to go to the hospital. I refuse. They double check.

Finally I decide to call home. My sister picks up. I tell her what has happened and to come get me. The note she left my mother begins like this:

Mom
Rich was in a car accident. He is fine…

But really, by the time she got to the he is fine, it was already too late. She should have led with that.

My sister arrives. She calls my parents. Take your time they say, don't rush home they say. My sister says we have to stop for gas on the way home. I don’t understand why we can’t just go home.

We get to the gas station and my dad calls my sister again. I pick up. He asks where we are and I tell him. He tells me to hurry home.

I hang up confused. Your son has just been in a car that crashed into the back of a city bus and you tell him to hurry home?

I am still in shock, nothing really makes sense.

We finally make it home. My parents come out to meet me. They are dressed like they are going to barb-b-q though I don’t recall them being invited to one. We go into the kitchen and I sit down. My mother fusses over me the way mothers are allowed to. She repeatedly asks me if I want to take a shower.

What for? To wash the accident off?

I’m fine mom. I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine!

She is wringing her hands, she is nervous. I tell her I am fine I just want to sit and relax. She walks me into the back of the house where the blinds leading into the backyard are all closed. Her voice is full of worry.

I don’t know how else to do this but…

And she opens the blinds.

There in my backyard are 50 of my closest friends, teachers, and relatives, all gathered for a surprise party for me, a party to congratulate me on my high school accomplishments.

For the first time in hours, my world comes back into focus. Sheepishly, I finally agree to take a shower. Though I am still in complete disbelief that I am actually able to, on this, the luckiest day of my life.

Train Pain

The subway train tries to keep you informed. And this is a good thing, but this wasn’t always the case. Years ago if the train stopped or was moving slowly, you had to just assume their was a rat parade on the tracks and you had to wait until it passed before you could continue moving.

There was no information, no knowledge shared.

But the subway system in New York City has been better the last couple years about informing riders about what the hell is going on. It does this through 4 or so canned messages that are either delivered by their automated system or in a muffled lazy barely audible manner by the conductor.

These messages have become quite routine and it is not uncommon to hear all of them during one morning commute.

My favorite is when the train stops in between stations and you hear over the loud speaker:

We are delayed because of train traffic ahead.

Well yes train traffic ahead would make more sense than train traffic behind us wouldn’t it? But train traffic? What train traffic? You have a finite number of trains in the subway. Every single choo choo has a conductor on it and should be accounted for. It’s not like people can drive their own train onto the track.

Hello folks, yea, it looks like we got about 20 or 30 trains that we have never seen before on the tracks this morning. I know we are on the A, C, E line, but in front of us we have a P train, a 12 train, and a train that appears to just have a picture of a monkey on it. So we’ll go ahead and get you moving just about as soon we figure out what the hell is going on.

Train traffic. The whole idea of the train is that we all travel on the same effen translocational vessel, upon the same track, so we don’t HAVE to worry about traffic.

That would be like driving along the highway and seeing a sign that said:

This next 5 miles is only open for you Steve.

I apparently have no concept of how trains work, because I thought it was some sort of a scheduled type of thing. I thought you had to take a certain amount of time, and that all conductors knew how long that trip should be and they could arrive at each station at a certain time.

But no, instead we hear announcements like:

To maintain even spacing between trains, this train is being held in the station.

That means that somebody is driving their train too fast. Why are you in such a hurry? Drive at the same damn speed and we won’t have this issue. You realize what happens when you get to the end of the track, right? You have to just turn around and come back.

But again that is the opposite of:

We are currently waiting for connecting passengers on an arriving train.

Of course when you hear that announcement you are always waiting in the train, trying to get somewhere on time because you are already late. But it seems whenever you ARE on that connecting train, the train across the platform is doing its damndest to see if it can get out of the station before you get on it.

But all this presumes you have actually gotten on a train to begin with. It seems like the MTA has pretty much given up telling you when and where specifically they will be doing construction and have adopted the… “this is just going to suck” approach, as seen by their latest signage.


Deciphering when and where the trains may or may not stop on a particularly construction heavy weekend has not gotten easier with the new signage used. There are now more colors, numbers, and pages to sort through.

Instead of all that crazy verbiage, I’d almost rather just show up to the train station and see a donkey with a saddle and a sign that said “good luck.”

But sometimes you do make it on to the train and you don’t like the car you are on, but of course:

Ladies and Gentleman, it is against the law to pass between cars while the train is motion.

Excuse me, if I get onto a train and there is a “human” clipping their nails sitting next to somebody who is loudly describing the specifics of his manhood, there is a very good chance I am going to move between cars while the train is in motion.

Or another reason the train stops, according to the announcement is:

Excuse me ladies and gentlemen we are stopped because we have a red signal. We’ll be moving as soon as we can.

Ohhh OK a red signal. Considering we can’t see the signals we just have to go ahead and trust you now don’t we.

It’s like if you stopped your car at a green light and while everybody was busy beeping at you, you stepped out of your car and said:

Excuse me friends, the reason I am not currently driving is that my gas pedal fell off. As soon as I manage to put it back on I will drive away.

Right.

But sometimes there are situations that are beyond anybody’s control, like when there is a sick passenger on the train. You usually know this because the conductor says:



We have a sick passenger on the train.

And then you know, oh ok, well, something we could not foresee has happened, and now we are aware of it. But last week, when I was on a train with a sick passenger the conductor actually said:

If there is a doctor on the train please report to the second car we have a sick passenger.

And the response from the cramped car full of people was as if the conductor had asked everybody to get off the train, jump on to the tracks, and push the train to New Jersey.

It’s a sick passenger people! Somebody who was probably sick before they got on the train. It’s not like the conductor was walking through the train handing out arsenic gum to willing individuals.

Because if you are not nice, I can imagine the next announcement I will hear over the loudspeaker will be something like:

We are delayed because the passengers in car 7 are all a bunch of a-holes.

In which case I’ll just ride that donkey to work instead.

New York to Boston

My sister moved up to Boston recently. It’s the first time since I was in college that we have lived in different states. And while it’s sad that she moved, it doesn’t really worry me because our schedules are so busy that we will probably get to see each other only marginally less than when she did live in New York.

Boston is only 3.5 to 8 hours away (depending on traffic) and inexpensive busses make the trip pretty simple and efficient. And in recent years the amount of bus companies competing for poor yuppies’ dollars has made it even better.

It’s a big improvement from the old days when the only option was the “Chinatown Bus.” This was quite literally a bus that left from the Chinatown in one city, and went to the Chinatown in another city. (Or in the case of D.C., the China… Block)

It often left from the dodgiest part of town, with no real indicator of where the actual stop is except a very long line of Asians with way too much luggage standing on a random street corner. It was a bit like a cattle call, if all the cattle were Asian.

These new busses like Bolt and MegaBus leave from Midtown. But even though these new busses and new companies leave from the better part of town, it still doesn’t make the trip ideal exactly.

First and foremost getting on the bus is insanity. Since the Port Authority Bus station is already jam packed with all the crappy busses going to god knows where, the only place available for the cool new bus services, are main streets in Midtown.

So this past Friday I ran out of my office at a (my boss said it was ok, seriously) and got in a glob of lines to get on a bus that I hoped was going to Boston.

There are no signs for what city, or what time on the street. There is just a sign that says, “The Bus stops here” and 240 people asking each other

Are you going to Boston? Which Bus is going to Boston?

And then there are the people who work for the bus company who must get really tired of answering the same 1 question. So they try to get people going to 3 different cities to stand in a normal type of line.

I got in the line for the to Boston. And then Bus guy number 1 said everybody from half the line go stand 100 yards further back. Then Bus guy number 2 told me to go stand in that other half line, so I moved back. But then guy number 1 was like, why are all these people coming here, so then he made everybody go back and stand in the first line.

Are you confused yet? You should be. The only thing you need to understand is that the order shuffled a little bit, and I actually ended up standing in front of somebody I had been behind.

Now normally I am a decentish person. I tend to give my seat up on the subway for pregos and old folk, and I hold the door open for others and all that other crap.

And in any other circumstance I probably would have said to the guy, “oh I’m sorry you were ahead of me, go ahead” but this is different. Getting on these busses is only slightly more organized that trying to catch dollar bills dropped from a blimp.

I heard rumor about there being a second bus coming in to take everybody but I really didn’t think that was a solid bet. So I trusted my gut to be a jerk and just stood my place. The line was getting exponentially longer.

As it turned out I got the last seat on that first bus. There ended up being one empty seat because a woman had to get off because her friend whom she was traveling with hadn’t arrived yet.

And she kept yelling, “Wait my friend is a block away, he is almost here, can you just hold on?!”

Can you imagine somebody trying to hold up a plane? Or a train? Because those people can’t see or talk to the pilot or conductor, but something about the bus makes people feel like they have more influence. Like they should be able to control what bus they get on, and what time it leaves, or doesn’t.

So she got off the bus. I think. I don’t really know. I was too busy trying to figure out a comfortable sitting position that did not require me putting my knee in my own eye socket.

But we eventually left. Hooray right?

Not so much.

It is still a bus. And busses haven’t been fun for me since we traveled around Italy on one my senior year of high school. Completely stupid with excitement to see an actual Bell Tower in person, I thought it a brilliant idea to shout out every time I saw one; not realizing every frigging town in Italy has a bell tower. So while a Bell Tower might seem like a novelty to me, to Italians they were like… Burger Kings.

So imagine riding down the highway with somebody who screamed out BURGER KING every time he saw one, and you get an idea what it was like to drive around Italy with me.

What can I say? I’m an excitable kid.

Then there was that point in the trip when the bus driver pulled over on the side of the highway and everyone simultaneously thought and said the same thing.

Oh shit.

Turns out our bus driver just had to tinkle. And as he walked to the back of the bus he kept saying “Sorry, sorry, when nature calls…”

Well after he answered the call, the bus went back into gear and we were off to arrive at Boston in a little over 5 hours.

Not awful, but there are a lot of things that could have made it better.

Like some Bell Towers.

What the Beep?!

What makes you crazy? I’m not talking about disgruntled or upset. And I’m not talking about just a little bit crazy. I’m talking crazy crazy. So crazy that you want to physically express your crazy in a way that is not socially acceptable. I’m talking so crazy that you want to rip a manhole cover out of the street and chuck it through the display window of a GAP.

Is it something that people do to you?  Is it rudeness? People who are impolite? Maybe its poor manners or poor hygiene that makes you want to lose your shit so badly that you turn green and rip your purple pants.

Maybe it is a combination of things. There are dozens if not hundreds of things that annoy us as human beings, and I am no exception. I get pissed off over dumb stuff. I’ve mentioned many of them here, but most of them I’d rather not admit because, well, I like to pretend I’m a better person that I actually am. But there is one thing that I cannot deal with.

It is not an emotion, or a behavior, but a sound. It is a sound so detestable and awful that it makes my blood pressure spike. It makes me want to clothesline bikers as they ride past me and knock out crossing cards with my backpack. It’s not nails on a chalkboard, or breaks screeching, or a baby crying. No, the sound that makes me bat shit crazy is the sound of horns honking.

Now I haven’t had a car for several years now and it has been equally as long since I drove regularly. And as I have mentioned several times before, I really don’t mind not having a car. Looking for places to park, general maintenance, paying for gas; I don’t miss any of that. But I didn’t realize until recently is being a regular driver had given me a kind of immunity to horns and horn honking.

But being a pedestrian, a human not protected by the security of a 4 wheeled transportation device, has made me realize how much I hate horns.

I could be having the best day ever, crossing the street wearing an Armani suit while eating a free ice cream cone given to me by a Victoria’s Secret underwear model I met on a first class flight back from Bali.

But if in the course of eating that ice cream cone, some superturd leans on his horn for more than an 1/8 of a second, my immediate reaction is that I want to kick in his window and jam my ice cream cone (cone first) into his eyeball.

It brings forth an anger and intensity in me that should be reserved for chucking a keg over a 20 foot wall in a strong man competition or fighting off Orcs in Middle Earth.

It is like an “instant crazy” button I don’t know exists until it’s pushed and then all I can think is;

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

I think the large majority of the population has come to see the horn as a necessary part of driving, kind of like a hand gesticulation, as opposed to something that should be used sparingly.

I can understand that in the beginning of cars, there was not much technology so the horn could only do so much. But we have come so far over the year. I think its time we made some changes. I have a couple I would like to see put into play immediately.

1. Every car should come with a horn max limit. This limit would be certain time limit of horn honking a month. Let’s say 10 seconds. So every time you hit your horn, the amount of time you stay honking your horn is deducted from your monthly limit. If you don’t hit your monthly limit, you are fine, and perhaps the National Transportation Bureau mails you a little ribbon.

But if you however pass your 10 second horn limit… your car automatically explodes.

I think this would keep people to more honest horn honking. Right now there is wasteful horn honking. If you know you only have so much horn to honk, perhaps you would ration it better and not go honking willy nilly.

Also, the threat of imminent death helps.

Now I know that there are times when you don’t always want to honk. The sound of the horn, no matter how quickly it is pressed can be quite abrasive, and you might not want to use it if you are a kind and decent human being that doesn’t suck.

Sometimes you just need to give people a little nudge to wake up or pay attention.

That is where my second suggestion comes in.

2. I would implement a new button on the steering wheel. This button would be called the “Suggestion Beep.”

While the horn might be used for alerting civilians when you are about to crash into a bicycle with a basket full of golden retriever puppies, or if somebody is bearing down on you on a one way street, the Suggestion Beep would be used in situations of lesser danger.

Perhaps the light turns green and the person in front of you is not paying attention. Then you could push the Suggestion Beep and your car would see in a delightful British lilt;

Pardon me

Or

Hello there

Something nice and light just give the car in front of you a heads up.

But I am aware that the Suggestion Beep could be abused as well. Kind of like somebody who says excuse me is nice, but somebody who stands next to you saying “Excusemeexcusemeexcusemeexcusemeexcuseme” is someone you’d like to slap.

That is why we must create a reward system for the Suggestion Beep as well.

Those people that have a positive ratio of Suggestion Beeps to regular horn peeps would receive a ribbon in the mail every month.

Those people that overuse the Suggestion Beep, well… their cars would explode too.

And forgive me for not knowing what the limit of Suggestion Beeps is yet, this is an imperfect system and we are working on a trial and error basis. I would just recommend you take it easy on the Beeps until we have ironed out all the kinks.

And oh yea if your car explodes and you happen to survive it, you have to ride a unicycle. With a flag on it. No exceptions.

I'm F'n Sorry

Dear Riders of the New York City Subway,

I would like to apologize. I have been totally inappropriate. Or as the kids these days are saying, "totes inapropes." I really must beg your forgiveness for my behavior as of late. It has been unkind, impolite, and generally rude. There are several people in particular I would like to apologize to, certain individuals who have been on the receiving end of the gravest of my transgressions. I feel it necessary to direct my apologizes to you.

To the woman with the kids on the E train 3 weeks ago:

You probably don't remember me. I was sitting on the the other end of the train but my rudeness was affecting you even from there. I was staring. I can't really justify it. It is in fact, unjustifiable. If I remember correctly, you were yelling (justifiably) at the top of your lungs at your 3 year old child who was behaving poorly and flailing herself all over the floor of the train. I admit I didn't really stare at first. I noticed the scenario, I observed it, but I certainly didn't stare.

However eventually I did start to stare. I recall it being somewhere around the time you yelled at your 3 year old to "Get the f*ck up off the f*cking floor."

This is nothing out of the ordinary, and I know most people were told that as a child. In fact, just because I was raised by parents who didn't care enough about me to use language like that, does not mean I should have sought that kind of mentorship from you.


So again, it was completely rational after mildly scolding your child for you to look up at the populous of the train car and scream (even louder), "WHAT THE F*CK ARE Y'ALL LOOKING AT?"

I mean, if I were you I would have done the exact same thing. What the f*ck was I looking at indeed? I should not seek parenting mentors in pubic places. Damn it Rich Boehmcke you are so needy! You should just consult a manual. So, I apologize.

To the gentleman with the face full of piercings and the booming voice sitting across from me on the F train last Sunday morning at 2 am:

I want to apologize for praying to god that you would explode in a fiery inferno of flaming fire. I know that wasn't kind of me. I know we didn't speak or even interact for the 25 minutes during which you used the word hypothesize 29 times while "wooing" those 2 girls sitting next to you whom you did not know.

Excellent courage by the way. It takes a lot of chutzpah to generate the type of classy conversation you did with perfect strangers.

I know every single person in the train and I were in agreement in believing that those 2 women were not into you, and it was silly of us to think that you talking about the girth of your member would be an unsuccessful tactic. While I am sure that you regularly bed women of the highest caliber, forgive me for thinking that you could better serve our society by bursting into flames than reproducing. That was not nice of me to think. I take it back. Again, I am sorry.

And finally, to the man standing next to me on the 6 train on Tuesday morning of last week:

Do you remember me? Perhaps you remember myself and 87 other individuals getting on the already packed train at the peak of rush hour. You might recall how I barely got on the train and had to stand against the door between you and another man. I believe it was after about 4 minutes of my standing completely still with our shoulders touching while I read GQ that I really started to piss you off.

I apologize. It was at that point in time that I commanded my presence to really annoy you. So it is totally understandable that you screamed at me, "My man, can I get some space? CAN I GET SOME SPACE?!"

I apologize for looking around baffled like I didn't know what was going on. I realized that I should have instantly folded myself into a toaster like a transformer instead of looking around the completely packed train for someone to corroborate my obviously irrational existence.

I also should have looked harder to find an empty spot that was not near a rail or wall so that at the first bump, with nothing to hang onto, I would have fallen into you like I had forgotten to bring my knees with me when I left the house. Even that would have been better than standing perfectly motionless next to you.

I also apologize that I did not invent some space to exist in and instead just stood there shrugging my shoulder like I didn't have a solution. So I take full responsibility for your explosion. And frankly I completely understand why you screamed "F*CKING FAGGOTS" at me.

I mean it makes sense, I deserved it. People can't just be expected to dress in something aside from sneakers and a sweatshirt and read about colorful socks at 9 am in the morning. I was asking for that one. I apologize.

So fellow riders, please accept my apologies. I will make sure my behavior in the future is way more "appropes."

Sincerely,

Richard

It's Raining, Lesbians!

I had been trying to get together with a friend of mine for a couple of months with no success. Work and prior obligations prevented us from finding a date that worked for both of us. But a couple of weeks ago I got an email from her.

She told me that a friend of a friend of hers had a yacht. And every summer this fine individual rents out said yacht to a group of 50 people for a nighttime sail around the island of Manhattan. The price was 50 bucks for a spot on the boat, snacks, and all the beer and wine you could drink. It was first come first serve.

I was all aboard.

Normally I don't get too excited about boats (several different motion sickness experiences) but I was pretty pumped about this boat trip. I had hit a lull in my life lately. I hadn't done anything new or made any new friends in a while and I was hoping for something to bring some new energy to my existence. The boat held the promise of that.

Aside from my dear sweet friend who invited me, I would know almost nobody on the boat. Perfect! A bunch of strangers would be trapped at sea (or river) with no escape. They would have to become my friends. I would make them love me. Be my friend or walk the plank.

Now, I've done boat cruises around Manhattan before and they are nice enough. But be they after proms or other special events you often end up trapped on an abused, cramped, indoor, megaboat with a bunch of hideous Jaeger swilling folk from the suburbs.

I mean no offense because I used to be one of them... from the suburbs, not a Jaeger swiller.

So when the day of the yacht trip came I was excited to be on a small boat full of beers with a bunch of good people that had come pre-recommended by my friend. To get to the yacht though was actually quite involved.

I had to leave Manhattan, the island I was currently on, to get on a boat to go to New Jersey, where I would get off that boat and get on our yacht, to sail around the island I had been on in the first place.

When my friend and I arrived at the dock, she saw a large group of her friends had already gathered. The girl coordinating the whole trip had a mohawk. How could you not like that?

But as I was introduced to people and started shaking hands, I noticed something. There were a lot of girls. I mean that didn't really surprise me because no matter what I do, many women have chosen to do the same things. All of my jobs since college have been in departments of all women, the writing classes I take are largely female, heck, even my knitting circle is all women. I mean come on!

So I shook every woman's hand, all 20 of them. Very nice girls, smiling, laughing, holding hands, kissing.

Wait, what?

I think this is a good time to point out that my friend who invited me is a lesbian. So when she said I would be seeing a lot of her friends I figured I would be meeting some lesbians. I did not know that everyone would be a lesbian.

So myself and the lesbians all headed to New Jersey to meet up with some more friends who would be joining us on the yacht. We arrived and found them. More girls. Standing in pairs. Holding hands.

So we get on the boat and find some spots and get ready to set sail, but we can't leave because of the threat of lightning. Apparently lightning is bad for boats. I had already paid my 50 bucks so I wasn't going to go home at this point.

While sitting and waiting, myself and the lesbians quickly went through all of the beer that had been put out. We started discussing what the owners of this boat had meant by "all you can drink." I'm no redneck but I can drink more than 1 beer. I mean is that all they thought I could do? Just because I was on a boat full of women didn't mean anything. Let's not start judging others. OK boat people?

As I glanced around at my shipmates, some 30 lesbians, a trio of straight guys, and 1 straight girl, I started getting the feeling I was filming a spot for an alternative lifestyle cruise.

"Hey there, are you tired of being straight? Do you hate being around people of the opposite sex? Try hanging out with a boat full of lesbians! Set sail on the Lez-Boat! It will change your perspective."

This was becoming a recurring theme in my life.

I had come out to make some new friends and have a good night. I wasn't looking for anything more. Certainly I wasn't hoping for a Match.com boat or anything. But as I looked around the good ship estrogen, I noticed something else. There was only 1 other single, straight, male on the boat and I felt bad for him. Because while this boat was full of women, this was the worst place on earth to actually flirt with one.

You see every guy has had feelings for a girl in a relationship. Somewhere in our hearts we harbor (boat joke) some hope that these women will abandon their dooshy boyfriends and date us. That is always a possibility in our minds. Chances are slim, but they are still there.

But girls in relationships with other girls, even if they break up with those girls, they are only going to date another different girl. It doesn't matter if she is single or married, or a swinger, you my straight friend are not even part of the equation.

Thankfully another cooler of beers appeared which squashed my existential thoughts of dating. And we also left the dock at the same time. So I forgot my theorizing and threw back some beers as we sailed on the low seas.

Though muggy it was a beautiful night and we were starting to really enjoy the night.

Until of course, it started to pour.

I'm not sure if there is a speed limit on the Hudson River, but the speed that makes casually cruising around Manhattan on a summer night a delightful affair, is not nearly fast enough for avoiding a squall full of wet thundery lightning.

On the boat there was a flurry of activity as we grabbed our jackets and hoodies and ponchos and huddled around each other trying to stay dry. And the boat sped off into the night... at 4 miles an hour.

DAMN IT BOAT LET'S GO!

It was like being in a geriatric episode of Miami Vice. It was like if you were completely engulfed in flames and tried to put yourself out by walking leisurely around the park.

I came to terms with the fact that our boat was not going to break any sort of speed records and resigned myself to just getting drenched with the rest of my new lesbian friends. In fact by the time I got back to the dock I was soaked to the bone and completely gross.

But it didn't really matter because no woman would have found me attractive anyway.

I do love my life.

I Brake for Shrubs

I have always been a good driver. Both of my parents taught me to drive, but my Dad is the one who spent more time with me in the car. We'd drive around neighborhoods with wide streets on Saturday mornings in my sister's white Ford Tempo, running errands and such.

The Tempo was barely more than a go-cart itself, which suited me well because that was what I had the most experience driving anyway.

I'm not entirely sure why I drove more with my Dad more than my mom. Maybe it was just one of those things, or maybe it was because my Dad and I had bonded over an experience that took place while I was still in the thick of puberty. The event I speak of was both traumatic and hilarious. It is a story my father and I recount often. it is the story of my first "car" accident.

The accident I speak of took place while we were on a family vacation. During family vacations we would usually pair off. My Mom and sister would spend the day shopping or at the pool, and my Dad and I would play golf.

Mom would drop us off at the golf course and my Dad and I would load our clubs onto the back of a white electric golf cart.

Now there are rules about minors driving golf carts. I'm pretty sure I remember it being that you must be 16 years old to drive the golf cart, and in some places you must have a driver's license.

My Dad has always been very trusting of me. And we both thought that rule was ridiculous. Did they honestly believe that maneuvering a 600 pound plastic lawn mower around a park at 9 miles an hour is exactly the same as going 70 down the highway in a 2,000 pound Buick?

But my father believe in my ability to be responsible and handle such a complex task as knowing the difference between the gas pedal and the brake pedal, and the subtle variances between going forwards, and going in reverse. And besides, he was sitting right besides me. There was no traffic. Was there anything that could really go wrong?

The answer of course, was yes.

We had just finished hitting practice balls at the range, and were going to head over to the putting green for a little practice before we teed off. I asked my Dad if I could drive. Sometimes he would wait until we were out past the first tee box but this day he wasn't worried. Either because I was starting to look older, or because he was relaxed being on vacation. The point is, he let me. Way to go Dad!

So we hopped in and I started along the little path to where I thought the putting green was. Humming along at all but a brisk pace we took the turn around the clubhouse and were approaching a fork in the road. Thinking I knew where to go I started to turn the wheel to the left.

"Left?" I asked my dad, already deep into my turn.

And my normally calm and relaxed father realized my error.

"No RIGHT!"

Slightly panicked I yanked the wheel to the right. But golf carts don't come with power steering, so my race car like maneuver was not nearly as sharp as I had hoped it would be. And instead of swerving to the right path we were now set to split the fork and crash into a wooded area.

I would like to take a moment here to tell you a little about my experiences with crashing vehicles up until this point in my life.

While I had driven a golf car before, I had never crashed one. in fact all of my collisions had taken place no on 4 wheels, but on 2. My black 12 speed mountain bike was my primary form of transportation up until I got my license.

I rode that thing with moderate success over potholes, ice patches, and all other manner of obstructions. Once in a while I'd lose control and jump a curb or hit an old lady. But I would brace myself for impact, like all other kids did, by using my hand brakes and taking my feet off the pedals, putting them out in front of me to brace myself for the crash.

So it makes sense that as my father and I headed for a (kind of) high speed collision with a gaggle of shrubs, I didn't step on the brake. No. I instinctively put my legs out in front of me to stop the cart from crashing.

And seeing as I was not Fred Flintstone, this did not work.

Instead we crunched over a plastic bucket which made a horrific sound and we came to a rest firmly embedded in the shrubbery.

"Back up back up!" My Dad said, more embarrassed than angry.

Terrified that we were about to be in serious trouble, I threw the cart into reverse (which actually means I just flipped a switch). It might not have attracted as much attention if it hadn't made the ear piercing EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE sound when it was put into reverse.

With the cart screaming for attention I punched the gas and we crunched over the bucket again, scraping it along the pavement, the sound even more horrific the second time.

"Go go go!" my Dad said, as I killed the screaming and put it into forward gear. Flooring it, we drove away trying to play it like we had not just crashed a $4,000 machine into a $4 bucket and a beautiful bit of greenery.

We tried to stay out of sight as long as we could, but we had to drive past there to get to the first tee. We passed the scene of the crime shortly thereafter and saw a golf course official inspecting the mutilated bucket and destroyed bush, wondering what moron could have possibly been so incompetent.

My Dad and I both peered over at him raising our eyebrows as if to say, "Oh geez I wonder what could have happened there."

But of course we knew.

My Dad had been my partner in crime. We were both guilty. He would tell me later that he realized the next time I started to make a wrong turn, he would let me continue on instead of trying to correct me halfway through.

And I realized that the real reason they want you to have a license to drive a golf cart is so that you realize the breaks are located inside the cart, and not, as I had thought, in the bottoms of my shoes.

Oh well. Live and learn.

Airports Part 2 - Depression

My favorite thing about visiting my parents at “the resort” is the fact that I have an entire wardrobe and nearly all my necessary toiletries down there, so I don’t need to pack much to go. I just grab a backpack and I’m off.

I though this would simplify the entire process thereby eliminating things that could go wrong during travel.

Incorrect.

My 6 am flight from Savannah was due to arrive in New York at 8 am. But due to inclement weather we were forced into a holding pattern.

After 30 minutes of essentially flying in circles the pilot came on the speaker and basically said, “We’re about to run out of fuel so we’re going to go ahead and land in Baltimore.”

This began my 12 hour delay.

On this particular flight there was an especially annoying individual wearing a Bluetooth headset the whole time. I will refer to this gentleman as a WMD or Weapon of Mega Dooshdum.

I’m almost sure he would have been sitting in first class had our plane been larger than a hot pocket.

After we landed in Baltimore, everyone was worried about whether or not would be taking off in this plane again or getting on a new plane. This is when the WMD spoke up and said, “I just got off the phone with the platinum desk, this plane isn’t going anywhere.”

Ooo you got off the phone with the platinum desk? Everyone come and listen, Ezekiel is back with tales from the Platinum desk!

What else did the platinum desk tell you? How to solve the sub prime lending crisis? The name of the next American Idol? When Jesus would return?

I would have continued to focus my hate on him but of course, the woman sitting behind me was screaming in Spanish into her phone. The plane was completely still, no engine noise, there was no crisis and no need for yelling. But she apparently felt her speaking voice Spanish was not appropriate and instead was using her tornado warning Spanish.

I then realized what I don’t like about flying.

It’s the people. They are everywhere. Being weird. Being abnormal. Being creepy. I would not be bothered by flying as much if I got to do it, say, in my own plane, by myself.

I hung out in the airport for a couple of hours while angry passengers yelled at unsuspecting gate agents who were doing their damndest to help them. One woman was yelling at this particular gate agent about how this was the 3rd time this happened to her and blah blah blah.

She kept yapping until I said;

“SHUT THE HELL UP AND GO LAY ON THE TARMAC!”

Well not quite but I did tell her to leave the poor gate agent alone. I am so very brave.

If you take a look around an airport you realize this is no longer the golden age of travel. People don’t travel in suits and elegant leisurewear. They travel in whatever they found on the floor when they woke up that morning. I saw a man in a purple t-shirt whose belly was so big I thought he was wearing a prosthetic.

Perhaps he had some sort of silicone belly implant? There was no way one belly could stick out so far. It was only for the fact that his shirt stuck out so far I could see his bare flesh exposed underneath it that I realized this was no prosthetic. It was like a belly penthouse.

Beautiful.

I found out I had 7 hours until my new flight to New York, so I decided to take a shuttle bus to a train into D.C. to go see the Cherry Blossoms. I figured this would get me away from the crazies and the hideousity.

Incorrect.

In the fully packed Amtrak waiting room I came across another prized individual.

This gentleman sat across from me (also with a belly penthouse), directly in front of a brightly lit vending machine. He sat there cross eyed and absolutely transfixed by the colorful offerings available inside that magical glass box. I thought he was going to try and make a withdrawal from one of the many shelves when he made another decision.

You know how sometimes you cough up a little bit of phlegm, but you just deal with it because you are not in a place where you can get rid of it?

The gentleman sitting not 4 feet across from me in the Amtrak station waiting room did not think this was one of those places. So I watched him, cough, gag, and then let loose a horrific dribble of phlegm that fell like an autumn leaf and landed between his feet on the floor.

Beautiful.

He didn’t even try to hide it. His basic philosophy appeared to be, “I’m gross, everybody watch.”
So I took the train into Union Station in D.C. and in an effort to save money (I’m becoming cheaper by the day) I walked 45 minutes to the Tidal Basin to see the cherry blossoms, and the sun came out and it was beautiful. I sat strolled and took pictures such as this one.




And then it started to pour on me. I didn’t have an umbrella. So I walked the 45 minutes back to Union Station where I bought an Amtrak ticket back to Baltimore, which I then immediately dropped on the floor and didn’t realize until I heard over the loud speaker;

“Would Mr…. Bo-em-key please pick up his ticket at the information desk.”

Damn it.

Back on the train to the shuttle bus to the airport where I checked in for my 6 o’clock flight, and went through security. I sat down in the waiting area for a while, and was walking to my gate when a woman ran up to me and said, “Sir! You dropped this!”

It was my plane ticket.

Double damn it.

I was starting to think maybe someone or something was trying to stop me from going home. But 14 hours later I made it. Which means it took me an hour LONGER to fly home than it would have to drive.

Forget airplanes. Forget travel. Next time I’m just going to stay home and grow a belly penthouse.

You're A Gray

So my last night in Buenos Aires there was this big rumor about some drum show that was going on. I didn't know much about it except that everyone was talking about it like Jesus had risen from the dead, and taken up the bongo.

JESUS ON THE BONGO, ONE NIGHT ONLY.

So myself and the other 15 or so kids from my hostel leave like a heard of cattle and go to this drum show near... I don't know what. We wait on line for about an hour before we enter this outdoor arena with a huge orange iron staircase. We stand outside drinking over sized beers and waiting for the fun to start. Finally around 8 a group of 20 or so drummers come out stage and fire up the music.

It was awesome, bongos, and all manner of percussion being banged and hit on, heavy thumping beats, dancing, and laughing. Culture gyrating and mixing like a drum smoothie. It was awesome. We then went out to dinner afterwards where I waited an hour to get a plate of uncooked ham and cheese and salami. It was salty but tasty.

I did wake up in the middle of the night thinking that I REALLY wanted to return all of the food I purchased. However, I was able to hold on to my purchases.

The next morning I wake up and pack up my crap to get a cab to the port to take a boat to Uruguay. So I get up to the counter at the port and the man says, "Do you have your passport."

I literally scream, "FUCK!"

Counter guy then says to me, "You can't leave the country without your passport."

Oh really Columbus? Thanks for the hot tip, I was hoping I could get into Uruguay with a package of Duty Free Mentos and my charming smile, but I'll go back and get my passport.

Jerk.

It's 10 am and I'm trying to catch and 11:30 am boat. So I shlep my shit and hop back in a cab driven by an old white haired dude with awesome posture. Immediately this guy punches the gas and we are off and flying. He pauses at a red light to offer me a cough drop. I figure why not, so I take his mentholly goodness.

Light turns green and my driver starts weaving through Buenos Aires like a Geriatric Steve McQueen. It is awesome, he's honking, shifting, cutting people all off, and still able to say the rosary and kiss his beads as we pass the churches. He never loses his cool, he never changes his perfect posture. He even offers me a cigarette. Perhaps he thought maybe his driving might cause me to crave a nicotine addiction at this point in my life.

So we hit the hostel, I grab my passport from the safe, and make it back to the boat with plenty of time to spare.

I take the one hour boat to Uruguay. Go through customs, which is basically a guy who shrugs when I show him my passport. I try and store my bag at the bus station but nobody speaks English so I end up paying this woman at the cafeteria 3 dollars to keep it behind the counter.

I walk around Colonia which is a UNESCO world heritage site. To be honest I really don't know what that means, but I'm starting to think that just means that a place is really old with no other tourist options. I spend a couple hours, snap some pictures, have some pizza and Uruguayan wine which tastes like grape ocean water.

Mmm grape ocean water.

I take a 3 hour bus ride to Montevideo. Another white knuckler since I don't know how to convey that I don't know where we are going. All I can say is,

"At what time... Montevideo?"

So I get to the... I don't want to say 1 horse town, because I saw at least 12 different horse drawn carriages on the street in the 36 hours I spent there. So I go to dinner. I go to bed.

I try to sleep but between the Israeli kid who snores, and our bedroom door which doesn't... what's the word... close. Our balcony door doesn't close either. And because its a windy night the wind makes our bedroom door slam close like an angry pubescent teenager leaving the house on a friday night.

There is nothing more awesome than being woken up at 2 am by a slamming door to realize you have slat marks in your side from the worlds awfullest bunk bed and now you can't fall back asleep because of the snoring Israeli and you lost 3 of your earplugs so all you can do is jam one earplug so far into your head that whats left of your brain starts squeezing out the other side.

I wake up, go for a walk on a cloudy day, get a sunburn. Have lunch, eat ice cream. Finish a book, sit in a hammock, have a giant asado (grill) where I eat like 6 different kinds of meat... twice.

I hang out with an Irishman and a tool bag 20 year old from Washington. The Irishman buys a round of drinks, I buy a round of drinks. and then I realize why I never buy drinks for 20 year olds... they don't return the favor.

Toolbag.

I would like to tell you more but I am really not sure what happened to my one earplug so I must go and make sure I actually took it out... 2 days ago.

Riding with the Crazies

The concept of public transportation is pretty good in theory. Like the carpool, it operates on the premise that if everyone is going in the same direction it is more convenient if we go there together. What it doesn’t take into account is every single person’s bizarre quirks and weirdnesses that combine to make traveling by public transportation a symphony of strange.

With cuts in the transportation budget of New York City on the horizon the frequency of service is sure to decrease, making every train even more jam packed with maniacs. This will only serve to drastically increase the volume of this symphony, and create new instruments to drive everyone out of their mind.

Millions of people ride the trains, commuting from one corner of the city and back again. Sometimes they spend 10 minutes, sometimes over an hour. And it is those people with the longest commute times who feel the need to do what I call “private time activities” while on the subway. They are also the ones most likely to completely lose their shit for no reason. These are the people who sit next to me.

Case and point, not too long ago I was riding the subway into the city on a weekend, so the train was relatively empty.

Hooray.

I found a seat and opened my magazine for a pretty relaxing ride. That was until I heard the unmistakable “click….click…..click” of a nail clipper.

I turned to my left to see a gentleman, no that’s not right, ogre-man clipping his nails. The sound alone sends such a violent chill down my spine that I can feel my insides twitch. There are few things that skeeve me more than watching someone remove parts of their body they deem to be no longer necessary, and then spread them amongst the ground like a flower girl at the wedding of gross and disgusting.

Would you ever just take out a scissor and starting cutting your own hair on the train? No of course not.

And nails being clipped don’t just fall to the ground, they fly off the clipper like rocketships leaving planet yuck. The man clipping his nails was considerably larger than me so I didn’t say anything, and I probably wouldn’t say anything if the person was smaller than me either. If you’re crazy enough to think that clipping your nails on a subway car is ok, god knows what else you’re capable of.

Some people discreetly bring their crazy onto the train. They are just feeling it that day. Maybe they found a cucaracha in their cheerios or something but they just decided before they left the house, “I’m going to grab a little extra insanity from my stash and throw it around like it’s a ticker tape parade.” Once again, these are the people who sit next to me.

They are just waiting to be tapped or bumped into. They have their nonsense at the ready, hidden deep within their pockets. Kind of like a jack-in-the-box. They wait with coiled spring for somebody to turn their handle just far enough so they can explode.

Case and point, recently on the subway a tiny Hispanic woman was almost bumped by a larger Greek man, so she opened her bag of crazy.

“Excuse me. Excuse me!”

“What?”

“You almost hit me. You almost bumped into me.”

“You bumped into me!”

This went back and forth escalating more and more and culminating with the Hispanic woman saying;

“Just remember, joo have a mother and joo have a sister. God bless joo.”

I’m not really sure what having a mother and a sister has to do with anything. But ya know what crazy lady? If there are 200 people in 9 square feet of space, somebody might hit your bag. I constantly have to stand with my pelvis inches from people’s faces, they don’t enjoy it, and frankly neither do I. But I don’t go bananas.

And I’m working on a theory here, but the amount of bags you carry with you is directly proportional to how completely out of your mind you are.

1 Bag = Normal

2 Bags = Slightly off

3 Bags = Audibly and visibly crazy

People with one bag tend to blend in pretty well. People with multiple bags most likely speak in tongues and have suitcases full of dead squirrels.

There are three times as many people on the train as there are seats. Odds are you will usually be standing because 4 million people ride the subway every day and they are ALL on every train. Nobody knows who is getting off at what stop so everyone has a moment of anxiety when the train pulls up to a station and a sitting person stands up.

Then the subway becomes kind of like musical chairs. Except there are no kids, there’s no reward, and everyone hates each other.

In fact it’s more like musical chairs meets thunderdome. And I tell you, it is funny when 7 year olds lunge for a chair and miss, it is down right hilarious when a grown up does the same thing. And if you do manage to get a seat you are probably sitting between a woman who looks like she could use a shave and another who is putting on blush like she’s dusting her face for finger prints.

Now that winter is upon us, people are getting on the train fully clad in every wool item they own. So they will get hot, which will lead to cranky, which will be immediately followed by crazy.

It’s really only a matter of time. Something will happen soon, I can feel it. Until then, God Bless Joo.