Hysterical Encounters III

November 6th, 2008 § 2 comments

(after the election)

At the conclusion of a long campaign that gracefully skirted around the issue of race, it was amusing to see what a central tropic it became on election night. News coverage on the 5th took calls from african americans living all over new york city, most of whom talked about previous resentments such as the gentrification of their neighborhoods, and concluded by saying that the election had changed most of their anger into something more hopeful. While it was a “historic” night for our country, it is clear that the president-elect was not made such by minorities alone, and Obama’s election, perhaps because of the pressing issues of the American pocketbook, did appear to transcend race—his “landslide” victory (364 votes) proves that. Getting lunch at the local deli yesterday, pictures of Barack had been cut from various newspapers and taped to the fronts of cash registers, and the conversation of various couples over lunch revolved around the previous night. A group of african american girls were teasing a young man who said he cried, “well it might be the only time I get to see that happen…” The general mood of new york, and elsewhere I am sure, is one of excitement. There is so much energy in the air of this city already that the election outcome seems to have added a new frequency, a higher pitch, to the crowded streets.

Despite this new mood people still look exhausted, perhaps more so yesterday because the city’s inhabitants were up much later celebrating then most of us usually are (can’t vouch for everyone), and it was a typical group of tired workers who headed uptown with me in the five o’clock rush. As the subway doors closed at the last stop before the express run between 59th and 125th, a group of young, good-looking african americans slipped inside announcing they were going to show us, “three black brothers stripping.” The announcement brought an immediate smirk to my face, no matter how I looked at it, true or not, it was funny; looking around the car no one else seemed to be amused. While there is a decent amount of untalented riffraff busking on the trains, lately I have been getting lucky with my nightly entertainment—I caught a good group of drummers last week. Though people don’t usually like to look at the beggars, drunks, or the distasteful—urine, homeless sleepers, defecation, vomit—they are not as afraid of the entertainers; they seem to find them more annoying and disrupting (exactly why I enjoy them) than anything else. The show that ensued yesterday from the three boys was quite good, and I found it impressive that they could breakdance so well on an express train. There was no real reason to be anything but impressed.

A woman sitting across from me, however, did not seem to feel the same way. She cringed as they came on the train, all smiles and energy, jokes issuing from their mouths—“now if your boyfriend can’t to this ladies, leave him!”—and seemed to think she was going to be physically harmed. While she was listening to her music so loudly I could make out the lyrics seeping from her headphones, she grimaced when they put their music on. Frankly I can’t see how she could hear theirs over hers, and their hand clapping made her sink lower in her seat. As they began to dance she turned a horrified, pale, face away from them and towards me, so she would not have to look. She covered the side of her face with her hands as well, blocking them from her periphery vision. Perhaps she simply dislikes subway entertainment, breakdancing, or dancing in general, but I could not help but wonder exactly what was wrong with her, or what it was she objected to. As they collected donations from an impressed train car and exited at 125th, turning back around she gave me a look of scorn and dislike for having encouraged, or enjoyed, their antics. I suppose her behavior, while it might be explainable (justifiable), struck me more than it might have on any day other than the evening after we elected our first black president.

§ 2 Responses to Hysterical Encounters III"

  • bayman-townie says:

    ah these reminds me of the new york times’s metropolitan diary which i used to read when it was on sunday but now miss as it is lost some place in the daily paper.

  • a guzman says:

    Sometimes gotham feels like a zoo, where you could write several stories like these each day, so many that they become a mundane part of the cities life, and it takes something particularly strange, annoying, or humorous to stand out as noteworthy.

    I think that sounds like an interesting local column…

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