Monday, May 21, 2007

My Way or the Subway

New York City's subway system is pretty convenient although dirty as hell. You really can get anywhere without having a car. The subway map is also easy to read and decipher on your own. Of course I miss the immaculate cleanliness and sophisticated technology of Tokyo's subway system, but at least now I can understand when the conductor announces the next stop or that we need to get off the train (since you know, it's in English and not Japanese.)

The smell of these subway stations is a whole other story: quite foul and yet distinct from each other. One station has the stench of 5-day-old urine, another smells like you're stuck in the same stall as a homeless guy with diarrhea. Then of course there's the rats. I'm not talking about the cute little mice dressing Cinderella singing "Cinderelly Cinderelly night and day it's Cinderelly..." I'm talking about the blackish gray nauseating vile vermin that crawl up and down NYC subway tracks. I even saw one on the staircase munching on popcorn at the Times Square station right before I was meeting friends for dinner (very appetizing). But once in a while - after throwing up a lung - something magical happens and it smells like honey roasted nuts. Just so happens, there was a nut stand right outside that station.

Then once you're inside the station or train, it's like opening a box of cracker jacks - you never know what you're gonna get. No matter what time of day, there's never a shortage of entertainment: dancers with their own breakdance competitions, singers performing melancholy songs like "My Heart Will Go On," and musicians playing anything from light-hearted Calypso to heart-wrenching Chinese pipa. There are also merchants selling random knick knacks, a homeless guy pretending to be a conductor and telling everyone to "Step away from the door" (which has been witnessed by people on numerous occasions but I have yet to see him in action), or just plain crazies walking up and down the train yelling obscenities. Can't wait to see what other cracker jack "prizes" I'll get to experience on the subway for the rest of my time here.

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