This is how the blog ends.
Not with a bang, but with a quiet goodbye.
I start a new job this September, and I'll be driving a car to get there. Not riding a train. And as we all know, you can't type and drive, unless you're an asshole. So there you have it. No more train means no more blog.
It was never really a blog, if we're being honest here. A blog is something that gets updated regularly, which this most certainly was not. It was more like a collection of rants or essays or thoughts, written as much to practice writing as they were to entertain. Ultimately I discovered that I am a social creature, drawn more to people than isolation, so inevitably I found friends on the train. The 5:25 crew. The Mt. Kisco gang of four. The Holiday Ladies from Katonah. Tripp and Maria and Andrea and John and Andy and Mark and anyone else who would have me. And these friends filled my time when writing used to, and the blog suffered.
Every single entry (except this one) was written on the train, almost always in the one hour it took me to get to or from work. There we're many ideas that never saw the big screen of my mac. How you can use the reflection in the window when its dark outside to watch people without them knowing. How the train always slows down before it gets to White Plains because its ahead of schedule. The praying man, who prays as powerfully as any man I've seen for 10 minutes every morning before he exits the train. How I take the wide, elegant air conditioned JP Morgan escalator in the morning instead of the terminal escalator because its a civilized way to begin the day. Or the topless woman I passed standing on 6th avenue last week as I dashed to catch a 4:20 afternoon train. Yes. Topless.
So after 13 years I'm trading my monthly pass for my Lexus. I will play my radio, talk on my phone, roll down my windows, eat whatever I want, sing as loudly as I want and be the commuter I could never be on the Metro North. But I will also be alone, and as much as I will enjoy my new freedoms, I will also miss my old friends.
You can take comfort in the fact that I will still have an effing commute. I will surely suffer the indignities of road rage, texting drivers, headlight flashers, flat tires, traffic jams and the rest of it. but this time I'll keep it to myself.
I knew when I started this blog that it would be a fun way to kill time. I had no idea how many of you would come along for the ride. Thank you for that, and farewell.
I saw Jesus on the train the other night at 125th street.
He parted the closing doors, crossed the gap and sat down next to me. He looked tired.
We were in a communal 6 pack seat, three facing three, and Jesus quickly put his sandals up onto the empty seat across from him. They were the feet of a man who worked hard for a living, who wasn't afraid of getting a little dirty, but maybe was afraid of a regular shower. I didn't begrudge him this. Who am I to judge the king of kings. He threw his dusty hemp satchel on the seat between us, produced a cold 40 oz. and took a long deliberate pull from the bottle.
Long day Jesus? I asked.
With a glance my way his eyes said yes.
What's on your mind saviour?
The grind, I guess, he said. Every day, in and out of the city, preaching to the sinners, offering salvation, then back on the 5:25 to Chappaqua, up the next morning to do it all again. Somedays I don't know why I do it. Don't know if I made a single bit of difference in the world. Plus I have ideas. Big ideas. And nobody listens, you know?
Chappaqua? I asked
Seriously? Cuz you don't strike me as...
Another look from the son of god, this time different. Annoyed.
Another long hard pull on the suds.
Listen Jesus, I said. Your preaching to the choir. Somedays are just hard, you know. Somedays this train is just a dead end ride. You pull into the Grand Central and you don't even know how you got there. You haul your bag to your desk, you drag through meetings and emails, and you wind up back on this train thinking, what the hell did I even do today? Did I make a profit? A quota? A difference? Water flowing under ground man.
Thats it! said Jesus, obviously appreciating the Talking Heads reference.
Thats it exactly. I ride this train every day just to do right, man, to do the lords work. I strap on my sandwich board (how did i miss that in the overhead rack?), I stand at 44th and Broadway and I shout for anyone who will listen that the day is coming. The day when all of us will have to account for our actions and be judged. The end is near brother, and no matter how loudly I preach the truth outside of the Viacom building or the M&M store or the Lion King or that place that sells sketchy cameras and computers, nobody listens. Nobody understands. Nobody BELIEVES.
I understood.. Nobody likes to be ignored or marginalized, to feel insignificant or unheard, and as much as I sympathized with his situation, I quickly realized that this man wasn't Jesus. Just a dude with dirty dreadlocks and a slightly odd take on life. Maybe I wanted him to be Jesus, because honestly how cool would that be to ride the 5:25 with Jesus. Or maybe he liked being Jesus and we were each feeding off of each others needs at this particular time in this particular place. Either way, I knew it had to end. My stop was coming up and I felt the need to right the world and put it back on its normal axis.
Listen young man, if you want people to take you seriously in life, you should cut your hair, stop drinking in public and take your feet off the goddamn seat.
I’m not sure why this tie even exists. Help me out here. I just don’t understand, why would someone make it, and why would someone buy it. Its not even a good idea for a tie. Its medium beige and light beige ovals on a dark beige background. Who does that? Excuse me, sir, yes you, the one with the bad tie. Would you mind if I took a peak at the label on the back of that tie to see if it says “Compliments of your neighborhood Sizzler”. This is why life looks so dark to me sometimes, because I live in a world where shit ties are made and bought and I can’t figure it out. Made, I assume, in a third world factory that ordered way to much effing beige oval pattern fabric. I don’t blame them. Manufacturing. Jobs. Whatever. Its all good. But bought, I can only imagine, because someone was so taken by the overwhelming excellent beigeness of it all that they had to have it. Had to have it to match all the other beige shit in the beige closet of his beige master bedroom, in his beige colonial house on beige street, USA. Beige. You sir, I do blame. Or maybe his wife bought it. No that’s impossible, because there isn't a single woman on the planet with bad enough taste to buy this tie. Geez. You know how many ties there are in New York alone. Hundreds. Easily hundreds of decent ties for under $50. Do us all a favor. Take a fitty out of your beige wallet, go to a tie store or Macy’s or one of those pashmina street vendors and buy a solid navy tie. No patterns. Patterns are only for the advanced tie wearer. Solid colors. Then go to YouTube and watch a video about tying a knot, because the way you tied a knot in elementary school isn’t cutting it. Make it a windsor knot. Wow us. Please.
This is your friendly neighborhood blogger reporting from car two of the 6:52 to Southeast asking you to please stop the train sometime after White Plains and come on board to stick needles in my eyes, because that would be less painful than having to look at this tie for an hour. Thanks.
Good morning class. Please finish your Monday New York Times crosswords that you saved to do on the train til Friday so you'd look smart, and lets put your starbucks mocha fucking whatevers away and get to work, shall we. As many of you may know, or maybe none of you actually, I am a classically trained graphic designer, highly skilled in the deadly art of typography. I once horribly shamed a young urban hipster by pointing out that his Vampire Weekend T-Shirt was actually a cheap derivative of the opening title sequence for the clasic 70's TV show BJ and the Bear. Indeed, he was immediately rendered speechless (or possibly annoyed). Take that culturaly derivative youth of America! Now listen up.
When it comes to advertising on the rails, there's really not a whole lot of innovation out there. It's mostly ads for John Grisham novels, Republicans and Democrats with smiling blond families or dogs (now I trust him!), the TV show Sons of Anarchy, stocks and mutual funds, ambulance chasing lawyers, Yonkers Racetrack and The Broadway production of the Addams Family. In other words, its a fairly uninspired visual stew of stock photography and poorly spaced sans serif type. So Im a big fan of the sharpie vandals who enhance the ads in an effort to provide humor and vulgarity into my Groundhogs Day existence. To be clear, I would never condone marking or scratching the trains themselves, but the ads, well, If FOX TV wants me to stare at a drawing of American Dad in a thong for an hour, I dont really see the harm of adding the always classic cock and ball unit. These alterations represent the full spectrum of human creativity, from clever to cloddish. Most are fairly expected, and yet, they still make me laugh, kind of like when my dad farts at the dinner table. You know its coming, but it's still funny. "Time for a Stock Alternative" becomes "Time for a Cock Alternative". It's like scrabble for degenerates! Fun for the whole family! Some of the less creative scribes simply take out their frustrations by writing words like fag, slut, asshole, bitch, whore, mostly across pictures of that guy from the Men's Wharehouse for some reason. You're gonna like the way you look. Slut. Whore. LOL.
So from time to time I'll be posting my favorites as I see them. Today's example is interesting. I might even go so far as to call it mildly retarded. Evidently, the artist, possibly while skipping class to take the train into the East Village to buy a new one hitter, was so inspired by the letter F that he couldn't restrain himself. "Hey, that word starts with an F. You know what other word starts with an F... tee hee. LOL. Slut." I will give high marks for typographic gymnastics in this case. I never would have thought you could fit the letter K into the letter M, but there it is right there. Ultimately I would have been happier if he had found the word Luck or Duck or better yet, Starbucks. Who can ignore a well executed Starfucks? And think of all the FOX news ads that could become FUX or COX. COX NEWS, Fair and Balanced. I'd buy that. Ultimately, I think we can do better people. The trains and platforms are full of opportunities for budding Banksy's, so grab a pen and put your boggle skills to the test. And please remember, it's always better to be clever than to simply write ASSHOLE. Unless its on a Carl Paladino poster. Class dismissed.
Today I made a change in my routine, a bold move for a commuter. I moved down the platform and got on to a different car than I usually do. I don't know why I did it! Stop interupting the story! I just did it. Something or someone whispered in my ear..."Not today John. Not this car. Not today". It might have been the woman whose shoes I keep trying to photograph cuz she keeps putting them on the seat, but I can't say for sure. Anyway, the point is I moved and I sat down and all effing hell broke loose. The guy across from me was putting batteries into a rubber rat, which he then hid under a scarf. At the next stop, two women got on, screamed at the rat (and I mean really effing loudly screamed), decorated the seats with Halloween decorations, and began passing out candy, cupcakes and bracelets. Naturally I struck up a conversation.
So, wait, you're dressed as your friend?
Who is she dressed like?
So you're both dressed as her?
Yes, although she doesn't really look like herself today. Twix?
No thanks. Why does your bag say happy birthday?
Well, it's also all three of our birthdays?
So its a Halloween and birthday party?
Well, it's mostly his birthday. Cupcake?
No, really, thank you, that's very kind, but...
Yes, thank you, I think I will.
This went on for what seemed like 7 or 8 hours but was in reality only about 3 minutes. After they hung up the spongebob pumpkin, the candy filled pumpkin and the spooky garland, there wasn't much more to say. I wished them a Happy Halloween, and told them that if they had room for more guests at Christmas that I was probably going to be in town and I was happy to bring a side dish.
In conclusion, I will say this. Some people fight the commute. They tuck in deep, earbuds and sleepmasks firmly in place, and do their best to block it out, kind of like I do whenever I hear Michael Buble music. Then there are these folks. The Happy Idiots who know that life is short and if you have to sit on a train every day of your effing life, you might as well hang up some spongebob decorations now and then. I'm a little afraid of what might happen if I make my move to this car permanent. I might get sucked into this vortex of happines and mayhem never to be seen again. Commuters, unlike Democrats, don't like change. We like routine. Then again, we also like cupcakes...
So I'm on my usual morning train, not really a peaker in the sense that it gets me into the city around 9:40am, but a peaker in the sense that Metro North charges me the peak fare as if this was a hard core rush hour train, which is an interesting point, because according to Metro North, the rush "hour" or peak travel time in the morning and evening are actually two 4 hour windows where they get to charge a premium fare.The opportunity for sticking it to the average Joe is obvious here. Metro North is a little short on cash and all of sudden my 10:15 am train becomes a peaker. Boom! The down economy at work!
Anyway, Im on my normal train and a regular guy, a guy I've seen many times before, gets on and sits across from me. This is a guy I'll call "The Package", like "The Situation", but in Westchester, not Jersey. I've never called him that before. I just made it up right here as I was typing, but he needs a name, and that name is The Package. And the reason for this is simple. The guy has a really nice package. No joke. I mean I'm not going to wax poetic about it, compare it to a summers day or tell my therapist, but in the straight up, no shit world of commuting, every once in a while stuff just jumps out at you as being exceptional, beyond the pale, better that average, and, well, that's what this is. When you look at the dregs of the commuting world day in and day out, the humps of society drooling on themselves as they catch up on their sleep, or trying to get one more misearable day out of that exhausted Van Heusen shirt, well, a guy in a nice suit and a handsome package stands out. Literally.
So, good for The Package. I mean, we all have a package, but if you'rs is testing the sewing on a fitted Brioni suit, well god bless you. My package barely gets to know my suits. For all I know, my suits think I'm a woman. Who cares if The Package tells his taylor with a wink, "just a little higher on the inseam, Boyo". All the better to see you with Grandma. If I had that package I'd do the same goddamn thing. So the next time I see The Package on the train, I'll take a quick look. Nothing to write home about or get the stink eye from, just a glance in his general direction, to remind myself that there are exceptions in life. People and places and "things" that proudly stick their neck out once in a while to the betterment of us all. And in case you're keeping score, The Package seems like the kind of guy who leans to the right, but The Package's package definately goes to the left.
Well, it's been a long hot lazy summer, and between you and me and the sticky pleather train seats, I wasn't sure the blog was going to survive. Writing a blog, it turns out, is work, and work, it turns out, sucks. So I've really been enjoying NOT writing all summer. Some of the things I have enjoyed are sleeping, playing angry birds, deleting email, and not writing my blog. I've also been making friends on the train, which it turns out is kind of nice. These ARE NOT the kind of friends that you see on the platform and silently beg to sweet jesus that they don't sit with you so you won't have to "make conversation" for 65 grinding minutes. These are really decent, salt of the earth seasoned commuters who are smart and funny and real and they make me...what's the word I'm looking for...? Happy. And we all know the blog has no place in a happy commute. The blog is about misery and disappointment and futility and hopelessness and it is most certainly not about enjoying your friends. A happy blog is a boring blog.
So just when I think I might be done with the blog forever, just when I think I've been saved by my new friends and this new feeling I call happy, I'm jolted back into the harsh flourescent light of reality by two pairs of nasty ass feet up on a seat. Need I repeat? Two feet on a seat! One foot, two foot, three foot, four! Dump those shoes right on the floor! But wait, it's not just feet, it's feet and meat! Four feet and the meat that they bought on the street! How neat! (Actually, it's leftover tappas, but tappas doesn't rhyme with feet). Two prize Westchester hens, fresh off an afternoon of spending their allowances and guzzling chocolate martini's plop their pudgy, calloused, un ped-egged feet onto the precious real estate of a seat on my 6:29 peak train. Like they effing own the place. Like they're home on their sofa rubbing the lint and sweat out from between those toes and there's not a soul around. Except there are plenty of souls on my deadly serious, we-all-effing-work-for-a-living-and-now-it's-going-home-time peak hour train. And we souls shouldn't have to spend 65 minutes trying not to look at your naked effing feet.
And suddenly I'm awake. I'm enraged and alive and energized and bursting at the seams. Im sitting here, staring into a seatful of feet and meat and toes and woes, and I feel the familiar rumblings of a blog coming on, coming on strong like a freight train or a good bm. Because no matter how many friends I may make and no matter how much happiness tries like a strong worm to wriggle its way into my life, the enduring misery and indignities and smells and rudeness and absurdities of my commute will always beat it back down the hole it crawled out of. No happines in the world can win out over three and a half hours a day, five days a week, 52 weeks a year, year after year of riding this effing train. And if I have to watch my life slowly tick away into a big empty pit of blackness, minute by minute for the rest of eternity, well I'm damn well going to do my best to drag you down with me.