I went into Manhattan tonight to meet a few friends of mine at a bar in the East Village and watch the Lakers/Magic game. Though it ended tragically, it was good to take a time out with friends that I hadn’t made face time for in a few weeks.
But more interesting than the game or smalltalk (for you, the reader – I hope) is the weird experience I had on the subway…
For the first time, I saw the police shut down a musical act in a subway station — Union Square no less. The crowd was not exactly enamored of the move, so it’s safe to assume they weren’t being roudy or anything. Pretty shocking stuff, and a sign of the times.
For the first time, the dude I sat next to on the Q and I were both reading the exact same book: Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises”. We had some nice chitchat about how the book comes to us from a different time. When the man complained to me about not knowing French, I informed him that the scene would be moving to Spain, so he’d better brush up on his Spanish, too :] As we were both reading our books, we didn’t really get to find out more about each other. The man had some kind of accent, but I couldn’t figure out which. (Oh, and I should mention – for the first time, I read a book semi-buzzed on the Subway…)
For the first time, I noticed the flora at the Sheepshead Bay subway station in Brooklyn (because, as some of you might know, Ave U’s station is being renovated on the Coney Island-bound side). There are some really charming, seemingly random green that grown in between the third rails of the two B tracks and in the middle as well as along the sides of the platform, obscuring the ugly pipes beneath. Combined with the pitter-patter of the soft rain and the purplish-cloudy sky, it was eerily beautiful, like I was living on some remote island nation and not in one of the nation’s proudest cities.
Now, before I noticed all this, I was pretty burned since I’d missed the Manhattan-bound Q that would take me back to Ave U (it was pulling out just as we were pulling in). I was kicking myself for a few minutes, before noticing the beauty of the scene, and commenting about it to some random guy taking a picture of the tracks and station with his iPhone. The man spoke with an accent, and this time I made sure to ask where he was from.
For the first time, I met a random Israeli on the subway. He must have been about my age, since he’d just finished the army, and was visiting the US in order to improve his English and get a solid vacation. I told him that I would probably be spending a year in Israel the next year, and complimented me on my Hebrew (“3adayin kashe li ledaber 3ivrit. En li 3im mi l…oh crap, what’s the word? L’targel, he completed for me.) I mentioned that I’d want to learn Arabic, too, and he pointed out that everybody here who spoke Hebrew also knew Arabic. (I explained that my parents were from Istanbul.)
“Samer” – his actual name, though his friend’s in the army rightfully called him “Kayeetz” – was a Navy man and a Likudnik, and plans to go back to the Navy upon his return to Israel. When I asked him what he thought of Obama’s policy, he was pretty diplomatic. He spoke of being sent out with five other guys to defend settlements in the middle of nowhere, instead of with a full unit, as he said was necessary – not quite so enthusiastic. On the other hand, he pointed out, it’s our country and the onus is on us to defend it and settle it (but not in as many words – he is still learning English, after all.) He described himself as a big supporter of Netanyahu, having campaigned for him in the elections, and so he trusts the PM’s judgment. Off-handedly, he mentioned how Bibi was an American, and a great speaker – assuming me to be an ignorant American, which I laughed at on the inside. At which point, we’d both gotten off at Avenue U, and quickly said our good-byes.
For the first time, I don’t regret having missed the Sheepshead Bay Q in the middle of the night, during pouring rain.