Sunday, April 28, 2013

Good Night Train Outta Crown Heights

I saw him earlier today talking to a brick wall, walking at the pace of a cripple, taking intermissions to turn his speech toward the sidewalk… and now, he’s sleeping on the bench next to where I stand. It’s 2am at the S station in Crown Heights. If you had asked me a month ago that I would make it this far, I would’ve said “not a chance in hell”, however… apparently I have a chance in hell… and as well as here standing next to a man sleeping at the S station at 2:10am. New York is in this man more than anyone I’ve seen thus far, and vice versa.

The weather’s identity crisis wrought a beautiful 70 degree mid-afternoon yesterday, and quickly turned to blustery cold speckles of rain at sundown. This man and I are the only two left awake, it seems, in Crown Heights. He’s also the only stranger I’ve run into twice at different times during my stay in Brooklyn. The scene is a surreal living picture, a moment of calm, you can nearly feel your soul waning from your body and a few centimeters outside of it. He doesn’t know it, but we’re sharing silence, and even with a complete stranger, sharing silence is a means of commiseration.

The S station at Prospect Place is a regal one at night, standing a floor above the street like an urban throne 2nd in command to some higher decree. The S is late… almost 20 minutes late now. Shit, did I miss it? Corina told me, once the S (southbound) passes you have approximately 10 minutes until the (northbound) S arrives. It’s damn late, or maybe I am.

These episodes throw my entire gravity off. I begin questioning if I’m even at the right station, the time of night- are this man and I stuck in an eternal limbo to wait for a never-to-arrive S train… guess I’d be ok with that. Tour for long enough, and you can feel the dissociative disorder set in- “Where am I?”, “What’s your name again?”, “What day is it?” The details smear to a gosling gray bearing little meaning and priority to your stage time, set length, and pay for the night.

I can still smell Doylestown, Pennsylvania in my hood. Performing at one of the last bars to go under the indoor-smoking ban, the room was a billow of poison with only the clientele to make up for its wrath of invasive nicotine. The people in Doylestown were damned nice. I’d take 2nd hand for that crowd any day, however later that night I had a dream that I smoked ¾ of a pack of cigarettes and then cried myself to sleep from shame… in the dream, not in real life.  I’ve never smoked in my life, so you can imagine the amount of unreasonable drama this dream took a turn for.

SHHHHOOOOOOM!!!! The southbound S passes, stops, continues on its trail. It’s now a fact, the northbound S to Laguardia is late. Not me, just the train. My flight leaves at 6am, boards at 5:30am, the motto is be there 2 hours early (4am), and it’s now brimming on 2:30am. I’d usually get a fit of anxiety from the sight of a situation like this, but if google maps is right, then I’m easy.

I’m beginning to wonder how this guy is sleeping through it all. The mere mention of living in New York City strikes a chord of intimidation in even the most adventurous of social butterflies, and this man doesn’t seem to be bothered by the slightest danger of sleeping at a station ‘til sunrise… outdoors- SHHHOOOOM! The northbound S arrives. Finally. I board.

There was something eerie about New Jersey. I couldn’t find a single coffee shop during the stay there, just beautiful strip malls of salons, bagel bakeries, and grocery markets. Everyone at the show in Long Branch, NJ was extremely nice to the point of suspicion. Coming from Minnesota Nice, I had to question the authenticity of these people’s generosity and good nature. Horrible, isn’t it. Get raised in a state of kids taught how to smile while attacking, and you hold everyone suspect. Na, they had to be good people. Those kids from the band Climax Race were jolly as you could get for a Tuesday night. Their damn bass player drunkenly fell off the stage during sound check, skidded across the floor on his belly like Mario 3, and popped up like nothing had happened, all in stride to gather something from his bass case and scurry back to the stage. Strangest part is nobody from the band flinched in the slightest. Shit, that was a Tuesday too.  Again, losing track of the days. SKREEEEEEE!!!!- just like that, I’m at my stop for the Q.

It’s cryptic dark in this station, cold too. I drop my bag to the ground just after its strap began cutting into the side of my neck. 3am, not bad timing, but am I on the right side of the station to get to the N? When lost, naturally, I look up. Perhaps to catch a sign or some kind of symbol that’ll assure me what I’m doing is right. I pause at the sight above me. Stars… the moon bouncing light directly off a tall warehouse in the distance. There is no ceiling to this station, hence the dark and cold. Truly geeked by the view, the picture reminded me of a scene from Final Fantasy VII or Chrono Trigger. Feel free to be utterly disgusted by the video game reference, and then kindly go screw yourself;) This is a sight I’ve seen in dreams when I was a kid. The picture would lose its detail as I moved into adulthood, but I could never forget it. Even at night, this view is absolutely resplendent.  If this voyage had ever shed any response to every time I thought “wait, what the f*ck am I doing out here again?” this is it. Entrapped and hypnotized by the sight, like Fievel fresh off the boat from Russia staring at the sight of America, it took a minute to pull away- wait, no “N” on these signs. I would find my way to the N on the other side of the station and ride what I dubbed as the “good night cloud train” atop Queens and Astoria to the bus stop for Laguardia.

This is hard… to say goodbye. Corina and I literally crash coursed the country on an epic journey starting in Austin, TX, trekking all the way to Brooklyn, and now back to Minneapolis for me. The concept of time has left me to a perspective and focus of what’s important: people that support and uphold your greatest interests, and the brief time you have with them on earth. Christ, I gotta visit my grandmother first thing when I get back. I’d be lying if I said she wasn’t the first and last thing I thought before I board a plane. Weird? F*ck that noise, you’re weird if you’re not thinking of the oldest living woman in your life when you board a steel bird to take flight across the country… I digress. Corina, and nearly every damn person I’ve met on this trip, has some kind of purpose in the grand scheme of things. Searching for that meaning is senseless. It’ll work itself out at some point like any mellow drama soap opera, rpg game, or Final Fantasy sequel… I take that last one back. Final Fantasy stories are religiously epic, but sometimes end in fatal and/or absolute disaster. However it ends with this (my) existence on earth, there isn’t a single part of this path I would regret. Riding a train in the sky between dense, urban township and cloud, back to your home- the scenario is too beautiful to leave room for something as menial as a regret.