Monday, August 15, 2005

Weird New York Moment #23,472

This is going to sound like a bad Mel Brooks routine, but on my way home on the C Train, I was harassed by what I'm pretty certain was a black gay male street gang.

Before anyone starts acting like I'm Bob Feller or something, let me explain. I'm coming home from work, 9:30 or so, on the 8th Avenue Local. I've got a seat (it's really not terribly crowded that time of night) I've got my MP3 player on, but I don't have reading materials, since this is a relatively short trip. Big mistake. Reading materials are key on any subway transit in New York.

So anyway, I'm minding my own business when these three guys, each over six foot, rush to the front of the car, and stand around my seat. One of them spontaneously starts pole dancing near my seat--y'know, like a stripper--and I think it's touching, for moment. Y'know, "Aw, he's entertaining and perhaps romancing his friends." Still, public entertainment is a long-standing tradition in New York, so this falls under the category of "Nothing to see, here."

That's until I get a load of the pal for whose benefit I thought he was performing his little routine, and he's mouthing stuff I can't hear, but I don't think it's mocking his dancing pal. Then, in a rather balletic move, the guy standing to my left swings one of his legs over the overhead bar, and starts...grinding.

Now, I know how to deal with hundreds of aggressive words and gestures, but I'm completely at a loss on how to deal with an aggressive dance move. Do I answer with my own dance move, like a Michael Jackson video?

Anyway, I slowly unplug my tunes, which allows me to confirm that these fellas are having a little bit of fun at my expense. My instinct is to throw my drink at the pole dancing guy, but I'm limited in that all I have left is about half an ounce of soda, which seems like it would be an empty gesture. Moreover, I'm seated and surrounded by three guys who are bigger than me, meaning that although I'm not in the single worst starting position for a street fight, I'm pretty close.

[For reference's sake, the single worst position to be in at the beginning of a fight is flat on your back, with your opponents on their feet. Virtually guaranteed you'll wind up in the hospital, pretty decent chance you'll wind up in the morgue.]

They decide to abandon freaking on me to do a little bump and grind with each other as the train pulls into West 4th Street. So I decide to simply smile, and tell them in a cheerful tone of voice "You boys have a good night." No response, but one of the men reached back to grab at my jacket as they ran out the doors. How nice.

Ah, New York. If you've lived here long enough, you've probably experienced some racial hazing--stuff ranging from light mockery to assault. Tonight wasn't the ugliest it's been, just the most bizarre.

In my life, it's always been groups of African American men, aged from approximately 14 to 28, and almost always on the subway. In October, near Halloween, they have fun hitting people on the head with eggs. Taking advantage of the moment before the subway car doors close is their favorite routine, since they can strike at someone without fear of reprisal. The worst I've seen was when some particularly enlightened souls decided to hurl a glass bottles at some friends of mine, from the safety of a moving train. Folks like that are one reason that today's New York City subways don't have windows that open terribly far.

And I'm not even white. If all that bullcrap isn't enough to make a bigot out of me, the Christopher Street Bloods weren't going to make a dent. But at other times, it's been tempting.

Just an annoying bit of New York to share with you all.


In other news, Jaret Wright came off the DL (where he was experiencing mal de shoulder) to pitch well against the Devil Rays in Tampa. The one Devil Ray with a live bat, rookie Jonny Gomes, touched Wright up for a home run, but overall Wright allowed just 2 runs and 4 hits in 6 1/3 innings. Yanks won, 5-2 despite some 9th inning excitement against Mariano Rivera.

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