This little bit of awesomeness takes place in the span of about a fifteen minute train ride from Astor Place to Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall. It was a wonderful autumn afternoon: birds were singing, leaves were changing, that “fall” smell was in the air. I had just finished some nerd work at the NYU library and was looking forward to getting back to my wonderfully overpriced, under-spaced dorm room so I could “get my read on.” I made my way to the Astor Place 6 train stop (which happens to be located at the entrance to the beautiful blue light specials of K-Mart) and waited for the next train. I have to say in hind sight, I had no clue he was anywhere in my immediate vicinity; to this day I still can’t figure out for the life of me where the hell he came from. Perhaps hell is exactly where he did come from (but we shall leave those sort of metaphysical pondering for the priests and prophets, I have more earthly matters to relate). Anyways, I waited about ten minutes for the train, totally in the dark as to the nonpareil performance piece I was about to witness.
I suppose the best way for you to become acquainted with this true specimen of humanity, is to first provide a physical sketch. The gentleman in question was of African decent, standing approx. 6 feet tall with curly, greasy black hair, rather large nasal cavities, droopy lobed ears, and an array of various tooths in differing stages of decay and disorder, and a thick scruffy beard. He was garbed in an excellent pair of sweatpants, an army style coat, and boots. He also had the most unique scent emanating from him that I can only describe as a cross between decaying flesh and rotting garbage.
Now seeing a homeless guy in NYC is by no means a rare or unique experience. To be sure, if you ride the train 10 different times, at least 8 of those trips will involving seeing some homeless person, so upon first sighting this gentleman boarding the train in front of me really brought about no thoughts one way or the other. But then the awesome started. His first order of business was to start hacking up as much shit as he could out of his lungs and spitting it all over the floor in front of him. This had the effect of scaring 2 Asian girls right out of their seats and sent them bolting to the other end of the car. This spitting went on for a couple of minutes, and just when I was starting to be overwhelmed with feelings of despair over this fellow’s obvious lack of respect for mass transit, he astonished me by pulling a rag out of the front of his pants and began giving the floor a spit shine. I immediately felt remorse at my condemnation of this man who now seemed to have nothing but the most purest of intentions in his heart; but unfortunately he must have somehow heard what I was thinking, for that is when he started having quite a loud verbal dispute with the air around him.
So imagine if you will, a rather disheveled homeless man spitting, cursing, and cleaning the train floor, and a dozen or so frightened passengers staring at him in awe. Now I don’t know about any of you, but personally I start to feel uncomfortable when people I do not know are staring at me. I mean, who doesn’t have the thought “what the fuck are you staring at?” run through their head when some asshole is gawking at them? Apparently being mental ill and homeless does not exclude one from this rather common trend in human social behavior, and all those staring, judging eyes started taking their toll on this young janitor of the streets; and being that he was obviously suffering from some form of mental sickness, he obviously could only respond to his uncomfortableness in a hilarious manner. First he performed some sort of side-step leap frog maneuver to get himself to the door leading to the next car. Then (while simultaneously staring at every other person on that train), he opened the door, sat in the doorway so the door could not close, and pulled out two Bic pens from his coat pocket which he immediately crammed as deep into his ear canals as possible. This was followed by an amazing display of muscle control, as he contorted his face to resemble some sort of toothless, wild-eyed, bum-troll, and spit generally in everybody’s direction. This went on without rest for the ten minutes I remained on board, and I can only hope it continued far into the evening.