I went to see The Cherry Orchard at BAM (the Brooklyn Academy of Music) last night, with the special lady friend and a few of her former co-workers. The play, which was directed by Sam Mendes (director of Cabaret, American Beauty, Revolutionary Road, etc) and starring Simon Russell Beale, Ethan Hawke, and Rebecca Hall. In case you don't know who Rebecca Hall is, she was the brunette who played opposite Scarlett Johansson in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. She is gorgeous. She is luminous. She is making a run at the fabled Jennifer Connelly/Kate Winslet/Tina Fey can-do-no-wrong-in-my-book status.
Anyway, we got on the W train at Atlantic Avenue, and accidentally walked onto a subway car that had a single occupant, a homeless man who was, without question, the single most awful-smelling human being I have ever encountered in my life. To paraphrase 30 Rock, he smelled like a fart of Satan after a healthy portion of cabbage. Suddenly, the car's emptiness made perfect sense. It was terrible - as soon as the train pulled away from the platform, we walked from the car we were in to the next car by using those semi-illegal doors at the end of the subway car. But believe me, no police officer would have written us a ticket if he or she had smelled the odor. It was that bad.
The train stopped at DeKalb Avenue. We laughed as a handful of people walked into the car we had just abandoned, began to turn green, and then came through the doors into our car.
The train stopped at Canal Street. We laughed as a handful of people walked into the car we had just abandoned, began to turn green, and then came through the doors into our car.
The train stopped at 14th Street/Union Square. We laughed as a handful of people walked into the car we had just abandoned, began to turn green, and then came through the doors into our car.
When we got off the train at Herald Square, we saw a couple begin to walk into the car, stop dead in their tracks when they were hit by the smell, pivot on their heels and turn the other way. Really, it was one of the more disgusting experiences of my entire life.
Then, this morning I woke up in Chelsea, walked to the subway, and, just as I got onto the platform, an F train pulled into the station. I got off at West 4th Street to go to the Porto Rico Trading Company, walked back to the subway station, and and F train pulled into the station just as I got onto the subway platform. I then took the F train to Court Street in Brooklyn, went to Trader Joe's, walked back to the subway station, and an F train was pulling into the station as soon as I got down there. Today was as great of a subway experience as last night was a bad subway experience.
If we all drove cars, we wouldn't experience these highs and lows. Some people say that living in New York is isolating, but taking the subway gives all of us - well, all of us with the exception of the VERY rich - something in common. It makes us New Yorkers. And that's worth putting up with the occasional fart-of-Satan-smelling vagrant.