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Friday, August 29, 2008

Carpeted Subways

Last week Jeff quit one job and may have obtained another more desirable one in Washington DC. It looks as though we might be moving there at some point, although I don't know when. His new employers seem to be content with the idea of a work-from-home arrangement for a while. This means he will finally get a true picture of how many naps I take during the day, and I won't be able to do a quick spray-the-house with Lysol right before he comes home and claim to be exhausted from cleaning all day. For all the reasons he throws up, I know that the most pressing one in Jeff's mind for delaying the move is that he doesn't want to experience a real Big Boy Winter. Here in Texas we are familiar with the terms "Fall" and "Winter" from the television programs. We believe that leaves turn colors and snow falls even though we have never seen it happen here. That is why they call it "faith".

My first thought when I was told of our impending relocation was that I now have an almost unlimited Carte Blanche to shop. The baby will need snowsuits. We all need long underwear. Jeff will need suits and pretty shirts. I will need very cool boots and eclectic sweaters from Anthropologie. And new earrings for the cold. And new sexy underwear, for the cold. Any major change in my life is usually only framed in my imagination in terms of the scope of it's shopping possibilities.

I'm also pretty excited that we'll be there when Barrack Obama takes office. Or, if the republicans rig the voting machines, steal another election and MCain is our next president, then I will weep quietly as I go about my daily chores in the DC area.

I visited DC once, when I lived in New York, and the only thing that stood out in my mind about the city was the condition of the subways. Not only are they as calm and empty as your grandmother's foyer, they have CARPET and it's clean. How do they do this? I thought maybe because everyone knows that the whole city has secret service cameras everywhere so the citizens are paranoid about littering. If that were true though, then it would probably make them a little more reluctant to murder each other as much as they like to do. Although maybe that just doesn't go on in the subway where the residents of DC seem to be remarkably orderly and well behaved. First of all, I have never seen so many gray business suits. men and women alike, tiny babies in strollers gumming their little grey ties. Everywhere, people look as though they are on their way to a court date as they stroll across the perfect nubby grey carpet of the subway car.

No one pours gallons of Coca Cola and late night semen on the floor that will dry into a syrupy ecosystem like the unspeakable floors of the New York Transit System. The subway in New York is so foul that once,in the heat of summer, I was unable to pull my flip flop off of the effluvia that covered the floor. I pulled until the little piece that goes between your toes tore out. I left it there and limped out with one flip and no flop, all the time sickeningly aware of the microscopic assault upon the tender sole of my foot by God Knows how many New york City diseases until I could get home and soak it in alcohol for approximately one entire Will and Grace episode.

My mom came to visit me when I lived in Harlem, back before it was cool for white people to live there. All I knew was that the rent was cheap and if we had to step over junkies passed out in front of our door so what? I was a student. It enriched me. Besides I felt like the toughest sort of badass around my friends who lived in the pussy West Village.
We were at the Lexington Ave and 138th street stop buying my mom's very first subway ticket from a vending machine. She looked around, wary of many dangers. Getting mugged of course, getting pushed off the platform and into the oncoming train like that poor girl a few years ago. Being pushed down and trampled by the crush of people getting on the train, contracting a disease from a recent immigrant that Western doctors didn't know how to cure. She was searching for her antibacterial hand spray in her fanny pack when a homeless man shuffled over and lolled a grin at us. He had that wild, matted look so many of the homeless were sporting that year, and I must say it did kind of suit him. The whole Moses wandering in the desert for forty years thing. My mom's hands flew to cover her pack full of tissues,
credit cards and airplane peanuts. He let out a long sigh. I hoped it was a death rattle. I didn't have anything against him, but life is boring.
" AAAAAHHH, aaaaalll riiight!" as he relaxed against the machine, sliding down into a crouching position in his stained tan suit."Ahhhhhh!" he sighed, as if settling into a hot jacuzzi.
It was then we smelled the shit he had been undoubtedly holding in for days of wandering the city, until he could find just the right spot, just the right people to share in the total evacuation of his bowels in public. He saw us from across the platform and thought, "Those two, there they are. The time to poop has come." and headed straight for us.
My mom let out a little shriek, and quickly cut it off with her hand over her mouth because she didn't want to hurt the man's feelings as he grinned up at her with a look of absolute ecstasy.
I realised that in my horror I had been frozen to that spot and could have left Poo Station long time ago, our tickets were already dispensed and waiting for me in the little slot. A child walking by proclaimed, " Doo Doo!" and everyone looked at us, which shocked me back into action and I dragged my mother away from the Poo man.

" Do you know why that happened?" I asked her. "Because you look like a tourist! The fanny pack. Is. Unacceptable. And didn't I tell you not to look up? Never look up, don't look at anyone, don't smile at anyone, and walk faster! For Christs sake Mom!"
My mother promised to try harder, but the entire trip I dragged her, practically running from one museum to another. She was exhausted and traumatised and recently told me that she'll never, ever return to New York City.

I wonder if the pristine carpets of the Washington DC trains are indicative of a more thoughtful and considerate metropolis. I hope so, or I may never be able to get my mother to drag her fanny pack out and brave the muggers and Poo Men to come visit her granddaughter.