A ride and a show for $2.75


One rush hour evening, as my Q train rambled over the Manhattan bridge, my gaze fell to a woman’s hands. Her nails, at least an inch in length, were sending a message. On her index fingernail, in black nail polish overlaid on a white background, was a giant “S,” on her middle an “E,” on her ring an “X,” and on her pinky a “Y.” Yes, she had written SEXY on both hands. It was painted in such a way that when her hands were resting normally on her lap it was the correct way for the world to read. Staring at her nails, I couldn’t help thinking, who on earth did she do this for? Her husband? Her boss? Herself?

I tried deductive reasoning. Maybe when she was having a sweat-pants-and-Haagen-Dazs day she could look at her nails and remember, despite the elastic waistband, she was SEXY. But then wouldn’t the letters be facing her, for a more convenient read? Perhaps if she was at a night club and a guy was hitting on her but still hesitant about asking her out, she could just flash her nails and let him know “hey in case you’re not convinced by my leopard print spandex pants and my inflated cleavage , I’m SEXY.” Then I figured she’s probably the leader of a self-help group for women who consider themselves dowdy and her nails are her visual aids. I can see her talking to her group: “Ladies, we must always feel our best and let the world know who we really are. I am SEXY and so are you. Spell it out. Shout it out. Let the world know who you are!”

Then of course I got very depressed because I wanted let the world know who I was, but BITTER won’t fit on one hand. ¨


I was on the 2/3 train on a Tuesday night at around 9pm when somewhere between 14th & Wall St. three very boisterous guys got on the train. I looked up and could immediately tell by their garb they were Orthodox Jews. Orthodox Jews are not generally a group one associates with rambunctious subway behavior. I immediately assumed they were teenagers. After all my years of traveling on the various subway lines going into Brooklyn I have come to my own scientific conclusion that loud, obnoxious, teenage behavior transcends race, gender, class or religion. Anyway, on closer inspection of their faces I knew they weren’t youngsters, they were in fact in their late twenties to early thirties.

The three of them huddled around a pole. One of them had the large black hat, plus three large H&M shopping bags, the second also a black hat and the third a yalmuka. I was struck by something with the one with the yalmuka. His pants were just a little shinier than I’d expect for an Orthodox Jew, and they just didn’t seem right, and that’s when I noticed it, they were a skinny jean cut! Five pockets, tapered leg and super snug. And the fringe from his tallis (they prayer shawl worn under the clothes) was not the regular white cottony fringe, it was almost silky and colorful. And then I noticed the pants on the one without the H&M bags…they were a really nice brown corduroy, and fashionably rolled up at the bottom, revealing not the regular flat black leather shoe, but a black suede desert boot with a slight square toe..think mod. Who were these guys?

The train jerked. H&M Bag and Brown Corduroy sat down. Skinny Jean then jokingly sat down on the lap of Brown Corduroy. What is going on? I thought to myself. I’ve certainly never seen pious Jews or any member of an extreme religious sect behave like this. Were they drunk? Did I time travel to Halloween? Were they part of a new sect of  Jovial Orthodox Jews? The boys laughed, then Skinny Jean removed himself from Brown Corduroy’s lap and sat between him and H&M Bags. He then pulled out his iPhone and the three played a game. My eyes glanced downward and caught a glimpse of Skinny Jeans’ shoes…they were black runners…they had a label on them…they were Emporio Armani! I attempted to avert my eyes and not gawk (they were a few seats down from me) but I was drawn back in when Skinny Jeans put his arm around Brown Corduroy. Sweet, I thought, they’re pals.

But then…then….Skinny Jeans started playing with Brown Corduroy’s ear! Oh. My. God. They’re gay! And out. Well, out on the 2/3 at least. Now the 2/3 goes right into the heart of Crown Heights a very Orthodox neighborhood so I have no doubt they were not playing dress up, or heading somewhere where they could be free to touch each other’s ears in public without fear of retribution. But here they were, laughing it up like they were on Fire Island.

Seemingly bored with the game, H&M bag dug into said bags and pulled out a lovely white shirt upon which he held up a gray sweater vest, Skinny Jeans and Brown Corduroy nodded approvingly. They also admired his gray v-neck sweater, then resumed to game playing and ear caressing. During this time I tried to catch their conversation. But they way they were huddled over so I couldn’t hear.  It definitely wasn’t English, maybe Hebrew. I couldn’t tell. As we pulled into Bergen St. Station I thought about staying on and following them, but I just couldn’t do it. I made sure to walk by them as I went to the door. I heard the language, it was French. And once again, just when I think there’s nothing else that can shock me, I’m faced with Gay Euro Trash Orthodox Jews.


All was calm on the Q train during the weeknight rush hour. The car was full, but not uncomfortably so. Through the ordinary din of subway car chatter a man’s voice began to rise from the far end of the car.  “But when…when…”  The voice got louder. “But when! I have to see you!…” Normally I don’t pay attention when voices rise above the crowd but the desperation in this particular plea forced me to lift my eyes and look.

A woman, with a mass of hair sprouting from her head like a volcanic eruption, was forcing her way through the train. It must have been 1974 when she last saw a hair brush. Her face was buried beneath an impenetrable coating of pancake make-up, nowhere near her natural skin tone-her jaw line served as the make-up border, and her neck was openly exposed to all the elements. The swath of rosy pink blush that started at her temple and ended in the crevasse of cheeks matched not only her lips but also her very snug suede jacket The ensemble was completed with a pair of white oversized Jackie-O sunglasses. Her age? Anywhere from forty to six hundred and fifty.  There’d have to be a full archaeological team to dig her out to know for sure.

She is hauling ass through the car trying to get away from the Man, who hasn’t stopped calling after her. The train stops at Atlantic Avenue and the doors remain open as we are asked to “please be patient while we are delayed”.

Directly in front of me now, she stops and turns to her suitor, “This is your stop, get out get out.” Slumped, disheveled and shuffling his weary feet he continues his plea “But when, when can we go out again?” “I don’t know, but you should leave, this is your stop.”  “I want to see you again. ” “This is your stop. Get out.” They continue this banter for several minutes, and are not using their indoor voices.

At this point I notice that everyone is unabashedly watching them. Normally there are a few stares at these events, some brazenly watch, while others sneak peeks not wanting their voyeurism noticed. Not here. Not now. Everyone paid their two dollars and this time they got a ride and a show.

Finally the Pink Lady points to the door and shouts “GET OUT.” The Man drags himself towards the door. She watches. Will he outlast the delay? No. He makes it out. But just before he takes his second foot from the train to the platform he looks back and in all earnestness says to her: “Call me.”

Those of us in ear shot could not contain our laughter.  I for one, couldn’t wait for her response. But none came, as he stood staring at his beloved, the doors to the train closed and words were no longer necessary.

The train lurched forward. The Woman took a few steps towards an empty seat, slumped down and released an almost inaudible sign. And then the rest of us passengers all resumed our practiced look of feigned indifference and continued on in silence.

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