Monday, March 31, 2014

on the train

1.  Friday evening, heading home from work, I got on the A-train, grabbed an overhead pole and immediately lost myself in the book I'm reading these days.  At the next stop a seat opened up in front of me and a young woman pushed her way through to it, lost in whatever she had playing on her headphones and not making eye contact with anyone around her.  When she got herself comfortably settled, though, she glanced up at me, suddenly grinned and said, "Oh! I love that book!"

I myself am having a love/hate relationship with this book (to be honest, mostly hate), but for that moment I was so glad to be reading it -- and in paper form. And I've been thinking ever since about how communal the act of reading has traditionally been -- a place of shared opinions, shared experience, with people we love, people we know, and people who up until a sudden moment of recognition have been complete strangers.  The electronic revolution is a wonderful thing, of course, but not without its sacrifices.

2.  Yesterday I met some friends for a Sunday matinee down near Lincoln Center, then meandered my way north and eventually hopped on the train at 109th Street. A couple stops before mine, a couple boarded the train, guitars in hand, and stood in the middle of the car and sang the most beautiful song, filled with gorgeously lush harmonies. I, apparently a sucker for gorgeously lush harmonies closed my book and craned forward, peering down the train at this singing couple, completely enthralled.  As we pulled into my station I hopped up and dug a dollar out of my bag and ran down the length of the car to give it to them. I'd never heard this sort of music on the train before, and clearly I wasn't the only one impressed -- two or three others were making that dash with me.

In the elevator up to the street I again opened my book and tried, as I often do, to tune out my fellow elevator riders.  But this time I couldn't help smiling -- two different pairs of my fellow subway riders were discussing how beautiful the music had been.  And I was thinking how lovely it was that this guitar-playing angelically-voiced duo had managed to break through our usual interpersonal barriers. When you've managed to get a bunch of New Yorkers talking about you in hushed, reverent voices after a long subway ride, you know you're doing something right.

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