Train Tracks and Empty Beer Bottles on the Road to Fame (Part Two)

For those of you not paying astute attention to this column, first: shame on you, and second: in the last issue of ScowlZine, I left off on a story at the very edge of a dramatic precipice, even if it may not have seemed so at the time. Now, with the second part directly following, all of you astute fans can comfortably exhale. After a night of drinking and recording with Dick Melons, my former client/friend Adam and I were awaiting a delayed train to get on back home.

ratataTAT! ratataTAT! ratataTAT! ratataTAT! Here we go...

By the time Adam and I got out of the Malaysian joint, it started to rain. We waited under this canopy by the train tracks, but it started to rain sideways, and we ran in front of this building beside the track. Two old guys were hanging out there. They said the next train was at 9:57, in five minutes. They seemed to know what they were talking about. Then they started talking about the old days, like old guys do. Apparently, they themselves had been pigs in their prime days.

"Things ain't like they used to be," the first ex-pig said.
"Yeah, things is too lax these days," the second ex-pig agreed.
"I remember when they used to beat the shit out of ya, if ya was a rookie. They don't do that no more. But you just took it, 'cause it made ya a tougher cop."
"Yeah, there's too many lawsuits now. Now ya can't do shit anymore. Used to be, you had the gun, you was in charge."
"I remember that shit."
"I used to make guys suck my dick 'cause they thought they was gonna die. Remember that shit?"
"Yeah I remember that shit. That was when you could have some real fun. You can't have no more fun these days."
"Uhh, do you think the train is coming?" Adam interrupted these two ex-cops in the middle of their reverie. The train was three minutes late.
"Yeah, it's coming," the first ex-pig said. "Though it IS late now. Might get canceled."
"That sucks," I said.
"Hey Vinny, you wanna get one for old time's sake? What do you say?" the second ex-pig said.
"I don't know," said Vinny the ex-pig, looking at his watch. "The train might just show a little late."

Adam motioned to me that we should get away from the ex-pigs without delay. We walked away, into the rain, about 75 yards from the ex-pigs. We stood there, shivering, getting soaked, pretty drunk, and unsure of what we had just heard. We tried to figure out if they were just fucking with us or what. We couldn't figure it out for sure. Then a female voice came over the P.A. and said that the 9:57 was running late. After standing in the rain some more, the bitch's voice said that the 9:57 was canceled due to technical difficulties. The next train was at 10:57. We headed for the bar in the back of that Malaysian joint.

The only people there were the Malaysians. The Malaysian behind the bar assured me they were still open. It felt good to be not rained on. We ordered some beers. Neither of us had much dough or access to it, but we both had checks on our desks at home. At that point, home felt as far away as the North Pole. But it was dry in the bar, and they had one of those true tales of the police force programs on television for solid entertainment. The sound was muted, and Malaysian music covered the images of cops running around out-duping the dupes and dope-dealers. The beer was pretty good for two bucks.

After all we could stand of cops on TV, we went back to the track to wait for the train. We found a vestibule to stay in. It kept us pretty dry. We decided to make sure we got on a different car than the ex-pigs. I was listening to a song on Adam's Walkman, one which he finished mixing the night prior. "Toxic Boy" it turned out to be called. I thought it could use a good intro and maybe an emphatic finish.

There was no bar car on the train. That's one point Europe's got over us. They're not so hung up about public drinking. They're not so super-protective of their children. It seems to me that everyone should be allowed to make up their own mind, even a young mind.

At one of the stations, a seemingly mild-mannered man got on and sat near us. When the conductor came over this happened:

"I refuse to pay," said the man.
"What are you talking about, sir?" said the conductor.
"I refuse to pay," repeated the man.
"Why?" asked the conductor.
"Because I've been waiting in the rain for an hour and a half, and you bastards couldn't even be decent enough to make a fucking announcement," the man reasoned. Apparently the man wanted the conductor to pay for the rain.
"You can take it up with customer service when we get to the station, sir, to get a refund," the conductor told him. "But you have to pay now."

The man was getting visibly frustrated. "Why? What about my job?" the man complained. I guess he wanted the conductor to pay for his shitty job. "I don't think I should pay because this is bullshit." He wanted the conductor to pay for the bullshit.

"Sir, we're providing a service - you're getting to Newark - and you've gotta pay for that service."
"Who's side are you on?" Adam whispered to me.
"The conductor, obviously," I said. "He's handling himself marvelously."
"You're providing shitty-ass service, you're doing a terrible job," the man said, his voice rising. The man really wanted the conductor to pay for his shitty life. The man wanted the conductor to pay for the rain, his shitty job, the bullshit, and his shitty life. The conductor wasn't about to pay for any of it.
"I think I'm doing a damn good job. And right now this is my job: to get you to pay for this trip, or call the cops at the next station," the conductor said calmly.
"Fuck it, go ahead and call the fucking pigs."
"All right then, sir. I hope you think it's worth it to spend a night in jail," the conductor concluded.
"Ah, you know what? Fuck it. Here's your fucking money." The man tossed some bills haphazardly at the conductor. The conductor collected it, punched holes in a ticket, and put it in the holder on the back of the man's seat. He walked away.

The man later wrote down the train number and the conductor's badge number. As we exited the train, we saw him throw the paper on a seat.

Before we left the train, though, we witnessed a black man in a cheap necktie trying to pick up a girl seated a few seats in front of us. She seemed disinterested. Then he was writing down his phone number.

"Now I want you to call me, but not too early, I sleep till 11," the man in the cheap necktie said, holding out the paper for her.
"I don't need it, I won't call," she said.
"Baby, you're just tired," Necktie said. "You've had a long day. Why don't you get a good night's rest, and I think you'll want to call me tomorrow."
"Naah, I'm not gonna call."
"Why'd you go and make me write down my number then? You made me write it down, the least you could do is take it."
"I didn't make you write it down and I don't need it, 'cause I'm not gonna call you," she reiterated.
"All right, baby. Well, you know, maybe I'll just see you around, then. Maybe we'll have lunch."
"I don't think so."
"Well, you just think about it." Then Necktie left her alone.

Sometimes the simple interaction of human beings is the most fascinating thing I can imagine; then sometimes it bores me to tears.

Adam and I split up at Whitehall on the N subway line. I connected to the D and got off at Kings Highway. The B2 bus had stopped running. A man with a prosthetic eye asked me if any buses were coming. I said no. Then, with my jungle boots on, I started to walk home. The man with the prosthetic eye followed me for a while, but he split off. I made it home and went directly to bed. I had a job interview in the morning.