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Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Entertainment Underground

I don't need Mental Illness Awareness Week (more benevolently known as Mental Health Awareness Week) to roll around because I ride the New York City subways. I'm well aware of mental illness -- all year long.

I also don't need to seek out entertainment because, from the upper eastside to Bay Ridge, my R train ride is virtually the poor man's Ed Sullivan Show rebooted for 2012. There's an endless list of mariachi bands who come aboard, unable to contain their "Cielito Lindo" until Cinco de Mayo. There are the breakdancing teens who enter the subway stagedoor with their boom box, somersaulting across the floor. (Look out, strap hangers!) There are the doo-wop groups, the acapella blind man, the opera singers, saxophonists, accordian players. Does reading aloud from the Bible qualify as drama?

In any event, at some point, the artistes pass the hat for you to put a little moolah in it, to show your appreciation. Wait a minute! This isn't Ed Sullivan! It's the subterranean Jerry Lewis Telethon!

Tourists snap pictures and are delighted. Not so much New York City commuters coming home from a long day's work. (The entertainers generally know better than to audition during the morning rush hour. They also know to cut to intermission when the train doors open at the next station, just in case a cop is standing there. They may be putting on a show but performing before a captive audience is still a crime (creating a public nuisance, endangering passengers by blocking the aisles and/or exits, etc.). There ought to be a law against bad voices and guitar picking as well or, at least, there ought to be a gong.

Forget your Kindle or your iPod because you won't need them. You won't be able to read, hear or think above the din once entertainment is enforced upon you. Like the floor show or not, the performers demand your undivided attention.

But -- hey! -- don't forget, gang: "The world is a stage/the stage is a world of entertainment!" Most especially, these days,... in your subway car.


  1. You should try to get this published in one of the dailies . . . it's a great snapshot of NY life as many of us know it!

  2. Thanks; not sure it's worthy. May either put in as reader submission or develop it further.