I was tired when I left the gym tonight following a long day at the office. As I descended into the subway station below Times Square, my ears were welcomed by a captivating voice, and around a corner appeared one of the largest crowds I've had yet to see surrounding a subway performer.
In the center of it all was Alice Tan Ripley singing "I Will Always Love You" almost as good as Whitney sang it in her pre-Bobby days. Her voice gave me chills as I joined the masses growing around her and ignored the urge to rush down the stairs to the uptown 1/2/3 platform and go home.
Alice sang song after song, inviting onlookers to join her as she sporadically passed her Karaoke microphone from commuter to commuter. A few even stepped into her circle to sing along, but quickly retreated when Alice let out a note so crisp and clear that a chill raced up my spine and made me shiver.
And there I witnessed the magic that prompts people to say to each other, "Only in New York."
While singing "Rose in Spanish Harlem," an older Hispanic gentleman joined her and they swayed together and made it a duet; she in English and he in Spanish. During "Rolling on the River," three random bystanders who had been dancing along the sidelines came forward and provided back-up as Alice belted out notes that would have had Tina Turner nodding in submission. And as we rocked to Alice's version of "Billie Jean," a young man moonwalked from the edge of the crowd and began circling her in uncanny renditions of Michael Jackson's best moves.
Between songs, she handed out flyers and dozens at a time came forward to drop money in the suitcase propped below her banner. The smiles were contagious, the laughter insatiable. Through the echo of the station tunnels, I could faintly hear train after train pass below, but the majority of us weren't ready to move on. I had been exhausted just an instant ago yet there I stood for almost 30 minutes - caught in a New York moment.
"Only in New York," I heard one woman say to another.
I know that magical moments don't only happen in New York, but it's the one place where I most want to have them.