Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Subway Entertainers

One of the most annoying interruptions on the subway, second only to announcements that the train is being held momentarily due to train traffic ahead, are the rehearsed speeches of random individuals (usually scam artists) that often begin like this ...

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I apologize for the interruption. My name is ..." followed by an elaborate description of recent hardships related to being unemployed, homeless or (one particularly heartless and infuriating scam) being sick due to supposed duties performed on September 11 in the rubble of the World Trade Center.

Yesterday, there was a particular subway-ride interruption that was the rare exception. It went something like this ...

"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I am sorry for the interruption, but if I could have your attention. They call me "The Bronx Entertainer" [or something like that], and I'd like to take a few moments to provide you with some entertainment ..." He said a few more words before he turned around and pressed play on his boom box.

What followed was the most creative hustle on a train that I have yet to see in New York City. The dude, who calls himself "The Bronx [something-or-other]," danced all over the train, swinging around the vertical poles with the agility of a professional stripper and flipping from the horizontal bars. Further adding to the allure of his performance was the fact that every seat in this car was full, and a few people (myself included) were standing by the doors, yet he never kicked anyone in the face - though he startled quite a few with a particularly impressive stunt that ended with him hanging upside down. He wasn't a small guy either. He was an inch or so taller than me, which would put him at approximately 5'7" or 5'8", and though he wasn't over weight, he had on baggy clothes.

I briefly imagined him riding the train late at night when most of the cars were empty, practicing his routine and reciting the closing speech to follow-up his performance: "Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. I hope you enjoyed the entertainment. I appreciate any donations and do accept cash, check, certified money order and all major credit cards. If any of you are wondering - yes, ladies, I am single so if you are looking for a guy with talent, a sense of humor and ... who is self-employed [he popped his collar] ... (that got a hardy laugh from the passengers) ..."

In a few short weeks, I have become immune to the mournful glances and verbal attempts to tug at my heart strings (and wallet), but I had to give this guy a dollar.

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