February 11, 2007

Sounds of a city

OK, so I'm getting used to the idea of a heavy rumbling below my feet, sometimes when walking on the streets, and sometimes while sitting in some NY establishment like this Starbucks on 6th Ave. It rumbles up my shins and peters out somewhere near my knees.

The trains below my feet, of course, the sound floating up out of the grills on the pavements. No surprise any more.

But today it was an entirely different sound that floated up. A big, brassy, drum-thumping sound. A band, playing somewhere in the station many feet below my feet, like I've seen several bands playing in the stations.

Music from down below. There's some poetry there.

Next to me, two old gents are playing backgammon. One, laconic and chewing gum, has a beret on. Backward. Looks like a crust French fisherman, down to his wrinkled but strong hands. The other is larger and has a bushy white moustache, wears a Russian-looking hat with a tiny elegant metal emblem on the front, reminiscent of Zarathushtra. Has a copy of the Paris Review that he was reading closely before his opponent walked in. He seems the better player, hunching over the board and playing with an impeccable focus. I would never have imagined it, but I'm starting to like the regular sound of these two flinging their dice on the board.

Two tables to my right, there's the steady patter of two women poring over an album of black and white photographs.

Across the little table from me, a young woman with her hair pulled back behind a thin hair band has been on a mauve phone for the last 45 minutes. She speaks so softly, if at all, that her voice doesn't even carry to me, 3 feet away. Next to the big glass window to my left, a bearded young man has, likewise, been on the phone for the last 45 minutes. I'm beginning to notice idly that the times his mouth moves, hers doesn't. And vice versa.

Are they speaking to each other? Or am I seeing things, since I'm certainly not hearing them?

Nope, he has finished his conversation and is now staring down at his phone, apparently suspicious of something that has appeared on its screen. He snatches it up and is now punching at it -- yes, angrily.

The dice rattle again. Somewhere above me a terminally mediocre crooner sings some incomprehensible nonsense from a speaker. Somewhere below me, another train goes past. Again, I feel it in my shins.

I have to go find that grill where the brassy music wafts up.


Michael Deibert said...


For coffee, mac and cheese and most excellent matzoh ball soup (as well as a pleasing drink called an Arnold Palmer, half iced tea, half lemonade) you must visit
Eisenberg's on 5th Ave and 22nd Street. See if the German waitress Rosie is there and, if so, give here a hug for me. In a city with as much personality as New York you have no business being in a Starbucks!


Anonymous said...

it is interressant, that requires a development:)