Ostomy Memories Rides the Subway


The only time in my life that I’d been on a subway had been in 2003 in Moscow, Russia. But when my eldest daughter lived in Brooklyn and I visited her, my desire to explore necessitated us taking the NYC subway. Knowing her father, she gave me strict instructions on how to behave. “Don’t talk, don’t stare, keep your gaze down,” she ordered. In her mature adulthood, we had switched roles. Once on the subway, everything went okay until a girl boarded with purple hair and multiple facial piercings. She was, to me at least, gawd-awful looking. My daughter saw her too. “Don’t stare,” she repeated sotto voce. I understood and I complied, but I could see what was going on. It was as if she had taken me to the zoo and expected me not to wince at the baboon’s butt.

Hello HenryM.
Thanks again for sharing your memories, which of course stir up memories of my own in NYC.
I recall one occasion after visiting a supermarket, I was followed by a man whom I was convinced had ill intentions. After about a mile of walking and changing direction several times, I happened upon a gun shop, which I entered. The guy behind the counter asked if he could help me, so I explained that I was not intending to buy anything but as I was being followed I felt that his gun shop would be a good place to come for safety purposes. He was immensely helpful in telling me that my English accent was a giveaway for would-be muggers, as it screamed 'tourist', as, apparently would my gait and demeanour whilst admiring the scenery. He then gave me a few tips on how to walk with a purpose and only glance at my surroundings as if they were of little or no consequence. He then dipped below the counter and filled a bag with paper padding so that it looked as if I had bought a gun. I was instructed to put it inside my jacket, so that it made an obvious 'bulge' where a holstered gun would normally be lodged. I thanked him profusely for his wisdom and kindness before striding out of the shop and on my way. Needless to say, the man was no longer following me, and the rest of the shopping trip was uneventful. However, when I returned to my NY friend's house, my host was shocked and appalled at my story and warned against me travelling around NYC on my own in future.

On a completely different trip to NYC, I was once again alone and walking the streets, taking in the atmosphere, when I came across a lady who was clearly mentally distraught, and was quite possibly mentally ill. I paused and asked her if there was anything I could do to help her. To which she replied to the effect that she was homeless and hungry, and doubted whether there was anything that I could do to resolve these conditions.

I do love a challenge and I had plenty of time, as I was technically on a working 'holiday'. Thus, I suggested that I might be able to temporarily help with her hunger, if she would join me for a meal. However, there would be a 'price' that she would have to pay for the food -- which would be that she would agree to share her life-story with me.
She was a little puzzled, but agreed to my terms, and we sat down for a meal and a chat. This lady did indeed have a long-standing diagnosis of schizophrenia which we explored in some depth, before moving on to the rest of her life-story. I must admit that I find these stories quite fascinating, yet almost unbelievable in the way that they highlight the inequalities and the unkindness’s in our modern (so-called civilized) societies.

This lady had been a well-educated (PhD in micro-biology) and had held down a responsible job in a prestigious US university, until her illness necessitated hospital admission. Everything went downhill for her from that point. She lost her job, which meant she could not keep up payments on her house and she lost that as well. She could not afford medicines, so her condition had not been treated for years and she ended up on the street without anyone to help her. Most of her days were spent (as I found her) with her ‘hobby’ of cursing and swearing at passers by to see what their reaction would be towards her. This seemed to give her a sense of purpose and satisfaction as it reinforced her perception of the human race as being hostile and self-serving.
We parted on friendly terms and I told her that I would be back this way tomorrow, if she fancied another meal. In fact, it was my intention to return home to write a rhyme, capturing the essence of her story.

I did return the next day with my gift of rhyme, but my lady friend was nowhere to be seen.

I like to think that our meeting of the previous day was sufficiently friendly and constructive for her to reconsider her position and try to do something more positive with her future. However, these types of fleeting moments are sometimes simply that, and do not translate into anything more than a ‘brief-encounter'.

What they do for me, is create both memories and rhymes, which I can occasionally resurrect and contemplate.
Thank you for prompting me to do this via your post.
Best wishes

Amazing stories, Bill. There is a lot of inequality in this world and it has been around for some time. Some people think that after this scourge is over there will be some steps taken to close the gap between the haves and the have-nots. I remember visiting a young lady once in New York City in an area that was not a very desirable part of that city. On leaving, I asked for the safest exit and she told me not to worry because I looked like somebody not to mess with. I didn't know if that was a compliment or what. I think that shopkeeper gave you good practical advice on how to stay safe on the streets. Before I trivialize this any further, let me close to come back another day to address the many complex issues on the inequities in this world that you have raised here, a rhyming verse on it would not be out of place.

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Ahhh....the NYC subway........I know her well. Actually, those rules your daughter told you apply to being anywhere in NYC, not just the subway. During my college years, I lived in NJ and went to school out on Long Island. Having a car at school was pretty pointless, and an expense I just couldn't swing at the time. So to come home to visit, and then go back, I'd walk (or sometimes luck out and get a ride) to the Long Island Railroad station a couple miles from campus. I'd take the train to Penn Station in NYC, which was located under Madison Square Garden. From there, I'd have to go above ground and walk about a half mile to the Port Authority bus terminal.....and that was ALWAYS a fun walk. I learned what your daughter told you very quickly. I always dressed pretty tattered and never looked up or at the buildings around me......or ever make eye contact. I also learned to avoid groups of young men just hanging around, if possible. And when I was followed, I'd quickly find a police officer on a corner, stop and ask the time, and make sure to look back at the person I suspected of following me as I spoke. That seemed to always do the trick, but there were a lot more cops walking around back then. Those were the only times in my life I actually felt like potential "prey", and it WAS survival of the fittest. Being in the subway kicks it up a notch, as everyone is closer together and there's really nowhere to go if things get ugly. For those trips, I was never totally "unarmed", but luckily never had to use it. I haven't been on the NYC subway in a long time...........so thanks for the memories Henry!



<p>Hello Bowsprit.<br /><br /></p> <p>Thank you for your kind words about my post and the invitation to post a verst on inequity. I have a slight problem in choosing a past rhyme on the subject as there are so many. However, my usual take on inequity is that most of it stems from the imbalance and misuse of 'power' by the 'haves' towards the 'have-nots'. Thus, as my rhyming contribution I have chosen a poem from 2007 which might still have some resonance today.</p> <p>Best wishes</p> <p>Bill</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>POWER.</p> <p>Power can mean many things <br />so here I&rsquo;ll list a few. <br />Who can be sure what power brings<br />and just what it might do?</p> <p>Power can be positive<br />then goodness can be had.<br />It also can be negative<br />that&rsquo;s when it&rsquo;s viewed as bad.</p> <p>Power implies some energy<br />force to be reckoned with.<br />People and things in synergy<br />a dynamic take and give.</p> <p>If you&rsquo;re not allowed to speak<br />or nobody takes heed.<br />Other&rsquo;s powers make you weak.<br />and undermine your need.</p> <p>Authority figures have a power<br />to tell you what to do.<br />If you are weak you may well cower<br />or maybe want to spew.</p> <p>They seem to have a point to prove<br />that &lsquo;they&rsquo; control the day.<br />Often will the goalposts move<br />just to get their way.</p> <p>Little Hitlers is a term<br />describes them fairly well.<br />For they love to see you squirm <br />and make your life a hell.</p> <p>They use the ruse of much red tape<br />to get you quite confused.<br />The power in this mental rape<br />will not leave you bemused.</p> <p>They aim to claim a right to blame<br />and try to make it stick.<br />With no remorse or guilt or shame<br />I feel it&rsquo;s them that&rsquo;s sick.</p> <p>Power can be a weapon<br />or aphrodisiac.<br />When you feel you&rsquo;re put upon<br />make sure you watch your back.</p> <p>Then there is the ruthlessness<br />some people will employ.<br />Insensitive, officiousness<br />are games we don&rsquo;t enjoy.</p> <p>Governed by an oligarchy<br />oppressors and oppressed. <br />Legitimising hierarchy<br />to make sure we&rsquo;re suppressed.</p> <p>Power, greed, deception<br />all go hand in glove.<br />Subreption and obreption <br />with lots of push and shove.</p> <p>Brutes and bullies in this land<br />who lie and cheat and steal.<br />Will tend to get the upper hand<br />unless they&rsquo;re brought to heal.</p> <p>Analyse your power blight <br />to me it&rsquo;s obvious.<br />If we don&rsquo;t organise and fight<br />they will, still shit on us.</p> <p>There is of course another way<br />to play this power game.<br />JOIN TOGETHER, then we may<br />fulfil a different aim.</p> <p>It is a fact, this simple act<br />would make us so much stronger.<br />Once we get the power back <br />we&rsquo;ll be oppressed no longer.</p> <p><br />------The powers will be ours.<br /> <br />&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;B.WITHERS 2007</p> <p><br />Subreption = Concealment of facts.<br />Obreption = Obtaining by deceit.</p> <p><br /> (in- &lsquo;Constructive Conversations Inversed&rsquo; p15.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>
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Very well put, Bill. Orwell's "1984" is as relevant as ever today. Unlike the US, where the events of the last few days have proved that democracy is alive and well, there are many other places where authoritarian and repressive regimes reign supreme. The bullies must go, but it is a long, hard struggle against the juggernaut of fascism. Best wishes.  

So many "likes", thanks everyone.

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