Ringing the tin bell

Ever since I been
Ridin, right on the Subway Train
You can hear the whistle blowin'
Ya might think I'm goin insane

 — The New York Dolls, "Subway

Something happened when the weather dropped into single digits. I think my
brain froze.

Kind of lost interest in the story briefly. Primary reasons: Hit a snag with
the synopsis in that one section I was trying to synopsize rang as false as a tinfoil bell. So
there's that. Secondly, I decided to play a casual game which then ate up several evenings of
my life, and the irony is that you're playing with a fake life. It's called "Kudos."
I would avoid it at allcosts if you have something useful to be doing. Or even if you don't. I'm not
much into games, but when I do find one I like I sometimes just let myself go into it until I
get bored, which rarely takes very long. This one is finally boring me, but it's taken three or
four days.

The good news is apparently people who play video games better
their vision
. Who knew.

So I'm coming out of the brain freeze, and so is the city. But the place has
been just behaving oddly. First you have all of these semi-anorexics strutting on the runway in
the middle of Bryant Park — or as some folks call it, "Fashion Week."

Then I rode the newfangled "N" train this morning which featured an
equally newfangled subway station map inside the train. In the bad old days you actually had to either
know where you're going, or check the systemwide map in every car. Then came the adaptations,
which included a fixed line-oriented map suspended above the seats, with a station light that filled
in as each one was passed. This one, though, was even more advanced (even if my cell phone camera doesn't
tell you much). Now the stations read out in LED lights that shift as the stations pass, so the
one you're in is
always on the far left, fixed in a rectangular red frame. There's also a
section for faraway stations, which again are in LED readout format, with the number of stations
away noted beneath.

Personally, I don't mind trains that are a little more low-tech. And with all
of this LED'ing going on, the traditional train number/letter in a colored circle loses the color. It
feels very sterile and stainless steel. Which means it's futuristic, I guess, but I'm old school
with my subway trains.

Then there was the incident at Duane Reade today.

I stopped in after work to pick up some Valentine's Day cards and sneak away
with a little of my precious, precious Palmer's
bad candy
, and was a little befuddled to find a small crowd clustering just outside the doors. Now, it's 26 degrees, if that, and people
just don't cluster outside unless something's up. I actually thought they'd closed the store or
something and shoved everyone out on the street, but no, the doors were still opening. And as I got
closer, there was a crowd clustered inside, too.

They were mostly doing their clustering around what apparently had become a
clusterfuck: A store employee was restraining a woman on the floor in some kind of arm lock.
She was twisting around and being generally pissed off with the situation. It was hard to see
much, and truth is I just made an instant conclusion: Thief, caught in the act. All I
could see was some kind of entirely weather-inappropriate Yankees baseball jacket on her, and a
sneaker with duct
tape on one sole. She kept insisting she'd done nothing wrong and that he was
hurting her. One woman had a cell phone to her ear and stood by the exit calling the police.

I can't imagine being in that situation. But I began thinking that even if she
had tried to steal something, and even if she was either drunk or belligerent or both, that
she deserved some kind of advocate. And from what I could tell, she was completely alone. So
when she implored them to just go find Shirley, the bartender at one of the only remaining Anglo
bars in the neighborhood just a few feet away, I thought about it, then went to the bar.
I'd been in there once or twice; it should get more traffic than it does, because they always
have good music and there are pool tables and it's not seedy, even if some of its customers
are. Anyway, I walked in and found a red-haired bartender.

"Are you Shirley?"

"Ah, what's she done now?"

I told her I had no idea, but someone at the drugstore was restraining her and
it seemed like she could use someone on her side, just to make sure nothing bad went down.

In a slight Irish burr, she said she'd have to see if she could get away, and
thanked me, "darlin'."

I went back to the store. The woman was still decrying her treatment, and as I
walked in the cops were just arriving. I picked up what I needed and saw Shirley come in and start
taking notes, quizzing a few onlookers, some of whom, it seemed, were on hand also to witness
and tell the cops what they saw — and not all of them were out for the woman's blood. The
woman told the cops she'd been punched in the face; someone else said the employee? security guard?
had handcuffed her.

I got in line. Said to the young woman clerk, "Having an interesting
night, I see."

She rolled her eyes anxiously. "I'm all nervous," she said. "She
was my customer."

"So what did she do?" I asked. "Steal something?"

She nodded.

"You're gonna need a drink," I said.

I wondered if I should suggest Shirley, who was walking back to the bar as I
headed home.