Sunday, December 25, 2005

Mass appeal

Hey! Kate's back!

On this Christmas Eve, I'd like to rock it old school and give you an account of last Christmas, when my family signed my grandmom out of the nursing home for the night and went to church. Watch the magic unfold...

My mother has always struggled with parking lots. She can be walking across an otherwise smoothly paved, perfectly dry surface and trip over an errant piece of gravel. Taking into consideration her record v. parking lots in the best of conditions, my dad thought it best to escort her into church over the slippery ice.

He parked grandma with us in the church lobby to double back for Mom. Being that Grandmom couldn’t look up too well, she commented on our shoes. My brother and I mocked the pictures of the lumpy and misshapen youths who constitute the youth group. Everything was out of proportion – bulbous noses, flat hair and the odd 15-year-old with jowls.

We paraded in to the dimly lit church and, although surveying uncharted terrain, realized we needed to figure out where to sit – too far in the front and we’d block the other congregants, too far in the back and we’d miss out on the choicest communion wafers.

It was a tough call, one made tougher by me being weighed down with a family’s worth of coats. We huddled under the fifth station of the cross, and I caught Jesus’ eye. We surveyed each other’s loads, and maybe it was just the pain of Grandma’s wheelchair
that had rolled on my toe, but I swear He gave me a “Good work little buddy” and a wink.

We decided on the back of the church, and filed in, with grandma as the bookend. The church is a cathedral style, with large white pillars so that a good 10 percent of the faithful have their view blocked — a blank canvas to better contemplate our Savior. The choir began to warm up in the 150-year-old loft condemned by the fire department for all days of the year but this. On this holy occasion, the fire department looks the other way, and 10 or so smiling singers and musicians make their way up the thickly carpeted stairs like the crew of the Challenger.

Dad and I know our role, and it’s not in the choir loft. Over the years my musical contribution has dwindled from singing to mouthing words to humming to staring beatifically and tapping my fingers.

Generally out of rhythm.

The night’s song sheet settled a debate about the choir leader’s last name. Unbeknownst to him, Tom Georgio had caused a family fight earlier in the evening about whether his last name was Georgio or Di Georgio. Dad wasn’t going to admit defeat that easily, though, and summoned a pencil to add “Di”
to his sheet to show Mom.

Tom Georgio – just Georgio, thanks – began to over-sing a duet with one of his possibly 11 daughters. Grandma whipped her head around as though someone had hurled a spitball at her. Many of the members – probably most of the non-Georgios – hadn’t been to that week’s practice.

Grandma noticed.

What she did not notice was when they would stop the song. They finished and the church reflected in the holy silence.

“Well they tried,” the small woman next to me in the wheelchair said.

Mass began.

All went well during the processional, at which point the lack of practice caught up with the choir, as some plowed straight into verse two, while others diverted into verse three. Grandma let that pass without comment. She was either adjusting her earrings or plugging her ears. I know which I choose.

Father’s mic sounded alarmingly bullhorn-like, as though at any moments he would yell “Who do we want?” at which point we’d shout “Jesus!”

A family slipped in to the row ahead of us. The older daughter rocked a star-spangled look, while her younger sister was decked out in her poofiest purple meringue dress. The father muttered, “Can’t see a damn thing” and with that they were settled.

Ahead of them was a group of mentally challenged adults. One sported a Santa hat. Many probably had fun at the church’s annual – and tragically named – Mentally Retarded Fun Night, a name that never fails to win a suppressed snort from my brother.

The faithful were packed shoulder to shoulder, but I realized we’d found a loophole. Not wanting to run the Grandma obstacle course, people had left us a full third of a pew. We had made her into a human shield.

The little girl in front of us started to tip taffeta over velveteen and I put my hand out “Stop in the name of love” style, as though I was going to pull her back magnetically. Her father got to her first, and smiled a thanks. It probably looked more like I pushed her than tried to help.

The choir crechendoed to a trilling “aammmmEEENNNN!!” and the rusty Catholics and heathen Protestants begin to rise prematurely, while pious eyes darted around, playing Holy Whack-a-mole as their heads popped up.

An elfin-height squatty woman tried to peer around one of the poles – to no avail.

Just like the choir, the collection-basket passer was a volunteer position, a point made painfully obvious when one hit the little girl in front of us.

Apologies were issued. In the Christmas spirit, lawsuits were dropped.

The woman issuing the communion wine sported a “Merry fitness!” complete with a reindeer doing a stomach crunch. I nearly spit it in her face.

The choir laughed in the face of death again this year, descending from their condemned perch. Although if Di Georgio – wait, no, just Georgio – doesn’t lay off the sugar plums, this year may be their last.

P.S. There was talk among some in the choir that my mom had replaced the word “heart” with “fart,” in a moment of distraction. She denies the allegation.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

iPod, youPod

I have a long history of computer retardedness and general behind-the-curveness. My sister can rattle off RAM and gigabyte info effortlessly while I'm more about knowing why Lindsay Lohan and Ashlee Simpson were feuding. How is it that I know celebrity gossip? Osmosis? I don't even have cable, but I can somehow tell you that Courteney Cox has an extra 'e' in her name, and that she went to the same high school as Natalee Holloway. Not quite as useful as computer knowledge.

By the way, Gigabites would be an awesome computer cafe name. Is it taken?

I have overcome my handicap admirably recently by buying both a laptop and an iPod. It's been like the Kate Special Olympics this week.

When we first got a cellphone, my sister would pretend to talk on it and I'd laugh at her 6th grade excitement. Now I have no songs on my iPod, but that hasn't stopped me from walking down the street with my white earbuds dangling, a signal to all that I've joined the 21st century. I'm just that cool. It's nice to be so excited about something.

I have my discman too, and when I do need real music I listen to my new Kanye West CD, which has some songs I just put on 'repeat'. Kanye bookended my day with performances on Ellen and Oprah. He was on there doing "Golddigger" with the modified lean back move from Fat Joe, and all was going well until he got to the line that culminated with "he'll leave your ass for a white girl." The audiences -- full of white girls -- had been trying to bop along with their suburban friends and didn't quite know what to do with that.

"Late Registration" is not quite as deliciously clever as his debut, which I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for, mostly because it let me drown out so many disfunctional coworkers. There were days when I'd literally not take off my headphones while they fought with each other and talked in baby talk to their husbands.

He's probably the reason I'm not in jail for murder right now.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Urban outfitters

I saw a woman today dressed in a Big-Bird yellow fuzzy fleece unitard. (Can't spell "unitard" without "tard." Remember that the next time you want to wear your unitard out of the house.) It was embellished with black leather trim and pockets. She was pulling a little dog in a rolling suitcase.

Upon further inspection, "she" might have been a dude.

This was the second most notable outfit I saw today. The top honor goes to a young woman sporting a left torso wrapped in gauze, as though she had been stabbed within the fortnight. The great part was, she was still rocking her Puerto Rico halter top. Her boyfriend/common law husband escorting her overcompensated on fabric and coordinated on the national pride issue. He took to the street in a knee-length homemade T-shirt that said in marker "Kiss my Spanish ass."

As a person who struggles with low-rise jeans, I admire the people of all nationalities in this city who look in the mirror every morning and think, "I'm not going to let this extra 30 pounds/baby in a stroller/recent stab wound stop me from showing all my business to the world."

I salute you ladies, if for no other reason than you make the rest of us look better.

Friday, August 19, 2005


As I'm writing this, I'm next door to Madame Taussaud's wax museum. It's a hassle to get here, fighting past the tourists on the sidewalk who stop IN THE MIDDLE to gawk and point. To lure people inside, the museum has wheeled Samuel (L.) Jackson out to the sidewalk, where people happily snap photos, as gleefully as they'd be next to the real man. I can't imagine how many poor innocents back home, from Tulsa to Timbuktu, think their friends and family members went to New York and spotted a real live celebrity.

As happy as they are about Sammy being available for photos, most do catch on that he's not the real thing. Not so for this girl in front of me the other day who - ignoring the sign saying "Wax Museum" in neon above her head - started full-on freaking out and had to be calmed down by her friends.

I think a wax museum is a great metaphor for New York's image obsession. They say people make up their mind about you in, what?, a minute? In New York, with the sheer volume of people around you, that time has got to be a tenth of that.

This leads to all-too-neat stereotypes that most people assign themselves. Punk, hippy, chic mom, professionally thin woman, rumpled student, young businessman on the go. Rather than fight these stereotypes, I think most people tend to embrace them, to buy whole hog into the lifestyle of their choice.

Because New Yorkers walk everywhere, it's necessary to carry around possessions that would normally be tossed into the backseat of a car - gym clothes, snack, books, etc.

Tourists wear their backpacks backwards on their chests, just like the guidebook and Aunt Sally recommends. Fashionistas have their oversized Mary-Kate-approved slouchy bags (probably without snacks). The homeless have Duane Reed bags. Punks have ripped messenger bags.

My favorite example of fronting in New York is the phenomena of keeping bags from a store you'd like people to think you shop at. I can't tell you how many wrinkled up orange Hermes shopping bags, or tiny, grungy Tiffany bags, or ripped up Prada shopping bags go by daily.

I'm not sure if that's a step up from the Chinatown special, the Louis Vuitton "inspired" bag. While many are direct copies, the sadder ones are altered to have different initials in the pattern, or are overlaid with smiling daisies or cherries. They are generally on the arm of a teenage girl with her mom, or a middle-aged woman sporting a Mickey Mouse T-shirt.

Either way, it sends a weird message and raises many questions: Do they think it's real? Do they think it's fooling anyone? Did they just buy it because they thought it was cute?

Friday, August 05, 2005

Easy there, Little Red Riding Hood

Since I've been here, the main focus of my exploration has been downtown, Chinatown, SoHo, all the usual suspects that would pop up on a TV show or a sleek ad for vodka. My usual routine in my neighborhood has been the bank, Blockbuster, McDonald's for my McFlurry habit.

These destinations can all be reached by walking out the door and going straight ahead, then turning right.

So last week, feeling a little like Lewis and Clark (more like Clark, really) I decided to wander over to the little playground outside my door to the left. Turns out it's a huge park,that kept going, like a magician's scarf trick, or clowns in a clown car.

There are 165 acres of Inwood Hill Park, which includes the rock where the shiny-beads-for-Manhattan trade supposedly took place in the early 1600s. I was sitting there, on the rock, trying to comprehend how long ago that was, when I realized the plaque about it was from the 1930s and I can't even wrap my head around that.

Plus, with so many acres, it makes the murders-per-acre rate look really low.

The park warranted calls to no less than six people in my phone book - "That's right, I'm in a giant woods IN MANHATTAN!" "Guess what I'm sitting on?" "Did you know I live near water? There's apparently some bridge right outside my door."

Not one, but two friends recommended I live there if something happens with my lease. I'm not sure what to make of that vote of confidence, but I've started pricing tents.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

What the heck is DeeDee Ramone doing at Marianne's wedding?

That is what you'll be saying to yourself this weekend if you find yourself at the Holiday Inn in Clarksville, Tennessee, and see me from the back. You may then wonder "Isn't he dead?" followed by "Why is he wearing a bridesmaid's dress?"

I dyed my hair last week, and the outcome ain't pretty, considering I'm taking the pictures this Saturday that will be in the family album for All Time, not performing at the national air guitar championships.

Unlike Frankie from Real World San Diego, I'm not too punk rock for this. I'm not punk rock enough to be employed at the Gap. And yet I find myself with jet black hair.

I had some angry words with the people at the Clairol help hotline (1-800-Clairol, if you need help too. Not that you do; you look great.) She was not impressed by my plight. I clutched feebly the top of the Hazelnut Medium Brown, with its promise of suburban acceptance.

Yes, I told her, I followed the directions. Although I hadn't dyed my hair in months, she said the fact that it was dyed at all was the problem. Apparently it was too light for the shade I chose. That is counterintuitive, I told her. If it's lighter to start with, it should stay lighter, not look like the boy behind me in a one-room schoolhouse dunked it in the inkwell.

She's a trained professional, so she wasn't moved, although she said there's a refund check in the mail.

The upside is that I've finally got a little street cred in Williamsburg. Too bad I'll be states away, ruining my sister's wedding.

Things I saw today:

* A man wearing a T-shirt showing a man holding a knife. It warned that so and so was "Fucking crazy." I panned up to the wearer's face and it was the same as the face on the shirt.

* A woman with what must have literally been Double Q breasts.

* A taxi with tricked out rims.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

The girls in the hood yellin' "50 you hot!"

To start off, please note that I finally remembered a title. Now, on with the show.

Saturday in NYC: Wake up, head for train station, get stopped because they are shooting the 50 Cent life story on my street. There were signs warning us about this the week before, then broken down cars from the '70s started lining the street. Next came the large white trailers with the character's names (Junebug, Charlene et al.) People on my block don't miss a marketing opportunity, so all the cars soon had flyers stuck under their windshield wipers.

Happily, they had to dirty the street up a little with fake graffiti and broken windows. Since Fitty grew up in one of Queen's toughest neighborhoods, it would have been a real kick in the head if they could have shot it untouched. Or, as my brother, Kevin, put it, if they'd looked around and said, "It's almost TOO crappy, let's clean it up."

My neighbors were not taking kindly to waiting behind barricades to get to the station, so they kept walking past the shouting guards. I don't think they'll be filming the sequel here.

50 himself wasn't there, but apparently there was a fight under a train overpass near a barber shop at some point in young 50's life. The kid who played young Fitty was standing there with The Club as a shirtless man and others over-acted to a fight happening off camera. I had a front row view of this, so if you go see the movie with me, I am going to be obnoxious about it. Just a fair warning. At this point I'm planning to yell, "That's my street!" but I may settle for offering unnecessary commentary such as, "It doesn't really look like that" or "They put up fake signs and added graffiti" just so others in the movie theatre can feel like they were there too.

I'm helpful like that.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Ohmigah! Ed Helms!

New York, it randomly smells like urine. That teaches you to be a little guarded when walking down the street or embarking on the subway, and it's a good metaphor for life here. You don't want to jump into something without giving the area a little preliminary sniff first. You are constantly reminded of others. You learn to move quickly away. All good things to keep in mind.

The urine smells (also applicable to blood spots and other assorted goodies) are worth enduring, because New York brings you to the party. It may or may not surprise you that my hometown is not where the eyes of the world are focused. There are no celebrities, although Duncan Hines (yes, THAT Duncan Hines) lived there several decades ago. His memory now lives on with the annual Duncan Hines festival/world's largest brownie/beauty pageant. (A winning combo.)

Taking advantage of all (the free things) New York has to offer, I wanted to find the Daily Show studio to ask about tickets, so when I caught Jon Stewart talking about it on the 3 a.m. Oprah rerun, I took a note. The next day I went down there and was making the rounds of phone calls to those at home who might care that I was right outside such holy grounds when who should walk out but Mr. Ed Helms. I was across the street and made a mad stealth dash to catch up to him, talking to my dad the whole time.

My dad is not like most men who work at NPR, in that he limits his wearing of sweater vests and doesn't eschew pop culture (there's something equally endearing and disturbing to have him ask about Outkast lyrics). He loves the Daily Show as much as I do (or did, in my previous cable-filled life) so I asked if he wanted to say hey to Ed.

It's the curse of my family to not put things in the mail. Gifts will be purchased, they will be wrapped, addressed and given the appropriate amount of postage, and they will languish by the front door awaiting the final shove into the mailbox. I mean, honestly, gravity does most of the work at that step. His Father's Day book had fallen victim, so I was hoping Ed could pick up the slack for me and deliver a personalized Father's Day message.

Problem was, Ed was on the phone, possibly arguing. I heard him say "We'll talk about it when I get home" as he lingered by the opening to the subway. Why Comedy Central would make a bit player in a basic cable show take the subway I have no idea. Ed talked, I stalled with Dad. Ed paced, I bought carrots from a vendor. Ed descended the staircase, I followed.

Now came the tricky part, how to not look crazy. I nonchalantly seated myself on the same car he did, choosing a respectful distance. Another man recognized Ed. When you spot a celebrity, try to not open with the line "My wife says you ruined our sex life." Ed made the best of it.

I then explained my idea, highlighting the fact that the present was purchased, but not mailed. Sure, Ed said, "But I'm headed to Brooklyn."

That's where I had been all day, and couldn't be further from my house.

"Hey! Me too!" I piped up.


The only city on the line that I knew was Williamsburg.


"Cool me too."

Ed was a great sport and made conversation the whole way, although I could see him eyeing the New Yorker he had in his backpack.

We got to the 'Burg and bolted upstairs, where he spent a few minutes chatting with my dad. I could picture him in his grilling apron, sitting on the couch.

"...She says she's bought one, but it's not mailed yet." Ed gets off and goes on his merry way, satisfied with a job well done.

I waited until he was around the corner to call dad back. He was over the moon. I wouldn't want to be my brother or sister trying to top that.

The only sour note was that my dad couldn't brag to anyone at work about it. They were all busy picking lint from their sweater vests to have ever heard of the show.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Orthodox Jews think I'm a whore

Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where I spend my days chasing after a toddler has long been a punk-rock haven for the artistic needing an escape from gentrified, genteel Manhattan. The baby has a sock monkey he sleeps with that wears a T-shirt saying "Punk's not dead" if that gives you a clue. The T-shirt is hipster style, ripped up and fastened with safety pins. Seems to be near the E-Z Blender (from the people that brought you E-Z Bake Oven) on the list of unsafe child novelty items, but I'm not paid to think. Toss that and a handful of glass shards into the crib and that's a winning naptime combo.

The kid was made to be a New Yorker - the baby who never sleeps in the city that never sleeps. I realized I can trick him into a nap by loading him into his ($800) stroller. We walked past the tattoo parlors (four) and the Italian bakery and the Chinese restaurants and into the heart of the Spanish section. Salsa music, men playing cards in the street, shaved ice vendors, flags from the mother country. There were Spanish signs as far as the eye could see, until a schoolbus drove by with Hebrew on it.

I walked another block and went from one continent to another, EPCOT world style. It was stunning. In the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, this orthodox community had sprung up maybe 100 years ago, taking bits of Europe and the Middle East with them. There were schools, ambulances, synagogues, restaurants all operating completely in Hebrew. The girls all wore long skirts, the boys had blue pants and shaved heads, with a long curl by either ear. They were skipping rope and riding bikes, and the siblings held hands crossing the street. It seemed so cliched to the point of being fake, staged for the benefit of anyone who stumbled into the black hole.

Being the only one without my head covered made me feel sheepish, like I forgot my homework, or was doing the devil's bidding showing off my hair like a hussy. Knowing that everyone's looking at you is a strange feeling.

Then the baby sprang back to the world of the waking, so we headed home. At a stoplight we met a sweet old man who asked how old the baby was.

I keep forgetting that people think I'm the kid's mom, so this is how our conversation went down.

Man: He's so cute, how old is he?
Me: 15 months.
Man: (To baby) You're a pretty tall little guy. (To me) How tall is his father?
Me: Uh, I can't really remember. To tell you the truth I only met him once.
Man, in horrified silence, hurries off.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Cracker a-salt

At the risk of this rapidly turning into a crazy-people-on-the-subways blog, I've got another tale, and it's a doozy.
I got done babysitting in too-cool-for-school Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and hopped onto the subway with a bunch of punk rockers. I was the most straight, square and sober )and least sparkily) person on there by a mile. A few stops later, I looked up and the punks had been replaced by the New York stew of ethnicities. By 14th Street, I was the only while girl.
I'm used to playing the token white girl in my neighborhood, and barring the foreseen air conditioning accident (see previous entry) I rep my people well; I always have a smile for children and dogs, smalltalk for the shopkeeps and a neighborly "hola" for anyone else.
The man who got up to rap on the subway didn't see me that way though. His rap was trite and derivative, even by rap standards. I thought how cool it'd be to hop up and battle him with my one rhyme ("I'm not black like obsidian, but I spread word like the Gideons. I'm like a prophet when I get lyrical, I spit rhymes and you say it's a miracle.")
Everyone else thought he was lame too because nobody gave him any change. This made him change his tactic. He began pacing back and forth, yelling about how white people were ruining Harlem by buying apartments there and making the buildings nice.
I look around. I'm the only white person. Awesome. Everyone else casts a glance my way, and some sort of self-preservation class-clown thing kicked in. The man turned his back and I pointed at myself innocently and let out a little "eep." Everyone smiled except for my man.
"You think this is funny cracker?" he shouted. "No crackers should be allowed above 103rd Street."
This is layer upon layer of crazy for many reasons, not the least of which is that Columbia University - a known cracker haven - is at 116th Street. I live at 207th, which is more than twice his tolerance level for crackers' abodes.
He yells at me and at the car in general for a few more minutes, about co-op boards and crackers, then comes back to me.
"What stop you getting off at cracker? It better not be after 103rd. I'm watching you cracker."
I really wanted to tell him that I'm really more of a honky, one that listened to Kanye West's CD for over 200 consecutive work days, but I figured he wasn't in the mood to appreciate it, so I stared off into space while he yelled some more, then strode off to try his by-all-accounts unsuccessful rap career on the next car.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Anyone else sweaty? No? Just me? OK.

I learned something beyond disturbing the other day: About a quarter of air pollution comes from human skin and dandruff. Twenty-five percent. It's enough to make a girl dig her SARS mask back out.
It's the most unsetting news I've heard since I learned what it took on my parents' part to get me to the planet. But back to skin cells: Take comfort, person next to me on the subway. My skin cells are firmly in place thanks to the glue that is my sweat. See, I don't have air conditioning, which means that from the time I wake up to the time I pass out from heat stroke nightly, I feel like a piece of fruit stuck in a dehydrator, despite drinking liters of water a day – often while waiting in line to pay for said water.
Project "Keep Kate in an air conditioned building at all times" fails on a daily basis. After window shopping and getting groceries, there's not much else to do.
Like all New Yorkers, I'm used to the garden variety "Hey baby" and "Looking good Mami"from guys on the street, but thanks to my constant sweat glow I was completely freaked out yesterday. On the subway, my usual concern is not sticking my armpit in the face of the person in front of me when I'm holding on to the bar, but a whole new meaning of fear was opened to me when a guy leaned over before getting off and whispered in my ear "Nice skin," which seems like something a person would say before skinning you.
My plight is actually all the worse because I actually do have a window AC unit, but my landlord won't get back to me about installing it, and the self-installation scenarios in my head are not pretty. I'm on the fifth floor and there's a courtyard below my window where kids play (loudly). Add to it that I'm the only gringo in my building, and you can imagine that I don't need the bad P.R.
I can see the Post headline the next day "Neighbors describe AC Monster as quiet, Caucasian, sweaty."

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Stupid? Yes stupid!

I had to fly from Kentucky to New York on Monday, which wouldn't seem to be breaking new ground, but apparently is damn near impossible to do. It took 19 hours, five cities and three layovers so I could sweat myself to sleep in an un-air-conditioned apartment.
Plus, every leg of the trip was made on those dinky planes, the air equivalent of the short bus. I think the other jets were laughing at us. I saw Trump's gold-and-black monstrosity at La Guardia, and I know it let out a condescending chuckle.
At one point while we were on the ground, someone, possibly the pilot got on and said "Whoo! That wind just blew my hair into a nice 'do!" To which the Indian man next to me mumbled "Haha funnyman. Fly the plane."
The highlight was the five hour layover in Buffalo. Did you know Buffalo has a slogan. They reached deep into the vault of creativity and pulled out "Buffalo? Yes, Buffalo!" It speaks volumes about the city.
I imagine this will be the nation's next big catchprase for disbelieving dinner guests tasting bison burgers. It was brought to us by the creative geniuses behind "St. Paul? You betcha!" and "Tulsa? Why the fuck not!"

Things I've seen recently:
* Trump's jet
* A mile of highway adopted by Lifetime, Television for women. I hope it leads to "From trash volunteer to wheelchair bound: The Tiffy Daniels story."
* La Sinogoga, in Harlem. Complete with Star of David and Mexican flag.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

To find yourself suddenly engrossed in page A33 of The New York Times, one of several things is going on. The Times stooped from its perch to write about pop culture, you need to appear smart to impress the person next to you or the most common reason: There's a homeless man dancing for joy over Jesus in front of you.
The Lord had blessed my friend with a nice outfit and a booming voice, and he got a 10.0 on his improv skills. He danced, he sang, he recited Bible verses for us. Had there been a lion, I'm sure he would have stuck his head in the beast's mouth. As it was, I rode for him for almost 20 minutes and never did the man repeat a part of his message, which is harder than it seems when your entire message is "I love Jesus."
Sure, he stalled for time by saying "I don't even know where I am" every time the train stopped, but overall he covered a lot of territory. There was talk about his shoes (they may have looked shiny, but that didn't mean he wasn't homeless), turning the other cheek and counting our blessings for that $20 in our pockets (I was flattered he thought I had folding money).
As we wound our way from Brooklyn to Manhattan, his story came out. Dancing nonstop in the aisle, he told us about the homeless shelter he was kicked out of for being disruptive ("BUT I WASN'T!!") about Jesus.
He filled the time by speculative riffing about what kinds of hygiene products we might use. ("Think about that when you're putting on your Right Guard or your Prell or your Dolce" -- miming spritzing perfume -- "or Gabanna" -- spritz.")
And I will.