Thumbs Up / Thumbs Down
Every day, I exit the downtown 6 Train on the North end for work. Technically, it's the 51st Street station for the E, M and 6, but the E and M Trains are on the lower level. Leaving on the North end, the rear of the train, I am able to exit on 53rd and walk directly into my office building. To do so, however, I have to navigate down a very narrow set of stairs with a bunch of other commuters. This path was an inspiration for this blog, as coming into work every day is not unlike a combat zone. The stairs I descend run alongside an escalator going UP, which some enterprising people decide to ignore so they can barrel up the steps like a tank and run head on into a steady stream of commuters such as myself.
The reason I decided to recognize this subway station for Thumbs Up / Thumbs Down is because there is something here that makes me smile, followed by something that makes me grind my teeth, and they appear in rapid succession:
There are two people handing out the free commuter paper, AM New York, that crack me up every single day. One of them is at the bottom of the stairs. He has long dreadlocks and is always smiling. He announces his paper to other people and says things like, "THERE'S the smile I was looking for! Hold onto that all day long or I might steal it for myself!"
Shortly afterward, as you're walking up your final stairway, you can hear another AMNY distributor hawking her paper to people repeating the line, "AM New York! Get all the news you need right here! Stay safe, stay warm, stay focused!"
I love them.
At the same time as you encounter the second AMNY passer-outer, you realize she's yelling over music. Now, let's be clear: I am one of the rare people who likes buskers - normally. I will turn off my iPod in order to hear the guys on the subway itself, trying to squeeze in a song between stations, or the people on the platforms who are making a living doing what they love for anyone who'll listen. I can't imagine what that must be like for them, so I always try to listen, at least a little.
But this particular "musician" is... I honestly don't know the words to describe the infection that are his songs.
First, please note that it is one guy playing a Peruvian Pipe Flute. This would be fine in and of itself, but he plays along with a CD that has, apparently, the rest of his bandmates playing the other tracks of the song. So it's instrumental karaoke.
Secondly, THE CD ONLY HAS TWO SONGS. I don't know if this is 100% true, or if Peruvian Pipe Flute music is a genre where all the songs sound the same to me, but I'm fairly certain that if you walk by at any given moment, he will be piping one song from the following list:
1. Unchained Melody
2. Our God is an Awesome God
The first is a wedding standard, and also appeared in the movie "Ghost" with Jim Cunningham, the nun from "Sister Act", and Ashton Kutcher's mom, Demi Moore. The second is a contemporary Christian song I happen to know exists because I was forced to listen to it in Sunday School in Michigan when I was growing up. Neither is an exceptional piece of music, and BOTH qualify as songs you DON'T want stuck in your head for the day.
So, many mornings I start my day smiling at the funny AMNY people, and then immediately wanting to scream, "Hey, Peruvian! If your God is so awesome, how come He hasn't taught you any other songs?"