Subway Story: An Ex-Con with a Heart of Gold

Every New Yorker has a handful of Subway Stories, funny/bizarre/gross/touching sights they have witnessed on the MTA.

Like the time I took the subway in January wearing no pants! Click for the full story.

This is a Subway Story of my friend Sage:

I was riding along the uptown 1 train and this young kid got on blasting music from his cellphone.  It was annoying everyone.  He had a crazed look in his eye and what happened soon after the doors closed confirmed what I had thought: He was looking for a fight.

An old man he sat down next to him politely asked, “Could you please that down?” To which this kid, he couldn’t have been more than 18, exploded. “Who the @#$@ do you think you messing with? Huh? HUH? I DON’T CARE. I WILL GO BACK TO PRISON! I DON’T CARE! TRY ME AGAIN OLD MAN! TRY ME!”  It was clear just by looking at him that he had, in fact, never been to prison.  Or probably ever been arrested.

The old man got up out of his seat and walked away.  Then the kid started staring at me.  Now I probably should not have done this, but I asked him what he was looking at (it was clearly me) and he started to go off again.

This was very crowded subway car.  Space cleared around him and me.  It looked like a fight was about to go down.  I stayed calm and talked to him in a relaxed, non-abrasive tone.  Asking him to sit down, and calmly explaining that he was frightening other people.

I didn’t budge from my seat.  He kept yelling his angry little head off at me.

Eventually he sat back down, steaming.  A few stops later a guy from the other end of the car came and sat next to me.  He gave me a nod and then started at the kid.  After a few more stops he went over and sat next to the kid.

“Excuse me,” he said very politely, “Can I ask you a question?”

Now you have to understand, this guy looked tough.  He was tall and had tattoos all over his neck and arms.  The kid looked at him.

“Sure.” Said the kid in a I-don’t-care tone.

“I heard what you were saying before.  About prison.”  He paused “Now, I’ve been to prison.  It’s not a nice place.  Why would you want to go there?”

I was shocked.  I had never seen anything like this in NYC before.

“Oh,” said the kid, “These people messing with me.  They think they can-“

“You’re not hearing me” said the guy with the tattoos, ever calmer then before. “Prison is not a nice place.  You don’t want to go there.”

I thought it was weird.  And lovely.  Kindness like that.

The kid got off a stop later.  I don’t know if the guy with the tattoos “reached” him or not, but I know he reached out.

I introduced myself to the guy with the tattoos later.  I thanked him for his kindness.  He told me that he had made some mistakes and was thankful that he was able to get out of prison.  And that he was now, just trying to keep it real and play it forward.

I haven’t seen that man since, but where ever you are sir, cheers.  You are one heck of a guy.

Thanks for such great contributes to New York Cliché! Check out his web series Copying Life!

Have a Subway Story of your own? I want to hear it!

A Blast from My NYC Past Who I’ll Never See Again

There was nothing left to say.

We sat across from each other, separated by his living room coffee table. The chair beneath me made my butt feel much like the rest of me: stiff and uncomfortable. The empty walls of the Spartan living space gave me nothing to grasp onto for conversation. There was not a trace of the sexual tension I so strongly associated with our relationship. Nothing hovered in the air between us but a vague awkwardness. It’s my job to avoid awkward silences (seriously, I get paid to do it).

“Okay, I should head out. It was great seeing you.”
“Do you need a ride?” he asked.
“Nope, I’m good,” I said, edging towards the door. “We should hang out again, while I’m still in town.”
We both knew I was lying. “Definitely,” he said. We didn’t hug. He opened the door and I left. He closed the door and I felt palpable closure. We’ll never see each other again.

It’s strange who you see when you visit your home town. Every time I go back to San Francisco, my roster of friends grows smaller and smaller. Thus, I find myself in the company of boys I went to elementary school with and former lovers from New York.

I’m living the dream- nearly all my former lovers have since left the city. They have dispersed themselves far and wide to Canada, Denmark, Wisconsin, rural Pennsylvania, and San Francisco. The lad who moved to San Francisco, my hometown, is most likely long and forgotten to you, dear readers. “Central Park Guy“. I met him on my first day in New York City and his story arch here concluded nearly four years ago.

As I am learning in adult life, exes have an uncanny way of popping back up in one’s life. Especially when one lives on an island or has Facebook. When I made plans to stay in San Francisco for an extended vacation, I contacted him. We had never really been friends, maybe now was the time and California the place for just. Of the dozen friends from high school who were still in town, I really only had anything in common with two of them. I didn’t want to have my visit end with me hating my parents, with only two other people to hang out with, that was a real possibility. So I made lunch plans with Central Park Guy.

He picked me up in his car and I thought of the numerous times we had rendezvoused at subway stations. It made me miss New York. I opened the door and there he was. His hair was longer and he perhaps no longer employing a personal trainer as he had when we were dating. He still had the same goofy smile, same plain t-shirt and jeans, same tattoos on his forearms “No Shame, No Regret” which were already starting to look silly on someone pushing 30. He looked more or less the same, but in my eyes he had lost his allure. No longer the emotionally unavailable semi-bad boy who lived on the Lower East Side, just some dude in a kinda sad-looking car.

At lunch, I listened to a long monologue of “How Glad I Am I Left New York”. He went on and on about the negativity of the city, the cutthroat coldness, how selfish everything is. I sat there, contemplating the negativity of the person in front of me. How I had cried when that relationship had ended, the first time I’d cried over a boy since age fifteen. How we no longer had anything in common. How fantastically clear it now was that this wasn’t the guy for me, and had never been.

Every time I’ve run into an ex, and even many former crushes, I’ve experienced this same feeling. What did I ever see in that guy? So not the guy for me! Just goes to show, I pick the wrong men. I know I do. I’m probably doing the same thing as I type this. But how to stop?

After lunch, we found ourselves at his apartment. Four years ago, that sentence would have ended with “in bed”. This time it ended with him showing me his little one bedroom he shares with his girlfriend. It ended with nothing to say. It ended with closure, and that’s a happy ending.

“I Left My Heart in San Francisco” A piece of my heart will always lie in my hometown, but not because of any man.

Guest Post: Meeting Your Rock Idol

I visited LA for the first time recently, a strange thing for a California native. I stayed with a dear friend in West Hollywood who has a lovely, affordable apartment mere blocks from the Walk of Fame and the Chinese Theater. I found the saturation of celebrity culture strange. Celebrity stories are always fun, it’s like talking about the “popular people” in high school- everybody knows them.

The view from the parking garage where my lovely host keeps her car (a strange reality of LA life).

Maybe it’s the jaded New Yorker in me, but I walked past the red carpet premier of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” about a month ago with just a shrug and “Yeah, that’s Cameron Diaz.” (Maybe it’s just because I had negative interest in seeing it.) If you spend enough time in New York, you’ll see celebrities. Perhaps shooting their newest blockbuster, perhaps on line at Starbucks. In LA they have hundreds of tours and museums dedicated to celebrity. In New York, we pride ourselves on shrugging our shoulders. That said, everyone has their personal heroes of celebrity status. When you run into one of them, it’s a whole different game of star-struck.

Just ask my friend Sage, yesterday’s Other New York clichés feature! Here, in his own words, is his story:

I once met Scott Weiland, my hero, idle and god, in the lobby of the New Yorker Hotel.  Scott is the front man of the grunge rock group Stone Temple Pilots (STP), my all time favorite band.  In my opinion, he’s one of the greatest front men in rock ‘n roll history.

I used to play STP songs on my guitar and sing them all the time.  I wanted to be a rock star so bad, and in STP I found songs that I could actually sing.  I love Guns and Roses but I don’t have a voice like Axle.  Mine’s lower, sort of around where Scott’s is.  He’s got a hell of a grunge blend when he gets up towards tenor notes (I’m a baritone), but I can sorta fake what he does when he sings lower.  And he rocks. 

Anyway, I was living in the New Yorker Hotel as a student (they have floors that are just for students) and I was in the lobby with my laundry bag.  The night before Velvet Revolver, a super band made of member of Guns and Roses and Scott Weiland, had played the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square.  I had tried, very hard, to lie my way through the door.  I talked to everyone who walked out of there trying to convince them to let me have their pass so I could see the show.  But the ladies at the door where on to me and even after I obtained a pass (really don’t want to talk about what I had to do to get it) they wouldn’t let me in. 

Also important to this story, is that when Scott is rocking out on stage he will on occasion sings into a bull horn.  It creates a strange type of sound that (to my knowledge) only he really uses. 

So I’m there in the lobby of the New Yorker, bummed because I didn’t get into the show the night before, and thinking about how sweet it would have been, when the elevator doors next to me opened.  And a bull-horn emerges.

“Hey,” I thought to myself, “That kind of looks like Scott Weiland’s bull- OH MY @#$#@$ GOD!!!”

Scott Weiland himself stepped out of the elevator.  He was staying on the top floor of the New Yorker.

You have to understand.  I had hoped and dreamed that I would get to meet him one day.  But I never thought it would really happen.  This guy was my hero.  I have posters on my walls.  I had rehearsed a million times over what I would say to him if I ever got the chance.  Things like “I cannot explain fully, with just words, what your music has done for me, how it has changed my life.” Or, “I really just need to say thank you, thank you so much.  You helped me out so much as a kid.” Or, “Your music is everything I’ve ever wanted to embody.”  You know, things of that nature.

Here was the moment.  The impossible, unreal moment actually happening.  He was about 5 feet away now and the distance was growing.

“Scott!” I called out, dropping my laundry bag.

He stopped.  He turned around.  And when he saw who was calling his out his name he gave me this look of “Uh, who the @#$% are you?”

I closed the distance between us by levitating.  Yep, levitating.  I’m sure of it, because if I did take steps I certainly didn’t feel them.  My hand out stretched.  And he shook it.  HE SHOOK IT!!!

Now, for all those times that I had rehearsed this moment, all the things that I wanted, no, needed to say to him, this is all that I could get out of my mouth:

“I- uh. My- My name is Sage… I’m a really big of your work.”

“Oh.” He said, “Thanks.”

There was a really awkward moment and then he turn and walked out of the lobby and got into his car.

I didn’t wash that hand for a week.

It was, and still is one of the top three coolest moments of my life.

One more story from Sage coming up next week. Until then, check out his web series Copying Life and have a great weekend!

Other NYCs: My Biggest Online Dating Success

Like most 20-something singles in New York, I’ve dabbled with online dating. It’s so easy, I figured, why not? Well, I never got exactly what I was looking for. A couple decent dates, a score of boring ones, some interesting people, many drinks, a few good stories: this more or less sums up my experience.

I did meet one guy with whom I had a ton in common- both actors who use their bikes as a main form a transportation, we love walks in the park, and have been called hippies more times than we can count. Each a self-proclaimed goof with no greater joy than putting smiles on people’s faces. Spontaneous. Even our physical descriptions are humorously the same: dark blonde, blue-green eyes, relatively tall, fit, great smile.

The old saying goes “opposites attract” and like most clichés, it carries some truth. On the computer screen, he looked like my perfect match. But once we were face to face it soon became apparent we were meant to be friends not lovers. So we became friends and that friendship? It’s the best thing I’ve gotten out of my entire experience of internet dating. We see plays together and he always helps the women to men ratio when I throw parties. He’s easily the sweetest, most passionate, optimistic, and inspiring guy I know. To top it off, he’s this week’s featured Other New York cliché! Sage, I pass you the torch!

If he looks familiar it’s because he’s been featured in several nationally shown commercials. Or you may have seen him filming his web series throughout NYC.

Name/preferred pseudonym: Sage Suppa

Borough and neighborhood: Manhattan, Harlem (Hamilton Heights if you know the area)

How are you a New York cliché? 

1. Now, I’ve read a good deal on Buddhism and am a big believer in peace and positivity amongst our fellow-man. I would consider myself to be very far from a violent person. Still, every time I get stuck behind a 20-person group of tourists taking up the entire sidewalk, walking along at a pace that would make a turtle go “Come on!”, I have flashes of ripping off all my clothes, turning completely green, and going on a rampage.

It only lasts a second or two.

2. Where I live in Harlem, artist and creative types always talk about the hustle.  I try to take part in this by doing my “art” and having six part-time jobs to stay afloat. My “art” being an actor, writer, director, producer, editor, teacher and acting coach.

They say no one who lives in New York is actually from New York. Where are you from? I’m from the suburbs- Stamford, Connecticut.

Bloomberg is banishing you from NYC. You have 24 hours before you have to pack up and leave for ever. How do you spend them? I’d start my morning off by doing something I’ve always wanted: I’d finally go up to the top of my building and look out over my neighborhood.

Then it would be a bike ride from under the George Washington Bridge to Central Park, where breakfast would be served under my favorite tree.  After breakfast, I’d give that tree one last good climb, then take a stroll down through Times Square.  I’d take a hard look at everything there, and try to sketch it even more permanently into my mind.  After that I’d sneak into an empty Broadway theater where I’d walk on to the stage and probably start to cry.  I’ve dreamed of being on a Broadway since I first discovered the magic of theater at age 13.  The thought of being banished from a city I really love, along with where I’ve always hoped that love would take me, would be very difficult to handle.

After my tears dried up I’d to do some Romeo lines to the empty seats.

Lunch would be found in Tompkins Square park where all my friends in the Free Arts Society (an NYC arts collective I’m part of) would be throwing “a happening.”  I’d want it to be something like the Mad Hatters Tea Party that we threw last summer. It was a huge party to encourage kids to be creative.  We had all the characters from the story (even some made up ones), a long table, tea, tons of music and creativity in the air. The best part? I got to be Alice. I still have the dress.

He makes a strangely cute girl/Alice, no? See video for the full in motion affect.

The magic of that day would be the send off I would have with that group of friends. They’re very dear to my heart. I always felt “right in my bones”, as the saying goes, around them.

ARVE Error: no id set

From there, a trip to Governors Island.  It would be one last peaceful stroll away from the chaos of the city; one last look at, the way immigrants on ships would have seen, the Statue of Liberty. I’d also have one last very delicious jerk chicken wrap from the Jamaican cart that’s always station on the far end of the Island.

Then it would be night.

I’ve had on my bucket list since I moved to NYC to play a rock and roll gig on the main stage at Rockwood Music Hall. My guitars and harmonicas would be set up and every musician I know would be there, along with my father (who’s a drummer. I don’t get to play music with him that often because he and my mother live out in the suburbs, but man I love playing with him). I’d put on my bandana and we would jam out on Johnny B Good, Stevie Wonder, the Blues, Stone Temple Pilots, John Legend and any other song called out from the crowd.  After hours of this, after I was drenched in sweat, and the lights had changed for the 300th time, and I’d almost lost my voice, I’d close the set with a song I wrote (I’ve written a few songs here and there, but I’ve never played any of them out in public).

I’ve only ever seen him play his acoustic and he totally rocks it- perfect accompaniment for waiting for Shakespeare in the Park tickets

After much celebration I would take a long walk, all alone, over the Brooklyn Bridge.  I’d get some ice cream from that little shop right underneath the bridge on the Brooklyn side, and then I would go into the park that’s there, eat my ice cream, and as my time ran out sit and start at downtown Manhattan all lit up against the night sky.

I’d think about all the wonders I’d had. All the people I’d met. All my hopes and dreams. I’d smile a little and think:

“Man, how can anywhere else on earth ever compare?”

Then the smile would fade. Because deep down, I’d know, just as many other fellow New Yorkers do: there is nowhere else in the world that even comes close.

As I reached my last minutes, and then seconds, I would stay, sitting in Brooklyn Bridge Park, trying to be Zen. Trying to live in the moment. That’s all I’ve ever tried to do while living here in New York. It’s all I’ve ever tried to do with my life.

I would sit there. They would have to drag me away. Because I, most certainly, would never leave this place by my own accord.

What restaurant/bar you keep going back to, even though you’ve been meaning to try a dozen others? Honestly? Chipotle.  I can’t help myself.

Hot dogs or pizza? Oh, pizza.  Hands down.  I’ve eaten if for breakfast, lunch and dinner… all in the same day. For some strange reason hotdogs make me burp.

So you live in NYC, but what’s one super-touristy thing you secretly love? I love going to museums and finding out about New York’s history.  “This Day in NY History”, on NY1 is a favorite.  Finding out where people lived or where famous events took place makes me giddy.  A block from where I live, Washington fought the British in what would be a very important battle of the Revolutionary War.
Moments like this sum it up the best:  The other day I was on my way to an audition, walking down 28th St, like I had 200 times before. I happened to look down and notice a small plaque in the ground:
You must understand, this plaque is very small but what it signifies is huge.  Tin Pin Alley was an incredibly important place in terms of what music is here in America. Had it never existed, today’s music wouldn’t either.  Tin Pin Alley was a hot spot for songwriters and musicians of every type.  As important a melting pot area as the Harlem Renaissance.

I saw the plaque and stopped.  I didn’t even care that the person behind me ran into me and cursed loudly asking “What are you? A @#@ing tourist?”  I had walked this street countless times before and never knew, that for music, it was hallowed ground.

I don’t know if that’s touristy, but I like learning about stuff like that.

A boy at Yankee Stadium- total New York cliché

What is your favorite fictionalized New York? How does it compare with reality? My favorite fictionalized New York can be seen in the movie The Naked City.  It’s an old black and white, “who done it?” film.  In it you see what the city was like back in the 40s and 50s.  It’s a fun film because, along with the plot, the writers make the city and its people a character.  You see what Queens looked liked when all the brick housing developments where first made.  I was overjoyed to see the final scenes in the Lower East Side because it’s one of the places I work.  I know those streets, in the present times, like the back of my hand. In the film you see what it looked like back in the day.  It’s pretty fun.

The film plays the city very real and close to the chest.  In terms of comparison, the only big difference is the times.  And buildings that have been torn down.

Plug something! Be it something you are involved in, your significant other/roommate/cat is involved in, or just something you think is extra-special going on in NYC.  

For five years now I’ve been working on a web series called Copying Life. It’s about art imitating life. Without consent.  The characters are in their twenties, dealing with what they are trying to be.  And what that’s like in New York City.  Each character has their own vlog and Facebook page where they talk about themselves and their art.

I especially love this series because it fits perfectly with my theme of New York clichés. This is Sage’s labor of love, he does it all as director/writer/actor/editor. Click the image for the youtube channel!

Here’s the intro to the show: 

Here are the current four episodes, with more on the way: Episode 1 Episode 2 Episode 3 Episode 4

And one of the “Making Of” videos

Devoted readers of this series may have realized two questions were neglected: Ever had a run-in with a celebrity (A-D List)? and You totally saw something weird on the subway or street today (you may not have registered it was weird because you are jaded), what did you see?  Sage had such good stories for each of these questions, I decided to give them their own posts. Look for one tomorrow and another next week!

Thanks so much, Sage, for being part of my Other New York clichés feature! Looking forward to the next episode of Copying Life and very much hoping to catch Into the Woods with you later in the month!

What do you think of this series? Love it so much you want featured? Fabulous! Email

New York has Subways, San Francisco has…

Summer is a time for vacations. My favorite vacation destination is my home town: beautiful San Francisco. I recently spent a lovely, long vacation in the city by the bay.

There is a surprisingly easy way to tell if someone is from San Francisco. Using absolutely no statical evidence, I would say it is 96% effective.

Tell me what this is:

What’s that? Did you say it’s a trolley? Then you are not from San Francisco, dear reader. You didn’t say that? You said it was a cable car? Then, chances are, you hail from the San Francisco Bay Area! …Or you know someone from the Bay (maybe me) who has scoffed at you for saying “trolley car”.

Ah, the cable car. Perhaps even more iconic than the New York subway. Unlike the subway, they are not the preferred method of transportation for locals. Currently costing $6 a ride, one takes a cable car for the experience, not to get from point A to point B. A decade ago, when I was in high school, the unlimited ride metro pass included rides on the cable car. I often took one home from school, a much more relaxing ride than powering up five blocks of steep hills. Being able to say I took the cable car home from school makes me feel every inch a San Francisco native.

 There is always a line for the cable car, as pictured. Natives, however, know you can wait 2 blocks away, at the first passenger stop, and board one in a fraction of the time. I stood gawking at the cable cars, snapping pictures, and even raced one to get a good picture of it going up SF’s notorious hills. I must admit, I’ve never felt more like a tourist in my home town. Part of me felt ashamed, another part of me felt I had earned the right. Besides, had anyone rolled their eyes at me muttering “Tourist.” I could have knocked them dead with, “I took the cable car 2 miles home from high school! In the rain! During an earthquake!”

Not exactly true…but I am nothing with out dramatic license!

A NYC Summer Favorite: Met Rooftop

A day spent visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art is always a good one. One could easily spend a week wandering the galleries and still not see everything. From ancient art to medieval tapestries to modern impressionism, it’s amazing how many centuries cram into a single museum. I’ve been fascinated with the museum since 4th grade when I read “From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler“. In the book, two siblings runaway from home to stay at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Any one else remember that book? Did it make you want to run away to the Met too?

My favorite part of the Met is the Impressionists, I love their Monet collection. It spans from early works in the 1860’s to final works in the early 1900’s. I find the evolution of Monet’s paintings absolutely breathtaking.

This is my favorite painting from the collection, Monet’s “Morning on the Seine”. It’s hard to capture what truly love about this painting- the early morning stillness and calm tranquility are so palpable when standing before the image. I imagine one must be a morning person to love this painting, though anyone can appreciate the mastery of reflection.

Another favorite part of the Met is the rooftop garden. A lovely summer phenomenon, the roof is open from mid May through October. With a back drop of Central Park and its bordering buildings, a sculpture collection designed to withstand the outdoor elements is a feature of the garden. Equally as enticing, especially to locals, is the bar featuring $8 beers and pricey cocktails along with a priceless view. They keep the museum open late, until 9pm, on Fridays and Saturdays and a drink on the roof makes for a lovely evening.

This year the roof features a single sculpture by Argentinian artist Tomás Saraceno, “Cloud City”. Viewers climb up into the sculpture (one must obtain a separate ticket to with a viewing time allotment, only a certain number of people are allowed on the structure at one time) becoming part of the art.

I was just there for the drink and the view, climbing into the sculpture may have to wait until tourist season dies down a bit. However, my experience left nothing to be desired, I highly recommend it. I did not stay for the sunset, but I’m sure it’s lovely from up there- nature’s art accenting human’s art.

For those of you who may not know, the Met is suggested donation. This means pocket change (I will often pay $1) gets you access to amazing art, an incredible day or evening. If you’re just going up to the roof for a drink and the view, any moral obligation to pay more is easy to ignore. Combined with a warm breeze and good company, it truly is a fantastic New York City summer activity.

Bethesda Fountain and Brides Revisited

It was a beautiful day in Central Park. Sunny, blue skies, warm. I was walking by Bethesda Fountain, one of the oldest and renowned public works in New York.

Off-set by pink flowers, on the south side a raucous group of street performers in red had gathered a crowd, the angel in the middle seemed to be watching their routine as well.

I walked around the fountain, looking at the boats on the pond. Boating in Central Park is high on my list of NYC to-dos. It looks like so much fun and is surprisingly cheap- $12 for the first hour then $3 for each additional 15 minutes. Take note gentlemen- this is a swoon-worthy date idea.

I looked across the pond at the people in the boats, wishing I had someone to go boating with. Couples and families looked so peaceful, separated from the break-neck speed of the rest of the city. A leisurely ride, each moment enjoyed rather than a power rush to a destination.  I stood at the edge of the pond, watching a little child feed the ducks and several Italian tourists marvel over turtles.

I left the pond’s edge, headed towards the east side of the park. The crowded cheered for the street performers who had finished a series of acrobatic tricks. I turned my head away from them, and my eyes met these ladies.

Were they like me, wishing they had grooms to boat with?  Were they part of some stunt, a promotion? Were they waiting for their husbands to finish watching the street performers? I saw no tuxedo-ed men in the area. I didn’t approach them for, as the picture illustrates, they weren’t exactly approachable. So I’ll never know what their deal was! What do you think??

On another note, Happy Fourth of July!