One of the sounds of this city I've been trying to decipher is what happens on the long reaches of the express trains. Duke Ellington notwithstanding, there's not much music on the A Train between 59th and 125th, the longest stretch I know (about three miles).
Mostly rumbling and rattling Maybe he heard things I can't--well, duh--or maybe the trains have slowed down. The tracks feel bad over there on 8th Ave, you know what passage you'e found.
But the long reach of the 2/3 Train between 42nd and 72nd, now there's a sound that will wake you up, no matter what state of inebriation or--in my case--imminent expiration, you find yourself.
It's thirty blocks, and the train finds its rhythm right around 50, as the insane caricatures of my people etched in the tile--these are the Irish morons who lived by the law of dreams and settled Hell's Kitchen--whirl away, leprechauns and canes and funny hats giving way, as always, to darkness.
Here's a sound I can't describe. Is it a moan, a whistle, a sigh, a chorus? It wakes me no matter what the hour, whether I'm headed downtown or up, and it begins like any stray sound intruding on my well-earned reverie, like a welcome ghost saying, Jimmy boy, you owe me.
This sound is like nothing you've ever heard, it rises from humming to whiining to--what?--singing and it makes me want to open the doors and say, I hear you.
What was it that Debussy said about music? “It’s the space between the notes.”
Billy Strayhorn. Not Ellington.
“...these are the Irish morons who lived by the law of dreams and settled Hell’s Kitchen...” May I use that phrase? It set me to chuckling now that I am deep into trying to reconstruct the lives of a family of Irish immigrants as they rise from the he...
Wow, James I often recall the NY train noise from what is left in movie soundtracks. It is unforgettable. Out here in the Bay Area we have BART whooshing out of stations on electric power up scales that have a highly pitched screech in the background. ...
Thanks for paying attention and for telling us. Pedantic utterance: it's Strayhorn, not Ellington.
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