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Captain Awkward
Hey New York City, it's so hot and the subway is hell, can I tell you about a miracle I saw in your city once upon a time?
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Captain Awkward Jul 19
Replying to @CAwkward
It's the summer of 2005, it's a 100-degree day, with thunderstorms quickly soaking us and then disappearing, leaving everyone steaming and wretched. I'm on a subway platform trying to get from Lincoln Center-ish back to Brooklyn, I can't remember where I was in my route.
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Captain Awkward Jul 19
Replying to @CAwkward
It's evening rush hour and trains aren't coming, and when they do come they're packed solid and nobody can get on. Some pass us by entirely, suddenly express, and the platform is getting more and more and more crowded with hot, exasperated, damp people.
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Captain Awkward Jul 19
Replying to @CAwkward
And on the platform with us is the world's worst street performer, a drab little man playing "Turkey In The Straw" on an out-of-tune fiddle, scratching it out over and over again. He has bad timing and worse rhythm.
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Captain Awkward Jul 19
Replying to @CAwkward
He only knows that song. He plays it, or part of it, and then stops for a second, and plays it again, the same phrase, and I feel the sound like red infected scratches down my spine, like Hell's fingernails on my personal chalkboard. And the crowd hears it that way, too.
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Captain Awkward Jul 19
Replying to @CAwkward
And every minute the train doesn't come, or a packed one passes us by, or we hear the one going uptown pass on the other platform, the crowd is getting bigger and hotter and angrier. As the little man plays on, his strings are our tightening nerves. Something is going to snap.
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Captain Awkward Jul 19
Replying to @CAwkward
There's a lady trying to get cell reception underground, she's late for something important. There's a couple arguing, first in whispers, but getting louder and louder over the music. The business bros are loudly bro-ing, we are all jostled and jostling.
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Captain Awkward Jul 19
Replying to @CAwkward
And the violin guy keeps playing. If you're not familiar with Turkey In The Straw, here it is. Now imagine it screeched by a ghost orchestra that hates you in a hot angry dungeon you can't leave.
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Captain Awkward Jul 19
Replying to @CAwkward
The crowd, we are becoming a single, terrible thing. We hate ourselves, we hate each other, we hate the violin man, we are becoming people who might not move out of the way to let someone through, who might pretend not to hear an "excuse me." Society is breaking down.
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Captain Awkward Jul 19
Replying to @CAwkward
A couple of beefy men in matching track suits come down the stairs onto the platform. They speak Russian to each other. They each have an enormous wheeled suitcase that they are trying to get down the stairs onto the crowded platform, against a tide of people fleeing up and out.
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Captain Awkward Jul 19
Replying to @CAwkward
The Russians yell some curses and shove their suitcases and their muscular bodies down the stairs and the crowd parts a bit to let them through to the platform, even though we're still under the spell of "Demon-Turkey In The Sweaty Straw Of Satan's Butthole."
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Captain Awkward Jul 19
Replying to @CAwkward
I can hear: A screaming baby. The business lady who is late. The couple who are accusing each other of crimes and misdemeanors. The horrible fiddle music. Russian swear words. My clothes are soaked, water is dripping through the ceiling, another thunderstorm outside?
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Captain Awkward Jul 19
Replying to @CAwkward
One of the Russians breaks away from his fellows and advances on the violin player. I can't hear what they are saying, but I can see: He looms over the musician and holds out his hand for the violin, a clear "Give it to me," gesture.
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Captain Awkward Jul 19
Replying to @CAwkward
The musician refuses. The loom grows. "Give it to me," is the clear request. The Russian guy's friends start moving in, but he holds up a hand and signals them to stay back. The musician refuses and starts to play again. The crowd is a knife's edge, a riot, a growl in the throat.
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Captain Awkward Jul 19
Replying to @CAwkward
We're going to see something break, or somebody. There will be matchsticks on the tracks. The Russian guy reaches into his pocket and pulls out a roll of bills. He holds it out to the fiddler and makes the gesture again. "Give it." Trembling, the fiddler complies.
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Captain Awkward Jul 19
Replying to @CAwkward
The crash never comes. The giant Russian takes the violin from our drab little tormentor, acquires the bow with another "Give it!" signal, and gently, expertly, tunes the thing. Then he plays.
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Captain Awkward Jul 19
Replying to @CAwkward
He plays a song, something classical, I half recognize it but couldn't tell you what it was. He plays our souls back into our bodies. He plays Eurydice up from Hades. He plays the hot steam out of our clothes and our hearts. He plays light into the darkness of that place.
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Captain Awkward Jul 19
Replying to @CAwkward
He plays us speechless and gentle and human again. He plays us in love with the city, the rain, the tunnel, the train that will surely arrive and carry us home any minute. He plays us hopeful and connected and true.
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Captain Awkward Jul 19
Replying to @CAwkward
A train comes. Those who can get on do, the rest of us wait patiently for the next one. We could wait for hours if we had to, as long as this big man makes music, we are all doing just fine down here. The next train approaches, and it breaks the spell.
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Captain Awkward Jul 19
Replying to @CAwkward
The big man's friends are impatient to go, so he finishes his song, holding the last note out as long as he can. Then he hands the fiddle back to its dumbfounded owner and wheels his giant suitcase into the train with his friends. I lose sight of them, then.
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Captain Awkward Jul 19
Replying to @CAwkward
But as the doors close behind me, I hear it, starting up again, to a much emptier platform. Turkey. In. The. Mother. Fucking. Straw. (but in tune, this time) And that, my friends, is a story about New York.
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Captain Awkward Aug 1
Replying to @CAwkward
Hello, friends, I made a (shareable, public) version for people who don't Twitter.
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