Don’t sleep in the subway, darlin’

Are you ready for another spin in the time machine? Set the controls for Brooklyn, circa early 1990’s. Fasten your seat belts, bitches.


October 4, 1992

I was standing on the subway platform in Times Square waiting for the uptown A train. I was reading Casino Royal. I love these Bond books. They’re preposterous. In Goldfinger, Bond converts a lesbian named Pussy Galore to heterosexuality with his superior lovemaking skills. Fantastic. So real. Anyway, there’s a scene in Casino Royal where Bond is being tortured. SMERSH operative Le Chiffre ties Bond to a seatless cane chair and repeatedly hits him in the nuts with a big knot of rope. It’s shockingly well-written. As I was reading it, I began sweating and felt myself getting dizzy and nauseous. My head was throbbing and I got tunnel vision. In slow motion, I eased myself into a lying position in the middle of the platform and PASSED OUT.

When I came-to there was a circle of people standing around me staring. Two guys helped me onto a bench. Another guy handed me my backpack. A woman, thinking I might be diabetic, gave me a piece of candy. Initially, I thought everyone was just gawking but that wasn’t the case. They were all genuinely concerned. I was astonished at how many people helped me. The train arrived and it was pretty crowded. A giant black guy made someone get up out of his seat so I could sit down. I love this town.

I finally took Margaret out. She’s a piece of work. She made some cheap cracks about gays and Jews. I told her I lived in a predominantly black neighborhood and she said, “Why would you do that!? Oh! I know! Because it’s cheap!” She added that she would never, under any circumstances, visit me. She’s Russian and lives with her granny in a one-bedroom apartment in Brighton Beach, so it’s not like I’ll visit her, either. It’s just as well. We don’t seem to have any chemistry. But, Christ, she’s beautiful. Beautiful but stupid.

I took her to Remembrance. It’s an off-Broadway drama about two families in Northern Ireland. It’s got a good cast. Milo O’Shea, Frances Sternhagen and Mia Dillon. I thought it was fine but Margaret was yawning a lot and said it was too long.

Afterwards, we ate at The Riv. We both had sesame chicken. She was so hungry that she ate the ornamental bed of lettuce. It was kind of gross because it was all soggy and waterlogged from soaking in the sesame sauce. She told me her brother is an overly-protective gorilla and interrogates her about her dates. She said, “He still thinks I’m a virgin!” and barked a laugh that was a little too loud. Everyone stared at us. I paid. It was an uncomfortable parting at the subway, as they always are. I wanted to kiss her but I was mad because she insulted my neighborhood. I asked her when I could see her again.

The Ramones were on the Tonight Show. Last week, Morrissey was on. I think they’re trying for a hipper audience. Good luck. I saw an infomercial for, I kid you not, aerosol spray paint for balding men. These bald dudes were sitting in a row of barber chairs and the treatment involved spraying their bald patch with black paint (or whatever color their hair used to be). Then they were sprayed with a finisher. Initially, I thought it was a comedy sketch but it wasn’t. It was serious. Oswaldo came up and the two of us were laughing our assess off.

Speaking of Oswaldo…he drove Ellis and I to the outlet stores in Secaucus. At Harvey Electronics, I told a salesman I had $200 to spend on speakers. He immediately showed me $300 speakers. Why do they do that!? He then showed me some speakers in my price range and I, naturally, bought the $300 speakers.

I love watching Oswaldo and Ellis shop for clothes because they get all bitchy. Ellis wanted a coat at Anthony Marc but Oswaldo wouldn’t let him buy it because it had a big rip down the front. As we were driving away, Ellis said the rip could’ve easily been repaired started complaining that we prevented him from buying the coat. Oswaldo stopped the car in the middle of the road, did a fast, illegal U-turn and said “We’re going back because I don’t want you holding this over us!” Ellis didn’t buy the coat.

It was sunny and crisp outside and Oswaldo said it’d be a good day to toss a football around. Ellis said, “That’s what you guys can get me for Christmas! A football!” Then they went at it.

“What would you do with a football?”
“Hey, I’m a tight end! Wooo!”
“I’ll bet you are. I hear you’re a fast forward, too.”
“That’s right.”
“I’m a wide receiver.”
“Ewwww! Not me! I’m an ineligible receiver!”

This sort of thing goes on all afternoon. I feel bad for people who don’t have gay friends.

When we got back to Brooklyn we ate at a diner that opened in 1936. Oswaldo said he was going to show me a newer place where I can take my “white friends” when they come to Brooklyn.

Reporting on the death of Leonard Nimoy, The New York Post crammed not one, not two, but THREE Star Trek catchphrases into a single headline. How do they do it?


Muffin and Hermes.


87 thoughts on “Don’t sleep in the subway, darlin’

  1. I read this whole thing and the whole time i kept thinking what happened when you passed out? Why? Did I know about this then? Apparently your fine because your still here and are healthy but my heart was in my throat while time waiting to read what happened that paragraph was like one of those movies you watch that doesn’t really tell you the ending it’s all in what you perceived happened.

    • I have no idea why it happened. And it’s not as though I forgot about the episode and was reminded in my journals. I remember it vividly. I’m lucky I didn’t tumble off the platform onto the track!

  2. I haven’t read any Bond books, but I’ve seen plenty of the movies. The nut-bashing scene in Casino Royale was pretty intense. I think the hubs was averting his eyes after about the fourth thwack.

    • I know it’s hard to imagine but reading it is even worse. In the movie it’s mostly physical torture. In the book, it’s physical torture but Fleming also gets inside of Bond’s head and it psychological torture as well. Not for the faint. (Ha. See how I looped in the post?)

  3. Mark, I really love how you can invoke the entire time period you’re writing about it just a few images — The Ramones, for example. The whole piece is a wonderful snapshot in time.

    And RIP, Leonard Nimoy.

  4. I loved watching all the Bond movies as a kid and now that I’m older I can NOT believe my parents let me watch them. They were pretty strict (as in, I got grounded at the age of 16 for going to see a rated R movie – in a big group of friends that included our preacher’s kid, who is 5 months YOUNGER than I am. Obviously I’m clearly not over the injustice.) but somehow a show about a man who seduces ALL the women was ok?

    I can’t believe so many people in NYC were so nice! I’m not sure people in DC would stop and help. But then again, any time the metro is delayed for a “medical emergency” (they actually send out texts telling you that’s the reason for the delay) I’m immediately annoyed. Like, ugh, how dare they impact my morning commute. But, well, I’m a terrible person.

    • Hey. Hey! Nobody who reads my blog is a bad person. You got that?

      Are you referring to the Roger Moore bond movies? Because some of them were awfully tame. Awfully lame, if you ask me. I’m a Bond snob.

      New Yorkers can really step-up when someone is in trouble. I’ve seen it many, many times. Don’t believe all that hype about mean, uncaring New Yorkers. It’s just not true.

      • Connery was the best Bond by far, although I think Daniel Craig is giving him a run for his money. Those blue eyes!

        Dr. No is my favorite of the old Bond films. Jack Lord played Felix and I loved him from Hawaii Five-0. And now the Five-0 theme song is stuck in my head. Duh duh duh duh duuuuh duhhhh…..

      • If my memory is correct from the novels, I believe CIA operative Felix Leiter met his end in Live and Let Die when he was lowered into a shark tank up to his waist so that his legs were devoured. Imagine that! You wind up as FOOD, for cryin’ out loud. Painful AND humiliating.

      • FELIX DIED?!?!?! That doesn’t happen in the movie version, does it? I can’t remember. I’m thinking a Bond movie marathon is in my near future.

        New Yorkers: damn if they’ll smile at you on the sidewalk, but they’ll step up and save a stranger’s life if necessary.

      • I’m pretty sure he died in the book. I could be mistaken. I read the books many, many years ago. He was played by multiple actors throughout the years, including David Hedison from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. They should have kept one actor like they did with Miss Moneypenny.

    • Is that a personality trait? It only ever happened the one time so I’m not sure if I’m the type. It was a big surprise, I can tell you that much! Have you ever passed out because of a book? How about cried? That’s probably more common.

      • You’re right, that was poorly phrased … I think what I loved about it (and I really do mean “loved”) is that your imagination was that powerful, and that connected to your physical self. No, I’ve never passed out, but I’ve been severely distressed by things I’ve read – to the point of tears, sleeplessness, anxiety, and fury. (I read a blog post the other day about someone who witnessed possible egregious cruelty and did absolutely nothing about it because “I’m not paid to…” Well, he did nothing except write a funny blog post, ha ha. I wanted to reach through the screen and rip his face off, although all I actually did was post a relatively mild expression of contempt and unfollow the blogger who led me to that blog. But the post disturbed me very deeply – even writing about it now … ugh.)

        The “personality trait”, I suppose, would be empathy. It’s not that rare, but I don’t know many people who experience it to the point that it becomes overwhelming.

      • For years I thought it must have been a bout of food poisoning that felled me. I thought there’s no way a couple of pages in a book could have that effect on me. Especially on someone as tough and manly as me. But I don’t recall having eaten anything dicey beforehand so maybe it really was the book. As I said, that the first and, thankfully, last time that ever happened to me.

        Regarding the post that rattled you. Why just an expression of mild contempt? You should have really let him have it with both barrels. If you put yourself out here in the ether, then you’d better be ready for some blow-back when you do something unsavory. It goes with the territory.

  5. Hi Mark! Funny to think this was all going on while I was still in college but listening to Morrisey! Still love “The Headmaster Ritual” and heard it just the other day. Thanks for sharing an interesting day in your life back in ’92 – brought back a lot of memories for me as well 🙂

      • Waitaminute…are you saying you have journals but you don’t want to post them? How about this… You can send them to me off-line. I promise to keep them to myself. You don’t have to answer right away. You can think about it for a while.

  6. It doesn’t sound as if you had much in common with Margaret. I suppose at that age you let your johnson decide who to ask out. Did your gay friends ever get to meet her?

    • You should’ve seen this girl. She was stunning. At that age, I could put up with quite a lot for a stunning girl. I had a very high tolerance for nonsense.

      I noticed your comment got blocked again. You never need to double-send your comments. I’ll just approve them when they arrive.

  7. My life is so much better because of the diversity of my friends! i LOVE dishing, and would have been happily playing along with Ellis and Oswaldo! You probably already know this, but you should NEVER play charades with a room full of gay men because they will kick.your.ass into next week!

    • It’s only in hindsight that I realize how fortunate I am that I didn’t have any hangups about that sort of thing. Thanks mom! Even though she was a church-going woman, she didn’t judge people. She demanded we do the same.

      • Nah. This is the sort of thing I love to read about in your journal entries. You get inside of everybody’s little foibles. It’s a great commentary on them and you.

  8. Mark, I’m so glad you survived the fainting episode. Apparently, what you were reading in graphic detail, was/is not for the faint of heart. I’m supposing that’s what caused you to pass out. 🙂 Reading about your gay black friends was hysterical. Also, I had no idea that New Yorkers were/are so nice. Or, are the people different now, than they were back in the 90’s?

    • There are semi-regular stories in the New York newspapers all the time of people toppling over the side of a subway platform or being pushed. It could have been much, much worse. I was surprised someone handed my backpack to me instead of run off with it. I still think (or, I hope, at least) that New Yorkers would rally to my rescue if the same thing happened today. NYC is safer today that at any time since they’ve been keeping crime records. Seriously.

  9. What a happy little wander along the lanes of your younger days.Love your men friends! They are always so much fun.No pressure, from either side, to be more than what they are.Well, that’s my experience, although, as Daisyfae said, they kick some serious butt at theatre sports and charades!

    • I don’t talk to either of those guys anymore and I don’t think they speak to each other. People pass in and out of your life. It’s a shame but it’s a natural progression, I suppose. Keep in mind, this was over 20 years ago. The wheel turns.

  10. Dammit, i can not abide with this Smiths/Morrissey talk without correcting things, first off, The Headmaster Ritual is a Smiths song, track one on Meat is Murder… Louder Than Bombs is a compilation of singles b-sides that was unavailable in the States at the time and was a counterpart to the British comp The World Won’t Listen, I’m a bit nuts for all things Mancunian, The Smiths, Joy Division, Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, hell the first boyo’s name is a combination of Ian Curtis and Steven Patrick Morrissey… that said Morrissey’s solo albums Your Arsenal and Vauxhall and I are on par with what he did with The Smiths and i know cuz i’ve studied this shit extensively while i sat in my room alone in the dark….

    • Thanks, very much, for filling in the gaps. If you need info, go to an expert. I was unaware that ‘Louder Than Bombs’ was an import. I wonder how it wound up in my CD tower? I saw Morrissey at Radio City Music Hall once. He was hilarious! Many jokey dialogues with the audience. Wholly unexpected.

    • Hi kono – I see we have a little Moz controversy here – love this! Yes, I am aware Headmaster is a Smith’s song – have the CD from back in the day as sung by the one and only. Not familiar with Louder Than Bombs, but will check it out per Mark’s recommendation. I’m taking the liberty of pasting a video here of our guy (with The Smiths) in all his glory, sans microphone for some reason, performing The Headmaster Ritual…hope it makes your day – and sorry you were alone in the dark back then, dude, what’s up with that?! 🙂

    • Louder than Bombs wasn’t an import, it was the sister to the import World Won’t Listen and collected all the singles and b-sides that hadn’t come out in the States as proper singles, you see i’ve spent most of the last 30 years knowing way more about this band than any real, fully functional adult should, when i saw Morrissey in Cleveland in 2007 i was drunk and doing drugs and on my own and before the show a couple of older (older than me be 10 or 15 years) gay gentleman were buying me drinks because they couldn’t believe there was a not a song from the Smiths/Morrissey back catalog that i couldn’t sing, they’d shout out a title and i’d start singing, at one point a crowd started forming and joining me as they called out titles, in what alcoholic/drug addicts call a moment of clarity i realized how out of my mind i was and that no normal person should know this shit… and it was a great show as well…

      • No worries Nurse Kelly, i love that song and sing it every time i talk to my friend who grew up in Manchester, i’m a bit of a Smiths obsessive (if you couldn’t tell)… oh and i like taking the piss…

  11. I like when you post these memories. You must have the gift naturally. Your writing from ’92 is just as captivating to me as your current writing. I don’t know a whole lot about writing, but I do think that a good writer brings you with them. You bring me there.

    • Journals are cathartic for me. It turns out I was having a pretty good life even though I didn’t realize at the time. There are quite a few posts from my journals and I have to say, I’ve barely scratched the surface of available material. There’s lots more where this came from.

  12. Excellent post Mark – I really like your flashbacks. They are so real and leave so many unanswered questions just like real life: i.e. why did you faint?, or why were you so attracted to such a beautiful but obviously wrong woman,etc. Although I have to confess I find Russian women more attractive physically than women from many other cultures. Women of all cultures are equally attractive once I get to know them – but I am drawn to Russians on looks alone.

    During periods where I didn’t have enough to eat, I too would eat whatever was edible on the plate regardless if it was designed to be eaten or not.

    I too was sad to see Nimoy go – although he started as an actor, he did some excellent directing later in life. To my mind he defined Star Trek, second only to Gene Roddenberry. Some of the blooper reels were hilarious – you really get to see how funny Nimoy was. In one blooper Kirk was nose to nose with Spock and he was giving Spock heck – really angry (in character) and Spock leaned over and kissed Kirk on the nose. He was a funny man.

    Love the photos at the end of your post, especially Muffin and Hermes.

    Fun post Mark. Thanks.

    • Paul, I honestly don’t know why I fainted. To this day, I’ve always wondered. It’s an intense passage in the book but it couldn’t have been just that. Something else must of been going on.

      I only went on one or two more dates with that girl. It was doomed from the start. But, Lord, she was beautiful. She had long red hair which is everyone’s weakness. A real dope, though. A racist. And as far as her bizarre feeding habits, she was far from poor. She worked for an investment bank it was getting along just fine. I guess she was just really, really hungry.

  13. I had to watch the video that Kelly posted. Oh, the days. I used to listen to The Smiths for hours. Hey, October 4th is my birthday! And, I have no idea how I spent it in 1992. I was living in Monterey, I probably went out to dinner. Before the digital, I don’t think I even have any pictures of, and no journal entry either. Anyway, I love this blast from the past. Another book entry. I love how your details are so nitty gritty, the beautiful girl’s comment about your neighborhood and this scene in the subway, wow. Close call that was. Thanks for sharing your past. It’s a great read!

    • The video is also great for a walk down fashion memory lane. The hairstyles and clothing are par excellence. Second to none. I’d never get away with that look now. I’d be fired on the spot. But if you’re a young, mopey artist in ’92, it’s the perfect thing.

      Thanks, again for your (always) kind words. Perhaps someone at Simon & Schuster or Harper Collins is secretly compiling these journal posts and will one day (hopefully soon) surprise me with a finished book. That’d make me pretty happy.

  14. I take it there was no coconut oil encounter with Margaret … but was she a redhead? In terms of Bond movies, I saw the early ones, but can’t remember much about them.

  15. That was the day after my 30th birthday …. I was trying to remember what we did for my 30th birthday… but too long ago and in the mists of my fogged up memory. I do remember that I was going for a drink with some work colleagues the day before but then there was some crises at work and that didn’t happen… so I went for a drink on my own. Typical.

    Given some events timing after that – there is a possibility my wife fell pregnant around that time with the child we never had. Boy I wish I hadn’t drunk so much in my 30s I’d have more memories to pluck out that might be useful to remember rather than a bunch of maybes and possibles.

    • Another birthday mention on the same date (see above somewhere). What are the odds?

      Never mind what you wish you would’ve done. The fact that you stopped is the main thing. You’ve got plenty of memories to pluck out since then. If you hadn’t stopped, your past would still be a blank slate to you.

  16. And i must admit gay men are great, it doesn’t even seem right that i have to classify them but when i was in the game they were the best customers, easily to deal with, always had money and great fun at the bar, i also miss the days of hanging with the drag queens, mah-velous days those were, one went on to win RuPaul’s Drag Race but Marsha Mellow was still my favorite all 6’6 of her, yeah there you got the occasional catty diva but for the most part they were a great time with wicked senses of humor, at least the ones i ran with…

    • My gay brethren have it easier today than they did back then and I’m glad for it. I had gay friends who couldn’t talk about being gay at work or they’d jeopardize their employment. It wasn’t all that long ago. And I’m glad they’re marring now. Frankly, I’m sick of protecting them. Let ’em get hitched and see how much fun it can be. That’ll show ’em.

  17. Mark, when you were keeping journals way back when, wasn’t it sensually satisfying to feel and hear the tip of the pen gliding over the paper? I, too, have kept journals for years until I took up blogging last spring. Tapping these keys just isn’t as satisfying although I write about the same subject matter. Why do you think that is?

    • I know exactly what you’re talking about. I do miss the scritch-scritch-scritch of pencil on paper, but when I’m in a frenzy, nothing beats typing. The ideas come fast and furious and my hand can’t keep up. Plus, you can’t beat it for editing. Some technologies are worth embracing. Now, Facebook…that’s another matter.

  18. As always, a brilliant piece from your journal! Lots of things that gave me a laugh in this one. The slightly naive observational descriptions are so perfect. Aside from the similarities to Holden Caulfield that a couple of us have mentioned before, there’s also a touch of Woody Allen. I passed out once on a first aid course while they were talking overly descriptively about broken bones, it’s a kind of empathy thing taken too far I think, which is presumably what happened to you. Glad people helped rather than robbing you! In the first aid class, the other students thought it was a set-up to see how they would cope!

    • Just slightly naive? I’d say I was awash in it. I wear it proudly like a tattoo. You are correct that I was lucky to not have been robbed. In 1992, New York wasn’t the happy, shining citadel on the hill it is today. It was a pretty dangerous mess. I’m also lucky they didn’t draw a mustache on my face with an indelible marker or pull my trousers down and expose my buttocks to Times Square. Either scenario would have been a distinct possibility.

  19. I think your journal entry is a spot on snapshot of what NYC was like back in October 1992, a month before Bill Clinton was elected president, a guy some have called our first black president until a real black guy was elected. After Clinton entered office, you probably recall that one of his first blunders was trying to allow gays to serve in the military and that resulted in the catastrophe of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. But at least Clinton’s administration accepted gay and lesbian people which was huge to me and no doubt Oswaldo and Ellis. Fast-forward over 22 years later, there has been considerable progress for LGBT people. I would not be surprised if someone as homophobic as Margaret was then is much more accepting now. She might still be dumb as a stump about race and religion and possibly gets her news from Fox though. Oh, well … It does not surprise me that a cluster of racially diverse New Yorkers came to your rescue when you passed out on the subway platform back then. We’re top notch at minding our own business, but we also excel at coming to each other’s rescue. Some years ago, on a rainy day, I slipped and fell so hard on the Chamber Street subway station’s floor, I might have bounced. I was completely disoriented (I smacked my head when I fell), but as I was regaining focus, I almost thought I was in the UN, such a diverse group came to my aid. That made me feel real good about the people in my city.

    • I heard Clinton interviewed and he said ‘don’t-ask-don’t-tell’ was one of the biggest regrets of his tenure. Nice that he can be introspective, unlike neo-cons who seem to have no capacity for self-evaluation. I’m wondering if Margaret falls into this category? She was very young back then so perhaps she’s had a change of heart. Where is she today, I wonder? It’s questions like this that keep me from creating a Facebook page.

      Some folks would say we STILL haven’t elected a black president yet! 😉

      • I do think that people can and do change over time, but a wise friend once told me, “Someone who’s an asshole at seven is likely going to be an asshole at seventy.” Margaret and her reactionary mindset might fall in with crowd.

        As for running this country, I feel for Barry. The GOP has had it in for The Black Guy since Day One. And now the SUPCO might allow Congress to shred Obamacare over some two words in its description. I cannot recall what the words are, but my friend, Milton, suggested, “Poor people.” It’s stomach-turning.

  20. James Bond makes me pass out too – especially when played by Daniel Craig…………swoon…….what?…..where am I?….Oh yeah….
    Love your old life, it’s totally swag.

  21. I winced through the nut-whipping scene in “Casino Royal” but had no idea that was from the book. Ahead of it’s time, and actually, that’s the perfect way to write one Bond out and get a new one in. You see, having fully functional genitals to woo opposing spy babes into the bedroom to convert them into good guy spies is a big part of the Bond job.

    • As odd as this may sound, it’s a lot more horrific to read than it is to see on screen. That makes no sense in the physical world, but it’s a tough couple of pages to get through. The most violent of all the Bond novels.

  22. For the record, Pussy Galore was not a lesbian in the movie version. I have to read the book now, this is a new spin. Love this vintage piece, even Margaret. She sounds kind of hopeless. Christ (sorry about the religious terms), how many times have I gone in looking to spend a certain amount of money on headphones and walked out with a tv? That’s how hapless I truly am. Anyway, great bit Mark, I am always a fan of these stories, they never disappoint.

    • In the book (if I remember correctly) ALL of Pussy’s flying squadron were lesbians. That’s right. An attack squadron of flying lesbos. This is literature as high art.

      In my post, I ask why do salesmen show me thing that are outside of my range of affordability? Because it’s a tactic that always works. That’s why.

      • This is totally titillating me… definite must-read now. And Bond turns her, eh? That old cat.

        My wife tempers my buying habits, which are pretty spontaneous. That’s why I shop alone.

Leave a Reply to Amy Reese Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s