Tag: subways

Seriously, Bloomie, Dancing?

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Back in July, 2012 while returning from  Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Midsummer Night’s Swing, Caroline Stern, 55, and her boyfriend George Hess, 54, were arrested, handcuffed and held by the New york City Police for dancing  the “Charleston” on the subway platform.

“We were doing the Charleston,” Stern said. That’s when two police officers approached and pulled a “Footloose.”

“They said, ‘What are you doing?’ and we said, ‘We’re dancing,’ ” she recalled. “And they said, ‘You can’t do that on the platform.’ ”

The cops asked for ID, but when Stern could only produce a credit card, the officers ordered the couple to go with them – even though the credit card had the dentist’s picture and signature.

When Hess began trying to film the encounter, things got ugly, Stern said.

“We brought out the camera, and that’s when they called backup,” she said. “That’s when eight ninja cops came from out of nowhere.”

Hess was allegedly tackled to the platform floor, and cuffs were slapped on both of them. The initial charge, according to Stern, was disorderly conduct for “impeding the flow of traffic.”

They sued. They won. While NYC Councilman Peter Valone complains that “At $75,000 a dance, the city’s going to go bankrupt sooner than we thought,” he said. “Here, it looks like it was the taxpayers who got served.”

But whose fault is that, Mr. Valone? It’s not illegal to dance in the subway. Maybe the problem is an out of control police department:

For fiscal year 2011, New York City gave out $185.6 million to settle suits against the NYPD. That number rounds out to about $70 per resident, according to the New York Post. Though the New York City Law Department insists there is no blanket policy on settlements, City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., who also heads the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, said such settlements have only increased since he took office in 2002. [..]

New York Civil Liberties Union head Donna Lieberman insists the city should start learning from suits, rather than just paying to get rid of them.

The city is still facing million in lawsuits by groups and individuals, including two city council members, resulting from brutal, unlawful tactics and false arrests from the Occupy Wall Street protests.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly are to blame for this. Perhaps Mr. Vallone needs to stop blaming the lawyers for settling these suits, which would cost even more to litigate, and look at the real cause, an out of control mayor and police department.


I love the subway. Even when it’s crowded. I love the solitude in the crowd. I like the act of faith of hundreds of bodies pressing into a machine so far underground. I like that it has mostly served us well for over a hundred years. I love it when it’s empty. I even probably love it when I’m cursing it, when it’s letting me down. It’s like family. Or it feels like home. Familiar.

I remember riding the subway as a child. My mother holding my hand on the platform. The train literally covered in fantastic, colorful graffiti. I remember one rush hour when I was a young girl, mom clutching me as we squeezed in (or out)–and my shoe, one shoe, was left behind–on the platform, or in the car. I don’t remember what happened after that. I loved falling asleep on mom’s shoulder when we were riding the subway on the way home. Yes, I loved the subway as a child, but I was also taught that it was dangerous, and sometimes, late at night, I have felt that fear.

I love watching people on the subway. I like the sociality. But I like the solitude you can also find in that intimate, public space. I like reading and writing and knitting on the subway. I like doing mindfulness meditation on the subway. My mind often blooms on the subway. Poems or ideas or things to be written bubble up. I take them down. Revisit them later. Leave some as is, subway artifacts, and take others up, tinker, expand.

What is it about the subway that stirs creativity? The noise-cancelling, rhythmic whoosh and rocking–is it like being in the womb? Being underground, in the subway, does it tap the unconscious in a distinctive way?

It’s not just that creativity breeds there. Violence too. I have seen the spontaneous eruption of hatred, racism, burst into physical violence. I have seen teenagers fighting. Children being spanked and hit. Women too. I have sometimes tried to intervene with one sentence, as if to bring someone to their senses. I have then wondered if this didn’t make things worse later.

I’ve seen and been involved in acts of kindness on the subway, too. And moments of shared humor. Or just shared moments. A smile. A conversation. A performance. It’s all there. In the subway. What racist pitcher John Rocker hated about the subway–the mixture and mass of humanity in all of its difference, and glory, and failing, and rage, and vulnerability–I love.

What kind of song of himself, of our world, would Whitman have penned on the subway?

Do you have a subway story? Or an unexpected place that tickles your creative bone? I’ll close out this ditty and turn it over to you with a poem that sprouted up on the subway.


By what right do I

conjure you,

stir you from sleep,

snag your attention,

turn you around?

Would an invitation

blunt the blow

reduce the weight

the freight

of solitude?

Oh, unintended companions,

by rude strokes,

I pray to you on this downtown C.

Tired man, pants rumpled,

I worry for your shoe untied.

I thank you, woman and child,

holding hands, blinking,

silent in the crushing rush

of our wondrous speed.

I see you, young man, opposite corner,

steady in the shelter of a book.

And you and you and you –

all signposts of everything else there is.

Like this, I come to my stop.