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  • Sometimes they make the subway magic, our musicians.

    We're trapped down there, like rats, for so much of the day, we New Yorkers. Don't get me wrong, I'm a passionate lover of the subway, deep down in my heart. I love the train the way you love your parents: they drive you crazy, they can't give you the space you so desperately need to breathe, they're always there but never doing what you want them to do, they won't conform to your needs, but you'll always need them. And though they make you crazy, they're there providing you with the basics- in this case, the ability to travel freely all over what I was born and bred to believe is the greatest city in the world. So we bitch and moan, shove each other in our frenzy to get on and off the crowded cars, get in spats with the guy who takes up three seats with his spread knees and the chick with her headphones so loud you can't hear your own music, but we don't stop taking the train. All you need is $2.25 and a destination, or better yet, an unlimited card. We moan the loss of the token, and snarl back at the rats, but we ride.

    Most of the time, I complain. But sometimes I descend when the volume in my head is low enough that I'm ready for the music of the underground. I'm not a fan of the mariachi gangs in the confines of a 6 train car, the accordion and power tunes in unison bouncing off the tin can of it all. Many days, the mere sight of a guitar as I open my gaze hesitantly once I'm down there can get me started on a perma-growl for the day. Knowing a blast of something I just don't want to hear is coming can get my hackles up faster than almost any NYC-brand annoyance. But then, then there are the drummers.

    There's no place that moves to a drumbeat more than this town. The thrumming's never far from the surface and our very hearts are racing, skipping beats when they need to catch up with our pace across the street or mad dashes for elevators, or downstairs. When we're lucky, and often on the platform or even from car to car, the drummers bring us back.

    From the novice brother who has just learned to bang out a basic conga rhythm, finally trusting himself to keep the time without disappointing, and consistently producing a satisfying thock or powng to the leader of the group, gray, older, brown hands callused, moving from djembe to bongo to calabash as the day dictates, they move us, even when getting on that train seems like the hardest thing we'll ever do, like there's just no energy left to fight this town. Drummer, drum! Give me what I need to keep it going, step through the door in time, to make it to the next stop.
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