Tales From The Tunnel: The Experience That Is The New York Subway

I’ve been on a bit of a blog hiatus and thought I’d finally write a post about riding the subway because it’s something I do everyday and some of the things I see never seem to amaze me (or make me want to run away in fear). In this post I’m going to describe some of the funniest and most unforgettable moments I’ve had while riding the subway in my almost two years in the city.

If these occurrences happen to be a bit embellished, so be it. You’ll never know the truth anyway. So without further adieu, here is my life underground summed up in just over 1000 words.

The “Show Time” Dancing Guys
For those living in the city, you already know what I’m talking about. Groups of people, usually teens, ride some of the longest subway stops back and forth for hours dancing (on poles) and sometimes doing tricks with baseball caps to make money. They are easy for a seasoned subway rider to spot, typically the kid carrying the old school 90’s boom box is a dead giveaway. They are also notorious for exclaiming, “Show time ladies and gentlemen!” before performing. These guys are actually pretty entertaining, flying around the car like a perfect mix between a monkey and a stripper. They do flips, jump from pole to pole without touching the ground and even entice the occasional fist bump from riders. The tourists always think this is the coolest thing ever, while everyone else who sees them weekly is thinking, “If you kick me in the head, I swear to God shit is going down on this train.” I’ve learned to be pretty good at ignoring them and have also learned their schedules to a T so I can avoid certain trains if I need to. If you’re intrigued to see these individuals in person, feel free to jump on the L train between Manhattan and Brooklyn or other various stops on the 4, 5 and Q trains.

No Shame Pissing Homeless Guys
Sometimes you wonder why New York always smells like piss, then you realize there are no public bathrooms, inevitably making the streets and subways a giant urinal. For the most part, people are pretty discreet when trying to urinate in public, but I’ve seen a number of homeless guys in the subway with absolutely no shame. While carefully placing his bottle of vodka down, I saw one guy drop his drawers right in the middle of a crowded platform. A few other times I’ve seen a more respectable gentleman pee on the wall, but while still taking time to harass people mid stream with choice words. As a disclaimer, I’m not trying to pick on the homeless people.

This Little Light of Mine
While riding the 1 train near West Village, as I used to do for work every morning, I would sometimes get my morning dose of gospel music courtesy of a quartet of gentleman. It wouldn’t happen very frequently, (like a Browns win on Sunday, except we’ve already got a win this year…boom!) but it was entertaining none the less. When it happened it was like you could hear them coming. A whisper, growing louder and louder until it sounded like you were in the middle of a baptist church in the south. Once these guys got up to full volume, the energy on the train would usually swing from glum to somewhat cheerful (and on a train in the morning before work, that’s saying something). Sometimes people would even sing along. I have to admit, these guys are one of the few groups of train performers I can stand.

Incense Man Between 6th and 7th
When traveling from Brooklyn to West Village you have to transfer from the L train, which cuts east and west to the 1 train, that runs north and south. To do this, you must walk a few blocks under the street in a tunnel, which I have pleasantly nicknamed “the shit tunnel.” Although I’ve named this tunnel for obvious reasons (see #2) there is one man there everyday that makes it a little bit better. Like a well oiled machine, a middle aged man stands in the tunnel every morning and afternoon selling comic books and incense. And although I’m pretty sure the comic books are counterfeit, he makes up for it by burning incense samples and making the tunnel smell like slightly less of a high school football locker room. So for that Incense Man, I solute you.

Dance Like Nobody’s Watching
One gentleman makes my work commute interesting a few days a week, to say the least. For those of you who don’t know, the Union Square subway stop on 14th Street is typically filled with performers of all types. From singers and dancers to tarot card readers and jugglers, you never really know what to expect. Then, there’s “Dance Like Nobody’s Watching Guy.” Typically sporting a thong and some other combination of leather garments, this guy blares the likes of Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” while frolicking around, sometimes even delighting the large crowd that gathers with raunchy pelvis gyrations, straight out of Miley Cyrus’s playbook. To be honest, he’s kind of fun to watch and baits tourists in like he’s the top wrangler in the Bassmaster series. Next time I cross paths with this fella, I’ll be sure to share it on Snapchat (brock0lee is my name if you’re wondering).

J Train Party
For the most part, when weird things happen on the train, I don’t really think much of them. But one night on the J Train in Brooklyn I couldn’t help but feel a bit uncomfortable. I forget exactly what I was doing in Manhattan on a weeknight, but I found myself riding the J Train home at about one in the morning. The train was mostly empty as it made its way across the Williamsburg Bridge, but once we got to the first stop in Brooklyn, the party (as I call it) started. Four men got on the train and immediately starting drinking out of bottles covered by brown paper bags and playing music on a small stereo. At that point I was like, “OK this is pretty normal,” but at every train stop it seemed like more began to happen. First they were smoking cigarettes (which made the car smell terrible). Then came the weed. And finally something white in rock form (I’m going to go out on a limb and say crack). Once this happened and the train was fully engulfed in smoke, the men started arguing loudly with one another to the point where I thought a fight was going to break out. When I finally got to my train stop, I smelled like I had been out partying with Cheech and Chong. Thankfully nobody had gotten into a fight by that point, although I don’t know how long that lasted once I got off. Now, I’ve been to my fair share of parties and have seen a lot of crazy things, but this was by far one party I did not want to be a part of.

Sports Card Guy
Another recognizable character on the L Train is “Sports Card Guy.” Like the name dictates, this man walks from car to car trying to sell sports cards for money. But what makes me laugh about this guy is how he calls out the people he knows are trying to avoid him (snooty people from Williamsburg are his favorite targets). While making his rounds down the train car, he sleekly passes by the folks trying to ignore him, but when they least expect it, he snaps his head around and asks, “Anybody home?” I’ve never actually bought a sports card from this guy, but I think I owe him a few bucks for the enjoyment I get watching some entitled yuppy spill their Starbucks.

So as you can see, there are definitely some characters riding the subways of New York. Some are better than others, but together they all make up what makes NYC transit unique. The folks I’ve outlined above just scratch the surface of some of the interesting people you can find on the subway, but until next time that’s all I’ve got.

For my next post, I think I’ll give a play by play of a night out in Manhattan. I hope you’re ready for that. It could get dicey.

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Why People In New York Are Always Late

One thing I’ve noticed after living here for a year is that no one is on time for anything, EVER. I guess I was always under the impression if you’re early, you’re on time and if you’re on time, you’re late. I guess that theory never reached the east coast. I now find myself being late to everything on purpose just so I don’t have to stand around acting like I’m doing stuff on my phone (post coming about that soon). Although I know I can make it somewhere on time 95% of the time, I will give all the slackers the benefit of the doubt and outline a few factors that could be causing this phenomenon.

Traffic: We have some of the worst traffic in the country, but who drives anyway?

Train Delays: I get it, trains are late sometimes, but people can’t use this excuse every time. It’s like the kid in college who had nine grandmas die in four years.

Getting Lost: If you are relatively new to the city, I understand, but come on, have you heard of Google maps?

Working Late: OK, I get it, sometimes you do get stuck on a project late in the day, but 99% of the time you are just messing around on Twitter, Reddit and Facebook all day. Let’s be real.

Times Square: Let’s face it, getting anywhere in Times Square or having to travel through it is a pain. Here’s the tip, NEVER go there to begin with, and if you have to, don’t.

Naps: If I’m taking a nap, I can always sleep just a few more minutes. Then I realize that it takes an hour to get where I’m going.

Pregaming: If you are having a few drinks before going to the bar, you tend to lose track of time. Meeting at 11 somehow turns into 12:30 rather quickly. Please drink responsibly.

This list could go on for days, but I guess my point is that being late is often times the fault of nobody but yourself. Please everybody, can we just learn to be punctual, I’ve got better things to do than wait on you.

New Places, Same Stupid People

Having lived in four different cities in the last two years has definitely been an eye-opening experience. I’ve lived in two alcohol-fueled college towns, the gateway to the west and the Big Apple (well Brooklyn to be exact). For those of you who don’t follow my life or don’t catch my lingo, Mount Pleasant, MI, Louisville, KY, St. Louis, MO and Brooklyn, NY. Each city has allowed me the opportunity to enjoy a unique set of experiences and has also armed me with plenty of things to talk to people about at the bar. I don’t know how many times having lived in one of these places has helped me spark up good conversations with strangers.

That being said, I’d like to share some of the best things I’ve heard about these areas that I once lived in from random people I’ve met. It made me realize that people have no sense of geography or what different groups of people across the country are really like.

Please enjoy the following quotes from random people (cleverly nicknamed) that were actually said to me about the cities I’ve inhabited. Snarky comebacks have also been added for your enjoyment.

Mount Pleasant, Michigan
“That’s the place with the casino right?  -Old Guy In Times Square
(Yes and also a brown puddle known as the Chip River)
“O yeah, Central is the school with the Indian mascot” -Random Hipster on the M Train
(It’s Chippewas and yes they actually take pride in the name and support the school)

Louisville, Kentucky
“Isn’t like everybody a hillbilly?” -Snooty Drunk West Village Girl
(Only the ones that live south of the Mason Dixon)
“4th Street Live, I fucking love that place!” -Bro at Union Pool
(Because that is totally the place people from Louisville want to be remembered by)

St. Louis, Missouri
“Dude, have you ever met Nelly?” -Too many people to count
(Yes, I’m actually starring in his next music video)
“OMG I hear East St. Louis is crazy!” -Woo Girl in the Meatpacking District
(By crazy, you mean dangerous and as a quick note, it is actually across the Mississippi River in Illinois)

Bushwick, Brooklyn
“That’s totally where they film Girls!” -Finance girl who has never been to Bushwick
(That was like one episode and it was over-glorified)
“I hear that place is really up and coming” -Yuppy from the Lower East Side
(Yes, and so is the rent)

A number of these conversations have been funny, but it never gets old explaining to people what the rural Midwest is like. It cracks me up to know that some people don’t understand that we actually farm the food we eat and that there are actually places where people have never heard of kale or keenwah.

I think one day I’ll make it back to the Midwest, but until that day, I’ll just keep preaching the good word of the combine and cornfield.

Some Casual Acts of Daily Kindness

New Yorkers are consistently stereotyped as being mean, self-centered and rude. I can say from experience that there are a number of people like that here, but aren’t there everywhere? To combat this notion, I thought I’d share a few pleasant instances that I witness everyday during my work commute between Brooklyn and Manhattan. The following is a hypothetical, but typical situation I experience five days a week.

After hitting the snooze button five times, I finally get to my morning routine of showering, brushing my teeth and getting dressed before heading out the door. On the way out of my apartment I notice my neighbor organizing the trash area so our building doesn’t get a fine. She doesn’t have to do it, but every week she is out picking up the trash some people have neglected to throw in the can. I then walk three blocks to the L train, and on the way, pass a food truck with a hand extended giving a homeless man a cup of coffee. Once to the subway station, I notice a mother with her child standing at the turnstile unable to enter due to lack of fare. As the mother turns around looking for the nearest booth to refill her MTA card, a stranger asks, “Do you need a swipe?” Before she can answer, the man swipes his card giving her and her child access to the train. Once I go down the stairs to the platform, I realize the train is running late (what’s new). Looking behind me, I see a man helping a couple carry their stroller down the stairs and a woman giving a man down on his luck some money. Once the train finally arrives, I sit down and dive into a book to pass the time. As the train moves closer to Manhattan, it becomes more crowded as it picks up numerous commuters on their way to work. About halfway through the trip, I give my seat up to an elderly woman and watch as numerous others give up their seats for pregnant women, children and the disabled. Once I finally arrive at my destination, I begin the final five block walk to my office where I notice a wealthy looking business man giving a homeless man some breakfast and making small talk. Once I finally reach my office, I give the doorman a hearty “good morning” before getting onto the elevator and giving thought to all of the kind things I had observed in such a short period of time.

The moral of the story is that you truly can’t judge a person or group of people by what you hear. You have to get to know people and observe the true nature of their actions. I encourage anyone who travels to NYC to step away from the touristy areas like Times Square and explore the places less traveled to reveal what the city is all about. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you discover.

5 Reasons New Yorkers Wear Headphones

Headphones come in a variety of styles, shapes and colors and help bring us the joy of audio bliss nearly anywhere we are. You can hardly step out of your door without seeing a pair of those obnoxious Beats Headphones or the universally recognizable white Apple earbuds. Some may think headphones serve only one purpose, but the list below may help you think otherwise the next time you see someone in New York, or anywhere for that matter, wearing a pair.

listening-1

Listening to music: First and foremost, this is what headphones were created for, so I hope you were already aware of this one. If you thought headphones were used primarily for something else, then you may just want to go hide and avoid embarrassment and ridicule from your friends and family.

To avoid beggars: No matter where you are in New York, you are constantly being asked for money by beggars. Whether it be on the subway or while walking down the street, your headphones can be the first line of defense allowing you to play the “sorry I can’t hear you” card.

To not feel awkward on the subway: Standing in a room full of strangers can be awkward, but shrink the room, make it move and insert a musty stench and you’ve got the MTA subway system. Headphones give you the opportunity to take your mind off making random eye contact with twenty different people as you wind through the streets of Manhattan.

For Fashion: Some people just don’t care about comfort or functionality while meandering the mean streets of the Big Apple, that’s why they wear headphones merely to fit in. If “Susie Fashion” reads an article about models wearing headphones, you better believe she’ll buy herself a pair and be wearing them by the next week, music or not. Heck, she may just have the cord running into her empty pocket (that’s so fetch).

To keep their ears warm: We all know the east coast has crazy snow-filled winters, complete with frigid temperatures and no such thing as a day off work, so it’s only fitting that we find New Yorkers constantly battling the elements. A large padded earphone is a go-to choice for winter apparel as it provides entertainment and a makeshift sweater for your ears.

Now let’s be real, I may have made up the point about wearing headphones purely for fashion, but you never know because people in Brooklyn do some odd things. The next time you see someone wearing headphones in public, try to breakdown their reasoning for wearing them (it’s actually a fun game). If you believe it’s simply for entertainment, please let them know that they are far more multidimensional than that.

What All PR Students Should Do Before Graduation

Not to say I’ve mastered every facet of public relations, but after nearly a year as an intern at one of the largest agencies in the world and now a full-time practitioner with Waggener Edstrom, I feel my transition has equipped me with knowledge that can help those looking to break into the field. And what is knowledge worth if you’re not willing to share it?

Get your writing as tight as possible

When I was a student, I had the press release and media advisory drilled into my head, but to this day, I’ve written less than ten of them combined. While the previously mentioned pieces of writing may not be overly used, they are still great practice for honing your writing.

With newsroom staffs shrinking and reporters and editors taking on greater responsibility, they no longer have time to read through lengthy pitch letters and press releases. This is where jamming as much information into as few words as possible comes in handy. It’s also great when it comes to writing copy for social media. Who knew there would be a writing job for those of us who hated the 20-page term paper?

Network with classmates and industry professionals

Don’t just network for the sake of networking. Find relationships that will be valuable to you in the future and continue to grow them. As it’s common sense to meet students in your major, don’t forget who PR people interact with everyday, journalists. Write for the newspaper or become a producer for your college TV station. Learning the skills of those positions and meeting other students involved will pay off exponentially in the future. Who knows, one of your classmates could become a producer for Good Morning America or a reporter for the New York Times.

Get industry experience

One of the biggest things companies look for when hiring interns and entry-level employees is experience. What have you done throughout you college years to make yourself stand out? Everyone will have a degree, so it is imperative to have real-world experience. I know at my internships I was thrown right into the mix on my first day, so prior experience was a big help.

Take your college years to get any and all experience you can. Even if a company won’t offer you a full-fledged internship, ask if you can simply write some social media posts or shadow some of their employees. If all else fails, find a club or organization and manage the aspects of their PR strategy. This may not be anything too complicated, but it still counts. Also, WRITE and write a lot. Simply having a blog and active social media accounts can show a potential employer more than your actual résumé.

Learn what is going on in the world

PR revolves around the news cycle. Having a working knowledge of what outlets are covering and how long the typical news cycle lasts for certain stories can be a huge advantage for you. If you become a media wizard, any PR agency would be happy to have you. Media insights are key and can have a lasting effect on the content and tone used in stories about your client or company.

Have fun and experience everything you can

Contrary to popular belief, life is not over once you finish college and enter the proverbial “real world,” but your life certainly does change. You become busy with work and have less time for friends and adventures, so make sure you take the time to experience everything you can in school. In business, you will find yourself interacting with people from many different backgrounds, so it’s important to meet new people and try new things. Take a step out of your comfort zone because in my opinion comfortable is boring and boring is not allowing yourself to grow as an individual. Finally, take as many naps as you can because they become scarce as you get older.

Now, these tips won’t solve all of your problems, but they will allow you to set yourself up for success. If you put your mind to finding your dream job, it will eventually happen, but don’t be afraid to fail. I’ve learned more from my failures than I ever did from succeeding. So if you’re sitting in your dorm room reading this, it’s never too early. Get out there and make it happen!

7 CMU Hangouts and NYC Equivalents

Being my second year after graduating from Central Michigan University, I can’t help but always draw comparisons of my current surroundings to those of my college past. With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of prominent CMU hangout spots with similar spaces in New York City. I thought this could provide some context for any CMU students who plan on visit the city or move for internships and jobs.

  1. Wayside Central: It can be the best of nights or the worst of nights. We all know this CMU staple and can probably tell a great story about something out of the ordinary that has gone on there. I was always a culprit of dancing in the cages myself. Who says those are for girls only, that’s complete sexism. By the time you’re a senior, it’s the one bar you say you’ll never go to on a weekend; that is until you have a few too many Fireball shots and decide you want to dance.

Webster Hall/Pacha – With the exception of overpriced drinks, these two places hit the nail on the head when it comes to a comparative spot. Think loud music, crowds and highly intoxicated patrons ranging predominantly from 18-30. Both are considered night clubs, but often have musical acts and DJs in to perform. If you show up after midnight, don’t expect to be comfortable. These places turn into a hot, sticky swamp fest faster than you can say “Fuck Western” (trust me I tested it once).

  1. Student Activity Center: If you are looking for a place to work out, play IM sports or just lounge around in the pool, the SAC is the place to be. I recall a few IM championships in that building (check the lower-level gym wall for proof).

NY Sports Club/Equinox/Planet Fitness: As far as working out goes in NYC, these are your three best options with locations all across the city. For those of you who have a bit more money, (the Copper Beach types) NY Sports Club and Equinox offer a higher-end gym experience with personal trainers and the occasional swimming pool, which is a rarity in New York. Planet fitness is for all of you normal folk with a price tag of $10 per month, but don’t expect anything glorious except free pizza on Mondays, which kind of defeats the purpose of a gym in my opinion.

  1. Island Park: During the warmer months, which are few and far between in Michigan, Island Park offers a great spot for volleyball, picnics and CMU’s unofficial campus sport, tubing. During my four years on campus, I spent many days there (some not so clear after an afternoon on the Chip) working out, attending events or just relaxing, but what was I to do entering the concrete jungle of NYC?

McCarren, Prospect and Central Park: If there is one thing New York has an abundance of, it’s parks. If you’re looking to do everything and then some, these three parks have you covered. The big two on the list are Prospect of Brooklyn and of course Central Park, but McCarren also offers a great space for those of us living near Williamsburg. Besides the beautiful scenery and great views of the city, there are so many things to take in at these parks. I once saw a roller disco of men in speedos. I nearly stripped down and joined them, but that’s a story for another day.

  1. Downtown Bars: Many students, who are of legal age of course, love making the trip down Main Street to enjoy a beverage or twelve. The Bird, Marty’s, Blackstone and Blue Gator are the typical spots serving up the ever-popular $2 doubles, fishbowls and $1.50 Bud Lights. These may not be the classiest establishments, but with good friends and cheap drinks, you can’t go wrong.

Williamsburg: If you’re sick of paying $8 for a beer, Williamsburg has plenty of hangouts serving up drinks at affordable prices. My beverage of choice is usually a Budweiser and shot of whiskey for $5. Like downtown Mt. Pleasant, these bars are for people that don’t feel like dressing up to go out. They’re more about the clientele, rather than serving over-priced drinks to make people feel like they have some sort of status. A few bars in Williamsburg even give you the opportunity to bring your dogs along to enjoy a drink. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, I suggest checking out Skinny Dennis, Rosemary’s and Union Pool.

  1. Kelly Shorts, Events Center and Theunissen Stadium: If you’re a CMU sports fan or just an avid tailgater, you’ve obviously been to one of these sporting complexes on campus (sober or not). One of the best perks about being a student at CMU is the opportunity to watch all sporting events for free. I’m still upset I never made it to a gymnastics meet (sigh).

Citi Field, Yankee Stadium, MetLife Stadium and Madison Square Garden: New York is a mecca for sports teams with two professional baseball, basketball, football and hockey teams. During the overlap months in professional sports, there are tons of opportunities to see at least one sporting event per week. I’m not a New York sports fan, but I did have the chance to see my Cincinnati Reds play the Yankees and the Mets this season. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to watch the Cavilers dominate the Knicks and Nets this winter.

  1. Down Under Food Court: Once you get sick of the residential restaurants, or live off campus, the Down Under becomes a staple of your diet. I was always a fan of the nachos, but would sometimes settle for the pasta, salad or burgers. It was always convenient to be able to grab some good food and hang out with friends or study between classes.

Smorgasburg: To escape the typical dining scene in New York, many residents flock to Smorgasburg, a gathering of all things food. Vendors roll into a few different locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan where people can try different food offerings inspired by cultures around the world. Did I also mention that local brewers are there with beer? It’s a little pricey, but worth the opportunity to try unique food offerings from local chefs. You can also pick up crafts and artwork from local designers and artists.

  1. Riverwood: If you’ve been bowling or golfing in Mt. Pleasant, you’ve probably been to Riverwood. With a number of different bowling leagues, live music and cheap golf, it’s a great spot to blow off some steam. I still enjoy seeing the pictures of my friends during their drunken “bad bowler Mondays” league and can remember my fair share Happy Gilmore swings and gutter balls from my time spent there.

Brooklyn Bowl and Chelsea Piers: Brooklyn Bowl is a unique bowling alley and concert venue located right next door to the Brooklyn Brewing Company in Williamsburg. It brings in big acts and gives you the opportunity to bowl while still having a great view of the show. Show tickets are usually reasonably priced (around $25) and beers are about five bucks, so it’s a great alternative to seeing a show at other music venues in the area. Chelsea Piers offers a driving range on the shore of the Hudson River in Manhattan. It’s basically a gigantic net looking out of the river to Jersey City. If you’re looking to get in a few swings in on your lunch break, this is basically your only option with the exception of putt-putt.