Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Brother Jeff over at Odin's Aviary had an experience this weekend similar to one I had last week, where several cultural/artistic experiences in a short space of time helped reaffirm for him why such things, perhaps live performance in particular, was a good thing to do. My week was a different set of events, but a similar outcome. It started with a trip to the Met, where I saw three amazing shows, but was perhaps most struck by the Tiffany exhibit. I felt like I was bathing in color, and it was nothing if not therapeutic. Then I saw Pan's Labyrinth, a movie which was not at ALL what I was expecting, and about which I do have some reservations, but I'm still glad I saw it. The discussion with Jeff was another bright spot in the experience. Later that week I got to go up to New Paltz with, again, Jeff (hmm, I'm sensing a pattern here), to do the workshop (see entry 1/20/07), then the next day good friends took me to hear some chamber music being performed by undergraduates and masters students at Julliard.

The art and music in particular struck a deep chord with me; both used to be huge parts of my life, as practitioner and audience member, and in the last ten years they've largely disappeared from my life. That has been a mistake, I think, and especially while I'm living in New York, it seems too bad not to avail myself of the local resources a bit more. The Met cost me $5 (my choice of 'donation') and the concert was free.

I ended the week feeling like I had been doing things rejuvenating and beneficial. Funnily enough my friend Cathy, one of my two hosts at Julliard, said something similar. She and her husband are coming out of a horrendous experience that consumed them for most of the last three years. Cathy said that during that time, her dream-life became affected, shifting drastically in tone and imagery. In recent months however, she's noticed a distinct return to health in her dream-life, and attributes at least some of it to regular attendance at Julliard chamber and jazz concerts. I believe she's right.

It sounds silly, pretentious even, to suggest that artistic experiences are having a healthy effect on me, but that's really what it boils down to. If it's any consolation, I've felt the same rejuvenation after dancing to 80's pop music, or seeing a fun, light-hearted play. I don't think the experience has to be capital 'C' culture stuff... I just have to remember it needs to happen more often. And I think it needs to be live, and really really good.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Taking a Stand

I come from a tradition that encourages civil disobedience. While no one in my immediate family has yet been arrested for protesting an unjust law, I probably wouldn't have to go too far back the family tree to find someone who worked on the underground railroad, or was sent to prison for protesting a war. As a consequence, I have always more or less assumed someday I would at least be arrested, if not actually imprisoned.

So, you can imagine my chagrin when the first time I was arrested, it wasn't for protesting a war, not for protecting someone else's embattled civil rights, not to draw attention to some government sponsored atrocity... no I got arrested for lewd conduct. Or, if I preferred, public indecency. That was the charge.

I could live with this charge too, if there were at least a good story behind it, but it's really mostly embarrassing. It occurred in Seattle on a Sunday night in the Summer, what was in fact one of the hottest nights of the year (1990). I and four friends had all just auditioned for a play at the theatre where we all worked, and elected to go skinny dipping in Lake Washington, in a local park. I'm sure it comes as no surprise to most of my friends that my arrest somehow involved public nudity. Well, now you know how it all got started.

It was somewhere around 11pm when we arrived. We had the place to ourselves, no one on the beach, no one in the water. Unfortunately this was due to the fact that the park was closed, no one was supposed to be there, so somebody, presumably living in one of the nearby residences, alerted the cops.

They dutifully showed up, ordered us out of the water, and when some of our group dawdled a bit in response, the cops got mad and chose to charge us, rather than send us on our way. We were all annoyed, embarrassed, outraged, chagrined, but at this point there seemed to be nothing to do but accept the ticket, and go home. Weeks later when we went in for our arraignments, we assumed ahead of time that we would simply plead guilty (I mean, we were naked, let's not get cute), pay our fines, and be done with it. Oh, not so fast. Turns out that pleading guilty to a charge of public lewdness/indecency came with a minimum penalty of a hefty fine (I don't recall the number now, let's say $10,000) AND a minimum of 90 days in jail. The presiding judge, who seemed like a decent sort, encouraged us to plead not guilty, because if we didn't do so, he'd be forced to give us the minimum sentence.

The next step was the discovery that despite the fact that I was unemployed at the time, due to the fact that I had a savings account AT ALL, I was not eligible for a public defense attorney. None of us were, it turns out. So, we were on our own (one guy got a friend of his lawyer Mother to represent him, more on that later).

When the time came for the actual trials, four of the five of us got a judge who couldn't believe the ridiculousness of the charge. He did lecture each of us on how living in society means one doesn't get to do whatever he or she feels like, and it did make me feel about ten years old, but his true ire was for the arresting officers. I was one of the last to be dealt with, so I didn't see any of the real annoyance, but apparently he sternly lectured them for wasting everyone's time. Those of us who saw this judge had the charges dropped, no marks on our record whatsoever. The one guy who retained a lawyer saw a different judge, and ended up paying a fine of $125. As I left the courtroom the one officer who had come for our case approached me (I imagine by this point she and her partner were just wishing it would all go away). "If you guys had just put your clothes on right away, we would have just sent you home." I was simply relieved to have it all behind me, so I didn't grill her as I now wish I had. The officer then told me and my co-defendant Christina that the real big mouth/trouble-maker was the one who had been forced to pay the fine.

I had several problems with this statement, that surfaced for me only later. First off, what exactly was she saying? That they had somehow seen to it that he had been sent to more of a hanging judge, in order to assure he suffered at least some punishment for his mouthing off? The other four of us all saw this judge, was he known for being a lighter touch with these sorts of cases, since the officers felt the rest of us had 'learned our lesson'? Did they somehow stack the deck that way? Do they have that much control? And should she really be telling us about it, if they do? Second problem: if they did in fact make a concerted effort to punish the guy who had been the most belligerent (and if you ask me, juvenile) that night, they got the wrong guy. Both guys were named David, but the twit ("What, do you guys have to fill a quota or something?") got off scot-free like me, the one who got nailed was no more disrespectful than I had been. He had, however, been the only one who managed to retain a lawyer. So if the cops were basically seeing to it that 'we learned to respect their authority' or whatever the game was here, what they mostly taught us was, cops will happily use the system to gratify their egos, they know the system MUCH better than we do, so don't take on this fight lightly.

When I called to tell my family it was happening, I was able to draw on family tradition a bit, albeit not in the way I had always hoped. As a young woman my grandmother Lacey had also once been arrested for indecent exposure. She had made the grave error of going to the beach in a bathing suit that exposed her knees. I don't happen to know what price she had to pay for this egregious assault on society, but I don't think it included jail-time. God, I hope they had more sense back then even.

What's my reason for telling this story? I've been thinking recently that it looks like a time is approaching (or has been here for a while) when civil disobedience has become a necessity again, if principles of democracy, justice, and civil liberties are to be protected. This federal goverment is shameless in its contempt for the rule of law, it seems to me, and I wonder if it's going to get worse before we get the bastards out. My glancing blow with the judicial system helped me understand just how powerless and angry one can feel when in the midst of the machinery, and unlike dealing with customer service representatives, one doesn't have the option of giving up and going home in a huff. You get to go when THEY say you're done. So... I just hope the next time I'm arrested, it's because of something that matters, a stand I feel strongly about, and proud of. I can't have it be for something silly again.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

A Perfect Day

So Wednesday I had what might be close to a perfect day. Beloved Jeff and I drove up to New Paltz, NY to lead a workshop in acro-balance and commedia techniques (the title of said workshop was "Commedia de Acro". Catchy, no?) which was part of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF). I don't know when the "KC" got added to the name, or if that just refers to this particular region's ACTF, but this is the same festival all you theatre geeks went to when you/we were in college. And it was just as fun to visit. But first, the drive there. It was one of those beautifully clear sunny days, when the lack of humidity in the air means everything looks like it was cut with diamonds. Practically the minute one gets out of NYC one is in beautiful scenery, first the Palisades Parkway running alongside the Hudson, then into the foothills of what I guess must be the Catskills (but don't quote me on that). Driving with old buddy Jeff, listening to great tunes, drinking my third cup of coffee for the day, muching on a blueberry muffin, watching the scenery go by, even if this had been the sole activity of the day, I would have been delighted. MAN I love road trips! Why don't I make them happen more often? Note to self: more roadtrips. Daytrips are fine. Taking the Metro North for a couple of hours on the Harlem or Hudson lines would do it even. So that's on the to-do list.

Then we got to the festival. The campus looked deserted because school isn't in session yet, but once we found the central office, we started to see signs of life. When I decided to become a theatre major in my sophomore year (back in '86) I soon thereafter went to my first ACTF... and began to wonder if I could do this afterall. There I was surrounded by people in black, smoking cigarettes, striking a series of poses. Everywhere I looked, people were posing, or laughing a bit too self-consciously. "I cannot spend my life with these people", I thought. Fortunately I soon realized that students of theatre are not quite the same as professionals, and if I've found reason to regret my choice from time to time, it's rarely been due to the company I keep. All of this is preamble to the fact that I saw very little of this behavior this time. Sure, maybe if I were an insecure 19 year old I would have seen things to give me pause again, but mostly what I saw were a lot of nice kids, getting excited about things, flirting up a storm of course, but basically seeming fairly normal, and, well, like teenagers. I even had the pleasure of running into a young woman I know from the Killington Renaissance Faire who is now a junior in college, majoring in theatre design. I've known her since she was 17. One step closer to getting that walker...

Jeff and I had no idea what to expect from this workshop, and found that we weren't going to be able to access our room until just before it was to begin. This made us a bit tense, but you do what you have to. The workshop was aimed in part at drumming up interest in a study program Jeff is part of, that takes students to Italy, where they study Italian and Commedia for a month. If they don't get the enrollment they need, the program doesn't happen, so Jeff was feeling a bit of pressure for this to get a good crowd, and impress said crowd.

Well, we need not have worried. Somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty students showed up. This was actually daunting in its own way, since we weren't sure we could do what we needed to with more than twenty, but we jumped in and did it anyway. The students were remarkably enthusiastic and committed; there was very little standing back and watching, ego-protecting, cool-maintaining, all the sorts of behavior I would expect from this age group, particularly from guys. Maybe I would have seen more of that from high schoolers, or anyone who wasn't already interested in theatre, but in any case, it was refreshingly absent. Sure there was a certain amount of attention-grabbing, people (all guys, now that I think of it) working perhaps just a bit TOO hard to be amusing, rather than involved, but it really was a great group.

The real revelation for me though was seeing Jeff in full on teacher mode. I've always loved seeing Jeff onstage, and have loved even more getting to work with him onstage, but circumstances have dictated that a lot of his acting work in the past five years has happened out of town. So I haven't seen as much of it as I would like. I've been aware of his craft and talent growing and deepening, mostly from the occasional snapshots I've gotten from the plays he's done in the city. But this was my first time seeing him teaching. As most of you know, I believe teaching may be the noblest profession there is. Sure brain surgeon is pretty amazing, I'm glad they're out there doing their thing, but for sheer day-to-day commitment of mind, spirit, imagination and compassion, I'm not sure anything surpasses teaching (nursing undoubtedly is just as good, but doesn't surpass it). Good teachers are life-changers. My father and sister are both life-changers in just this way. I have been lucky to be surrounded by some amazing teachers in my time, so I know where-of I speak.

So here was Jeff. He had brought me along as his assistant, wanting help in demonstrating the two person moves etc. and certainly I had his back with all aspects of the program. But he didn't need me. His explanations were clear and concise, he showed the moves while explaining how they could be used to enliven a production and deepen one's technique, he was funny and charming, hitting just the right note of playfulness and authority for that room, he saw to it that a group energy was generated that created space for people to experiment, play, and push themselves. There were varying degrees of success with each of the moves, but I saw very little in the way of discouragement, frustration or anxiety. The workshop ended with some unsolicited testimonials about the Italy program from previous participants, and an overall feeling of enthusiasm for more of this kind of work, in whatever way it could be achieved.

Jeff, in his usual generosity, credits me with some of this success, and I appreciate it. The fact is, my real talent is for seeing what ain't broke, and then not fixing it. Like I said, I had his back, and maybe knowing that gave Jeff an additional boost so he could sail like he did. But whatever the formula, it was so rewarding to be in that environment, doing real work, connecting with people, seeing them catch the spark of something I've loved for a long time now. It helped me remember that love, since as with all things, it can be easy to grow tired, jaded, or just plain forgetful of why one got interested in all this nonsense to begin with.

The day ended with a nice meal in the cute little town of New Paltz, then a drive back, now getting to enjoy an amazingly clear and star-studded night-time sky. I don't always know how to make it happen, but this day reminded me at least that when a good day comes along, I know it when I see it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Mental Housecleaning

I react to Feng Shui much the same way I react to astrology; I think it's a total crock, but I love reading it, I find it fascinating. Actually Feng Shui sometimes is rather sensible, at its most basic, practical, interior design elements. But I have to acknowledge something; recently I've been feeling confused and cluttered inside my head, then I took a look around the apartment and realized every flat surface had stuff all over it. Little nests of papers, books, notebooks, glasses, junk mail, homeless plants, pens, photos, they are everywhere. I can't claim it's because of Christmas either. This year I got all sorts of things to help me organize and store other stuff, without them things would be much worse.

So. I'm spending tomorrow morning getting rid of some of the clutter. We'll see if my mind ends up clearing too. I have to admit I hope Feng Shui is right this time.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Golly, Thanks for the Swell Party

Hi, I was the guy you met Saturday; you know, the "really polite" Midwestern boy with corn growing out of his ears? When you learned I was from Indiana, you reacted the way a lot of East Coasters did; you basically expressed condolences. You assumed I had fled the arid wastelands and small-mindedness of my home as soon as I was of age, barely escaping with my life, emotional well-being and creativity intact. Finding out that I first went to Seattle, you assumed this was some sort of half-way house process; I needed to spend time in a sleepy place that was at least a liberal haven with SOME nascent culture while I nursed my emotional wounds and prepared for the big time, here at the center of the universe. New York City, the place that you were lucky enough to be born into, and have never left, except for an occasional excursion to LA ("SO plastic, SO fake!") or a brief jaunt to Europe ("god, I couldn't find decent pizza ANYWHERE.") The idea of visiting the 'flyover zone' of my hometown strikes real fear in your hearts. "All those rednecks, Klansmen, Republicans, and inbred Deliverance rejects! Not a decent theatre, restaurant, newspaper or bagel for miles! However did you survive? And you do theatre? You read books? You know a little bit about classical music and art? You actually played in an orchestra? In High School? You must have felt like you were lost in the wilderness! You poor poor thing."

By now the intended sympathy has become a condescension I find almost delicious, it amuses me so much, but I'm sure you haven't a clue. I could explain that I was the son of academics and writers involved in a well-regarded small college that has been showing up on 'Best Kept Secrets' lists since the early 80s. I could explain it is populated by world class intellectuals who teach there because they valued the ethos and rigor of the place, including the fact that it values teaching more than 'publish or perish'. I could point out that many members of the faculty do publish anyway, and could eat your pseudo-intellectualism without breaking a sweat. I could explain that said college, while suffering from the dogmatism that affects anyplace populated largely by teenagers (and this place skews far left, by the way), nonetheless works with some success to increase discourse, critical thinking, and a sense of political responsibility in the world. I could explain that working there allowed my father sabbaticals every seven years, during which time we usually lived in London, enjoying theatre, opera, art galleries, museums, fine restaurants and excursions to some of the most beautiful place in the world. I could tell you about all the world class poets, novelists, political activists, musicians and artists I got to hear speak, often while serving them tea in my parents' living room. I could, in fact, condescend to you until (forgive me) the cows come home.
But I don't. Somehow that isn't the point I want to make. I don't want to play your game. I don't feel like convincing you that other parts of the world have things to offer, are in fact quite fine places to live. I don't feel like reminding you of the gay-bashings (including one murder) we've had here in the last year. I don't feel like telling you about the Guthrie, Goodman or Steppenwolf theatres, Midwestern all of them. I don't even feel like pointing out that your penchant for saying every single thought that comes into your head, the ruder the better, isn't being "refreshingly honest." It's called Tourette's and they have medication for it.

No, I don't feel the need to beat you at your own game. Frankly I doubt you'd really get it if I tried. Your world view is cast in iron. I just want to point out this; your belief that you live in the center of the world, and it's your privilege, duty even to ignore or sneer at the rest of the planet? There's a word for that too. It's called provincialism, and I've met more people who suffer from it (or do I mean revel in it?) here than any other place I've lived. Nowhere, not small town Indiana, Ireland, Vermont, nor big town Seattle or Dublin has come close. Well, okay, many Londoners came close, but still, they didn't surpass you. Yet another way New Yorkers excel. Ounce for ounce you are the most unapologetically provincial people I have ever met. You should be very proud.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

New York Anniversary

So eleven years ago today, I moved to New York. Less than a month previously I was fully ensconced in my life in Seattle, and other than auditioning for some out of town and out of state theaters, I had no plans for leaving. When the opportunity to go showed up (aided by the promise of a little money), I was tickled with the adventure of it, so I did it. I arrived in Newark Airport mere hours ahead of the big blizzard of '96. My friend and former college roommate Peter was waiting for me, having said he'd pick me up in any airport, by which I think he meant either LaGuardia or Kennedy, since he was taking me back to his apartment in Astoria, but he was gracious and friendly about the whole thing. I had ten days to find an apartment, since that was when I was starting school at the National Shakespeare Conservatory on the 16th. Then the snow hit, and the next morning, everything was buried under snow. The cars were indistinguishable white mounds. Few if any of the brokers offices were open that day, or indeed for most of the week, which was a welcome excuse for me to assume the fetal position in Peter's and Marilyn's apartment and wonder what the hell I was doing. School would provide a structure, sure, but why the hell was I looking for a place to live? I had a really great place in Seattle; true my roommate at the time had been slowly, inexplicably turning into a raving asshole, but the rent was cheap, I had my own room, there were trees right outside both sides of the apartment, oh yeah, there was a front AND a back door, I had friends all around me, and theatres that knew me, even if I didn't think they respected me all that much... I had things to do there. I may not have been crazy about it, but I had a life there.
I did manage to get into Manhattan during that week; previously I had spent less than 24 hours there during my senior year in college during the concert choir/chamber musicians tour of '87. That had been just long enough for me to learn that the frantic energy of the place caused me to rush around even when I didn't have be anywhere. I was sight-seeing with my friend Auburn, my soon-to-be boyfriend David, and his poor unwitting admirer Chantal. Auburn loved the fact that she could stop on any street corner, scream at the top of her lungs (and she was a trained-singer) and no one would notice, let alone stop.
I didn't care for the place. Too many people, too frenzied, no trees, greenery of any kind. I swore I'd never live here, despite knowing I would be pursuing acting. I also swore I'd never wait tables. So far I've kept that promise, for the good of diners everywhere.
Anyway. Here I was, having decided more or less on the spur of the moment to move to the area and go to school in Manhattan. So I was looking at things with a very different eye this time, not to mention that I was nearly ten years older, and had gotten quite comfortable in the relative urban setting of Seattle. My first impressions of Manhattan was snow muffled silence. There were hardly any people out. There were almost no cars at all. It was easier to walk in the street because most of them had been at least partially plowed, and no one else was using them. It seemed very peaceful, serene even. Times Square, the East Village, Soho, all of it quiet.
It took me a month to find a place to live, and that was after narrowly missing a chance to live with two of the most annoying members of my new class. We would have been a great trio, until I had to chop them both up and feed them to cats. Our first choice apartment turned us down, and our fast talking broker couldn't shake him out of it. Peter and Marilyn had guest room, so at least they didn't have me underfoot all the time, but their generosity made such a difference in my morale.
I ended up living for four months in Windsor Terrace with a lovely woman. No broker was involved, my friend Lisa found this woman's listing on the Brooklyn Co-op board where they both shopped. Brenda owned the apartment, but was in Connecticutt five days a week for her job. I was to learn this was not an unusual way for New Yorkers to live. During the next three years I was to move a total of twelve times, usually staying no more than three months in one place. That was usually just long enough to unpack, get settled, then pack up again. I lived in Brooklyn, Astoria (twice), the East Village, the Upper West Side (twice), and Jersey during that time; I bet I know the subway system and the Kennedy Boulevard buses better than most natives at this point. I've now lived in my Harlem apartment longer than the entire time I lived in Seattle. I've lived here longer than any other place except my childhood home. I'm not sure why, but that kind of freaks my shit out. I just signed on for another two year lease in this place. I don't feel locked in really; this apartment would be a breeze to sublet, but I do feel a bit odd. This place doesn't feel like home, but it's not as if anyplace else does either. I'm still ambivalent about New York, even as my ability to navigate its rapids improves. Maybe I'm just feeling a bit overwhelmed by the fact of eleven years. More than a decade. My seven years in Seattle seemed jam-packed compared to my time here. Maybe that's just due to the fact that I spent my twenties there, and my thirties here. Life just is more dramatic when you're in your twenties, I think.
Anyway... happy anniversary, New York.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Puppies, Friends, and Sushi

Cell phones have brought a new wrinkle to my life. Often now when my friends leave a message, they are out and about, going about their day in the world. Many of my friends (and I think I do this too) have a tendency to leave stream of consciousness messages, randomly reporting the thoughts going through their heads. Well, now, I get a little glimpse of what they're experiencing as well. It feels sometimes like I'm finding out what it's like to BE them. Melissa almost always runs into a dear friend unexpectedly on the street, often someone she hasn't seen in months or even years. Kate sees a puppy every time she calls. Or a baby. "OOOh, cutest baby( or puppy) in the world!" she'll say, right in the middle of another thought. Every call. Julia is often eating sushi. I feel sometimes like my friends inhabit a New York of magic, with butterflies and kisses waiting for them on every street corner.
This is not how I experience life in New York. It's a good reminder that one's experience is defined by one's perspective.

Bottom line, I love my friends.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Presence of Mind

Just before 1pm, I was walking to the train station by my house. As I slid my card through the turnstile, a crowd of people rushed to the station agent screaming. "There are people on the track, a train is coming, ya gotta stop it!" I looked up to see the 1 train had indeed stopped, about a quarter of the way in the station. Unfortunately it had already run over the men. We rushed over to see what had happened; standing nearby was a young woman and a girl both in tears. Another woman asked what had happened. Apparently one man had been having a seizure, when he fell onto the tracks. The second man dove down to get him, when the train ran over them both. The Good Samaritan was the father of the young girl (and, I learned later, father to the young woman as well). Hearing this, the older woman went over to the train. "Are you okay?" she called down. One of the men responded. "Hear that?" she asked the girl, "He's okay." She had him speak a few more times, each time looking at the crying girl. "Hear that? He's okay."
By this point there were a million cops on the scene, followed soon thereafter by fireman. The Good Samaritan reassured everyone that he and the other guy were fine. A crowd began leaving the train, rubber-necking as they passed the sight, or stopping to watch and who could blame them? Those of us on the platform had at least SOME idea of what had happened. I wanted to see that both men were okay, but realized that I was not helping the situation by standing around gawking.
I spent my bus ride downtown, and most of the afternoon close to tears, not a common experience for me, despite my emotional Celtic nature. It wasn't really the thought of death; I believed both men were going to be all right. It was more the sense that I had glimpsed people rising to an occasion, seeing people in trouble and responding lovingly without a seconds thought. It wasn't just the heroism of the man who saved the young guy's life, though that was obviously an incredibly brave act. It wasn't just the crowd of people who tried to stop the train when they saw the men fall. I found myself thinking again and again of the woman who kept telling the little girl, "Hear that? He's okay." I think all of us there wanted to help, and were frustrated by the fact that there really wasn't anything we could do; the experts were already on the scene, we were mostly just in the way. But that woman found something. She had the presence of mind and insight to see a need and fill it. Maybe what she did doesn't seem like much, but if you were eight years old and thought you had just seen your father killed, wouldn't you want some reassurance? I'm 40 years old, didn't know this guy from Adam's off-ox and I wanted to know he was okay. The rescue workers were all doing their jobs getting the two men to safety, they didn't have time to notice one little girl was confused, frightened and suffering. That woman couldn't get the men to safety either. But she did what she could.
If you want to know more, go here. I was so relieved to be able to learn the whole story. Bottom line, the young guy having the seizure is in stable condition at the hospital. The Good Samaritan walked away without a scratch. I wish I knew that woman's name.

Next day: So this story has made the national news wires. Closest I've ever brushed up against an event of this nature. Since this is all about me after all.

Wesley Autry, the Good Samaritan, seems to be a stand-up guy in general. He doesn't see what all the fuss is about.

Two Days Later: Still mulling over some things... first one: you know all that hallmark card, movie of the week stuff about "people pulling together in a crisis to help each other" I tried to avoid but still ended up talking about above? When one is in the experience, that compassion and fellow feeling is palpable. It's an energy that seems almost physical. Two: the fact that this happened in the subway is particularly significant for me. That is not a place I associate with compassion and fellow feeling. Particularly during rush hour, most of us put on our "too many people in my space" armor. Our faces go dead and mannequin-like, we avoid eye contact, we ignore the panhandlers, suspecting (probably with reason) that more than a few of them are scam artists. I tend to love looking at faces, and find beauty in a wide variety of them, but usually on the train I feel I might as well be looking at dinner plates, or pet rocks or something. There just isn't anyone at home in those faces; it's probably true of my face as well. Those moments when something charming or sweet happens on the train and we drop our masks, it's lovely, and it does happen sometimes. But this, this was something else. Like I said, I think most of us wished we could be more help. Mostly we were freaked out, upset, and frustrated. But the desire alone meant some kind of group energy was created. And maybe we already knew that we had just witnessed something brave and miraculous.