76 Trombones & Trouble

The ups and downs of the city’s recovery will jerk you around from incredible highs to nerve fraying lows that will at times have you swearing to leave the city. Yesterday was one of those days filled with hopeful change and harsh reality. Beautiful weather and streets bustling with people on the way to one of the hottest tickets on Broadway distracted me from the lingering signs of the pandemic: blocks of boarded up businesses, trash in the streets and an unwelcome edge.

I took my daughter to see The Music Man on Broadway for her birthday. The return of Broadway is pumping life back into Times Square. Audiences and artists are reunited. The energy of this cultural homecoming is palpable. Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster’s chemistry as Harold Hill and Marian Paroo is undeniable. I was both impressed and jealous of both performers’ athletic prowess as we are all around the same age. Neither actor had a single sign that they might have succumbed to any type of stress eating during the pandemic. Their effortless movement dazzled me as a middle aged mom recovering from the quarantine marathon that has been my life for the past 2 years. I worried about their knees giving out or if they would be able to sing after an intense dance number or what would happen if they got a cramp? There were no signs of fatigue of any kind whatsoever… a reminder and inspiration to work on my fitness. Anywhoooo, we loved it. The Music Man is joyful, nostalgic and great therapy for moving out of dark times. The brilliant execution of every note and step by two of the best Broadway performers of our time make it a must see.

We had dinner at Serendipity 3 (known for its ridiculously large ice cream desserts). Stella and I both enjoy the kitschy decor, the powder room covered in Andy Warhol wallpaper and the happiness factor collecting from all the kids and adults alike jonesing on sugar. When we left, we walked back past Bloomingdales to see the Bridgerton themed windows decked out in Regency Era silhouettes, but unfortunately… no Rege Jean.

We took the subway home. It was 6:15 pm on a Saturday. I knew the trains would be full of people. Stella and I caught a downtown R train from 59th Street. The seats were nearly full and a few people were standing. I managed to get Stella a seat and I stood right next to her in front of the door. I immediately sensed a “be aware vibe” from other passengers. I attributed it to all the recent news about incidents of violence on the subway. I have taken the subway throughout the pandemic and while things are dirtier and way nuttier these days, I had never been afraid. There was a group of boys in their early 20s sitting next to Stella. They were nicely dressed, but totally out of it. They weren’t drunk, but in a daze of some kind and obviously on something. I have no idea what. Stella noticed and asked me what was wrong with them. Their zombie demeanor was adding to my unease. We had 9 stops to go and traveled the first 8 in silence. At Union Square, the mound of masculine mush sitting next to Stella exited the train.

Right after the doors shut, there was a very loud burp from the far end of the car about 15 feet from where I stood. I thought the burp might be a harbinger of vomit and that would be the extent of it. I was wrong. Suddenly, things escalated. Burp Boy rose to his feet with a Hulkish presence moving at a surprising speed for a drunk person in our direction. I became instantly aware of space and time. I began to think frantically about ways to get out of this situation. Luckily, Burp Boy stopped ½ way to my daughter and I, only 6 feet away. I moved my body in front of Stella. Burp Boy was enraged by another passenger that “had been looking at him the wrong way”.

At this point, I noticed Burp Boy had a weapon. In 20 years of riding the subway, I’d never seen anyone draw a weapon. The weapon looked like an instrument you might find on the set of Mad Max, barbaric and disturbing. Burp Boy held a homemade ½ scale baseball bat with a few nails sticking out of one side of it with a precision that let us know he has used it before. A deafening silence fell on the car and every passenger was on high alert. Another man from outside the altercation stood up and said something like, “Calm down bruh, he didn’t mean any disrespect.” He was visibly uncomfortable, but did an outstanding job of tone and body language that changed the temperature of both the aggressor and probable victim. I was thankful for his bravery.

Burp Boy lowered his weapon and muttered a threat to the man who had looked at him wrong. Only part of his communication was audible, “If you try to stab me, I’m gonna….” I never looked to see if the other man had a knife. When the doors opened at the 8th Street, Stella and I got off the train quickly and walked towards the station exit at a clip. Most of our fellow passengers bailed with us. Burp Boy stayed on the train and we all watched in relief as he passed by us behind closed doors. My daughter talked to me at 100 miles a minute the entire way home, I could tell she had been scared. ”Mom, you need to carry your extendable mop in your purse for a weapon. You could have hit him in the balls with it.” I was proud of her resourcefulness, she had used this same mop as a sword or wand in creative play. It was probably the closest thing we had to a weapon in our house. “Stella, fighting someone like that is always a last resort, you should first try to get away by any means possible.” Note to self: time for self-defense course and subway is now off limits for family trips until further notice.


New York artist most known for her Lady Liberty art prints and original paintings. Discover Laura's complete I Love New York series in the shop.