DMT, MTA, and Empanadas

You ever pass out on the subway platform bench waiting for the train only to wake up just as it rockets past you? You throw your head back in frustration saying ,"My train! I missed it! How did I sleep through it?!" And there you are. Alone in the cavernous Subway. Again- with another long wait ahead of you. Don't be too hard on yourself, my friend. Sometimes there are unexplained forces at play.

Sometimes its a Special Train. A Phantom of a Train. It belongs to my Otherworldly friends and I. And we're long gone.

And we laughed at you through the ghost-like curtains of our train-car window as you snored away. And Aunt Justine sings out over her little Jazz band, "There's Alwaaaaays another Traaaain a'Comin! Just Wait! Be Patient! There's Alwaaaaaays a Traaaain on it's Way-Way-Waaaaay..." and she starts Scat-singing. It is a sight that never gets old and its all at your expense.

 And as you snore away oblivious to us, Lieutenant Edwards bellows, "Hey! WhaddarYOU doin' sleepin' all ALONE Tonight, Sonny?!"And you slumber unawares as he triumphantly continues,  "Yer Drinkin' somethin' right but doin' somethin' WRONG!" And the train erupts with raucous laughter. And Aunt Justine's band merrily rides the punchline, firing off a cymbal. And we rocket past you. Now I'm free from this hard city, free from space. And Time. And Julia. And Her face. I'm free.

Inside our train is a Grand Old Time. I'm sure you've sensed that somewhere beneath this town- someone is having a heap of fun. Well that would be us. But we need you asleep when we come around. As a matter of fact we cast a spell over you if you happen to be awake. So why does this 'ghost train' belong to me and not just any other Nueva Yorker? Let me put it this way. I have a condition.

Take a little trip with me...
Through the Tunnels.
Mosaics.
Catacombs.

Darkness.
Quiet.
Echoes.
Encantante.

Peace.
Eternity.

Through it all, our train pierces the subterranean underground. It clatters around on a journey that never ceases to defy my ability to comprehend how we got to this point of man made marvel: The Sub Rail. And in these deep passageways...His spirit is here; The Spirit of the Man who once towered over me. Now he stalks me; haunting these silent-to-jarring tunnels. I'm talkin' loco again. There's a science to all this. Its a part of the brain they call 'The Spirit Gland'. On second thought- this will be a lot for you to take in all at once. Maybe I should piecemeal it out to you. Bear with me. We'll get there. 

My day job is in the dead of night working for the Metropolitan Transit Authority: Graveyard shift. Yes I am one of the eight-thousand MTA employees. My friends {when I see them} always ask the same stuff, "Luis, are you alright down there- Underground? and "Those graveyard shifts- man- it's like you're buried alive!". That last one... It's true I guess. I am buried alive.  But  pushing a hundred grand a year with overtime to boot. Julia hated my graveyards. Me too but now that she's gone- it feels like they are all I have. You see all this emptiness here in these dark tunnels?

For me, it's not empty. It's what you could call a pregnant silence. I see something new every night- and I write it down. And everytime that happens- its a victory. For me and for...them.

K- Train.jpg

The Straphangers.

That's what I call them- 'Straphangers'-people who never stopped riding the train even after they were muerto, finito, nada.

This is that rarest of subway trains. They call it "The K Train". The very same mysterious garbage train that comes out at night on the F line heading down to Coney Island. Only- you step inside and there ain't nothin' 'garbage' about it. Damn- its kind of romantic. Its like one of those old Union Pacific Railroad Trains. Way before my time but lately, I've been researching old trains in the Library. Its beautiful- plush- like with Velvet, some tables, mini-tapestries, chandeliers, and everything. 

So when I finish my shift in the early morning- I get on this 'Ghost Train' and the fun begins. Where do I go, you ask? Well there's the rub. I'm going' nowhere. Or as Aunt Justine would say 'NOOOO WHEEEERE In-Par-TIK-Cue-Laaaaaar! Ain't no Specific Staaaation is our Destinaaa-aaation!'

Then I get back and journal it out. I devour my precious Straphangers with my stories-like they were a hot February-Morning-Empanada on the East River. Because thats what I'm really about- writing {empanadas too}. It only took my whole life to figure that out. Not writing for money mind you. Maybe I should have. God, now I sound like Julia. She always told me I should write. Maybe things would be better if--never mind. Whatever. It helps the time pass- Writing.

Oh yeah- the Spirit Gland. That thing I was talking about earlier- that refers to a tiny but powerful nerve in the middle of the Brain. We all have one, mind you. Its the size of a grain of rice, looks like a little white pine cone. Its called the 'Pineal Gland' {pronounced Pie-Neal}. 

So I got this crazy special Pineal Gland right? It makes me see things like Ghosts and Ghost Trains deep under Nueva York.  The Straphangers come to me on the 'Pineal Train' and then I see the K-Train and I hop aboard. It helps me to take a pen and write about the whole thing. Helps with those loco moments. Keeps my mind off of Julia. But she always comes back and destroys me. Like a dream that I can reach out and touch. Like a dream that ravishes the senses. Mi Amore. I had another dream and it went like this...

My Giggling Ghost
With the mariposa smile
And a wrinkle of the nose
 My Julia
Not Mine.
No Never Mine Why?
Why you come to me-

Why last night?
Humbling
Humiliating

Random
That it should happen.
Luck.
What The Luck.
Lucked in the Head.

Post Coital Dead
With Julia in a
Motel Bed.

So happy I suckle her
Cigarette

Me, the nonsmoker.
I finally feel Plain
I want you
In A Diamond Ring,

To be my
Ball and Chain.

 And you seize me in those arms
Laughing loudly in my ear
And I could go deaf
Right now, my Dear

With that being the last
Sound I ever hear.

"But No.
This is your mistake."

Says the flicker
Of my eye-lash
As I sit up,
Now
Awake.

Quiero. Julia. In the middle of a messy divorce and look what she still does to me! God. I take a consoling bite out of my Guayaba Empanadas. You can't get them anywhere in this town. I bake my own. I got Julia into them. I bake them  just like Mami showed me- and Mi Abuela-My Grandmother showed her.  I been eatin' Empanadas for decades. Es un Tradicíon favoríta de mí Familía. Funny because I'm not even Argentinian. Cuban.

 I bring them to work all the time. Guayaba is Guava. And we put a cheese in there too. Es Bueno. Mamí did this to me. She started me off with the Guayabas. Then she worked her way to the bistek- the meat ones- then finally la espanaca-the spinach. Mi Abuela used to say that Mamí put me on the Guayaba train all the way to El Stacíon de la Espanaca. Ha. Smart Señoríta that one. She hooked me! Muy bien! But Guayabas were always my favorite. I liked them so much-I used to make them with Mamí and sell them with Alfonso- mi Papí. My own business! And Me- a little eleven-year-old-Empanada-CEO! When Julia and I got married, I cooked all kinds of Empanadas for the wedding.

But how the world turns. And here I am. On The precipice of divorce and working for the Man. Man, This City... it has a way you know? But I'm still cookin' and eatin' my Empanadas. Its bananas.

So I got some freaky shit for you. Alfonso, mí Papí- he watched people. He did. But he did it because it was part of his strange condition- same as mine. He'd watch people and then it was like he would mentally-disappear. His body would be there but... He wouldn't be. He was gone. Left his body for- sometimes- twenty seconds.

He did it all through my childhood. Later he said it was like freedom from his same damn-life.  Thanks a-lot, Papí. It would come on at anytime, he'd be 'gone'  and then pop back in a few seconds later.  He'd have a clueless look on his face for a second. Freaky shit. The worst of it was that he made it seem voluntary but as he got older he 'left' at bad times- embarrassing times. He gave a speech once at my sister's communion and we had a lot of explaining to do to the visitors. My poor Hermana, Cece.

Then when Mamí turned Fifty-Nine, Alfonso was going to wait in line to get us tickets to see The Producers. We never got those Tickets. We never saw The Producers.  That was the day of the big shit-show. Cece was with him. They got a coffee together. It was a beautiful morning. Then she saw a friend and he said she could go hang. And thats where she left him. In that World Trade Center Starbucks on a beautiful morning. That was the day he truly left us. That was the day he left this world. And the world changed. And it didn't have a single thing to do with his goddamned condition. And the family money dried up. But they- The MTA- felt bad for us and I got a job there. Unions can be great to family. 

But now I'm this grown-ass man and I've got this condition. I go crazy thinking about how bad I have it here. We all do that- its Nueva York- sure. It works on us all. You gotta observe the hell outta this place or it takes you over. Watch people. You gotta be an Empath. Julia was good at that. She could feel people you know? I can do it too. But you gotta find ways to stay an Empath. Or else one day you see a kid puking his guts out and you won't have the decency to help him to those last steps to his Mamí's apartment. You gotta watch people. And remember one day that could be your kid not being helped by a stranger.

Or one day your Julia is throwing her arms up in the air saying, 'I give up!'...and  you just feel numb. And it scares you. But you don't do anything. And you realize there's no point to the moments if you don't feel bad for people sometimes. So you exercise the empathy muscle. That's why I watch people. And I'm always putting myself in their place.

"Louie BOY! Where are the Senyereedas at tonight!" bellows Lieutenant Aaron Edwards. He raps me on the shoulder, just rough enough to knock me out of my melancholic stupor. He is just back from The War- as in The WAR- WW2. With his blond hair and watery hazel eyes, he could be Hitler Youth but thankfully for us he was born in the right country. He'll go on about how the happiest time in his life- and in America- was when the soldiers came home from WW2. They finally knew they were safe. The worst war ever was over. They just wanted to celebrate and make love and bathe in confetti.

I like talking to Aaron. Makes me smile. He's got this sparkly innocence to him. He doesn't know how confusing things are going to get in the next several decades. It will drive him nuts and his pineal gland will start shorting out as well, augmenting his grip on the dimensions. His mystery train will come forth one night and he'll gingerly step aboard and get some respite from the shifting post-war America.

Poor Aaron doesn't know that what was great for him- wasn't so enjoyable for everyone who didn't look like him. He will keep learning and retreating and he'll keep ridin' the train. It'll be like a dance. He does a mean charleston by the way. He's so lovably innocent- this pastey good ol'boy who is afforded every social privilege. He just wants to have fun like he once did and it was sweet and pure and raw and I guess thats his excuse. Plus, this Gringo is allota fun.

Inside our train is a grand old time. We ride to forget. To escape. This condition- its like an escape. A coping mechanism you might say. Here's some more science.  Es Asambroso! Amazing!- you ever hear about 'The Third Eye'? If there was ever a part of the body that that would refer to- it would be the Pineal Gland. This tiny miracle produces the highest amount of dimethyltryptamine or 'DMT'; That's right DMT- The most powerful form of Psychoactive Energy known to man.

K- Train.jpg

Anyway- I'm riding this phantasm of a train on account of DMT getting wonky- like it's not turnin' off. What's my trigger? Not sure. Might be the Graveyard Shifts- sleep deprivation can have a destructive effect on the Third Eye. I should be sleeping during Witchin' Time. But I'm awake and half the time I don't sleep when I need to catch up. I think I had this issue before the MTA. I remember Julia telling me she loved how I would wake up- not knowing where I was and I wouldn't recognize her and she would wave her hand in front of me and say, 'Luis! Helloooooo in there'. She always got a laugh out of it. I hear her laughter bouncing off these sweltering hot Subway tiles and train tracks coated with a crud of blackened Nueva York History. Her soft voice rings louder and louder. Julia, my Love. Mi Amore. Te llama...

So did I talk to Julia about my condition? Short answer: Yes. She was understanding but when I refused to see a Doctor about it- she freaked. In my defense this Doc was her old College sweetheart and it felt weird... and humiliating. She didn't get it and I was so fed up explaining that. Long Answer: I didn't tell her that I actually wanted to keep this condition because every time I 'leave'...I see Alfonso. Anyway we called it quits. She went back to school and I started these Graveyards. Eventually, I got a Doctor. Just to be safe. More science here...

Your Pineal Gland helps you sleep. And sleep helps your Pineal Gland. Somehow, mine has  gotten stuck in the 'on' position and with my... Let's call it my 'Borderline Schizophrenia', I don't fall asleep when The K Train comes around. So it comes and I step in and I'm adios. Finito. Now- bear with me- I almost have your information cocktail made. One last ingredient to this Bloody Maria: My Blood. As in Mí Famílía. This Pineal 'Disease' of mine- its hereditary. How did I figure this out?

Another one of the benefits of working for the Union is the doctors are muy profesional!- you gotta find them though. Anyways this Doc says I'm a candidate for Alfonso's same disease. That was my first Clue. But I haven't told him all the stuff I'm seeing or about the Straphangers or the place I've... discovered. He's liable to think me schizophrenic-which- by the way-that's a possibility with a dysfunctional Pineal Gland. The Gland's shut-off valve doesn't function right and the person starts living 'trans-dimensionally. Not many people know but I do. Sometimes you just do your own research, know what I'm sayin'? But I'm having moments where I suddenly see a person asking me if I'm alright and I realize I must have...left the engine running you know? So I keep it wrapped up {secret} and bake it with meticulous observation. It's my own secret Empanada you might say.

So, what's it like? I'd say it's like transdimensional living but it's more like time traveling, comprende? Because there are people on there with me but upon talking to them I've found that they are just as real as I am and lived in the same world that we do. I know this because I meet and converse and then when or wherever I come to- I go to Bryant Park the next day- to the Public Library and look them up and there they are. And I can trace a pretty direct line of relation to everyone of them.

Yeah. We're all related. So I'm on this Phantom Train with my Ancestors. People who sailed my bloodline long before me. But here- we are all Famílía and Friends. And I'm addicted to this place. I feel love. Like I used to feel with Julia. Its how life should be. I find that feeling here. Alone with these lonely bastards. We don't talk. We sing. Thats the language. Its like instead of air...we breathe music. And rhythm. And everybody gets their moment.

But one day, I learned that this other-worldly-Arian-Blonde-Youth-Lieutenant Aaron Edwards is my Grand Father Aaron. Si!  My Abuelo. He was a man born of flagrant opportunity and white male privilege! He was the first relative I knew of on the K. I don't remember him in my life but I am told he was very attached to me. I seen him in photos holding me up and pointing out the camera to me.

He recently taught me a drinking song he learned abroad, in Algiers where he was stationed two scary years. He learned the song from a Scottish Allied Officer. I know-Scottish! He's quite a dancer too. Just like in the old movies. The ones I used to see with Mamí to beat the humidity. Nothing like the AC of a Movie Theatre and a Musical with perfect happy white people to make you forget all your sweaty troubles. And now here is mí Abuelo teaching this Scottish Song across space and time on the Pineal Train to his Middle Aged Cuban Nieto- his Grand Son. We dance arm-in-arm. I love him. I hate him. He's so innocent I look down on him yet I feel protective of him. Yet I look up to him because he's mí Abuelo. Nueva York. Its a different animal.

Let's not forget Aunt Justine. She is actually mi prima-my cousin once removed from Aaron's Mamí. She enjoyed an esteemed career in the speak easy's slinging jazz with a voice that was as dangerous to men as the questionable 'paint thinner' they were drinking. Sometimes I like to get cozy on the velvet seats of this old train and watch her sing. But other times I just lean my head back close my eyes and sail away with her and that voice.

One time we chatted it up about our favorite foods and well- you know where this is going- The next week, I brought her an assortment of Empanadas. She took a nibble off one but to my chagrin was not a fan... Until she got to the Beef and Onion one. "Now that's my idea of a meal kid!", she declared. Now when I step on the train there she is singing and when Aunt Justine sees me, she points to me, and I hoist a bag to her lest I endure the humiliation of her stopping the song, throwing her hands up in the air and going- 'Hey Lou! Where's my Empanada?!'.

 Aunt Justin

Aunt Justin

According to the Library, Aunt Justine is going to get diagnosed with schizophrenia and because of the times-she'll have shock therapy and that'll be that. But that Pineal Gland is like a pair of wings. Sending her to us. Sending us all to eachother. Sometimes the best way to see what it's all about is to just be with like-minded folks I guess. So here we all are, with our third eyes but it comes at a price. I'm still figuring out what my price is. I guess its something like seeing the other side is its own addiction or escape. But I'm with Grandaddy Aaron and Aunt Justine. So here we are. Estamos.

If Julia could see me now. I'd no doubt be fixing her up a conversation with Prima-Corinthians. Prima-Corynthian's got a PHD in Psychology. And I'll bet a month salary including 30 days of OT that Julia's College Doc has nothing on her. Sure her Doc is fifty years ahead in terms of break-through's in the field but they say every generation loses something the previous one had. So I'll take Prima-Corinthians' theories over his {plus I'm biased towards anyone who' got the same Pineal Problem that I do so there is that}.

This whole train and its many colors of strange... I'm grateful for it. I'm grateful for this Melting Pot of a Town. Since I took these shifts I can't stop writing. But the more I do this, the more I see Alfonso. He's ducking in and out of the cars. I tried chasing him once but he disappeared. I reasoned he just wants to check in on me but can't have me see him. Just don't leave me, Papí. Besides, the more I write and the more I see him- the less I think about Julia.

Damn. To lie without a lover. It's enough to drive one to take a graveyard shift and start living for these poor doomed ghosts. They are where I can take my respite. If you think I'm sad- ask yourself what your doing in Nueva York with no family. Unless you are in Suburbia with a pool and a Barbecue with people just like you and yours-

You are just like me. Whats your excuse? Where was I?

last thing: I'm seeing- Alfonso. He's here in the Tunnels with me. All I hear are footsteps clattering down into the Manahattan undersides. I know it's him because I saw him once.  I chased him down. He got away. Then last night I saw and chased him again. I actually saw him fall. Some phantom he turned out to be. The word, "Papí" is a cathartic word when you're holding your vanished Father by his caller screaming "We wanted to see The Producers! Mamí and Me! With YOU!" To which he just stares with those grey eyes that say...

"I know."  I hear his eyes.

"Why are you running from me?!!!"

 And I hear those grey eyes again say, "'Same reason you are running." and I answer back, 

"What? What do you mean?" I'm proud of my aghast incredulity until those grey eyes say,

"Tell her." And I release him, suddenly getting tired. "Tell her everything, Lou." And even through the ensuing fatigue- I know what he means. And I'm flashing ahead faster than the K to the future. I see a couple at a nice outdoor restaurant on a warm summer evening. I can smell the hyacinths and...Julia's musky hair. We're laughing. In the Future. We are laughing.

And here I am now. On the steps of her brownstone. They glow like heaven in the street lamps of 2am. Witchin' Time. I push the intercom. Nothing... then! 

"Hello?"

"It's me."

"Oh...Louie?"

"Yes. Uh... Te Llama."

And that buzzer sets me free...