Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Baltimore Drive-by, Part XI: I hear music

When the skinny mystery fan gave up his jabber and walked off, I was alone in the street. I'd lost McCarver. Now Blake was gone, too.

[Read all of "The Baltimore Drive-by" so far here.]

Nothing to do but head back to the convention hotel and catch the late action at the bar. No way to get there in time unless I took the subway. I was in luck; this was Baltimore. In Philadelphia, you couldn't buy a token or a pass at my station, and the attendants wouldn't make change. So why have attendants? Don't ask me; I hadn't lived in America's Next Great City long enough to figure it out.

Downstairs a guy leaned against the no-smoking sign and lit a cigar. There was no point complaining to the attendant. She'd been smoking, too. But I always look at the bright side. At least she'd sold me a token.

The rattling subway car made me think of Billie Holiday, except the music I heard was supplied by my fellow riders, unsolicited and free of charge. Not that they acknowledged me as they nodded and bopped and fiddled with their iPods.

I'd once read an interview with the guy who invented the Walkman, and it was all hippie utopia: drift off, create your own soundworld, carry it everywhere. I'd never bought into his utopia thing. To me it sounded like Cold War pulp science fiction, a way to keep the worker rats quiet on their underground commutes. But Mr. Walkman never reckoned on shoddy headphones that leaked sound and owners who didn't care. The subway car was anything but quiet.

This damn country couldn't even do a dystopia right.

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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