Monday, October 22, 2007

Oh, the Subway!

"Subway", Sesame Street [possibly dated 1970]

I've copied the lyrics for readers less inclined to play the video, or readers who would like to read along. The lyrics have been copied from a website seemingly devoted to all things Sesame Street

Old Lady: Excuse Me.
Hip Dude: Watch it, lady!
Old Lady: Pardon me, sonny!
Hip Dude: Down below the street/Can you dig the steady beat?/It's the subway
All: Subway!
Bert: Moving right along/Hear the rhythm loud and strong/It's the subway
All: Subway!
Man With Mustache: 'Cause there isn't any room in this town
Prairie Dawn: They put all the trains down under the ground
Cop: Buy a token now/For a ride that's super-wow/On the subway
All: Subway!
All: (talking at once)
Bert: Uh, excuse me...
Lady in Fur: You should say you're sorry!
Bert: Hi, Kermit.
Man With Mustache: Squeeze inside the door
Little Boy: There's no room for any more
Both: On the subway
All: Subway!
Hip Dude: Hang onto the strap
Lady: Wonder where they hid the map?
Both: On the subway
All: Subway!
Prairie Dawn: If you’re in a hurry take the express
Kermit: It will go right by your local address
Red-Haired Man With Mustache: Swaying to and fro/It's the only way to go/On the subway
All: Subway!
Ohhhhh ... (sounds like the sound a train makes when it passes by)
Kermit: My stop just went by
All: Ohhhhh ...
Prairie Dawn: Hey, your thumb’s in my eye
All: Ohhhhh ...
Hip Dude: It’s so hot, I could die
All: Anyway, everyway, anywhere
Bert: Packed inside a train/It’s too crowded to complain/On the subway
All: Subway!
Old Woman: You could lose your purse/Or you might lose something worse/On the subway
All: Subway!
Hip guy: It’s the biggest travel bargain in town
Yet Another Woman: The longest running show underground
Man With Mustache: Come on, slip inside/You'll get taken for a ride/On the subway
Kermit: Where's that?
All: On the subway!
Prairie Dawn: If you’re in a hurry, take the express
Kermit: It will go right by your local address
All: Buy a token now/For a ride that’s super-wow/On the subway!/On the subway!/On the subway!/On the subway!/On the subway!/Ohhhh ...

I'm biased when I say I love this video. First, I am biased because this is a) a blog discussing public transportation, in all of its glorious and frustrating forms and b) this is a video about riding the subway. Second, I hate public transportation this week (I think I caught something on the bus, I was passed by three buses in a row on one day and not one of them stopped), and would like to commiserate with Kermit about missing a stop. I think we could have a great time sharing stories about the express time over a pint at McSorely's. Finally, I love the New York subway and I adore Sesame Street. (I'm in the Grover Generation.)

But my bias isn't what has led me to post this, but my unabashed love for how accurate this song is approximately 37 years after its original airing. Its accuracy lasts from the beginning of the skit, a young hipster collides with an elderly woman ("WATCH IT LADY!") to the haphazard muppet shuffling as the train hurtles through underground tunnels. Sometimes, even the most balanced passenger can be sent through the air, into a pile of limbs, joints, and shopping bags as the result of sudden breaking or a bumpy track.

Yet what I find especially charming is the dichotomy between the ugly and the beautiful. In one moment Prairie Dawn almost condescends the cramped conditions of city living before the local law enforcement calls the subway "a ride that's super wow." Though "there's no room for anymore," the crowd agrees, "it's the only way to go." Together, they list the unpleasantries of the subway: you might become the victim of pickpocketing, the rides are cramped and airless, and sometimes you don't arrive to your destination at all. This is a children's show, so I'm guessing my major complaints: the drunks, mysterious liquids, raving lunatics, stalkers, and smelly people had to be edited from the final cut. Also, Oscar lives in a trash can, and with the exception of That One Christmas in '78, never left his stoop.
Suddenly, just as Muppets do, everyone begins to dance. The passengers shimmy, bounce, hop, and shuffle through the subway car, singing and enjoying each other's company.

The most I've seen is group hand-holding, but I'd give almost anything for an inspired and spontaneous dance party during my commute, wouldn't you?

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