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81st Street Subway station
New York, New York
Everyone’s favorite conman, Whit “Pop” Haydn, is fond of the tale of “The Scorpion and The Tortoise.” As time goes on, I have become more and more appreciative of this little instructive fable. It goes like this…
A scorpion asks a tortoise if he could take a ride on the tortoise’s back in order to cross the deep waters of the local river. The tortoise replies that he’s no fool—the scorpion will just sting him as they go across the river. But the scorpion answers, “No, no worries, you’re protected; for if I went and stung you, you’d die, and then I’d drown in the middle of the river. It’s simple logic, you’ve got a fail-safe situation here.”
The tortoise thinks it over for a few minutes and then agrees. The scorpion hops on the tortoise’s back and off they go. In the exact center of the river, however, at its deepest part, sure enough, the scorpion stings the tortoise. The tortoise, in agonized death throes, sputters out, “What in God’s name have you done? We’re both going to die now! How could you?”
And the scorpion, now about to be enveloped in the deadly deep water, just manages to eke out, “I’m a scorpion. It’s my nature.”
More than the great subway settings and the heartfelt sentiments, this Roy Zimmerman tune is probably the only song you’ll hear today that uses the word Weltschmerz. (For those like me, who had to look it up, ever-reliable Wikipedia tells us that Weltschmerz means “world-weariness, the kind of feeling experienced by someone who believes that physical reality can never satisfy the demands of the mind.)
More Roy at RoyZimmerman
So last night I was riding on the subway, on a line I don’t usually take, and standing next to me were two attractive women in deep conversation. I kept looking at one of the women because she seemed very familiar to me and yet I couldn’t place her. But I was sure I had seen her or met her before.
I racked my brain over and over, cursing my terrible memory, but I couldn’t figure it out. Well my stop finally came and I had to get off, but at the moment I hit the door, it came to me. I turned back around and called to her,
“Sixty-nine! You were Sonnet number Sixty-nine. ” She looked towards me, laughed, and nodded yes. I mouthed my words as I got off and pointed to myself, “Number Seventy.”
Since she had been assigned to read the sonnet before mine in the Shakespeare Sonnet Slam, she was my cue.
“Farewell! God knows when we shall meet again.”
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36th Street Subway Station
Brooklyn, New York
This is part of a triptych of mosaics in the station called An Underground Movement (1998) by Owen Smith, all inspired by the 1930s WPA-era style of art.