Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
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2008-07-29 09:28
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

I'm friendly with Rob, the token booth clerk at 238th street on the 1 line. He's in his early fifties, but you'd never tell by looking at him--he looks at least ten years younger. Rob is a big Yankee fan and is a charming, gregarious man. He's been at 238 for three years and knows at least sixty percent of the customers that pass through the station. When I have the time, as I did last Friday afternoon, I stop and chat.

So there we were, talking about the Yankees. Rob was saying how impressed he's been with Mussina. I told him that I hoped Moose comes close to winning twenty games this year. Then I said, "I hope Alex hits forty homers too."

Just then, a squat, disheveled man walked into the station--which is three flights above ground level (the 1 train is elevated in the Bronx).

"Did you say you are going to hit forty homers" he said, slurring his words.

"No," I said, now smelling the stench coming off the guy, a mixture of dried sweat and alcohol, "I said I hope A Rod hits forty."

"Why not make it sixty?" He roared and slapped me on the shoulder, then staggered away. Rob tilted his head to the side and raised an eyebrow.

The man stood in front of the turnstiles for a few minutes. Rob and I continued our conversation, with one eye on Ned the Wino. Then we heard the sound of an approaching train. Several people, out of breath, came into the station and went through the turnstiles.

The drunk man looked ahead and said, "If only I was younger."

He took a step back from the turnstile as the train rushed into the station, put his right hand into the back of his jeans (he was not wearing underwear) and pulled out an unopened can of Fosters. With the beer in his right hand, he lifted his left leg, as if he was going to hop the turnstiles.

Rob did not raise his voice but said, "Uh...No-no."

The man remained frozen in the pose for a minute, as if he was a fat, washed- up wrestler about the climb into the ring. Then, defeated, he lowered his leg and placed the beer back in the crack of his ass. Then he turned around.

"I guess I'll be walking to Staten Island," he said as he wobbled past Rob and me out of the station.

"That's some long walk," said Rob.

Rob and I looked at each other and we both raised our eyebrows. Just then, a sleek young Spanish woman walked in and the foul smell was replaced by the warm scent of vanilla and feminity. Rob chatted with her, she batted her eyes, and I smiled, gazing at her narrow waist, amazed at how quickly the smell in the place changed. I was also amazed at the drunk. Why climb three flights of stairs if you aren't going to bust out and jump the turnstiles? I couldn't remember the last time I saw a benign, completely harmless wino like that.

Anyhow, made my day.

Comments
2008-07-29 10:23:31
1.   Ian Capilouto
Nice piece man. I don't live in New York, but it made me feel like I do.
2008-07-29 10:38:29
2.   standuptriple
It seems like the vagabonds in NYC have a little showmanship in them. The ones in SF are jaded and have a sense of authority (not to mention an extra dose of crazy).
2008-07-29 10:48:07
3.   ChuckM
Fosters in the ass-crack. That is absolutely fantastic. I've always found the winos by the planetarium especially entertaining.
2008-07-29 10:51:54
4.   Yankee Fan In Boston
i love a good vagrant yarn. always have, always will.

when i worked in a cd shop here in downtown boston, there was a well-known local character that would come in every so often and ask that we play some kc and the sunshine band. if we did, he'd dance and sing every last word to each song on the disc. other times he'd use our shelves to apply adhesive to his dentures.

good times.

thanks, alex.

2008-07-29 10:52:37
5.   3rd gen yankee fan
If anything's gonna taste like ass, it's gonna be Fosters.
2008-07-29 10:53:06
6.   Dimelo
0 Just then, a sleek young Spanish woman walked in and the foul smell was replaced by the warm scent of vanilla and feminity.

I wish that smell can be bottled and sold. I know when I see it and smell it, albeit briefly, I think of the song "Passing me by" and how everything just feels right in the world.

I love how in the train someone catches your eye and then you look up there's someone else that replaces the girl that caught your eye.

2008-07-29 10:55:46
7.   Alex Belth
The city where you fall in love with a woman on every block.
2008-07-29 10:58:22
8.   willdthrill
Alex, what the heck are you doing all the way up at 238th St? Aside from the Stella D'oro factory, there ain't much there... Stick to the 231st St. station. It's like the Grand Central station of the west bronx. No Ned the Wino, but there was Riviera's Pizza... what I wouldn't do for a slice from Riviera's!
2008-07-29 11:00:15
9.   jkay
You can get a nice scent on that block nightime in the summertime from the Stella D'Oro cookie factory down the block.
2008-07-29 11:01:51
10.   Dimelo
7 Ain't that the mother effen truth. Everyday I come in to work I talk with this friend of mine and we share our counts on: 1. How many times we got married on our walk to work 2. Fell in love or 3. Just had a one night stand with who we saw "passing us by".

Today it went like this.
1. 2
2. 3
3. 99999999 x 10^10000

2008-07-29 11:04:14
11.   Alex Belth
238 is a quicker walk for me. If I go to 231, where I usually get off at night, I take the bus. Plus, I'll always walk down to 238 when I know Rob is working cause he's my man like that. Sometimes in the morning, you get a strong whiff of sugar coming from the Stella D factory, smells like Lucky Charms to me.
2008-07-29 11:22:58
12.   willdthrill
So wait, did you move up the hill into Riverdale? You're not navigating those damn city steps on 238th are you? They were a bane of my existence when I'd walk home from my parent's house back up towards the Henry Hudson... not exactly something you want to be doing on a hot, muggy summer night. At least there was a cold beer waiting when you got up to the top. Those Irish bars by Manhattan College were a perfect pit stop after negotiating those steps.
2008-07-29 11:24:48
13.   Alex Belth
Yup, moved up the hill about, hell, four years ago now. And yeah, I'm taking those death steps to the crib. Not now though. Middle of summer? That's crazy talk. My lazy ass waits for the bus on 231.
2008-07-29 11:27:50
14.   willdthrill
My lazy ass waits for the bus on 231.

Yeah, but when I lived there, you ended up waiting right outside of Popeye's Fried Chicken at the 231st bus stop... I packed on like 40 lbs while waiting for the BX10 or BX7 bus. So it was either I sweat or I get fat.

2008-07-29 11:33:13
15.   Raf
7 Especially in that area. Once you get around 207th & Dykman, the hotties increase exponentially. I love Inwood & the Heights.
2008-07-29 11:33:55
16.   Sliced Bread
Yo, I'm nobody's editor, but I think you buried the lead here, Alex.
Shouldn't the title be "Vanilla Scented Spanish Beauty Brightens Day"?
How's about treating us to 5 paragraphs on that, and we cut the smelly drunk out of the picture entirely?

Kidding, man. Great stuff as always.

2008-07-29 11:45:01
17.   Dimelo
15 That's where I grew up, I know JUST what you mean. I definitely agree!!
2008-07-29 11:46:09
18.   Alex Belth
Dude, this girl was off the chain.
2008-07-29 12:11:56
19.   jedi
Wow, this brings back memories. I use to go to the College of Mount Saint Vincent in Riverdale, use to take that BX10 bus all the time back to campus after a late night in the city. Had some buddies living off campus at Bailey Ave and W 233rd. They still lived there after college and I remember navigating through the area regularly. The Popeyes which had that oozing fried oil smell, the smallest Blockbuster I have ever seen and the diner across the street from it had the best Gyros. The bartender at the Pipers Kilt was a big time yankee fan and they served one of the best burgers in the area. Wonder if he is still there and if all these places are still in tact. Haven't been there in 8 years and still remember doing laundry at the mat at the corner of Albany Cres.

Thanks for bringing back the memories.

2008-07-29 12:31:03
20.   jonnystrongleg
Take the A train from 207 to 42nd St every day - live in Inwood, work in the Fashion District. The women's styles change from one place to the other, but it's a hell of a ride.
2008-07-29 12:38:10
21.   Raf
15 Yeah man, it's crazy. I used to hang out with one of my boys who lived around there (Academy). After games we would just hang out and watch the people pass... Until his insanely jealous gf (who was a looker in her own right) came home, then it was a wrap. I can still hear her yelling at him :). There's a spanish restaurant near Dyckman & Broadway (a few stores in, near the Dunkin Donuts), name escapes me, but the meseras were off the chain.

18 Given what I've seen over the years, I can only imagine. Something that I found amusing about the area is that you'll see a girl with crazy curves up the block, but when you get a bit closer, you realize she's only like 16 or 17. Talk about a "dirty old man" moment. Sometimes I wonder what I would do if I were a father to some of these girls. I'd probably go nuts, having them wear flannels, bloomers, or sweatsuits. I'd be like Oscar Proud of The Proud Family; "No dating until you're married!" :)

19 AFAIK, the Piper's Kilt is still there. Don't know if the bartender is tho.' I used to play ball in Van Cortlandt park, by the old Putnam station.

As an aside, it's little things like that that make me love the city. One day, it will probably happen, but I can't see myself ever leaving.

2008-07-29 12:46:16
22.   tommyl
Alex, Metro North+Rail Link is your friend. So is the BxM bus lines, used to take those to high school every single day from up the hill, while my sister got a freakin' lift two blocks away to hers. But then, my parents always liked her better ;).
2008-07-29 12:54:28
23.   ms october
great story alex
makes me miss nyc even more - can't wait to move back.

i hope you didn't jinx moose with..."that I hoped Moose comes close to winning twenty games this year."
damnit i want him to get 20 this year which makes yesterday even worse.

i know this is awful but the first thing i thought of when you were discussing the drunk guy was ponson.
hope the guy made it somewhere safely.

2008-07-29 12:57:58
24.   Alex Belth
That's funny, cause the guy didn't look so unlike Ponson, really!

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