New York City Subway Drama,And Beyond

New York City Subway Drama,And Beyond

by Matt Lavelle


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Jazz Musician Matt Lavelle started writing in the year 2000.What at first was personal eventually reached the Internet in 2005,as he developed a dedicated audience online at the Blog:Chris Rich Brilliant Corners,a Boston Jazz Blog.Lavelle had three blogs at one point:about music,about the street,and dealing with the spiritual side of life,with an average of 150 reads a day.

Lavelle has survived as an Musician making no money in New York City for twenty years.Watching the progressing cultural death of NYC from the street level,and seeing the art of life in the most unlikely of places,most notably the SUBWAY,.led to this very personal statement.

Along the way to becoming himself he has seen life up close,and this book gives you a front row seat to the experience of trying to be an artist in a place where Cash is truly King.He writes about life,as real as it gets.It doesn't get any more real in 2011 than the NYC Subway..

Read Real life NYC street level stories on the Subway,the Bus,from the Post office and beyond into more real life stories and writing of someone on a quest to be in an Artist living in NYC 2011.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781462044412
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 08/23/2011
Pages: 204
Product dimensions: 7.50(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.43(d)

Read an Excerpt


By Matt Lavelle

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2011 Matt Lavelle
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4620-4441-2

Chapter One


The first Subway drama to come to mind has to be the one that's the most personal for me,. the one where I almost DIED ... Sometime in 2002.

When I was living in Jackson Heights, ... I used to get up every day and take a bus to the subway station in Queens to get to Manhattan NYC to my job at Tower records. As a musician, I used to take my horns with me so I could go from work to the gig or rehearsals. This kind of schedule left me tired most of the time. This particular morning I made it to the Roosevelt ave 7 train platform. The 7 is one of the above ground trains,. on a big elevated platform that leads from Manhattan all the way to Shea stadium(the Mets), and Flushing.(where the Nanny lived).

I was more bleary eyed than usual having played 2 gigs the night before, and I was standing,. leaning on my bass clarinet case. TO close to the edge of the tracks,. on the verge of falling asleep waiting for the subway. Obviously not cool.

The train appeared on the horizon,. and like most people in NYC,. I reacted instantly,. you have to be prepared to fight for a seat, and with all the shit I'm carrying,. I want one. My sudden knee-jerk reaction sends my Bass Clarinet right DOWN IN THE FREAKIN' TRACKS ...

Oh shit ...

Truth is,. the Bass Clarinet I was carrying around was not a very good one. It was VERY important to me though,. I was working on it every day. It would be hard to replace,. and I would lose progress if I lost it. It also represented something larger to me,. a connection to my music,. and I was in the frame of mind that NYC was not going to defeat me.

So with the train even closer now,. getting louder and closer by the second, ... I ask myself a quick question,. "Is is to far down? Will I be able to get back up and NOT DIE?" I decided It looked like I could do this myself,. no time to ask for help,. no way to stop the train,. so ...


I'm not thinking about the THIRD RAIL nearby,. enough electricity to FRY me. I heard the charge come through that means the train is close. ZZZZAAAAASSHHP. To close for comfort now.

As I grab my horn case and throw it up on the platform,. I said out loud, ... "Got you motherfucker",. and as I turned I saw an older Asian woman looking at me,. pointing and SCREAMING. Whatever I'm doing right now,. it's clearly not part of what is OK in regards to Life itself. The train is PRETTY DAMN CLOSE.

NOT close enough though,. about 20 seconds away,. and I AM able to get back up on the platform.


Good thing I was able to climb back up,. since nobody offered any help. A bunch of people look at me like I'm NUTS. The train opens up,. and I get a seat ... Shit,. disregarding and risking your life deserves a seat,. or at least a smack in the face. The woman that I freaked out is in the same car,. and when she sees me she moves to the other side of the car and then changes cars again at the next stop to get away from me. Who knows what my next act will be?

I would like to say I stopped for a second and thought about what was at stake. Was it stupid? Yeah. Is my life worth that kind of risk? No. I'm anARIES, ... we act first, ... and think later. In fact,. Aries might be the only sign to pull this off,. or Die in the process.

My only explanation,. Is that that's how much my music means to me. Its my life,. and in that situation on that day,. I risked it all. I'm not living without it. I've fought to hard and to long to go out on some bullshit. I didn't have enough money to get another bass-clarinet. Plus ... the way I got that horn in first place to me was pre-ordained in a way. If the train got fucked up and went out of service maybe I could get in some kind of trouble to I thought,. (yeah all lame excuses,. but that's what was in my mind on the way to work)

Kingston NY 1996

I'm on self imposed exile from straight ahead trumpet land in NYC. I'm living with a woman 11 years older than me who had three kids, all young. I start having dreams about bass clarinets where I'm floating inside a giant one,. like a bass clarinet building with no center. I'm in the TONE WORLD,. which sends me to a music store on main st the next day.

"Hey man, ... you got any used bass-clarinets you want to get rid of? I have about $100."

"As a matter of fact, ... I do."


Down in the subway,. everybody is forced to look at life at lot closer than most of us would want to. Your forced to just be CLOSER with everyone,. and end up interacting with people that if you could,. you would clearly not. The good and bad of life is there for everyone to see. When I say bad,. I also mean the WORST,. and two times the ugly head of RACISM reared it's UGLY head ... First up,. the BAD ...

7 train again,. man, ... did I spend some hours on the one. Supposedly,. The train actually goes UNDER the river which is weird and scary when you think about it. In Between is Roosevelt island,. one stop,. different and less crowded. Somewhere between Grand central,. the last stop in Manhattan and Roosevelt,. 2 African American woman,. early 20's maybe, and a big white guy started having an argument. I was listening but also staying out of it,. like many people. It was clear that they did not know each other. I believe the beef started over the way somebody acted in going for one of the seats. The true EVIL came out shortly before the Roosevelt island stop when the white guy says,. "I've tried to be patient with you 2 Ni****s". (Yes,. The N word,. but I cant bring myself to use it,. That's just me.) I heard him say it,. and was shocked that he came out with it,. no Klan hood, and no confederate flag shit. One of the 2 woman got REALLY Tight,. Told the white guy that they would kick his ass for saying that shit,. and more about the possibilities he had now created. She said this as the doors opened up.

Next was truly Evil,. as the white guy pushed both of them out on the platform forcing them into a physical confrontation. He was a big, tall guy,. way bigger than the woman. An older woman inside the train screamed "Call the police!!" (with a thick accent). I didn't see this shit coming and was at a loss,. like most of the people on board,. we were like a dear caught in the headlights. The doors close leaving the trio on the platform as the train pulls out. Right before were out of view I see the white guy grab the woman who was the most vocal and slam her head into the wall. I saw her hold her head and fall to the ground before all I could see was subway wall. Somebody sitting near me told me he was going to report this to the police once we were above ground. I never heard or found out what happened,. and hope the woman survived.

Now,. the light at the end of the tunnel,. as I have a chance to DO something about this kind of Shit,. kind of ... (this here is the GOOD)

7 train AGAIN. At the end of the 7 in Times square the 7 trains pull in and wait to fill up while the other train comes in. When the other comes in, the other train leaves. I got off work at 5 and would end up on the 7 platform around 5:30,. 5 days a week.(I did this for years). There's almost always a train waiting to go for extended periods here,. so they fill up with passengers. This is when I started running into this guy who had his own routine ... spreading a message of hate.

Most of the people on the 7 train don't speak English, ... and this "ultra-America" guy decided he needed to explain to them that they were the lowest form of life on earth, ... and that they didn't deserve to be in the great USA. From car to car he would go and give a speech in each one, ... about how all the people there should leave the country right away,. all kinds of racist shit. Ironically, ... not knowing English was a blessing for the people being attacked, ... it made the racist guy another crazy rant guy, ... which most people ignore anyway. He was old,. out of shape,. and was not very clear and articulate to say the least. He never rode the train,. always stepping out before we leave.

After seeing this guy over and over again, ... and the train being parked, ... I decided I had had enough of this shit, ... and much in the way I jumped into the subway tracks, I acted without thinking. What I knew was that in a fight,. I could take this guy,. and part of me wanted to,. having recently watched Fight Club.

So when he next came to the car I was in,. trying to relax with a seat for the trip home after work,. I made my move. I got in this his face,. grabbed him, ... dragged him and pushed him out onto the subway platform, ... and told him that this racist shit was over,(among some other choice words).Out on the platform,. I told him that if I saw him again, ... the same thing would happen again and again. His only response was "Who are you supposed to be?" I was pissed, ... and in an ARIES state again, ... this time in confrontation with this tired, tired, tired drama. I didn't hit him or hurt him,. but let him know I was about to,. and actually wanted to. He stayed on the platform and the train left. He stayed quiet,. looked at the ground, and I got on the next train and left. I considered this Case Closed.

About a week later I saw him getting on a 7 train around the same time, ... and I went to throw him out, ... again, ... and then to my surprise, ... his message had radically changed.

NOW, ... homeboy was giving out crosses and calling on everyone to come to God.

God loves you was his message, ... and he made no mention of the threat of hell, ... no mention of "turn now or suffer for eternity", ... none of that, ... now his message was plain and simple, ... God loves you. He went from car to car. (a sharp contrast to the table set up in the tunnel nearby which gives away free mini comic books that all say if your not with Jesus,. you will burn in hell for eternity). There was no need to throw him out now that his message was LOVE,. so, as self appointed guardian of what is right and what ain't,. I decided to let him be. I saw him notice me out of the corner of his eye. Might as well make sure this isn't a one act play right?

I like to think I had a hand in getting this guy to, ... if anything, ... take the simple step of renouncing racism. He could have also just been crazy and bi-polar and I got him to "switch", you never know these days. I don't ride the 7 much anymore, ... but the last time I was there, ... I saw this guy still doing his thing. His message was still on point, ... God is Love. My days as an undercover spiritual subway policeman were over,. and I had a decent action reaction that I proud of.

I was able to at least once,. fight back against something I myself really HATE. At what used to be HELL'S KITCHEN in NYC,. the west side from the Port Authority to Lincoln center,. there are areas where you have like 8 Bodega's (convenience stores run by minorities) within a 2 block radius.(I say used to because Chelsea gets higher every day and soon the whole area will be restaurants and Bars). I lived in this area a long time and still have long term musician friends holding it down. The Bodega's are still holding court,. and seem to do quite well,. usually family run. They were an integral part of my life for years. My favorite was the corner of 50th and 9th,. where I actually hung out with my man AVOCADO.

We had a weird thing though,. in that Avocado was both of our names ...

One day I asked them for some avocado,. and when they said they were out,. I kept it going. Wait,. how about avocado bread? avocado pie? avocado soda? avocado ice cream?

This one guy was intrigued by the possibility of Avocado ice cream and asked me if it was real ...

"Hell yeah,. I have that shit every day,. you mean you DON'T carry it?"

"Your crazy man ...",. my new friend told me,. and from there on in,. whenever I came in,. he would shout Avocado! and put me at the front of the line. I asked him his name,. and he said, ... "You don't know? its avocado man!", ...

So we called each other Avocado for years ...

One time I saw Avs on the street around 3am outside his bodega. He was REALLY Drunk.

He stumbled over to me and said, ... "aVOcadO, ... whAT SHoulD i dO wIth aLl THIs mONEy?", ... and showed me aWAD of Jackson's and that guy that discovered electricity, ... Franklin or some shit ...

When I saw how vulnerable he was,. I took him to the bodega,.and the guys put him asleep in the basement ...

See, ... I KNOW where this can go, ... from SUBWAY DRAMA 3:

It's the 1 train going uptown towards Columbia University,. (and eventually Harlem) mid day on a Saturday. Its a brief above ground section,. I remember the Sun.

I'm minding my own business when some Latin American cat,. Yes,. I think He's Mexican,. (Avocado was from Guatemala),. comes up to me very drunk. Drunk enough to pull out and FAN a nice display of hundred dollar bills.

"LoOK.!, ... LOoK AT ALL ThE MOneY I'VE MAdE."

And than his self celebration begins as he sings to the whole subway car, ...

"GoD BLeSs AMERicahh,.! GOD blEss amerICA!!", ... (still displaying the CASH)

2 young,. street wise characters,. are right across from us, and I can see them ready to POUNCE ... So I try get this guy to Cool out,.

Under my breath,. and with body language I was like, ... "man ... will ... you ... chill ... the ... fuck ... out ..."

We get to the next stop, ... to late.(sigh) ...

As the doors open ... a fluid street ballet of destruction begins,. (please cue: slow motion and opera)





I helped my man up,. he was shocked, and looked at me crying ... I felt bad,. but what could I do? As usual,. if it doesn't effect us,. we don't respond. Channel 7 has a series about this called "What Would You Do?". The real pain,. the REAL pain,. is mom's that abuse and smack their kids around. Kids are property when that shit goes down. Anyway,. back to my man ...

"My mOney, ... my moNey, ... my monEy" ...

"I tried to tell you to put it away man".,

I got off in Harlem and could only thing of one thing as I walked away ...

"Welcome to America" ...

Some folks get tight when I say that,. but that's what I felt. When people say "America,. Love it or Leave it",. I say ...

"The way shit is getting,. there's a pretty good case to BOUNCE.

This is the shit I discuss at the SANTERMO pharmacy on 10th between 51st and 52nd.


Couples have a unique way of bonding through crazy adversity,. like addiction or being homeless, as shown underground. Folks like:

The METH COUPLE. Spotting somebody on Methadone somewhere along the way with their Heroin addiction is not hard. It's the posture. I've seen these people enter a unique above and below perception where it seems they have no spines! Seriously,. they appear to be aware of where they are,. but enter advanced Yoga positions as they bounce along on the train,. heads WAY between the knees. Seeing couples like this,. (I've only seen the male/female version so far),. they seemingly try to stick together and help each other get high. What's out is watching them try to come out of their delirium to catch the train or something. It takes them awhile. It's difficult to watch,. and I hate to admit it, ... I've found it to actually be hilarious,. really embarrassing a girlfriend once,. as I just couldn't help laughing watching them. I'm sorry but people sleeping on the train can be funny. I myself once woke up on a crowded 7 train during rush hour leaning forward with my mouth wide open drooling I was so asleep. I'll never forget the look on the 2 Latina's faces when I woke up.

But It's this Homeless couple that really steals the show downstairs,. pull up a seat ...

It's the 2 express, ... Pumpin and Bumpin along. Sleep-heads are bouncin',. (This one sleepy guy standing holding the pole better be careful),. and this white couple in their 50's,. looks like there street folks for sure, are also standing with an empty cart. Their relationship is about to reach CRITICAL.MASS.

Their having a serious argument, ... going back and forth with the man more agitated. The source seemingly being the shopping cart they seem to co-own. It escalates ...

Man: "I am SO sick and TIRED of this shit. You love this cart more than you love me?"


Excerpted from NEW YORK CITY SUBWAY DRAMA, AND BEYOND by Matt Lavelle Copyright © 2011 by Matt Lavelle. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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NEW YORK CITY SUBWAY DRAMA,AND BEYOND 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jazz autobiographies are a genre all their own, running the gamut from the no-holds-barred disclosures of trumpeter Miles Davis, to the cautious reflections of pianist Paul Bley, to the mystical insights of bassist Victor Wooten. A new and welcome entry is multi-instrumentalist Matt Lavelle's New York City Subway Drama, and Beyond, which has the rare quality of being the story of Lavelle's external and internal journey, as well as a guidebook to surviving as an artist in New York City. Lavelle does a terrific job exploring physical and psychological survival in public spaces, whether it's the subway, the bus, the post office, or one of the many jobs he has held over the years. His twelve meditations on the subway are some of the finest writing in the book: he paints vivid portraits of himself traveling on the subway and minding his own business, when suddenly violence-or just plain stupidity-explodes around him. These brutally honest accounts of humanity's dark side lead Lavelle to a resounding conclusion: never get too comfortable in New York City, but also don't overlook opportunities to be "an undercover spiritual subway policeman." All aspiring jazz musicians should be handed a copy of New York City Subway Drama, and Beyond the minute they step foot in New York. This book is the real deal: it's about working a 40-hour day job, playing gigs at night, enduring endless subway journeys, living in rented rooms, seeking out $1 pizza slices, and learning how to deal with sudden shocks of city violence. But really the book is for anyone trying to live a soulful life: it's a manual on how to be alert to both danger and magic, and how to let one's light shine at all times and in all circumstances. In the world of jazz autobiographies, Lavelle is offering something fresh, expanding the genre beyond the genre so it encompasses the musical and the practical and the spiritual in one exuberant package.