This morning I had the most bizarre subway ride. I board the Number 3 train at Grand Army Plaza after 9 a.m. Find a seat, then settle into reading Henry James for class. I hear a woman’s voice gradually rising in volume. She is preaching the "Lord’s" word to the train car’s sleepy riders. Of course, I had forgotten the headphones for my subway evil sounds blocking device. The train stops and starts.
The words denigrating "gay devils" reach my ears. I stand up.
Me: "Excuse me, but do you mind keeping your voice down, I am trying to read."
Preacher Lady: (screams) "I got to testify."
Preacher lady hitches up her skirts and tells me that I am going to hell for interrupting you-know-who’s word. Two or three OTHER Christian ladies on the train start shouting at me and discussing my prospects as the Devil’s prison bitch. The last straw was a 50 something red faced man in a suit slamming his Bible towards my face.
There was only one thing I could do.
Me: "If you all don’t lower your voices and cease calling me Satan, I will have to sing show tunes."
The other straphangers look at me with stony faces.
I begin to sing.
"Its very clear, our love is here to stay. Not for a year, but forever and a day..."
Preacher lady and the Jesus police start mumbling and beseeching G_d to strike me down and boil me in molten tar. (I look better in silver.)
The train reaches Wall Street. Confused subway riders check out the scene. I begin swaying and feeling the music.
The slamming Bible man looks like he is going to pop a blood vessel. "I cast ye out, Satan."
I go into jazz dance crouch and then spring up to belt out, "THAAAAAAT OLD BLACK MAGIC, HAS ME IN A SPELL..."
Bible man has to get off the train as I wriggle and shimmy. "That same old witchcraft when your eyes meet mine!"
Bible man exits. SHOW TUNES 1, FUNDAMENTALISTS 0.
"So when you walk alone and forlorn, and hear that Cadillac horn remember, love isn’t born, its made... and that’s why every window has a window shade... bad a biddle be bop..."
I try to discuss freedom of religion with the ladies, but all attempts at reasonable discourse fail.
By 34th street, the last of the Christian word warriors has left the train. 3 subway riders shake my hand and say, "I have always wanted to tell those idiots to shut up! Bless you."
I am shaking. I don’t know what comes over me at times like this. I only know that I cannot stay silent. I wish that I had my ukulele with me.
At 42nd street, a woman strides into the car and starts PREACHING. The entire car bursts into laughter. I interrupt this new preacher lady and note that she is wearing a flowered straw bonnet.
Me: "Excuse me, Ma’am... but I must warn you that there has been a 12 subway stop donnybrook regarding the unwanted intrusion of religious beliefs into our morning commutes."
Preacher Lady 2: "I got freedom of speech! And GOD TELLS ME THAT THE GAY DEVILS ARE CONTROLLING NEW YORK."
Me: (standing up) "If you do not cease and desist fouling the air with homophobia, I must sing... SHOW TUNES."
There are now 3 or 4 gay men on the train. They start laughing.
Preacher Lady 2: "The Lawd says you are going to..." (litany of punishments that would be fun with the right person).
Me: (sings) "The Girl that I marry will have to be, as soft and as sweet as a nursery... the girl I call my own, will wear diamonds and laces and smell of cologne..."
One of the boys on the train starts to harmonize.
Preacher Lady 2 makes her way down the car, pointing and exclaiming, "I have met the devil right here!"
Me: (sings) "Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets..."
Dancing around the subway poles and doing my best Gwen Verdon kicks, I feel the spirit in me.
I close with "Pennies from Heaven" and make sure to get the Jazz Hands in for good measure.
As Preacher Lady 2 runs to the next car at 72nd Street, the doors open, a perfect end of song button for my gay pointing gesture.
The subway riders break into applause and I bow. Rock on.
Several straphangers whisper, Happy New Year to me in Hebrew.
An Orthodox lady hands me an orange.
I don't know if I should laugh or cry.