Seeing Skinhead

When a train ride turns ugly, calmer heads prevail

| March-April 2010

  • Skinhead

    image by Tim Gough /

  • Skinhead

Last summer I had an encounter with a skinhead on the 1 train in New York City.

My partner and I were headed uptown—back to the little, lightless, roach-infiltrated Upper West Side studio we had creatively spun into a mildly cozy, albeit temporary, home. I was in the middle of two demanding and exhilarating months, making challenging off-Broadway theater. I was also having the worst period cycle of my entire 29-year existence, complete with the kind of violent, seizing megacramps that remind me that soldiers are exploding, children are starving, salmon is an endangered species, and the earth is burning and melting all at once. I should have been thrashing in bed all night, but I had no understudy. As they say, the show must go on.

On the humid night I met the racist skinhead, I had been on stage for hours playing a haunted, brooding, sexy, defiant rock star. My voice was hoarse from singing my guts out. My muscles ached from the fast-paced dance moves. Knowing that I was in a state that demanded tender escort, my partner picked me up after the show.

The train we boarded was packed and rancid. We sat across from a rangy white man with a grumpy disposition. He wore dirty, baggy camouflage pants, a military cap, and unlaced combat boots. After a couple of uneventful stops, he began to softly pitch the word waste in my direction.

“You’re a waste,” he said over and over. It sounded like spit. “You’re a waste.”

My cramping uterus caught fire. Flames rose in me like pending volcanic vomit. I had visions of myself hurling fire through him like some sort of antiracist dragon. Bursting into mortal combat. Reaching past his chapped lips into his big mouth to yank out the hate, to squish his wicked, filthy tongue in my hands like a frenzied chef shaping ground beef.

4/5/2010 11:38:12 AM

yup, his free speech is something to be thankful for, and in the end it's just words...sticks and stones, you know...and perhaps the "thankyou for letting me be human" (sometimes human beings are ignorant and say ignorant things, good thing it hasn't been criminalized yet in the usa) will bring him around to stop spewing out defensive self pitying seemed to do so here....alas, we are not so fortunate in Canada where it seems there is a trend to try to criminalize the speech of others the latest is a trial before the Human Rights Tribunal for the words of a stand up comic well, the joke police are active as usual...

4/5/2010 7:36:45 AM

Thank you for being so beautifully strong to be able to give love to one who so desperately needs it. Thank you for sharing your sweetly moving tale.

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