Mickey Z. -- World News Trust
April 15, 2017
It’s a Sunday in April, around 11:30 a.m. I’m in Manhattan to train a client and then give out food, supplies, and clothes to homeless women. Afterwards, I hop on the R train -- heading back to Astoria. It’s pretty empty that time of day so I position myself in a corner seat, off to myself as usual.
At Lexington Ave., a well-dressed, older white man gets on through the door the other end of the car. Being ever-alert, I give him the once-over. He glances around and begins (literally) sauntering towards the empty side -- my side. I spontaneously think to myself, “This guy looks like he’s playing a mobster in a movie.”
He reaches me but chooses to not sit down. As the train pulls out of the station, he just stands across from me in the doorway. My NYC paranoia kicks in so I use my peripheral vision to gauge his distance (8-to-10 feet) and vibe. His energy feels a little edgy so I glance up. Our eyes meet and he gives me the old school nod of tough guy familiarity. I don’t know how it is now, but this was once normal in the Big Apple. Sort of a mini-truce, back in the day.
That’s when I notice: Funny, but this guy looks like Robert DeNiro.
I look down but sense him moving towards me, reaching into his pocket. As I shift myself to repel a potential attack, he shows me a text on his smart phone. “Take M or R to Steinway,” it says. He asks me, in a low and very familiar voice: “This train will take me there?”
It takes every ounce of restraint in my body to not say: “You talkin’ to me?” Instead I simply reply: “Yeah, it’s just a couple of stops. I’ll let you know.”
He smiles and thanks me before moving back to his standing spot.
My mind does the calculations. I’m on the e-list for the Museum of Moving Image (MOMI) so I know there’s a major Martin Scorcese retrospective going on there. The subway stop for the MOMI is Steinway Street. So yeah, this was almost definitely DeNiro and I guess the R train was easier than driving to Queens?
Speaking of the R train to Queens, I do a quick check to see if any of my fellow passengers have also recognized the Raging Bull. None of them appear to be giving the deer hunter a second thought. Is he way out of his demographic here? Is that why he opted to stand near me to get directions?
Either way, now that we’ve shared the old school nod and had a brief exchange, me and Travis Bickle are pals. As the R train hurtles through the long underwater tunnel between Manhattan and Queens, Bob and I occasionally make eye contact. Each time, he nods and smiles. And I ponder starting a conversation in the meager time we have before his stop.
I could say what everyone says: “I just wrote a screenplay.” This just so happens to be true but, c’mon… seriously?
I could instead tell him about my efforts to help homeless women but that would require context. Would I have time to bridge the gap, earn his trust, and make some kind of pitch before Steinway Street? We’re out from under the East River at the Queens Plaza stop and like everyone else, he pulls out his phone to check for messages.
The doors close and we move on. He looks around and gives me another nod. We’re buddies. Now that I’ve decided I’m not gonna try pitching anything, I really just wanna ask him a two-word question: Dirty Grandpa? Maybe three words, ‘cause I’d add: Really?
Anyway, we hit 36th Street and Rupert Pupkin looks over at me. “One more stop,” I assure him and he thanks me yet again before asking: “Is this Long Island City?”
It feels like a trick question because a lifetime New Yorker like him surely knows it is. He doesn’t flinch so I respond: “We’re on the cusp between Long Island City and Astoria. Most people call it Astoria these days. It’s trendier.”
He lets out a tiny chuckle. Nothing like Max Cady.
The R train makes its clamorous entrance into the Steinway Street station. Bobby D. gives me a smile, a wave, and one more “thanks.” I smile and wave back and off goes Jimmy the Gent to make his way through the mean streets of Astoria.
Mickey Z. is the founder of Helping Homeless Women - NYC, offering direct relief to women on the streets of New York City. To help him grow this project, CLICK HERE and make a donation right now. And please spread the word!