Jesse Jarnow

three convergences en route to park slope to meet matt for dinner

1. Waiting for the L-train, listening to “Madame George” by Van Morrison. “Get on the train,” Morrison croons, exactly as the subway’s headlight appears down the tunnel. “This is the train.” Sure is.

2. Pulling into Union Square, the delay pedal faux-ambience of “Birth Ritual,” Soundgarden’s contribution to Cameron Crowe’s Singles soundtrack, starts swirling. The doors open, and a bagpipe player on the platform contributes to the cacophony, building dissonantly until the exact moment the doors close and the band headbangs their way into the song.

3. On the F-train, somewhere near the Gowanus Canal, Brian Eno’s “Baby’s on Fire” comes on. “And after I felt this was going on too long,” says an interview subject in an essay about cell phone usage I’m reading, “I suddenly changed the topic.” “Rescuers row row,” Eno sings cheekily, “do your best to change the subject.”

Given enough inputs — the stimulus of urban life, a book to read, an iPod to listen to — coincidences are bound to occur. “Any sufficiently advanced technology,” Arthur C. Clarke declared, “is indistinguishable from magic,” and the shuffle mode’s particular magic seems to be its catalytic abilities: its way of seemingly organizing chaos into something neatly packaged. In a way, it is both artificial and disarming, but it is also a sleight-of-hand that rarely fails to dazzle.

I cannot recall the last time I saw a bagpipe player in the subway.

2 Comments

  1. Randy Ray says: - reply

    “Any sufficiently advanced technology,” Arthur C. Clarke declared, “is indistinguishable from magic.”
    WOW. That is one of my all-time favorite quotes from a writer. I have this fantastic book about the making of the film, 2001-A Space Odyssey that details the collaboration between Clarke and Stanley Kubrick. That quote was the exclamation point after a discussion about the ending of the film being incomprehensible.
    My second novel takes that concept as a given. Great subway convergence tales. I love that stuff.

  2. Michael Slaboch says: - reply

    Great moments above Jesse.
    I love those.
    I have never worn a watch – regularily that is – but the past few months numerous times a day whenever I happen to look at my cell phone, it’s usually 3:33, 12:12, 5:55 etc.
    But things got even stranger when I checked into a hotel recentely and they gave me Room #333 and then I got the wi-fi fired up to check my email and my spam box was at 444 messages! But it continues becasue the next day when I got back to the room the inbox was at 555!
    Discipline to attention my friend.