Friday, August 04, 2006


A New Zealand man is 'bagless, homeless and broke and having the time of his life' riding the New York subway during the city's heatwave. Frank Lush from tiny Moenui took refuge on the rail network yesterday to escape the 38 degree + heat that has engulfed the city since he arrived in the USA. Having already lost his bags in flight he has since lost all his cash and some credit cards on the subway.
"As soon as I stepped out of the airport I knew I was in trouble," said Lush. "I felt like I did the one time I tried out one of those Finnish saunas. Took me about two seconds to decide that I was a man of temperate climes and that Finns are a peculiar lot. I'm not talking anatomically here you understand. I very quickly did an Andy Haden dive for the door."
This time however relief was harder to find. Lush says he walked for several blocks after leaving the airport bus but knew he was in danger of expiring.
"I was melting. I tried going in to shops or banks to cool down but you can only spend so much time in ladies lingerie or the foyer of Chase Manhattan before someone enquires about your intentions."
Lush eventually joined hundreds of poor people and homeless who have taken to the air-conditioned carriages of the underground railway where you can ride all day or even longer on one ticket. The Moenui man is loving it.
"Its the best show in town I reckon," says Lush. "This is the best way to see New York- a moving public bar with an everchanging bunch of punters from every part of the planet."
"I didn't know there were so many places you could come from. So far I've counted 94. Its easy to tell the Americans though. They're the ones talking loud like they own the place."
When he reaches the end of one line Lush changes to another. In his report to the Kiwi Herald Mr Lush recounted some of his encounters on the subway.
"There are musicians everywhere like my mate Adama Dembele who plays a West african sitar and sings to raise money to get home and feed orphan kids, and the big Chinese opera singer at 51st street whose glorious voice echoes round the station like he was at Carnegie Hall. I hand both some cash and tell them if they're ever in Moenui I can promise them a good crowd at the Masonic Hotel. "
Then there's the lovely woman from the Bronx. She gets on the carriage and greets me like an old friend. 'How good to see you Strauss,' she calls as she sits across the aisle. 'You've changed.'"
I call back 'Hello, but I think you have got me mixed up with somebody else.'
'No,' she says 'You were much older the last time I saw you that's all.'
'The name's Lush,' I say. 'From New Zealand.'
She shakes her head. 'What is the world coming to. First you get younger and then you change your name,' and then she starts to clap without sound.
She is clapping out a rhythm and staring like she's watching notes on a manuscript. She does this for two stops, occasionally shaking her head like she has it wrong and starting the clapping over again.
Finally when she gets up to leave she asks 'The quartet. Is it coming along Lush?'
'Not bad,' I say. 'Impossible in this heat though,' and I press a couple of notes into her hand. 'Here,'I tell her 'for some manuscript paper.'
"Every now and then there are other performances. A mexican guy who gets on near Central Park thinks he is John Lennon's restless spirit and calls the rest of us passengers all sorts of bastards for doing nothing about the current wars. I feel guilty, say that I love his work, press a note or two into his sweaty palm and move to another carriage."
"Then there's the boy who enters a silent carriage and shouts 'Ladies and Gentlemen, Your attention for a moment please.' The rest, which lasts about 2 minutes I don't understand a word of and I reckon he doesn't either cause he makes no eye contact and looks like he can't wait to get his speel over with. I figure there is a Dad or a boss somewhere who this kid is trying to please.
He finishes, heads for the door and I chase after him. 'Well done m'boy,' I say and give him a couple of notes. 'Go buy yourself an ice cream and a copy of Whale Rider.'
Lush says he's had conversations with 'drunks and junkies, utra orthodox Jews with bowler hats and ringlets and women wearing the veil.' He's discussed the NBL with 'a bunch of jive-talking black guys who made me laugh like hell when they talked about their team's terrible season and who laughed at me when I told them about how the Tall Blacks had beaten the Boomers.'
Lush says he has given away all his cash. He also donated his Farmers Card to a Columbian woman who used to harvest coca and his membership of the Moenui RSA to a Gulf War veteran.
Mr Lush figures he will last a day or two more on the subway and then ring his son who is due in town to get married.
"I reckon I've got about ten new songs, a string of multi-lingual curses, a few prayers, some cheap drink recipes and some bloody good yarns to share with him," says Lush."Trouble is he'll think I'm bullshitting."

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