I was climbing the subterranean Grand Central ramp that stretches from Oyster Bar to up by the 6 train entrance. (Uh, ever wonder why we have to go from underground to ground level just to go back to underground level?). A new song began on my iPod, “Gigantic” from the Pixies. Suddenly it had this strong undercurrent of bagpipes.
Bagpipes? My iPod Classic had been a bit wonky lately; what it says is the Hold Steady track “Constructive Summer” is actually Talking Heads’ “And She Was.” Had the iPod unwittingly given me a Pixies-Flogging Molly mash-up, bagpipes dissonantly sitting upon Kim Deal’s wail?
I ripped off my earbuds and the bagpipes got stronger; it wasn’t my iPod.
I flashed back to stumbling along that pedestrian district that heads down to the bay in Galway, a pre-kids trip with lots of pubs, a guy with a pockmarked face, greasy hair and desperate change cup filling the whole of the lane with “Foggy Dew” on his ‘pipes. Another flashback, a rugby match against Bayonne, city of my matriarch’s arrival on a ship from Ireland, pipes playing at some pitch along the river just before kickoff.
Where was it coming from?
Instead of hitting the subway, I banged a left near the Swatch store and went to the main Grand Central hall. Could it be a lone MTA-sanctioned musician, filling the entire train station with his ‘pipes, sounds bouncing off the stone ceilings, walls, floor?
I saw nothing. I headed toward where the noise was coming from, around Track 23. I looked up, I looked down the passage to points north.
I gave up the ghost, with work and all to go to. I went through Vanderbilt Hall to the exit. Scores of policemen stood in their dress blues. A banner saluted the MTA police.
Surely, the pipers were about to make a grand entrance.