Grand Central, 5:45 p.m.

The other day I bought myself an ice cream cone and ate it standing still in the center of Grand Central Station at 5:45 p.m. I can highly recommend this experience to anyone. Go to the Ben & Jerry’s by the steps to the 4-5-6 trains and get yourself a cone in your favorite flavor. It is absolutely imperative that it be a cone, not a cup. Take this cone to the middle of Grand Central Station, by the Information Booth but not too close, as the Information Booth enjoys a kind of buffer from the tides of people streaming through Grand Central in rush hour. Your goal here is to bathe in the multitude, not set yourself apart from it. Stand in the middle of the station licking your ice cream cone while people all around you stampede toward Westchester and Connecticut. Trust me, you will love it.

Some of the only other people standing still in Grand Central Station at 5:45 p.m. were the soldiers in their camouflage uniforms with their big guns. I recognized their camouflage uniforms as the latest kind of camouflage, a new kind of uniform the Army is rolling out called the Army Combat Uniform, or ACU. The ACU will replace all the different kinds of camouflage for desert, woodland and urban settings with one universal kind of camouflage. It’s called MARPAT. The uniform is machine washable and printed with low-resolution pixels. There is some concern that the Velcro on the pockets is too noisy for combat, but drills are being developed to work the Velcro into protocols of Noise and Light Discipline.

The MARPAT was blending in quite well against the beige stone of Grand Central, but the black of the soldiers’ guns gave away their position. My friend Holly once commented on the absurdity of soldiers in the train stations thusly: “They evoke in me a feeling of dissonance. It’s like, that man has a machine gun, and I am wearing a sundress.”

There is also the odd fact that the soldiers are frequently enjoying refreshments from one of the station concessions, so that if terrorism were to suddenly break out everywhere, the weapon they would be holding would be a 32-oz Styrofoam cup from Smoothie King. But hey, better in Grand Central slurping a smoothie than in Iraq banging down doors and scaring impressionable children who like all humans, might be prone to holding grudges. Bring all the soldiers to Grand Central station, I say, and I will buy them all smoothies. There is a great big American flag hanging from the ceiling and messing up the view of the constellations painted there, and they can salute the fucker if they get bored.

While eating my ice cream cone I gazed upon those constellations on the ceiling of Grand Central, replete with their twinkling lights. Sometimes there are one or two escaped balloons up there, bobbing and slowly deflating. I wondered if a soldier would ever shoot down one of those errant balloons with his rifle, first reaching noisily into the pocket of his uniform and affixing a sight to the barrel of his gun, then firing into the heights of this vast echo chamber, at the golden constellations in the painted blue sky.

Leave A Comment