Monday, May 22, 2017

Only in New York

Eating Clam Chowder in the lower level of Grand Central tonight. A homeless black woman is staring at me from the next table.

 "Hey baby!"

 "Hi" (I give a nod and a polite smile)

 " that a real smile?"

 "I'm being polite."

 "You know baby...I'm 61 years old and I don't look as old as you...ya know why?... Cause black don't crack!" (laughs)

 (I give a genuine smile).

 "Baby, You do know that Adam and Eve was black don't ya?"

 "Yeah...I suppose."

 "Give me a fistpump on that."

 (We fist-bump)

  "Baby...Did you know that God is black too?"

 "Hmmmm...I kind of picture him as being colorless."

 "Alright...Alright...I'm willing to go with dat...if you can find your way into giving me some money for a sandwich."

 "But you insulted me! I'm 55 and you said you look younger than me."

 ''Oh baby... don't worry about dat''

 I laugh, reach into my pocket and hand her a 10.

 "Thank you give mama a hug."

 I hesitantly stood and reluctantly embraced her.

 Passing commuters stared at us, the bedraggled conductor and his homeless, ageless, nubian princess.

 What a sight!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Los Intocables

I was standing against the wall in Grand Central on Saturday when a woman approached me and asked, "Habla Espanol?" I told her "Muy Poquito" (very little). She then pointed to the grand staircase and said something about "La pelicula" which I knew meant "movie/film" and I guessed that she was asking me a trivia question...which I love...even in a foreign language.

 "Los Intocables"? She asked hopefully. I took a couple of years of Spanish in high school and college but I don't remember learning "Intocables"...but not wanting to disappoint, I gave her a pen and a piece of paper and said "escribe" (write). She grabbed my pen and drew a staircase and next to it wrote "policia" which I knew meant "police." It was starting to feel like a game of Pictionary on Univision, so I became overly-animated, turned to my coworkers and yelled "hey guys...Can you think of a police movie filmed on the grand staircase?" They all shrugged as if to say "No" ( which means the same in both English and Spanish.) The woman was starting to look frustrated with me and wrote in big letters "LOS INTOCABLES." I have a lot of bilingual coworkers, but none were standing with me, so I had to throw my hands up and say "sorry" (but I couldn't think of the Spanish equivalent for the word).

 As the woman walked away, I felt defeated, but then I remembered I had an iPhone in my pocket. I quickly Googled "Los Intocables" and the movie "The Untouchables" popped up. I then Googled "The Untouchables Staircase" and a shootout scene popped up on You Tube of Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner) shooting someone on  Chicago's Union Station staircase. I chased after the woman, wanting to say "No esta Aqui, esta en la Ciudad de Chicago!" But she was gone...I was crestfallen, then angry. I thought; what kind of person asks movie trivia questions in a foreign language? Then I remembered...I AM EXACTLY THAT TYPE OF PERSON;

  "Hey Pierre" I'd ask dismissively while pointing to the Eiffel Tower...'Rush Hour 3'?"

Friday, March 27, 2015


Tonight in Grand Central at 25 track (Operations Office):

Operations Manager: Mr. McDonough, we need you and your engineer to bring 10 deadhead cars (no passengers) to New Haven. But there's a situation...A RAT has been spotted running around the south car in the engineer's cab.

Me: Like in the cab where I have to do the brake test?

Operations Manager: Yep!

Me: Like in the cab where I have to do the reverse move when we get to New Haven?

Operations Manager: Yep, that would be the cab... Oh, and don't leave your railroad bag on the floor. We don't want you bringing home any pets.

I half-expected the 4 guys in the office to suddenly burst out laughing...maybe an early start to April Fool's Day. Perhaps, I thought, one of them discovered my rodent-phobia from reading my blog post (below), and they were just having a little fun with me.But their faces remained stone-cold sober.

Radio transmission in New Haven:

"New Haven Station to Metro North train 5588  Do you have a rodent onboard?.  Over!"

"Metro North Train 5588 -Yes, sir...that's the story.  I haven't seen it...but I really haven't been looking. Over!"

"Metro North Station to 5588...I don't blame you. Over and Out!"

It wasn't easy backing up a train in New Haven with one hand on the emergency brake whilst waiting for Willard to spring into action. No rat appeared, but it was easily the longest reverse move of my railroad career.…/…/of-mice-and-men.html

Monday, January 26, 2015

Snow Job!

So, I'm snowed in during a blizzard with nothing to do...and I started thinking about this poor neglected blog.  I'm sorry that I haven't written much, but it seems I get most of my writing frustration out on facebook now.  So, for those of you out there who aren't my facebook friend but still want to know what's happening in "The Conductor to The Stars" life,  I give you some of my recent facebook status updates:

24 January 2015

Three college girls with bloodshot eyes got on my train tonight. They all reeked of cannabis. I explained (no less than six times) that they had to transfer trains to get to Fordham, but their stoned brains couldn't grasp the concept of transferring to another train. I was starting to get a contact high, so I finally asked..."Have you girls been smoking pot tonight?" They all denied it, but their orange Cheetos stained fingers, and several empty strewn bags of Chips Ahoy told a different story. The next time I walked by them, they had sprayed cheap perfume on themselves. Now they smelled like cheap perfume AND pot. Not a good combo.

17 January 2015

So, this happened tonight:
Me: Tickets please...(now reading the young guy's college ID)... "Mr. Trepod."
Him: Here you go conductor (hands over ticket).
Me: "Trepod"...kind of like tripod.
Him: Yeah, that's what all the girls tell me....
Me: Well played sir, well played.  I bet you use that line all the time.

Him: Not enough.
30 December 2014

You can almost see Sting thinking..."Don't stand so...Don't stand so...Don't stand so close to me.

Yes, one of the joys of being a railroad conductor is having friends in high places...mostly the Broadway Theatre catwalks.  Over the years I have befriended several Broadway stagehands, and they are great at hooking me up with backstage tours when I visit a show.  On this night, my family and I saw "The Last Ship" which starred Sting (he also wrote the musical score).  I saw him on stage before the show
and asked if he'd take a photo with me.  He was a little reluctant, but he enthusiastically took a photo with my wife and daughters.  He even took his hat off for them.

27 November 2014

Happy Thanksgiving to all!  Let the; "Hey! You look just like the Conductor from The Polar Express" season begin.

24 November 2014
Note to self: Never go to Shoprite on a Tuesday, which is "Senior Day"...especially on the day before a snow storm...two days before Thanksgiving....again. It was like shopping in God's waiting room.

8 November 2014
Conductor Bobby's tip of the day: Hey Kids! When it's 2AM and you are so drunk that you can barely walk, stumbling home in the middle of the tracks is not your best option. Take the 18 -year old doofus we nearly ran over on my train early this morning. I had to climb off my train and give him a stern talking to. After ten minutes of negotiating, doofus finally agreed to climb aboard our train and we carried him to the safety of the waiting arms of the MTA police in Stamford. Don't be like a friend, call a cab, walk home along the mean streets of Greenwich, Connecticut.

20 October 2014
I met comedian Jim Gaffigan tonight at a book signing for his new book, "Food" at Barnes and Noble at Union Square, NYC. He is portraying my father in the upcoming Michael Almereyda Film called "Experimenter." It's about behavioral psychologist Stanley Milgram and my father's participation acting as "The Learner/Victim" in the infamous 1961/62 experiments done at Yale University.  The film premieres at The Sundance Film Festival January 25, 2015.

03 October 2014

It's not often that a McDonough passes a bar. Congratulations to my niece, Attorney Emily McDonough!


Thursday, October 09, 2014

Fair, Fear, Fare

I had an Asian woman get on my train in West Haven today and she handed me this ticket. Her English wasn't very good, so I explained in a very LOUD voice (I'm not sure why) that the ticket was, "NO GOOD!...IT'S AN ADVERTISEMENT!" I don't think she believed me...but she paid anyway...maybe out of fear.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Who's on first?

Early this morning on the carpool ride home:

 Engineer: Hey Bobby, that song on the radio... Isn't that Bachman-Turner Overdrive?

 Me: Yes it is. Here's a trivia question for you... BTO is a spin-off of what other group?

 Engineer: Hmm...I don't know.

 Me: "The Guess Who."

 Engineer: I told you, I don't know.

 Me: No...I'm saying it's "The Guess Who."

 Engineer: (now getting annoyed.) I told you...I DON'T KNOW!

 Me: What are we, Abbott and Costello?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


I'm convinced that there is something or someone other-worldly guiding my connection to the Dr. Stanley Milgram's 1961/1962  "Obedience to Authority Experiments."  Perhaps my father's spirit is leading me...whatever or whoever it is, it's starting to weird me out. Here are some examples:

Back in 2006,  I wrote a post on this blog called "Shocking" about my father's involvement, acting as the Learner/Victim in Dr. Stanley Milgram's  infamous behavioral psychology experiments done at Yale University. In the post I explained that my father had died of a heart attack in January 1965,  just before my third birthday and two and a half years after these experiments were completed. I further explained that the only record I have of how my father moved or sounded is through watching a documentary of the experiments titled "Obedience to Authority."

Coincidentally, on the opposite side of the globe, around the same time I had written my blog post,  an Australian Psychologist named Gina Perry was doing a radio documentary about Milgram's experiments, and she wanted to talk to anyone connected to them in any way.  She found my above mentioned blog post while searching on Google and she emailed me and asked for an interview.

Some months later, Perry flew to the U.S. and interviewed me at an inn in the heart of Yale. During the interview,  she recorded me retelling the story of my family rediscovering my father's involvement through a 1974 segment on 60 Minutes titled "Following Orders".  During the course of the interview, I gave her some leads of people to talk to, namely the names of Harold Clifford's children (he was one of the subjects in the Milgram experiment) who Coincidentally had lived across the street from me growing up.  I also gave her the name of Bobby Tracy, my coworker, whose father coincidentally happened to fill in for my father in a few of the experiments.

Perry then asked if I knew the where-abouts of John Williams, the other main actor in the experiments (the instructor in the white lab coat).  She mainly wanted to know if he was still alive.  I told her I didn't know.

Perry spent the next year scouring the entire U.S. looking for John Williams (kind of like finding a needle in a haystack), and she finally found Williams' son living in Florida. Williams' son told Perry that she was unfortunately too late, his father had died the previous year.  He also told her that he didn't know much about the experiments but that his uncle, Mark Williams (his father's brother) would know more. 

Mark Williams?  That's a familiar name...

Coincidentally, this same Mark Williams was my daughter's high school Social Studies teacher.  I immediately called Mark and said, "You're John Williams brother?"  I would later invite him out to lunch to meet Perry along with Bobby Tracy and Judi Lampner, the daughter of the late Aaron Aronow, a former New Haven Alderman, who was  one of the subjects of a variation of the experiments and vocal critic of  Milgram's professional ethics.  Judi COINCIDENTALLY teaches school alongside a friend of mine.

By this time, Perry had turned her award winning radio documentary into a book titled "Behind the Shock Machine." and was visiting the U.S. on a press junket.  I connected her to Sandi Kahn Shelton, a journalist friend of mine who writes for The New Haven Register. Shelton wrote a wonderful front page article about Perry's book, the experiment and of me discovering my father through it.  Along with the article was a spooky photo taken of me
by Arnold Gold, the newspaper photographer.  In the photo, I'm standing in the basement of Yale's  Linsley -Chittenden Hall in the area where the experiments were originally conducted.  I'm looking up into the light with eerie green shadows behind me.

On the day the newspaper article was published, I ran into retired Metro North photographer Frank English on my train.  Frank lives in Manhattan and had been visiting friends in Connecticut.  I hadn't seen him in a long time, so we chatted and caught up on each other's lives.  I wanted  Frank's opinion on the picture that ran in that day's newspaper, so I showed him the front page and Gold's eerie color photo of me.  Frank was impressed with the shot and asked me what the article was about.  I told him he'd probably never heard of Milgram or the experiments but... Frank smiled and let me continue...then he said that he knew the experiments and Dr. Milgram very well.  COINCIDENTALLY his brother Ed English produced and directed the original "Obedience to Authority" documentary back in 1962.  He immediately called his brother and told him my story.

Fast forward to three weeks ago, and Gina Perry emailed me and said they're making a movie about the Milgram experiments titled "Experimenter."  I told Perry I'd love to get a part as an extra in the film since I have become somewhat of a "Zelig" to this experiment. 

I looked up the IMDB page on the movie and found it's written and directed by Michael Almereyda.  I Googled "Almereyda" and discovered he's also a professor at the Tisch Film School at New York University.  I sent him an email and asked him for a cameo part in the film.  I waited a week and didn't get a reply.  I decided to call NYU and COINCIDENTALLY Almereyda picked up the phone.  He told me that he got my email, but it was too late, he had already wrapped up filming and was now editing the film.

About a week later Almereyda, emailed me again, saying that by some odd COINCIDENCE,  he had to re-shoot a scene, and asked if I'd like to come to New York and film a cameo.

 Of course I would.

On Sunday, I went to New York for my film debut. I was seated in a small room waiting along costar Sasha Milgram, Dr. Milgram's widow. She kept staring at me and telling me that I look just like my father.   Almeryeda then entered the room, introduced himself, and we spent the next 20 minutes making small talk.  I told him about all the weird coincidences, Gina Perry's documentary/book, The Cliffords, Mark Williams being my daughters teacher, retired railroad photographer Frank  English and Ed, his movie directing brother, Etc.

Amereyda told me that he'd love to talk to Ed English and ask him some questions about the original documentary.  I told him that I'd try to get him in touch with Frank, but that I hadn't seen him in a couple of years.

Coincidentally, guess who was on my train last night??? Yep, Frank English.  Too weird!