Graffiti Artists to Julia Roberts: ‘Good 4 U!’

List of Graffiti Seen On Posters for the Movie The Mexican in the New York City Subway System:

Not Mexican.

Where is the Mexican?

This gringo is not The Mexican .

Inscure White Guy.

Good 4 U Julia!

I love her feet.

She has ankle bracelets she’s so free!!!

Smoke it, baby. Pot.

Why the gun?

Stick to Snatch & Guy Ritchie as well as Fight Club and Tibet bullshit.

Free Mumia.

Resist Bush.

White supremacist propaganda.

Money $$$ will keep you forever unhappy.

Ladies, beep me if you need a friend to talk to. I care. Mr. Kareem. (917) 500-47XX.

–Michael Agger

The Screamer

Millie Mendez is a platform conductor for the New York City Transit Authority with a larynx built like a Mack. “They come out and they don’t say, ‘ ‘Scu-uu-use me !'” Ms. Mendez howled to a waiting crowd on a recent morning at the Times Square shuttle platform where she works. “They’re stampeding! You gotta teach them how to say, ‘ ‘Scu-uu-use me!'”

Ms. Mendez, who is in her 40’s with red hair and a stocky build, has worked for the M.T.A. for 14 years. She started as a car cleaner and then worked her way up to train conductor, but she quit that position after a customer threw himself in front of a train she was driving. Ms. Mendez has worked as a platform conductor for about a year and a half. She said she prefers the job because she likes being surrounded by people. “I like to be moving around,” she said.

It is in Times Square that Ms. Mendez has distinguished herself as The Screamer. Every morning, starting at 6 a.m., her eardrum-rattling instructions–”Track 4’s in!”; ” That’s your train!”; “Watch your bag!”–give thousands of New York commuters their first true jolt of the day. “She’s got a loud set of lungs,” mortgage broker Marc Kahn said before hustling onto a car.

Ms. Mendez, who prefers the moniker The Shuttle Lady, has a voice that’s high-pitched and powerful, a bracing early-a.m. combination amplified by the echo-chamber acoustics in the cavernous train station. Unlike a lot of platform conductors’ voices, it projects easily over the braking trains and crackling P.A. system. (Early in her career, The Screamer was given a bullhorn, but it got taken away from her. Passengers complained that she was already loud enough, she said.)

Indelicate as Ms. Mendez’s voice may be, it is remarkably effective. Every morning, men and women in privileged and important jobs–individuals used to barking out orders themselves–march like timid lemmings to The Screamer’s high-volume commands. It is a sight to behold, a sharp choreography of pinstripe suits and wool skirts. “Step away from that car!” Ms. Mendez cried on a recent morning. “Move it into the middle!” The pinstriped suits and wool skirts quickly complied.

Strictly speaking, The Screamer’s job is to shepherd passengers in and out of subway cars and keep the human traffic moving in a safe and orderly fashion. But anyone who has passed through Times Square during morning rush hour knows that Ms. Mendez takes it a step further, delivering a running, tough-love commentary to passengers scurrying between connections.

“Nobody ever smiles. C’mon, be happy !” she ordered her platform mob. “Be alive and kickin’! Some people are so grumpy in the morning– Lo-oor-rd , have mercy on their soul!”

Naturally, Ms. Mendez’s performances have made her something of a celebrity in the bowels of 42nd Street. “She’s the Ethel Merman of the shuttle!” said a commuter named James Peacock. Ms. Mendez’s M.T.A. supervisor, Tony Rodriguez, swears that The Screamer has received fan mail. But Ms. Mendez hasn’t let her mouth go to her head. “When I go home,” she confessed quietly as she went off for a mid-morning break, “I don’t talk.”

–Beth Broome

Empty Calories

New Yorkers love to brag that we can find anything to eat in this town. We’ll go on and on about the wonders of Zabar’s, Fairway, Balducci’s and Dean & DeLuca; by now, of course, the rest of the world must know it can’t make a decent bagel.

But that’s the good stuff. What happens when your tastes run more towards culinary junk–you know, the guilty, icky stuff like Mr. PiBB soda, Oscar Mayer Smokies, Moon Pies and Red Vines Licorice?

Often, surprisingly, you’re out of luck in this town.

“I went to 25 different supermarkets … looking for Pillsbury Orange Sweet Rolls,” said Karina Rollins, 33, of the East Village. “I think it’s a conspiracy that Manhattan supermarkets don’t have them.”

Ms. Rollins is a bit of a junk-food freak. Whenever her friends from Maryland visit New York, she makes them bring up armloads of those Pillsbury Orange Sweet Rolls. She lugged some back herself from El Paso. Ms. Rollins also misses the “500 varieties of Hamburger Helper” you can get in supermarkets outside of Manhattan. (Here’s some good news, however: Ms. Rollins said that Moon Pies, another hard-to-find junk delicacy, mysteriously surface in Manhattan from time to time in the vending machines of the New York Post .)

Danya Levine, 30, pines for the Tastykakes and BooBerry cereal that she ate growing up in southern New Jersey. Everett Potter, 48, stocks up on Oscar Mayer Smokies whenever he and his wife are in the Midwest. Elizabeth Fogerty of Tudor City covets not food, but Downy Wrinkle Releaser. “Ohmigod, it’s a miracle product–have you seen this anywhere?” the 27-year-old Ms. Fogerty asked. “You just spray it on your clothes, stretch them out and all the wrinkles disappear. I’ve looked in so-oo-o many supermarkets for it here.”

Whenever James Morrow, 26, of the Upper East Side is in Washington, D.C., he will stock up on his favorite product, Tomolives. “They have a marvelous salty crunch to them, olive-y but not too tomato-y. I pop them whenever I have a mid-afternoon salt craving.” He also notes that D.C. is the one place where his ex-girlfriend could find her favorite soda, Wink, a “lemon-lime drink, kind of like Mello Yello,” he said.

Nutter Butter Wafers are the one product that Michele Ruehs Steinbuch cannot find in New York. Note: She said Nutter Butter Wafers . “These aren’t the ones that are shaped like peanuts. You can find those anywhere, ” said Ms. Steinbuch, 28. “These have a thin wafer crust, the kind with the cross-hatching, and the filling is the peanut-buttery stuff.”

She’s found an antidote to her New York wafer deficit, however: “I have a colleague whose dad works for Nabisco, and he ships them over to us.”

This dedication to junk food knows few boundaries. Some Manhattan devotees will even leave the country to drag the calories back. The Upper East Side’s Tom Lipscomb, 58, schleps back Durkee Famous Sauce–a mustard-like condiment–by the carton whenever he travels to Canada. ” Ohh-hh , it’s wonderful. Have you had it?

Of course it has to be in glass jars, so [the airline] breaks half the bottles and I’m picking glass shards out of my underwear … but it’s so-oo-o worth it.”

–Christine Valhouli

So You Watched Temptation Island And Then You Saw Christina Aguilera and You’re Thinking About Getting Corn Rows:


–Jason Gay Graffiti Artists to Julia Roberts: ‘Good 4 U!’