Stan Fischler is giving a tour of his subterranean playground.
"You know these trains sing, right?" Fischler, "the hockey maven," asks with a twinkle as a downtown express No. 2 train closes its doors at the 96th Street IRT subway station.
Fischler knows things. Things forgotten, things overlooked, and things just plain weird.
And then, just after the doors chime closed and as the subway edges forward, the wheels emit a high-pitched whine that by some freak of friction clearly hits the first three notes of the second line in the ballad "Somewhere" from "West Side Story."
Who would have figured? The answer is implicit in a grin through a well-trimmed white beard. Stan Fischler, 72, hockey writer, television analyst and subway aficionado, has written six books on subways, trains and trolleys, with the latest published over the summer in honor of the New York subway's 100th anniversary on Oct. 27.
While he knows subways, he's famous for hockey. A Brooklyn native, Fischler has written more than 90 books on hockey during a print and broadcast career spanning more than 50 years.
"Stan is an institution," says Kara Yorio, a hockey writer for Sporting News. "Like him or dislike him, hockey's not the same without Stan around."
There are those who contend the hockey maven is a cantankerous old coot - rife with unpopular opinions and quick to assert them. They could be correct.
He's the kind of guy who would argue with that statement not so much because he doesn't agree with it, but because agreement would end a potentially interesting discussion. And who could argue with that?
So ask Shirley - his wife for the past 36 years and his co-author on more than 15 hockey books - how they get along as married collaborators, and she pleads ignorance. "I have no idea how we do it," she says. "We're both foul-tempered, evil-mouthed, stubborn and controlling."
But his passions and opinions - the same contentious pronouncements hockey fans love to hate - are not limited to the action on the ice. They are equally strong for subjects under the streets of New York.
Fischler's quirky affinity for the city's mass transit began early and grew like the system itself. In 1935, when Fischler was 3, he walked out of his three-story brownstone at 532 Marcy Ave. in Williamsburg to find a crew of workers digging up the street.
Before long, the GG line ran directly beneath his bedroom. "I'd have my head on the pillow, the train would brake, and I could hear the doors opening and closing," he says. "And those doors are not loud!"
"It was soothing to me," he says with a straight face. "Like music."
Fischler, who played drums in a series of jazz bands gigging around the Catskills and the city in the early 1950s, can find music everywhere.
He hears the clickety-clack of subway wheels over rail joints as imitating Gene Krupa's drumming in "China Boy." He recalls that the sharp curves on the GG line to Manhattan squeal "C over high C, like a soprano going as high as she could go."
He can distinguish the clacking of older tracks laid over gravel beds and the steady hum of newer ones over concrete. He loves the sounds of switches, of entering and leaving tunnels, and of hairpin turns.
Apparently the best sounds occur on the old Brighton BMT Line, as he reminisces about rumbling down the Beverly Road curve with the sliding window open in front, his face hanging outside, wind through his hair, every sound - with no reverb off the walls - distinct and unmuffled.
Like many New Yorkers in the 1930s and '40s, his father, Ben, a paint and putty factory worker, and mother, Molly, never owned a car. The family always traveled by subway or trolley.