violence and desperation in New York
Friday, December 7 2001
Last night Gretchen went out with Ray and a subset of his posse to see her friend Debra read her poetry. When she came back, she had several stories to tell, mostly about about a rash of recent muggings both here in Park Slope and over in Manhattan. Right here on President Street, someone recently put up a sign expressing gratitude to residents for coming out to provide assistance in the aftermath of a mugging. The uptick in crime is one of the big untold stories of New York in the aftermath of 9/11. People are more desperate now and human life has been cheapened. Indeed, Ray's friends who have been mugged haven't even bothered to report the crimes, since they seem so inoffensive when viewed in the context of collapsing skyscrapers.
Having heard these mugging stories, I was a little more careful than usual in the Vale of Cashmere. It's an isolated place and bad things have happened to people there. But then again, there are usually a good number of people (solitary black men mostly) walking around paying careful attention to one another.
But I didn't run into trouble until after I'd left the park. While waiting to cross Prospect Park West, Sally sallied up to another dog to say hello. It was a black dog, almost exactly like Sally in all respects except that its ears pointed straight upwards. It seemed like a nice enough dog, but then out of nowhere it suddenly snapped at Sally and she let out a yelp. Then I noticed she was bleeding. While the attacker's owner stammered and admonished his dog in dismay, I looked Sally over for a wound. I couldn't see any and figured she just had a bloody nose, but back at the house I saw that she had little puncture wound in her snout.
Gretchen and I went out to an Italian restaurant called Tutta Pasta near the corner of 7th Avenue and Second Street in Park Slope. The place was so rich in mirrors and Christmas lights that it could almost be mistaken for an East Village curry joint. The difference, though, was the wine. Instead of being vaguely repulsed by the ceremony of the wine bottle, this time I gloried in its fraud-preventing utility. It was indeed Ecco Domani Merlot, no two ways about it. What's more, the portobello mushrooms were steaks of absolute culinary perfection. Gretchen and I found ourselves talking about subjects ranging from Stockholm Syndrome to a possible trip to Paris we might take in January, along with all the other cheapskate Americans responding to a special off-season deal from _____ airlines.
While walking Sally in the Long Meadow of Prospect Park, Gretchen started making stereotypical movie martial arts moves on me in that familiar staccato martial arts rhythm, shouting in loud fake Japanese the whole time. Off in the distance there was a group of white people sitting on the grass talking (I could tell they were white by the nasal nature of their voices and the pattern of their interruptions). I could see their silhouettes - they looked like a group of prairie dogs in the thin fog.
We'd rented Bad Taste, my favorite movie of all time, but unfortunately Gretchen was tired and we didn't get to see the whole thing in one go. What I most love about the movie, after all the spurting blood and gore, is the attention to detail (one could argue that the thing that makes the gore so great is the attention to detail). When one of the characters talks about the need to "protect the Earth" from alien invaders, another in his contingent sees fit to correct him by adding "and the Moon." Then there's the scene where a human who infiltrates the aliens, and, upon being peer-pressured to drink something truly horrible, is so impressed by its flavor that he voluntarily takes a second sip!
A story concerning Ray's friend Hot Tom:Hot Tom is the seldom-seen but often-spoken-of hot friend of Ray's. Hot Tom is reportedly so hot that people have trouble taking him seriously when he talks, no matter their gender or sexual preference. But in this story, Hot Tom's hotness played absolutely no role whatsoever. He found himself walking down 7th Avenue near 23rd Street past a construction site when he came upon a blind man with a cane mired intractably somehow in amongst the rebar, scaffolding, and unfinished load-bearing pillars. "Excuse me, sir, but do you need help?" Tom asked. "What's your name, son?" asked the blind man. "Tom," said Hot Tom. "Tom, my man, you're the man! You're the man! Will you help me, Tom my man?" asked the blind man. "Sure," said Hot Tom, somewhat hesitantly. "Tom, what I need for you to do, right now, is roll me a joint!" With that the blind man whipped out a big fat ziplock bag of marijuana. Astounded, Hot Tom looked up the street and down the street. There were at least two cops within view. "Is that really a good idea?" Tom asked, "I mean, what with the cops and all. Don't you ever have any trouble with the cops?" "Nah," said the blind man, "I'm blind." "Well, I can't roll you a joint here," said Hot Tom. "Okay," said the blind man, "How about we go to a bank?" So Hot Tom and the blind man went into a bank and Hot Tom rolled the blind man a joint. Just another crazy day in New York City.
There's some sort of official blind institution in that part of Chelsea, because I regularly see blind people there. The other day I came upon a blind man being led by a Labrador Retriever seeing eye dog. But it wasn't a very good seeing eye dog. It led its poor blind master directly into the rear of a lady waiting to cross the street. Then, a few hundred feet down the sidewalk, along came temptation in the form a little terrier. I wondered what the seeing eye dog would do, since they're trained to focus like laser beams on their work. But not this dog; he knew how to get the most from life. As he glided past, he bent his head down and sniffed that terrier good.
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