This is not New York City. This is not just New York City. This is fucking New York City. Have some fucking respect. New York City is not a nice town. New York City says walk. New York City says spend. New York City says walk straight and be proud. Feel fucking privileged. Feel entitled to your wealth even if you were born into it. Be proud if you’re a scumbag. Be delirious. Drink. Drink more. New York City says look at my big fat ass and boobs. Burn your to-do list. Make it an epic summer. Feast. New York City says walk. Walk the next seven blocks. Walk the next fifteen. Now walk the next thirty five. Drop. Fuck. Sure, your window faces a brick wall, but behind that wall is New York City. Correction: behind that wall is fucking New York City. New York City says buy some property. Buy some more. Flip it. New York City says burn your house. Burn it. Sell. Kill. New York City says drink. Slime. Squeal. Talk shit all day. Lie. Cheat. Steal. Kill. Win. Smile though you don’t feel happy. Speak even if you got nothing to say. Momma. Voice your opinion no matter how shallow. It matters. It does. Really. Shout it out. Love yourself, your best shot at being loved at all. Look down on the poor. Ignore the handicapped. Don’t open the door for the wheelchair. New York City says baby show your ass and tits. Twerk. Twerk. New York City says dye your hair. Have another tattoo. Dress like a fucking porno queen. New York City says Nigga. Three times. Nigga Nigga Nigga. Fat-ass. New York City is not a nice town. New York City kicks you in your fat ass. Who the fuck are you? Trip and vomit your dreams out on the sidewalk where they belong. Make a fucking scene.
It’s me against you, New York, New York.
May 17, 2015.
I stand up from the bench in the train for an elderly black man with dark sunglasses in an oversized black pullover.
“I’m okay. Don’t you stand up now”, he asserts, “this right here is New York City. If it ain’t rough it ain’t right.”
“If it ain’t rough enough to mingle in the stuff”, he starts rhyming, “to scar and scuff and make you cuckoo like a cocoa puff. It ain’t right so I smash the satellite. Check the farenheight before I take a flight. Unique as Mozambique, here to freak Sheik. The skills that won’t leak and never antique. Warm like an oven you’re lovin the style I’m druggin…”
“Are you quoting?”
“How can you be quotin when you tellin the truth? This is New York City”, he says with Harlem swing, shaking his head like Stevie Wonder.
“Yes, I know.”
“And I’m a solid seventy three, brother. Used to work for John F. You know who that is?”
“Kennedy my brother.”
“Yes, and now listen to this: Dorset”, he says with English flegm, “Somerset. Suffolk. Norfolk. How do you do? I am doing fine. How about you?”
I look at him with a big question mark.
“I was a student at Oxford, for three years man”, he resumes with his Harlem cool, “I moved to a lotta places. Seen a lotta faces. I’m a gypsy man. I made it into my life business.”
So did I. But I’d rather not bring it up.
“There’s only one truth, son, and that is: life ain’t got no love for ya.”
“Are you from Brooklyn?”, I try to put some reason into the conversation. This is the A train, from Harlem to Brooklyn. Hence the question.
“No brother. This man you see right here is from Harlem. I spent the last fifty years of my life in Harlem. But unfortunately”, all of a sudden he grimaces, “Harlem is no longer Harlem. Fucking gentrification. It is like a vacuum, the soul drained out of it. Those new kids. The more grotesque and bizar, the more fashionable.”
“Right on”, I feelin him.
“Them not tryin to see what life can create for them. Them not takin it easy. No. Them wanna out-do life. It’s cra-zy.”
“Must be lack of education. Lack of resources in the end.” The man turns around and pushes through the crowd, away from me. Nobody offers him a seat.
Here we are now. Readers. Welcome to the second series of chronicles, set in the loudest city on earth. Are you ready?
I can’t hear you. Are you fucking ready?
I still can’t fucking hear you. Are all you motherfuckers fucking ready?
Alright then. Welcome back.