Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|Welcome to the Jungle|
|12/03/00 at 14:15:36|
|I got this article from the New York Times magazine.(Issue Aug. 2000)|
Welcome to the Jungle
Summer always reminds me of my first day in New York... when I was robbed. I miss those days.
By: Randy Kennedy
Right around the time I moved to New York from Texas nine years ago,the city led the nation in robberies. I have always been proud that I played a small part in keeping it atop the rankings:my roommate and I were robbed--or at least the robbery got under way--just five minutes after we eased the U-Haul along the curb in Brooklyn, basking in the glow of our new urban sophistication. Inevitably, whenever the dog days of summer return, my thoughts return to that day. And I must admit that in a slightly perverse way--as I watched the city's per capita crime rate dip below that of Boise--I have even found myself growing a little nostalgic for the guy who left us about $500 poorer.
This is what happened, in police-report present tense:
I go inside the apartment building to try the keys to our place. A big blond guy with bad acne scars--is on his way out. He asks if we are new to the building and explains that he lives upstairs. He says he is a firefighter temporarily out of work with an injured back and he is trying to get into shape again. Would we like a little help moving in?
I am immediately and deeply suspicious. But then I think: Wait a minute. The guy lives in the building. Stop being such a rube. Your're a New Yorker now. So I say, Sure, we'd love some help, and we introduce ourselves. His name is Bobby(Whenever I recall this scene, I am wearing bib overalls and a big, dumb grin, exclaiming, "Proud to meet ya,neighbor!")
You can probably guess the rest. For half an hour or so, Bobby actually helps us lug a few pieces of furniture up the stairs. We are so grateful that we tell him we would like to buy him a six-pack of *soda*, to which Bobby replies with uncommon graciousness:"You don't have to do that guys. I'm really enjoying myself." Then Bobby excuses himself to go to the bathroom, and neither of us has seen him since. We have also not seen a very expensive camera owned by a friend of ours, who had dropped by that day to lead a hand and record the moment.
Right after he robbed us, I often imagined Bobby repairing to the robbers' hideout with all his robber buddies, having a great laugh over not only stealing a camera from these two yokels but also almost getting some *sodas* in the bargian. And I hated him for this more than for robbing us.
But then came the weird part: it turned out that over the years, I got a whole lot more out of Bobby than he ever got out of us. On the most basic level, of course, he became my goldplated New York story, the one too good to make up. I could also use him as a yardstick, the point being: Hey, I must be doing O.K. here. So O.K. that I am even willing to tell this story.
But more than that, Bobby became and unintended emblem of what had propelled me to New York in the first place. Whether we admit it or not, part of what has always drawn people like me here is not just the promise of fame, fortune and excitement but also a brand of old masochism. We derive pleasure in proving ourselves against a place hard, cold, inconvenient, unfriendly and even treacherous--a place, in short,unlike most of the places we come from. We move to the slightly imaginary city that E.B. White called the third New York, the first being made up of natives, the second of commuters and the third of people who come looking for somthing they can't find anywhere else. The less New York resembles the rest of America, the better we feel, the faster our little-town blues melt away.
An so the more the city has begun to feel, even in small ways, as comfortable as every other place-I can now walk right out of the subway and into a Kmart (a Kmart!), where I almost never worry about running into someone like Bobby--I can't help feeing a little let down.
A friend of mine told me that the other day on the subway she talked to a woman, a tourist, who was laughingly showing off a litle can of pepper spray. The clear implication was that the woman knew she wouldn't need the spray, but it was funny to carry it--much like someone visiting Colonial Williamsburg might find it fun to wear a three-cornered hat.
Of course, none of this should in any way imply that I don't secretly love that the place I have made my home is now safer and slightly more standard issue. That I can walk my dog wtih out looking over my shoulder. That I can go to the 24 hour Brooklyn Home Depot any time I feel like picking up a power saw. (I have never actually had such a feeling.)
As a good New Yorker, I would just like it both ways, that's all.
And so if I ever do run into my old friend Bobby the fireman again, I know exactly what I will do. I will say hello. I will stick out my hand. And while he is shaking it, I will double up the other one and punch him right in the face.
|Re: Welcome to the Jungle|
|12/03/00 at 14:38:34|
|Heh very witty haha, |
yeah thats one reason i'm NOT living in NY. Though there are parts of San Diego that aren't any better ... hehe :)
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