Two Aprils in Paris: part one

Tags

, , , , ,

chestnuts and blossoms

 Did I love a dream ?

-Stéphane Mallarmé, L’après-midi d’un faune

Twice Paris lifted its veil to me in the spring.

 Unveiled was the French garden—as beautiful and as telling as the French language itself.

The flowers seemed to appear both overnight and all at once. Something in the discipline with which those wild beings were arranged, in the methodical savagery of their colors seemed corollary to some larger force unknown to me.

The flowers followed me on mundane tasks: scurrying to the train; strolling to the library; stepping out for bread. The culture I had blindly imposed my destiny upon  pursued me throughout the city and attempted to explain itself.

A few idle afternoons among the flowers and the croissant, the guillotine and The Red and the Black began to speak to me in one voice. Disparate as they may seem, they all spoke of symmetry; of interference; of nature’s imperfections and of humanity’s responsibility. Through us, milk and grain become decadence, death efficient, and communication art.

“Even the flowers are flawed,” I heard Paris say. “We are as important to them as they are to us.”

Are flowers important?

A few afternoons among them and a belief that I had already held by instinct revealed itself to be one of the principals underlying most things French: Beauty is essential.

*****************************************************************

When I took my living situation in Paris, I was entirely ignorant of its serendipity. My studio was located within a Parisian family of five’s greater apartment. I was welcomed by them—as an absolute stranger—more warmly and unconditionally than any cliché about the French would ever had led me to believe.

Each member of the family was utterly unique. It was because of this plural singularity that their Frenchness—in other words, their similarities—was able to distinguish itself.

During my second year in the Metropole, their kindness brought me to their country home in a southwestern region of France called Périgord. There they indulged me as I explored caves, castles and regional cuisine. One evening, the youngest of the three then teenagers in my faux family whipped up a cake of nuts he had gathered on their land. My palette told me the cake was flavorful but a bit dry; my American lips told Nicolas that the cake was perfection.

My hosts commented in turn. Almost in unison, they declared the cake dry.

I felt a perverse need to contradict them, to reassure Nicolas that the cake had been flawless. But as I turned to him with my brightest, most reassuringly American face, I glanced at his. His was not in the least offended. In fact, he agreed with his family: the cake left something to be desired.

If I had made a cake bordering on inedible for my family in Ohio, they would have found something—anything!—to redeem it, especially in comments that reached my ears. “Dry” would never had made the short but epic journey from mind to mouth, out of consideration for my feelings. I got the impression that feelings were neither here nor there in the family’s comments about the cake. Their comments were statements of fact.

I had stumbled upon more to admire: The French are honest.

*****************************************************************

Inconspicuous memories such as these find significance in the transient observer. An outsider inside Paris for a spell can uncover meaning in minutiae. Being there and aware that Paris would know more of my absence than my presence afforded me a pair of rose-colored glasses all my own, through which chestnuts and blossoms became keys to the mystery of it all. Through them, I am able to assert that life without beauty is not a life worth living, though my ever-practical Midwestern upbringing may feel contempt for me. Through them, I am able to assert that honesty has its place in the world, though my ever-placating Midwestern upbringing may disown me.

It is in dreams where blatant contradictions find a place to coexist. My Parisian existence was wrought with them. It was with American eyes that I regarded Paris; it was with my American mind that I understood it; it is with these same gifts that I will never see, that I will never understand it.

And yet it has changed me, as dreams can change us. Is it any wonder that it all seems a dream to me now?

Two Aprils in Paris

Tags

, , , ,

I still haven’t said goodbye to Paris.

As unfathomable as it may seem to me now, Paris, geographically, is still very much where it has always been. And yet, it feels buried within me. Reminiscing about my time there feels like lading a grave with flowers.

This impression isn’t at a great distance from the truth. From the autumn of 2007 to the winter of 2009, Paris gave me a glimpse of itself that was as fleeting as a reflection in a puddle. That Paris does indeed no longer exist.

Putting words to my subjective impressions from that place will have no more purpose, per se, than a eulogy, but will nonetheless lead back to a somewhere that was (and is) equally mine and not mine at all—the only Paris I can share.

Coming soon…Part I: Chestnuts and Blossoms

the big apple, worms and all: part III

Tags

, , , , ,

Bent over backwards

 You can drop the attitude. You only work in a shop, you know.

Jennifer Saunders, “Absolutely Fabulous”

 “Next person on line.”

One little preposition; one big difference. At places of business in the Midwest, I wait in line. Usually in comfort. My fellow customers and I line up and conclude our business in succession. When greeting employees with a smile, they generally smile in turn. Rude interactions are once-in-a-blue-moon incidents.

I hear the phrase “next on line” and I know I’m not in the Midwest any longer. I’m on another planet.

Only on New York, I guess.

New York City has some 8,000 restaurants. It also has 13,000 registered taxis, 8 million residents, 60 million tourists each year, and what remains of one modest dream: to be treated like a human being by other human beings. Pigeons lack tact. Possums could benefit from some etiquette lessons and raccoons from charm school (or juvie). My expectations of Homo sapiens are understandably a little higher. Despite their modest nature, New York finds creative ways to not meet them. Its service industry, in most of its forms, epitomizes the dehumanization of it all quite well.

It took one face in Greece. It took one cow in Chicago. What did it take in New York? Was it a customer experimenting with misplaced aggression at the pharmacy one day? Or was it a server who, in a moment of madness, decided that his or her clientele boiled down to one half-witted cheapskate with many faces? However it came to be, buying toothpaste, returning a shirt, picking up a package, and dining out all have one thing in common here: an overall sense of being unwelcome and unwanted.

I’ll chalk it up to misguided mantras.

New York mantra #1: “You will never see any of these people ever again”

One of the oldest in the book. We’ve all used it for credit card declinations, Scarlet Letter-esque walks home, sidewalk tumbles, etc. In this city, it’s not so much a mantra as a truism. The man whose pot belly is smashed against you during the seemingly longest subway ride in the history of public transportation—the derelict spilling coffee on you without so much as a “my bad”—the stranger at the bar gravely orating on his comedy script—all will exit your New York experience, never to return.

This is nearly complete anonymity. Couple it with the bare-bones set of cultural norms possible in this haven of multiculturalism (e.g., walking on the right side of the sidewalk—in both senses of the word—is obviously not a worldwide rule of thumb), and you have New York’s service industry. Familiarness fosters accountability. Standard practices help us avoid snags and get on with our lives. Take these factors out of the equation in a service situation, and we’re left with an unsolvable, scribbly mess of frustration on both sides. The Chinese couple seated at your table prior to your arrival didn’t tip a thin dime, but guess who gets that chip on your server’s shoulder right in the face? Your draught beer has a phlegmy glob of something (the server claims it’s barley but the jury looks skeptical—and nauseous) midway through it? No big deal. After all, your server, her manager, and the owner will never see you ever again. The number of returning customers this establishment accommodates is about as small as a gelatinous blob of “barley”. You will fade away from them and their complete indifference as quickly as, well, you can run away from that beer.

New York mantra #2: “You get what you pay for”

Do you know any good restaurants? is a question my students ask me on a weekly basis. I imagine I have the same perplexed look on my face when answering my favorite Are you and your twin brother identical?, minus the cringe. Yes, I know some good restaurants. What I don’t know is how much you’re willing to fork over to push your fork around. I don’t know if you realize that you get what you pay for resonates here more than any other place I’ve ever spent time in.

Some jackass must have shouted it from the rooftops.

New York’s list of service options is easy to draw up:

1. Obsequious

2. Apathetic

3. Some strange combination of the above

Either you buy cosmetics from stone-faced pharmacy employees who stoically deflect your smile and greetings, as statues are wont to do, or buy something exorbitant and French from a “consultant” whose smile looks about as genuine as Central Park. Either you dine surrounded by white aprons and amuse-bouches (prepare your wallet and nose beforehand), or by underpaid servers as transient as their client base who consider bringing cutlery to your table cruel and unusual.

This lose-lose principle spills over into most realms, even the most basic. Anyone considering a quiet coffee with personal space should know that such things have a price in this town. (It’s the same principle underlying extra leg room on flights.) Anyone on a budget in search of quiet, coffee, and personal space should consider moving elsewhere.

New York mantra #3: “If at first you don’t succeed…”

…shout, shout again.

I have been more horrified more times by fellow customers than by any service provider. New Yorkers patronize like they drive: they honk (repeatedly) first and ask questions later (minus the question-asking bit). Their treatment of service staff is reminiscent of housebreaking cats. When kitty (either floutingly or forgetfully) makes a mess on the carpet, rub kitty’s nose in it and yell; repeat. When one individual employee provides some misinformation at the airport, choose a different, innocent employee and harangue,

“See this? [point to ticket] They said this was my terminal. See this? See this? [point to monitor] That’s a different terminal. They’re different. Now I’m late. Look at my ticket! No! Listen to me. Look at it. See this? [point to ticket] They said this was my terminal. See this?”

Etc.

Rapid speech causes confusion; repetition, annoyance; combined they create a customer so obnoxious that, in the end, they get their way for no other reason than to send them on their merry way. The most disconcerting part in my eyes is that their departure is merry. The anger that seconds before seemed to gush forth from the very core of their beings is reduced to a trickle as they walk away, unfazed by their own brutality. The brutality was effective and therefore immediately forgiven here, this city built on endless means to endless (but usually predictable) ends.

Take a page from the Midwest’s book, New York. It’s not Emily Post; it’s basic humanity.

Midwestern mantra #1: “Don’t judge a book by its cover”

Let’s face it: despite the catchy proverb, we often judge books by their covers. If a cat, a tube of lipstick, or a high heel is featured on a book cover—especially if all three of said items make an appearance—I’m out. But New Yorkers have taken the cat-lipstick-heel principle a bit too far. Service providers here use fingernails, bags, and shoes as checkpoints when evaluating a customer’s potential for profit, and unfortunately use this information to determine how much kindness and care to invest in them.

When visiting the Midwest now, I’m overcome with guilt of unknown origin when a server is unnecessarily kind to me, whether I’m dressed to impress or in sweats. The guilt snowballs when I realize that that thought in and of itself is evidence of New York’s questionable influence.

Midwestern folk, believe it or not, are nice even when they don’t have to be. Even when their kindness is not included in the price of the steak. Even when their last customer was a curmudgeon who had unceremoniously buried his heart along with his youth long ago. They are nice because being nice is their standard point of departure with whoever may rear an appealing or appalling head in their establishment.

For them, courtesy is free of charge because it has no monetary value.

Midwestern mantra #2: “Kill ‘em with kindness”

What New Yorkers accomplish with eternal tirades, most Midwesterners accomplish with a wink and a smile.

Persistence has its place, as do raised voices. Raising one’s voice ad nauseam over the price of a cup of coffee, however, lacks dignity and integrity, and Midwesterners know it. Accomplishing a goal by any means necessary often devalues the goal, and Midwesterners would rather leave empty-handed than compromise their definition of themselves as fundamentally good people.

While bearing reluctant witness to a tenant rubbing her doorman’s nose in the dirt one morning, I realized Midwesterners generally used her tone when scolding pets, not people. Denying anyone their humanity over a misplaced phone message is taking the role of bad cop—even if it is just a role—to a moral no man’s land of this city’s own creation. I don’t plan on visiting.

Separated, I would put my money on the good cop outperforming the bad cop, anyway.

Midwestern mantra #3: “Let them eat cake”

Oddly enough, middle ground is much more expansive in the Midwest. New York’s juxtaposition of heaven and hell leaves no space for any sort of purgatory—if we define purgatory as moderate expense for an immoderately enjoyable experience. There are countless ways to tap into that joie de vivre the French are always harping on in the Midwest, without either proffering your first-born or rubbing elbows with cockroaches. Personal space and politeness aren’t relegated to a single social class there.

Diners leave huge tips on huge bills in this city; and while I admire the mathematical precision, I am much more impressed by the Midwest’s inexplicable kindness-without-incentive approach. By and large, my tips there are bigger and out of gratitude, not moral obligation.

Chomping on the cake I can both have and eat in the Midwest, New York’s famous black-and-white cookie starts to make more and more sense.

an ashen apple mantra: “The exception that proves the rule confusing”

Contexts extract certain qualities from people and bury others. The overrun beehive that is this city may produce a lot of honey, but the worker bees, drones, and queens alike have stopped recognizing each other as being of the same species. Maybe human beings aren’t cut out for hive life. Maybe so many people in such a sticky, small space leads to buried compassion and cultivated detachment.

That said, the New Yorkers who choose to bend over backwards instead of out of shape make up the exceptions and the exceptional of this city. I have glimpsed in them a humanity bigger than context.

the big apple, worms and all: part II

Tags

, , , , ,

 He remained immobile, arms crossed, eyes lifted to the sky, his mind too agitated to think any longer. All he could feel was that festering rancor, that growing anger harbored in the hearts of all males confronted with the whims of feminine desire.

                                 Guy de Maupassant, Bel-Ami

It’ll rub off on you

I stared down at the sidewalk as if the innermost secrets of the universe could be found there, seeping through the broken concrete. A ruse. My eyes were riveted on the sidewalk because I simply had nowhere else to put them. Given the option, I would have happily popped them out of my head like a couple of grotesque marbles and placed them in my bag for future use. Alas, Western Medicine hasn’t gone there yet.

“I’m god,” he repeated, leaning forward to slip his arm around my shoulders. I leapt sideways, unadvisable obscenities spilling out of my mouth, internally cursing my sister’s uncharacteristic lateness. Waiting for her meant immobility, and in New York immobility is punished as it is on a racetrack: by collisions.

After testing out some obscenities himself, the stranger eventually receded, leaving me to rope off my racing heart with the emotional caution tape New Yorkers always keep handy.

Slightly traumatizing encounters such as this recur as inevitably and unavoidably as nightmares in this city. (They are just as pleasant.) Every female New Yorker with blood still coursing through her veins has her own disquieting collection of blood-curdling narratives. In crime dramas these stories take a sinister turn. In romantic comedies they are offset by perky, plucky string instruments and involve construction workers. In reality, these little episodes don’t usually feature courtrooms or courtships. They are sometimes pathetic, often disturbing, and always intrusive.

New York can’t take credit for catcalling; it’s just a more prevalent affliction here. There is also the conspicuous absence of a less alluring animal in New York: the scapegoat. Paris blames disruptive solicitation on its immigrant population; Ohio on its lower social classes; New York is at a loss. Here in the mishmash of cultures  and religions euphemistically known as “the melting pot”, attempting to pinpoint a fall guy is a complete waste of an afternoon better spent eavesdropping on the motley of males providing a play-by-play commentary on the city’s better half. Emile Zola said it best in Germinal when he wrote, “It’s everyone’s fault.”

Much like that mysterious refrigerator light, or that chestnut involving a tree and a forest, it is impossible to witness firsthand what happens when a woman hits the city solo. In the presence of other males, the catcalling cacophony dwindles to indiscreet looks and indirect commentary. People who would otherwise notice, then, don’t hear the trees fall and are often entirely unaware of the issue.

Take one of my students, a refreshingly down-to-earth trader from Milan. Our conversation had drifted to the soulless bustle of New York, where eye contact was a vague memory for most, when I mentioned that I was of the guilty. “You?” he said in surprise, “Why? Even with stupid guys on the street, if you hold your head up, it’s stronger, no?”

That was my cue to explain that any sort of forward gaze, defiant or no, was considered an invitation here. And that very few things weren’t considered invitations. My hand-list went something like this:

1. Dressing nicely: Invitation. Obviously. (She’s just asking for it then, right?)

2. Going to or from anywhere alone: Invitation. (What New Yorker doesn’t want approval from a stranger at 7:30 a.m.?)

3. Making eye contact or (heaven help you) smiling: Invitation. (Because we all know what that means.)

4. Ignoring everyone: Invitation. (Self-explanatory.)

5. Hurling back insults: Again, invitation. (Playful banter?)

My student seemed to take my little speech with a grain of salt, and, frankly, it sounded a little far-fetched to me, too. I felt like a patient describing the symptoms of the common cold to a grumpy doctor. “Is it really that big of a deal?” the doctor wonders, and I wondered then, inside myself. And as I often do when unnerved, I rewound my thought process and started reexamining the evidence, i.e. the stockpile of disturbing encounters I had witnessed or been an involuntary participant in (stored aptly in my brain next to the Gore and Scary Basements inventories).

I emerged from these thoughts with renewed annoyance and a play-by-play of my own:

Lady 1 strolls on her lunch break and wraps up a phone conversation with her sister and niece. She’s touched by how small her voice is on the phone and, oh, what should she get her for Christm-“GOD BLESS YOU, SEXY. GIVE US A LITTLE SMILE. COME ON, JUST A LITTLE ONE…DAMN, NOT EVEN A THANK-YOU OR ANYTHING?”

Lady 2 anxiously rushes to work. She’s preoccupied with an assignment and dreading drudging through formalities with her boss again, and do her socks even matc-“I WANNA TAKE A BITE OUTTA THAT ASS!”

Lady 3 is (surprise, surprise) also in a rush and hurries down Wall Street. She comes face to face with a man coming from the opposite direction, an entourage-flanked Wall Street type who looks her up and down like she’s on a pole and greets her. She ignores him (what does he expect?) and maybe she has time to grab a coffee before her nex-“DUDE, YOU HAVE THE WORST TASTE IN WOMEN.”

This behavior has an even worse success rate than calling actual cats. Which leads me to believe that it’s not about the success rate at all. Demanding smiles, gratitude, verbal responses, and acknowledgement is an attempt to control others’ behavior. That’s a control issue. And fear is at the heart of control disorders.

Just sayin’. (Psychology not being my field, I choose to tread water comfortably here before my head submerges.)

Midwestern males are no strangers to this fear; on the contrary, based on my observations, they are by and large more in touch with it than their East Coast counterparts. When an appealing stranger enters their field of vision, they don’t typically lash out with illusory marionette strings. They don’t slip on a veneer of bravado à la the peacocks with portfolios on Wall Street, or flaunt their knowledge of female anatomy à la Brooklyn. They look away; they look down at themselves; they look fascinated by the sidewalk. Their reaction is what I can’t help but describe as god-fearing.

They are reverent.

There’s a lot to be said for reverence, as it necessitates respect. New York’s treatment of its female population is just symptomatic of the gender-neutral and fundamental lack of respect that people have for each other in this place. Respect is not a value that is prized here. New York prizes itself on self-assertion at all costs. It prizes itself on the cutthroat and the clever; the loophole and the lucrative; and especially on the thick skin. If any of this is to the detriment, horror, or humiliation of others, well…

You can imagine what New York would say to that.

Coming soon… Part III: Bent over backwards

the big apple, worms and all

Tags

, , , , , ,

‘I think the city’s a mountebank. Always struggling to approach the tremendous and impressive urbanity ascribed to it. Trying to be romantically metropolitan…But it’s a transparent, artificial sort of spectacle. Technically excellent, perhaps, but not convincing.’ 

-F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned

“I love New York. “

I think, “Why…?!”, but say, “You do!”, with an exclamatory twist, trying to throw my student off the scent. Exclaiming the obvious might distract her from the bridle I’m trying to mask with a clumsy hand. I dramatize the follow-up question with what I fancy is a Holmesian tilt of the head. More trickery. When disdain threatens the health of a class discussion, an overdose of irony is strangely preventative medicine. “How absurd,” my smirk suggests, “that people ask each other questions at all.” (In a pinch I’ve even stroked a luckily non-existent goatee.)

“What do you love about New York?”

I did good. Her eyes have rolled brainward on a bias and I can almost see the typical answer to my question on the tip of her tongue, dangling there like a cheap Christmas ornament: “I love everything!”

Everything!

That’s what they always say.

What will we do to avoid an awkward conversation? We will shy away from eye contact with or any mention of elephants in rooms. We will become supporters of public nudity. But some elephants are just too close and stinky to ignore, some emperors just too wizened and unsightly to be left wandering the empire bare-assed, traumatizing children.

I’m a language instructor. I’m a Midwesterner. I live in New York City. And I’d like to acknowledge the elephant staring at me and start an awkward conversation. Here’s my icebreaker : New York City stinks.

 Part 1:   It’ll grow on you

Tell me whom you love, and I will tell you who you are.

                -Arsène Houssaye

Tell me where you put your trash, and I will tell you where you live.

As an ESL/French instructor in New York, my racket involves, in part, passing my now muddled Midwestern speak (e.g., I urge my students to refer to soft drinks as “pop”) and accent on to a predominantly adult clientele, immigrants and tourists alike. It’s a potpourri of nationalities and touchy subjects, but all my students have at least one thing in common: cash.

Cash is the crux of New York, and with it my students are able to purchase oddities such as premium marijuana, non-Russian health care, basic courtesy, Eastern European brides, moments of quiet, views, albatrosses also known as shoes, my humble services, etc.

One thing their money can’t buy? Tickets out of a warped game of Hokey Pokey this city has going on loop. Put your right hand in, and you’re on a boutique-, brunch- and beautiful people-lined street in the Village; stick your left foot (slightly) out, and you’re probably stepping in excrement and surrounded by structures/people so down-and-out you wonder if there’s any point going on living. These streets are adjacent; these people are neighbors; yet they have nothing in common. Except garbage.

More ubiquitous to this city than delis, rats and free morning papers are the mountains of trash. It doesn’t matter if  my students crash with a friend in Brooklyn or sojourn in their own apartment overlooking Central Park : there will be trash. Everywhere. And lots of it. All the time.

And if, by some garbage truck miracle, there aren’t heaps of trash to step around, over or on at a given moment, indelible stains remain, haunting these sidewalks like ghost limbs. If ghost limbs smelled.

When moving to New York, I was under no illusion that it would be clean. What blindsided me was this: New Yorkers and would-be New Yorkers accept the filth as a fact of life. It’s an es muss sein mentality that, to my Midwestern horror, doesn’t lessen their awe of this place. In fact, none—not one—of my students has ever brought up trash as an issue when discussing the city with me. They emote things like “the shopping!”, “melting pot!”, and, inexplicably, “the best city in the world!” instead, as if hearsay surrounding New York was enough to make them lose the majority of their five senses upon setting foot here.

I had to get to the bottom of this.

My language classes are generally a prolonged, conversation-driven tête-à-tête, so broaching new subjects is both my prerogative and my job. I decided to search for a satisfactory explanation in class. It was win-win, really; I would pick their brains on the topic while they learned important adjectives like “gross” and “disgusting”.

Here’s what a fly on the wall might have heard:

“I love New York.”

“You do! What do you love about it?”

“Everything!”

“Fair enough. How about this: What don’t you like about New York? Let’s practice some negative constructions.”

“…”

“For example, do you find the city dirty?”

“No. Not so much dirty.”

“…”

Etc.

The direct approach clearly had its drawbacks.

Several students, pro/con lists, and loaded questions later, I was no closer to understanding how ostensibly functioning human beings could buy into the idea that this city, in all its slimy splendor, was America’s trump card. The vote seemed unanimous. Their complaints about uneven pavement, crowds, and taxi drivers never amounted to much, and in desperation I started to whip out a trump card of my own: Chicago.

Tooting the Windy City’s horn might seem like Midwestern bias in the extreme, but I felt and still feel justified in doing so. Her wallflower status notwithstanding, in my mind Chicago is still the nicer, prettier girl at the dance. And it has to its name a certain something that New Yorkers should be slime-green with envy about. That any industrialized, first-world city should consider its duty, really. Chicago has a place to set out its trash that is not also a bus stop, a play area for children, and a transient hot dog joint.

Chicago is on a grid, and this grid has alleys. Alleys not only mean the potential for garage space directly behind your domicile, but also a convenient, close to home but not a-European-conversing-with-you close trash and recycling bin area. When celebrating Trash Day, Chicagoans wheel their receptacles a few inches from said area to the alleys, bins lining up like dutiful soldiers at a Veterans Day parade. Then they head to work along streets unlined with seeping trash bags, whistling a happy tune, I imagine.

We don’t bother with such formalities in New York. Every day is Trash Day.

After some Midwestern horn-tooting in class, I discovered that my students’ love of New York was more unconditional than I had expected, despite the impossibility of hometown bias. For them, comparing New York and Chicago was tantamount to comparing an old lover with a new: only one of the two was relevant. And like a jilted former lover, I started to doubt myself. Was it me? Had my gag reflex overdeveloped? Was Chicago the dream and New York the reality of the modern world, a spiteful, indiscriminate, garbage-spewing monster?

And then an explanation arrived. From Russia, with love.

We were discussing something as mundane as footwear, when my Russian student let slip how relieved she was to be in a city where white shoes weren’t a pipe dream. “In Moscow, forget about it,” she said with a cringe. “I don’t know what happen, but Moscow is black. Everything is cover by black dust.”

My skull, all of the sudden, felt thick.

To my students, New York was in apple-pie order. Relatively speaking. They were able to turn a blind eye (and a plugged nose) to the trash monster because, for them, this was nothing.

Nothing!

I felt then how I suspect many detectives feel after solving a mystery: dissatisfied. I purportedly lived in the most powerful city in the most powerful country in the world. And it was a city choking on a noose made of trash bags.

I’m throwing down the gauntlet, New York. Here we are, a world superpower, and we should be content that our metropolis isn’t as filthy as Eastern Europe? Is that really the best we can do?

I think we can do better. We have more pride than that. We (well, some of us) certainly have more money than that. Earn your title, New York. It’s time to put your money where your mouth is. Your breath stinks.

Coming soon…    Part II:   It’ll Rub Off on You