Walk on the Wild Side
We all have our usual routes—the ones we drive from home to work, or home to subway to work, or to the supermarket and drugstore. We all have our routines, from waking up to an alarm to go to the toilet and then make coffee or tea or diet Pepsi to get going in the morning, so we can get to work. We all have, that is to say, a basic expectation of how the ordinary day will, you know, hum along. And then New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will, say, without actual warning despite there being, probably, years of planning and scheduling, begin the months-long process of tearing up your ordinary neighborhood streets and walkways to dig deep to remove and replace water mains and sewage pipes laid, by the looks of it, at the time of the Holy Roman Empire. And you can’t complain, and shouldn’t, because water (as the kids phrase it now), so sure, you go without water from 8 AM to 4 PM a day or so, or more, here and there, over the long summer that is remarkably not that hot, and you have to figure out other ways to get to the subway, say, but that’s okay.
In fact, it’s more than okay, because if you, like me, tend to walk up 40th Street each and every morning to the subway, and you find you have to walk up 39th Place instead, you may get the satisfaction of your year by seeing vans from NY1, the local television news affiliate, and even NBC news, parked outside on the corner of 48th Avenue to interview residents and condo owners of the building there who have begun to get past the mafia-style threats of glorified building super Neal Milano—that tall, Make-America-Great-Again hat-wearing, cigar chomping whack-job who wears his weirdness like a gun out of a holster—and turn the motherfucker in for harassment. “He’s dirt,” my super tells me, “and I hope all his years of crazy come raining down on him and the rest of his life is spent behind bars.” And you wouldn’t have this conversation about the jackass who has placed extraordinarily gaudy and violation-worthy high fencing around the building (a violation because in the event of a fire, the ground floor residents could never get out of their windows and over the fence to safety, and this is why there are regulations like fence height that to the inexperienced might seem arbitrary), the lobby filled with posters of swastikas, portraits of Hitler and Mussolini and Donald Trump (and a token poster of MLK so he can claim “historical themes”), and the crucifix over the front door right between the 10’ tall Uncle Sam statues and the posters on the doors threatening the arrest of anyone who does not live there (including posters along the side of the building, with guns that say, “Nothing is worth your life,” and the letters of extortion Neal Milano sends demanding $100 for overnight guests and lobby notices sharing the sex lives of everyone there—and exactly where does he have all these cameras set up?*—and the LED light strips surrounding the perimeter that have been blinding the residents of all the surrounding buildings whose units look onto this monster condo, and meanwhile the elevator is broken all the time because that’s the price of protection). And giant American flags everywhere the eye can see.
*(Note: Someone sent around forged NYPD Sexual Predator posters with Neal Milano’s picture on them, photocopied and pasted all up and down 39th Place and 40th Street (I saw them), which is how the story about him broke, and that is a shabby way to retaliate, isn’t it, for his being a Nazi, because those predator allegations are just rumors, like when his wife disappeared one day years ago, and no one ever knew where she went, and they said he probably killed her…like that. Bad form, rumors like that. Like the rumors of the lobby of this current complex, and, okay, those turned out to be true, but you know. You can’t believe everything you hear, can you?)
Neal Milano is the walking proof of the paraphrase that comes from Sinclair Lewis’s novel, It Can’t Happen Here, that when fascism comes to America it will come wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross. And chomping a big cigar.
You’d laugh except Jesus Christ this is not funny anymore.
In the taking of the circuitous route, whatever the inconvenience, one may see revealed rather startling truths. For example, Donald Trump’s unlikely and circuitous ascension to the highest office in the land has revealed that 35% of Americans are White Supremacists, or Nazis, as we used to call them, and should still call them but splitting hairs has become the number one media circus act. Fully one third of the United States, in fact, would prefer a Nazi Regime to a Constitutional Democracy, so apparently it not only can happen here, it is happening.
That is to say, 65% of us, roughly speaking, do not espouse Nazi feelings, and yet probably, at a guess, 20% of Americans, whatever their actual beliefs, are ignoring the whole sweep of history in the making while the remaining 45% are out protesting and calling their leaders and carrying all the stress of the national nervous breakdown of America in 2017. This is not exactly comforting. Only when it hits the ol’ wallet will the whole gang feel the stirrings of giving a good goddamn, and by then the oceans will begin swallowing us up. Maybe that’s what needs to happen, people say. It’s not my call, clearly, and I can’t tell you what to do, but “going with the flow,” just is not an option unless you think misery at best and annihilation at worst are not okay options, and they are not, unless you are a sociopath.
It’s Your Turn
The water mains here in my Queens neighborhood were, as I say, apparently laid during the time of the the crucifixion. And a couple thousand years later, my district’s number came up for pipe change. Also on the schedule this year were the removal of blighted trees and the trimming of branches around the power lines. Infrastructure maintenance on a schedule is a part of civilized, well-governed society that I personally appreciate, however bourgeois that makes me. (I was living here 13 years ago when the whole section of my borough when black and stayed that way for a month; the power lines underground, when removed, crumbled like dust in the hands of the workers—years of electrical appliance escalation that went untended to—so unless you really want to live like the mole people, having a functioning local, city, state, and federal government is pretty fucking awesome.)
A Total Eclipse of Our Hearts
When Barack Obama became the President of the United States in 2008, there was hope in my heart, in many, many hearts, for signs of societal growth, a reduction of racism, real change. Instead, over the next eight years, the deep-seated Nazi feelings of 35% of Americans, nearly all White, who wanted nothing more than to scapegoat and eliminate all Blacks, all non-Christians, all immigrants, all Hispanics, and all feminists, came out of the broom closet. White Supremacy is, of course, a cancer. It is one of the few things in life of which one can say, “This is totally, unquestionably, wrong.” And now that all of this cancer has been diagnosed for what it is, maybe a treatment can begin. Hearing Nazis say, literally, “The world would be perfect if only YOU weren’t in it” is akin to hearing cancer cells say, “This body would be perfect if only all the cells were cancerous.” Cancer kills the host. White Supremacists are killing the world.
The invasion of American Nazis is made worse because so strong is the belief that White “Men” in power are all that is needed for life, these deluded cretins actually think they are gods who do not need water, food, other people, or a healthy planet. They actually believe they are above the whole story of mortality to say nothing of morality. No one with any sense or morality could follow such men, and yet 35% of Americans do.
This is our national nervous breakdown. As Hurricane Harvey batters Texas, a state of mostly Trump supporters and, sadly, white supremacists, and a state that doesn’t believe in federal aid, we await the first cries of “help us” as Trump promises this HUGE help that will likely never come and it won’t matter to anyone outside the victims on the scene, to be forgotten as the news cycle moves to the latest of the “fired.”
That is, unless you are a moral, kind, loving citizen of the United States, of your state, city, neighborhood, and home; unless you see a larger world, a deeper connection and interdependence, and you don’t blame anything or anyone for weakening your heart and resolve. Once we recognize the breakdown and the reasons for it, we have to find help. We have to be the help.
As anyone with sense knows, you can throw all the Uncle Sam Statues and American flags and Trump campaign hats and swastikas and Confederate statues and crucifixes and North Korean missiles you want into the eye of a hurricane, onto a broken water main, at a melting glacier, at an oil spill, at a tornado, and it will do two things: Jack and Shit.
Until some voice of reason gets into the closed, sick minds of the 35% of Americans and the 20% that consists of apathetic lazy-asses who are determined to let sons of bitches drive the American bus over a cliff of chaos, we have to keep doing a little something. Today after tossing down some terrible news, I headed out to compost my food scraps at the local farmer’s market. I had to walk around the war zone that is Saturday water main construction and had some lovely views of 47th Avenue, which I really haven’t walked much. That was nice. Then I wrote this. So, little by little. Moment to moment. We’ll get there. Somehow.
In the meantime, however you can, and between acts of responsible citizenship…