Archive | City Matters

I Wonder, Woman

I was waiting on line at Fairway when this couple ahead of me started fighting. They were in their 60s–both clad in sensible footwear and baggy tees emblazoned with lefty slogans. You know: doggedly grey hair, spectacles, humorless facial expressions. They were of a piece. If I had to guess–and guessing is my favorite part of people-watching–I’d say they lived on the two top floors of a Park Slope brownstone they’d bought in the early ’80s. I’d put money on the fact that they didn’t have kids. They’d have been too busy fighting the good fight for such frivolous pursuits.

Anyway, they were fighting now. Boy, were they fighting. The man was yelling so loudly at the woman that it penetrated my headphone cloud. I hadn’t heard a man yell like that since I’d left my father’s house, and my fists started to clench. The actual words were inconsequential–I asked if you got skim! You know I can’t drink 2 percent!–but the voltage spoke an entirely different story. The voltage would’ve made more sense if he were calling her a stupid cunt.

I knew the type: He was a bully. A self-righteous bully who, if confronted, would never cop to how much he hated women, including his wife. A bully who would instead point to the money he donated to Planned Parenthood, to the campaigning he did for the ERA, to the volumes of feminist political theory lining his office. He was a bully all the same. Continue Reading →

Schadunfreed

My terrible, very bad neighbors across the hall–you know, the ones of the extremely audible, all-hours bongo-playing and door-slamming and key-losing? The ones who routinely have such terrible, very bad, and extremely audible sex, complete with terrible, very bad, and extremely audible fake orgasms, that I longed to bludgeon them with a copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves? Well, I am extremely pleased to report that those neighbors have left the building. First they broke up—very audibly, of course–and then he moved out, and then she finally moved out as well. As of now, their apartment remains empty, and my building is so still, so peaceful, so luxuriantly quiet that it’s as if I’m living in a mountain spa right in the middle of Williamsburg. I need a new word for the particular schadenfreude one feels upon outlasting terrible neighbors. Schadenfreudenizen? Schadunhausfraught? Oh, the future’s so bright my apartment’s gotta wear shadunshades.

In Subway Veritas

It was another day of dodging zombies who weren’t looking at anything but their smartphones. NYC contains so many sorts of people—so many people, period–that it requires a strict adherence to the social contract in order to remain livable. We don’t need to be nice here; we need to be reasonable. Stay to the right side of a busy sidewalk. Don’t cut in line. Look where you are going. Keep your private conversations private. Let people exit a subway car before you enter it. Throw your trash in a trash can. The zombies (I’d call them smartphonies but they’re just too dumb) do not heed these seemingly intuitive rules of conduct, which makes it hard not to treat them like zombies. And that’s too bad because this finely feathered city is always so much more pleasurable when we marvel over each other’s humanity. I try, this Mz. Manners always tries, but today was already trying: swampy, scratchy, red-tape-y, with a thin wire of metallic dread threading through everything. (I am still generally overcome.) By tonight’s subway ride, I felt an unspeakable tenderness for few who were sitting quietly with paper books or, better yet, their own thoughts. I won’t say what I felt for the slack-jawed manchild, legs spread so wide that he took up two seats by himself, who was playing a videogame on his Samsung Galaxy while a frail-looking older woman teetered in his direct field of vision. I really won’t say how I shamed him into giving up his seat for her. But I will say that casual unkindness hurts my heart so much.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy