Archive | August 2015

Topless Women Are Not New York’s Problem

Topless women in Times Square have their bodies painted to retain a bit of modesty and offer to let tourists take their photos with them for money. That can cause a lot of problems as the opportunity to see a topless woman for free is quite alluring (strip clubs are quite costly and a Dad can’t gracefully lead his family to have lunch in one).

But the idea that’s been circulated by the mayor is to actually demolish the Times Square pedestrian plaza, and this idea is lunacy.

As a rule, topless women should be encouraged. Sure, they attract a lot of idiots and earn the disapproval of prudes, but that can be managed. The Naked Cowboy became a Times Square attraction and was quickly copied by more than one Naked Cowgirl. The painted women are not much more revealing than those performers.

There’s definitely a need to regulate the crowds and keep a sane amount of these kinds of solicitation performers to a minimum. When every unemployed landscaper and his brother decided they could rake in cash by being Elmo, chaos ensued. Police put limits on costumed characters. If they have to do something similar with the topless women, so be it.

But don’t do away with the pedestrian plaza. That would be incredibly stupid. The solutions to the overabundance of performers is to put limits on them like has already been done with the people wearing large costumes. A permit-based system is used by the MTA in the subways to make sure there aren’t too many subway musicians making too much noise.

Closing the pedestrian plaza in Times Square would be an admission that the city is one of decay and hopelessness again. I remember when the city was like that and while we may want to romanticize and glorify the past, we don’t want to return to the pre-Giuliani New York, trust me.

New York prided itself on cleaning up and turning itself around. Times Square used to be a notorious place full of criminals, drug addicts and the homeless. Theaters that were once beautiful were run-down porno houses. When Disney announced they were going to be putting a store in Times Square in 1995, cartoons depicted Disney characters passed out drunk or dead with syringes sticking out of their arms. But no one would think that now. Times Square is probably one of the safest places in the city.

Doing away with the current Times Square isn’t a solution to any current problem. It’s what people who can’t or won’t do what needs to be done. When there was too much crime in Central Park, we didn’t pave over Central Park.

The pedestrian plaza in Times Square was created because of the success in cleaning it up. Walking through Times Square used to be an even worse nightmare than it is today because you were dodging crowds on sidewalks that were not built to accommodate that many people. Driving through was no picnic either as jaywalking pedestrians held everything up.

Now Times Square is still an overcrowded hellhole, but not to tourists. If you’re a New York resident trying to get somewhere, you generally already avoid Times Square like the plague anyway during regular waking hours.

The New York Jets and N.F.L. “Infamy”

New York Jets starting quarterback Geno Smith will miss as many as 10 games because another Jets player punched him in the face. Think about that for a minute and how stupid that is to happen on a professional football team.

They wouldn’t be the New York Jets if something completely stupid didn’t happen every year. They wouldn’t be the Jets if they didn’t let a promising young quarterback get injured in some freak sideshow-type incident.

Idemefuna Enemkpali is the linebacker who punched Smith and was immediately cut from the team. Not to fear though, ex-Jets head coach Rex Ryan picked him up for his Buffalo Bills.

The New York Times ran a story saying that Enemkpali had transformed himself into a “figure of infamy” for the New York Jets. Taking out the starting quarterback with a sucker punch certainly runs you afoul of the team and its fans, but you have to do better in the N.F.L. if you want to achieve infamy.

The idea that Idemefuna Enemkpali could achieve some kind of “infamy” is ludicrous in a league rife with serial sex offenders, wife beaters and celebrated cheaters. Enemkpali may have “sucker punched” Geno Smith, but he punched an adult male and apologized for it. If serial sex offenders like Ben Roethlisberger can have a career in the N.F.L., sucker punchers shouldn’t have any barriers to a life in professional football.

The New York Jets have employed worse people. The Jets starting quarterback for many years was Mark Sanchez, who raped a woman in college.

So unless Enemkpali ripped off Geno Smith’s arm and then knocked him out with his own fist, a simple punch isn’t going to make you infamous. I guess there is a dry spell of crimes from N.F.L. players lately and the media needs to make the most of ones that it gets.

And, this happened to The Jets, which makes the story of misfortune that much better. Ridiculous misfortune business-as-usual for Gang Green. And being a Jets fan hasn’t been easy for four decades.

I’m a Jets fan, and I must admit that the Jets misfortunes are somewhat of a badge of honor at this point. I have stayed loyal to sports teams through thick and thin even when others became fair weather fans and attached themselves to more popular, winning teams at the time. I remember when the New York Yankees had the worst record in baseball in the early 1990s. Living in Connecticut, many of my friends supported the Boston Red Sox and made fun of me for my team loyalty. I vowed to them that I would see the Yankees as world champions again (vowing to be kept on life support until this happened if need be). I only had to wait six years.

And so it is with the Jets. Most New Yorkers are New York Giants fans because the Giants have won more Super Bowls within recent memory. The Jets last won the Super Bowl in 1969, three years before I was born. That’s OK. I’ll wait a little longer.

Distant Lightning

A new poem, “Distant Lightning” is up on the Impolite Literature web site.

One night in our off-campus apartment in Athens, Georgia, I came to the living room to find one of my roommates sitting in the dark, looking out our window. He had a beer.

“What are you doing?” I asked him.

“Watching the lightning in the distance,” he said.

In the South the weather is such that you can often see storms coming from a ways away. The storm may not reach you but the lightning lights up the sky where you can see it and it’s beautiful.

A few weeks ago I was on Cape Ann, Massachusetts with my family and I went out for a nighttime ice cream run for my wife and I. As I walked down Rocky Neck in Gloucester towards the ice cream parlor, I saw lightning in the distance. It was peaceful outside, and the lightning in the clouds in the distance was beautiful.

A few days before, we had to hurry home from a fast-approaching storm. As we headed down Rocky Neck Avenue to where we were staying, I saw a woman run into Rocky Neck Park with a camera. I couldn’t resist looking to see what she was photographing and it was a set of storm clouds moving in fast.

The weather rules our world more than we can ever control or prepare for. It may rain destruction upon us, but it will inspire us.

This poem was inspired by the distant lightning past, present and future. May it continue to inspire.

Synthanasia: A Not-So-Happy Family Story

My short story “Synthanasia” is now available on Amazon. It’s in the Kindle store but you don’t need a Kindle to read it: you can download a Kindle app for free on to your smart phone. I plan to make this available in a print edition at some point as well.

I was inspired to write the short story when I worked at a bank years ago and the manager of the bank was an elderly woman. She and her husband had health problems: nothing unusual for people of their age, but there was a span of a few weeks when they were alternately in the hospital for different ailments. Between the two of them maybe they have one healthy body, I thought to myself, and the idea for the story was born. I rewrote this from a much-longer earlier version.

Will this make good bedtime reading or family reading? Probably not. But it’s a tidy take about the medical industry, family responsibilities, and doing right by your own. Cover art by the excellent Amy Chace.

A New York Yankee Fan in Cape Ann, Massachusetts

This past week found me with my family in Cape Ann, Massachusetts. We were invited to attend a wedding of two outstanding friends of ours, and decided to make a vacation out of the event and stay in the area for a week. It was the first vacation for the four of us as a family as our daughters are only 18 months old.

We drove up to the area on a sunny Friday and I was dressed for a day of sweaty luggage lifting and toddler wrangling. I decided I would wear a suit to our friends’ wedding but otherwise I was going to dress in “No Fucks Given” style the rest of my vacation and simply grabbed a stack of t-shirts I knew I didn’t mind getting dirty. I expected they would all be stained with sweat, sunblock, sand, lobster guts, butter, coffee and whatever my twin girls were playing with at any given moment.

So, not really thinking about it or giving a damn, I drove to the heart of Boston Red Sox country wearing a New York Yankees t-shirt. It is a lovely Yankee blue with the Yankees’ NY logo emblazoned on the left breast. It’s a classic t-shirt owned by millions of people.

The people of Cape Ann, Massachusetts are some of the friendliest you’ll ever meet. They are the complete opposite of the stereotype of the cold New Englander. Everywhere we went people were very welcoming and helpful. They approached each situation with a knowing sense of humor and shared camaraderie, even if the people they were talking with were harried tourists from New York who didn’t know what they were doing.

When we first arrived in Gloucester, where we were staying, we went for a walk before we checked in to our summer rental apartment and a woman struck up a conversation with us on the street. Walking around with two adorable twin girls tends to invite conversation, and this woman was very nice and offered us advice on where to go and things to do. She noticed I was wearing my Yankee t-shirt. “You’re very brave to wear that up here,” she said to me, not completely joking. I smiled and shrugged. We were not making a secret we were from New York.

We went to lunch at a pub not far from where we were staying and the grizzled men at the bar noticed my shirt and started talking amongst themselves. “Oh, they’re not from around here… “He’s even wearing that t-shirt….” The back of my t-shirt was emblazoned with the name and number of Yankee great Jorge Posada. “Well, at least he’s a good player…” The lunch was still pleasant at this dive.

As we were moving in to our rental with our girls, someone yelled “Yankees Suck!!” at me from an open truck window. My wife and I laughed it off.

New England differs from New York in this regard. In New York City, I see people wearing Boston Red Sox hats and t-shirts all of the time. New York receives lots of tourists from Boston and is home to many Boston transplants and others that just aren’t right in the head. When New Yorker Manny Ramirez was a top Boston slugger, Dominicans in New York with no affiliation to Beantown proudly wore Boston Red Sox baseball hats. Serious and fair-weather Boston fans are everywhere in the five boroughs; we don’t think twice about them or care. New York has people who are fans of all kinds of weird and terrible stuff. There are people here who pay women to put cigarettes out on them. You have to try hard to offend people here, and unless your baseball hat is made of human skin from the Holocaust, it just isn’t going to turn heads.

But New England sports fans have an inferiority complex. Red Sox fans chant “Yankees Suck!” at Fenway Park even when they are not playing the Yankees. Every store imaginable had plentiful stock of Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots regalia, even posters extolling the innocence of cheating pretty-boy Tom Brady. Boston is a fine city, but it does not have the size or impact of New York. And while the Boston Red Sox are usually a good team and the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is a storied one, the Sox will never match up to the Yankees’ rich history of championships. The Yankees have made it easy for others to hate them; the Bronx Bombers even treat their own city like crap.

We didn’t let any of this affect our vacation. We stayed away from sports talk, which is easy for us, and enjoyed the beautiful beaches, delicious lobster and plentiful ice cream.

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