If hell exists, it borrows heavily from New York City in the summertime. The unescapable humid heat that is magnified on the sidewalks and amplified in the subways, the crowded aggravation of our crumbling infrastructure, and the general unrest that foments rage where there might normally be annoyance or resignation, are the central ingredients of our sulphuric summer stew.
New York goes into its Independence Day holiday in the midst of one of its heat waves. The general state of the country only adds to the humid misery, with half the country protesting and demonizing the other half at light-speed intervals, new Internet outrages generated almost by the hour. It’s a dizzying spiral downward in civil discourse that fuels a blanket disgust made more maddening by temperatures that bake an already exhausted brain.
This work week is interrupted by our Independence Day holiday on July 4. Imagine putting up with all the outrages of national politics today but without air conditioning and in wool clothes, and you’ll see why the colonies revolted. In New York City today, our country’s divided politics are writ large across the city. People who once enjoyed vibrant conversation on the state of affairs skip such conversations; it doesn’t pay to engage in civil discourse, even on a personal level.
This week we will get through our work week, hoping it will be easier with so many people using the holiday for vacation. The trains will be a little less crowded, the traffic a little lighter and the sidewalks will be blazing hot but not quite as mobbed. Tourists will walk downtown past where George Washington was inaugurated (New York City was America’s first capital).
Sometimes, even though I appreciate air conditioning, I have a moment when I leave a heavily air conditioned building and feel a sense of relief and satisfaction at feeling the blanket of humid heat cover me when I step outside. It is good to feel the real world on your skin, to embrace reality no matter how unpleasant, because that’s what we are destined to do.
That is part of our story. New York gives its residents all four seasons at full blast. You will be hot, you will be cold, you will feel the full force of nature’s fury and blessings, sometimes within the same month. On the first day of Spring, New York City had a snowstorm. I would have gladly endured many more if it meant we would be spared the stifling heat of the summer months, but I knew better than to think we’d have such a lucky trade.
The crucible of summer in New York makes for stronger New Yorkers and spurs our innovation, our creativity, and our own more quiet revolution. Some of us will “embrace the suck” as the military puts it, and barrel through the overheated times with a gimlet eye towards the future.
Our destiny means we move through this overheated season with a desire to embrace the heat, to dive into the fevered truth that others work hard to avoid or shout down. The hot weather will pass, and we cannot huddle in the air conditioning forever. We have nothing to do but have pride in ourselves as New Yorkers and live summer to the fullest.
There’s been a lot of discussion in the news of recent political violence in this country. Scuffles have broken out at political rallies between protesters and supporters of rival candidates. Protests have gotten ugly. The overwhelming majority of Americans deplore violence of all kinds.
We’ll have no shortage of political ugliness in New York. Some of it has already gotten under way in earnest. But our Gotham is full of human abominations that people of all political affiliations can agree ought to be subjected to swift and brutal physical punishment on sight. Here is a catalog of the top five worthy subjects:
People who stand on the left side of the escalator. Sometimes people don’t realize that they have committed this infraction and there are people who come to New York from parts of the world where escalators are rare (watching Haitians attempt to board an escalator at JFK airport was an eye-opening experience), and they are usually sensible enough to move aside when you say “excuse me.” But some people think that an escalator is an amusement park ride, and they ought to have some common sense and manners beaten into them frequently and without mercy.
People who read their smartphone, kindle or book while walking. You can see these zombies a mile away and each one of them thinks they are the rare exception that can pull it off and not be that plodding imbecile impeding the progress of our precious Gotham. They are wrong. Trample them underfoot. They are not fit to live here.
People who use public transit seats for their luggage. Unless your purse or backpack paid $2.75 to ride this crowded bus or subway, let it sit on the floor or on your lap, or else you will find a host of volunteers willing to cram it up your ass.
Cyclists who ride on sidewalks, run red lights and ride on the wrong side the road. It is never these rancid, entitled brats who are dragged to their deserved deaths by garbage trucks or city buses, but it should be. If I’d go to jail for doing it with a car, don’t you dare try it with a bicycle. What’s most galling is when they yell at pedestrians to get out of their way as they are preparing to run a red light.
People who listen to music or watch videos in public spaces without earphones. Some people are not content speaking on their cell phones in theaters, they want to bring the theater experience with them and everyone within earshot. Simply inform these people that their earphones must be broken since you can hear their sports event/Chinese soap opera/rap mix tape, etc. If they don’t get to the hint, see to it that their devices and jaw is broken as well.
Can we all get along? Yes, we can all agree that some people need to learn some manners. New Yorkers can unite around these common enemies.