Wednesday, July 06, 2005

'The Apple'

The city is not that fun. It makes my muscles tense and makes me nervous. There are bad smells and a suffocating musky heat that penetrates my whole being... And the people all look at me like they’re predators and I am some kind of prey or victim. And they too are all permeated with the musky sweaty heat. They all look like they’re in some kind of perpetual distress. The whole city roars of these people, scurrying around in what seems like a heightened sense of urgency. I compare it to one of those all-you-can-eat buffets where people hurry around to make sure they get all the good food before someone else does, only on a city-wide massive scale. But I’m here for a couple of days, so might as well venture around a little more. This is all part of the rat race I guess–the dance of survival in the city.

As I arrive near the center of the city, I come upon a large, dried out water fountain occupied by a group of wild, scary looking shirtless men. They look up from what they're doing and eye me with their red, glassy demonic eyes–like I’m their next meal or something. I watch the leader at the very top for any indication that I should run. His eyes bore into mine for any sign of fear or disrespect. They’re postured around this fountain like a congress of cannibalistic baboons from the darkest jungles of Africa. I make it past without incident–barring a cold sweat.

A few blocks away a gang of six ruffians approach at 12 0’clock. They’re different; these guys are on the hunt. The man in front wearing a too-tight holey tee-shirt stands out as the boss. His eyes never meet mine, but rather darts from left to right and straight through me like I’m not there. He has decided to pass me up. But the others watch me, ready to pounce if I make any false move, like a troop of battle monkeys from the deepest regions of the Amazon. These are the wild and untamed of the city.

On the subway, two teenage gang bangers carry sticks and tout their authority, and make it clear to all those around that to mess with them would mean a nasty painful death involving their sticks and the most delicate of body parts—what a bunch of nuts!

As night approaches, the subways become empty. But there is a man in this tunnel standing in my path, swinging a bat. I proceed without hesitation, knowing that any signal of weakness would provoke his ultimate intention. With my hands in my pockets, I contort my face, avoid eye contact, and make like a battle monkey boss. I maintain my course forcing him to swing around me, trusting my instincts that my ruse will be enough to convince the man not to swing at my head; for fear I may be packing a far more dangerous threat to him. I’m brave and never look back. I survive.

The subway tunnel is dark, and narrows as I approach the exit steps to the streets above. Just before the exit, a figure appears in the darkness under the steps. It scarcely stands, teetering from left to right, then advances to a cross-section of shallow light. And with a deep croaking voice, it asks if I want a sexual favor… In the dim light, half buried in musty shadows, I can just make out a pale, gaunt, oily, disease ridden 85 pound crack whore with greasy strands of matted hair caked on a balding sore infested scaly head. She looks like she died three days ago. And a smell that could wake the dead—maybe that’s what happened… I make for a hasty exit followed by a chill up my spine. These are the parasitic lowlife’s of the under-city.

Back above the under-city, the streets are still crowded at night. I pass a large muscular Guardian Angle dressed in full military gear. He stands motionless with his back against a wall, gripping a short leash attached to a spiked collar and an alert, well trained pit-bull—to remind me that I’m not safe on the city streets at night. This man could take out six normal men in ten seconds without having to think.

Further away from the crowds, I contemplate a right turn down a quiet, unlit street. Only my instincts give me pause… And suddenly, as to confirm my doubts, an undercover detective passes quickly without slowing his pace, and while barely moving his mouth and without acknowledging my presence, he secretly warns me, “Don’t go down that street.” The hairs on my body stand up on end as I feel a shudder of fear and a sense of a profound evil looming down that street. The undercover cop or whoever he was has vanished. I make like a spooked ghost and retreat back to my hotel room. The man may have indeed saved my life… These are the protectors of the city.

Up above the streets, in the towers, are people with more developed communication skills–the workers. The workers cover the widest spectrum, from the vast array of legitimate services, to the soldiers of organized crime. These are people who come together in the most ethnically and culturally diverse city on the continent. They come from every corner of Earth to meet with opportunity at the hotbed of worldly activity—and create the pluralistic pulse that keeps New York City alive and strong. They sacrifice the peace and quiet of the suburbs for a chance at wealth and prosperity for their children. They deal with the animals and lowlifes on a daily basis—they improvise, adapt and overcome. These are the life-blood of New York City, the life-blood of the Big Apple.

My visit to New York City was eventful, but nothing like it would have been if I stayed a while longer. Not long after my visit, the Twin Towers were toppled by the tyranny of terrorists. The target was the symbol of prosperity, and the life-blood of the city. The objective: To terrorize. The result: Complete and utter failure.

New York City is tough. Hardened by its perpetual metamorphosis—its unique ability to continually digest and nourish constant change and diversity—it has prepared its people to handle the worst of adversity. The pulse of New York City, strengthened by a unique union of both liberal and conservative elements, allows its life-blood to tolerate, or decimate any threat that shows its unsightly head. But the terrorists are just now realizing their mistake…They simply picked the wrong Apple, in the wrong Garden, at the wrong time…

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