I ran from New Jersey for New York City at breakneck speed in my childhood dreams, driving through the Soho art scene on sleepy Sunday mornings on our way to visit my cousins in the outer boroughs. I looked at the thin people and the black outfits with my nose almost pressed to the glass of our large green Chrysler and wondered about possibilities and future while my father smoked Marlboros and cursed at the other drivers, my mother gently reminding him we had just left church.
By the time I was older New York and eventually Brooklyn became mine. I was initiated by born and bred Manhattanites from fancy art families as well as the respected, dirty bohemians who definitely "got me" in a way that no one at home ever had.
At first I actually avoided the glitz of the city, eventually I succumbed to the dream. It included Balthazar pastries and a fire escape for smoking and watching the traffic pass on Lafayette. The street was loud in the morning with trucks and late in the evening Soho bodegas were kind of sub par, but whatever, you learned to get by. It's not like you couldn't get a ginger candy or at least four decent types of beer and some Nutella. The love of this place waxed and waned, as did the height and color of my hair, and so did my income. Dreams came and went, some were realized and some were not, but all of it within this strip of America hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy.
I can speak Jersey and New York F-ing City in a way that most transient and jetset folks can only imagine. I can tell you about the Jersey Shore before it became a reality TV show. And yes, I can sing to you many, many lines of old Springsteen songs, especially the dark ones from The River. I can tell you how we went to the edge of the Atlantic after prom or how, when I was quite small my mother, on her days off, took us to the beach as often as possible, jumping and diving into waves like vibrant, young mothers and their babes only can, in loving abandon. I can tell you the taste of a seabass and the pleasure in catching them. I can tell you about my first Long Island boyfriend and how we drove around in his Jeep on the beaches out by Montauk.
And no, I don't want to hear your comments about the Turnpike, or how it's like the Sopranos or what exit I lived off of. I don't even want to hear you make fun of Staten Island right now. I want you to understand that I know this place and I love this place from tip to tail and that's why what I'm about to say is valid from that heartfelt perspective. Not for nothing, I don't need you to agree with me. I just need you to have ears.
And all I want you to hear is that you should not live as we live. We are good people and we live cheek to jowl, which can be trying but we do OK most of the time. We are the old part of this new world and we are sagging. We rate lowest in green innovation and we rate highest in corruption. Imagine that you're some new age pilgrims and we're your old, smelly Europe. Look to us for history, love us for our perseverance and our culture, but don't you dare build your cities on coal and oil anymore. Give up your graft and give up your televisions. Learn to live with less not because some politician says you should while he lines his already thick pockets but because it makes you stronger when the lights go out. They've gone out in Louisiana and Arkansas before, they've gone out in Oklahoma and lots of places that have suffered natural disasters and still no one wants to listen until it happens to them, in the places they love. Well, some people listen, but they don't want to say too much. No one likes to blather on and be seen as self-righteous.
I could say so much more about what you can learn from our current state of shock and suffering. I will say that I'm embarrassed it has taken us this long to wake up and that maybe this is why I have left and traveled the country so much these last few years. And yes, maybe that's why I came home and was so proud to be part of the Occupy Movement despite some of the problems inherent in anything "mass."
I know the future is sustainable, resillient and beautiful. I know the steps it will take to get there include pain and frustration. So, what? Deal with it. So, take your Snooki and her crew and stuff them into your thinking caps and question why you want to think that's true and we should wonder why we want you to think its true, because really...it never was. That's not to say we don't have guidos and that they didn't sometimes taunt me in high school from their b*tchin' Camaros, but the time for you to critically asses your leadership and your addiction to all things mainstream: energy, media, food, shopping, etc. should happen now.
Tonight I have just spoken to you like I'd speak to a really old friend when no one was listening or some guy on the street trying to hustle me 'cause he thinks I'm a tourist. Now you're as much a Jersey Girl or a Brooklyn Baby, or a Bowery Lost Soul as anyone else. So, tell me: What are you gonna do about it? Are you going to sit there and think it's all OK or are you going to change the world and make it OK? Are you going to cry about gas rations or find a way to build your own solar charger for just these types of moments? Are you going to plan to mine Mars and the Moon like the gods of politrix or are you going to root your dreams firmly on planet Earth with the rest of the global population suffering from our insane need for 12oz plastic bottles? Seriously, peoples, are you going to hide in your houses and expect that it's all cool? Well, don't. That's stupid.
For anyone I've offended. I really am sorry, and I really can't help you. Tomorrow we'll return to our regularly scheduled author, the one who speaks like a tree-hugging hippie philosopher, the one who meditates and tries to appeal to your soft, inner shell. She'll say something like, love will find a way, in some amorophously kumbaya manner and that will make her and her readers feel really exalted over their glasses of fine red wine and well-pulled espressos. In the meantime, if I've pissed you off, good. I'm pissed off at all of us for letting it get this far. This evening I had to stare a child in the eyes and answer her questions "Why is Mother Nature mad at us?" and "Is God punishing us?" and despite giving her amorophous kumbaya answers what I really wanted to say was "No, honey, no one's punishing us, we're punishing ourselves" and "We're failing to take personal responsiblity so we'd rather pretend we're God's little puppets instead of his fierce, gorgeous creatures"
~thank you for dealing with me in a fit of grief