Archive for December 9th, 2017

Where Santas Crawl And Elves Chunder

“The word is world!” Orson shouted at her.
“I said world!” she shouted back.
“Speak as though you came from New York,” he told her.
“I did come from New York. How does one from New York speak?”
“Not the way you speak!”
“Why should I talk like someone special?”
“Because you are.”
“Yes, but I don’t want you to be conscious of it.”

—Orson Welles and Eartha Kitt, in rehearsal for Time Runs

New York City is known for many things. Among these, and fatally, as the demonic cesspool out of which slouched Mongo. The place has always been cursed, which is why the Lenape were content to let it go for a handful of beads. But neither they, the purchasing Dutch, or even H. P. Lovecraft, could conceive that it would one day prove such a hellpit it would belch forth the most hideous beast in all creation. But it did.

Which is why, in the fullness of time, it shall be drained of all its human inhabitants. They will leave in a long and winding stream of refugees; possessions piled high on wooden carts, strapped firmly to their backs. As behind them officials of the Department Of Shame set about demolishing the entirety of the city. All works therein of human hands shall be ground into dust. The city shall be returned to the wild, and it will stay that way. The only human-crafted object to remain shall be a small plaque containing the words of Mongo’s mother: “What kind of son have I created?” Forever shall it stand as an otherwise mute monument, to What Can Happen.

But that is in the future. (Though it won’t be long now/it won’t be long.) Here, today, in the present, New York City, it is ground zero for the strange holiday ritual of SantaCon, which involves dressing up like Santa Claus, going out into the streets, and then drinking the alcohol, until there is the puking.

Such, such, are the humans.



Suffragette City

Ten years from now, do you think we’ll be talking about where we were when Al Franken announced he was resigning from the Senate?

You never can tell.

It was a historic moment that had virtually nothing to do with Franken himself. In the grand cavalcade of sexual assault charges we’ve been hearing lately, his list—from fanny-gropes to tongue-thrusts—is appalling but pretty minor league. And the picture of Franken feeling up the well-protected breasts of a sleeping colleague on a tour could have been subtitled “Portrait of a Comedian Who Does Not Suspect He’ll Ever Run for Senator.”

Franken was a good politician, and many Democrats hoped he might grow into a presidential candidate. But it was his destiny to serve history in a different way. He was caught up in a rebellion of epic proportion, one that was not just about unwanted groping but a whole new stage in the movement of women into the center of public life.

For most of the long span of Western civilization, they were consigned to the home. (Back in the 1860s, the A. T. Stewart Dry Goods Store in New York City installed a ladies’ restroom in what was possibly the first acknowledgment that respectable women might be outside their homes long enough to need to go to the bathroom.) A century ago they won the right to vote, but it didn’t come attached to the right to walk down the sidewalk alone.

Over the last 50 years or so, the rules about a woman’s place were shattered. It’s still hard to appreciate how vast the change was. It began at a time when, in many states, jury duty was regarded as an inappropriate task for women since it would take them away from their housework. They almost never worked in the outside world unless they were too poor and desperate to stay in their proper place.

Now we live in a world where men who were hoping to hand over their business to the next generation, or maybe have a doctor in the family, look at their new baby girl without a shred of disappointment. I saw all this happen, and it knocks me out whenever I think about it.


When I Worked

December 2017
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