Happy New Year 2012 to my Facebook world. I decided to wish you all the Latino version in order to pay tribute to the community within which I dwell in New York City! This posting is not going to address all the hopes and dreams we might have for the new year; instead I’m doing a reality check, based on what I observe every day in Spanish Harlem.
First, I have to say that I am very thankful for the opportunity to be closer to my family and long-time friends here in the city. I am also thankful for all my Oregon friends whom I miss very much. Thank you for a wonderful 22 years, wherever you are. Your stamp on my life is indelible, and I look forward to seeing you again in the future.
Reality check #1 – Yesterday, December 31, 2011, was a strange and interesting day here in New York. The strangeness took place as I walked up Broadway from 34th St. towards Times Square, only to find the weirdest combination of people. If you don’t know, 3 Card Monte is a “scam” game that is played on top of a cardboard box. The person running the game keeps switching three playing cards around, and the player needs to keep a close watch to see where the Queen ends up (maybe not always the Queen). Of course you pay money to see if you can beat the house. No one ever wins! I played it many years ago and was positive I knew where the Queen was – in the nick of time the guy switched it, because he saw that I was watching so carefully. I lost $10.00 but it can be so addicting that a player can lose much more. So all of these guys had their boxes set-up and another guy watching out for the police (it is illegal). Tourists galore were engaging in this ridiculous form of gambling, while they lost some of their vacation money. I am sure the guys running the games needed the money – a sad commentary on our society. I imagine they consider themselves part of the 99%!
Reality check#2 – Twice yesterday I heard people say that “come January 1, nothing will be different. People will still be doing the same crap they are doing now.” Are we deluding ourselves each year when the date changes? I think this comment embraces why the Occupy events took place all over the world – even though I didn’t know what could be accomplished at the time. I protested during the Vietnam War, marched on Washington, attended sit-ins and today I am not sure what was accomplished by my actions.
I want to stay “half-full” in a world made up of “half-empties” or even “empties.” People up here in Harlem are angry; you can see and hear it every day. They yell at each other on their phones, in person and most conversations are about money and relationships (it’s hard not to eavesdrop). Stress is abundant and I’m not sure what anyone, including our government, can do about it.
So reality checks aside, the revelry last night in Times Square (which I only witnessed on the tube) was fun to watch but was of course, fleeting. All that is left is the myriad of confetti and garbage. What can be done to change the hardships for the masses; very little I think, but we can help change it for the people we come in contact with every day. We can say hello to people on the street and change their view of city people as being unfriendly. We can pay for someone’s coffee and danish at a food cart. We can look someone in the eye on the subway and smile, acknowledging their existence. We can affect someone every day so they go home feeling a little more worthwhile in their own world. What we cannot do is expect any one human being in power of the greatest country in the world to do it for us. It is just impossible.