Tuesday, December 20, 2005
I can't believe this is happening.
For the first time in 25 years, New York City has been hit with a transit strike--with just five days till Christmas. It's freezing cold and I am hearing reports of people walking over the Brooklyn Bridge.
I can only thank God that my company is allowing me to work from home, though I'd feel a little better if I heard from someone at the office. I just called now and the phone rang 20 times before I hung up.
From what I hear on the news reports, people seem to be coping, at least for the moment. As this strike wears on, though, our nerves will be tested.
I hate this nonsense. I can't believe the idiots on both sides of the table are leaving 7 million people on the hook like this. I have always supported labor unions and I always will, but this is not the way to win popular support.
I save my true contempt, though, for the MTA, an organization that nearly rivals the mafia in its secret deals and illegal operations. It is a blend of a private corporation and a municipal agency that brings out the worst of both.
The MTA must be demolished, its members must be banished to Tierra del Fuego, and then we'll do it right this time.
And then, of course, there's George Pataki. What can be said about this walking empty suit? He's a bonehead, an incompentent, a Republican lap dog who will let the people of New York City walk themselves to death before he'll even think about helping them? Why, yes, to all of the above.
This schmuck actually thinks he has a shot at the White House, so while his flunkies were at that bargaining table, our gutless governor was bouncing all over the map trying to drum up support for a presidential run. If ego were brains he'd be a Phd.
This strike brings back bad memories for me. It makes me think of New York in the Seventies, when the city was a graffiti-covered hellhole, with crime in the streets, garbage piled up on every corner and a different city service going out on strike every other week.
As a kid I remember seeing an editorial cartoon in the Daily News that put labor leader Victor Gotbaum's head on the body of an octopus that was choking the life out of the city. No one ever said the News was subtle.
You Talkin' to Me?
It's the kind of material Neil Simon used in his plays, only it wasn't very funny if you had to live in the middle of it. I hated that New York. I was younger then, confused and angry, and I felt so small and vulnerable. New York was the butt of jokes on the Tonight Show and it seemed like we were going to sink in a tide of filth and blood.
It was the world of Travis Bickle, the psychotic star of Taxi Driver, which I recently watch again on DVD. The memories of that old New York made my blood run cold.
Things started to pick up in the Eighties and when I moved back here in the Nineties, I could barely recognize the place. Times Square, Times Square, was actually a tourist destination. That was unthinkable back in the Seventies, when it was hookers, pimps, and junkies ruling the crossroads of the world.
I remember one time while I was in college walking through there on a Sunday afternoon and seeing a brawl break out at a three-card monte game.
A middle-aged white guy thought he had been cheated and, as he chased after one black guy, another stepped out of the crowd and bashed the angry white male across the ribs with a large umbrella.
The white guy spun around when he got hit, but he didn't seem to be hurting that much. He stood out in the middle of the street in broad daylight and shouted "I'll fuckin' kill ya!" at one or both of the black guys. It was sign of utter lawlessness that was shocking, but not terribly surprising.
And that's back in the day when Grand Central Terminal, my favorite New York location, was a huge marble toilet. On a winter night mobs of homeless people would skulk around hustling for change while everybody else got on or off their trains and got the hell out of there.
Today, Grand Central is tourist spot in its own right. There are restaurants and shops and you don't feel like your life is in danger if you walk in five minutes after rush hour ends.
Oh, God, I don't want to go back to those old days. I don't want the rest of the country to walk away from New York, thinking that we can't manage this city.
Please, everybody, let's end this thing and get New York back on track.