Big Smoke

'cause it's hard to see from where I'm standin'



I was public schooled all my life and didn’t have terribly defined a concept of money or class (except as this abstract other, identified by talking heads on television who liked to go on about the elder George Bush) as much as I did creed or culture – as while not everything people did was legal, everybody understood that to make money they had to work – until I started playing violin in the All-City Orchestra run for kids in public schools sometime during my stint in IS 44. Thing is, the rehearsals were held in the basement of some school on the Upper East Side.

At the time, I was getting a crash course in school in the Upper West Side, commuting in from Washington Heights, on street smarts, and instantly I recognized that such did not exist on the East Side. Getting to the East Side by bus brought me in direct contact with this foreign entity – this alien – that wore uniforms and prattled on about things that even my young mind knew were trivial at best. People to whom riding the bus was passe and heading to the West Side was slumming it and just a little salacious. They and I were separate. They did not see me, or they saw me like they saw the rest of the people on the bus: The Staff. I felt the burn of frustration that they would never open their eyes to the world because they would never have to open their eyes to the world.

I had stumbled upon a world that was so insular as to be almost totally encapsulated – bastion against the dirty, loud, belching mass of humanity as we know it. Indeed, any neighborhood that could support and maintain a storefront that sold nothing but music boxes was clearly on a plane of its own. I had come in contact with Preppies. Kids who would soon discover (and agree with) Ayn Rand, completely misinterpret poverty – having ensured that the last time they saw dirt was when their parents were at a groundbreaking ceremony and the last time they felt hunger was under the direct instruction of their personal nutritionists – and otherwise be the snobbish boors that we all know and hate except that they’ll never figure that out because we’re beneath their purview in every way.

In suburbia you don’t see it, or rather it doesn’t see you, for the entire development emphasizes the divide by socio-economic levels such that different classes rarely ever share the same space, let alone interact: Consciously so, to provide a release for those looking to escape the enforced melting pot of the city. In the city this is attempted – my bike messengering days had me barred from the main entrances to office buildings in Midtown and the Financial District because I didn’t look like them and they didn’t want to see me, because to do so would acknowledge that not only did I exist, but that I was as human as they were – but the fundamental Truth of the city is that it cannot be contained (and, indeed, the history of New York reads like one long attempt by the aristocracy to escape the grasping claws of the masses) and as such the willful ignorance of their surroundings makes these creatures – these preppies – all the more astonishing.

I went to LaGuardia High School, behind the institutions of Juilliard and the New York Philharmonic, the cruel joke that these people that went the high-minded route of such institutions were mere entertainment for Them; at best interesting freaks for having spent their lives – practicing six hours a day since age four – honing a craft to suprahuman levels so that they may be adopted as the culture of the rich, provided they didn’t try too hard to exceed certain boundaries; made all the more painful because you could see said elite, and they could see you and what they said was that you were the cutest object ever: So charming and well-spoken…

Or to some it up, I saw this article in the Village Voice.

And I agree completely.

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