Big Smoke

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

Angela Carter was right

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Hell, cities have entire personas. Paris is a beautiful woman in her late 40s, once divorced and too smart and self-assured to enter another marriage, but is not against having relations with men on her own terms. New York is a barrel-chested Black transvestite in his early 40s, bombastic and highly theatrical, who doesn’t take shit from anybody. New York and Paris are friends, because of fucking course they are. Paris says some offensive shit sometimes, but New York is used to it and brushes it off as from a person who doesn’t change and can’t harm by it, and while New York openly steals Paris’ fashion choices, so too does Paris from New York, though she would never admit it.

London, eldest of the three and perhaps the most stodgy, yet often invites New York to inject life to his parties. They are business partners, after all, and while the witticisms of New York are almost ad verbatim borrowed by London in other settings, it is indeed London who set New York up in business in the first place. The relationship is far more mutual than that of, say, Chicago, who obsesses over all things New York minus, notably, the “Black” and “transvestite” part. London doesn’t care about such things, so long as the money flows, and indeed they have fruitful dealings and amicably compete over other London proteges, the brothers Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore.

It is an absolutely subjective observation to ascribe personalities to cities, but it shouldn’t and indeed can’t possibly be controversial to suggest that cities exude a form of cultural zeitgeist that defines and differentiates them – from the banal “standing in line” versus “standing on line” to far more deep-seated issues concerning acceptable norms and tolerances pertaining to them – and with that it’s less a form of accurate depiction as it is a narrative that penetrates to the core. How, after all, does a city where the gay rights movement was launched with a street fight between cops and minority transsexuals (a circumstance that Los Angeles attempted to whitewash, but Los Angeles always was a hater), that founded a musical genre and cultural movement named after submissive male prostitution and oozes gender and sexual fluidity (a distinction London completely missed when copying it, natch), whose most famous mayor’s sexual orientation was left intentionally vague, end up producing our current Commander in Chief, who is almost diametrically opposed to all of that: A crude, incurious, insecure, jealous womanizer?

It’s no surprise Trump hates New York – he seems hell-bent on destroying everything about it, in whole and in detail – but it is a surprise that people are surprised that New York hates Trump, a native son. That’s where the personality comes in: New York is well-adjusted and confident, but that doesn’t mean New York is secure in his position. New York is a savvy businessman, a ruthless pirate, a firebrand intellectual, sometimes broke and often lonely. New York is in love with himself because nobody else is, but New York also brokers straight deals with aplomb and has affairs everywhere. New York is always of two faces, between two realities, where even doctrinaire Marxists learn to hustle; where Know-Nothings share neighborhoods with new migrants who then become Know-Nothings;¬†the only city in America where women have a harder time in the dating scene than men because men are intimidated by aggressive, professional women.

That duality pervades everywhere: Where a law and order mayor can show up in drag one day on a lark (and be promptly molested by Donald Trump), where hoodrat nightclubs that are responsible for fully half the murders in the area have at least one gay night a week, despite a self-reporting localized gay population of less than two percent, and it’s by far the most lucrative night. Where doctors working for the CDC have to ask very specific questions to macho, ultra-masculine alphas who don’t think they’re homosexual¬†so long as they’re giving, not receiving. Where a meat market specializing in one gender by night lends its street frontage by day for butt-augmenting lingerie for the other gender, right on the main strip in a heavily-Catholic sleepy residential neighborhood. New York encompasses all types, and does it in full stride while heading to the office, laughing along with the stupid, misogynistic jokes just so the deal can be struck. New York needs to make that face in order to conduct his business with the world, has made peace with that understanding – London taught him well – but carries on without giving a fuck with the rest of his life.

Trump is at times that face, and that face is what some see New York as, but New York is not that face. New York has many faces for business: Among equals, New York had Morgan, Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Bloomberg. New York invented Trump to fleece the rubes, the schmucks – after all, New York wants an empire, and you don’t get an empire by playing nice or fair – but Trump was never meant for New York. A city whose arguably best mayor was called Little Flower, who accepts all and embodies all, who is more than a little dirty and likes it that way, while still emanating class and rarified distinction: This city understands the use of masks because it has to, it always had to; even those of arrogant bullies, but that arrogance drawn inwards simply cannot be. It can be sloughed off and discarded when it has lost its use.

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