“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free…”
It’s ironic that that iconic phrase has stood as a welcome to immigrants coming to our country for more than a century. Because, last week, when I was a huddled mass, I kind of got the Donald Trump thing, even if just for a second.
Let’s start on Monday, December 28th at around noon. It was my day off. I decided to take a shower but, when I turned on the water, it never got hot. I called the super to tell him. I waited a few minutes. He knocked on the door in a pair of waders. I knew we were in trouble.
The building’s boiler had died. It had flooded the basement. There would be no hot water. There would be no heat. There would be no answers.
It started with an email from the building management company with the subject line, “Information!” and a slew of fantastic syntax errors.
“Our building boiler has over the weekend cracked”
I followed up with a question about time frames that was met, hours later, with another nearly incomprehensible email. It included a phone number for the super, a nice man who lives upstairs but doesn’t speak English particularly well. I called him to ask if he knew when our heat would turn back on. He told me that he had left a space heater outside my door. That. of course, was not what I asked.
Hours became days. Workers managed to get the hot water back on, but could not get us heat. For the first four days, this was not such a big deal. The temperature outside was in the 50’s. The building does a good job of retaining heat anyway. We were able to remain relatively comfortable by wearing sweatshirts and using some extra blankets.
Then, on day 6, the temperature dropped precipitously. The Wind Chills were in the teens. We were forced to leave the apartment. (Luckily, Danielle’s friend had left her her keys when she and her husband went on vacation. We had a place to stay. But it was in Queens. Not ideal.) All the while, I called the landlord. I called the super. I could not get a straight answer, mainly because they couldn’t really understand my questions and I couldn’t really understand their answers.
Finally, on Day 9, I had had enough. I had been out of my apartment for two days. I just wanted to be home. So, I was sitting on my couch, huddled under two blankets with the space heater sitting just inches from my legs. It was freezing. I called the landlord. Couldn’t get a straight answer. I called the super. Same deal. I walked down to the basement and asked one of the workers directly when he thought they would be finished. He looked me straight in the eye, gave me a heavily accented “sorry,” and literally ran away.
I was so angry, I decided to file a complaint with the city. I called 3-1-1. the New York City help line. The first person I reached listened to my situation. He laid out my options. He answered a few of the questions I had and, when he didn’t have an answer, transferred me to another operator who also spoke English clearly and properly and walked me through the process. And when I hung up, just for a split second, I had this thought: “Man, thank god they were Americans.”
I was so cold I had turned Republican! As my fingers and toes turned blue, my politics turned red.
At about 11 o’clock that night, the heat finally came back on. The building heated up overnight and by the next evening, everything was back to normal. The apartment was comfortable. The space heater was unplugged. My attitudes about freedom and immigration and potential border walls had returned to their default lefty setting. It turns out, its much easier to live in a melting pot when you have enough heat to actually melt that pot.
Happy New Year! What did you do on New Years Eve? We had a perfect evening. We went to dinner at 8PM at a place in the neighborhood. We were home at 9:30. Danielle fell asleep on the couch. I watched a documentary about Barney Frank.
Adrian Peterson by Greg Bishop
The Vikings star is such a difficult guy to wrap my head around. Part of this profile makes me want to like him. He spends time with sick children. His childhood was rocked by tragedy. He has made himself a leader of his team and has handled himself professionally following the child abuse indictment last year. He seems to be a good husband and son. And yet, he is not sorry. He refuses to acknowledge that he did anything wrong when he whipped his son with a tree branch. Its much easier to forgive someone who does something terrible and then says they’ve learned from it, even if you know they’re lying. Peterson has learned nothing. He feels no shame. He refuses to acknowledge wrongdoing in the face of incontrovertible evidence. He’s an enigma.
David Bowie by David Jones
I was shocked by how emotional I was when I woke up this morning and read that David Bowie had died. To be sure, I always liked Bowie. But, I was not a student of his work. I owned the same greatest hits album that everyone my age got when they had to pick out their 12 CD’s for a dollar from BMG in the mid-90’s. But, I never went any deeper than that. If you asked me to list my top 50 all time favorite artists, I don’t know that he would make the cut- not because he isn’t worthy, but because I don’t think he would even come to mind when i was making the list. And yet, I choked up while reading his obituary this morning.
Part of it was probably the sentiment, shared by many on Twitter, that Bowie gave “weird” kids the courage to be themselves. He was an unabashed weirdo who wore it proudly and made it cool. But, I wasn’t an outwardly weird kid. I didn’t dress strange or do wild things. You really had to get to know me before you figured out what an oddball I truly was.
In the end, I guess my reaction is a reflection of my own personal experiences. Two examples immediately came to mind. The first was the movie “Labrynth” in which Bowie played the villain. I watched the movie as a kid (at Dave Gillespie’s house.) And all I really remember is that he scared the fuck out of me. Most of the plot escapes me at this point, but what I do know was that Bowie played some kind of evil wizard who was trying to steal a baby. And he was scary. So, that’s the impression of David Bowie I took with me from childhood into adolescence, a crazy British baby stealing wizard.
In 7th or 8th grade, I got really into Stairway to Heaven. I listened to it all the time-simply could not get enough. As with most things at that age, my obsessions became my friend’s obsessions and vice versa. And so, one day, when Bshrek and I were playing video games in his bedroom, his father came in and gave us one of his old mix tapes. It had Stairway to Heaven on it, which was all we really cared about. But, there were other classic rock hits too. I think there were a few other Zeppelin songs. But, the one that really caught my attention was Space Oddity. It was like nothing I had ever heard before. It had sound effects. It was spacey as hell. It told a weird story. I was hooked. I think we added it to our song rotation. Stairway and then Space Oddity. Rinse and repeat. It was the soundtrack of the original NHL hockey on Genesis.
Also, I really like the song Heroes. I don’t know why. I’ve just always liked it a lot.