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gentrifying yuppie scumbags

this one goes out to the brave hero on the subway who stopped the homeless man from peeing in a bottle.

i’ll get there. it may take a while.

i like my neighborhood in new york city. it’s called inwood. for those of you who have a vision of manhattan as nothing but tall buildings and wide streets, you’d be surprised to see my area of manhattan, which is tall not buildings, but tall trees.

acres and acres of trees. the top of the island is nothing but mostly undeveloped woods, with a lot of dirt trails, caves, cliffs, wildlife (including bald eagles), and i live right on the edge of it. i have parks on two sides of my apartment building, so i wake up each morning, look out the window at nothing but trees and listen to birds singing and squirrels chattering.

well, actually, i get up to go to work before the sun comes up, so i don’t see anything but pitch black nothing, but you get the idea.

i like my neighborhood just like it is, which is why i moved here. people included. it’s mostly a dominican population, which has somewhat replaced the mostly irish neighborhood which preceded it, and i like the cool culture mix that gives the neighborhood. there’s still vestiges of the irish around (the neighborhood bar is called the piper’s kilt), but most of the businesses are geared toward the dominicans, which i think is great. i’ve learned to appreciate a lot of cool new foods, and i’ve tried to assimilate into the existing neighborhood rather than having it adapt to me.

in other words, i’m not ethnocentric in my own backyard.

so, brave hero. i’m riding the subway, the a line, the last stop of which is 211 st., which is my stop. i told you i was at the very top of manhattan. anyway, it’s an express train, which means that it goes from 59th street to 125th street without stopping, on its way up to 211. we’re in that long stretch where the train doesn’t stop, and i’m reading a book about eleanor of aquitaine and minding my own damn business, when this guy next to me, who is accompained by his wife/girlfriend/person-he-needs-to-impress, jumps up and starts yelling at this homeless guy.

the homeless guy is minding his own damn business except that he has to pee, and has gone to the corner, turned his back to everyone, and is trying to pee in a bottle.

now, if you don’t live in new york, you may at this point be horrified at this man peeing in public into a bottle on the subway. but stick with me here. if you are homeless in new york, the logistics of peeing is something you have to deal with on a daily basis. um, you don’t have a home, so you can’t pee there. businesses and restaurants won’t allow you in the door, so you can’t use their bathrooms. and there are no public restrooms in new york, at least not very many. so, as a homeless person, you are pretty much dehumanized every time you have to take a leak.

i hate to even think about when you have to go, but it ain’t peeing.

at any rate, most homeless people end up peeing on the stairs of the subway or in the corner on the platform, or just some corner on the street, which is right on the ground. that’s why so many people’s memory of their new york vacation was “the whole place smelled like pee.” except that most tourists don’t stray far from times square anyway, so maybe that’s not their memory. but that’s another story.

granted, he was peeing on the subway. but at least he was peeing into a bottle, with his back turned in the corner and all, which tells me that somewhere in his perhaps-suffering mind (an awful lot of homeless people are people who would be institutionalized, except that reagan turned them out into the streets and no one has done much for crazy people who are poor ever since) he retained a vestige of humanity.

just trying to get along. ain’t we all.

but here comes yuppie scum hero to the rescue of all our sensibilities. he jumps up, runs over to the guy, and says, “hey you can’t do that here! what’s the matter with you! there are people around!” on and on, red-faced, totally berating the guy, yelling at him in this hotheaded way, except from about four feet away so as to not actually have to be that close to a homeless guy. and then, the kicker. he yells at the guy, “just wait ’till the next stop, and get off the train and pee. or go between the cars.” so there we have it. he doesn’t care about the guy, he doesn’t care about the city smelling like pee, he’s doing nothing constructive to solve the problem. he can pee all he wants, just not where yuppie scum man has to see it and realize that the world ain’t perfect. nimby. not in my back yard.

i can maybe see where you wouldn’t want the guy peeing in front of your wife/girlfriend/person-you-need-to-impress, if you were straight and filled with ego and had some warped idea of chivalry or whatever. but why can’t yuppie scum man just go up to the guy and say “hey buddy, please don’t do that here, if you don’t mind. my wife/girlfriend/person-i-need-to-impress is here.” which would have gotten the same reaction–the guy stops peeing and gets off at the next stop. you’ve accomplished the same thing, but your well-fed, well-dressed self hasn’t dehumanized a homeless guy who is trying to cling to some scrap of human existence.

personally, the guy as far as i’m concerned can pee wherever he damn well pleases, which i understand makes me in a sense uncaring about peeing man and the city as well, but i think to a lesser degree, and degrees matter.

so, mission accomplished for yuppie scum man. he sits down proudly, with a beatific and self-satisfied smile on his face, having vanquished his foe. to her credit, his female companion was suitably horrified. i don’t know whether she felt sorry for the homeless guy, or was just afraid of getting attacked by a crazy homeless person (which, sad to say, is a reality and probably a common-sense reason to let the damn guy pee). but nothing was stopping him in his quest to make all america safe for blushing flower-women and spineless city dwellers who won’t stand up for themselves in the face of widespread peeing. he continued his self-congratulatory conversation all the way uptown.

all the way to my fucking stop.

whereupon yuppie scum man number two approaches yuppie scum man one, and says “thanks, man, i wish more people would make a stand.” which of course, in the mind of yuppie scum man one, completely validates everything he did.

i really wanted to let him have it, and in some ways i wish i had. but that would make me no better and no less judgemental than he was, and i didn’t want that. perhaps yuppie scum man one (and for that matter yuppie scum man two) had some traumatic peeing event in childhood. who knows. besides, just as his female companion was perhaps afraid of getting attacked by a crazy homeless person, i was a bit afraid of getting attacked by a testosterone-filled yuppie scumbag on a roll. god knows he wouldn’t have actually deigned to touch the homeless guy, but i am well-scrubbed and don’t have the air of someone who pees in a bottle on a subway car, so he’d touch me with his fist without thinking. probably.

and, of course, these people get off at my stop. these people live in my neighborhood. these people no doubt patronize the new bistro where the entrees are $20. i’m sure they attack things that make my neighborhood so unlike the upper west side, because if they could just get rid of what they consider to be unsightly, they could then live in the upper west side except with cheaper rent, except that then the rent would go up and no one who lived in the neighborhood could afford to live here anymore and they’d all move out, leaving the neighborhood for the yuppie cloned scumbags.

and these people, no doubt, would be the first to be laugh at “tacky american tourists going to mcdonalds in paris” while traveling in europe. ethnocentrism ain’t just two weeks a year on vacation.

i’m assuming a lot. maybe i’m as bad as the dehumanizing yuppie scumbag. maybe he just had a bad day. who knows. but i do know that actions speak loudly, and are often indicative of the true bent of a person’s mind, and can be truly representative and an accurate metaphor. i think, in this case, it is.

all i do know is that i try to take my city, my neighborhood and its inhabitants for what they are, learn from the variety that’s here, and try to keep perspective.

i don’t live in peoria, and i don’t want to live in peoria.

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