click here for pt 1
New York City is made up of five boroughs: Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, Staten Island, and of course Manhattan. When most people (except New Yorkers) picture New York, they picture Manhattan, big city of dreams and what not. When most people say they’ve been to New York, they’ve only been to Manhattan, did some shopping on 5th Avenue, caught a Broadway play or two, ate at a few eateries, slept in a nice hotel with a view of Times Square, snatched a peak at Ground Zero, and went home feeling they’ve had the NY experience.
I submit that if you’ve only been to Manhattan you haven’t experienced real New York, at all, and have only met a handful of real New Yorkers, at that. Because the vast majority of New Yorkers live outside of Manhattan and only venture there to work or hang out. There are people who actually live in Manhattan and don’t qualify, in my book, as New Yorkers.
Maggie was one of them.
She’d moved to New York a couple of years before I met her, lived in Chelsea (a rapidly gentrifying area at the time / fully gentrified currently) in a share with a roommate, and had only, to date, ventured as far north as North Central Park (below 110th Street-the beginning of Harlem) and as far south as Battery Park. She hadn’t even left Manhattan but a few times and most of those were to go to JFK (in Queens) to catch a flight to her home outside Chicago (she used to say) to visit her folks.
On our first date, while I was counting the seconds until I could get her back to her apartment and get my first taste of extra-racial loving, she’d explained, over Hot Dogs and Papaya drink at Gray’s Papaya (all my budget would provide,) that in two years in NY she’d had two boyfriends, and the most recent had been a black guy (which dashed all my thoughts of being her first experience).
“He was such a dud!”
I don’t remember his name but I’ll just call him Carlton, cuz how she’d described him sounded like the kind of guy Carlton from Fresh Prince of Belair would’ve grown up to be had he moved to New York…only not as funny. No wonder she’d lost interest in him.
“I mean, he had a great job and a lot of money. But, he didn’t like Hip Hop, he didn’t smoke grass, he didn’t do blow, he didn’t like to go clubbing, he didn’t …he didn’t live up to my image at all.”
“Yeah…” she said. “Black guys are supposed be cool, like you!”
I guess I was supposed to be flattered, to be typical, and I didn’t want anything to come between me and what the evening promised, so I said, “wow, thanks! You really think I’m cool?”
“Oh yeah! Definitely!”
“I don’t know what to say…”
She smiled, thinking she’d scored some cool points or something. “I had a black boyfriend back in Normal…Normal, Illinois, where I’m from. He was from Chicago, and he was sooooo cool!”
“How so?” I asked. I’d met one guy from Chicago via Los Angeles while I was in Basic Training. He claimed he was a Crip. At the time I knew very little about street gangs outside of NY, and the way he bragged about it I figured he was pulling my leg a little. The way he’d described them I figured wherever they were had to be 10 times as tough a place to live as Brooklyn. And, in my mind, no place on earth was “ill-er” than New York. This was just prior to the NWA (Niggaz With Attitudes) era when the world (meaning New Yorkers, meaning me) would find out just how ill Los Angeles really was / is.
“He was a DJ at a club on the South Side near the Lake, and he used to get me and my girlfriends in on the guest list. We all had black boyfriends…except my friend Beth. She thought black guys, you know, their things, were too big. Ha! She doesn’t know what she missed. (Smile- wink-wink!) Anyway, I really miss them…we used to have so much fun!”
I felt it was a good chance for a segue away from what I didn’t need to hear into what I really wanted to know so I asked, “why did you move to New York?”
“Well…” she began, and her face turned sour.
Leave it to Loco to open Pandora’s box with his intuitive and persistent thirst for knowledge through asking the most pernicious of questions: why. It’s been a staple in my conversational style since as long as I can remember. Searching for, almost instinctively, the question in hopes of obtaing the answer. Often it works to my benefit, though, so it had been positively reinforced into my character.
“My father…he…he didn’t like black people. No, to be honest, he HATES black people. He’s a real racist.”
“So, when I brought Malik…he was the DJ…I brought him to my house so we could…well he was my boyfriend…anyway, I thought my parents were going to be out of town, but they came home early. And, I was…I mean, they caught us, well, you know…”
“Damnnnnnn! That must have been rough,” I said, knowing I’d never have to go through that cuz I’d be damned if I’d ever go to Normal, Il. for any reason.
Maggie started crying, right into her papaya drink.
“Well, look on the bright side…” I said, to cheer her up…time was a-wasting. “At least he didn’t make you into a racist, right? I mean, look at you…you’ve had, to my count, two black boyfriends already, and working on a third. Just because your father is a racist bastard doesn’ t mean…”
“…My mother, too!” She cried out. “When my father was acting all crazy and saying all those awful things to Malik, she just stood there, nodding her head.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said. Sorry, but not surprised I realized.
“Anyway, after that they kinda threw me out. Told me if I wanted to…to sleep with black people, that I wasn’t going to do it under their roof. I loved Malik…and I wasn’t going to let them break us up. So, I moved in with Beth. She had her own place. Then, Malik told me he got a job as a DJ here in NY. I told him that I would come here to be with him as soon as he got settled. That was over two years ago. But, I never heard from him. I came here and stayed with my friend Karen. You’ll meet her. And, I went to look for him at that club…he’d told me the name: The Garage.”
“Really?” The Garage was getting pretty famous in New York. And the DJ, Larry Levan, probably could have been interested in a DJ from Chicago, since house music originated there. But the look on her face told me her tale wasn’t going that way.
“Oh, you know it?”
“Yeah, I’ve heard of it…I believe it’s not far from here.”
“I know. I went there, but they told me they’d never heard of Malik,” she said glumly. “I couldn’t find him anywhere.”
“Maybe your father scared him off.”
“I guess so…but it’s not like he’d never seen a gun before.”
“What? Oh, I didn’t say…my father had had a shot gun, you see, and he…he didn’t shoot Malik or anything like that, but he did cock it and aim it at him, though.”
“Geezus!” I could hear her father’s words in my head. ‘You fucking my daughter in my house, nigger! I oughta put both of these barrels in your drawers and blow your big nigger dick off! You too, you nigger loving bitch! I should kill both of you! I could tell the cops around here anything!”
“Are you alright?” she asked, concerned by the expression on my face, I assumed. “Listen, let’s change the subject.”
“Good idea…” I said.
“I got some good skunk at my apartment..let’s go get in the mood!”
…to be continued