This week’s reports from the city’s reality
I’ve just returned from a brief Fourth of July tryst through New England. It was a strange holiday for me this time around, as I kept wondering what exactly the country had to celebrate. With the national debt at an all-time high, a bi-partisan government pretty much stonewalling itself at every turn and new conflicts abroad popping up like whack-a-moles, I had a hard time figuring out what kind of birthday the USA should have this year. As I sat with a few friends and family, watching fireworks being blasted off in all directions by professionals and neighbors alike, I heard the whoops and hollers of people all around applauding the show, calling for more, and generally enjoying themselves just for the hell of it. That is exactly what I wanted to see this year. The Fourth of July is not for those who mess things up for the country — it’s for we, the people independent of our own government who rummage around in the dark for as many leftover roman candles as we can find.
-Jarrod J. Annis
This week has been sort of a stressful one down here in Jersey. The beautifully clear days tantalize me while I wait inside under crisp air conditioning, making calls and filling out applications. As my colleagues are well aware, I am still searching for paid employment. When I first quit my job as a server/bartender in the spring, it was kind of invigorating — like cutting class. But now, unforeseen circumstances have squeezed my monetary reserves dry, and for the first time in my life, I’m genuinely panicked. As I prepare to leave college and join the real world, I’m starting to realize summer won’t mean the same thing. It won’t be on the shore in the wonderful, blistering heat or on the sweaty adventures of weeklong camping trips (well, not as much). It’s going to be a little more work. But my hope is that, once I’m finally back in the black and I have a steady paycheck, everything will look a little more summery to me.
There are few places in this city that are so visible and yet so underappreciated. But such is the existence of Governors Island. Controlled by the government, its present and future have always been clouded in uncertainty. However, all you need to know now is that it’s open on weekends this summer and you need to go. With actual green grass, clean bike paths, great concerts and mini golf (among other diversions), it’s the perfect weekend getaway without leaving the city. Take the free ferries from the Battery Maritime Building on Manhattan or Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. Or if you live further north, pay $4 and take the East River Ferry. However you get there, it’s worth the trip.
Most people who have worked in hospitality are familiar with — if not victims of — the “slow fire.” Maybe the restaurant isn’t busy enough and needs to cut heads without causing panic. Maybe the manager has a personal vendetta against someone. Whatever the reason, the victim gets one less shift every week, until one week they just aren’t working at all. This week I found myself on the receiving end of one of these slow fires, and woke up today to find myself rock-bottom poor. Not only do I feel self-conscious over being canned for the first time in my life, but I’ve had to resort to doing ridiculous things like eating sardines plain because they’re the only thing I have in the fridge and paying for rent with singles (the envelope did look much thicker that way). As I’m ineligible for food stamps and unemployment, this might be my harshest realcity check yet.
My biscuit obsession has calmed down, but my life hasn’t become any livelier. I even got a haircut, but the newfound lightness hasn’t inspired me. I’ve almost begun to think that I’m subconsciously rebelling against the city’s expectations of summer activity. On Monday I opted to sleep in rather than go to the beach, cook dinner at home rather than seek out fireworks and stay up doing work for the site rather than drink. It’s not that I don’t enjoy going out — this was one of the first years in a while that I hadn’t done anything on the 4th — I’ve just lost all desire to. Maybe I’ve become too comfortable in my routine, or maybe I’m truly past that point in my life where I care so much about feeling busy all the time. Or maybe I’m just making excuses. As the sky grew dark and I saw the fireworks going off on TV, I still scrambled up to my roof for a peek. The city skyline was filled with the haze of explosions, but unfortunately my view was directly blocked by a nearby warehouse. I could see the flashes of light imprints left in the smoke and nothing more. Whether or not I care to participate, it’s becoming clear that to remain a credible observer I’ll need to start getting closer to the action.