04 June 2008

Of cast iron buildings and deadweights

I arrived in Albuquerque yesterday after spending three lovely days in NYC with a friend I met at AUCA in Bishkek. Peter, a gracious host and a native New Yorker, and I walked through several areas of Central Park day and night and did a handful of “architectural tours” of Manhattan and the East Village that included many of the city’s unique cast iron buildings.

We heard a jazz quintet at the Smoke Lounge, a cozy bar and restaurant that could seat no more than 50, and attended a performance by the American Symphony Orchestra of undervalued works, two of which were two U.S. premieres, at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center. We saw the Frick Collection, “the best small art museum in the United States,” according to my host, browsed street fairs and enjoyed some tremendous food. With another friend, who I also met at AUCA, I walked a stretch of trail along the East River before venturing through parts of the Lower East Side. The weather was warm and sunny the entire time.

On my last day, I went to a Postal Service office in upper Manhattan to try to mail some books and CDs I had I scored to myself in Albuquerque. After an abrasive exchange with a postal employee about “what I had to do” and how, I was referred to a desk staffed by another clerk, also female, who was very pleasant. I asked her why the first person was so rude. “Who was it? Her question caught the attention of a third clerk, who like the second, was olive-skinned and presumably Hispanic. “Her over there,” I said, pointing with my chin.

“Oh well, she was born in the U.S. and we weren't;” they laughed. “We’re humble too.”

Many politically apathetic and angry native-born Americans, I thought to myself, go about everyday lives with a sense of entitlement, an attitude about their birthrights or some other such nonsense, whereas those qualities seem less common among recent immigrants. Maybe we can revitalize American society by allowing in more newcomers and deporting some of our native-born deadweights.