I adore New York City. I love folding a slice of reheated pizza in half and eating it on the uncrowded subway in the middle of the night because I’ve stayed too late at work. I love the transvestite who loudly discusses the people who body-checked her on the way into the bodega as though they were in Connecticut. I love the poor, who hate the tired, who can put up with almost anything except the huddled masses yearning to be free, and the guy at the bar who tells me my generation is entitled and then has to hear about how he voted twice for Ronald Reagan and grabs the waiter before he gives me the wrong drink and says, “Hey, I know he’s a Democrat but he can’t take everything.” I love the digital readouts on the new subway and the thermonuclear shaking on the old subway when I’m trying to get to my best friend’s apartment in Bed Stuy where he lives with his sweet, tired nurse wife and his redheaded two-year-old who hugs my leg calls me Uncle Sam. I love being held here by the train’s dispatcher. I love the Change.org petition to keep our bagel guy employed. I love the nasty lies in the New York Post and the courtly euphemisms in the New York Times and I love the third-grade teacher sitting in her maxi dress next to the green-haired call girl in patterned stockings on the subway. I love the American experiment, distilled in a beaker of irritation and rent control and annual bonuses that send you to a place where you stay until you realize that you can’t order Sichuan food at 11:30 like a goddamn human being and scurry back to the city, blackened by soot and exhaust and kept afloat and solvent by strategic trees and insider trading, spinning violently against the wind and despite entropy, chaos and the darkness.
Good morning! Today I am holding my nose and voting:
—For Domenic Recchia, the Democratic Congressional candidate. Mr. Recchia is an embarrassment on foreign policy and couldn’t name the committees he would want to serve on if elected. How bad is the Republican candidate? Well, he’s an incumbent in Albany, so obviously he’s pretty bad, but even in that fraternity he distinguishes himself by being under indictment on charges of underpaying his own low-wage workers (rather than simply campaigning for lower wages for everyone, as is his right as a Republican), and last year he threatened to throw a New York 1 reporter off a balcony live on the air. His excuse, look it up, was “I was Italian at the time.” Vote Recchia, who is also Italian and has never tried to sell a green card to a foreign supporter at a fundraiser.
—[vomiting noise] but I’m voting Green Party for both Governor and lieutenant governor—that would be basically a pair of protest votes against Andrew Cuomo, also a hilariously corrupt shill who hasn’t quite decided whether or not he’ll approve the fracking legislation he’s going to approve immediately after the election, and Kathy Hochul, the gun nut who hates foreigners. Rob Astorino is much worse, in the exact same direction and without any gestures at shame or personal conflict over setting the environment on fire. So I’m voting for Howie Hawkins and Brian P. Jones. You would be totally within your rights to disagree with me here, I just can’t stomach it.
—Thomas DiNapoli, who’s still running as a reformer. Don’t reform too hard, Tom, or you’ll get in the way of the Governor!
—I’m actually going to vote for a Republican for Attorney General: John Cahill. Eric T. Schneiderman, his opponent, has taken on Donald Trump and Airbnb, which I think is great. He’s also a serious flunky for Albany and helped Cuomo dismantle the commission that was investigating him, which is not great. I’ve scoured Cahill’s material for any hint of law-and-order conservatism and can’t find any; maybe he’ll tear off his face to reveal horns and a Tough on Crime stance after he gets elected, but he seems legit to me and I REALLY didn’t want to vote for him. Vote Cahill.
—Wavny Toussaint, Kathy J. King, Lara J. Genovesi, Kevin. R Bryant, Sr. for judge. Cutting out Evelyn J. Laporte, the fourth Dem candidate because she appears to be part of the child molester scandal that unseated Joe Hynes last year.
—Joy F. Campanelli for judge. Martusciello is a joke.
—James T. Kemmerer for State Senate.
—Marybeth Melendez, Assembly
—NO on Proposal one. This was the easiest choice. Mandatory gerrymandering? Thank you, I’ll pass.
—YES on Proposal two.
—YES on Proposal three. We have universal pre-K, now we have to pay for it. Through bonds, though! So it could be worse. And likely will be.
A huge, cut bald guy is standing across from me against the door. I’m in the short bench next to the emergency exit. A Dominican kid in an Ecko shirt and a flat-brimmed ball cap on the bench next to HCBG is doodling a surprisingly accomplished picture of a pig-dog with its mouth open in front of a mutant appendage, either a penis or something half-bitten-off (see fig. 1). HCBG whips out his phone and appears to take a picture of me, flash and all.
Me [annoyed]: Please don’t take a picture of me without my permission.
HCBG: Nah, wasn’t you.
Unhurriedly, HCBG takes out a badge that clips on to his belt loop and a pair of very serious-looking handcuffs. I get really interested in my crossword puzzle.
HCBG to Dominican Kid, tapping him on the shoulder: You’re under arrest.
DK: What was I doing?
HCBG gestures to the doodle as he convinces DK to present one wrist, then the other, which are cuffed together behind his back. I take out my headphones and waver over whether or not to put them in and attempt to ignore the unpleasantly predictable proceedings, or eavesdrop. I opt to eavesdrop.
DK: So many people doing other things and you don’t arrest them.
DK: [Argues unpersuasively in Spanish.]
HCBG: [Responds authoritatively in Spanish while taking consecutive pictures of DK’s supplicant, uncomprehending face and his person, both juxtaposed with his handiwork]
I try very hard not to look like I’m listening as I totally violate my own stated values and take a picture of HCBG, DK, my umbrella handle with my hand gripping it tight, part of a plastic bag, and a single headphone (see fig. 2).
HCBG [leading DK to the door, speaking to me]: I just needed to get him.
I nod silently, looking down, trying to compose my face in such a way that it says NO VALUE JUDGMENT ASSIGNED very clearly. Mentally, I try to assign value judgments to each person’s actions, and fail.