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4 Points of Departure 8 Snapshot
One Manâ€™s Trash by Aliyya Swaby
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14 Hurting Enough
A tattoo artist named Duck helps one Yalie confront his fear of needles.
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Volume 43, Number 2 October 2010
Advisors Richard Bradley, Jay Carney, Joshua Civin, Richard Conniff, Ruth Conniff, Elisha Cooper, Daniel Kurtz-Phelan, Julia Preston, Lauren Rabin, David Slifka, John Swansburg, Steven Weisman, Daniel Yergin
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26 Shots in the Dark Yale Men Circa 1943
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by Bay Gross
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POINTS OF DEPARTURE
It’s Sunday in the Park!
ars line both side of the road in front of New Haven’s Edgerton Park today. A jogger slows down, removes his headphones and peers over the wall to see what’s going on. I look with him. We see the top of a red inflatable slide, just visible among the canopy of maple trees. We hear the giggles of children melting into a faint ensemble of trumpet and oboe playing in the distance. “Sunday in the Park” takes place annually in Edgerton Park, a 22-acre site given to the city in 1965. The grounds were first home to Eli Whitney and later to industrialist Frederick Brewster who replaced Whitney’s mansion with a
By Helen Gao
Tudor style house he called “Edgerton,” for its location on the edge of town. Brewster commissioned the grounds to be re-designed in the fashion of 18th century English landscape gardens. After the death of Brewster and his wife, the grounds were gifted to the city of New Haven and they’ve stayed in its possession ever since. In 1987, local volunteers created the fair that has since become a New Haven tradition, occurring one Sunday in mid-September every year. They bring to town live music and attractions such as chess, wagon rides, moonwalk and Hula Hoops in an endeavor to create a welcoming fair, where families
relax and friends mingle in the early days of fall. Standing amid families ambling by with baby carriages and unicyclists circling around in clown outfits, I make my way to a wagon half-full with passengers and climb on. Sitting on my left is a young girl with short blonde curls and pink cheeks. She is waving to an imaginary crowd as the wagon pulls off with a creak. The ponies gently trot the wagon around a white fountain whose recent renovation was made possible by the $19,000 raised at last year’s fair. The pale marble is now bathed in the morning sun and emits a faint glow, like a giant halo. A turn of the wagon The New Journal
reveals a greenhouse on my left. Behind the frosted glass, blurred figures move among clouds of green, red and yellow. Edgerton Park Conservancy is offering introductory tours of tropical plants to elementary school students. The simulation rainforest allows children to experience rare plants firsthand, and even take home their favorite kinds. A boy marches out of the greenhouse, carrying an exotic potted plant. My little neighbor gasps, clutches her mother’s arm, and squirms on the seat: I can tell she wants one too. As the wagon makes its way along a narrowing path that disappears behind a hill, we enter a quieter area. Entertainment booths, from a chess stand to a petting zoo, sprinkle both sides of the road, all requiring pre-purchased tickets. Next to a desk behind the banner “Yale Peabody Museum,” a bespectacled woman bows over a boy of six or seven in a Superman T-shirt. She puts a small wooden ring on his head and tries to balance a giant shallow bamboo basket on top of it. “This is how people in the Philippines carry bananas,” she explains. “Isn’t that fascinating.” The boy’s mother nods and pushes on her son’s shoulders. “C’mon now, see if you can walk!” His face covered by the shadow of the basket, the boy stumbles forward several steps and falls onto his knees. The basket rolls off onto the
grass and his mother chuckles, retrieving the basket from its landing spot. Once distant, screams and cheers have grown louder as our wagon winds through the booths and veers towards the front of the hill. The girl next to me suddenly sits up straight, and her eyes widen as she cries, “Look! Bungee Jump!” The wagon comes to a halt but the eager little bodies inside keep fidgeting. The children throw themselves over the rails, land awkwardly on their sides, climb up and rush ahead, their parents trailing behind with backpacks and calling out their names. When her mother finally catches her, my new friend is already in line for the bungee jump. “Amelie—there.” Her mother squeezes a ticket into her fist, while Amelie eyes the boy ahead of her. He is already standing on the giant trampoline, putting his legs through loops of a safety strap with a volunteer’s help. “We come here every year,” Amelie’s mother says and shakes her head. “She never gets enough of it.” Amelie hands her two-dollar ticket to the volunteer and races toward the trampoline. She knows she’s about to soar and flip in the sky. A list of attractions in the park continues to spill out from the loudspeaker above my head. “It’s Sunday in the Park,” the voice repeats “Sunday in the Park!”
Join the distinguished ranks of TNJ alums: Neela Banerjee New York Times Emily Bazelon, senior editor, Slate Magazine James Bennet, editor-in-chief, Atlantic Monthly Richard Bradley, editor-in-chief, Worth Magazine Jay Carney, Washington Bureau Chief, Time Magazine Daniel Kurtz-Phelan, senior editor, Foreign Affairs Steven Weisman, New York Times Daniel Yergin Pultizer Prize winner Andy Court Producer, 60 Minutes thenewjournal@gmail. com 5
POINTS OF DEPARTURE
The Three Judges
By Victoria Sanchez
n 1793 Ebenezer Brackett lamented: Yet scarce are mention’d in the historic page Thy mother Britain’s best-deserving sons, Who, fled from fate, and second Charles’s rage, Resorted hither—here repos’d their bones.
In 2010, New Haven native Nathaniel Zelinsky ’13 suggests Brackett’s concerns about the preservation of this historical record were unfounded. The legend of Britain’s best deserving sons lauded by Brackett in his A Poem Commemorative of Goffe, Whaley and Dixwell is, according to Zelinsky, “a New Haven story that everyone knows. I don’t remember not knowing about it,” And indeed, it is a staple tale of the city’s elementary school curriculum. The legend known to today’s New Haven schoolchildren is simple: The judges fled to Massachusetts and then to New Haven, where they hid from the king’s agents. “It would really stink if they got caught and killed but I’ve always assumed that they survived,” says Zelinsky. His indoctrination into the myth went no further. A brief foray into the marble walls of the Beinecke (or on the Internet), however, illuminates the rest of the history.
in, and then settle on another plan of action: gypsy life. With the help of one Mr. Jones, the former pair bounce from a barn, to a mill, to the woods (reportedly, they once hid under a bridge as their pursuers crossed on horseback), The Green is still a graveyard before arriving at the modern-day and John Davenport, New historical site of Judges’ Cave here Haven’s founder, is the leader in New Haven. While Kirk and of the local church. The towns- Kellond are utterly hoodwinked and travel to the Dutch colony of folk still believe in magic and New Amsterdam (now New York witches, and East Rock, though City) before returning to Boston, less than five miles away, is yet Native American hunters discover a wild child of Mother Nature. our heroes’ humble dwelling at the remote West Rock location and than a year before word of their report the two beleaguered rebels whereabouts reaches the English in 1664. crown, and they flee to avoid arrest. Whalley and Goffe arrive From there, Whalley and Goffe in New Haven, America’s first fled Judges’ Cave to Hadley, planned city, in March 1661. The Massachusetts, where they are town consists of only nine squares briefly reunited with Dixwell. and some outlying farmland. The He eventually parted for New Green is still a graveyard and John Haven, where he took the name Davenport, New Haven’s founder, of John Davis, married, and had is the leader of the local church. two children. Whalley and Goffe, The townsfolk still believe in unknown to the majority of the magic and witches, and East Rock, Hadley’s residents, remained in the though less than five miles away, is minister’s house there for the next yet a wild child of Mother Nature. fifteen or sixteen years. Whalley died first, and Goffe might have Yet Whalley and Goffe’s traveled south afterwards (some reprieve is short-lived. The king swore he was seen in Hartford). of England renews the orders for Their resting places are unknown. their capture, and Massachusetts ---issues another warrant for their Though he didn’t know this arrest. “Kirk and Kellond, two mysterious end to the story, zealous royalists” (as Brackett Zelinsky’s relationship to the describes them in his poem) leave three judges took on its own Boston to ferret the two fugitives legendary spin this summer when out. Whalley and Goffe lay a false he interned in Parliament. While trail to Milford, and return to on a palace tour, he encountered New Haven to hide in Reverend Charles’ death warrant in the John Davenport’s house. Aware Queen’s Robing Room, displayed of the increasingly severe threats on an old piece of parchment. The to Davenport, Whalley and Goffe 54 signautres on the document nobly resolve to turn themselves include Whalley’s, Goffe’s, and Whalley and Goffe live handsomely in Cambridge, where the town members admire not only their past actions but their piety and bravery. Regrettably, it’s less
----The year is 1648. The location of our tale, England. The country has been devastated by two decades of civil war, and Oliver Cromwell’s government has found the former King, Charles I, guilty of “High Treason and other high Crymes,” a sentence that calls for beheading. Among the 54 men who sign the death warrant are John Dixwell, Edward Whalley, and his son-in-law William Goffe,. After some legal hullabaloo, King Charles dies theatrically on January 30, 1649, declaring, “I am the martyr of the people.” His head is severed with a single blow. Unfortunately for our heroes, the English Restoration of 1660 brings King Charles II into power with a vengeance. Here then, the story starts in earnest; The death warrant that Whalley, Goffe and Diwell signed condemning Charles I, now serves as their own death warrant. They are not safe in England. Whalley and Goffe flee over 3,000 miles to colonial Cambridge, Massachusetts where Governour Endicott welcomes them warmly in late July of 1660. While the historical record is unclear, Dixwell presumably makes his way to America as well.
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Dixwell’s. “Whalley is actually very early on—and you notice it when you look at the death warrant.” He is fourth, to be precise, right under Cromwell, his name, like the others, accompanied by a seal of red wax. An ocean away and centuries later, it is green and white paint and metal poles that bear the heroes’ names—our industrial tribute to a revolutionary past.
One Man’s Trash... Yalies eat garbage, by choice. By Aliyya Swaby
s I hoisted myself into the dumpster, I could tell by the bulging garbage bags inside that we were in luck. My guides for the night, two Yalies who live off-campus, were already tearing the bags apart in search of food to restock their refrigerator. At first, everything looked inedible, but when I began sorting through the bags, I quickly learned how to pick out the gems. Unbroken packaged items are usually safe. Meat is only good “in winter, when it’s frozen,” according to one of my guides. There is no such thing as too many eggs — just throw out the broken ones. Apples, tomatoes, and other produce items with skins are okay, depending on the level of damage. Sushi is debatable. When we finished with one bag, we tossed it to the side and plunged into another. We packed 8
our finds into milk crates brought for this purpose. The excursion ended after half an hour, when there was no room left in the car for both us and the food. The night’s yield included two whole red peppers, five bagged salads — Cobb and Greek —two almond pies, a bag of avocados, two loaves of wheat bread, a sack of potatoes, a handful of tomatoes, nine containers of unexpired tofu, and more than four dozen eggsDumpster diving — sometimes referred to by diving devotees as “dumpstering” — is generally associated with those who don’t have enough money to buy the items they take from the trash. But for some people, dumpster diving is an ideological and political lifestyle choice. The practice is associated with freeganism, a term combining “free” and “veganism” that was born in the ‘90s from
the environmental and antiglobalization movements. Freegans scavenge waste of consumers to avoid participating in the capitalist system. More simply put they eat other people’s garbage. But as any freegan can tell you, garbage is a relative term. I discovered a community of Yale students who dumpster dive, scattered across five or six different off-campus houses at Yale. Some go once in a while seeking a novel adventure, but several go once or twice a week as an alternative to grocery shopping for their households. Lacking meal plans, these students use the food as a primary or significant portion of their overall food supply. In this group, dumpster diving is a social activity—it’s “more fun than shopping” and can turn into “a little bit of an obsession,” said ‘Frank,’ a Yale senior who The New Journal
For some people, dumpster diving is an ideological and political lifestyle choice. requested anonymity. The best spots to dumpster dive are out of walking distance, and unlike grocery shopping, there is no guarantee that there will be any food. This fosters an atmosphere of sharing — students from different houses will carpool to get to a site or share their food with one another after a successful run. Cris Shirley, ’10, said the relationships he built around dumpster diving at Yale were more important to him than the food itself. As a Yale student, he noticed that in many off-campus houses, traditional grocery shopping was often a source of tension. Though the dumpstering reduces these students’ financial burden, it is not generally a necessity. “If I wasn’t dumpster diving, I wouldn’t starve. That’s for sure,” Frank acknowledged. Rather, these students share an interest in frugality and keeping consumerism to a minimum. Some would call their politics extreme — dumpster diving is only one activity that reflects their collectivist ideologies. Frank said he and friends are planning a clothing swap on campus, where students will trade clothing they don’t want for someone else’s discarded items. He added that he personally hasn’t bought a brandnew item in years. Shirley and fellow dumpsterdiver Hans Schoenburg ‘10 helped to found the website giftflow.org, October 2010
which Shirley described as an “online community of gifting.” Members exchange goods and services to promote an “alternative economy” based on trust and a non-monetary value system. The pair are now hosting a “couch surfer” from Germany in return for his service doing repair work on their house. CouchSurfing. org is a worldwide network that connects travelers with free accommodation. Though state or local laws may differ, rummaging through public
At first, everything looked inedible, but when I began sorting through the bags, I quickly learned how to pick out the gems. dumpsters, at least in New Haven, is legal. Trash, when deposited on the curb or in a public disposal area, is public property, as the US Supreme Court ruled in California v. Greenwood in 1988. “Once it’s thrown away, it’s considered public, even if it’s in a dumpster,” said Nancy DeJesus, communications supervisor for the New Haven Police Department. “Anyone can take it.” Divers run into problems,
only when they dive in private dumpsters, on private property that belongs to food retailers or distribution centers. In these cases, dumpster diving’s illegality is a matter of trespassing, not stealing. Shirley has been stopped by police three times in the past few years. In two of these encounters, the police took down the names of the people in his group and let them off with a warning. The third time, the officers made Shirley put back the food he had taken from the dumpster and leave the premises. The officials’ relatively lax approach follows from dumpster diving’s muddy legal status. On the one hand, the discarded food would not have been eaten otherwise. On the other, regardless of the trespasser’s intentions, his activities are still against the law. “If it were advantageous for [the police] to do something about me, they would,” Shirley explained. “They’re trying to keep both parties happy.” Why does food end up in the trash? Grocery stores have standards for items they can sell in stores. Retailers must discard food from their shelves when it reaches the sell by date, or if it has been damaged.A few bruised apples? Throw the entire bag away. A broken egg? Dump the carton. “The funny thing is, when you’re dumpster diving, everything 9
The night’s yield included two whole red peppers, five bagged salads — Cobb and Greek —two almond pies, a bag of avocados, two loaves of wheat bread, a sack of potatoes, a handful of tomatoes, nine containers of unexpired tofu, and more than four dozen eggs.
comes in packs of eleven,” Frank noted. His most impressive find was a box containing eleven jugs of quality maple syrup — one jug of the dozen had broken during shipping. For their part, consumers bring food home and forget about it in their refrigerators, and restaurants throw out uneaten portions of meals. Unsurprisingly, the majority of food wasted is produce and dairy, which spoil quickly. One 1987 University of Oregon study showed that most household food is thrown out because of the misconceptions about perishable foods. Many people do not realize that milk and other dairy products, unless obviously sour, can still be consumed after their expiration dates. Because of this, good food often goes to waste. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, in 1995 almost 96 billion pounds of food— 27 percent of the year’s edible food supply—were lost at the farm, retail and consumer levels. Although some was diseased or spoiled, a significant percentage of food lost at the retail level was fit for distribution. Dumpster divers have no trouble finding food from all levels of the food pyramid, including meat, fresh produce and
dairy products. The food is often minimally damaged and needs only to be washed before being eaten. Shirley said he has never gotten sick from salvaged food. If only five percent of the 96 billion pounds of food wasted in 1995 were recovered, the amount would adequately feed four million people for one day. Food recovery programs across the country seek to rectify this problem by redistributing leftover food, while businesses and restaurants have been implementing programs to reduce food waste, for economic reasons. There are other stores like Atticus in New Haven, that leave out their edible waste for the public to take. Many Yale students eagerly participate in events such as Spring Salvage or Eli Exchange in which students trade clothing and other used items, but would never climb into a dumpster for the same items. Potential legal and health risks combined with personal standards for food intake may give many pause, but for those without those qualms, the choice is logical. As Frank explained: “I eat food. I know a place where I can get food that is free. It’s going to be wasted otherwise. As long as [grocery stores] are being wasteful, I feel totally justified in taking advantage of their waste.”
Paul Hammer, bicycle activist by Sanjena Sathian
The New Journal
e’re pulling onto the main road. My driver carefully looks over his right shoulder to check for traffic. A minivan passes, and the middleaged, portly driver visibly snaps his neck around, craning to get a better look at us. The next driver does the same. When the street is finally clear, we slip into the traffic headed down Orange Street, and we’re off. I wish we were moving a little faster, because at this pace it’s hard to escape the stares of pedestrians and drivers alike. Riding in a pedicab is more conspicuous than I had anticipated in the everyday street scene of New Haven. My driver has no such worries. He grins widely at each of our spectators, calling out, “You set the fare! We’ll take you almost anywhere!” This is an exhibition for him, a chance to perform as much as advertise. As we maneuver through the thick Friday afternoon traffic, he gets almost as many waves as befuddled stares. “You seem to know a lot of faces,” I comment. “Well—they know me,” he laughs. *** Its only been two weeks since Paul Hammer launched his new pedicab company, but he’s already made his mark. His signature helmet can be spotted from blocks away—it’s bright purple, with a multicolored mini-umbrella attached to the top. He explains that the helmet, like many parts of his life, melds his two great loves: bicycling and drama. “With a side order of social justice and activism,” he adds, breaking into a grin, his mustache bristles curving upwards. The eccentric headgear may be one reason so many people recognize Hammer on our ride, but it’s certainly not the only one; he identifies some of the folks waving as being acquaintances from New Haven’s art world and volunteer scene. Hammer wears many hats (not all of them purple) in this city, but beneath them all is the same jovial smile, the same clipped, bristly mustache, and the same energetic citizen. Hammer is not just a pedicab driver. He is the founder of a non-profit that puts kids on bikes, a playwright, an active participant in community theater, and a volunteer at numerous community service groups across the city, from the Integrated Refugee Immigrant Services (IRIS) to the National Association of Mental Illness. Hammer seems to be 12
everywhere – a staple of the community. Looking at Hammer’s resumé, it’s easy to forget that, for him, service is as much personal therapy as it is a fight on behalf of local refugees or underprivileged kids. Years ago he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and in 2004, he tells me, “I made the cover of the New Haven Register.” A pause. “By jumping off of East Rock.” The attention his suicide attempt garnered forced Hammer to grapple with his bipolar disorder. And six years later, though he is still in recovery from brain injuries sustained from his fall, he can smile a watery grin and joke about starting a support group, “The Bi-Polar Bears.” “My commitment to working with others… that is definitely a difference in my focus since God spared my life.” And he remains grateful. As he considers the incident six years ago, his eyes are tinged with red and he tears up. “I thank God every day that I’m alive. I always wear my helmet.” *** Hammer can remember his first bike ride—he’s glad he was wearing a helmet, then, too. His first time riding, as a child in New York City, Hammer drove straight through a sprinkler. He went flying over the bicycle seat and was soaked through. Undeterred, however, he bounced back and spent much of his childhood biking around Central Park, taking in the puppeteers and Shakespeare in the Park and the zoo. At fourteen, Hammer embarked on his first cycling tour around the northeast, pedaling between youth hostels, where he met people from all over the world. “I’d never experienced that,” he explains. “Bicycling takes you places – literally.” *** Today, we ride past the Green, Old Campus just visible across the way. Hammer has known and loved these streets since he moved to the city years ago. After graduating from Wesleyan University, Hammer picked New Haven as his next residence because it was near both Boston and New York, where many of his Wesleyan classmates were headed. As he immersed himself in the local community theater scene, worked in the Yale Law School coding investigations, and volunteered at a senior citizen theater company, Hammer stumbled upon the Yale School of Management. “I applied on a lark and on a dare,” he The New Journal
reminisces with a laugh. “I thought I’d stick around for a month or so—write a spoof on business school—but then I fell in love with the place.” Enrolling in business school seems incongruous with Hammer’s ideals —what was a community-organizing-anti-capitalist-bikingplaywright doing as an MBA candidate? “People asked me—what’s a socialist democrat like you doing in business school?” he laughed. “But it really is a school of management.” Even after Hammer graduated, he stuck around New Haven. Calling it the cultural capital of the state, Hammer says there’s nowhere he’d
People asked me - what’s a socialist democrat like you doing in business school? rather live and work than here. From the Schubert and the Yale Repertory Theater, to the nearby (bikeaccessible!) kayaking spots, New Haven is an ideal location for Hammer. And as a community activist, it’s also perfect for him to spread the gospel of cycling and his belief in democratic socialism. As we turn onto Crown Street, Hammer begins to chatter excitedly about his hopes for the new pedicab company. In addition to working morning and afternoon rush hours, and orchestrating pickups and drop-offs from the State Street train station, Hammer wants to start a service for the Crown Street club scene on weekends. Though he quickly adds that he’s aware bicycles won’t create world peace, it’s impossible to ignore Hammer’s ever-present idealism, his hope that even a little bit of good, clean business on Crown might help diminish the drunken brawls that occur there. “I see bicycling like a lot of other things in society,” he says, his eyes lighting up for a moment. “It should be available to everyone.” The business Hammer founded, called BEEEP! (Bicycle Education, Entrepreneurship and Enrichment Programs) is the fruit of his idealism. The business’s for-profit wing manages the pedicab rides. The nonprofit side hosts cycling tours for New Haven youth, sets up tandem rides for the blind, and runs an adaptive biking program that allows paraplegics to use their hands to bike. October 2010
BEEEP! lets Hammer dabble in his own egalitarian universe of equal-opportunity-bicycling. But theater, Hammer tells me, is the arena where he taps into his most extreme passions. He recalls one of the several musical revues he has composed: “The Touring Bicycle Repair Clinic Theater.” The production toured vaudeville style— he and the actors traveled from one town green to another, bringing mechanics with them to fix the audience’s bicycles while the actors performed. Hammer breaks into one of the songs from the show. The original composition, inspired by Pierre Lallement, who is often credited with inventing the bicycle in the 1860’s, tells the story of a man who builds a flying bicycle that eventually soars over the English Channel. In Hammer’s plot line, the man tests the contraption by flying it around the New Haven Green. Hammer sings: “Though ‘twas said could not be done by expert panels A bicycle flew o’er the English Channel… ... So, if we take our cue from Leonardo Think about the future hard now Fight to win a place for bikes in the world of our children Where it’s not a pain to take them on the train And bike lanes and bike paths separate us from the trollies And from the few automobiles remaining On the way we’ll win a few And lose some too and when we do we’ll know That we’re not through, the myopia of a few Won’t keep us from our bicycle utopia Won’t keep us from our bicycle utopia” *** As we ride down Crown Street, I wonder if I can catch a glimpse of East Rock Park from the Green. I think of how Hammer’s moment of crisis is at the center of his idealism, how the realities of violence and crime and streets without bike lanes encroach on his utopian vision of the city he loves. From the top of East Rock, however, with the city stretching out in perfect miniature, you might imagine that a flying bicycle could sail over the spires of New Haven, uninhibited by gravity— and that, if you fell, an umbrella atop a bicycle helmet would be enough to help you glide safely to the ground.
I hate needles.
just out of good old-fashioned masochism—I plunged into the Always have. The goriest shootbelly of the beast, a place where ’em-up movies and the grisliest needles abound and voluntary pain burn-victim photos don’t faze me, is the order of the day, every day: but I shudder at the mere thought a tattoo parlor. Granted, I’m not of any implement that pierces, talking about just any parlor; I’m pricks, rends, or tears. And the idea talking about Excalibur Tattoo in of people subjecting themselves to Shelton, CT, a place I knew was said implements willingly has always different as soon as I caught sight occupied a special place in the of its ducks. pantheon of Things That Freak Me Out. Back in fourth grade art class, documentary videos on African scarification sent me staggering to the restroom; selfinjury presentations in high school filled my head with dizzying colored lights. The assembly on genital mutilation my sophomore year—forget it. I spent those forty-five minutes with my hands so firmly cupped on my eyes that I thought they might stick. When I got a blood test last summer, I nearly fainted in the chair. And as I sat in the waiting room afterwards, white as a sheet, munching feebly on a stale cupcake, some switch must have Yes, that’s right: in a foyer flipped in my brain: enough. packed with bizarre objects I say must have, because a few jostling for attention (medieval weeks ago, out of a desire to sword mounted on wall, slideshow face down my fear—or perhaps
Nicole, stoic but losing color by the second, tries not to flinch as Duck leans in, carefully, firmly, a kind of peaceful concentration transforming his expressive features, a craftsman setting to work...
of nipple piercings and tattooed private parts running on loop) perhaps the most eye-catching is a bulky crate overflowing with squishy foam ducks. Each duck’s chest reads “I GOT PRICKED @ EXCALIBUR.” Every client who gets tattooed takes one home, and they serve a double purpose: on the one hand, as keepsakes, and on the other, as yielding objects for those clients to squeeze with all their might as the store’s owner, using a tiny machine powered by electromagnetic coils, drives a set of pins into their skin at a rate of 120-140 penetrations per second. Most of these ducks, I’m told, end up decapitated. Most tattoo parlors don’t have crates of duck toys in their lobbies. But again, Excalibur is not your typical parlor. Most tattoo parlors have racks of pre-designed images, or “flash,” hanging in their main rooms; Excalibur offers only custom designs. Most tattoo parlors have dim heavy-metal music leaking from the speakers in the corner; Excalibur has, depending on the day and mood, a soundtrack of old-timey jazz, or classic rock, or bagpipe music. Most tattoo The New Journal
parlors have a staff of cranky skater dudes trudging around with antisocial hair and rings through their noses; Excalibur has only Charles “Duck” Unitas. Duck is the owner and sole proprietor (“head chef, dishwasher, and all that,” as he puts it), a gregarious middle-aged man with a vaguely avuncular grey beard, a passion for wildly-patterned short-sleeve button-downs, and an uncanny knack for putting his customers at ease. Duck recognizes, with a hint of pride, that he’s not what you’d expect in a tattoo artist, and since I’m without a doubt the opposite of the typical tat-parlor patron, we make a pretty nice pair. He’s a born storyteller, and I spend hours listening to him spin out his personal history as he reclines in his adjustable tattooing chair, his cowboy-booted feet perched on a high stool, one arm playing with his earring, the other flapping about expressively as his voice jumps between registers. Duck, who says he picked up crayons as a toddler and never put them down, is a lifelong artist, but he got into tattooing late. For most of his life, he thought only convicts and burnouts had
It’s like a tickle and a sunburn at the same time. tattoos. In high school, while the stoners who haunted the local auto shop were getting inked, Duck was listening to Barry Manilow and hanging out with his fellow “squares”—those wayward souls not athletic enough to run with October 2010
the jocks, nor intellectual enough to converse with the geeks, nor chemically-inclined enough to toke with the hippies. During his four-year stint in the Navy, an organization famously populated by tattooed sea dogs, Duck took the road less traveled and hitched up with some fellow shipmen who worked as clowns. He continued his clown act as a civilian, gigging at birthday parties. In his most popular act, he’d walk around with a big foam hammer and offer kids “free headaches,” which he’d deliver with a playful bang on the noggin. After a few exasperating years pursuing an art degree at Southern Connecticut State and a whole slew of odd jobs, Duck found steady work in a profession that once again had him offering up pain to willing customers. Even today, after more than a decade in the business, he has just one tattoo, a simple bit of Celtic knot-work looping around his left wrist. He did it himself, and got it mostly so that he could experience what his clients were going through. As a Manilow-loving high-school square, Duck would have been shocked to learn that one day he’d have even that single small tattoo. See, he stumbled into the profession almost entirely by accident. In fact, it took an unlikely chain of events— involving an eager brother with six hundred bucks to burn; a rundown, possibly mob-connected storefront in Long Island; and a near-fatal explosion of packing popcorn in a Volkswagen Passat— to get a needle in his hand. When he finally found himself pressing that needle tentatively into his
brother’s arm to draw the first line of a Mortal Kombat dragon, Duck still couldn’t quite believe he was actually doing it. He had no idea how deep to push. Does that feel about right, he asked? “Nah,” said his brother, “it doesn’t hurt enough.” *** How much does it hurt? In retrospect, that may have been the question that brought me to Excalibur.
T h e question of pain— the one that inevitably follows the image of toy-ducks-squeezedheadless, the one every nervous customer asks himself on the threshold of Excalibur’s doors— is the persistent elephant in tattooing’s proverbial room. Among tattoo artists and tattooees, there’s little consensus on the answer. “It’s like a tickle and a sunburn at the same time,” one of Duck’s frequent customers tells me. (Then again, this is coming from a man who pierced his own lip with a sharpened nail while still in middle school.) “It just feels like a scratch,” says another. On the other hand, one female tat-enthusiast writes in Self magazine that a couple of flowers on her left ankle hurt more than 15
her caesarean section. Duck tells me that he’s seen an even wider spectrum of reactions in his chair. Some weep. Others drift off to sleep. Still others enjoy it. The subcutaneous vibrations of
My bare skin felt electric and I registered every point of contact between my body and the sheets with painful sensitivity. I couldn’t stop imagining needles gliding over every uncovered inch. Duck’s needle actually brought one female client to orgasm during the process—with her boyfriend in the room. (Apparently, said boyfriend was weirded out but totally into it). Several clients— often the toughest-looking guys— have passed out in the chair. As I listen to Duck talk, there’s little doubt in my mind that I’d fall into that last category. I tell him about my chronic squeamishness, and rather than judge me for it, Duck nods knowingly. Our minds, he says, can’t tell the difference between reality and fantasy on their own. It takes information from the five senses to confirm the distinction. So when the mind signals the body to generate tons of chemicals in response to, or anticipation of, something horrible, and then that horrible something really just feels like, say, a ticklish sunburn, those unused chemicals go haywire. That’s when a tattooee 16
passes out, or when I start to feel lightheaded. Chemically speaking, imagining getting a tattoo can be worse than the actual getting. “The mind is very powerful,” Duck says, “and you’d be surprised what it can and can’t do.” It should come as no shock, then, that when I drive to Shelton one sunny Thursday morning to watch my first-ever tattooing, I grip the steering wheel a bit too tightly. I breathe a little heavily as I accompany Duck on his customary trip to the Dunkin’ Donuts down the street, where the employees know him so well that they often have his large coffee ready to go by the time he walks through the doors. Today, Duck makes a miniature performance of putting change in their tip cup (shaking the cup in mock-indignation: “What’s this? It’s empty! I’m just gonna have to fill it for ya!”). At eleven AM, a guy named Ron with a build like a defensive tackle and arms sheathed in ink walks through the front door of the shop. He and Duck joke like old friends: Ron worked at Excalibur a while back as a piercer and apprentice tattoo artist. He’s here now to get some work on his arms finished before he ships off to Iraq in late November, and he’s brought his fiancée, a nineteen-year-old ballerina named Nicole. This is a special occasion: Ron and Nicole, the soonto-be-newlyweds, are getting matching puzzle-piece tattoos. It’s about Ron’s millionth tattoo, but it’s Nicole’s first, and so Ron’s dad Randy and their family friend Elaine show up a few minutes later
to witness the important event. All the other folks in the room, excluding myself, have at least one of Duck’s tattoos on their bodies, and they’re here to see a loved one join their ranks. As familial chatter fills the room, Duck goes through his prep work. He sets a paper plate on the counter, smears it with a thin strip of Vaseline, and sticks two tiny caps onto it. He fills these caps with ink, which he stores in rows of bottles that look like transparent cafeteria ketchup containers—one pure black, the other watered down for gray shading. Then, delivering a well-rehearsed speech, he shows Nicole her needle, removes it from its factory packaging, and slides it through a disposable plastic tube, which acts as a guide and a handle and attaches to the machine itself. Each needle is actually a thin metal rod connected to a cluster of one to twelve tiny pins—more pins for a thicker stroke. The butt end
of the rod attaches to a spring-loaded bar on the machine, which sits over a series of electromagnetic coils. A long The New Journal
black wire carries an electrical current from the power source to these coils, and 120 times per second, the electricity charges the magnets, the bar is pulled, and the needle enters the skin. Nicole has chosen to place the puzzle-piece on her foot—she’s used to going en pointe for ballet, and so assumes she has a high degree of pedal pain tolerance. Duck rubs her foot with a Speed Stick to provide a sticky coating for the stencil, then transfers the hand-drawn design onto her skin. He can tell she’s tense and he loosens her up by cracking a couple jokes. Ron’s here to comfort her, so
His years of practice at clowning, maritime and otherwise, clearly pay off. At the craft of tattooing, Duck is a pro, but at the art of placating a nervous customer, he’s an absolute virtuoso. No diversion tactic can take the anxious sting out of the next moment, though, when he picks up the machine with a latex-gloved hand and presses a pedal on the floor with the ball of his foot. The needle lets off a sharp buzz, like an amplified bee. Nicole, stoic but losing color by the second, tries not to flinch as Duck leans in, carefully, firmly, a kind of peaceful concentration transforming his expressive features, a craftsman
imperceptibly in the room. The banter now continues as before, the radio still plays, the DVD screens still display a fish tank video Duck bought at Bed Bath and Beyond. But something about the quality of Nicole’s presence in the space has shifted. Ron and Elaine talk to her as Duck works, and she responds, laughing at their jokes, quipping back at their digs. Yet she’s distracted. A part of her isn’t there. A part of her is gathered up and concentrated in the tiny space where needle breaks through flesh. As the process goes on, her body stiffens and she goes silent. Her fingers straighten out and she places them over her
THIS IS WHERE I GET QUEASY... Nicole doesn’t need too much loosening. I’ll later see customers that walk into Excalibur as if to face the guillotine—real bundles of nerves—and watch Duck pull out a new tactic for each one. “Are you nervous?” he’ll ask, before putting on an agitated, nebbishy voice. “Well don’t be nervous. You’ll make me nervous, my hands will get all sweaty, the needle will slip…” Or he’ll spin a client around in the chair over and over again until she finally stops scrunching up her shoulders. Or he’ll put a hand on a customer’s back and say, “Are you alright?” then raise his voice, look around the room, and repeat, “Are you alright?” then throw his arms into dramatic full extension and mock-shout, as if on the deck of a sinking ship, “Is everybody alright?” October 2010
setting to work... This is where I get queasy. This is where the sight of needle tearing up skin like sandpaper tightens my grip on the latte Duck bought me. This is where I see blood rising up in little thin clouds moments after the needle passes, where I clench my leg muscles, as I learned to do in those high school assemblies, and try to think about the finer points of my recent computerprogramming lecture rather than the buzzing of the needle and the slow, gentle rending of the skin. Eventually the nausea passes. I take a deep breath and a good hard look at the really very mild gore, and my mind finally falls into synch with my senses. And then I notice something interesting. As soon as the tattooing began, something changed almost
mouth. Nicole is accessing what some would call a very primitive experience: she’s moving more and more fully into a purely and urgently physical world. *** Throughout the 8,000-year history of tattooing, the ritual moment of pain has often been as important as the completed tattoo itself. On Bellona, one of the Solomon Islands, priests hand-poked tattoos in time with rhythmic singing and drumming: the sensation of pain was drawn out and segmented, an end in itself. In Hawaii, tattoo artists colored the tips of women’s tongues as part of a mourning ceremony for a dead chief—just as the ink became a permanent memorial mark, so also 17
the tongue-pricking accomplished a kind of corporeal mortification. When the art first reached America with the addition of the Tattooed Man to the freak show lineup, the grotesque allure of pain was central in its populist appeal: P.T. Barnum advertised his immensely profitable freak Prince Constantine, a middleaged Grecian inked head to toe, as a white man captured by island savages and forcibly tattooed. Crowds flocked to Constantine’s booth to hear lurid stories of agony and swelling as much as to admire any kind of beauty or workmanship. Margo DeMello’s imposing Encyclopedia of Body Adornment— perhaps the only encyclopedia of any kind with pictures of subdermal implants on its cover— devotes a whole section, between “Pacific Northwest Indians” and “Penis Piercing,” to “Pain.” Writes DeMello, “Pain is seen as tool for self-transformation, and many body modification practitioners follow the ‘no pain, no gain’ motto in an effort to use pain in order to achieve growth.” Tattooing’s first and most dedicated devotees in the modern Western world were a tough crowd—men to whom overcoming physical hardship was an attractive notion. Back then, even for decades after the birth of the electric machine in 1891, many artists poked by hand. A customer would descend into a cramped shop somewhere in New York or Boston, a slimy den with sketches plastering the walls, and sit backwards in a chair while a grizzled geezer with cigarette in mouth made hundreds of tiny, inky incisions, pausing 18
occasionally to mop the blood with a rag summoned up from a murky bucket. There are whole books filled with pictures of early tattoo customers, many of them wind-beaten sailors: not a lot of smiles to be found. Duck’s studio, where every hand is gloved, every spray bottle plastic-baggied, and every needle formally goodbyed en route to the sharps container, is a far cry from the abodes of Charlie Wagner, Professor Ted, or Lewthe-Jew. Duck’s rigorous safety speeches and goofy playacting ensure that getting “PRICKED @ EXCALIBUR” is anything
Yet she’s distracted. A part of her isn’t there. A part of her is gathered up and concentrated in the tiny space where needle breaks through flesh. As the process goes on, her body stiffens and she goes silent. but an ordeal. But the pain is inescapable. And to try to escape it in the first place would be, in a way, cheating—or at least missing out on a part of the experience. When you get a tattoo, “the memory of it gets locked into your emotional psyche,” Duck said to me once. “Every time the needle hits, your mind is interlocked with the emotion.” That’s why Duck doesn’t like flash, and why he refuses to tattoo customers with designs that are
just plain stupid (although he made one generous exception for a young gentleman who wanted “100% U.S. PRIME BEEF” across his buttocks). When a figure is etched into your back or your ankle or your arm, when you can literally feel its every contour being imprinted on your person, it takes on a heightened significance. Randy, Ron’s dad, has a stunning gorilla-head tattoo spanning his formidable bicep. Duck designed it. Multiple psychic readings have identified the gorilla as Randy’s power animal, a fact further attested by a second Duck-made tattoo on his calf, showing his own screaming face merging, like the Batman villain Two-Face, with that of the ape. Whether or not the silverback and its accompanying symbolism had any real import in Randy’s life before the tattoo is irrelevant: once he’s felt each hair and muscle pricked into his arm, that ape acquires a primal meaning. One of the many images on Ron’s labyrinthine ink-crammed arm is a Calvin and Hobbes design in memory of Elaine’s son, a close friend who died young. Ron wouldn’t have wanted that particular tattoo harmlessly stuck on his body; as with the tonguemutilating Hawaiian mourners, suffering gives physical shape to mental anguish. The needle makes intangible pain concrete, engraving it on flesh, claiming and commemorating it. I learn about these two men’s tattoos while Duck is still at work on Nicole’s foot. And by the time the completed puzzle piece sits on her skin atop an angry cloud of swelling, and tiny red drops begin to ooze around its edges The New Journal
like condensation, I don’t feel the lightheadedness that I know I should be feeling. That is, I don’t feel it until Ron, leaning in gently to take a look, suddenly slaps the finished design hard. Nicole jolts up and tries to hit him as he runs away, and the whole room laughs (except for one horrified Yale student who nearly spills the remainder of his latte). Ron says
he did it to “set the ink,” but Duck tells me that he’s really carrying on a hallowed tradition: whenever someone gets his or her first tattoo, someone else in the room who’s already been through the process offers a little mild abuse to the tender area. Well, not always mild: Ron claims that for his own first tattoo in Duck’s studio, a whole host of people—employees, friends, passers-by—were invited one by one to attack his raw arm. “They were beating me with twoby-fours,” he jokes. Finally Nicole is finished. “Alrighty m’dear,” says Duck, lowering the pneumatic chair, “let’s bring you back down to earth.” *** Just before I met Duck, I’d been thinking—in the most distant, October 2010
hypothetical way—about getting a tattoo myself. Before then I’d never considered doing so any more than I’d considered throwing myself at a brick wall or going at my leg with a staple gun. But some little thrillhungry imp over my shoulder got the notion that submitting to the needle would make a perfect finale for this piece: squeamish young academic finally gets inked! I brought up the idea on a family reunion in Virginia, and met with a carful of disapproval. “Oooh,” said my mother, making a face and trying to think of a constructive way to frame her extreme disgust with the suggestion. My sister chimed in: “If you want to see what it feels like, I can just stick a pin in your arm.” Immediately I started feeling woozy and decided there was no way I could man up enough to do it—the issue became moot. But then, watching Duck complete a progression of increasingly involved tattoos (including one, in neon green, on a particularly copious bleeder whose girlfriend kept opening his inkand-blood-soaked paper towels and asking him to read them like Rorschach blots), I built up a level of squeam-tolerance I’d never thought possible. I floated the idea to my mother one more time during a late-night phone call. She raised a point I’d largely forgotten in all my focus on the gory aspects: whatever design I got would be there forever. I tried to think of something that I’d want engraved permanently onto my body. A Celtic cross? No, I’ve been to church twice in as many years, and I consider myself Irish only for about a one-hour period every
Saint Patrick’s Day. Something writerly? Pen and ink or some such? Naw, I haven’t really decided on a career, and how stupid would that crap look in law school? A pretty tree or a bird would look nice, but not nice enough to justify the sidelong glances from potential bosses and mothers-inlaw. That night, I found myself tossing and turning in bed, my squeamishness back in full force. My bare skin felt electric and I registered every point of contact between my body and the sheets with painful sensitivity. I couldn’t stop imagining needles gliding over every uncovered inch. Before I finally drifted off, I had a wild thought. Maybe my rejuvenated fear wasn’t about sharp objects, wasn’t connected to fragile skin and oozing drops of blood. Maybe it was a more fundamental worry, a writer’s fear: the sense that given pen and ink and the most precious canvas of all, I would have nothing worthwhile to say. Nothing for which I’d be ready to hurt.
MEN BOYS By Emily Rappaport
The New Journal
e is outstandingly handsome and robust, very masculine. This is The American Heritage Dictionary’s example sentence for the word “masculine.” It’s the kind of sentence that’s intended to elucidate, to enlighten. It’s the kind your high school English teacher makes you write on tests to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you know the meaning of the word. Masculine equals handsome plus robust. Outstandingly so. Does America really define masculinity this way? Does Yale? Every Wednesday afternoon, in a well-lit basement classroom in Rosencrantz Hall, twenty Yalies and a professor, Graeme Reid, attempt to answer these questions and more. The course, offered by the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department, is “Men, Manhood, and Masculinity.” The thirteen women and seven men enrolled were chosen from some one hundred applicants. They have their work cut out for them. A national conversation has emerged, one that suggests masculinity is in crisis. This summer, The Atlantic Monthly ran a cover story called “The End of Men,” citing the new female majority in the workforce as a defining shift. In October, Newsweek featured a piece called “MAN UP! The Traditional Male is an Endangered Species. It’s Time to Rethink Masculinity.” And now, Yale is offering a course on what it means to be a man. October 2010
Max Saltarelli ’13 saw the course description and thought, “Men, manhood, masculinity? That sounds really cool! I’m a male! So maybe I would know a thing or two about men!” His interest in the course is personal. Saltarelli came out as gay about a month into his freshman year. His parents, he says, are each from different generations (his father is older) and they had different ideas about raising a son. His mother was “loving and sheltering,” indulging his whims— like when he just had to have that pair of jelly shoes in preschool, or when he wanted to be the Pink Power Ranger for Halloween. His father “envisioned it in a more ‘50s sort of way”
“As a gay male, you come up against a tension between your sexual identity and your gender on a daily basis.” than his mother. He wanted his son to go fishing, or throw a football around, or “get really into basketball.” Laughing, Saltarelli tells me that he didn’t quite fit the mold. His childhood was marked by a series of botched attempts at Little League. Then there was “a brief basketball thing. Literally one practice.” Max puts on a gruff voice to imitate his father: “He should be outside playing football!” The imitation is lighthearted, but he does remember feeling “kind of sad.” Did his mother care that he didn’t play sports? “Not at all.” Unlike some of his classmates, Saltarelli wants to be
there not because he has thought so much about the issues the course addresses—but rather he feels he hasn’t thought about them enough. In any case, he “semi-took it on a whim.” For his part, John Yi ’12 wanted to take something different. He had taken 24 credits in his first two years, all in the Math, Economics, and Music Departments. When he saw “Men, Manhood, and Masculinity” in the Blue Book, he thought, “Those are the same questions that I think about every day.” Yi lights up when he talks about his three sisters—one’s his twin, two are a couple of years older. They “happen to be the most beautiful, talented, amazing, empowering women” he knows. (“One of them went to Wellesley—she like, wanted to go to Wellesley.”) Growing up, John and his sisters were inseparable. They took gymnastics and dance classes together—he even joined them at the salon for haircuts. They were best friends. He says he never realized that “there really is a power dynamic between boys and girls” in much of society. His mother owned a small business; she was the breadwinner and head of the household. “It was always ‘Mama Yi and her four kids,’” he chuckles. When Yi came to Yale, the combination of living with men for the first time and coming out as gay made him ask, “Holy shit, what is masculinity? What does it mean to be a guy?” As the students of WGSS 304 have discovered, the answer varies from place to place and across communities. Harry VanDusen ’14 is from Lynnfield, Massachusetts, a small town settled 21
in 1638. He describes the idea of masculinity there as “traditional.” Back home, a man was expected to be “tough, a tough guy”—stoic, physically and emotionally. When I ask if there were any openly gay men in his community, he rocks forward and almost spits out his drink. “Oh God no. Oh no. That was not good. It was very traditional in that way, like that’s not acceptable. It’s predominantly white, Catholic, Italian. I’m none of those things.” He pauses. “Well, I’m white.” VanDusen is straight, but he’s into the arts and musical theater, which made him unusual in Lynnfield. “It was like, ‘you should be playing a sport.’” But VanDusen didn’t feel the need to conform— “I am what I am”—and, with the support of his parents (he calls his mother “strong” and his father “chivalrous”) he did what he wanted, and gave it his all. Now he performs, swims, and wants to be a doctor. VanDusen, who didn’t conform to his town’s masculine ideal, wanted to learn how other communities interpreted the
Emmanuel Ramirez ‘12 22
concept of masculinity. Like VanDusen, Emmanuel Ramirez ’12 says he didn’t feel parental pressure to become any specific type of boy. He grew up as an only child living with his mother and grandmother, who always encouraged him to be who he wanted to be “without really any expectations for what that was.” Today Ramirez, who is gay, finds that “femininity, or the idea of what it is to be feminine, is definitely more available for me—just because it’s all I’ve been around, for the most part.” For the most part. Ramirez went to an all-boys Catholic school in Chicago. Though he’s not religious now, he and his high school friends did go through a “spiritual” phase where “religion and being a good person were just really important, and what we were about.” Still, he had always noticed that “[Catholicism] revolves around men being in power.” Unlike his Yale friends, Ramirez’s high school friends were mostly athletes. And at his parochial school, there was
Max Saltarelli ‘13
a general compulsion: to “act hard and tough.” That compulsion is everywhere in the virtual world of Halo, the online shoot-em-up game that is a favorite of George Norberg ’11. About 98 percent of Halo players, Norberg reports, are men aged 16 to 25. There may be some “chill” guys to become friends with—two of his online friends just started a business together—but there’s a lot of testosterone. “If you win,” he writes in an e-mail, “you feel like you’ve proven your masculinity. If you lose, you feel like you aren’t good enough.” If you kill an enemy, there’s a sexualized “tea-bagging” custom in which you “crouch on [the corpse] repeatedly.” A lot of the players, he adds, call each other “gay” or “fag.” Norberg, who is straight, sees this belittling as an attempt to affirm their own masculinity. In addition to video games, Norberg likes public health and sex. He is on the Board of Directors of Sex Week at Yale. He also has a radio show on WYBC
George Norberg ‘11 The New Journal
John Yi ‘12
called “Sex Talk,” the purpose of which is self-explanatory. But because there’s no such thing as too much sex talk, Norberg signed up for this class, too. For Jake Conway ’11, the class also provides talk—but talk will only get him so far: “The class isn’t going to answer my internal struggle.” It’s not a course that “teaches you how to live or be a man.” Jake is the founder of “Q,” a magazine slated to launch next month that will explore LGBTQrelated issues, and he answers my questions like he’s said it all before. “As a gay male,” he says, “you come up against a tension between your sexual identity and your gender on a daily basis. It’s something that’s inevitable because of the historic association between gay men and effeminacy.” Jake is far from effeminate. He has a more forceful presence on the phone than most people have in person. He’s big and tall, he works out a lot, and he played sports in high school. At gay bars, people ask him if he’s straight. He’s “one hundred percent gay,” he reassures me. October 2010
Jake Conway ‘11
There’s no single aspect of his romantic, home, or academic life that has defined Jake’s experience of masculinity. “It’s not like I can say ‘Oh my dad told me that this was the way I had to be a man, and he told me once, and that’s how I am.’” His experiences at home and at Yale have had an impact, but “it’s not like one thing did the trick.” More broadly, Conway explains that there’s no single trope of masculinity at Yale— “there’s no such thing as a ‘Yale Man.’” Although definitions of masculinity vary widely among a diverse student body, Conway still notices an ideal of hegemonic, white, heterosexual masculinity that affects “all of our social interrelationships and how we perceive ourselves.” Yale’s atmosphere, he comments, remains “elitist and takes as its sort of archetype the white elite.” Conway says he agrees with Judith Butler, a twentieth-century American philosopher who posited that gender—archetypal and otherwise—is “performative.”
Harry Vandusen ‘14
VanDusen has certainly noticed a certain performance of masculinity at Yale. A freshman, he has spent the last six weeks meeting and greeting. He says that many guys he meets “will totally let you know what they’re good at, what they’re great at, what they’ve accomplished, in a much more forward way than I’m used to.” People didn’t brag so much where he’s from. Here, “it’s very in your face—the kind of backhanded, ‘Yeah, it’s difficult for me to be in this French class cause, you know, I speak so fluently and a lot of them can’t converse with me.’” He sounds fed-up. “These are conversations I’ve actually had.” He thinks the bragging is an expression of masculinity. And he also seems to think it’s a form of overcompensation: “The people who don’t talk about what they’ve done…once you pry a little, they’re the most impressive ones.” This view is aligned with what VanDusen identifies as a theme of the course: if you fall short with respect to one aspect of your masculinity, you tend to 23
“exert it by showing off other accomplishments.” At Saltarelli’s high school in Orange County, California (“notable for its many sex scandals!”), masculinity was another “ridiculous performance”—what Saltarelli calls the “performative bro thing.” The popular guys were “really athletic, kind of outrageous and funny, kind of douchey.” Like VanDusen, when Saltarelli came to Yale he was able to realize about his hometown that “it’s not like that everywhere.” But most places he goes, Saltarelli still notices a quality of performance in the actions of males. And at Yale, there are a lot of performers. When I ask him to define masculinity within his improv comedy group, the Viola Question, Saltarelli describes a quality of affability: “the ability to behave respectfully and amicably with all kinds of people.” Funnily enough, this kind of masculinity doesn’t seem gender-specific at all. Ramirez, also active in the theater community, sees masculinity in his crowd as a way of “acting, and carrying yourself ”—either showy or nonchalant. “The more laid-back ones,” like Ramirez, hang out backstage. “The more out-there people,” he says, “are the ones who perform. There are a lot of really out-there people who do really crazy things. Everyone loves it. A lot of them are my friends. They’re just silly, all the time.” Is that really an expression of masculinity? “Yes,” he says. “Definitely.” Ramirez has observed that his classmates also display their masculinity in different ways: 24
“There are guys that are really flamboyant, and others that are extremely chill, really laid back, just like, ‘I don’t care.’” “Sometimes,” Ramirez says, “I just want to be laid back, and not really care about what I look like.” Today he’s wearing corduroys, checkered Vans, and a pullover hoodie. It’s chill. But “sometimes I care a lot, and I’ll go crazy and dress up.” He pauses. “Sometimes I just feel like dressing up.” *** When Professor Reid walks into class one Wednesday, everyone is already seated, unpacked, and chatting. By the time he gets to the front of the room, the class’s attention is on him. Reid is small, with silver hair and a tastefully trimmed beard. This afternoon, he’s wearing black, pinstriped pants, a light blue button down with a few buttons open, and dress shoes. He enunciates every word and waves his hands as he speaks. The accent of his English is familiar, but I can’t put my finger on the place of origin. Not the UK, not Australia.... South Africa. Growing up there, Reid explains, he faced “fairly rigid ideas about masculinity,” and had the experience of “completely not fitting within those norms.” After getting his Ph.D. in Queer Studies from the University of Amsterdam, Reid returned to South Africa to conduct field research. There, in the rural areas where he researched queer identities, “people think of themselves as ladies or gents,” regardless of their biological gender. Gay men are like
ladies, “gay ladies”—so hypermasculine straight men, who often have wives or girlfriends, have sex with them and “don’t see it as contradictory to their heterosexual identity.” These kinds of discoveries made Reid think not only about what it means to be gay or straight, but also about what it means simply
“If you fall short with respect to one aspect of your masculinity, you tend to “exert it by showing off other accomplishments.” to be a man. Maleness as a scholarly subject is fairly novel. Reid’s course is the only one about masculinity in his department, which began as Women’s Studies, and then broadened, becoming first Women’s and Gender Studies and finally Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, reflecting the evolution of the field. Women’s Studies departments at universities were born from the feminist movement when masculinity was thought of as “the problem and the enemy,” Reid says. But as he writes in the syllabus, multiple factors including the “sociological enquiry into the changing nature of work and family” have yielded an intense new focus on the changing roles of men and masculinity in society. *** There’s no doubt that old-fashioned masculinity is still kicking. At the beginning The New Journal
of Wednesday’s class, Yi gives a presentation on Tucker Max, author of “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.” “Tucker Max,” he reads from his opening slide: “Hegemonic Male or General Douchebag? Or both?” (Yi likes to think Max is a combination of the two.) At first, the class is amused as Yi lists notable events in the life of the selfdescribed “raging dickhead” who “gets excessively drunk at inappropriate times” and “sleeps with more women than is safe or reasonable.” By the time Yi reveals that in 2009, American popular vote placed Tucker Max 24th of Time Magazine’s candidates for the world’s 100 Most Important People—ahead of both the Pope and the Dalai Lama—amusement has turned to stunned silence. Weekly, seven Yale men and thirteen Yale women puzzle out what masculinity means. For Reid, the definition is necessarily elusive. But when more than a million people view Tucker Max’s blog each month, it’s hard to see how far the impact of their discussion will reach. So perhaps it’s a good thing, then, that there are many ways to define masculinity.
SHOTS IN THE DARK
by Brianne Bowen & Susannah Shattuck
From the NINETEEN FORTY THREE
The New Journal
Pleding Allegiance Gangs, drugs, violence and the youth of New Haven. by Ali Weiner
Vanessa West , a heavyset 15-year-old from New Haven’s Newhallville neighborhood, has strings woven into her black cornrows. The strings are red, the color of the Bloods, a national drug gang with roots in California and members all over the country – including many in New Haven. West wears a red and black plastic belt, a red necklace, and two plastic buttons on her shirt, each with a picture of a young black man, and the words “Rest in Peace” in neon letters. West has lost six friends to gang-related shootings in the past 1
1. Last names of minors in this article have been changed to protect their identities. 28
two years. Despite—or perhaps because of—this, West is a Blood. The New Haven Police Department sits on Union Avenue in the Hill, the neighborhood that forms the city’s southern border. It is surrounded on three sides, by the Church Street South public housing projects, a train station, and highways that lead out of the city. The projects used to be like fortresses for gangs, says Detective Ricky Pelletier. “Once you were inside, you could hide in there pretty easy. With the close proximity to routes of travel out of the city… Well, certain places in the city are inherently good for dealing drugs,” he says. “We’re in one of them.”
Inside the Hill, the area immediately around the police station is known as the Jungle. It was once run by the Latin Kings, a national gang of mostly Latinos and Italians that began in the 1940s. By the late 1980s, however, a gang called the Jungle Boys, who lived in the Church Street projects right behind the police station, had taken hold. “We’d come out for lineup in the morning and hear gunshots,” Pelletier remembers. Pelletier has always been fascinated with New Haven’s gangs. He is a tough guy, and looks it. He is hefty, well over six feet tall, with a blonde buzz cut and a small, thick blonde mustache that would make him look menacing The New Journal
if he didn’t chuckle so often. He joined the NHPD in 1988. After working briefly in patrol—“not enough action”—and the firearms and narcotics units—“I was dealing with the gangs on a regular basis”—he became the NHPD’s de facto expert on the city’s gangs and neighborhood rivalries. Last year, the department finally created an official Gang Intelligence Unit, a collaboration between city, state, and federal police and national government agencies like the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). The new unit is part of NHPD’s attempt to keep abreast of the changing nature of gang violence in the city; Pelletier and his partner, Detective Mike Novella, were put in charge. They are aided in large part by their leadership—the city’s new Chief of Police Frank Limon is a thirty-year veteran of the Chicago police force, where he supervised 600 people in the Organized Crime Unit’s efforts to combat guns, drugs, and gangs in that city. Within days of taking office this past April, Limon rolled out Operation Corridor, an effort to flood the city’s most gang-ridden streets with enough police officers to stop the gunfire. But twenty years of gang history, and a city divided by rivalries that may run deeper than the gangs themselves, means that he has his work cut out for him. Looking Back Outside the five or so square blocks that make up Yale’s central campus, New Haven is divided into rival neighborhoods October 2010
that date back half a century. North of the university, says Pelletier, the Newhallville neighborhood known as “the Ville” is effectively run by Bloods and Crips, two of the most infamous national gangs. In the past year or so, it has also become home to R2, also known as R2 BWE (Beef with Everybody) Black Flag, a gang that was linked with a spate of recent homicides and assaults. On the eastern edge of the city, a housing complex known as “the Island” overlooks the Quinnipiac River. It’s the turf of the Island Brothers, a gang whose glory days, says Pelletier, have come and gone, but who are still very much a presence on the
The daily fights and shootings in the city were over drug turf: if you weren’t a Jungle Boy and you tried to sell drugs around the Jungle, you were asking to get shot. streets near the river. Northwest of Yale’s campus, the Tribe is nestled between the Ville to the north and the Tre to the west. The Tre is home to Kensington Street International (KSI), one of the tougher gangs from New Haven’s worst days. Recently it has also become home to Bloods and Crips from New York and New Jersey who have moved in to recruit new members. Each neighborhood has its own flavor and its own rivalries, but for the most part, it’s the same story all over town. Kids just have different colored bandanas (“flags”) hanging out their back pockets to show where they’re from and who they’re fighting for.
Almost everyone is fighting for something. In the late 1980s, when Pelletier joined the NHPD, New Haven ranked among Camden, New Jersey and South-Central Los Angeles as one of the most dangerous cities in America. “Traditionally, most of the crime was in the housing projects,” Pelletier explains. “When I came on in ’88, it was the Island Brothers, KSI, the Latin Kings, and the Jungle Boys that were running the show. They were mostly based out of the projects.” During the late 1980s and early 1990s, drugs and the gangs that formed to deal them exploded on the city streets. Up until about 1995, the housing projects were insulated crime dens, a labyrinthine network of apartments within apartments, which could be taken over by a particular gang and used as home base to stash guns and sell drugs. Gang members from other cities— the Latin Kings of New York, the Crips from Chicago—could drive into the city and disappear into their respective fortresses to drop off drugs or hide from police. The daily fights and shootings in the city were over drug turf: if you weren’t a Jungle Boy and you tried to sell drugs around the Jungle, you were asking to get shot. When the projects were redeveloped in the mid 1990s, they were remodeled into regular apartment-style buildings, getting rid of the rooms-within-roomswithin-rooms layout that had previously made them such good safe havens. This, along with a series of major investigations by police and federal agents, forced drug gangs to other parts of New Haven. 29
The Corridor, from which Operation Corridor takes its name, became New Haven’s next hot spot. Known on city maps as Orchard Street, it cuts diagonally across the western part of the city, through the Tre and the Tribe. It’s the center of crime in New Haven, the scene of most drug sales and shootings since the mid 1990s. Along the Corridor, different gangs claim houses, but in recent years, there’s been less fighting over which gang sells drugs on which corner. “The kids got smart that we were using undercover cops to bust them on street corners,” Pelleteir explains. “So instead of standing on a corner and continuing to be a target, they would give a client a phone number and say ‘call me up, I’ll get you what you need.’ They’d set a meeting spot, drive to a dark place to make the exchange.” Because of this, it is now easier, and arguably safer, than ever before to deal drugs in New Haven without getting arrested or jumped by a competing dealer. There’s no need to fight for turf. So why are kids still shooting each other? Just kid stuff ? The need for allegiance dies hard. When the national gangs of the 1980s and 1990s were shut down by the New Haven Gang Task Force, many of the major adult players in New Haven’s crime scene were taken off the streets and incarcerated. They left behind a generation of kids who had grown up watching every adult they knew fight to represent— rep—their gang on the streets. The city’s kids took the lesson to heart: you fight for what you stand 30
for. And, in the temporary absence of strong gangs to stand for, they stood for the only thing they had left: their neighborhoods. A gang, says Pelletier, doesn’t need to be national or even particularly powerful. Legally, gangs are defined as three or more people involved in ongoing criminal activity with a common sign or symbol. Hood alliances often show similar attributes: shootings in the name of the hood, hand signals or colors to signify membership. For example, members of the Crips, a national gang, and residents of the Ville, a local hood, both identify themselves with the color blue.
Shaun, the Blood who shot his Crip brother, must have been following Rule #20: “No playing with the enemy, meaning if you see an enemy, tear his face off.”
Kathleen Edwards, the supervisory prosecutor of the Juvenile Court in New Haven, says that just a few years ago, kids repped neighborhoods more often than they repped gangs. The juvenile offenders she prosecuted told her they identified themselves by where they lived in the city – the Tre, the Tribe, the Ville. “The kids give themselves names, maybe have a handshake or a symbol they identify with, but they’re mostly identifying with their neighborhood,” she explains. Now, however, the city’s gangs are gaining national affiliation yet again. Over the last eighteen months or so, says Pelletier, small sets with national
reach have exploded across the city. “We do still have smaller street gangs, but everyone—even those—have taken on national affiliations.” Most common are the sets of the Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings, and the Black Gangster Disciples, a national group with a heavy presence in Chicago. Like the shift from streetcorner drug deals to Orchard Street rendezvous, Pelletier credits technology with the change. “Before, kids might have wanted to call themselves the Bloods or the Crips but not really understood what that meant. Now, they’re picking up on the philosophy,” says Pelletier. “We see it in interviews with kids. They can use the Internet, can Google the gang’s philosophy, can connect with an actual Grape Street Crip or a Blood from California. It’s easier to pick up.” In concert with these means of technological enlistment, adult Bloods from New York and New Jersey have moved to the Ville and the Tre, and are actively recruiting young new members. New Recruits Vanessa West is one of the gang’s new charges. She calls herself a five-fifty, just half a Blood. “We called five-fifties ‘cause five is the five-pointed star [a national Blood symbol], and fifty ‘cause we only half down,” she explains. Half down? “It means you rock wit’ all Bloods and not Crips, but if your Bloods gonna jump somebody, or they gettin’ ready to bang [fight], you can decide either ‘yeah, I’m down,’ or ‘nah, I’ll pass.’” Jasmine Williams, a 12-yearold from the Hill, explains that the The New Journal
difference between Bloods and Crips is especially important for girls. To become a Crip, she says, a girl has to “be sexualed” with every man in the local group, or “set.” It’s not rape, the girls insist; it’s just what you do to get in. Only boys must go through initiation rites to be a Blood, Williams explains. They’re “banged”—beaten—by other Bloods for a minute and thirty-one seconds. (The numbers zero, three, and one are significant to the Bloods, which originated in southern California, where the telephone area code is 310.) Girls, explains Williams, do not have to go through initiation rites to be a October 2010
Blood. “If you a girl, you can be a Blood if you wanna be a Blood,” she says. “The only reason why I’m a Blood is ‘cause every boy I know is a Blood.” West corrects her. “You ain’t a Blood, you a five-fifty too.” Jasmine acknowledges her overstatement—it’s true, she’s only half a Blood. “Well I wasn’t gonna even be a five-fifty, but I started askin’ all the boys on my street: Are you a Blood or a Crip?” she says. “Every single boy I roll with is a Blood or a five-fifty. So I wanted to be a five-fifty because it means I can rock with them whenever I want, and they protect me.”
Protection is important in the Hill, a neighborhood where, Williams says, there aren’t many Crips besides her brothers. “I got fourteen brothers and fourteen sisters,” she says. (Volunteers at Your Place, an after school youth center founded by Jane Jeuland Div. ‘09, confirm Vanessa’s claim.) “Half my brothers is Bloods, and the other half is Crips. All they do is fight all the time—we gotta rotate in and out of foster care and my mommy’s house so my siblings ain’t all in the house together at the same time. Yesterday, Shaun—he’s a Blood—shot DayDay, ‘cause DayDay’s a Crip and looked at him 31
the wrong way. Shaun missed, but we all had to get out the house.” The Rules Shaun, Jasmines’ 26-yearold Blood brother, was likely just following the rules. In a recent raid carried out by Detectives Pelletier and Novella, NHPD seized two Blood handbooks, used to indoctrinate new members of the gang. The documents include an oath (“Blooding is about respecting your family and doing what you could”), a prayer (“Will I ride, Yes I’ll ride, cause I bang with pride, when I die bury me 5 feet up with red on me”), a pledge (“I pledge allegiance to the Blood flag and all my millas in this nation”), and the rules of Stoney Face Milla, a subset of Bloods from the Ville. The rules are a code of conduct. According to both Pelletier and the five-fifties, new Bloods have to memorize everything in the handbook, so that they understand the philosophy of the family they are joining. The consequences of breaking the rules is stated clearly: “Rule #21: All twenty rules must Be enforced and followed, if caught Breaking any of these rules, you will Be terminated on site.” Terminated, explains Williams, means shot. Some of the rules seem practical: “Rule #4: No nastiness, meaning shower at least once a day.” “Rule #2: No treason meaning no backbiting and no divide and conquer.” “Rule #9: Exercise meaning work out your body, mind, and soul spiritually.” Some are more threatening. Shaun, the Blood who shot his Crip brother, must have been following Rule 32
#20: “No playing with the enemy, meaning if you see an enemy, tear his face off.” Even Williams and West, the two girls who call themselves half-Bloods, seem intimately familiar with the rules, prayers, and symbols of the gang. While West talks about the friends she has lost to gang violence, she absentmindedly doodles their names in red and black, the colors of the Bloods: “RIP my fallen angels,” she writes around pictures
To become a Crip, she says, a girl has to “be sexualed” with every man in the local group, or “set.” It’s not rape, the girls insist; it’s just what you do to get in. of five-pointed stars. “Nonnie, Brillhead, Moe-Milly, Lil Larry, Tank, Cornell.” The letter “C” in “Cornell” is drawn with a slash through it, a visual disrespect to the Crips. The “B” in Brillhead is drawn bigger than any other letter on the page, meant to symbolize Blood dominance. These handwriting trends are standard in Blood personal writings and graffiti across America; the same habits are visible in the handwritten Blood codes seized by NHPD. When Williams and West speak, they use Blood code words that are translated in the handbooks. Despite their half-status, these girls have absorbed too much of the national philosophy and insignia to be brushed aside as wannabes.
“Will it Ever Go Away?” Whether Bloods are fighting Crips, or kids from the Tre are fighting kids from the Hill, the fact remains that kids believe it is more dangerous not to have a crew than to join a gang or rep a hood. Without backup, it can be hard to walk through other parts of the city. “If you walkin’ in a place where you don’t know people, the people from that hood gonna check you,” says C.J. Pike, a scrawny 13-year-old-boy from the Ville. “They gonna surround you, ask you where you from, what you doin’ in their hood, how long you gonna be there for.” The kids who claim that hood are likely to defend it against an outsider without a pack of friends alongside him. “If you don’t say you gonna leave real soon, they make you leave.” Two of Pike’s friends got shot in broad daylight this year for walking in a hood that wasn’t their own. Last year, Maurice “Tank” Wilson, a college-bound seventeen-year-old, was shot in the middle of winter, usually a calmer time. Wilson was lucky—the shot wasn’t fatal. Even with luck, however, it’s hard to avoid the system of violence. Kids are especially susceptible to gang affiliations if their blood relatives remain active. “I got a friend whose parents are both Crips, and her three older brothers are Crips,” says Williams. “She’s an honors student.” But she isn’t a Crip, so “she had to move out the house because her parents don’t want nothin’ to do with her.” West and Williams both seem to understand that if parents show their children love and affection at an early age, the kids are more likely to stay off the streets. “The The New Journal
kids that got beaten when they was young, they the ones who’s in the streets now,” says twelve-year-old Williams solemnly. “Give them respect instead of beating them. Take them out somewhere so they don’t get bored and hang out with bad kids on the streets. Show them love. Then they’ll stay out the hood.” For streets to be safe for Williams and her friends, the city needs to prevent the next generation of youth from stepping up and re-populating the major gangs. Community centers like Jeuland’s Your Place and after-school education programs like Youth Rights Media, a nonprofit that teaches kids to make documentary films, may be getting closer to effective gang prevention. Your Place meets weekday afternoons from 4:30 to 7:30pm, the idle hours between school and curfew during which kids are most likely to commit crimes. The program schedules activities to occupy kids during the prime hours of criminal activity, and gives kids creative outlets for emotions that might otherwise turn ugly. In addition to the counselors, school tutors, career specialists, and religious mentors that Your Place provides, Jeuland schedules “supervised free time” – activities like karaoke and painting – for kids to express themselves in a way that adults can positively reinforce. “That might seem like it has nothing to do with gang violence but every single one of our kids has either seen a shooting, run away from a shooting, or lived their lives in fear of getting shot,” says Jeuland. “Kids who have been traumatized like this, they’re expecting people to give up October 2010
on them, to tell them they’re bad kids. To get up and sing in front of friends, and have adults cheer them on – it makes a world of difference. We’ve seen it.”
And Pelletier plays the realist when discussing violence in New Haven. “Will it ever go away? I been working here for 20 years. I don’t think you can ever stop it,” he says. Of the violence, and the The schools are stepping guns and drugs that come with it, up, too. This year, two middle he says, “it’s like trash—it never schools in New Haven introduced stops coming, it’s just a matter of Gang Resistance Education and taking it out. But if you don’t take Training (G.R.E.A.T.), a national out the trash, it’s gonna pile up and education program in which be bad for everybody.” police officers teach kids about the dangers of joining gangs. Will G.R.E.A.T. be successful? Sergeant Ricardo Rodriguez of NHPD, the officer who teaches the program, is enthusiastic. “We won’t know for sure for years, until we see whether or not these kids have stayed out
“Probably by the time I’m 24, there will be no more Bloods or Crips,” says Pike, 13. “They’ll all be in jail or dead by then.” of gangs, but they’ve responded really well so far.” Can the city actually keep its kids from shooting each other? Pike, for one, thinks the violence will extinguish itself if he just waits it out. “Probably by the time I’m 24, there will be no more Bloods or Crips,” he says. Why 24? “They’ll all be in jail or dead by then.” West disagrees. “Lockin’ people up ain’t gonna stop it,” she says. “It will just get worse inside the jails. You can’t lock all the people up that’s involved in this gang violence; its too many.”
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Because its terrain varies so much in elevation, Arizona is home to at least six biomes. My dad and I drove through desert scrub, where Saguaro cactuses stand like traffic cops. We drove through charparral, long plains studded with low bushes and houses visible miles before we reached them. Higher up, we drove through forests of fir and pine. It was like driving across the world.
Night Drive A father and his By Jacque Feldman
make their way along Arizona’s roads
he thing to do in my hometown, if it was a weekend and you weren’t old enough to drive, was a movie at the local mall. You might grab a slice of pizza first, but in any case, you needed a ride. Usually, the responsibility for my friends and me fell to Julia’s dad, a quiet guy with a moustache and thick glasses. Over the course of many ten-minute drives, he became privy to all the conspiracy theories and crushes that plague fourteen-year-old girls. It never occurred to us that he could hear
from the front seat. Three years later, if anyone’s dad had suggested driving us to prom, we would have been mortified. There were times and places for our dads and their cars—and far fewer of them, as soon as we learned how to drive ourselves. Then, we could come and go as we pleased. I kept the garage-door opener for my dad’s house in the console of my car, its shape distinctive enough to find by fishing in the pile of loose receipts and CDs. Now, travel, by car or otherwise,
with either parent leaves me nostalgic. This summer, when I flew to Arizona for a week of hiking with my dad, he held my boarding pass as he had when I was ten. When it was time to return from Grand Canyon National Park to the airport in Phoenix, he drove us across the state in a rental car whose cupholders we filled with trail mix. I put my feet up on the dash and napped. Later in the summer, as we took out our boots for a hike, my dad would turn to me and say, that’s Grand Canyon dust. The New Journal
his, and he didn’t want me to be lonely—to have trouble falling asleep. When I was very young, my dad would wrap me in coats and put me in the car and drive me all over town until the rhythm of wheels on road put me to sleep. The year I was six and afraid of fireworks, he did this on the fourth of July, being careful I inherit two things from my dad: to avoid the routes driving, and insomnia. On my closest to the shows’ sixteenth birthday, he surprised noise. me by pulling around the car after breakfast and telling me to In Arizona my dad and I drove get in. I was terrified. He made all day and night—into Flagstaff, me drive to a nearby parking lot “World’s First International Dark and back. That year, before I was Sky City;” out of Flagstaff, down ready to try my mother’s mana stretch of highway adopted by ual-transmission car, teaching the Flagstaff Optimists’ Club me to drive was my dad’s job. and another by the Baha’i Faith. We made time for lessons when We drove in the direction of the I was at his place. Our long San Francisco Peaks. Massive, Sunday drives traced tree-shaded white-capped, the range would roads in rural western Connecti- be celebrated in any other state, cut, out past the spot on the river but in Grand Canyon country, where people go tubing. it’s given short shrift. We drove “Lots of stupid and untalented people make perfectly good drivers,” my dad reassured me, when I despaired of ever learning how to drive. “Anyone can drive.” When I attempted parallel parking, he’d recite Woody Allen: “It’s O.K., I can walk to the curb from here.” Now, both of us can drive, but neither of us has ever been able to sleep. I stay up too into Sedona at sunset, when its late, and my dad wakes up too red rocks glow like heat lamps. early. When I was twelve and “Crystal Castles Metaphysical my parents separated, my dad Department Store,” said a sign wouldn’t give me the basement there. Late, we saw signs for a room at his house, because it is river called Big Bug Creek and a two flights of stairs away from town named Bumble Bee. October 2010
In the middle of nowhere, before we got to Phoenix, my dad pulled off the road. “I’m going to close my eyes for just a minute,” he said. “And when I awake, you can remind me to
tell you the story of the Death Valley real estate opportunity.” On the road there was time for stories. My dad, being my dad, knows everything about me, but I hadn’t known why he didn’t serve in Vietnam (his December birthday was late in the lottery) or the five American cities he would choose to show a tourist (Seattle made his list). My dad believes that Oreos and oranges are the best snacks for hiking, and that Gatorade is important. My dad’s ex-girlfriend was not a good travel companion, too fussy but—my dad told me—I am good to travel with, because I’m always game. My dad and I were still an hour out of Phoenix when we saw six javelinas, hairy Southwestern pigs, in the light of our headlamps. By this time of night, long stretches of highway were empty—except for the pigs. We waited for them to nose their way across the road and then pulled off for gas. Besides Coke and cigarettes, the convenience store sold antiques, marijuana 35
paraphernalia, and a broad array of magazines. Outside, a sign on the door read, “100’S OF KNIVES.” Let’s stop and poke around, I suggested. Why not, said my dad, resigned, laughing. It was
so late already. Together we peered at the weirdest merchandise. Behind the counter stood a greasy-haired teenage boy and, next to him, something labeled “Fully Functional Umbrella/ Sword $36.99.” We paid for our drinks and got back in the car. We were flying out of Phoenix the next day, very early. We were going to use our hotel room there for four, maybe five, hours of sleep. “If I was your age,” my dad told me, “I would just sleep in the car. Cancel the hotel room.” “Let’s do it!” I said, but he shook his head and drove on. There is a difference between being twenty and your daughter being twenty. He wasn’t about to let me sleep on the side of the road. When we got to the hotel in Phoenix the desert night was still warm. It took us a few minutes to find parking—desperate minutes: we couldn’t believe 36
that after such a long drive, there was going to be no parking at the end. Toting duffel bags, we spilled into the florescent lobby, where there were two men dressed business-casual with two women whose short skirts and high heels and makeup were all wrong. I had never seen a prostitute before. We went upstairs to our room, and I spent some time on the balcony, green light drifting up from the hotel pool, as my dad, inside, tried to sleep. The next morning, we turned in the rental and flew home. Back home, late in the summer, my dad and I are in the car again, and he remembers the story of the thousand frogs. He has never told me this story before. One night when I was two, he was driving me down an empty road in New Hampshire, after a rainstorm. He was trying to help me fall asleep. The road was wet, slick, and the frogs were out because of the weather. There were thousands of them, my dad told me, hopping all over the road. He must have crushed dozens of frogs as I slept in the passenger seat, the road ribboned beneath us, and he drove me, smoothly, on and on into the night.
The author’s father stands in the road at a stop along Route 66 The New Journal
ENDNOTE How to Succeed at Craigslist - 0$ OBO (New Haven, Yale) by Bay Gross Date: 2010-10-15, 2:25PM EDT Reply to: email@example.com [Errors when replying to ads?] A ‘been-there’ guide for the cash-strapped interior decorator: There are some great things about shopping in traditional stores: the consistency of selection and pricing; the choice to pay by cash, credit, check, or coupon; that warm sense of security you get approaching the register, confident in a safe transaction. You know the feeling, you’ve walked those aisles. But especially for broke college kids, getting a good deal trumps all safety standards and concerns about comfort. Enter Craigslist. Yes, the Craigslist. That seedy bounty of the Internet. That cornucopia of all things cheap and/or stolen. It is the perfect resource for today’s frugal consumer—the ideal alternative when Salvo’s selection turns up too chic. For the uninitiated, Craigslist is an online classifieds database, started by Craig Newberg in 1995, that now ranks among the top ten most visited sites in America. The model is genius: a unique intersection between commerce and gambling where the rush of eBay meets the creep of ChatRoullete. Where every purchase is weighed against the probability of being swindled, and ‘cash only’ payments sometimes mean organs too. Where men and women, minors and geriatrics come together to buy, sell, defraud, and bamboozle. My own foray into the mysterious world of Craigslist took me on tour of the Connecticut underground, and exposed me to a teeming economy, sheltered behind the anonymity of Internet pseudonym. First, there was Frank the ‘bike dealer’ in East Haven, who’s one-room apartment offered an unusually diverse assortment of Cannondale bicycles for suspiciously low rates. Fearing criminal consequences, I instead turned to Dave, who seemed slightly more legal when we met at 6am on Crown Street. Soon to follow was Liza, a lovely little chain smoker from Branford from whom I bought a thirty dollar sofa. In introducing the couch to my common room, I suspect I may have also introduced invasive parasites into the larger Davenport community. When all was said and done, however, I emerged with a great bike, a comfortable couch, and both of my kidneys. Not a bad deal. Takeaway Points: -A lot of ads will say ‘no emails’… Nobody likes a paper trail. -Leather is almost never leather. -Delivery is pretty much impossible -Bedbugs can make a grown man tremble • •
Location: New Haven, Yale it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
The New Journal
The New Journal