New York, New York, once a wonderful town/ The people are crap and the mayor’s a clown/ The only safe space is a hole in the ground… I could go on, but why be so negative? Arriving from bucolic Switzerland, Newark, one of America’s ‘murder capitals’, feels like Katanga circa 1960. If this isn’t a third-world airport, then I don’t know what is. My driver tells me I’m lucky that the virus is keeping people away otherwise it would take at least three hours just to get through customs. None of the electric signs that would tell us which terminal to collect our luggage from is working, so some very old people have to hike a mile or two to search for them. The airport itself looks grubby, shabby and worn.
I’m in a so-so mood, however, as I was the only sucker in first class and drank two bottles of good Swiss red, which helped me relax. The Airbus was one third full — if that. But the wily Swiss were going full out trying to save on fuel, and although they denied it, the trip from Zurich took nine-plus hours. The alternative is to fly private, which costs 300,000 smackers.
When the Dominican strongman Rafael Trujillo was assassinated back in the early 1960s, my friend and mentor Porfirio Rubirosa chartered a Boeing 707 to fly the dictator’s two sons and himself to Ciudad Trujillo, as the capital was then known. (I liked the idea that Trujillo had called the capital after himself. Just before he was ambushed, the old boy had had a quickie with his young Pepita, but he nevertheless emerged mortally wounded from his car and shot one of his assassins. At least he died like a man and with his boots on.) Anyway, Ruby paid $28,000 for the round trip and told me later that it had been a waste, both the trip and the money. The two sons were soft and did not want to crack heads, so they ended up as playboys in Spain. Ramfis even lost his beautiful girl to the great skier Jean-Claude Killy, a triple Olympic champion and a good friend of mine back then.
Now where was I? Newark. My driver is Argentinian and very nice. He lives in Queens and tells me that there’s a war going on there too, this time between the Hasidic community and the fuzz. Orthodox Jews are clashing with cops because the former refuse to observe social-distancing rules. The Hasidic crowd attacked a Jewish photographer and chased after him shouting ‘Nazi’ and ‘Hitler’. The White House’s Covid tsar said: ‘We are a community together. No group lives in isolation… that community needs to understand they’re within the United States, in a community of others and it’s our job to protect one another by doing what we need to do to ensure others stay safe.’ Go tell that to the Palestinians on the West Bank, says I. Still, at least the Hasidic protests didn’t involve destroying homes and looting businesses. Whereas they were fined for lighting fires in the street, Biden’s ‘peaceful protesters’ destroyed and looted the city and were praised.
Never mind. This is no longer one nation and one people, but a land divided by race, culture and politics. It started in the 1960s with the entrenched liberal establishment dispatching young Americans to far-off places to save people from communism. The hypocritical establishment then doubled down with social engineering: students were transported to schools in different neighbourhoods to achieve racial integration. It was called busing and provoked pushback from both parents and politicians. Thirty or 40 years later, in Iraq and Afghanistan, American exceptionalism proved yet again to be a farce, a phoney, a preposterous joke on the part of the entrenched establishment.
I think of all this as I’m being driven through empty streets and boulevards late at night. Broadway is dark, old-favourite hangouts long gone. ‘What should be the limit of identity politics?’ I ask my driver. He looks confused. He left Argentina when General Videla was in power, some time in the 1970s. He calls New York home. Unlike me, I don’t think he’s fond of dictators. ‘We won the World Cup with Videla in power,’ he says rather proudly. It all comes down to the plebeian love of football. Socrates the footballer is far better known in South America than the Socrates we Greeks put to death for corrupting young minds.
In Park Avenue, where I live, even the doormen are inside, behind locked doors. The next morning I read in the Post that seven people were shot on the day of my arrival. One was shot for his backpack. Not a word about this appeared in the degenerate Times. In pandering to so-called minorities, the most useless governor and mayor ever have all but done away with bail and pre-trial detention, turning the Bagel into a criminal paradise.
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