Tuesday, August 08, 2006


I have a theory about the human constitution. It's very simple, really: either you have one, or you don't. Where you're from is not an issue. Here in New York, it's common practice to bark about where you live, especially in those all-important club-fighting situations I'm always writing about, as if growing up in Bronx endows one with super-secret-special knockout powers for those times when push comes to shove.

Here is fact: living in a "tough" neighborhood doesn't necessarily make you tough. And growing up with a silver spoon in your mouth doesn't necessarily make you a pussy. I've proven myself a time or two, and I grew up next door to a dentist. Some people live in the Bronx, and they stay in the house and play video games all day. Others live in Upper Saddle River and train like motherfuckers. When the two meet, my money's on the guy from the suburbs.

I don't like when people tell me where they're from after they're thrown out of the club. It's as though they're claiming toughness-by-osmosis. You can't do that. You have to stand on your own merits. You either have it or you don't, and if your first move is to tell me where you're from, it's likely you're missing something. Geographic representation is the last refuge of the milquetoast.

"Yo, I'm from the Bronx, n----a? What'chu gonna do now?"

"Well, I'm from (middle class neighborhood in East Central Queens). But that's not important right now, because you're unarmed, fat and out of shape, and I'm about to beat your ass like a drum."

Statistically speaking, people from the Bronx are more likely to be "tough" than people from Upper Saddle River. I'm not disputing that. They're also more inclined to carry weapons, and will generally respond to perceived threats in a much more visceral manner than people hailing from more pleasant environs.

I suppose they've earned that right. If I had grown up in the Bronx, I'd have my guard up 24/7, too. I have no problem with that. But what of the kid from Franklin Lakes who's about to get a shot in the UFC and works as a bouncer to pay his monthly bill at Gracie's? You might not know it, but he's out there. Or the kid from East Meadow who just did two tours in Iraq and is spending the summer bouncing because he's trying to figure out what to do with his life? We have a couple of those, too. Are you "tougher" than them? Does the Bronx trump Baghdad out on the sidewalk?

Here's what happens:

Guys get thrown out. They start yelling. People yell back. Someone tells everyone where he's from. Someone responds in kind. Eventually, you've got two imbeciles wrestling on the sidewalk, with love handles and rippling back fat everywhere you look. We break it up, and then there's more yelling and more rep-re-senting. Tough stuff.

I learned long ago to stop getting angry at the rich. Wealthy people can hate the world just as much as you do. More, in fact, because the wealthy man usually has a better idea of how things really work. The difference between the angry wealthy man and the angry poor man is that the angry wealthy man has the resources -- and the knowledge -- to do something about it.

Even if you live near Jamaica Ave. WHAT!

***I've been shitty about responding to email for the past few weeks, and I apologize for that. People have written me long, thoughtful responses to things I've posted, and in my unflinching arrogance, I've failed to respond to many of these. I promise that both the timing and quality of my responses will improve markedly this week and thereafter. Thanks.