Night In The City
It was after 9 PM in New York City and I just about had the streets to myself as I was walking back from dinner at a little Italian place in Chelsea. This neighborhood on the west side of Manhattan is tucked between the Holland and Lincoln tunnels and is the home of art galleries and in my past visits had a lot of foot traffic in the evening.
Not this night though, the streets were almost empty. My ear pods were playing a mix of jazz greats like Miles Davis and Chet Baker as I walked alone in the chill air. It wasn’t freezing yet, but you could tell it wasn’t far off. All that’s needed is a little Arctic tip of the hat from Canada and New York will freeze for sure. It felt a bit like a movie, a city of more than 7 million people and I felt like I had it all to myself.
I was in town for SOFREP’s annual “Head Shed” meeting, my first as Editor In Chief and it was pretty productive. It’s a room full of driven, creative people. We all did various presentations, staked out ideas, and hashed through some arguments over things, but in the end, I think our members will be pretty pleased with what we have planned for 2022.
But this piece is about Crime, COVID, and the big city, not meeting notes and agendas.
Going to New York, recent media coverage made me think this trip was not going to be much fun. According to the narrative, New York is supposedly locked down like the Cash Counting Room in a Vegas casino as feral gangs loot designer handbag stores because of some nonsense about COVID and the root causes of poverty.
Here is what I noticed.
The Mask Indoctrination Of The Masses
Here in Florida, the population has adjusted in the early stages of what I am calling the Post COVID Era. Businesses are open, people are going about their lives, you can get the vaccination or not depending on your preference and only about one person in ten seem to be wearing masks indoors or out. Now that there are drugs like Remdesovir and monoclonal antibodies for treating COVID cases, the focus here has shifted away from preventing its spread with lockdowns and mask mandates and moving towards early treatment to reduce hospitalizations and deaths.
But in a place that the federal government controls, you are time-warped back to 18 months ago. I’m talking about going to any commercial airport here. Airports really do represent everything the government is terrible at doing. They are crowded, the seating uncomfortable, the prices for everything are outrageous and they constantly bombard you with notices of things you must not do in this cheery polite voice.
“Passengers are reminded that pets must remain in their kennels in the terminal, failure to do so can result in significant fines.”
“For the comfort and safety of all our guests, smoking is prohibited anywhere in the airport. It is against federal law too…..”
“Do not leave your bag or vehicle unattended, or…….”
And now the latest, “Passengers are required to wear masks at all times while in the airport terminal and aboard planes, failure to comply will result in……”
Walking into the terminal was the first time I had to don a mask in more than a year, I had forgotten how uncomfortable they are. How they suck onto your nostrils when you breathe, and how they fog your sunglasses as the mask tries to ride down under your chin. But everyone was wearing them dutifully. Until you get to remove the mask when the ticket agent and then the TSA wants to see your face. Then you are allowed to supposedly put everyone in the entire airport at risk of death by lowering your mask for several seconds. The government has to also be safe from terrorists and that comes in conflict with being safe from COVID, so something’s gotta give, right? You can also take your mask off to eat your $18 dollar club sandwich and drink your $12 beer, because public safety has to take a back seat to overpriced concessions.
Airports are a pretty good indication of what life would be like if the government controlled everything. You have to show up 2 hours early to your appointment for something, walk about a mile, stand in line three times, pay $18 for a $5 sandwich and then sit in a cramped, uncomfortable chair for three hours. Where you will be treated to a pantomimed lecture on the importance of social distancing while two other people are sitting so close to you that when you get an itch, they scratch.
Then I arrived at Newark Airport and the rules were restated all over again.
Then I got on a train to go to Penn Station in Manhattan and I heard the rules all over again on the train.
Then I arrived at Penn Station and heard the rules about masks yet again.
When I got in a cab to go to my hotel I got the mask lecture a final time.
Finally, I had to fend off three text messages from New Jersey health asking me if I wanted to be notified if I came in contact with anyone who had tested positive for COVID. They track such people by their phone apparently
All told, I spent about 7 total hours hearing mask lectures that day.
New York City Health, Don’t Discriminate While You Are Discriminating
I had expected that arriving in the city that I would spend the next several days hearing this lecture over and over again. Checking the COVID restrictions from New York City Health before I arrived, these two things stuck with me.
“We strongly recommend everyone — including people who are vaccinated or were previously infected — wear masks in all public indoor settings.”
But first, you have to get into that indoor setting and New York requires proof of vaccination to even enter. You are allowed in if you just have to go to the bathroom and they remind businesses about the rule that says you can’t use this proof of vaccination before entry to discriminate against anyone.
Besides the discrimination forbidding public entry to unvaccinated persons, that discrimination is approved.
I had in my possession a white, pristine vaccination card issued in Florida proving that I had all my shots(like a puppy). It looks brand new because we really don’t need to show them in Florida unless we are getting a shot and they need to update it. I had it in my wallet and expected that I would be showing it constantly while I was in town.
When I entered my hotel, the mask bubble burst. Not only were people not wearing masks but I was not asked for my Vax Card, which I was ready to draw like a gunfighter.
On the street I noticed few people wearing masks out of doors or indoors. Sadly, I think the last two years for many people have been so traumatic and panic-inducing that they will wear masks for the rest of their lives.
I was only asked for my Vax card in a couple of places.
In New York City, the people are practicing something jokingly referred to as “Irish Democracy,” or the tendency of people to silently, but stubbornly ignore rules and laws that seem unjust or contradictory to them. The Bureaucrats pass these laws and rules and tell themselves everyone will just go along, but out in the real world, they are being largely ignored and not enforced.
The economist Milton Friedman once said in a speech something along the lines of, “The British will obey all the laws, both the good and the bad, the French just ignore their laws, and the Americans follow the good ones but will just ignore the bad ones.”
That’s what I saw in New York City despite the media stories that the city is locked down like Ft Leavenworth prison. These mask and vax card rules aren’t the only law they ignore either. I seemed to smell marijuana nearly everywhere and saw people casually smoking weed seated at outdoor restaurants and on the steps of their apartment buildings.
As for the reports of crime running rampant in the city, I saw nothing that set off my spidey sense of danger. I take certain personal security measures walking around in that city that I won’t say anything more about, but overall it felt pretty safe where I was even late in the evening. There was a marked absence of foot traffic on the streets for most of my time there and traffic moved pretty smoothly on the street. The millions of tourists who visit New York City every year are definitely not back and neither are a lot of the businesses that catered to them. I saw numerous empty commercial properties in areas that should be in very high demand.
In spite of claims made by politicians that New York City is “Open for business,” many of the businesses are only partially opened. At my hotel, the bar and restaurant were both closed and I had to walk a block for a cup of coffee in the morning. After a meeting one afternoon in lower Manhattan, several of us wanted to get a drink. I saw a huge Hilton hotel about a block away and said, “Let’s go in there.” Asking for directions to the bar, we were informed it was closed. We didn’t ask why, we already knew.
COVID is the reason for everything that doesn’t work, isn’t ready, isn’t on time or is out of stock. It may be the greatest excuse for inconveniences and disappointments ever devised by human beings. The country is short of lots of goods and services right now, but in the places that are open, they hand out paper masks like candy. There is no shortage or delay in shipping masks because of COVID.
Less than a block away we found an Irish pub overflowing with people that was open, probably with guests from the Hilton.
Unlike the sour faces you see at airports all over the country, this bar was full of people having a great time over nothing more than it being Friday night and after work. I decided to walk a couple of blocks before I grabbed a cab and see New York in a way that few ever get to see it, with nearly empty streets at 8 pm.
The next afternoon I submitted to hours of hectoring about masks again to get back to Florida and the relative calm of a post COVID state of things. The last mask I saw was laying on the ground in the parking lot, in gross violation of the airport rules about using the trash receptacles.
A little Irish Democracy thrives in Florida too.