African Burial Ground National Monument: 2013 New York Stories 2

In 1991, I was living in New York when the burial place of Africans who were enslaved and free were discovered at what is now 290 Broadway in downtown Manhattan. Their remains were buried from the late 1600’s to the 1794. It is only recently in 2013 that I am fully understanding and appreciating the African Burial Ground in the context of a long history of Africans and people of African descent . . . my history . . . our history.

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The National Parks Service offers a broad experience at the monument including an indoor video and exhibition at the museum, and an outdoor memorial.

Some of the focus is on the spiritual implications of a people in bondage holding onto their humanity by burying loved ones in the midst of oppression and violence. Only humans bury their dead. The curators offer insightful social and cultural context to the lives of people of African descent including how some labored and family lives.

Learn more reading Audrey Peterman’s “African Burial Ground National Monument: Peace at Last” in Our True Nature: Finding a Zest of Life in the National Park System.

Photos by Dianne Glave

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Arrival: 2013 New York Stories 1

I really had to practice some self control when I arrived at Laguardia Airport in Queens outside New York City. Super Shuttle took an hour to arrive at the airport. Shame. And the driver was no bargain even with GPS. Shame. He almost left the back door open. I visualized my luggage, strewn across the BQE-Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

I  did look to my left and saw soccer players playing under the dark of night lit by powerful lights. What a pleasure.

We took the Kosciusko Bridge into the Lower East Side. Darkness . . . Illusion of brightness in the bright lights.

Back to the driver. He jumped over a stop and had to double back. I really wanted to get in the passenger seat and direct him. We were a few blocks from my hotel so I grabbed up my bags knowing I was a few moments from freedom. I yelled to the driver, “There’s my hotel on the left.”

I jumped out of the van and yelled at the other passengers, “Good luck, ya’all!”

They looked at me like frightened birds, appearing as though their last hope had ejected from the shuttle.

So here I am back in my homeland . . .  bright lights, big city . . .  Singing a different song having lived in so many places . . . But so quickly returning to the core of my New York self.

The Other Guys: Irony of the Toyota Prius and a New York Food Desert

The film The Other Guys starring two middle-aged guys who play middle aged guys is ironic in an America where we worship youth. It will be top-grossing this weekend despite ageism. Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) and Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg), are the principal characters playing what is often young(ish) buff men in cop buddy films. There’s the Lethal Weapon movies: Riggs was young and buff and ok, Murtagh was middle-aged and not so buff. Some might describe all of this as buddy-cop satire.

The Other Guys opens with P. K. Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Christopher Danson (Dwanyne Johnson), caricature of super-cops so different from Gamble and Hoitz. The latter pairing is buff–ok Danson is buff. Both Highsmith and Danson are trash-talking womanizing police officers beloved by all of New York City. They also drive a gas guzzling muscle car that is destroyed twice in the movie. Oh and yeah, do you think the two men of color driving the anti-environmental car beat the stereotype of being offed early in the movie? Watch and see. Maybe they have to go because they don’t care about the environment. Ha.

Gamble and Hoitz, our middle-aged cop buddies, tool and chase around NYC in a kinder gentler vehicle: the Toyota Prius. Their car really reflects their age, that would be middle, although Hoitz is angry about being in a lady-car.

The Prius that does an average of 50 mpg is a central character much like Gamble and Hoitz. The lollipop red vehicle is in a number of scenes including a few chases. It gets dusted in cocaine: Prius owners everywhere are cringing that the car’s clean image is besmirched. When the bad guys steal the Prius by gun-point–everyone wants a Prius, I tell you–it ends up polluted but still chugging. A raccoon gives birth in the car, a mouse is found in the back, and bodily fluids spread all over the car. Hoitz even tosses litter from the passenger side of the Prius, a sacrilege from within such an energy efficient vehicle. The poor Prius is riddled with bullet holes but I bet it’s still getting high mileage to the very end even in the car chases.

That’s not the worst of it. The Other Guys turn New York City, I would argue the culinary capital of the world, into a food desert or a place where you can only get really poor quality food. A hot dog vendor selling dirty dogs from his cart offers Highsmith and Danson hot dogs for life–but no soda–in honor of the pair’s heroics early in the film. Hoitz angrily says he’s heading out for a slice, that’s pizza, probably in search of comfort food because Gamble gets on Hoitz’s nerves. In the squad room, Ritz Crackers and Oreos, product placement abounds, are set strategically behind Hoitz’s head. In the last scene of the movie, Gamble and Hoitz go to Hebrew National Hot Dogs in Coney Island to bond over their heroics. And wait for the bonus scene after the credits, which is filled with  pork fried rice and ribs at Chin Chins. I did see some lettuce in a scene with Gamble and his wife Dr. Sheila Gamble (Eva Mendes).

All of this has NYC’s urban backdrop of the Trump Tower, the Citibank Building, the George Washington Bridge, and the Empire State Building. For those of us from urban places, more specifically those who worked and/or lived in New York, it’s fun to figure out where the car chases are taking place.

Considering how folks in southern California including the film industry–all of this was tongue-in-check concerning a car and food–subsist on low carbs and farmer’s market vegetables is satiric.

Eva Mendes ugly? Ironic. Will Ferrell as Gamble as a pimp? Ironic. Mark Wahlberg liking being a traffic cop? Ironic.

All-in-all, some funny Saturday Night Live skits strung together that taken together don’t make much sense. Still it was funny.