After the shooting of eight tourists on the Empire State Building’s Observation Deck yesterday by a disgruntled 69 year old man from Palestine, it’s my duty, as ten year New York resident and publisher of this international magazine to offer you some tips for surviving the Big Apple.
Analysis of an Assassination
Before we get to the hardcore survival tips, let’s examine precisely what happened during the Empire State Building shooting. The disgruntled man was touring the Observation Deck from 4 pm to 5 pm and he was alone and muttering to himself during that hour. At 5 pm he dropped to his knees, started praying aloud and then he drew his handgun and immediately assassinated a young Dutch musician by firing a single bullet into the base of his skull.
After the initial shot, everyone on the Observation Deck panicked and a stampede began as the Palestinian squeezed off 7 more shots. As hot lead flew, a five month old child took a bullet in the side; a man from Queens was punctured by a slug in his thigh; a six year old was shot in the arm; a mother was grazed on the elbow and three others were mildly wounded. Other women and children were injured by a stampede of Tourists pushing each other to get out of the way of the bullets.
Yesterday in New York, it was “every man for himself” and let the women and children be damned (or crushed in a stampede) — an awesome display of human nature and a prime example of the theory of self-preservation at any cost.
The Palestinian then turned the gun on himself and planted a bullet behind his right ear. He didn’t die instantly. Blood and brains shot out of his skull, his body went into involuntary convulsions and his dentures fell into the back of his throat. As he lay dying, the Assassin’s open mouth displayed the dislodged dentures rising and falling in the back of his throat with every failing breath as the life drained from his body.
The “Crazy” factor is greater in New York City than in any other large metropolis. You can’t avoid these crazy people, but you can be on guard against them. The instant you see someone talking to themselves, or praying on their knees out loud in a public place, you leave. You keep your eye on them as you get out of the way. Nothing good comes from this sort of muttering and public proclaiming and your best defense is to remove yourself from the situation and inform a Police Officer of the event you witnessed.
Several savvy New Yorkers saw the praying Palestinian yesterday at the Empire State Building, and they immediately knew something bad was in the air. They picked up their kids and they didn’t even wait for the elevator to speed them away. They took the back stairs and walked down to the next level of the building to catch the down elevator. That’s smart. That’s New York Street Smart. Learn from their example.
My wife and I live in Alphabet City in New York City. Alphabet City is bounded by East 3rd Street to 14th Street and Avenues A to D. We live in a HUD building and our apartment is part of my wife’s job — we live in staff housing. My wife was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa and I was born in Lincoln, Nebraska. We each lived in the houses our parents built for the first 23 years of our lives. Needless to say, moving to New York City to get our graduate degrees was not only a culture shock, it was a system shock as well: Empty Crack vials litter our street corners, used condoms decorate what little grass is able to sprout between holes in the sidewalks. Bad attitude, a general hatred for mankind, actually, abounds everywhere.
Why do we live here? The energy is great. The Theatre is here. Columbia and New York Universities are here.
What to Wear
One of the first things we learned when we moved to New York was how to dress. The idea is to NOT dress like a tourist, and for us, that means no “mid-western clothes.” Don’t wear a dress or a skirt if you’re a woman. If you’re a man, wear jeans, not dress pants.
• Wear dark clothes. Black is best. It’s a New York City stereotype to dress entirely in black, but stereotypes are born of a reality that becomes overstated. You’ll never look like a tourist if you dress in black.
• I have a dark blue Burberry trenchcoat I like to wear when I go out. You’d think that I’d be marked as an easy pick because of that expensive coat. Quite the opposite is true because the criminal element on the street think I’m a Cop! It seems New York City Detectives wear similar trenchcoats — and you’ve never seen a crowd of kids or drug pushers clear a street corner faster than when I walk by wearing my Burberry.
• Do not wear white sneakers. This is a dead giveaway that you’re a tourist or new to New York. Wear black sneakers. Even better is to wear a high-topped boot like Timberland. Boots are best because they protect your feet and ankles from the harsh environment and clumsy sidewalks and curbs of New York that seem bent on damaging your “good shoes.” Boots are also handy if you need to kick someone in the nuts or if you have to wade into a rain puddle, step through a urine pool or navigate piles of dog excrement. Boots also protect your toes from being crushed by things dropped out of apartment windows to the street below.
• Wear dark sunglasses. The lenses should be grey and should be dark enough so you can look at people without them being able to see your eyes. Sunglasses will also protect your eyes from flying New York City debris and dirt. You wear sunglasses to get an upper hand over those around you — you’re constantly keeping watch over your surroundings without appearing to be a gawking tourist.
How to Behave
There are Street Rules of Behavior you need to learn. These tips will help you learn how to carry yourself when you’re out walking on the streets of New York.
• There’s always someone out there willing to be uglier than they already are. Don’t pick a fight because you won’t be the one who finishes it. Be tough and confident. Don’t send out badass vibes and don’t emanate a harshly aggressive attitude or you’ll attract trouble instead of belaying it.
• Don’t show cash. Keep your money in your sock. Go to a bathroom stall to count your cash. Keep your wallet in your front pocket if you must carry one. Don’t invite an irresistible urge to take what you cherish by making it visible to the world. Use Travelers’s Cheques. Use a credit card. Try not to use cash.
• Use two wallets. I can’t say I use this tip, but I know several people who do. If you’re robbed or mugged, you’ll be asked at knifepoint or gunpoint for money. Since the person mugging you is probably looking for money to buy drugs, you need to give them something or they’ll take out their craving on you by giving you a bullet or the feel of sharp steel against your face.
Having two wallets allows you to give them what they need while protecting your personal information and money. Your “real” wallet will be in your front pocket. Keep it there. Your second “fake” wallet will be in your coat or purse and it will be of cheap quality, it will have ten dollars in one dollar bills inside and it will have several out-of-date credit cards. When you’re mugged, you pull out the dummy wallet filled with what appear to be “goodies” and you toss that wallet over the head of your Mugger and you turn tail and run in the opposite direction.
You probably won’t be chased. All they want is you money. You gave them ten bucks and what appears to them (at the moment anyway) to be a healthy stash of credit cards. Run as fast as you can — you won’t be worth the effort of chasing down since they think they already have your wallet. You know better, because your “real” wallet is safely inside your front pocket.
• Being Followed? Pull off your sunglasses and turn around and look the person IN THE EYE and send the message with your eyes that “I’m memorizing your face.” The person will either back off or not know you’re looking at them (which means they’re not marking you for a mugging). This is the hardest lesson to learn because it goes against our natural instinct not to turn around to see if someone is following us.
You must break that habit. You must let them know that you know they’re there and that you’ll recognize them later in a line up if they pull anything with you now. They’ll back off if they’re bad intentioned because you just thwarted their best tool against you: Surprise attack from the back!
• Yell Fire! If you’re under attack or being followed, yell “Fire!” as loud as you can. Fire brings help. Yelling for “Help” will not get you a response because everyone yells for help in New York City. Fire means personal property might be in danger and folks naturally want to check out the possible cause of fire damage to what they covet: their stuff.
• Make Eye Contact if you’re in trouble. You’d be surprised how easy it is in New York to not get involved just by ignoring a situation. If you’re in trouble and need help from someone standing around or walking by you, you must make eye contact with the person you desire help from or else you will be ignored. By meeting their eyes with yours and saying, “Please help me!” you’ve involved them in your plight. They cannot refuse to help because they’ve already offered their assistance by making eye contact back with you. Don’t be shy to take them up on their eye contact offer to help. If one person steps up to help, you’ll be surprised how many other bystanders will follow suit to help as well.
Trust Your Gut
The most important item to stress is that you should trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right to you, move on, change the situation. Your internal radar will help keep you out of dire situations if you learn to create a sixth sense: Your New York Street Smarts. Trust no one you don’t know. Be wary. Be confident. Make eye contact when you must.
Prepare for the Worst
I confess that the way I deal with living in New York City is to expect to be killed every time I leave the apartment. This places my senses on high alert. I walk briskly as if I’m late for an appointment: I have a place to go and people are expecting my arrival. As I walk down the street I am super sensitive to my surroundings. See that standpipe? I can bash someone’s head against it if they mess with me. There’s a cop car over there? I can run to if I’m chased. That iron fence across the street would be a good defense against a Pit Bull attack. Climbing on top of that Van with the luggage rack is an excellent escape perch if I’m followed. Some may call me paranoid. I call myself Street Savvy. I refuse to be surprised or helpless. I am proactive and keen.
I also keep an eye out for hospitals, Fire Houses and Cops on foot patrol. If someone stabs me or shoots me, I know where I need to get myself in a hurry.
Above all, be aware of your surroundings and, if you visit our fair City, try to have a good time even though New York City itself appears to be an anathema to that very idea.