Sunday, July 12, 2009

Domestic updates

Several times in the past few years we've sent our children to stay with relatives in France during summer vacation. Payback arrived last week in the form of three Parisian teenagers who will be living with us for the next six weeks. As if New York teenagers weren't shallow enough.

Just kidding. Though quite fashionable, they are good kids. The only problem so far is that one of them seems to have made all his fashion decisions based on gangster rap videos. The second day here he came out with his pants down below his butt showing off his boxer shorts while wearing a wife beater shirt, a thick gold chain around his neck and a NY Yankees cap tipped sideways. He had the look nailed, the only problem being it was a bit too precise. Of course we told him he had to pull up his pants while he's in our house. And we asked him to please not go around like that in our neighborhood. In Manhattan he can wear his pants around his ankles for all we care.

Are we old fogies? Maybe some, but for the most part I don't think so. My main concern is for his safety. People Brooklyn in generally don't want to see kids adverting themselves as thugs walking around their neighborhoods and it's not unusual for local toughs to do something about it. Brooklyn ain't Manhattan. Then there are the cops who are likely to hassle the gangster types. And I also fear that real ghetto kids might not take kindly to some French kid posing as a thug. Cause tough guy he ain't. After putting away his gangbanger costumes he busted out with a series of athletic wear ensembles. Better a pimp than a punk, I guess. Those French and their fashions. Just gotta laugh.

The girl, who is 15, bears a strong family resemblance to my wife. I've found that a bit uncomfortable, but I'm coping. I'm not one of those disgusting old guys that ogles young women. My daughter's friends, for example, are mostly attractive young girls and I don't need any self control not to ogle them. One time I walked in when they weren't expecting me and caught them dancing topless. I got a laugh off their embarrassment, but that was it. But none of them look remotely like my wife, unlike her little French niece. It's taking some effort not to look at her. Lola was pretty cute way back when.

Anyway, I was afraid having three teen visitors in our tiny New York apartment would be difficult, but it's gone all right so far. John Bob's had a lot of sleepovers and now he's away at camp for 10 days. Jane Bob is spending a month in France, so it's not that much more crowded than normal. This time she's not staying with relatives. She got in one of those education abroad programs where they study something and live with a family. Of course she's not writing much and hasn't called, but the few notes we've gotten indicate she's having the time of her life. A bunch of 17 year-olds running free in Paris? Yea, that would be fun. Now she's with the family in Arles and seems to be having a fantastic time there as well. About the time Jane Bob gets back I'm going to Quebec for a couple weeks, so I'll be free. But it's too bad for her French cousins that she's away. They're kind of lost and are spending most of their time playing the Wii.

Periodically, I've told you about the ever-ongoing changes to the businesses in my neighborhood. It's been a little slow lately. A dry cleaner took over a clothing store and dentist office that closed. His old shop is now for rent. A Russian bakery went out of business. I walked by there late the other night and five Chinese guys were playing poker. I don't know if they were workers remodeling or if it's now going to be an illegal poker parlor. I wouldn't be a bit surprised either way.

The big news here is that a local Mexican restaurant went rogue and turned into an illegal nightclub. Hundreds of people are in and out of there till four in the morning. There's dancing, bright lights and thumpa thumpa all night long. There's been at least one knife fight, a few women have been slapped around on the street, and the noise is pretty much constant from 2 am to 4:30. The worst of it is that taxis continuously pull up and honk. We can drown out most of it, but the honks pierce any white noise we throw up against them.

You might think that it would be easy to close down an illegal nightclub but that's not proving to be the case. The neighbors are up in arms. The neighborhood association has had numerous meetings and repeatedly contacted the police and elected officials. The authorities have been responsive. They learned that the restaurant's liquor license only goes till 10 pm and claim to be working to get that rescinded. The police say they have given the owner numerous summons's and at one point they jailed him for four days. But the day he got out it was open again and has been open ever since.

I'm not without sympathy. Guy's trying to make a buck in tough economic times. Apparently there's a great need for nightclubs among the Mexican population. Those people work hard doing the shittiest jobs around. Why shouldn't they be able to party? The answer is that if the guy wants to run a nightclub, he should open one in a non-residential neighborhood where it's legal.

Nobody round here quite understands why it's so difficult to shut the place down. How can someone just defy the authorities like that? If I sat up a table and start selling beer on the sidewalk it wouldn't be an hour before the police closed me down. And since he doesn't have a liquor license for a nightclub now, I'm skeptical that taking away his daytime license is going to have any effect. Why won't he just continue telling the cops and politicians and the neighbors to fuck off? Apparently he's making a lot more money than being illegal is costing him. But I don't really care about his reasoning. What's with the cops? Are they really such big helpless pussies when confronted with a Mexican who doesn't want to obey the law?