My Old Hood

Ah, the old neighborhood.  Wonder what’s happening back there now?

Well, at the behest of the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the FBI recently deployed helicopters and SWAT teams to nab 58 members of the Bloods and Latin Kings on racketeering, conspiracy, and drug charges.

The indictment described the gangs like a machine pushing cocaine, marijuana, and heroin from the Bronx into New York’s northern suburbs.

Street gangs!  Phone taps!  Hidden cameras!  Just like The Wire!  My old hood!

The authorities were particularly pleased they had grabbed some of the real movers and shakers.  Because these kingpins could be facing decades in federal prison, officials are hoping they would be willing to cooperate and help solve an assortment of cold cases including numerous homicides.

See, the drug crime isn’t really the priority.  It’s the stabbings and the shootings and the bloodshed.  Of course, the gangs are always going to beef on each other, but the level of violence against citizens is on the precipitous rise.

It’s not safe to go outside.  Not to walk to school.  Not to hang at the diner.  Not anywhere at night.

Jimmy, Bunk, Kima, Omar!  Forget Baltimore.  You’re gonna love New York.

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

Childhood Mementos

My mother kept only three mementos of my childhood, all from the very earliest school days.

The first, a Mother’s Day portrait.

It was not difficult to make a good likeness of my mother.  Her hair she colored flaming orange, structured into what we called a “high hairdo”, but was more commonly known as the “beehive”.  Her eyes were green.  Not hazel.  Crayola green.  Technicolor green.  Green green green.

The second, a short essay.

Just a few hand-written sentences about the weekend.  That elementary school paper with two solid lines cut horizontally by a dashed line.  The single page was notable only because it was filled with spelling errors.  My mother always took great pleasure in my failings.

The third, my kindergarten report card.

Mrs. Schupp reported that I played well with others and was an accomplished storyteller, but could not tell my left from my right.  I still can’t.  Just ask anyone who has tried to give me driving directions.  It isn’t pretty.

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

Backwards, Baby

So I was walking down University Avenue, a few blocks from my home, when I passed the T-Mobile store.

In the window, my eyes were drawn to a super-size poster showing a photograph of an Asian girl and her cell phone.

The girl, who looked about fourteen, was wearing a parochial style school uniform.  Or maybe more like a Manga-style sexual fantasy version of said uniform.

The pink skirt was plaid, only very, very micro.  The white blouse was form-fitting and unbuttoned to show her micro-cleavage.  The black tie was loosely knotted and curled around her micro-breast.

This girl’s bare legs were spread wide open.  Using both hands she held her cell phone right up to her crotch.  The intended message of the imagery was extremely clear and highly offensive.

Of course I marched into the store, asked to speak with the manager, and politely requested he take down the poster.  He refused.

When it became certain that he would not listen to reason, I told him that until he complied, I would be exercising my First Amendment right to freedom of expression, loudly, in front of the store.  And so he did.  Comply.

It felt good that my small action yielded such a quick and successful response.

Still, I couldn’t help thinking of those Jean Kilbourne films they’ve been showing at high schools for more than twenty-five years.  The ones about the objectification of women in advertising.  Killing Us Softly.  We saw the first one when I was in school.  They’re up to Volume 4 now.

Guess we’ve come a long way backwards, baby.

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

Scary Movie

Terry Gross recently interviewed Quentin Tarantino on Fresh Air, her excellent radio magazine covering the arts and issues of the day.

They got to talking about scary movies and images.  Terry mentioned that as a child she was absolutely terrified of the Quasimodo character on The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  The 1939 RKO classic with Charles Laughton, NOT the 1996 Disney version with cartoon people.

Mr. Tarantino, whose films are known for their extreme violence, revealed the image that frightens him most: “The only thing that I’ve ever watched in a movie that I wished I’ve never seen is the real-life animal death, a real-life insect death”.

So the creative force behind Kill Bill, Vol. 1, in which 95 people meet their bloody deaths by sword over the course of 111 minutes — a rate of nearly 1 beheading per minute — can’t bear to see a bug squashed?

The images that haunted me most as a kid were from The March of Dimes.  Every year, the school would give us these donation envelopes with a photograph of that year’s “poster child”.  The following envelope is from some years before my birth, but you get the idea.

March of Dimes adSeriously, what could be more scary than seeing another kid wearing leg braces and using crutches?

AND getting an injection in the arm?

AND laying in an iron lung?

What advertising genius dreamed up this most child-friendly of campaigns?

And why didn’t my parents or the teachers explain that we had been inoculated and would never get polio?

Talk about scary.

So far, the most terrifying movie I have seen as an adult is unquestionably Black Swan.  Zombies, vampires, ghosts; from these things I don’t believe at all so they don’t scare me even a little.

But toxic mothers, eating disorders, unhealthy fixations; from these things I know very well so they scare me very much indeed.

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.