In looking back through some cutting room floor material, I came across these splices to do with ranting: something I noticed people doing a lot of in my first months in New York. I myself then became a ranter, largely to do with the lack of space in pretty much every aspect of city life. This was the second stage, like anger on the Kübler Ross “stages of grief” scale. I have since progressed to the point where I barely ever rant, and nor do I notice others ranting. Perhaps that is acceptance. But, at the time that I wrote this, the rant was new to me, it was scary, because it was so intense, and because it bespoke the depth of a reaction that was necessary to protect against the stressors of the environment that stimulated it.
My second night here (21st August, 2010), I met friends at Union Pool (bar) in Williamsburg. Initially, before I found it, I half-believed it to be a pool, or at least some kind of skateboarding bowl. After some tequilas and Tecate, some of the assembled company warmed up to what I am beginning to realise is very much a thing here: “the rant”. The first rant came about due to the conversation about a beach near Coney island and the necessary falsification of resident stickers – via a printed-out digital photo of a resident sticker – to avoid paying $40 to park there, and from there we got onto the subject of sharks. The rant was, in fact, justified, because my friend had witnessed a boy getting his arm almost bitten off by a tiger shark while swimming somewhere in Florida, and she was half-afraid and (typically New York), half-angry when she went into the water, as if she was ready to fight with any potential shark: “and the water was crystal blue, you could see all the way to the bottom. There were all these fish that kept bumping into me, and I was like, ‘get the fuck away from me’; so I thought, ‘fuck this, I’ll swim out further,’ so I did, and then I was being bumped by even bigger fish, so I gave up and swam back in, but it was only later that I realised that all those fish were fleeing a shark, that’s what sharks do, they like sort of herd their prey in to shore, as if the prey was like those herbivore dinosaurs; and then later I saw this boy get his fucking arm bitten off right near me, and the water went bright red. Ever since then, if I get in the water, I feel “’it’s you or me, mother fucker.’”
Her rant was, in fact, justified (perhaps the rant always is), but its 10 minutes of vivid storytelling, and emotional trauma masked as anger and courageous bravado, coloured at least half an hour of the evening with fear. The other rant was delivered by an artist living locally, against “these kids from Staten Island who go out here, and treat my stoop like a place to hang out. One time I found a fucking human turd the next morning. Damn! Like, some fucker took a dump on my porch. Another time, these kids were sitting two feet away from my steps, and this kid gets up and walks over to this tree and puts down his empty beer can right by the tree, and he’s got all these garbage cans right beside him; and my upstairs neighbour, who’s like this Hispanic holdout from the old neighbourhood who’s never going to move, she has a Rottweiler that barks when anyone gets near the house, and one day she was outside when the kids started imitating it barking, which only made it bark louder, and she cawed at him: “hey, that’s my dog, you got a problem with it, I’ll bring it down here, motherfucker, and it’ll teach you a lesson, you want that? Hey? You want that? I’m going up there right now, I’m gonna bring it down.”
“I have friends over for dinner, and “Satan’s hound” upstairs starts going off again. My other neighbour has their place on the market. God, I can just imagine when some broker is showing the apartment, and they’re in their spiel, like, “good use of space, all original hardwood floors” when that fucking dog starts “wuf, rruff rufffff roufff”: good luck, dude! You’ll be stuck here forever! No one’s going to buy that shit.”
At which point I reminded him of the fact that he’d mentioned earlier that he has a baby on the way.
The rant can be funny, quirky or serious, but it is always compulsive. The common thread is the way, Ancient Mariner-like, that the ranter compels the listener’s attention, essentially through aural aggression. And, they themselves are, like squealing, sparking subway wheels, “letting off steam”, venting. These long-time residents are more a part of the city than they realise. No: they realise it. As one of the ranters has said: “Why would you live anywhere else?” Umm, yes… Why, indeed?