Until the whole country looks just like where I came from
Staten Island Is America
Today’s main feature is by Dan Ozzi about his hometown of Staten Island which has been in the news a lot of late and not for what you might call “good” reasons.
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I think of Dan as a younger brother of sorts mostly in the sense that I’m definitely going to beat his ass one of these days if he doesn’t watch his mouth. Ok I kid he’s actually great even if he’s very nasty and rude to me when I very innocently and perfectly try to talk to him about 2010s pop-punk-core bands like A Day to Remember.
I cannot over emphasize how little patience I have for most music writing after like twenty years of doing it myself but for some reason I can when it’s by Dan. His stuff manages to be both funny and informative at once and he does a great series called Rank Your Records like this most recent one with The Menzingers’ Greg Barnett.
If you haven’t read them yet or are new to Hell World please go back and read through The Last Normal Day series I’ve been running and stay tuned for the next installment coming in a few days from Linda Tirado. Most of them are behind the paywall now.
The Last Normal Day:
Part 1 by Samantha Irby
Part 2 Zaron Burnett III
Part 3 by Luke O’Neil
Parts 4-5 by Chris A. Smith and Shane Ferro
Part 6 by Kim Kelly
Part 7 by Julieanne Smolinski
Part 8 by Josh Gondelman
Part 9 by Jeb Lund
Part 10 by Joe Keohane.
Ok here is Dan’s thing then some more from me after.
Staten Island Is America
by Dan Ozzi
A couple of days before Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in 2012, I was standing in line at a bodega on Staten Island, waiting on my order of New York City’s official breakfast—one baconeggandcheese bagel and a 99-cent Arizona iced tea. That morning’s New York Post was sitting on the counter, and underneath a “ten-page special report” called The Case Against Obama, the main headline read “Trick or treat—It’s the Frankenstorm!” There was a satellite photo of swirling storm clouds so big and ominous that there was no visible land below them.
A few retired locals with heavy accents were hanging out around the counter, as these sorts of men are prone to gathering in bodegas, pizzerias, and anywhere dough is being kneaded.
“Whattya think about this Sandy shit?” one of them asked the group. “‘Frankenstorm,’ that’s what the Post said today.”
“Nah, they don’t know shit,” the leader of the group declared. “Buncha fuckin’ idiots. That’s what they say every time and then, what? We get a little rain and that’s it.”
“Yeah,” the other one agreed. “A little rain, probably. That’s it.”
A few days later, FEMA workers were driving trucks around the same area, knocking on people’s doors and helping them apply for federal assistance to repair their houses that had been flooded by a superstorm that had killed 43 New Yorkers.
This is the Staten Island mentality in a nutshell, a dangerous combination of willful ignorance and misguided arrogance that will eventually lead to its own destruction. Scientists and doctors don’t know shit, elected officials and newscasters are bums, and anyone trying take any helpful, preventative action that might be a minor inconvenience can go fuck themselves. It is a borough working as hard as it possibly can against its best interests and its residents are people who will cling to their misguided ideas of blue-collar “common sense” until it kills them.
Most of the memories I have from my years growing up there involve witnessing some version of this hot-headed obstintance in action. I saw cashiers routinely have fingers pointed in their faces and berated. I saw my teammates’ fathers ejected from our middle school basketball games for cursing out the referees. I saw acts of road rage between drivers of cars decorated with enough Italian flag reflectors to make the Fast & Furious crew seem tasteful and restrained. It is a land of ugly Italian-American stereotypes: men who have seen every mafia movie ever made but seem to have turned them off right before the third act where the main goomba finally gets his comeuppance, and women who speak like they’re scolding the manager of a tanning salon called Sunbelievable, even when they’re not mad.
So it didn’t surprise me in the least when NY1 anchor Pat Kiernan tweeted the above photo, which has gone viral, of a volunteer at the Staten Island Ferry terminal trying to distribute a mask to a man who throws up his hand to reject it like it’s a mixtape. A guy gesturing angrily towards a person trying to help him act in a slightly more socially conscious manner is the perfect image to represent the Island. Hell, a hand making the jerkoff motion might as well be on the borough’s official flag.
This is not the only time Staten Island has gone viral during the Covid crisis. Back in May, a stubborn woman’s refusal to wear a mask got her chased out of a Target by irate shoppers in the most delightfully Staten Island way possible. “Suck my dick and get the fuck out of here,” one woman shouted. “A grownass woman that acts like a dirty-ass pig, you fuckin’ loser!” added another shopper.
But it's not just its typical residents who have earned Staten Island internet mockery this year. The Island’s awful elected officials have also caught people’s attention. The borough’s shockingly bad politics have long been reflections of the population’s grotesquely bigoted beliefs, and as Covid anxieties have ratcheted up anger and frustration, the people have moved even farther right politically. In the overwhelmingly blue New York City, Staten Island was an outlier in this year’s Presidential election, swinging for Trump by a staggering 61.6%. Up, even, from 2016, when it went for him by 56.1%.
Trumpism is trickling down to local representatives who’ve been trying their hardest to keep New York’s name on the red map. Shortly after news broke that Trump contracted Covid in October, Republican Congressional candidate Nicole Malliotakis went viral when she crammed several hundred people, many unmasked, into a Staten Island parking lot to throw him a get well soon party. I’m no doctor, but I can’t help but wonder if there’s any correlation between large gatherings of the type of people who would celebrate their idol getting an incurable disease by engaging in the very activity that infected him in the first place and those same people having the highest positive test rates in the city. Hmmmm probably just a coincidence.
Malliotakis also joined in a pro-police “law & order” march in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn in July amidst citywide Black Lives Matter rallies, and you’re never gonna believe this, but it attracted the ugliest garbage people in New York. “Why you filming?” one tough guy asked a protestor. “I’ll fucking spit on you, you piece of shit. Go suck black dick, you fuckin’ whore. Your fuckin’ mother’s a cunt, you’re a cunt, you’re white trash. Start trouble, watch what happens.”
This eloquent fellow and several thousand others helped Malliotakis win her race last week, unseating Democratic incumbent Max Rose. Rose had been a glimmer of hope for the future of the Island when he pulled off an upset in 2018 that unseated Republican opponent Dan Donovan, but he turned out to be a tremendously disappointing war-horny centrist. In an appeal to the red borough’s voters, he ran a campaign ad bragging that he’d stood with president Trump and that it was “country-first” for him. But his plan to outflank his opponent from the right failed miserably. His attendance at a Defund The Police rally got him labeled as an NYPD hater by the many Blue Lives Matter dumbshits on the Island thanks to a horror movie of a political hit ad that ran infinitum on Staten Island televisions.
And then there’s Staten Island Councilman Joe Borelli, a former classmate of mine, current third-rate Luke O’Neil impersonator, and, to use the parlance of my native land, a giant herb. Borelli has governed as an Own The Libs Republican whose entire political ideology is centered around getting retweets off liberal tears. (Last year, he tried so very hard to engage in some fourth dimensional chess by proposing that Staten Island serve as the home of the Trump Presidential Library. When many people pointed out that the Island formerly housed the world’s largest landfill and did not need a monument to an illiterate racist, he predictably responded by declaring that liberals hate Trump so much that they won’t even accept a free library of books which they claim to love!! Check and mate, libs.)
Naturally, the pandemic has provided Borelli many opportunities to do his little online dunks on his own constituents and his favorite targets, mayor De Blasio and governor Andrew Cuomo. He popped off a viral tweet this week in which he boasted that, in a brave defiance of Cuomo’s orders to limit gatherings to fewer than ten people, he would be proudly cooking a shitty turkey this Thanksgiving for as many family members as he pleased. Ah, killing your beloved family to own the libs. Classic Republican bit!
This would all be very funny if not for the fact that Staten Islanders’ collective flouting of CDC guidelines is killing people. A lot of people. Five Staten Island zip codes, including the one in which my parents reside, now have positivity rates over three percent. Two of these zip codes have even risen above five percent. My parents, my friends, and a lot of good people who live in these areas are following health protocols, wearing masks, and acting responsibly, only to be constantly put at risk by their dumbest, loudest neighbors who refuse to stop engaging in the most trivial activities. The pandemic is so out of control on Staten Island that the first dog to test Covid-positive in the United States has died there. A fucking dog! The New York Times called Staten Island a “virus hot spot” this week but couldn’t pinpoint why:
“Health officials have not said why specifically Staten Island is seeing more cases, but encouraged residents to follow the same precautions officials are pushing across the city, from wearing a mask to avoiding large gatherings. While some cases are linked to travel or nursing homes, health officials say they largely do not know how people are getting infected.”
Ah. I think I can solve this one for you, Grey Lady. Let me just point the world’s largest bullhorn directly into the face of the aforementioned health officials first. OK there we go. THE REASON IS BECAUSE STATEN ISLANDERS ARE FUCKING SOCIOPATHS WITH NO REGARD FOR ANYONE’S LIVES BUT THEIR OWN. There is no vaccine for this virus, currently. The only tools we have in the fight against it are empathy, respect for one another, and a willingness to listen to reason. All of which amounts to a death sentence for the people of Staten Island.
As the pandemic drags on, Staten Island will undoubtedly continue to make the news and go viral for the ugliest photos and videos. Maybe some guy from Eltingville will design a new kind of American flag that supports Blue Lives Matter and has Calvin pissing on a pile of masks. Maybe an unmasked Tottenville woman will be thrown out of Costco for demanding that they bring back free samples. And all of the media people on Twitter who have likely never been to Staten Island will tsk-tsk and make their little jokes at the borough’s expense. But what they don’t realize is that Staten Island is not an aberration in America. Staten Island is America.
Staten Island is an isolated little land mass where the people are getting dumber, politicians are getting meaner, and Covid numbers are getting worse at a rapid pace. It’s like America’s little game of Sim City where all the speed controls have been turned up to the max. To look at Staten Island is to gaze upon our future. So get the jokes in now, but as the pandemic wears on, people in every city will grow more impatient and obstinate until the whole country looks just like where I came from. I suggest working on your accent.
Find more from Dan Ozzi here and follow him on Twitter.
Ok it’s me again. Here’s some uh good news and bad news vis a vis Musicians I Care About today. Let’s start with something positive for a change. As promised on election day Phoebe Bridgers has delivered her cover, with Maggie Rogers, of the Goo Goo Dolls’ iconic 1998 single “Iris.”
In a surprise to no one it is absolutely lovely and delightful. The money raised will go to support Fair Fight election efforts in Georgia and around the country.
On the other end of the “things you love to hear” spectrum my guy Stef Carpenter from Deftones sat for an interview with a conspiracy theory podcast that is… quite a lot. In it Carpenter — whose brutal and brilliant guitar playing I wrote about recently — pulls off an entire Dumb Guy Who Thinks He’s Smart Speed Run. He claims the earth is flat (this is a man who has traveled the globe multiple times mind you), space doesn’t exist (?), dinosaurs didn’t exist, vaccines have never worked in history, and most importantly for this current moment, says masks and Covid are a hoax of some kind or another. It’s honestly hard to understand and I’m certainly not going to listen to an entire two hour podcast to try to figure it out but here’s one especially painful part on masks:
Most people know that it’s bullshit. The germaphobes we’re not… we can’t do anything but try to help them out because they genuinely believe that there’s a deadly virus going around and they would have believed it already. They already thought life was deadly and dangerous. So this is no help to them. But everyone else part-time wears the mask, they already know it’s worthless. You know they all got their little favorite little logo matching their outfits. It’s like clown show. Please stop, you’re embarrassing yourself.
And that’s no disrespect to those who’ve fallen ill and even those who died from whatever they may have died from. Obviously none of that is disregarded, but I do not connect that to what this is, you know? What this is some, this is just some mental trickery.
And it’s unfortunate that everybody just gave in. It was a two week event when it started, and then it just now it’s forever… Thank you to all your mask wearers for making this permanent, good job.
That is some nine-string low end shit-for-brains-riffage man. And yes it’s easy to joke about this sort of thing and dismiss the people saying it as kooks but it also shows the way a lot of our brains are easily turned to mush by chasing one conspiracy after another down the rabbit hole, so as a reminder: No YouTube. Not Even Once.
Anyway time to quickly update Luke’s Big Board of Favorite Musicians.
Good ol’ un-cancellable R.E.M. They’ll never get them.
Oh wait hold on Deftones just released a Mike Shinoda remix of “Passenger.” They’re back baby!!!
On the other hand saying stupid dog shit about Covid and masks doesn’t preclude you from becoming the president or serving on the Supreme Court so who is to say what is good or not.
I think I can speak for all of us when I say to the seventy year old Justice Alito: Please Mr. Justice, sir, feel free to continue not wearing a mask. For the love of the law.
OK GOOD BYE.
I know some genuinely good leftists on the island doing their best to raise their kids with a sense of caring and responsibility toward their fellow humans. But Staten Island doesn't make it easy. An example: Before he was fired, Daniel Pantaleo — who at least at time of Wikipediaing lived on the island in Joe Borelli's district, let's hear it for the Catholic school boys, those racist shitbags — was making over $100k to sit at a desk and (not) think about how at age 29 he'd murdered a man on camera and then got away with it thanks to then-SI DA Dan Donovan. Who himself went on to unseat Michael "I'll break you in half like a boy," tax-evading, prison-time-doing Grimm in Congress, only to be unseated by that lousy excuse for "hope" Max Rose. Who's now been replaced with another dangerous asshole. The island's not a monolith of gabagool and racism, but I worry all the time about the people I care about who live there and how long they have till the racism starts getting more ... specific.