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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Happy May Day!

Ebay has quite a collection of KGB memorabilia for sale. Get this stuff while you can.

Here is a repost of my "A Jaywalking Primer, or, Dividing the Spoils of the Cold War", from April 7th, 2004. Enjoy.

I went to shopping in the Park Slope neighborhood today. Park Slope and the surrounding neighborhoods of Sunset Park, Fort Greene, and East New York is a fascinating case of shifting demographics. Just a decade ago, the area was under the control of the Brooklyn chapter of the Drug Dealers' Union, along with their affiliates, the Hookers Union local 452, The International Brotherhood of Thieves, Carjackers, Muggers, and Pickpockets (IBTCMP) and the gang banger's franchise of Murder, Inc. In other words, the neighborhood was fun and interesting. Then the white people moved in.

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against white people. Heck, I'm white myself, or Jewish, which is close enough. "White People" is what we call the people who call themselves "hipsters". You know, Midwestern-born the latte drinking, health food eating, goateed jerks who wear Buddy Holly type glasses and listen to jazz. They are ignorant of the most basic aspects of life in the city.

Say, for example, something as simple as crossing the street. These morons will stride to the nearest crosswalk, wait for the light to change, carefully look both ways, and proceed across the street at a leisurely pace, all the while blathering about the cultural diversity of the urban experience. This in the city that invented jaywalking and has since elevated it to an art form. I or any other Brooklynite worth his rat poison will cross between two parked cars I will wait for a break in the traffic and walk briskly to the double yellow line. I will watch the car coming the other way. Provided the driver is not in a homicidal mood (by no means a given), he or she will speed up, traffic conditions permitting, causing a gap in the flow of traffic. Noting this, I will shift my weight to my left leg a raise my right. When the car's mirror passes me, I will step with my right leg and begin walking. Timed correctly, I will reach a gap between two parked cars on the other side before the next car can turn me into a greasy spot on the pavement and a forty five second spot on the five o'clock news. See? Like I said, it's an art form. That is, if a native is driving. If a white person is driving, there really is no telling what they'll do. Sometimes, they'll slow to a crawl, causing cars behind them to drive into oncoming traffic in an attempt to pass (and narrowly missing me standing on the double yellow line, if I'm lucky). Sometimes they will panic stop, causing horrific traffic pileups. Sometimes they will gesture violently to the effect of "I'm from out of town! Take my wallet and my car keys, just let me live"! Or so I assume.

Anyway, Park Slope. There is a weekly flea market in the yard of the local public school. One can purchase hilarious neckties from the fifties, ridiculous buttons from the sixties (Make love, not war!), horrible clothing from the seventies, and horrible and ridiculous Danish furniture from the nineties. There is enough gaudy costume jewelry to bebauble every prostitute to ever work in this city going back to Tammany Hall. There are always elderly Russians Soviet era gewgaws- campaign ribbons and medals from the Great Patriotic War, tie clasps and cufflinks bearing Lenin's ugly mug, and various coins and bills.

It was at one such stall that I got into a bidding war with a soft spoken Asian guy over a Soviet tanker unit patch. "But why?" his girlfriend wanted to know. "I guess I just have a Soviet militaria fetish (the magazines and websites of which I shall leave to your imagination). I ended up paying six dollars for the patch and six dollars for a set of cool looking shoulder boards. The dealer alleged that the shoulder boards were that of a police senior sergeant, which I am still attempting to verify. The guy event threw in an officer's belt, which has a cool looking buckle. The belt itself, however, is made of the awful thin plastic-looking leather we failed to make wallets out of in summer camp. The Asian guy bought a less elaborate set of shoulder boards and an awful- looking Sam Browne belt, also police, in white patent leather. It would have been rejected out of hand by any self respecting crossing guard (oxymoron alert) in America on account of its comical appearance. The fellow, clearly delighted at the sale, promised to have better stuff next week. "You like officer coat, yes? Maybe hat?" He solemnly shook hands with the Asian dude and me, and we walked away with our purchases.

It occurred to me that what we had here was nothing less than the spoils of our victory in the fight against International Communism (European Division). The guy walked away with twenty six dollars between us and was clearly thrilled to be dumping the useless garbage on us. The powerful, terrifying Soviet military was nothing but junk. That's right, comrade. The revolution is over, and the bourgeoisie won. I was surrounded with elderly men desperate enough for my greenbacks to supplement their Social Security checks to part with their hard earned "Proletariat of the Week" medals and old, yellowing Ché posters (although the people selling the Ché posters were all aging American leftists). Taste the ash-heap of history, tavoritch.

It is always prudent, while doing a sack dance in the end zone, to make sure the other members of your team aren't setting fire to the stadium, defenestrating the announcers, and raping the cheerleaders. In the next stall over, there was an Author Andersen travel coffee mug. The woman selling it said I was the first person all day to recognize Enron's old accounting firm. It was labeled five dollars, but she let me have it for four. Then, with the mug of capitalism at its most rapacious sharing a shopping bag with the uniforms of the police state so total in it's totalitarianism that it simply collapsed under its own weight, I went home. I had a coffee while looking up my new purchases on EBay. The belt was selling for six dollars, but there were no buyers. The tanker patch was selling for four. I couldn't find the shoulder patch at all. The bastard had ripped me off. Maybe he was getting the hang of this capitalism thing after all. So there's hope for the Russians. At least I have the mug.