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The Anti-Bloombergistas and the City in Exile

Image by Olalekan Jeyifous.
Image by Olalekan Jeyifous.

"Just make him stop speakin’ Spanish. That’s all I’m sayin’. We can’t go on like this son. Wit’ this guy speakin’ Spanish everyday in his press conferences man. Givin’ directions about Swine Flu in Spanish. C’mon man. That shit is dangerous. Confusin’ people son. You got kids showin’ up at school when it’s closed, stayin’ home when it’s open. People coughin’ on each other, sneezin’ on each other. It’s a mass epidemic on this Bloomberg Spanish shit. People droppin’ like flies. And all he gotta do is just read man. He can’t even read Spanish out loud from a script,” explains Efrain Irrizarry who is selling trademark No Third Term T-Shirts, outside of Yankee Stadium, on a warm afternoon during Memorial Day weekend. “The paper said he’s been wit’ a private tutor since he got elected. A private tutor for seven years and he can’t even read Spanish out loud. It said the tutor’s Colombian. I think Bloomberg needs to check that guy’s passport. The dude might be a Russian tryin’ to catch a fast buck. He’s teachin’ Bloomberg Russian. Or pig Latin, or just gibberish. And now the richest man in New York City can’t read. It’s gotta stop. I can’t listen to it any more. That shit is torture. Forget water-boarding. Bloomberg speakin’ Spanish. That’s torture.”

Mr. Irrizarry then explains the meaning of the t-shirts he has on display. “He’s gonna pay one hundred million dollars so you could forget everything. Forget how he was Giuliani’s boy. Forget how they stomped on people at the war protests in 2003, forget how he locked everybody up during the convention in 2004. Forget he made his money on Wall Street. Forget term limits. Forget everything you ever remembered. Fuck it. We can’t do anything about it. Just spit on his name. That’s all he cares about anyway. He loves his name. He named his kids Bloomberg…First name. Right. That’s what I’m sayin’. Middle name too. The kid’s name is Bloomberg Bloomberg Bloomberg. Both kids man. They all live up in a big house in Manhattan. On the top floor it’s Mike Bloomberg, then on the third floor it’s Bloomberg Bloomberg Bloomberg, on the second floor it’s the other Bloomberg Bloomberg Bloomberg, on the ground floor it’s the butlers and the maids, and then in the basement its Giuliani and Bush. And the Spanish tutor. The Russian Spanish tutor lives in the basement too. They all just sit around countin’ money, and watchin’ water-boarding DVDs.”

Later that afternoon, in Lower Manhattan, bartender Sarah Reilly, 39, expresses similar concerns regarding the upcoming four years. “The city just feels lame,” she explains as she fills a pint glass. “I guess it’s just gonna get lamer. I’ve been here since I was seventeen, and I’ve never seen it so boring. Half the girls in my band left three years ago. We were called Super Chic. We rocked. We used to rehearse at the drummer’s apartment in Bushwick. Her name was Luanne. But then these yuppies bought the building next door and started calling 311 every time we rehearsed. They said we were making too much noise. What are we supposed to do, whisper? They called one time because we were smoking a joint in the backyard. Those are the kinda people that killed the punk rock city. Two of the girls in my band moved to Texas. Can you believe that? Texas. The rent was too much here. I guess we’re looking at another four years. I just wish he would stop with the commercials. Every time I turn on the TV. There he is, looking concerned, talking to an old lady, talking to a black guy, looking at a folder that somebody’s holding. What’s with all the folders? Every commercial, he looks at like ten different folders and whole buncha clipboards. Are we supposed to think something good is happening there. ‘Our Mayor is looking at folders, making sure the rent keeps going up, making sure nobody’s banging drums, making sure nobody’s smoking a joint.’ Do you think he’s been getting botox. I saw him on television the other day, and he looked pretty botoxed up. He’s so lame. I gotta get outta this city. I have a girlfriend in Oakland who’s starting a band in the fall. It’s gonna be called Lesbian Beer Gut. I should head out there. Before somebody around here stabs me in the face with a botox needle,” she says, as she laughs and pours a shot of Jameson.

As afternoon turns into evening, Albert Livingston, 47, also voices anxiety about the cost of living in the city, as he drives his dollar van down Utica Avenue in Brooklyn. “Bloomberg say is de rich man know best. ’Im say only ’im can fix de problem. ’Im just need four more years. Four more years ’im can keep de rent raise up high. You think is Obama can save you? ‘Im can’t save you boy. Is Bloomberg worl’ you live in. Bloomberg is de richest man in de worl’. Richest man on de moon. Everywhere. Bloomberg is de richest guy. But God don’t love no money. Bloomberg winnin’ de rat race. He love buildin’ tall buildin’ up high. ‘Im can’t see de people on de ground. Dem ’ave crane droppin’ out de sky. Bwoy, you see ’im killin’ us wit’ cranes. Is too much cranes. Too much cranes, too much money, too much technology. Is camera everywhere. Bloomberg ’ave camera in de trees in case you run red light. Dem ’ave camera everywhere. Is technology controllin’ you right now. Dem can do every last ting dem want wit’ money and technology. You see dem clone a sheep bwoy. Yes man, I’m tellin’ you. Dem clone a sheep wit’ technology. First dem ’ave one sheep, den poof, dem ’ave two sheep. What dem want wit’ more sheep man? Is plenty sheep already. If god wanted more sheep, ‘im woulda put dem ’pon de ark wit’ Noah and de rest. But dem just do what dem want wit’ money and technology. De man say ’im want four more years. Den ’im just go ’head and get four more years. Is Bloomberg worl’. ’Im ’ave every last ting. Money, technology, camera, sheep, cranes. You name it bwoy. Is Bloomberg ’ave it. Just get ready fer four more years and don’t run no red light,” offers Mr. Livingston as he collects the two-dollar fare and then pulls the van door closed with a string.

As evening turns to night at a Brooklyn barbecue, architect and public intellectual Nigel Okoye, 37, seems less than happy about the prospect of four more years with Mr. Bloomberg in charge. “I want to see him run unopposed. That would highlight the true nature of what has transpired with this man. Bloomberg against nobody. Capitalism against democracy,” explains Mr. Okoye as he waits by the grill for his burger to cook through. “Bloomberg to the rescue. He said that there was no time to have a referendum on term limits. How long ago does that seem now? We could have had three referendums since then. But the City Council caved in when shove came to push. Somehow a crisis of capitalism elevated the importance of the number one capitalist. He stepped in to save the city from economic disaster. I don’t remember him warning us that disaster was on the way. Do you? Man, he built the whole technological infrastructure of the derivatives trading industry. All the junk trades going back and forth were being done with Bloomberg hardware, and Bloomberg software, based on Bloomberg information. He should have known better than anybody that the level of activity in these markets no longer had any basis in material reality. But the man doubled his wealth while all this garbage was going on. So he had little to say. Either he wasn’t smart enough to see the problem, or he was too happy making money off the problem. Now he’s gonna save the city? Or at least he’ll restore the illusion of wealth. The basic illusion of capitalism. We can return to the days in which people’s computers tell them they are rich. Their computers will tell them that it’s alright to spend $2,500 on seats at Yankee stadium, and that it’s alright to spend $12 dollars on a beer. Their computers will tell them that they are happy again. The market will tell them that their homes have value again. Bloomberg can assure them that development is underway again. And the illusion will be safely restored.”

Mr. Okoye continues to flip his burger while mulling over the big picture. “Bloomberg lost his footing there for a second, when people got upset about the term limits. He couldn’t believe that some people didn’t just do as they were told. He started acting like a fool just to change the subject. He held a press conference demanding that Plaxico Burress be punished. He ran over to Israel to protect the people from Hamas. But now he’s back in form. Talking about capitalism. Rebuilding the illusion. Drowning us in commercials. Telling us what people are telling him when he rides the train. Telling us how concerned he is about the closing of corner stores. Repeating the word jobs. Sacrificing himself on our behalf. It’s easy to get confused. So I’ve adopted a simple political ideology. Whatever Bloomberg says, just go with the opposite. If Bloomberg says it’s day, then it must be night. If Bloomberg says it’s raining, then it must be sunny. If Bloomberg says he’s hangin’ out with Obama, then he must have been a George Bush Republican for the last seven years. If Bloomberg says the city needs stadiums with $2,000 dollar seats, then just stay home and listen to the game on the radio. If Bloomberg says I’m drunk, then I know I’m not,” concludes Mr. Okoye as he takes his burger from the grill and puts in on a bun.

As sober turns into drunk, a handful of anti-Bloombergistas, who have gathered in the backyard of the city in exile, are left to contemplate the frightening truth of summer 2009.

They are living in the world of Mike Bloomberg. The richest man in New York. The richest man on the moon. He will restore the illusion. We will be allowed to value our homes, and our computers will tell us we are rich gain soon. He is punishing Plaxico Burress and protecting you from Hamas, while he is riding the train. He is talking to old people, talking to a black guy, and looking at folders, while delivering botox straight to your brain. Barack Obama can’t save you from the technology, the money, the cranes, and the cameras—and the City Council caved in when shove came to push. So now it’s four more years with Mike Bloomberg, and Bloomberg Bloomberg Bloomberg, and Bloomberg Bloomberg Bloomberg, the maids and the butlers, and Giuliani and Bush. These people killed the punk rock city, and now they’re selling high-priced Yankee tickets and twelve-dollar beers. They are Obama progressives who forgot that they have been Bush Republicans for the last seven years. Just follow along: he will bring back your money and save the town with his cranes, because the rich man knows best. But God don’t love no money, and if ’im wanted more sheep ’im woulda put dem ’pon de ark wit’ Noah and de rest. It’s Bloomberg in Spanish, telling us it’s day when it’s night, and telling us we’re drunk when we’re not. One hundred million dollars for us to forget everything we ever remembered. But we just might remember everything we ever forgot.


Matthew Vaz


The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2009

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