And it was such a lovely evening, too.
It was the 4th of July, and there we were, my date and I, not to mention thousands of others, eagerly awaiting the promised fireworks show that has usually taken place off the South Beach Boardwalk these last few years.
The Boardwalk had quite the crowd upon it. There were little children running around, laughing and playing. A few souls wandered the beach. There was a live band at the South Fin Café -- and they were pretty good for a local cover band, too. The event had, as it always has, attracted a rather large crowd. I would estimate there were easily 6,000-to-8,000 people there.
And most of them were well-behaved.
But the teenagers…
The local species of teenager has always left something to be desired. This is, in many ways, not their fault; they live on an island in which real-estate is something the developers use to squeeze three houses onto a lot zoned for two – with a nod and a wink from local government, who sees this minor violation of the law as no big deal; it simply means more property taxes to collect -- and with which the City seems more interested in creating parks which we don’t not need, which will go mostly unused, and cost far more in maintenance than they’ll ever generate, out of whatever may be left after the McMansions go up. There are few recreational outlets for your typical teen in these parts mostly for those reasons; there’s no place to put such things, anymore.
This is not a new phenomenon, either: it was much the same in my day, when the majority of our teenaged recreation revolved around keggers in the deep woods and finding places to park so that you could make out with Mary Jane Sugarshorts. After that, your choices were extremely poor. There’s at least two or three fewer movie theatres around here than when I was a kid (30 years ago!), and there’s also four fewer bowling alleys (all demolished to make way for condos), and the City is building a $70 million dollar monstrosity of an indoor running track here (are you kidding me?) when it could be using the money to keep the public swimming pools open, or maybe selling the land to a private concern which could open an amusement park or something (there were also more amusement parks – 5 – here when I was a kid. There’s now exactly one, I think).
The dance halls are largely gone, replaced with upscale lounges (places where the local metrosexuals can stew in their own pretenses), as are most of the skating parks and rinks (you can ice skate all you want, but who wants to in July?). These kids have no outlets for all their pent-up energy.
Of course, it’s not just that excess youthful energy and lack of outlets that are to blame, either; there’s a generation of parents who have been extremely lax about the job, and perhaps the words ‘Baby Mama’ and ‘Sperm Donor’ are more applicable -- and closer to the truth -- than the appellation ‘parents’. Most would-be parents in this neck of the woods are blissfully ignorant of what terrible little beasts their children are when out of sight, and they seem very comfortable in the adage that what they don’t know won’t keep them awake at night.
All of these things came together Monday night…and ruined the 4th of July for everyone.
It begins with the fights. It almost always does.
Brawls erupt everywhere. Most are simply pushing matches or minor skirmishes, easily broken up by the Police, or by bystanders. A few are serious donnybrooks where one gets the impression that the reason for all this warfare is a simple surplus of testosterone and a shortage of intelligence. However, the majority of the combatants are not who you might assume they would be; they’re girls. I must have missed the memo when it became a requirement of young ladyhood that you must have a good right cross.
There were, by my count, at least four ‘big’ girl fights within my field of view. By ‘big’ I mean they involved four or more girls, often in a shifting, swirling, maelstrom of constantly-shifting sides and loyalties, in which the girl who has your back right this very second suddenly changes her mind just as soon as she gets hit, or as she decides to take a swipe at another -- usually otherwise uninvolved -- girl she has a beef with. It’s all unpredictable. It becomes impossible to tell what all this fighting is about, what with all the screaming and hair-pulling and whatnot, and it was all reminiscent of the United Nation’s Security Council, only with more fists and much more intestinal fortitude.
If I were a teenaged boy in this day-and-age, I might fear for my safety taking one of these chicks out.
Not for nothing, but girls today are apparently watching MMA and WWE. Even some of the (bigger) boys watching these fights looked as if they were close to wetting their own pants out of anxiety. These girls are scary. There is nothing lady-like in their language, their dress, or demeanor, and they practice a style of street fighting that would have impressed all the Old-Guard young toughs of the Old Neighborhood back in Brooklyn.
Then came the extremely dangerous, immature, and indiscriminate practice of throwing fireworks and other incendiary devices willy-nilly within crowded spaces. Let me repeat that: several youths (douchebags) found it necessary and proper to walk about a crowded Boardwalk, tossing lit fireworks indiscriminately, with small children in close proximately, not to mention that one extremely mean-looking pit bull.
And just what sort of asshole brings a pit bull to a gathering of thousands in which there’s sure to be complete chaos and explosions? The same sort of asshole who would throw lit fireworks into a crowd, naturally. It wasn’t enough to come to the event, you had to bring your weapon-on-a-leash and then expose him to loud noises and complete pandemonium, as well?
A goodly number of these teenagers appeared to be intoxicated, leading one to wonder just where they got the booze (probably in the same places I got it when I was their age). Marijuana smoke could be smelled just about everywhere.
These sorts of thing don’t exactly shock me; I’ve lived here long enough, and seen this phenomenon often enough, not to mention it’s all the same shit I did when I was a kid (except for throwing fireworks). Complain to a kid’s parents about their child’s obnoxious behavior around here and you get the “Not-My-Kid-Now-Get-the-Fuck-off-my-Stoop” routine. You could have solid, undeniable evidence of their child’s misdeeds and they simply don’t care. So far as they’re concerned, their child is an absolute angel and if they were involved in something untoward it just HAS TO BE a case where someone else’s kid either talked them into it, or did it and then got the other kids blamed for it.
I could present a video, complete with play-by-play commentary, of their children burning down an orphanage, and it would not register. If parents don’t want to know, then they don’t want to know, I figure.
I expected this kind of bad behavior from the usual sources; the fourth generation Mafia-wannabes, the offspring of the Shanty Irish six-pack-and-a-potato set, the descendants of the Municipal Workers who have jobs simply because they can breathe without mechanical assistance and read at a 3rd grade level, the illegal immigrants for whom simple concepts like sanitation and public restrooms are nearly impossible to fathom, let alone those who don’t feel any shame whatsoever in celebrating the Independence of a country they’ve invaded and are robbing blind.
However, I was not prepared for what was perhaps the worst behavior of the evening: large groups of black kids, often 50 or more to a group. They don’t speak to one another; they yell at each other and over each other. It is impossible to see how anyone communicates, because they’re all yelling at the same time. One group fights another at the drop of a hat (one large-scale brawl erupted when two groups from rival neighborhoods happened to pass one another). The language -- when you can manage to pick out a word here or there in all that Urban Patois -- is even more debased and foul than that used by the pugilistic White Girls.
And they actually try to go around intimidating the white people they come across, as if it’s some sort of game. That doesn’t work on me (after all, I can still kick ass even in my advanced age), but there were people who were frightened or intimidated into giving up their seats on the benches, or ‘encouraged’ to find themselves another spot on the Boardwalk because the Jersey Street set decided they wanted to set up camp right there.
The Police, I’m told privately, were so worried about the possibility of a riot at this thing, what with all these drunken, violent, retarded, armed-with-explosives-and-vicious-dogs, gang-banging, brawling mass of knuckledraggers about, that…
The fireworks event was cancelled outright…and no explanation of just why was given.
Probably because that might have sparked an even bigger riot.
The Authorities decided it would be better and easier to have the crowd disperse than it would be to keep good public order. But not before they made a huge show of force. Perhaps they were right. From what I saw that evening, this was probably a prudent decision.
This is yet one more aspect of life on Staten Island that is being ruined by a rotting culture. In the grand scheme of things I will survive the cancellation of a fireworks show; the upside was that I had more time with my date (we retreated to the South Fin Grill for drinks. Review: they might as well draw a pistol on you when they present you with your bill). The downside is this is just yet another indication of How Things Came To Be How They Are.
You can no longer have a nice, family-friendly, community-centered event on this island; the teenagers arrive in great numbers and in foul mood, and fuck it up for everyone.
If I had the money, I could make a fortune providing these assholes with some place to go and have a good time, and spare the rest of the community the aggravation. Maybe an arcade, or a dance hall (the new rage seems to be pool halls, which have had recently to restrict their clientele to keep the 16-and-unders out because of all the issues that arise), perhaps even a cabaret where the teenaged garage bands could play (we used to have these, too -- the cabarets -- but they’re all gone now, having been razed in order to build yet another dominated-by-a-tanning-salon strip mall), but I can see why no one who does have the cash actually might invest it in this fashion;
It’s because these kids are fucking animals. More trouble than they’re worth.
Who wants to have to deal with the fighting, the drinking, the vandalism, the added security, the higher insurance costs, the trouble with the cops, and last-but-certainly-not-least, the extremely petulant attitudes of Staten Islanders when it comes to certain ‘Not-in-my-backyard’ issues. Everyone agrees there’s nothing for the kids to do, and in the same breath everyone agrees the solution should be in someone else’s neighborhood. Everyone agrees the kids are out of control, but no one accepts responsibility for their own out-of-control kid, and in fact, defends him/her at every turn, even when they are undeniably wrong.
About the only GOOD thing one can take from the events of Monday night is that none of the trouble seemed to be racially motivated. This has been a problem on Staten Island since time immemorial (race riots were once common in Staten Island public schools), but I can’t seem to recall one instance in which a fight took place between people of different races. Whites fought with whites, and blacks with blacks, and never the two did meet.
Thank the nonexistent deity for small blessings, right?
Still, it’s a crying shame that an event which has become a perennial local favorite must be cancelled at the very last minute because people have forgotten what it is to have even a minimum standard of decent behavior in public.