It’s rough out there
January 9, 2007
I’d like to tell Dr. Larry Miller of New York, who recently wandered under the boundary rope on Walsh’s run on Aspen Mountain, about a similar experience I had in New York City.
A while back I was driving up Fifth Avenue, enjoying the upscale scenery and the potholed streets. There were uniformed men standing in nearly every doorway. I felt safe. I passed the Metropolitan Museum of Art and then Central Park. The traffic was thick and the neighborhood well-managed.
Continuing north I passed a street sign that read Harlem, and I noticed miscreants hanging out in groups. The neighborhood looked unkempt. Still, I didn’t turn around. Gangs of young men in elephant pants, their ball caps akimbo, gave me rude hand gestures and surrounded me at stoplights. I struggled to drive through the people who approached me at every intersection trying to sell me stuff or clean my windshield. Someone busted off my car antenna.
I was lost, but somehow I crossed a bridge and took an exit into the Bronx to look for help. The neighborhood got even worse, and I truly feared for my life. Then I was robbed and my rental car was hijacked. Had I paid better attention I might have realized that I was on the edge of civilization, but I wandered for hours and my feet blistered, until suddenly I found a taxi. Luckily I had some money hidden in my shoes, and for $100 the cabbie drove me back to the safe part of the city.
I thought about my all-day odyssey and my fight to survive. Then I asked the cabbie to take me to the mayor’s office, but the mayor wasn’t there, and his aides called an ambulance. They said I was dehydrated, dinged up, and that everybody knows you shouldn’t venture into Harlem or the Bronx unprepared, that dangerous neighborhoods existed.
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In retrospect, I might have turned around at the Harlem sign, or even the Bronx sign, but I thought everywhere was plush like Fifth Avenue. I remember daydreaming of Jean Harlow and the Denver Broncs, and I guess I just didn’t notice the lack of fancy buildings and limousines.
Maybe I’m just a country bumpkin, but my pride was ruffled, and my anger got the better of me. Clearly the city of New York was at fault. The boundaries into those dangerous neighborhoods should have been better marked. There should have been crossing gates with flashing lights, warning signs or guards to warn people that they were leaving a safe zone and going into an uncivilized area.
I strongly believe that I never should have been put through such a life-threatening situation, as New York City, through their negligence, put me in. None of this was my fault, and I’ll likely sue the city for all my expenses, and considerable more for pain and suffering.