19 December 2009

New Yorkers

How did I never notice this? That's one of the questions I've been asking myself a lot lately. Then I realize, hey - at one point I was totally amped to do something about this. What happened?

New York has filled me with wonder the past few months - and in more than one bad way. We've been told that the first few months you will feel as if you are encountering all the bad people and all the bad neighborhoods. And I was determined from the beginning to notice as much good in the city as humanly possible. Yet, within two months I have been witness to insurance fraud, an arrest of man next to me for assault, arrest #2, burglary - the man just exited right past me with an armful of merchandise, the scene of a pregnant woman's suicide, drug deals, mafia meetings, and let's not forget prostitutes.

Many of these incidents have incited within me unnatural behavior. They are the reason why I take the long way home, why I don't enjoy an evening out exploring, why I no longer walks alone, why I quit my job, why I finally took my Grandmother's advice seriously and not make eye contact with strangers, why it's easy to be suspicious of anyone, and why I'm becoming a New Yorker. Yikes. Did you read that last one? New York can be a great place, but let's face it. New Yorkers aren't well known for the politeness. They're notorious for being rude, cold, suspicious, loud, and irritating. And a lot of it has to do with how corrupt this city can be.

All in all, I really don't have anything against New York City. I've run into plenty of kind and generous people. And John and I are happy to be here - because we know the Lord has blessed us to be here and following through on those promptings has brought us a bountiful of blessings.

Was it an answer to Joseph Smith's prayer to the Lord for help that he received the wisdom that all these things will be for his benefit( . . something like that)? Well, my hardships are nothing near that of the Saints or of Joseph Smith. But I do know that the experiences I've had recently have all been for my good - regardless of how disgusting they were.

About a month ago John and I attended an exhibit about sex slavery. Emma Thompson helped promote and put together an exhibit entitled "Journey" to educate on the prevalence of sex slavery as she herself was horrified to find that sex slaves were housed only doors down from her apartment in London. The exhibit is housed in a line of train boxcars. As the viewer progresses through each boxcar a story is told in various forms, from Coraline-esque figurines playing out the life of a poor country girl in Eastern Europe coming to America, to a reflection of your face upon the image of a prostitute's body, to a conceptual piece shaped like a rounded cone, to the recordings of victims of sex trafficking and the users of such services, to the recreation of a sex slave's bedroom/workplace.

John and I innocently wondered into the exhibit as it was near his office on NYU. We had no idea they type of assault on our senses that this exhibit would have on us, particularly the recreation of the bedroom. Before entering you are held in a dark boxcar with what seems like random sounds of trains, cars, . . . different forms of transportation. In the transition between the dark boxcar to the bedroom we saw viewers exit out of the entrance of the next boxcar with a hand over their mouth.

The bedroom itself was soiled with a filthiness that my mind tries to ignore and label ambiguous. The pungent smell brought to mind sex, a cat's spray, and the artificial smell of cheap cherry perfume. Condom wrappers and dirt ridden napkins littered the floor. tThe mmirror was inscribed in lipstick with "help" while a stained bed jolted up and down with an invisible act. As I came to realize that I couldn't progress into the next boxcar in my own timing and must wait to exit an unrationalized sense of fear arised. I recall a survival instinct initiated within me, as ridiculous as it may sound - all I wanted was to run away as quickly as possible.

So, how does this relate to being "for my good"? Well, I first must establish how incredibly naive I can be. It's not as if street smarts are a valuable asset in Utah. Two things that have not helped my ability to recognize a bad situation. Besides the horror and anger I felt after the exhibit, the most distinct impression I left with was the smell that reminded me of it all. And that smell, among other red flags and the prompting to leave immediately are what initiated, once again, my instinct to run. Kidnapping is no joke. And sex slavery is no joke either. It's in Utah, and it most definitely is in New York City. And anyone, anyone can be enslaved - if they happen to be in the wrong place and the wrong time. You don't need to be a poor immigrant that relies on a pimp for a visa and you don't have to be addicted to drugs. I'm so grateful that I am safe and a tad wiser now.

For all my naive buddies out there I have some advice on keeping safe, especially in New York City. Do not go to Chinatown by yourself or even hang around with a group after dark there. Don't haggle with multiple vendors that are housed next to one another when you are alone. When someone asks you to come back later - don't. Be aware of separate businesses that are housed separately but may connect structurally underground. Always be aware of your surroundings and other's behaviour. Take notice of cellar doors - because boogie men do live down there. And most of all . . . most of all - do not follow anyone into a cellar or down a dark alley - especially if he tells you that you are pretty and will give that clinique happy to you for $15. Ughhh . . . don't worry, I've learned my lesson.


Michemily said...

Oh man, Tanya. I still am so overwhelmed with relief that you are safe.