Rohit's Realm

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July 12, 2008

The Jungle

Since arriving in New York some four weeks ago, I have often heard the lament that Manhattan has lost its soul in the past ten years, becoming in the process some sort of amusement park for tourists and the nouveau riche (those woe-begotten hedgefund-managing speculators). Indeed, it seems to be the gripe du jour amongst New Yorkers new and old alike. The veracity of such sentiments I cannot confirm, for this is the first time I have spent any time in the Big Apple, but if the soul of which they speak has migrated to Williamsburg, I fret that it all might be a farce—and a fedora-laden ironic one at that. What I can attest to, however, is that at least in some parts of New York City, the amusement park complaint is by no means misplaced, as my first—and hopefully, last—foray into the Jungle last night made all too clear.

I do not think it too far fetched to suggest that if Upton Sinclair, whose 1906 novel The Jungle catalyzed the advent of food regulation in the United States, were to wander into New York's Meatpacking District on a Friday evening a century after he wrote about the wretched conditions in Chicago, that he would be left aghast at how far the capitalistic system he reviled had digressed.1 Even I, staunch capitalist, asshole-extraordinaire, and admirer of OC-hot women that I am, was left shocked at how such a conglomeration of unchecked ridiculousness could ever be allowed to assemble in one place and at one time without the world exploding in a cataclysmic explosion of popped collars, bleach-blond hair, and fake boobs.

To be clear, it was not my decision to go to the bar at which we found ourselves last night. Indeed, we arrived quite by accident. A friend of a friend had picked the location and my crew that evening being just as unfamiliar with New York City as I, none of us realized what was meant by an address far west of the Village. As the streets gave way from asphalt to cobblestone, I vaguely remembered that I had been told about the Meatpacking District having such streets. Could we really be headed there?

As it turned out, I did not have to wait long to have my question answered. Crossing Washington, we were mobbed by a throng of collared shirts and grating accents, accompanied by scantily-clad prima donnas each wearing an entire Sephora store's worth of products.2 So this was what was meant by bridge and tunnel. Things would only get worse.

As we past the bouncers to get in, a random guy wearing shorts was denied entry. What kind of brewery was this where one could not wear shorts? Less a brewery and more an awful club, as it turned out. The place was packed wall-to-wall with people, hardly any of whom were drinking beers. I immediately felt out of place. Not only was my collar not popped, but I did not even have a collar to pop. More crucially, we had missed the memo and forgotten to bring the white people (rare for me, I know). Token minorities are one thing, but a group of only minorities, two of whom were dudes, and neither of whom were wearing striped button downs? Clearly unacceptable.

After clawing our way to the back to get some breathing room, Bubbles and I made a decision. We were already here: might as well make the most of it. Go big, or go home, you know. Shots! Jagger bombs! Freedom fries! 'merica (fuck yeah!). The result was comical. Next time you want to have a laugh, combine legions of fratty people from Long Island and Jersey who think they are the hottest and most cosmopolitan people in the world with a bunch of under-dressed minorities effecting an hyperbolic attitude of illiteracy, intolerance, and other Middle American values. Shock and awe, baby!

Needless to say, I will never be returning to that awful place. But do I regret ending up there last night? Not at all. It was a cultural experience of the first order, and now I finally understand why everyone who lives in New York always goes out on the weekdays: with the insufferable B&T crowd out in full force on weekends, why even bother? There is only so much irony a person can handle.

Tangentially, I think it important to point out that while New York's Meatpacking District is really no different in kind than San Francisco's Marina, Chicago's Wrigleyville, Los Angeles's Sunset Strip, or all of South Beach in Miami, there is a palpable difference in levels of awfulness. New Yorkers like to claim that no other city in the country—hell, the world—has anything on New Yooork. Well, I will grant you this, my dear New Yorkers: when it comes to douchebaggery, the Jungle wins hands down.3

^ 1 Upton Sinclair was a socialist. The great irony of The Jungle was that his intent in writing the novel was to raise public awareness of the plight of the worker; instead, the public chose to focus on the quality of its food. God bless America!
^ 2 Are you not surprised, dear readers, that I knew what Sephora was? At least now no one can claim that I am lying about having had a girlfriend in the past. (The fact that it may have only been for three weeks, and that she might not have known she was my girlfriend, or even who I was, is completely besides the point.)
^ 3 And that was just my experience in a bar in the Meatpacking District. I can only imagine what it must be like at the clubs. Anyone want to join in the ironic episode of a life time? Anyone?


Your posts on ridiculous bar episodes are always the best.

Not sure if you've seen this, but I'm sure you'll enjoy it again: My New Haircut

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