DOS & DON'TS
Es geht nicht nur um Generationsunterschiede. Hier gibt es eine riesige chinesische Bevölkerungsschicht, die im Prinzip so lebt wie die Juden vor 100 Jahren, extrem beengt und um jeden Penny ringend. Dann gibt es die sogenannten Projects, eine Art Sozialwohnungsgetto, und die noch nicht aufgewerteten Gegenden, wo die Schwarzen und Latinos leben und das mindestens seit den 30er Jahren. Sie haben schon das Schlimmste überstanden, die Drogenphase.
Also geht es in dem Roman im Prinzip darum, dass du hier so an die fünf Welten hast, die sich alle in demselben Raum bewegen, aber keinerlei Kenntnis voneinander nehmen. Es geht um die Vorstellung, dass du einen jungen schwarzen Typen aus den Projects und einen Weißen aus dem Mittleren Westen hast, die einander auf der Straße begegnen und die sich nicht mal wirklich ignorierensie nehmen sich schlicht und einfach nicht wahr.
Ich habe ein paar Jahre in der Lower East Side verbracht, um dieses Buch zu schreiben. Ich hätte von meiner Wohnung aus da rüberlaufen können. Es ist etwas anderes, nur zum Essen dorthin zu gehen. Wenn man da hinkommt, um etwas zu lernen, bringt man eine Menge an Gepäck mit. Es ist nicht wie das Lernen in einer Bibliothek; man hat kein Ziel, außer dort zu sein und die Dinge auf sich wirken zu lassen. Ich war mit der Polizei unterwegs und verbrachte Zeit mit den Leuten, die in den Restaurants arbeiten und eigentlich überhaupt mit jedem, der mich nur ließso wie ich es normalerweise für meine Bücher mache.
Ich wuchs vor einem halben Jahrhundert in den Projects der Bronx auf, aber die waren völlig anders als die heutigen. Es war eine Welt, in der die unterschiedlichen Bevölkerungsgruppen wesentlich besser integriert, die Leute wirtschaftlich besser dran waren und die Familien noch besser funktionierten. Es gab noch keine Drogen und selbst Scheidungen galten als Skandal. Zwar sind die Projects in der Lower East Side nicht toll, aber dennoch weit entfernt von manchen Teilen der Bronx oder Brooklyns, wo man, soweit das Auge reicht, nur Leute sieht wie man selber. Junge Leute, die in der Lower East Side wohnen, brauchen nur ein paar hundert Meter zu laufen und sie treffen auf unglaublich viele verschiedene Welten. Aber das ist eine Einbahnstraße, denn ich glaube, dass viele Leute einen Scheiß dafür geben würden, in die Projects zu gehen und sich anzusehen, wie es dort so aussieht.
Ich begann 1974 über die Projects zu schreiben. Wenn man heute an die Lower East Side denkt, denkt man nicht mehr so sehr an Projects, sondern eher an die Folgen von Gulianis Kriminalitätsbekämpfung und die Grundstückspreise. Aber, sieh an, mich zieht es trotzdem schon wieder zu den Projects. Ich denke meine Sympathien und Instinkte drängen mich automatisch in diese Richtung. Es ist so, wie wenn jemand aus New York nach Paris fährt und dort als Erstes ein Bistro findet.
Tristan took the offered joint and dug his feet into the gravel on the roof of their building in the Lemlichs, the both of them gazing at mile-high One Police Plaza only a few blocks away. Not only was he blowing off curfew tonight, but he never picked up the hamsters, his ex-stepfather’s kids, from their various schools this afternoon; a first. There’d be hell to pay, but there was always some kind of hell to pay in that house and he couldn’t believe Little Dap was still hanging with him, so fuck it.
“We going to the Heights?” he murmured.
“First things first.”
“What do you mean, what…” Little Dap cocking his head, “Gotta get that cheese, podner.”
“Oh.” Tristan said, then, “Shit.”
In his preoccupation with the big journey to Washington Heights, he had forgotten that part of it.
“What.” Little Dap sipped deep. “You never…”
“Yeah, no, not like...”
Little Dap shrugged, “Ain’t nothing to it,” passing him the joint.
Tristan in his embarrassment was unable to stop grinning.
“But I can’t do it without my dolgier.” Little Dap slow-poking him in the chest, “You know what I’m saying?”
A blood-red moon slipped out from behind 1PP.
“Why don’t you just go to a couple corner boys,” Tristan said, coughing out a cloud, “say you collecting for Big Dap, we run uptown get the shit”coughing again“come back down here and turn it into something before he finds out, then just give him his money like normal.”
It was the most words he had said all at one time in a year.
“Nah, unh-uh.” Little Dap stretched his neck. “I tried that once, ran into some problems? That ain’t a good idea. You don’t ever get between Dap and his money. I mean, shit, you can send me to jail, I can handle that gladiator-school shit, in fact if truth be known I could be like one of the instructors, but with Dap, he gets his hands on you when he goes off? Naw, unh-uh.”
“And that’s like the other, we got to be like deep cover on this, ’cause all them porkies from the 8th? They always looking for a excuse to beat my brother’s ass for that cop got shot, so they collar me it’s like, ‘Oh, Little Dap, where’s Big Dap?’ Like he’s my automatic mastermind on a caper, and so now they got another excuse to light him up from here to the river. But whatever they do to him? Comes back on me double.”
Tristan dredged up a memory of Big Dap hauling off and slapping Little Dap in front of everybody on the street last year, the sound of it like a gunshot.
Then he thought of his ex-stepfather’s eyes, the way they bulged when he was good and liquored, getting ready to knock one out of the park.
Tristan didn’t want to go through with this anymore.
“Maybe you shouldn’t do it then,” trying to come off as if he were saying it out of concern.
“Nah, it’s good, I’m good with it.”
They smoked in silence for a while, Tristan deciding the Manhattan Bridge was God’s forearm, barring the way to Brooklyn.
“I tell you,” Little Dap choked, “The one thing when we get out there? Stay off the Chinese, they get juxed so much, most times they never have nothing on them no more, and even when they do? You come up on them they’re like, ‘Here,’ hold out the money before you can even say something.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“How do they know what I got in mind before I even get up on them.”
“But them white kids?” Little Dap laughed, snorting smoke. “Ho shit, it’s like, they’re like…” Doubling over, hand over his mouth. “I come up on this one guy last year, put the whistle in his mug? Motherfucker din’t have no money on him so he asked if I wanted him to write a check, like, whom should I make it out to?”
“What?” Tristan laughing too now, like everybody up here was a fully blooded vet.
“Here.” Little Dap went to his back pocket and pulled out a wrinkled pale-blue check.
It was from a bank in Traverse City, Michigan, dated six months ago and made out to cash for a hundred dollars.
“You gonna cash it?” Tristan was suddenly dizzy with friendship.
“Naw, man, if I cash this, then they can trace it. I just keep it for a joke.”
“But if they find it on you it’s like evidence, right?” Tristan murmured, “Call this bank on here, ask who’s this guy, was he robbed in New York…”
Another silence came down, Tristan worried that he had just disrespected Little Dap, made him out to be a fool.
But Little Dap was too wasted to catch it, his eyes like two cherries floating in buttermilk.
“So what do you say,” passing Tristan the roach. “You gonna be my dolgier out there or what… I need to hear you say it.”
Tristan took a last hit. “Yeah, OK.” The words coming out like smoke signals.
“Alright then,” Little Dap offering his fist for a pound, Tristan fighting off another out-of-control smile, it felt so good, something did at any rate.
“Man, you are one grinny motherfucker.” Little Dap said, popping the nub of the joint in his mouth, taking the gun out of his sweatshirt muff and attempting to hand it over.
Tristan reared back and laughed, if you could call it that.
“What.” Little Dap blinked.
“Nah? What, you think you go out there and what, yell at a motherfucker?”
He took Tristan by the wrist. “It ain’t like you use it, man,” slapping it into his palm. “You just flash it.”
At first Tristan tried to pass it back to him, but then got caught up with the feel of it in his hand, the giddy heft.
“Naw, man, this’ll be good for you,” Little Dap said, “Get you blooded, you know what I’m saying? First time’s like first time sex, you just do it to get it done with, then you can start concentratin’ on getting better at it, havin’ fun with it.”
“Alright.” Tristan staring and staring at the thing in his hand. “Can I ask you something?”
Little Dap waited. And waited.
“What the fuck is a dolgier?”
“A dolgier? A do-anything soldier.”
“OK.” Grinning, grinning.
“You’re in the game now, son.” Little Dap studied him studying the gun. “Time to show and prove.”
The deal was this: Opposite sides of the street; if they saw a likely bunch of heads, the one across the street from them goes up a block, then crosses over, then comes back down so they got them in a pincers, but because Tristan had the whistle, Little Dap was always supposed to play it like he was getting juxed too, but stand slightly behind the real vics in case they tried to run or fight. That was the plan, and they spent hours walking down opposite sides of every street from the Bowery to Pitt, from Houston to Henry, both of them limping in order not to draw attention to the slow hunter’s pace they had to maintain, then after a while getting bored and forgetting to limp, then remembering, then taking a break for pizza, whatever, for hours.
At first there were too many people, then no people, then that police taxi showed up and keyed in on Little Dap, motor-stalking him for blocks until he went into the Arab twenty-four hour just to get them off his back.
Then at two, two-thirty, when the bars and clubs all began to empty, at first there was too many people again, then nobody again, until at three-thirty Little Dap had said fuckit, calling it a night; and the two of them started walking together back to the Lemlichs. Tristan, already worried about toe-sliding through the apartment past his ex-stepfather’s door, was imagining what it would feel like to take the whistle home with him, when suddenly they saw the three white guys on Eldridge coming toward them, the one in the middle drunk, half-carried by the other two, and before they could even get it together it was happeningTristan, his heart slamming in his chest, putting the gun on them, the drunk hitting the deck as the two others separated to organize their individual responses to Little Dap’s demand. The guy on the left did it right, passing over the wallet and backing away eyes to the ground, but then the other guy made it all go to shit, almost smiling as he stepped to him, to the gun, like he was in his favorite movie or something, saying, “Not tonight, my man.”
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