Currently feasting on ‘The Golem and the Djinni’ by Helene Wecker. The story, directly given away in the title depicting the situations a golem and a djinni find themselves in when they suddenly arrive in New York in 1899, one from Europe, the other conjured by a Syrian down in Little Syria.
I saw it in Waterstones, UK equivalent to Barnes & Noble, weeks ago and the title, and then the blurb really interested me so I stuck it on the MasterCard and that was that. Only starting it now; a January resolution being to read a maximum of three books at any one time I currently holding steady as I’ve just got two on the go at this point.
Out of interest the second is Stephen King’s quasi-autobiography. Didn’t know he was such a beer and cocaine fiend in the eighties. Though it does give insight to some of his famous novels (‘Misery’, ‘Cujo’, the latter he can’t actually remember writing) written around that period.
But it reminded me of what happened in my job last week. We had a big official meeting in the new operating theatres where I work. All the different grades were there along with some of the medical staff, the head of nursing for the trust and some other senior managers. ‘Heavy hitters’ as some American once said, within the world of intra-Trust affairs. And a rarity for them to come and address the rest of us, though with a combination of the move from the old hospitals and all the gremlins that our plaguing us currently it wasn’t entirely unexpected.
Long story short we have issues that are being addressed. Then towards the end of the meeting the head of the anaesthetics stood and spoke to the room telling us the situation we all found ourselves in was unprecedented in several fields. The combining of three surgical departments into one, together with three individual teams, the shared space, the desire for consumables, everything that occurs when three groups of people merge, in any field.
Though I admit I have forgot the direct quotes of his address, the feeling was one of how we must put aside our differences and work together to become a conglomerate, everyone working from the same perspective, under the same policies, for the same goals. It was at that point that I came up with the nickname for the place.
Or just “Amsterdam” if the “New” is a bit too much.
New Amsterdam is of course the old name for New York. Back way back when the whole region belonged to the Dutch back in the whenevers. Even back then it was a hub for humanity, primarily because of its location as a transit point for anyone coming west from Europe. My own family, Mary, coming through there in 1924, I found her name in the archive when I was touring Ellis Island in 2010. I don’t know the exact relation. She might have been my great-great-great aunt. My great-great-grandfather’s sister? Anyway, she’s there.
When I was studying American History back in university we had to read a lot about the immigrant process of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The highpoint for the region due to pogroms and famine the city’s fathers had the vision of the city being a “melting pot” of cultures all forming one big American ideal. And in a sense they were correct, people came to the country, discarded a lot of their former traditions and values and settled down to become honest American citizens, in love with guns, baseball, the Stars and Stripes and apple pie.
Only in New York that sorta didn’t happen. Officials and governors discovered that in any major city (any urban area of a substantial size) people formed tiny conclaves of their own. Little Italy, Chinatown, Harlem, Little Jerusalem (LES) and later Crown Heights in Brooklyn were all well-known examples of this. Human beings, as a species, group. The verb, also known as “grouping”, if you follow the exploits of Joss Whedon, the phrase coined by Topher Brink, the demented programmer from the belated TV show “Dollhouse”, implying that humans are just as receptive to animals when it comes to herd mentality. The herd in question might not know why they do what they do (the show’s premise involved thorough brainwashing and the erasure of identity) but they still do it.
I prefer to put it down to something more heartfelt. The fact that like is drawn to like. You’re a stranger in a strange land; the first thing you do is look for the familiar.
And so the melting pot became a salad bowl.
That’s not to say the original proposal was a failure. New York is the most culturally diverse place on earth, and it’s not even close. 200 different languages are spoken in the five boroughs, heaven knows how many nationalities live either above or below the poverty line, which sadly stands currently at around 50%, the total population eight million plus and growing every year.
But now with New Amsterdam I hope we do coalesce into one big effective unit. Of course it will take time but it is entirely possible. I like merging and seeing things from different perspectives, this is why I adore New York with a passion I myself find scary at times. But at the same time we are only human, subject to distrust, dislike and all the other negative aspects that go hand in the hand with the condition. But the nickname’s good. Or, at the very least staying put until I can think of something better.