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Fic: Observations, Ch 91
Star Trek

Life in this city is not what I expected it to be.

In some aspects, this pre-Warp Terran city is remarkable. The environment of New York is truly unique to the metropolis. Every day, Jim and I take the train into Manhattan to go to our jobs and I am presented with a view of the harbor. The famous Statue of Liberty is visible in the distance, facing out to the wide Atlantic Ocean. The Brooklyn bridge stands tall between the island and its namesake. As we approach Manhattan, skyscrapers loom overhead, enormous and monumental in their own right. Then every night, we take the same train back and the vista changes completely. Instead of light and reflecting windows of the buildings, the skyscrapers light up from the inside. Stars are not visible in New York, but the city creates its own field of twinkling lights. The bridge is covered with a string of lights and the combined effect, when one sees it the first time, is truely breathtaking.

But under it, there are disturbing realities. First is the fact that the kindess of Edith Keeler is the exception, not the rule. Every day, Jim and I pass scores of homeless people. They are ragged and dirty, they smell of their own urine. They drag along trashbags of their possession and sleep in the grime of the train station. There is a wild look in their eyes and they mutter to themselves. But no one stops to help these people. They pass by, looking straight through them in absolute indifference. The mask of a New Yorker is truly a sight to behold.

On the train, beggars come. Jim somehow immediately comprehended that most of these beggars are professionals. They go from car to car, down the lines of seats with a prepared speech, usually attesting to their own honesty and appealing to the qualities of kindness and mercy of humans. As I watch the other passengers, some people give a few dollars, others stare with a mask of apathy. The more I see of this city and the longer I live in it, it seems necessary to wear the same mask. Jim and I are not wealthy by any means, and could have easily been in the same position as the truly homeless. I count it a stroke of luck that we met Ms. Keeler, and that she was willing to help us as she did.

If Leonard McCoy arrives in this city in his madly paranoid state, what will become of him? We must find him, before anything befalls him. He could easily wander into a subway station and perhaps throw himself on the tracks. It is clear that few will help him. They will ignore him if they can and go about their daily lives without giving a second thought to one lost man.

New York is a city of extremes. This indifference towards human life is unthinkable for a Vulcan, and shocking for a Terran. It has taken an emotional toll on Jim. He has quickly learned to harden himself against it, though he hates the join the ranks of the indifferent. Jim wants to change this world and make it better. At the same time, he is in love with this city. He loves the rhythm of its activities, the way that it truly never sleeps. At any time of day, particularly in Manhattan, but also in certains parts of Brooklyn, there is something happening. We usually work the dinner shift at the restaurant, starting at 1700 and going well into 0100. Customers constantly come and go—this couple is going to the theatre and would like to be serviced quickly. Another group comes in at midnight, dressed to go clubbing. This pair is on a date, this woman drinks alone at the bar, here a group of business associates have come to socialize after sealing a contract.

In our spare time, when Jim and I are not researching the latest developments in this world’s computer technology or arguing over the necessary design features, we walk through the city. We live near a park in Brooklyn, Prospect Park, and on weekends it is pleasant to go there. There is also an enormous park in the middle of Manhattan, a remarkable reservoir of nature in the middle of the city. It contains several lakes and ponds, along with statues and open spaces.

Jim likes to visit Chinatown and marvel over all the trinkets they sell there. The air is punget with the smell of fish, laden with the feeling of oil and grease. The people there all yell in various degrees in their native language. The cacophony of it all takes some getting used to. Then there is Union Square, a completely different neighborhood. It is younger, with an artistic feel. Artists display and try to sell their works here, there is a regular farmer’s market that sells all manner of fresh produce. Terrans seems to be very concerned with organic and natural methods of farming here. Jim and I explored the Strand and its shelves upon shelves of physical paper books.

We have gone to the Financial District, where the city government buildings and major corporations are housed. There is a site of construction—it seems that the city has been recovering from a recent attack. We go to a park at the tip of the island and Jim decides to splurge, to go see the Statue of Liberty and visit a former immigrant processing center. We have walked through the region known as Midtown, where Rockefeller Center, Times Square, Penn Station, Columbus Circle, are located.

We have gone Uptown to the Natural History Museum, which contains fascinating displays. The fossil collection is truly remarkable and absolutely scientific. The museum is so large that it is impossible to see everything displayed in one day. Jim quickly became exhausted after we spent three hours going through a small section of the museum. There are art museums on the Upper East Side. Lost works of art are on full display at the Metropolitan Museum, from every Terran culture and every historical time period.

Jim has insisted that we walk through Harlem. We went to one of the lounges there and listened to the jazz artists. The band consisted of a pianist, a stringed bass player, and a drummer. The musicians improvised everything, and their virtuosity was astounding. It is something that I aspire to, but did not truly comprehend until I heard and witnessed live. The audience participated actively, moving to the music in their chairs, laughing at a particular improvisation, adding thier own beat organically to the music that flowed through the small room. Nyota once told me that jazz music reaches down and grabs her soul. I believe I am closer to understanding her meaning.

My descriptions here only cover a small portion of this city in which Jim and I live and navigate. There is so much more—I only spoke of Manhattan. Brooklyn is completely different in its pace and people. It too is divided into its respective neighborhoods. On a clear fall day, Jim and I will dine outside at some bistro, have a large brunch and while we continue to discuss our research. If life on Manhattan is fast and frenetic, life on Brooklyn seems slower and more intimate. There are old clothing stores, bookstores, cafes and restaurants of every type, clubs and bars. Brooklyn has its own museums and famed avenues. There are the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, which Sulu would have appreciated. There is Brighton Beach, where Pavel might have felt at home. Along Eastern Parkway and in Crown Heights are Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish populations, and next to them are Carribean Africans. Coney Island is at the end of the train line. It was cold, but Jim and I walked the boardwalk and gazed out at the mottled sand and sea.

We are becoming accustomed to the pace of life here. Our apartment fills with things—blankets, clothes, toiletries, papers and drafts of schematics. We bought an old table and two chairs at a flea market. The other day, Jim got plates and durable utensils. Our days are full of research, work, exploration, and play. We go everywhere and do everything together.

Edith Keeler has joined us on several occassions. Jim counts her a good friend, and the more we get to know her, the more we find her to be a extraordinary woman. She is the only daughter of an extremely wealthy businessman—she lives on the Upper East Side. Yet she works and dedicates her time to community service. She, like Jim, wants to help this city and change it. Ms. Keeler, devotes most of her time to a place she founded on 21st Street, which helps the homeless and those in need. She runs both a food pantry and a soup kitchen, and she manages several volunteers who assist her. The number of people who visit, whether homeless or not, is large also. Jim and I have offered our own services to help her, whenever we are available.

“Hello there. Come to help out? I need someone to pour the coffee and Tom’s ladling the soup, but he has to run soon. Could you fill in?”

“Yeah, sure,” Jim smiled.

Edith and others hurried out as a brawl began in the hall. A man hysterically began crying.

“There aint nothing! Aint nothing to live fo’ no mo’! I lost my job, they’s kickin’ me out of my house, I got a wife and kids dependin’ on me. They thinks I got a job,they thinks I work, but that aint the truth. I aint got no job, aint got nothin’ ta feed them! I’m beggin’ on the street and aint no one lookin’ at me like I’m a man. I’m a man! I’m a human bein’! God makes me the same as any otha’ but that ain nothin’ ta no one! I’m a person! But that aint shit in this city! There aint nothin’, aint nothing to live fo’.

“What you here fo’? What you here for with yo’ goody two shoes and yo’ actin’ kind? Come ta feel good about yo’self, when otha’s are starvin’ in the streets? What you lookin’ at? Huh?!”

Edith helped the man to his feet, even as he berated her. She looked around. There were some in the dining hall who were openly watching the spectacle, and others who were steadfastly eating their food, as if nothing had happened. She cleared her throat.

“Now listen up everyone. Let’s start by getting one thing straight. I’m not a do-gooder. If you’re a bum, if you can’t break off the booze or whatever it is that makes you a bad risk, then this isn’t the place for you. I have lots of information for other counciling places who can help you get your life back on track.

“Now I don’t pretend to tell you how to find happiness and love when every day is just a struggle to survive, but I do insist that you do survive, because the days and years ahead are worth living for. We’ve already come so far—we’ve harnessed incredible energy and the atom. We’ve reached out into space gone to the moon, sent probes to the stars. And one day, we’ll find out that we’re not alone. We’ll meet aliens and find a new place in the universe—we send men and women to visit these new worlds and planets.

“And in that day, we’ll also find ways to feed the hungry milliosn of the world and cure all the diseases. Even cancer and AIDS. We’ll find a way to give each man hope and a common future,and those are the days worth living for.

“You might think I’m crazy, talking about stars and distant planets when you don’t have a job. But when life gives you no hope, you have to find it in yourself. Maybe for you, it’s faith in God that gives you hope and confidence. Or perhaps belief in love. But you have to find something to live for, something inside you that you can hold on to, find a way to keep fighting for a better day and better future.

“You are a person. A man, a woman. You have a life and you have a story. Sometimes it feels like no one in this city cares, that this place is as cold and heartless as it gets. But there are people who want to help—there are places you can go to get help. Let me help, or any one of us. You aren’t alone, and you aren’t forgotten. Remember that, and keep living. Prepare for tomorrow. Get ready. Don’t give up.”

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Once again, you've made me cry.

your discriptions of New York call to my inner new yorker. I wnt there once in 2007 for 4 days and I have never wanted to live anywhere else! this is splendid! loved it!

I live in New York, and the same sorts of things that Spock observes get me down a lot :( sigh.

God this made me homesick.

And teary.

I love you.

I love this fic. it's gorgeous, poetic, it utterly moves me. but! I'm a Caribbean woman from New York City and--is caribbeans, we aren't African. we're Caribbean. or West Indian. my family's from Jamaica, and on a cultural note, the Caribbean isn't entirely Black--my other Caribbean family are from Trinidad, and they're of Indian descent.

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