Is nothing sacred? That’s exactly what a Zabar’s regular said to the NY Times yesterday, when a regular customer getting his bagel accidentally shot himself in the leg with a gun he says he found in the trash. Obviously, this guy is bad news– but Zabar’s? To quote obvious Upper West Side lifer Rose Marie Tichler, “This is happening all over. It never happened at Zabar’s before. Never!” Or to quote Ms. Swados, who works at a local pet product store, “this is the Upper West Side, for God’s sake”.
I know that Americans love guns, but New Yorkers don’t. We hate them. They’re nothing but trouble. If you want to go shoot Bambi in a forest, that’s your business. If you shoot yourself in the leg in New York City, that’s everybody’s business. And if you do it while buying a bagel with cream cheese at Zabar’s…that’s as shocking as when someone tries to put his filthy lucre on the same plate with the “little crackers” in church.
That’s because Zabar’s is an institution. There’s almost zero turnover of the guys who slice the fish, unless one of them dies. Then, they make a little shrine for him in the corner, right behind the caviar. You want healthy food? Be a vegan. You want to eat delicious? Just go into Zabar’s and take a deep breath. Take out your credit card and buy the cheese, the fish, the salads, the chocolate, the bagels. Go upstairs and buy a Zabar’s dishtowel or corkscrew, just to remind yourself where you want to live. It’s heaven.
People who don’t live in New York don’t really get Zabar’s. An insufferable Meg Ryan movie has a scene shot in Zabar’s, and they had to close the whole place down to REAL shoppers for
days so that Meg could push a shopping cart – a shopping cart! through the aisles. Hint: No one in their right mind uses a shopping cart at Zabar’s unless it’s 10:00 a.m. on a Tuesday. Then, you can use a shopping cart if you’re over 80. Everyone else, do yourself a favor and grab a shopping basket. This isn’t CostCo.
That’s why this is so shocking. On one hand, a crazed homeless person finds a gun in the garbage, shoves it in his belt, and then woopsie! blammo! Shoots himself in the leg. This is nothing new – idiot football players have done no less, but that’s what you get for going to nightclubs on Lexington Avenue. On the other hand, a crazy homeless person with good taste and regular habits goes for a daily bagel and cream cheese, and he goes to the one place everyone with half a brain cell WOULD go to get a daily bagel and cream cheese if they could. He goes to Zabar’s. Not MacDonald’s, not one of those greasy coffee shop carts – Zabar’s. I’m starting to think he’s not so much a crazy homeless person as someone down on his luck but with enough moxie to get a bagel at Zabar’s….and then, he combines those two scenarios in one.
It’s disconcerting. I think I’d almost rather see Zabar’s start marketing a line of “Christmas bagels” than find someone with a gun in their pants in line in front of me. Almost.
Fortunately, this is going to be a one-off because New York City has extremely strict gun regulation. Although I always knew that the U.S. is in a different league from all other nations when it comes to gun violence, that fact was brought home to me viscerally during a visit to Seattle in 2014 with friends and family. Us womenfolk found ourselves chattin’ out by the lake, and somehow the topic turned to mass killings. Turns out, everyone there but me had a deep and abiding fear that someday, somehow, they’d turn on the news to find out that the next mass slaughter by a heavily armed lone gunman with weapons that can spray crowds with 30 bullets per minute was taking place at the school or movie theater their child was attending. It happens about once a month, after all.
I don’t think they believed me when I told them I never worry about that, because it just doesn’t happen in New York City. But it’s true. We are more at risk for other types of attacks, and for other dangers, but that’s not one of them. The NRA has taken the trouble to consider New York City separately, as if it were a state by itself, and to warn that “New York doesn’t recognize gun permits issued by other states. Even people with licenses accepted by New York State aren’t allowed to carry their guns into the city.” The airport security guys go berserk if you try to go airside packing heat, too. Thank God for that. Guns are not welcome here. We do our best to keep them out, although being on the same continent as the rest of the US, they do creep across the border every now and then.
Maybe we should build a wall.