A New Yorker, like Shaggy

When I moved to NYC I was fully aware I had personality traits that needed work. I was an introvert. I was not graceful or quick when dealing with the public, or strangers, or even acquaintances for that matter. My default was awkwardness. And amongst New Yorkers this weakness of mine magnified. 

Shaggy, May 2006

This is something Shaggy has had no issues with since the day he was born. Before ever meeting Shaggy I would see him at Union shouting at his friends, and strangers, and whoever else, as Shaggy does. When he and I finally met, it was this aspect of him that really held my interest. He, like many born New Yorkers, have developed a different kind of personality dealing with the chaos of that city. A bold readiness for whatever may come around the next corner, and an instinctual way to handle said potential chaos with words, or whatever means necessary, then shrug it off.

A good example that stands out, one time early in our friendship we were hanging outside an entrance to the Starbucks on Astor. We were chatting while he smoked, and this grumpy elderly lady was walking towards us.
“Excuse me. You shouldn’t be standing right here. You’re blocking the door!” She scolded us both.

Without hesitation, Shaggy side-mouthed his cig, reached obediently to hold said door open. Pressing his back to the wall making room, he gestured with his other hand like her personal doorman so she could pass through safely. She wobbled past mumbling how much of a bother we both were telling us we should stand somewhere else. He apologized and gently shut the door behind her.
As soon as the door shut he continued on with whatever story he was telling without acknowledging what had just happened. To me it was an incredible moment. Here I was assuming he’d retaliate with rudeness, or something other than being completely accommodating and apologetic. And the way he did it was totally cool and amusing. 
“I did not expect you to handle that that way!” I told him. 

“Of course! We were in the way, and she’s right! Respect your elders.” and went on to explain how she was obviously a New Yorker. “That’s the way we talk to each other.”
How would I have handled that situation? I’m not sure. But I wouldn’t have been that cool. I wanted what he did to come that naturally.

Another time early on, Shaggy and I were hanging by The Cube on Astor and across the street these four ladies with their shopping bags were gabbing loudly. At first glance they appeared to be a couple daughters with their moms, and their voices were loud, laughing, conversing so they could be heard for blocks. They were oblivious to the spectical they were making of themselves. Shaggy says to me, watch this! And walks to them, skateboard in hand, striding along behind them like he’s showing these ladies around town.

It wasn’t even half a block when they noticed and all of their chatter came to an immediate stop. They glanced at each other saying with their eyes, “Who’s this weird little man walking with us?”
Their confusion and now, total silence was hilarious.

When they got to the corner they began hailing for a cab, to which Shaggy stood out even farther in front of them and hailed one down. They looked so bewildered assuming they now had to hail another one for themselves. I was amazed as I watched this all unfold. When the cab pulled up, Shaggy opened the back door and held it for the ladies inviting them to enter. He had the biggest grin on his face while all four of them squeezed into the back together, attempting to speed this along. As soon as they’d all filed in and shut the door, he opened the front passenger door and sat right next to the driver, closed it and looked straight ahead without saying a word. The ladies were beyond dumfounded! They’re smiles switching right back to the same shock and confusion from before. It was so fucking funny. I watched it all from the sidewalk, dazzled. These were not the actions of an introvert.
He sat there only a few seconds before finally getting out and saying through the windows, “Only kidding, ladies! Enjoy your day in New York!” and waved them goodbye. He came back to me laughing, “What’d you think of that Bobo?”

Anyone who knows Shaggy, these stories won’t shock you. But for me, it was so strange, so refreshing, and so enviable. To be that confident and bold. It’s punk rock. This is what being a New Yorker meant to me. 

Flash forward a decade or so. I’m walking by myself down St Marks crossing the street. At the middle of the road, a car is waiting for me so he can make a left turn, his front fender just a few feet from my legs. Then in a moment of road-rage he lurched forward and quickly braked just inches from my shins making me jump. Stepping forward, as he pulled behind me, I kicked my heel into the side of his car with my boot, and a couple steps more I look back realizing I’d dented his door. I thought to myself “He’s definitely going to stop and get out.”
I looked over my shoulder again, and sure enough he was pulling over and getting out shouting “HEY MOTHER FUCKER! COME HERE! YOU FUCKING HIT MY CAR!”

Now mind you, I’m carrying my laptop in a carrying case, when I turn around and start yelling “YOU WANNA HIT ME WITH YOUR CAR?! YOU WANT TO RUN ME OVER?! FUCK YOU!!”
I’m shaking my case in the air, pens and pencils flying out of its pockets onto the sidewalk. In my head I’m thinking “Am I actually ready to fight this guy?” But my blood is boiling and I’m stomping back towards him out of control. Whatever it looked like coming at him, it was enough for him to get right back into his car and drive away. 

I was shaking all over, and my art supplies were scattered all over the ground. Then I noticed there were people sitting at tables on the sidewalk who saw everything! And as I was picking up my stuff a couple of them came over to help asking if I was alright. It was the first time I’d ever exploded like this. I was shaking, barely able to control myself. As these people were handing me my pencils I was shaking my head. “Thank you. I don’t know what came over me. I’m okay. Thank you.”

Shaggy & Normal Bob Sept 2006, Union Square Park NYC

I went straight to Starbucks to calm down, and phoned Shaggy at work to tell him what happened. He laughed and said “The pressure of the city finally broke you! Congratulations! You’re a New Yorker now!”

I’m happy to say that from the years of hanging out with him, this quality did in fact rub off on me. Not to the extent of Shaggy’s, but I definitely changed.

I realize this thing may read like Shaggy’s died or something. He has not. In fact I just talked to him, and as always “We’re homies for life!” 

Shaggy, NJ 2024 w/neighbor’s garbage