Monday, October 24, 2011

Curb Your Attitude

I wrote the following about Long Island City, otherwise known as LIC.

There was a recent piece of graffiti that said “dog owners are ruining LIC.” Because sweeping generalizations, divisiveness, and graffiti are clearly positive forces. I’m surprised it wasn’t smeared when the writer tripped over their own irony.

Painting every dog owner as a negative influence is irresponsible; the vast majority of dog owners are people who just enjoy caring for a living thing that loves them unconditionally. Having a dog is like having a kid who doesn’t grow up to hate you.

I didn’t like dogs for the first 31 years of my life. But I fell in love with a dog person, and she educated me to understand that there aren’t bad dogs, just bad owners. It makes sense – every time a little boy shrieks on an airplane and his parents do nothing, it’s not the kid that I want choked with a seatbelt extension.

Is this neighborhood filled with bad owners? Since I wasn’t a dog owner until recently, I can see the issue from both sides. Some dog owners are over enthusiastic, treating their dogs like they’re more important than any human being. Some dog owners are under enthusiastic, not policing their dogs’ bad behavior. But is that enough to “ruin LIC”?

I doubt it – since my dog is actually the reason I love it here so much.

My time in LIC was supposed to have an expiration date. My wife and I moved here to save up for a bigger place in Manhattan, since most Manhattan realtors define a two-bedroom apartment as a studio with a bathroom. A three-bedroom is a studio with a bathroom that has a tub.

For the first six months we lived here, we were focused on leaving. We didn’t meet any neighbors, we ate most meals in Manhattan, and we kept to ourselves like we had nuclear launch codes. For six months, we didn’t live in Long Island City – we just slept here.

Things suddenly changed when we adopted our dog, an adorable Beagle/Dachshund mix we re-named Bea Arthur.

Who wouldn't love living here with a dog?

Because we needed to walk Bea, we met our neighbors. Because we had to be home to train Bea out of separation anxiety, we discovered LIC’s restaurants. Because we wanted some outdoor space for Bea, we moved from a high rise at the distant northwest corner of the neighborhood to a brownstone in the heart of Vernon. I love my dog, but I love her more because she gave me Long Island City. She loves Long Island City, too – I know that because she’s comfortable pooping all over it.

Maybe poop is the problem. Irresponsible, selfish people who aren’t conscientious about cleaning up after their dogs can ruin things for everyone. But irresponsible, selfish people are the reason there’s often food garbage on the Vernon Mall and why that yellow hummer is STILL parked in two spots in the Rockrose garage. If you judge an entire group by its weakest members, then every one of us is “ruining LIC” in some capacity. Saying “dog owners are ruining LIC” is based in as much fact as saying “people who cut their sandwiches in triangles are ruining LIC.”

I’ve moved around a lot. I’ve lived in six neighborhoods in Queens, five neighborhoods in Manhattan, one in Jersey, and two each in Boston and LA. I’ve moved around so much, I feel like AC Slater’s backstory before he got to Bayside.

This is the sixteenth neighborhood I’ve lived in, but thanks to Bea Arthur, it’s the first one that I actually feel a part of. Having a dog showed me that Long Island City is a wonderful place with a healthy diversity that doesn’t often exist outside of a college brochure. Even if I wasn’t a dog owner, I would hate to see them removed from that diversity. And not just because dog owners also own more than half of the neighborhood retail.

If you still think “dog owners are ruining LIC,” picture a grown man yelling “Bea Arthur, stop sniffing that dog’s butt!” If that doesn’t make you enjoy life a little more, nothing will.

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