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I love Breslin... - Alan

New York

Jimmy Breslin Jimmy Breslin

New York Is The Only Target In America

March 26, 2003

At rush hour Wednesday night, the shuttle from the East Side opened and a
crowd came running out and smacked into the crowd running at the open
doors. And here came one small man off the train carrying what looked like
a rolled up rug under his arm and he was running with his rug aimed
straight at my midsection.

He looked at me in alarm and veered to his left, I stepped to my left. We
smiled at each other.

"I have to be careful," the guy said.

"You could've knocked me out, jab that into my stomach."

"It couldn't. It's a painting. That's what could have been damaged."

"Is it yours?"

"Yes. I'm an artist."

He introduced himself as Peter Zonis. He had a sharp nose and sparkling
eyes under a thick head of hair. He is 44 and lives on 14th Street.

"What's the painting about?"

"The Ansonia Hotel. Dufy. I'm taking it to a woman on Central Park West.
She's buying it."

"Good money?"

"Seven hundred and fifty. I usually don't go to somebody's house. I sell
off the street."


"In front of Barney's. I'm there every day."

"What do you charge on the street?"

"Double. I've been out there a year and a half. I used to show in a
gallery. Somebody would buy and then you'd wait for the next. A friend of
mine, her name is El, she told me, if you are going to sell, then get out
on the street and sell. I had a dream about bulls. She said that was good.
We went downtown in front of the statue of the stock market bull. I
painted that. I couldn't believe how many I sold. I came right up to
Barney's. It has been tremendously successful. I did Nello's and the Viand
Coffee Shop. Joe Willie Namath bought one. That was one of the things that
started me off.

"You never saw many people doing this, but it will get more popular. This
is the new way for artists."

"What about the weather?"

"I can take my work down in a minute."

We broke off and I took the shuttle over to Grand Central. Peter Zonis was
what this city always was about. Art.

Unexpected excitement. He has a painting on the train? I saw a guy move on
the train. He brought a couch in the car and sat down on it. "I'm beating
the moving man," he said. Energy, enjoyment. Cheerfulness. And crowds.
Nature's finest sight is a crowded street.

And I knew Wednesday that this subway and the wondrous streets of the city
above it is a place to be hated by tens of millions sitting in the sands,
to be imagined with flames licking savagely, and more and more, with every
bomb and every missile, the millions in the sands stare through the smoke
and hate.

We are the only target in America. Nobody thinks of getting even with
Waco, Texas. Just New York. And the government in Washington cares less
about New York than anyplace in the country. The Republicans never had
George Bush campaign in New York. Why should they? All we have is a lot of
blacks and Jews and half the Caribbean, and Republicans don't want them

After the attack on the World Trade Center, Bush stood on the top of a
fire truck with a retired fire fighter, who had decided to take a look on
this, the third day.

It was heroic television for Bush. Then he was gone and I don't remember
him ever coming back again during long months of misery. Why should he? He
and his people have nothing to do with this place. When they needed New
York, Washington wailed, "We are going to honor the nine eleven victims.
We are going to blow Iraq apart.

This Bush government says it will take over Iraq's oil, which is 11
percent of the world's, and keep it in trust for the Iraqi people. That's
what Bush said. He'll hold the oil wells for the people.

And we in New York live with soldiers with large guns and searching and
streets blocked and when the fighting ends in Iraq, our trouble only
grows. All those millions and millions do not mind taking time for

When I got off the train, a guy reached out to tap my arm. "Moynihan just
died. I heard it over in the post office."

Moynihan used to have his office in the post office just upstairs. We knew
him as brilliant, he really was, and also by his wonderful slogan, "First
Today!" And then he got up at an affair on the West Side, where he came
from, and told working people that he, too, had a harsh upbringing. His
mother had to support the family. "The poor woman had to work in a saloon
she owned." The audience erupted.

The thing I remembered was Moynihan on the floor of the Senate speaking
against the United States going into a war against Iraq the first time, in

"What do we have here. One nasty little country invaded another nasty
little country. Neither of them have anything to do with the United
States. And they both have an official policy of anti-Semitism that is

He had a voice. He leaves the Democrats with whispering pigmies.

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