By Amber Roniger
I was at the Comic Strip Live last night, not laughing (more like in a state of perpetual mental slack-jaw) as this “comic” (quote-fingers = read: unfunny) proudly recounted a rueful tale of his un-Batman, un-valorous subway un-etiquette. Sitting cockily in his cozy train seat, he observes an old woman strap-hanging for dear life. The markedly unsophisticated comedy crowd snickers (as if this is any smidge of a twinge amusing) at his ‘joke(?).’ Eventually, he sneers, a younger woman gives up her seat for the old woman, while he proudly remains firmly rooted in his hard-won throne without bothering to wiggle a pinky toe. (Such willpower, such the guy to go the extra mile!) For some unfathomable reason, this un-gallant tale is met with howls of laughter. Dare we label this schlock-tainment? Not a proud moment all around.
In this day and age where bad news rules the day, men engage in pissing-contests to see how long they can hold-out on calling you (even if he is that into you), misogyny is the predictable butt of all too many fart-level-humor jokes, and a guy will literally chest-butt you out of the way to get a marquee spot on the subway pole – I’m practically forced to wonder: is chivalry utterly obsolete? I don’t know what neighborhood you reside in, but nobody’s thrown a red cape across my muddy monsoon path anytime lately. You?
Thankfully my query’s answer is no, and I have at least one concrete, living example to prove it. Enter JOHN SOLLITTO and his solo motorcycle cavalcade por un. A Brooklyn-based writer and true borough native, John embodies that spirit of old New York which seems to have faded into dust along with any remaining hints of Times Square character. He can tell tall tales with the best of ’em in that gruff BK accent that is so endearing (to New Yorkers anyhow) and this was a pretty fabulous tale he recounted – large perhaps, but true nonetheless…
Perched at his daily writing spot at a popular Smith Street café, he suddenly got one of those NYPD Blue ‘hunches’ when he saw a gaggle of teenagers seemingly casing the joint. He hugged his laptop in Alex-P-Keaton-style-tighter just before they made a break through the open front door, grabbed a girl’s cell phone and split in all directions. Without thinking, John jumped on his motorcycle and gave chase. Amazingly, he managed to hunt one teen down, jump off his bike all Dukes-a-Hazzard and corner him (with considerable risk to life and limb, I may add – I believe the word I used to label his auto-pilot valiant behavior was ‘crazy’) just as a police car pulled up. The cop was completely floored that he’d even bothered and commented wryly, ‘you musta been raised right, sticking up for a lady like that.’ I might also note (drama definitely not withstanding) that John had been in a motorcycle accident the previous day and was pretty seriously banged-up and miraculously, even as his cycle came crashing down on top of him, his backpack-strapped laptop seemed to absorb the majority of the concrete shock (see, writing saves lives!). And despite his purple condition, still had the wherewithal to track down the hooligans… all over a cell phone. John labels his own heroics a ‘crime-fighting caper,’ which I find both intensely amusing… but also true enough.
I asked John if he would have reacted similarly if a guy’s phone had been stolen, to which he replied, “absolutely.” I suppose what is revealed here is not quite your typical old-fashioned ideal about the merits of chivalry, but more of a new-fangled concept of looking out for your neighbors, keeping the community safe and relying on home-bred, well-honed instincts for survival. Of course, as it turns out, the victim was apparently pretty cute and so I personally challenge John to activate his cavalry over some knurled-old-man’s prosthetic limb being heisted. But all limb-snatching snickers aside, and as a café-writing-sister-in-arms, I hope my neighbors, both actual and literary, are looking out so well for me the next time something essential disappears from my table. Giddyap… or rather vroom, vroom!