New York isn't doing great. Ravaged by the worst outbreak in the U.S., the city is still reeling from the multiple 9/11's worths of COVID-19 deaths. A good time then, according to The New York Times, to run a profile showing the world how a true New Yorker deals with such a crisis. By showing kindness? By running into burning towers? By refusing to rat out Spider-Man? No, apparently, it's by making it all about them.
Ben Markham is a 28-year-old born in Jupiter, Florida, a former nuclear submarine officer, an engineering student, and massive Beatles fan. (He once did a cover of one of Lennon's songs on the exact spot where the man was murdered, talk about fan goals). But most importantly of all, Markham tells the New York Times, is that he's a Real New Yorker -- despite having only lived there for less than a year. "I think I've maybe always been a New Yorker, I just had to get here first," Markham admits proudly, forgetting that the first rule of being in New York Club is that you don't keep mentioning you're in a New York Club.
And like other "Real New Yorkers," Markham is severely suffering from the coronavirus pandemic -- according to Markham, the Times and no one else. His NYT profile begins with an overlapping metaphor of how this Upper West Side Nero is telling a Beatles cover band (the terrific The Meetles) to keep playing while New York is burning to bid him adieu. Where's Markham going? Is he one of the hundreds, once thousands, of New Yorkers needing to be hospitalized due to catching COVID-19? Is he one of the countless tenants being kicked out of their homes during a health crisis because landlords are unconscionable capitalist monsters? No, he just has to relocate to the East Side because dwindling rent revenue has closed his building. His landlord even helped him move.
Nonetheless, Markham wants you to know he's also been affected by the pandemic on a deeply personal level. He complains that he can't get any women on Tinder to meet up with him during this viral outbreak. He mocks all those fake New Yorkers who "went back to Mommy and Daddy" the moment the city started piling up dead bodies fast enough they were digging mass graves. Not that there are no coping mechanisms to the pandemic for a nuclear-grade hipster like Markham.
As the last New Yorker standing, he now gets to treat the semi-apocalyptic event like his personal playground. He bikes through empty streets at night, projects Beatles movies on the sides of apartment buildings and breaks into private gardens like he's starring in a version of I Am Legend directed by Zach Braff. Still, to Markham, the worst thing the global plague has done to New York is ruining his "magic" experience, making him feel like he's still "standing on line for that roller coaster," oblivious to the fact that there are a bunch of corpses blocking the ride.
The New York Times has become infamous for doing some really ill-thought-out profiles in the past, like writing about suburban Neo-Nazis like they're the complicated boys-next-door. And it's not like "The Submarine Officer and the Beatles Cover Band," which clearly only got approved because NYT editors all lost their virginity to "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" during the Nixon presidency, is as bad as normalizing Nazis. But there are so many people with more interesting stories about living through one of the worst epidemics of the modern age than some guy who hired a band to play him out as he moved from one bougie apartment in the Upper West Side to a slightly less bougie apartment on the East Side.
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