When Lawrence Block was Mondoville’s visiting author a few years ago, the freshpeeps read his novel Eight Million Ways to Die. As he talked to our students about it, he mentioned that a key idea in the book was the notion that the world (and for his novel, NYC in particular) is a dangerous place. That’s true, but one of the corollaries to this is that while some places may be relatively safer than others, the illusion of safety remains exactly that.
Unfortunately, I’ve had this lesson brought home to me nearly as directly as it can be, but there are always plenty of reminders when we forget — even if we would like to forget. I’ve mentioned my Torontophilia on numerous occasions, and when we go there, we always make at least one visit to the Eaton Centre, the city’s downtown megamall. In particular, we tend to use a large decorative fountain on a lower level as a rally point when Mrs. M and I separate for shopping and sightseeing. And although I’m really more likely to grab a snack from one of the innumerable hot dog vendors there, I’ve stopped in the Centre’s food court on numerous occasions.
However, over the weekend, gunfire broke out in the food court, which killed one and wounded six. The alleged shooter and the dead man are reported to be members of the same gang, and the alleged shooter (who has been arrested) was already serving a term of house arrest. All this and more is discussed in an excellent post by Aaron Goldstein at The American Spectator.
Goldstein concludes his post by stating that because of his frequent visits to the city and Eaton Centre’s food court, he had always associated the place with root beer and burgers (clearly a man after my own heart), but that now he “will have to think of something else altogether.” I understand this, but at the same time a part of me recognizes that although there may be no safe places, and that every city offers eight million ways to die, the most common dangers come not from the places, but from the people around us, the people we pass, and who pass us. Larry is right — the world is a dangerous place. But too often, we are the ones who make it so.