There’s just something special about New York bagels.
I’m not talking about New York-style bagels. You can’t just get to a certain texture, chew, and size, call them New York, and go on about your business.
I’m talking about bagels made in New York City, the kind you get in shops with long lines, served by people who don’t have time for you to hem and haw about your order. (See the aforementioned long lines.)
These bagels just taste different.
A theory goes that it’s the water. New York is known for having some of the best city water around. Some say it has to do with the microscopic shrimp somehow involved in the treatment process. I’ve never bothered to look it up.
Point is, though, here’s this water that’s delicious straight from the tap and it’s going into these bagels and making the bagels a special kind of delicious.
Does that mean that all bagels made in New York are delicious?
Of course not! Bagels still take skill to make and I can imagine rookie bagel makers across the city have turned out real duds. But the potential is there, omnipresent.
There is a water stirred into all of us. At least, those of us in the US. Elsewhere, too, but I’ll stick to what I know.
Much like New York City tap water disappears into the bagel, this water disappears into our surroundings and from there into our very beings.
It’s in movie villains with facial scars.
It’s in “inspirational” Instagram feeds showing people with disabilities just going about their lives.
It’s in clothing departments identified by dichotomous labels: Men’s/Women’s (or boy’s/girl’s).
It’s in the ease with which we adjust to a newly-married woman’s new name and the intense challenge of adjusting to a new first name or pronoun.
It’s in words like chop-chop and ghetto, in phrases like “low-hanging fruit” and “maiden name;” it’s in calling a grumpy man by a feminized version of his name.
It’s in disproportionate pedestrian and bicyclist deaths in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods.
Does that mean that all of us shaped in the US are doomed to live and perpetuate the thought-viruses in our shared water?
Of course not! Yet much as the delicious New York water can’t be extracted from the dud bagels, this water is not something we extrude from ourselves but, rather, something we practice seeing.
Enough seeing and we start to see through and around.
Enough seeing and we also start to see a broader landscape of humanness.
Enough humanness and we’re bound to stumble on humanity.
And that, my friend, I’d serve to you with a schmear around a shared table.