MY RELATIONSHIP WITH CURTIS SLIWA

In 1979, Curtis Sliwa founded the Guardian Angels, a group of volunteers who patrolled the streets of New York looking to reduce crime.

I saw Curtis Sliwa yesterday. I should say that I’m 85% sure it was him. He was across the street, getting into the passenger side of a town car. He was wearing a red beret and a red shirt. Someone walking by stopped and shook his hand.

I was looking out the window of the City Lights Diner on 52nd street and 10th avenue. I was with Jeff and Billy, and we had just finished our photo shoot for Jo Lyon Underfashion. I was celebrating the end of my underwear model diet by eating corned beef and eggs. It was a red-blooded meal, and then I looked outside and saw red-blooded Curtis Sliwa.

I have questions for Curtis Sliwa. One is: what compels you to speak at the Armenian Genocide demonstrations in Times Square every couple of years? How did that get on your vigilante radar? Also, how do you prevent Travis Bickle–types from joining the Guardian Angels? What are the logistics of that?

In addition to my questions, I have misgivings: Sliwa has a tendency to say things in the most obnoxious possible way, a tendency he has named Sliwonics. There is a lexicon of Sliwonics on his official website. For instance, he might refer to the measure of a man’s worth as “the angle of his dangle.” That sort of thing. Also, his television appearances as a pundit on Fox News reveal him to be a not-serious intellect. I suspect he would reply to my questions about vigilantism with easy answers, or worse. I understand the man might be a buffoon.

Part of me even wonders if his commitment to the Armenians is due to an across-the-boards anxiety about Muslims. If you are the type to believe that the present war on terror is a clash of civilizations, one that threatens all of Christendom, then the Armenian Genocide was a falling sparrow. It was providential for anyone who cared to notice. Is that where Curtis Sliwa is coming from? If it is, then his compassion is based on something that is not exactly compassion. But as an Armenian myself, I value his solidarity regardless. Is it wrong for a noble cause to accept members who are less than noble? It’s the same question I have for Sliwa about Travis Bickle–types.

Which is why I know we have some things in common. I was tempted to run out of the City Lights Diner and shake his hand. Not to put him on the spot—I just wanted to shake his hand. I wanted to glean what I could from the look in his eyes.To get some impression of the angle of his dangle. But I was too slow; Sliwa got in his car and drove uptown. I’ll have to catch him next time.

If I ever get a second chance to meet Curtis Sliwa, it will not be hard for me to put aside our differences long enough for a handshake. I will smile and make friends. It will be easy for me. The reason is that my mom says she felt safe on the subways with the Guardian Angels in the early 80s, and that is the source of an enduring gratitude I have for Mr. Sliwa. Take the feeling you get when someone talks shit about your mom. Multiply that feeling by negative 1, and you have an approximation of how I feel about Sliwa when he is not carrying on like a jackass.

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