I have been to an underground open mic. I have learned the history of hip hop from a South Bronx scholar. I could point to hip-hop’s birthplace on a map and tell you which bus takes you there… but does that make me a Bronx insider?
I have eaten ravioli on Arthur, mofongo on 188th, chowder on City Island and a hot dog at Yankee Stadium … but does that make me a New York City insider?
When I first started going to off-campus parties my freshman year, I would get hopelessly lost in the Belmont neighborhood. Where is Hughes? What is a Cambreleng? Does Crescent even exist? Now, after two years living off campus, I can rattle off the streets like the names of my own children: Bathgate, Lorillard, Hoffman, etc. … but does that make me an insider?
Everyone wants to feel like an insider. This will be my last column for “Fordham in the Bronx.” It is a column I have written from my own perspective these last three years — that of an outsider. Someone whose first trip to the Bronx happened when he was 17. Someone who moved into Fordham with a hurricane and will hopefully be leaving on a calm and sunny day this May.
I fell in love with the Bronx immediately. I remember planning to get a “BX” tattoo before I even moved into Loschert Hall. Luckily, I did not get inked. I quickly learned such a tattoo is something only an insider could get, and I would need to put down another two decades in the Boogie Down before I could earn it. But, my love has only grown over these four years. In the Jesuit tradition, just because I do not have the Bronx tattooed on my skin does not mean it has not been tattooed on my heart.
Getting this column was a fluke. The Fordham Ram editors in 2012 asked Tom Haskin, FCRH ’13, to write a weekly article about the interplay between Fordham and its Bronx environment. He could not do it, but asked me in an email:
“…I remember you saying you want to be a journalist and am wondering if this would be your sort of thing,” he wrote. “…I think this would be a swell opportunity to do some community journalism with a sort of lens of justice work, or issues facing the neighborhood.”
I leave The Fordham Ram with gratitude for giving me the opportunity to do just that. Our university seems to be in a golden age of student journalism, with hard-hitting articles from The Ram’s Frank Sivili and Canton Winer and Fordham Daily’s Connor Ryan. I am sure there will be more to come from The Fordham Ram. And while I am not a Bronx insider, I have been lucky to be a news insider, with special thanks to Laura Sanicola, Katie Meyer, Kelly Kultys and Connor Ryan.
“Fordham in the Bronx” has been a broad topic. I’ve written on everything from the graffiti culture in Belmont to whether the Botans pays for Fordham’s water (they do not). I proudly covered students meeting secretly to talk about race and got to see Rams connecting the underprivileged with social services and housing at LIFT the Bronx. One of my earlier pieces covered graduating seniors grappling with whether or not to leave the Bronx. The general response was that people loved the borough, and were happy to have lived in it, but it was time for a change.
I now face that same choice, and I find myself agreeing with my old interviewees. I love the Bronx, despite being an outsider, but it is time to be an outsider somewhere else.
Last week after a particularly beautiful day in Little Italy, my roommate (and fellow Ram writer) Michael Charboneau, FCRH ’15, walked into our apartment with a smile. “Call me crazy,” he said, “but I would totally move back to this neighborhood when I’m older.”
I did not call him crazy.
Maybe then I could finally get that tattoo.