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Abandon All Preconceived Notions Ye Who Enter Here

The Story of Jenn, Part 1 (See Part 2 here)

There is a very good reason this story must be told TODAY, before Monday, when I will reveal why.

I was at a concert October 23rd in Tompkins Square Park featuring a number of bands, including David Peel. Scanning the sparse crowd, the photo subject du jour was immediately obvious – a Goth Girl accompanied by a Man in Black.

Just take a photo – you don’t need permission. This is a public park, many are taking photos, and certainly a woman that looks like this must be somewhat of an attention hound.

Yes, but to take a photo or two at close range is a bit awkward. This is not a crowd shot – it will be very obvious you are taking her photo. And if you get her cooperation, not only will you be comfortable taking more photos, you will also feel better as a human and will likely have an opportunity to chat about her appearance.

So I decided to approach the couple and ask if they minded if I take photos. The response was an immediate “Us? Sure!” A few photos later, and we were on to the interview portion of the afternoon. I had already made a number of assessments – she was a rebel, not particularly well-employed or educated, and perhaps a resident of the East Village.

The Man in Black, Anthony, told me that in fact they were married. Surprise number one. I asked him if his wife, Jenn, looks like this just for special occasions. He told me that she looks like this “pretty much all the time.” To which I thought, where does this person work, if at all? At an East Village boutique? I was not interested in tempering my inquiry, so I just asked Jenn, “Do you work?” “Yes” “Where do you work?” (wanting to add “looking like that”) “I AM A SUBWAY CONDUCTOR”

WOW. Of course – what better place for a Morticia lookalike to work than the subterranean depths of New York City. “Do they care that you look like this?” “Not at all.” Perfect. And her husband, Anthony? ALSO A SUBWAY CONDUCTOR. The MTA is where they met. A friend in tow was a conductor too. Jenn’s sister is a subway conductor. They’re taking over.

I still had many unanswered questions about her childhood, family life, where she grew up, her education, etc. Jenn agreed to continue the dialog by email. I emailed Jenn with a number of questions on October 28.

I was very disappointed however. My email to her was not answered (nor bounced back). Six days later, on November 3, and after giving up, I finally received a response explaining that my email had found its way into a spam folder, similarly to my experience with Driss Aqil.

Jenn provided not just answers but an 840-word biography. A simple follow-up question returned a 540-word clarification. I now had enough material for a documentary. Everyone has a life story. But this is Jenn’s, and like many New Yorkers, it’s has many surprises and some edge. With a Special Event on Monday… (see Part 2 here)

26 Responses to Abandon All Preconceived Notions Ye Who Enter Here

  1. Southshoreandbeyond says:

    I just goes to show, you can't judge a book by it's cover. Very interesting story, it hits close to home for me. I've been told that I look like some biker chick. When they find out that I've worked in law enforcement for over 12 years (and don't drink or use drugs) their jaws usually hit the floor.

  2. Brian Dubé says:

    Southshoreandbeyond. Exactly a theme I have been featuring here on this website.

  3. Good Morning Brian – I very much look forward each morning to clicking onto your site…you have an amazing variety of such interesting stories to tell about your city. Having never been to NYC…I read with great interest on what you have to share with your readers. *Very well done*…from a loyal reader up in Manitoba.

  4. Now you have my curiosity reved up to full steam! See you Monday!

  5. Yes, very interesting story, I am waiting for part II… :)

  6. These stories are your forte! Can't wait.

  7. Wow, I'm sad to say that I'm truly taken aback by this condescending article. First, in what universe is a goth couple so strange and exotic in the East Village that you can't comprehend that she has a job and a husband? That's dehumanizing. You've been to NYC before, right?

    Finally, I found your tone quite rude. She is neither "well employed or educated"? She's a city worker with plenty of responsibility. And even if she weren't, how incredibly rude to do an up-close-and-personal interview with photographs and label her that way.

    Hey, EV woman with superb goth style, I love your look and was not i the least surprised to hear that you're not an isolated, unemployed, unproductive citizen.

  8. Dude, what do you think goths do, live off blackness? They have jobs.

  9. An Honest Man says:

    @Anonmymous (times 2?) Brian has honestly evaluated his pre-conceived feelings and accepted he was wrong. That deserves praise not condemnation.

    We all (even you) have baggage which, with luck and effort, we try to mitigate the effects of. Sound off at the bigots, not the folks who accept their errors and try to change.

    @Brian I'm also waiting for Monday with bated breath!

  10. Very awesome. Only in NY. Can't wait for Monday…

  11. When I was young and working, anyone who looked like her would not have found a serious job. Brian, I think you're giving away your age by being surprised at her vocation. Things are different now. There are all sorts of things you can't discriminate against in hiring someone. Dress rules are a thing of the past. And I think it's great.

  12. Anonymous – My intention was not to be condescending but celebratory. I have no doubts that people in atypical modes of dress can work. In my business (dube.com), I deal with a litany of performers who maintain extreme looks – carnival sideshow performers and buskers. But these people are generally self employed performers.
    Mary P. – As an employer, I have hired people like Jenn. My surprise was that Jenn was immersed in a world of subway workers including a family member.

  13. Jay B. Wilson says:

    Great teaser story. Reminds me of a woman I know who had a somewhat similar appearance. Only in New York would you find that this woman was a classically trained cellist, a PhD candidate, a brilliant advertising executive, and a Playboy model, while playing gigs at night in a rock band. Seriously. All of the above. One of the most talented women I've ever known.

  14. I wonder what it is?

  15. I will be back on Monday!:)
    Nice couple!

  16. Sally Darling says:

    I think anonymous obviously does not read your blog very often (or the title of your blog – Abandon All Preconceived Notions ) and realize the wonderment of your writing and how you reveal amazing inside, up-close details about people. You take what appears to be a stero-type person, and unfold incredible stories that make people think "Wow, shame on me for thinking that way about a certain type of person". Brian is the most open minded person I know, and that's what makes his blog so incredible. Don't let a few nay sayers stop you from what you do best Brian. We can't wait for Monday!

  17. Hellen and Harvey ask: Does Jenn consider herself as having a Goth appearance/attitude? Subjectively, this couple seems to be quite mainstream in appearance for an urban setting. We can't see what drew your eye to them except that they are an attractive young couple. In addition Hellen says, as someone familiar with NYC Transit rules and regulations, Jenn is absolutely in compliance with the rule of maintaining a neat appearance.

  18. Great post today Brian, can't wait to see what's in store for Monday!

  19. I lived in the Village a few years and I did not see anywoman who wore make up like this woman, she is rare in New York city, really. When i look at the photos on Brian's blog they remind me quickly something in the Phantom or a mask, my boyfriend has one! I have the same first impression as Brian's and i think many people do have, if they just see somebody like that, it is the first impression, so can be right or wrong.

    Let's wait for part II, it would be a happy ending like a movie or a play :)

  20. I think you did an excellent job of conveying the entire event as it happened, from your initial thoughts right through to the 540-word clarification. Obviously Jenn feels fine about the whole thing, too, as does her husband Anthony. One of these days I again will follow your lead and be brave enough to strike up a conversation and get permission to take a photo–I've only done it once so far, with a decent result.

  21. Nobody is right, nobody is wrong. We just have different opinions and thoughts and reactions to the events of life. That is the miracle of life! That is the beauty and sweetness of life — diversity…which you bring to all of us every day on your blog. Brian, you are a teacher by showing us the miracle of NYC and it's inhabitants, and by showing us your thoughts and feelings, and by offering us all the amazing gifts of looking at, hearing, touching our preconceived ideas and continually expanding our horizons.

  22. Great Post!

    I suggest all human beings should have to walk around with memes tattooed to their arms. Things such as "Perception is not reality," should do the trick.

  23. JIm from Jersey says: I agree with Helens observation that this girl basically looks like a normal New Yorker. Her eyelashes are the only thing I see that are a little different.

    Although I think a persons appearance says alot about their personality and perhaps behaviour, I think the story would be more dramatic if the person had spiked purple hair with nose rings. Sorry Brian, but the subject of this story does not strike me as out of the ordinary.

  24. Mr. Paparazzo says:

    Very good portrait photos.

  25. Looks like a perfectly normal and cool couple to me. I meet all sorts of people and photographing strangers is the best hobby I have ever tried.

  26. Greetings from Ohio! I’m bored at work so I decided to check out your website on my iphone during lunch break. I enjoy the knowledge you present here and can’t wait to take a look
    when I get home. I’m shocked at how quick your blog loaded on my phone .. I’m not
    even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow, fantastic blog!

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