Scared? Don't Be! Eric Adams Wrote A Book For You
In 2009, Mayor of New York City, Eric Adams embarked on a mission to protect kids everywhere. Through his book "Don't Let It Happen," we learn that maybe Adams isn't the man for that job after all.
Stranger Danger. Be Cool About Fire Safety. Michael Jordan saying “Stop It, Get Some Help.” The talking dog telling that girl to put her blunt down. Or the other one, with the girl steamrollered by weed.
PSAs are funny. They just are. Take it from me, the 2nd-place finisher in my 5th grade’s D.A.R.E. essay contest. There’s always going to be something goofy about adults posturing as an authority on issues faced by kids. The more sincere their attempts, the more absurd they seem. The D.A.R.E.-a-dox, if you will.
Recently, I unearthed a classically ridiculous PSA: Don’t Let It Happen — written by none other than Eric Adams, former NYPD Captain, current Mayor of New York City. This 2009 book touches on every fear a parent could have about their child: gangs, drugs, sex, cyberspace.
I was surprised to find no other reporting on this D.A.R.E.-a-dox gem. Not strictly based on the content it contains (though yes, this beautiful mess of a book contains moments of sublime, bizarre brilliance), but because of who wrote it.
It’s all here, wrapped up in this banger of a cover. Join us as we take you through Don’t Let it Happen.
Don’t Let It Happen contains three categories of material: statistics, advice, and anecdotes.
Fortunately for Adams’ word count but unfortunately for us, Don’t Let It Happen leans heavily on category one. Most chapters begin with some nice, roomy bullet-point factoids: “Over a million people reported using inhalants to get high in the year 2000” (p.54); “In Pittsburg, 12% of students are absent each day,” (p. 27). Not exactly page-turning. But don’t let that hinder your appreciating the work at-large. After all, 35% of Moby Dick is a sperm whale encyclopedia — still a classic.
Likely owing to Adams’ career as a boxer, his advice in Don’t Let It Happen is delivered in blistering combos. First, he opens you up with a goofy phrase or outlandish statement. While the reader is still scratching their head, he’ll then fire off a burst of bad advice that you’re now too distracted to notice. A perfect example:
"Malt liquor is considered the bad boy of the beer family. You can visit any store in the inner city and see the freezers filled with various bottles of it. A 12 oz can of malt liquor is twice as potent as the same quantity of beer." (p. 38)
See? You’re busy laughing at “bad boy of the beer family.” You’re never going to stop and ask “wait, is malt liquor really that strong?” (usually not, plenty of beer is as strong/stronger). I bet you didn’t even notice that Adams said beer goes in the freezer.
Again, perhaps in pursuit of a higher page count, Adams provides a lot of bullet-points which fall squarely into “no shit” territory. For example:
- One of the listed signs your child maybe have been sexually abused is “pregnancy” (p. 17)
- The first of many signs that “your loved one may be in a gang” is “letting everyone know they are in a gang.” (p. 100)
- If your car breaks down, Adams’ advises to “use a cell phone to call for help.” If you don’t have a phone, he adds: “shame on you — they save lives.” (p. 135)
- At one point, Adams provides a breakdown on the individual parts of a gun. For example, the trigger: “This controls the firing of the gun. It is normally located on the bottom of the gun in what I call the belly area.” (p. 81)
Other gems, with our commentary:
ADVICE: “Encourage organizers of youth sporting events not to advertise cigarettes or accept sponsorship from cigarette manufacturers.” (p. 33)
OKAY BUT: When Adams published this book, tobacco sponsors of youth sports had been illegal for over a decade. Sorry, Hestia; no Little League deal for you.
ADVICE: “Whenever you go out with someone new, tell him that you make it a practice to give your date’s name, phone number, address, office number and license plate to a loved one.” (p. 131)
OKAY BUT: Can Eric tell me why the boys stop calling when I ask them for their license plate numbers before the first date?
ADVICE: “There is only one sure way of getting respect, and that is to demand it… say up front that physical contact is not in your plans. Innuendoes can only lead to trouble as the evening goes on.” (p. 131)
OKAY BUT: Adams has taken this refrigerator-magnet quote about respect and gotten it completely backwards.
ADVICE: “By removing the cylinder of a revolver or the clip of an automatic weapon, you have made the gun safe.” (p. 83)
OKAY BUT: This one is dangerously false. “Making a gun safe” means 1: removing the clip and then 2: checking there isn’t still a bullet in the chamber. Not following these steps in this order is a common way to accidentally shoot somebody (see here). A veteran cop putting this in print would be like Sarah McLachlan writing a book called “Why I Love Leaving My Dogs in Hot Cars.”
Adams begins Don’t Let It Happen with an affirmation that “all of the incidents in this book are true” (with names changed in some instances. We’d like to emphasize that we don’t have any information to contradict the stories he shared in Don’t Let It Happen: in non-legalese, we’re not saying he’s lying. But the stories themselves do raise some questions. For example:
“I was attending a conference in New York when a seminar participant sought me out to tell me that each morning, her son would bring his own plastic bag of Sweet ‘n Low to the breakfast table, and she would watch him sprinkle it on his cereal. [She sent a] sample of the sugar to the New York City Police Department for analysis. The department reported back to her that the substance was not sugar, but PCP. Users of PCP are known to sprinkle it on their food.”
Say it with me now: much to unpack here. We’re told that a mom with the wherewithal to forensically analyze a bowl of cereal didn’t notice her son was going to school beast-moded on angel dust every day. Said Mom also elected to bring a sample of shermed-up Cookie Crisp to the NYPD Narcotics Lab instead of, you know, having her kid drug tested. On top of that, PCP apparently tastes pretty bad (per the Department of Justice). The drug is usually smoked, rarely eaten.
This illustrates the beauty of Adam’s disclaimer at the front of the book. “The incidents in this book are true” could mean either:
- A: The PCP-cornflakes incident happened exactly as described
- B: Adams’ recollection of a woman talking about PCP-cornflakes is, itself, true.
Substantiating hearsay is difficult by nature. Unless we discover a dusty Brooklyn yearbook with a Middle School Dodgeball Hall-of-Famer named “Brian ‘PCP’ Smithers,” questions about these anecdotes will likely go unanswered.
However, in one chapter Adams’ shares from his personal experience… and it bears mentioning, that other outlets have raised questions about Adams’ personal anecdotes.
"When I was a child, a friend of mine brought a gun to school… to show off to the rest of the students. This was my first time seeing a real gun. After years of playing 'Cowboys and Indians' with toy guns, I did not believe the gun he was showing us was real. I laughed at his stupid trick and grabbed the gun from him. 'If this gun is real,' I said, 'then it should go off.' I pointed what I thought was a toy gun at my group of friends and pulled the trigger. A round discharged, and only by the grace of God and my poor aim did the bullet miss my friends. The incident scared me so much that I dropped the gun and ran."
Adams had a difficult upbringing in one of New York’s most violent eras; this story very well could be true. That said, we couldn’t find another instance (news story, speech, video) where Adams references almost shooting a classmate. The Mayor’s office did not reply to our request for comment.
You can find a copy of Don’t Let It Happen for yourself on Amazon. Then, you too will be able to prevent “it” from happening (Adams never clarifies what “it” is). But inflation being what it is, we’ll save you a few bucks by leaving with a highlight. Here are our picks for the best slang for drugs provided throughout the book.
Update: on Jan 8th, Mayor Adams confirmed to an Associated Press reporter that he did not, in fact, accidentally almost shoot his childhood friend as he described in his book.