I wave down a cab on Broad Street at 5:30 a.m. As I open the door, a drunk man with a goatee and a black eye staggers up to me and begins shouting: “Ay!! Where’s Albert Einstein Hospital?!”
Me: “I think it’s in the Northeast.”
Man with black eye (appalled and becoming more belligerent): “The Northeast?! …what do you mean?!?”
I close the door as he begins to knock on the window, screaming “Ay!!”
The cabdriver, a man named Mahmoud, comments as he drives away: “He’s crazy! That man, he’s crazy! He’s crazy!”
Me: “Do you know him?”
Mahmoud: “No I don’t know him. I don’t know: was he black? I don’t even know what he is. I don’t think he’s black. He’s foreigner, like me!”
I’m walking to my car on Catherine Street when some guy on coke asks me for 85 cents because “I’m from New Jersey, I gotta make a phone call and it cost 85 cent to call New Jersey.”
I give him the extra change in my pocket which is probably more than 85 cents.
He responds by asking: “Hay man, you ride a bicycle—got a nice air pump you can buy.”
I’m at Pastoral, the Korean restaurant on 13th Street, ordering a bowl of haemul doen jaen ji gae. Outside it is dark, rainy, a 40 degree March afternoon. A fiftysomething Italian-American man wearing a polo shirt, shorts, and sneakers, sunglasses hanging off his collar, walks in with his wife. He heads over to the Korean hostess: “Ayyy, how you doin’!!”
I’m driving west on Lombard Street at 7 a.m. on a Saturday when I notice, on my left, an elderly black woman waiting outside with an umbrella (it’s not raining) and, on my right, an object gleaming at the top of a trashcan. It’s a large tambourine with a small rip in the canvas. I pull over, cross the street and pick up the tambourine.
The elderly black woman suddenly shouts, “Oooh, I didn’t see that!” and begins rambling, “That’s NICE, I could fix that up, I’m a singer in a choir…”
I give her the tambourine and drive off.
I’m walking to a flea market on Broad & South when a black man walks up to me waving cigarettes. “Care’ buy a pack of Newports?”
Me: “No thanks.”
He then walks over to another black man in a van keeping watch over a bunch of broken knick-knacks and antiques no one is buying.
Cigarette Man: “Care’ buy a pack of Newports?”
Man in Van: “I haven’t smoked since I got back from Vietnam, 1968. I was in the 3rd battalion.”
Cigarette Man: “My brother was in Vietnam, also 3rd battalion. He died of Agent Orange.”
Man in Van: “Don’t tell me that, that’s where I’m goin’ when this is over. I gotta get tested for Agent Orange.”
The two exchange Vietnam memories, eventually wave goodbye and the man with the cigarettes moves on to his next opportunity.
Cigarette Man: “Care’ buy a pack of Newports?”
Black teenage girl: “I don’t smoke.”
Cigarette Man: “Good.”
Walking to work past Pine Street one morning I pass a man nodding on the steps of a brownstone, eyes glazed over, stubble, shorts pulled down, one hand stuck up his ass.
I apparently shake my head as I look over, as a blonde marketing type also on her way to work comes up to me immediately: “Like, did you just see that guy on the steps?”
Me: “Yeah, there’s a lot of people on heroin around here these days.”
Her: “Like, you don’t think he lives there, do you…? Like, what if some girl opens the door….do you think I should call the cops?”
Me: “He’s obviously stoned or high on something—I think the only person he’s capable of harming is himself; I wouldn’t worry about it.”
Her: “OK, thanks.”
Seriously, it may be unpleasant to look at, but to be capable of rape, you first have to be capable of MOVEMENT.
“Father Gregory” is the preacher at the corner of 16th and Market who is obsessed with the devil and rants about fornication, lesbians, and fast food when I walk to work every morning and when I leave every afternoon. I missed the topic of one morning’s rant, but some bewildered chav (think Eminem) apparently mishearing him and/or taking his rant personally walks away frustrated, cursing to himself, “You ain’t callin’ me no bitch! Who you callin’ bitch—what the f***!”
I’m taking a photo of a drawing of what looks like a bomb with SMOKE WEED written on it on the side of an abandoned building on Broad Street when a drunk comes up to me, points to another drawing next to it that looks like a bunch of scribbling done by a drunk and says, “Ayyyy, you like this one? I did it yesterday morning after I got stabbed here.”
I’m walking to work up 13th Street and mistakenly make eye contact with a lanky, well-groomed African American man who, as soon as I walk past him, calls out, “Hey! Excuse me–” and then when I turn around, whispers in cupped hands, “Would you happen to have any coke?”
Me: “Sorry, you’re asking the wrong person.”
Him: “I was just released from Dallas State Penitentiary– I would rather not hustle–”
I politely decline. In retrospect, I should probably have had recidivism statistics handy.
Overheard at 4th & Monroe on 96 degree July afternoon:
Girl: “You doin OK with the heat?”
Mailman: “I’m just drinkin’ the wooder, I’m good!”