new writing in long forma proper archive for this site


I fear my kindnesses toward the local indigents in my neighborhood have come back to haunt me. Last week, as I emerged from the subway, I was literally embraced by Artsy Kyle, who grinned wonderfully and shouted "cuzzin!!" While I am sure it impressed the friend who was accompanying me, I also knew it meant the bartering of cash for services rendered. (for the record, i have no problem giving kyle money whenever possible, no matter what he might use it for. his smile and energy are intense. it's like paying the sun to shine directly on you for one fleeting moment. how much is that worth?)

Then, today, I ran into Tax in front of his old beat on Berkeley and 7th Avenue. He had been MIA for almost a full year and immediately recognized me. Between noisome bites of his falafel sandwich he explained that he'd been down South but "things didn't work out". (this statement was sort of unnecessary because, unless he was handing out cash to pay back all the people who'd ever donated to his cause, just standing in this same familiar panhandling spot speaks volumes about the success of his southern adventures.) We spoke of South Carolina, and of the virtues of eating pig, and just before I was able to squirm away (another local was trying to give Tax an invitation to her art opening.) he hit me up for a donation. I felt like playing hard to get so I told him I'd have to hook him up next time around.

My coy scheme actually had a second purpose. I have stared to fear there is a rumor circulating in the panhandling community regarding my almost flawless generosity. (i qualified that statement with "almost" because I can assure you that bricky don't get no love from me.) I am worried that the Hobo Gazette, a well-read newsletter for NYC's transient community, might have done me a great disservice when they interviewed me for their "society" pages and declared, in the headline accompanying my interview, "HG Talks to New York's Richest Jew". (i in all fairness, i might have been slightly misleading when i told the interviewer, HG's own roscoe hunsucker, that i was "the richest jew in new york." do you see how he twisted my words up?) Ever since then the local tramps have been a bit too accommodating.

My suspicions were confirmed this evening, right after my encounter with Tax. While I was fiddling with my key ring at my building, I saw a strange glyph crudely stenciled to the brick face of my apartment complex. Inspecting it closely, I noticed it was a small caricature of ME, not unlike the one greeting you at this site. I raced upstairs, connected to the World Wide Internet, and browsed straight to the Online Hobo Dictionary. (thank heavens I had it bookmarked) And there in new additions, right beneath symbols meant to represent "will pay you to have your organs harvested" and "cheap sushi here", was that identical todd-shaped illustration. Its definition? "wealthy loner who constantly seeks validation through acts of charity and reported interactions with society's forgotten men and women lives here." Those are some shrewd hobos, indeed.

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2001 todd levin
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