Last night I went to see the Constantines at the Bowery Ballroom with MikeDot and Brother Big Red John Boy Jethro Elmore.
While I was waiting for MikeDot to show up, I saw a homeless guy pandhandling in the middle of Delancey Street. I saw him coming towards me, so I reached into my pocket and pulled out whatever change I had and gave it to him.
Now, let me pause here and say that I am a native New Yorker filled to the gills with cynicism and doubt about panhandlers. I know that some of them are truly mentally ill and need serious treatment. I know that some of them are caught in abject poverty. And I know that a small number are just bullshitters trying to pick up some extra cash.
When I was a kid, we used to see a guy begging near Central Park at the 7th Avenue entrance most days of the week. About a year after we first saw him, my parents told me they spotted him in a restaurant having a pretty expensive meal with two beautiful women. That experience just begs to grow into a lifelong rationale for not digging into one's pockets, but I ended up going the other way. I give to anybody who asks me on the theory that anybody who is cheating me has their own eternal soul to worry about; I'd rather not miss the chance to help.
Anyway, I give this guy all the change in my pocket and put it in his Chicago Bulls cap (note to panhandler: stick with the home team). Now we are best friends. He proceeds to tell me that New York was once inhabited by soldiers and horse-drawn carriages and that "He" controls it all. (At this point it was a little unclear if "He" was God or Bush.) The guy was clearly a little nutty, but the narrative was kind of entertaining although it was a bit unnerving that he never made eye contact with me. He spoke for almost five minutes, talking movingly off the fact that we were all once babies who grew in to men and this is how he knew God created the Universe.
And then he finished with, "So, I guess what I'm saying is, 'Is that all you gonna give me?'"