A crazy old homeless guy challenged me to fisticuffs on the train last night. There wasn’t any reason—he was just crazy and full of energy after eating a small bag of chips.
I had Captain America and Kimbo Slice ready for him but I just kinda looked at him like “dude, really?” and he got off the train without incident. This other guy looked at me and shrugged. I did the same.
1- 168TH ST AC1 STATION – EXT, DAY
A SKATER girl with a short, asymmetrical haircut and jeans that don’t fit by any acceptable standard of fashion stands over an old homeless GUY sitting on the stairs. She seems quite pleased with herself but the bum doesn’t look so happy. He sips from a small, generic Styrofoam* cup of coffee that she’s apparently just given him.
[beaming] What? You don’t like it?
[trying to be polite] Well, it’s not what I normally have…
[still proud of herself] That’s okay; you can just hold on to it in case you get cold later on.
How would I…
She heads towards the turnstile having made New York a better place.
*I just found out that “Styrofoam” is actually a proper noun. Thanks, Microsoft Word!
Other than perhaps their similar taste in hairstyles and shoes, I’m not quite sure why hipsters love crazy homeless people so much. As long as a homeless person is between a 6.5 and 8 on the crazy scale, there’s a good chance that he spends about two hours of his day riding trains and telling stories to smirking 23-year-olds. It probably has something to do with irony.
The crazies are already willing to talk to anyone who’ll listen (or no one at all, if need be) so it isn’t hard for the hipster to bait them into a conversation. Simultaneously, the youngster is often stoned or a little drunk, increasing his desire to sit and chuckle at a lovable tramp. It’s more than just the drugs though; there’s a unique relationship that these people share that I can’t quite wrap my mind around.
There seems to be an element of passing down knowledge–each bum is like some sort of filthy griot telling his tale to the new generation. If they’re lucky, the hipster has just come back from band practice and the sight of an acoustic guitar will spark a remembrance the bum’s tenure in a Mississippi jazz band. He’ll tell a story about some guy named “Mudball Malone,” complete with beat-boxing and some sort of incoherent song.
No matter what the story is about, it usually ends the same way: the hipster reaches his stop, pats the bum on the back and is declared to be “alright with” his new homeless friend. Both continue on feeling like they’re truly reached across the aisle and had an amazing human interaction. Neither will remember any of it in a few hours. No money exchanges hands.
You know you do to. The subway is just about always packed with people singing, telling sad stories or just generally looking pathetic in an attempt to pry a few shekels from your Canal St. Goyard. For the most part, the sympathy for their presumed misfortune is enough for me to forgive the fact that they’re drowning out my Diane Rehm podcast. Most Saturdays, however, a particular group of kids rides the up and down the A line all afternoon break dancing for money; I hate them.
Maybe it’s the fact that I have to see them so frequently. Maybe it’s the fact that they’re begging for money with the assistance of a new-ish looking iPod Classic. Maybe it’s the fact that, despite having seen their act around a half dozen times, it’s always the same and seems to actually be declining in quality. Maybe it’s the fact that anytime we’re below 59th St. there’s some tourist from Boise, Idaho who finds it all amazing and gives them money. Whatever it is, they’re officially my least favorite beggars.
They don’t dance particularly well–each only has two to three “moves”–and don’t seem to understand how to time their routine around when the train stops and starts. The erratic movements of the train wreak havoc on their already questionable sense of rhythm and timing. Combined with the fact that they pick a heavy traffic time to dance, they often times stumble about the car bumping into people and falling in their laps.
To make things worse, after their poorly choreographed nuisance finally ends, they tend to just stand there and look at the passengers until someone comes to them with money and, in the event that they collect anything, never say “thank-you.” They also tend to count up their donations right in front of everyone and loudly debate whether or not it was worth it to stop in that car, which seems to be off-putting to those who did contribute when the consensus is “no.”
Please, if you’re the giving type, I encourage you to save your spare change for almost anyone else who asks for it. These kids don’t appear to need it, don’t work to deserve it and barely seem to want it. Fuck ’em… I’ve got problems too.
1- A TRAIN – INT, NIGHT
A CRAZY BUM boards the uptown A at 34th street wielding a walking stick and wearing a hockey jersey with hat that may or may not be lined with tin-foil. As he comes through the doors, he addresses the passengers.
Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Barack Obama Junior and don’t you worry; change is gonna come!
As he outlines his plans to balance the budget, a SANE BUM across from me meets my eye line and shakes his head as if to say “I may be homeless but at least I’m not crazy.”
A curiously smug looking Log-Cabin REPUBLICAN boards the train with his “business associate” at 42nd street and makes the mistake of attempting to engage Crazy Bum.
[talking to an empty seat] –and I’ma just build a bomb with that ten billion dollars and drop it on all of ’em!
[notices Republican] I am Barack Obama Junior!
Oh. Well, we voted for McCain.
[brandishing his walking stick] McCain! I ain’t voting for no McCain! I got my “Cain” right here and it’s more sturdy!
The Sane Bum laughs and rolls his eyes.