Stuff about Joe 05/24/2011
 
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I heard someone call my name in the distance, perhaps in my subconscious. It was still an early March morning and I was on my way to the Tuesday prayer meeting with the Trinity Grace worship team. I paid the call no mind, proceeding toward 5th ave and taking in the Korean milieu of 32nd street.

Then again, "Gio!"

This time I stopped and looked across the street to see my old friend Joe sitting in his usual manner - but not in his usual spot. He said the police had made him move, so now he sat on the sidewalk outside the post office near Herald Square. I had long wondered how he held up through the winter, as the last I saw him was in November. We checked in briefly, but I couldn't stay long as I was running late. He was gone by the time I was headed home.

I saw him again a week or two later, on the way home from another meeting, and stopped to catch up with him a bit more. He said he had spent much time lately at the Bellevue shelter, a men's intake facility on 30th street. He was meeting with a social worker there who was to put him up in the city, provided he comply with certain guidelines. Submission. Obedience. He seemed pretty confident about the prospect, even indicating it was rare to find a shelter he liked.

For the next month I peeked across the street in the early mornings, hoping to see him there, to hear news of his housing status. Finally I spotted him a week ago, sitting outside the post office with a cigar hanging from his lips. I crossed the street toward him with a greeting, shook his hand, and knelt beside him. He began to tell me of his night and morning, about having come from somewhere in Long Island. Or maybe Forrest Hills, Queens. I could hardly understand his mumbling guttural drawl.

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I changed the subject, asking about Bellevue. He said it didn't work out; he doesn't like conforming to eating schedules, curfews, rules, rules, rules. This I understand. He told me that he was now talking with the VA instead (WHAT! Joe is an army vet! I had no idea, though I suppose I could have guessed…) He said they were going to find him a place to stay somewhere in Manhattan.

A young guy walked up and dropped a $10 bill in Joe's can without a word or even so much as a look. He spun back and walked off as quickly as he'd come. Joe's thanks followed him down the sidewalk. 

Joe then asked how I'm doing myself. I told him about my musical endeavors and various projects. Meanwhile I noticed Joe's clothes - a dirty shirt, black shoes and socks soaked with rain, and pants rolled halfway up his calves. It was not raining just then, but it was in the forecast all week. He explained that his shoes were perfectly designed to drain rain water out - the fabric had pulled free from the soles nearly all the way around.

"Where do you go when it rains?" I asked.

"Subway stations. Or below scaffolding," he responded as he scratched his legs and crotch. Another man approached and handed him a folded dollar bill. Joe thanked him and dropped it casually in his shirt pocket.

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"What time is it?" He asked. "I'm going down to the liquor store at 10 to get some vodka."

Ah, yes. Breakfast.

Joe's nearly-bald spotty scalp still bleeds in some places. It always makes me cringe when I look… or even recall it. I don't have the courage to ask him about it. Still, it needs prayer.

"I'm going to the Hamptons when it warms up."

"Oh yea? What's in the Hamptons?" I ask him.

"A lot of stuff."

Indeed.


By: Gio Andollo

 
 
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My head was probably half-submerged in a clear plastic bag on the corner of 115th Street and Broadway when I first made Al's acquaintance. He looked on with apparent curiosity as three freegans procured their weekly groceries, free of charge.

In our usual friendly manner, we offered him the food that we'd already acquired. He seemed amazed about the sheer amount of waste and interested in taking some food home. We handed him a plastic grocery bag and he helped himself to a few items: an apple or two, cucumber, perhaps a microwave meal.

He could not take much more, he said, "because the library doesn't allow food. I've been camping out there for the past couple weeks."

I wouldn't have guessed upon first glance that he was homeless. With his unkempt long white beard, otherwise clean cut, beady eyes set behind square spectacles, and walking cane he looked like any old cooky university professor. Indeed that's precisely the kind of man we had on our hands: a former cooky professor who had fallen on hard times.

"They let me hang out in the library for free, it's a great perk of working for the school..."

Yes, and he knows when and where to catch museums, shows, film screenings, art galleries - all kinds of entertainment around the city - for FREE. My kind of guy.

"…but they don't allow food. Either way, I won't be staying there long."

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Al(bert) explained that he worked for Columbia some years ago, the reason they allow him in the library. Students are in the throes of finals, so the library doors are open at all hours. But not for long. He must soon find another place to stay and does not have much money for rent when that time comes. 

He accompanied us to our next stop, a bakery some blocks away. This location is well known amongst freegans for its lavish gourmet pizza, though their occurrence is somewhat seldom. This week we were in luck! Plenty of cheese and pepperoni slices for all. I had no interest in taking it home so we partook then and there. I helped myself to a cheese slice and passed another along to Al. He was very thankful and in a bit of disbelief. He had learned how to get almost everything for free - even "lodging" for a few weeks now - but had never considered this method for finding food.

He asked whether we knew anyone with a room. I offered to spread word of his need, but I couldn't promise a successful effort. Either way, I was glad to have helped him learn how to subsist in NYC. With the amount of food wasted and the facility of acquiring it, there is absolutely no need for anyone in this city to go hungry. As freegans, we hope to prevent hunger and food waste by intercepting valuable resources before they hit the waste bag.

Someday, perhaps. Someday.

In the mean time we can help ourselves to the city's discards, keep some good food out of landfills while keeping our own bellies full, and seek out viable living situations for brothers and sisters in need, like my new friend Al. 


By: Gio Andollo

 
 
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I stood on the downtown A train platform at 145 street on a rainy Saturday in NYC. I was so near my apartment but still had another half-hour scheduled to play on the trains, to earn my daily busking income. I was about ready to call it a day, but I resolved to ride one last time to Columbus Circle and back again.

Once the train arrived I stepped in and jumped right into Leonard Cohen's beautiful ballad about love, Hallelujah. As I played, a homeless man in a wheel chair talked loudly to women sitting beside him. He spoke with a heavy Hispanic accent about his homosexuality. The women looked disinterested at best.

"You think I'm homeless?" he then asked with remarkable insecurity. "I'm not homeless, look!"

He flashed a billfold of twenty dollar bills as purported evidence of homefulness. Nobody was convinced.

His chair faced opposite my direction, but he would turn his head about to steal a glance every few moments. Finally he interrupted my song, "can you play a song para mi esposa?" He thought hard, trying to remember the English translation.

"You want me to play a song for your wife?"

"Yes," he said, "a romantic song."

I thought long and hard about which song to sing. The only appropriate song I could think of was Cohen's Hallelujah. So I simply picked up where I had left off. I'm sure he was none the wiser, though he had been there the whole time. He was so thankful that he unrolled one of his twenty dollar bills and with a wide toothless smile he dropped it in my tip jar.

"Wow, thank you so much. I really appreciate that!"

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I continued playing, strategically ending as the train rolled up to the Columbus Circle station. As I squared my shoulders to the train door, the homeless man reached up and petitioned me to stay, to play more music.

"I'll give you another 20!"

"Well, you don't have to give me another... but since you were so generous, I suppose I could stick around, play another song or two. What's your name?"

Ivan asked me to play more romantic songs, but now about Obama and Michelle. I was puzzled, not knowing any romantic songs about the president. Other folks who came onto the train at 42nd and 34th street laughed at the scenario - a loud homeless man making rather ridiculous requests to a friendly subway busker with a guitar. Finally I thought to play Michelle by the Beatles, a song I had never played before but hoped to pick out in real time.

As I played, Ivan looked over his other shoulder to a young man across the aisle from me. He was close enough to hear and see everything and was quite amused at the scene. Ivan asked him where he's from.

Switzerland.

"My daughter lives there!" exclaimed Ivan, happy to have so quickly found a common bond. "She lives in Geneva. She's a lesbian."

Not sure how that last point was relevant, but apparently sexuality is a character trait of primary importance for Ivan. The young man across the way raised his eyebrows at me, smiling with the same look of confusion that I must have had as I took Ivan's bizarre requests. He also passed a $5 bill through Ivan.

As we approached Fulton Street in downtown Manhattan I finally dismissed myself once and for all. I had added at least another hour to my busking route and was pretty beat. We shook hands and parted ways.

It was a pleasure meeting Ivan and a joy to share some songs with my brother on the downtown A train. Looking forward to the next time!

By: Gio Andollo

 
 
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With our society on the brink of collapse and the US government on the verge of shutting down, I found myself near the epicenter of action, busking outside the Chinatown station in Washington DC.

It was a cool Thursday afternoon, cherry blossoms were in bloom, and it was much too beautiful a spring day for politics. Still, Republocrats bickered senselessly over how best to appropriate tax dollars, where to make budget cuts, even to the point of shutting down the government altogether, should push come to shove. And though the US is steeped in three wars, based in over 150 countries worldwide, with nearly half the federal budget committed to military expense, there was hardly a word about cutting such expenditure. So while the politicians did what they do best – nothing – I concerned myself with singing songs of peace and justice.

I also hoped to earn a bit of income, keeping my eyes on the prize – complete financial freedom and peace. I had busked here once before, earning fifteen bucks in about twenty minutes. I hoped the spot wouldn’t let me down.

“Have you seen my banjo friends?”

I actually had seen a scruffy young man with a banjo case with whom I’d exchanged glances mischievously, as though we were both in on some kind of conspiracy – the glances that members of the Fight Club shot at Tyler Durden.

“Yea, I saw someone with a banjo. He went that-a-way.”

This man was unshaven with short dirty-blond hair and bright green eyes underneath a spring cap. He thanked me for the tip and disappeared as quickly as he had come, his gait falling somewhere between a stroll and a skip.

I only made three dollars for the hour.

Two days later I found myself at the same spot, busking, eyes on the prize. The government had averted utter collapse when the cowardly Democrats folded, as per usual. War and violence were to continue, as were my songs of peace and justice.

The young man approached again, eyebrows suspended in an expression that only made him that much more vulnerable. Again he asked if I’d seen his banjo friends, but this time I had not. He set down a greenish military canvas bag that must have weighed fifty pounds, undoubtedly containing his entire life.

“I have some food here if you want it!”

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I could go for a meal, I thought to myself. My eyebrows met his. He began to pull out quart after quart of Chinese food. Then skepticism set in as I realized it was unlikely these containers would bear any vegetarian fare. I handed back boxes of chicken and pork lo mein, probably to his surprise. He had received the food from a homeless mission and wasn’t hungry, as he had eaten a big breakfast. I’m certain that generosity was his primary objective in offering his food, but he also clearly hoped to unload the weight from his pack.

I explained that I’m from NYC, was just in town for a few days, hoping to earn the bus fare home. He’s a musician himself, apparently, which is presumably why he always seeks banjoists.

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He proceeded to let me in on all the services provided for the homeless in DC. He must have thought I was homeless. I listened intently, happily. He gave me a support number, in case I was ever in an emergency. I pretended to save it but didn’t. I hardly need more numbers cluttering my phone contacts. He told me which shelters to check out, which to avoid; where to get food, medicine, all kinds of help; even how to get these delivered to me! It was a joy to learn that the homeless are well taken care of in DC.

“Can I get your number too?” I asked, “I can get in touch when next I’m in town.”

I entered his number, asking his name.

“Dean.”

I thanked him for the info and indicated that I’d better get back to playing.

I did much better that day.

By: Gio Andollo

 
Take the A Train 02/21/2011
 
She was sitting hunched next to the subway entrance.
I couldn't just walk by,
prayed about what to say,
whether to share pizza.
"We can get out of the cold,  get some food..."
"My name is Samantha."
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She's twenty four years old, from upstate New York.
Only been in the city a few months,
"didn't work out."
She's been homeless for about a week.
Sleeps on the A train, rides it up and down.
Bathrooms.
Said she was sitting outside to smoke a cigarette.
It's not time to take her ride just yet.
People buy her meals. Like me.
Says she has an audition tomorrow. She's a dancer.
"I'm a musician myself.
Busking..."
I explained how I make my living,
how I keep my expenses down...
"Ever tried dumpster diving?
It's different in NYC.
Ever noticed there's no actual dumpsters?
I get food every Tuesday:
bagels, donuts, chocolate, fruits, veggies...
Here's my card.
You can stay in touch, get free internet at the library.
42nd and 5th."
She writes like she talks. Slowly.
When she looks at me I notice she has a lazy eye.

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She ate less than half of her pizza,
said she was suffering from stomach pain.
Ulcers.
"They don't know what it's from."
I offered to take her to a pharmacy,
but she already has Pepto Bismol.
"I'm taking the train up to 145 street if you want some company."
It's not time to take her ride just yet.
Please e-mail me to touch base.
I'll meet you on Tuesday at 10p,
116th street, Columbia University.
Have a good night, see you then.

By: Gio Andollo

 
 
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I was riding home on a 1 train after a freegan run in Morningside heights. The train car was rather full for that time of night. A man who claimed to be homeless walked down the aisle toward my side of the car, begging for change. Many people dished out some change or dollar bills. I was suspicious of him and didn’t give anything. There was something fishy about this guy.

When I stepped off the train, the homeless man followed. As I casually made my way to the exit I was pelted firmly on my back. I wheeled around, confused. There was the homeless man, standing with armfuls of apples. He grabbed a second missile and launched it toward me. The apple struck me hard in the chest.

“Hey! Stop it, why are you throwing apples at me?”

He said nothing, he only threw another apple at me. Then another.

“What? Why? Hey!”

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I answered each shot with a different confused exclamation. As he had yet to speak or explain himself, I assumed he didn’t want to talk about it. The attack became overwhelming. The individual apples did not hurt, but the constant blows were adding up!

I decided to turn and run, surely he could not keep up with that armful of apples. But he stayed close at my heels, pegging me in the back every few seconds. I ran and ran but couldn’t get away. Finally I stopped and turned to him. I’m typically a non-confrontational and peaceful person. But this had gone on long enough. It was now a matter of justice!

I approached him with hurry and caution, apples bouncing forcefully off my chest. Finally I reached him and began punching him hard as I could in the face, over and over. He barely flinched, impervious to my counterattack. He only struck back with more apples. One after another.

Helpless, tired, and sore I petitioned him again, “why are you doing this? Please leave me alone, I haven’t done anything to deserve this!”

He remained silent, holding up another apple, cocked and ready.

I turned and ran again, but it was no use.

Finally I remembered a party where many friends and acquaintances would be. It was being held at Silent Barn, a DIY venue in Ridgewood (Brooklyn). I shoved my way through the crowd, shouting for help. Many people ignored my pleas, thinking it was some sort of hoax or joke.

“Please help me! This guy won’t stop attacking me, throwing apples at me. He’s a complete psychopath! Please stop him!”

I recognized an old acquaintance from high school and ran to him, desperately grabbing him by the lapel, “please, you have to help me!”

I ran off again by when I turned back I saw that my old friend, along with a posse of other attendees had tackled my assailant and had him pinned to the ground.

Feeling emboldened, I approached the man triumphantly. “What the hell is the matter with you? I didn’t do anything to deserve that!”

He only looked on with a blank stare, saying nothing just as before.

His insistent silence only enraged me further. I jumped on him and punched him repeatedly, mercilessly. He was unphased. I commanded for someone to call the cops, but my good friend Jonny Atlas, who had shown up during the hoopla, warned me that the police would only take the other man’s side. There are laws to protect the homeless; I had beat this man mercilessly before dozens of witnesses.

This was injustice! Homeless people are not entitled to treat others poorly. Perhaps I overreacted, perhaps there was more I could have done to extend grace and peace to this man. But what am I to do in the mean time, simply receive the abuse?

This dream was inspired, in no small part, by this youtube video. Do yourself a huge favor, don't watch for more than 2 or 3 minutes. It will suck your life away.
By: Gio Andollo
 
 
This recent feature in Axel Weekly tackles some of the same questions that we attempt to answer here at Good Morning Joe. It's a thoughtful post, check it out:
http://axleweekly.tumblr.com/post/3062599426/check-for-lumps
 
 
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I've been feeling "under the weather" for the past couple days. My sister thinks I may have the flu (she's a nurse, so she knows what’s up). I'm inclined to agree. My sickness has precluded me from completing virtually any work and I'm just now recounting events that transpired Tuesday – events that give an expression like "under the weather" whole new meanings.

I woke up early for the worship team meeting, as per usual. I walked past Joe’s spot which was regrettably empty. I haven’t seen him for about two months now (due mostly to my own travels). But on my way back, around 9:30a, I saw a black jacket huddled in the freezing rain just steps away from where I usually run into Joe. Before it was a sign that read (with remarkably good penmanship):

I HAVE LOST MY WIFE, MY 5 YEAR OLD SON,
MY CAREER AND MY HOME. I AM BADLY IN NEED
OF YOUR HELP. I AM FREEZING COLD AND HUNGRY.
ANY HELP WILL BE GREATLY APPRECIATED.
9.5 WEEKS ON THE STREETS – LOSING HOPE.

I casually walked past but didn't get far before my conscience got the best of me.

I turned on my heels, pulled my notebook from my pack and wrote down his sign's message, all whilst standing in the rain. I wanted to help him but I didn't feel compelled to give money. What more could I offer?

"Hey there. I'm sorry I have nothing to give. But I want you to know that I've read your sign and I really care about your story. I don't know if you're a religious person..."

"I'm Roman Catholic."

"Would you mind if I prayed for you?"

He shook his head no.

I put my hand on his shoulder and began, "Father..." 

Again I didn’t get far as I suddenly began weeping uncontrollably. I considered what God must think about all this – a man who’s lost everything, sitting in the freezing rain, begging for change. And as my heart strings sympathized with God’s, I couldn’t help but weep.

Once I was again composed, I finished the prayer and we made introductions. His name is Joe, the irony of which was not at all lost on me. We talked for a time longer as he told me more about his current life situation and how he got there. He gave me his name to look up on facebook and I handed him my business card, in case he ever needs someone to talk to. For the time being I left him standing in the rain.

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Later in the day I was busking at the Columbus Circle train station. A commuter was standing nearby appreciating my music. I dove into a Flaming Lips tune, which begins with perhaps the most beautiful and profound lyric of all time:

“Do you realize that you have the most beautiful face?”

I was about halfway done with the song when I heard a voice from my left, “can you give me a dollar?”

My case was open with twelve or thirteen dollar bills, but I’ve learned that it’s a bad idea to give to someone when I’m there to make money myself. After all, what’s to stop her from asking for two dollars, or three, or all twelve?

I respectfully declined, “Sorry, but I can’t give you any money.”

“Can you give me a dollar?”

“No, I’m sorry.”

“Can you give me a dollar?”

“Umm. No? I’m sorry, I can’t.”

This went on for a time until she slightly changed her pitch: “If you give me a dollar, you’ll receive blessings!”

“Oh, is that how it works? Well then, if you give me a dollar, then you'll receive blessings!”

She wasn’t amused. A train pulled up and the commuter who’d been enjoying my music shouted at the beggar, that she’d ruined his musical experience. I appreciated the sentiment; but my new friend was still by my side.

“I’m not leaving until you give me a dollar.”

And she was persistent! She was at my side for at least another twenty minutes, insisting that I might as well give her a dollar, since nobody would give me money as long as she was standing there. Turns out she was right about that, but I refused to give in to intimidation – even as she became increasingly violent. She began insulting and cursing at me, flipping me off, threatening to kick over my guitar case.

I tried my best to love her back, recalling Jesus’ teaching, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matt 5:44)

I tried introducing myself to her. No dice.

I asked whether she liked the Beatles, “I’ll play you a song!”

“Your mother."

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I wasn’t sure what she meant by that, but it helped me to think of my next song to play, Let It Be.

“I’ll spit on you.”

“Why would you do that? I haven’t said or done anything mean to you. I’m just trying to make money here, this is what I do for a living and you are making it very difficult for me.”

Perhaps she felt compassion on me as she spit on the subway platform instead; but then changed her mind and spit on my guitar case as well.

“Give me a dollar.”

I’m not sure this woman understands how generosity works. At this point, the most generous thing I could do was to remain calm, to continue to love. I was determined not to be overcome by evil but to overcome evil with good, as Paul recommends in a letter to the Romans. (12:21) She was probably confounded, as she could only have expected one of two responses from me:

1) to finally fork over a dollar
2) to beat the living snot out of her

Since I wasn’t making any money and was feeling increasingly uncomfortable, I told her I would just play one more song and go home. I probably would have gone to a different station instead. But as I sang the song, a beautiful lament by Against Me!, she continued to shout and jeer over my music until she finally gave up and left. She came back after the song just to spit on my case again – she really made this one count – and then she was gone.

I wouldn’t have to leave after all.

I played for a couple hours longer and left feeling a bit dejected. I hoped that I’d at least pleased my Father in Heaven, that I’d behaved in love, goodness, and righteousness. But as Jesus follows up the aforementioned exhortation, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

I guess we’re all under the weather in some form or another.

 
 
MATRIX MATTRIS.

I can't remember much more from the rough drafts of Joe's most recent manuscript. He held a sheet of unlined paper, folded in half, with unjustified type smattered around the page and handwritten notes scribbled round the margins. It was mostly gibberish, which he may or may not have been aware of as he read it to me out loud, following the sentence fragments with his finger.

But don't be fooled; Joe is a journalist (freelance, I presume), memoirist, philosopher, and fiction writer! And he takes great pride in his work.

“What time is it?” he asked me.

“9 o’clock.”
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“I’m going down to the internet café at 10 am, when they open.”
Indeed, when I greeted him with my usual “Good morning! How ya doin?” he replied, “Just sitting here waiting for the day to start…” as though he would not recognize his day as having started without first acquiring some breakfast – a bottle of vodka, cigarettes, potato chips, and coffee -  and buying some time at the café.
 “I’ll type some more there. Maybe submit this to a publisher…”

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As we sat and talked, I exchanged glances with young children who sometimes watch us curiously as they walk past, their parents hurriedly dragging them behind. I get similar looks when I’m busking, the furrowed brows indicating some mixture of bewilderment, confusion, wonder; but those looks sometimes look angry too! I love to return the looks, furrowing my own eyebrows back at them. Sometimes it frightens them, other times it makes them laugh. A recent case earned me a stuck-out tongue. What hostility!

A pretty young business woman walked up with a white plastic bag, handing it to Joe. He thanked her and she walked off as briskly as she had come. I didn’t bother asking what was in the bag, we were still fixed on the topic of conversation: his writing. He said he’s working on a book about logic and mathematics, grounded in his personal experience. He keeps the bulk of the material in a folder inside his suitcase and jots notes on the yellowed pages of a small black notebook.

To be quite honest, I’m not sure he really is a journalist, I doubt he could ever get something published, and I’m not sure how one can relate mathematics and logic to personal experience in a manner which would interest any for-profit print publishers; nevertheless, I wish him Godspeed in his creative endeavor and I look forward to reading his book!

 
 
It was dark as night when I stepped out of my Harlem apartment building this morning around 6:30; but a deep blue - almost cerulean - color filled the atmosphere twenty minutes later when I emerged from the Herald Square subway station at thirty-third and sixth. I was early to my seven o’clock meeting, thankful that I would have some time to sit and talk with Joe.
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He was sitting up in his usual meditative pose atop scattered newspaper advertisements, looking blankly, soberly, into the distance.

“Good morning, Joe!”

He quietly returned the chipper salutation, then coughed heavily from somewhere deep in his chest into his hand. Surely he would understand if I didn’t shake. He cleared his throat and spit onto the sidewalk.

“You feeling ok?”

“Yea, I’m alright.”

I noticed that his shopping cart was nowhere to be found. He had a large green suitcase instead, the kind with tiny wheels and handles that pull out and break easily (I believe the economic term for this is “planned obsolescence”). He also had what must have been originally intended as a small wagon, a white-washed wooden toy. I could not tell whether it was even his, as it did not seem to be anything that would be very useful to him. His sleeping bag was covered with aforementioned newspaper ads.

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There was a bucket “for food” and another KFC bucket containing a peach liquid which – and I can only assume – consisted primarily of saliva and mucus. These all appeared to be recent additions to his once-modest habitation.

Hardly any more words were exchanged before a NYPD patrol car pulled over a few feet from us. I ignored them, but they must have spoken something to Joe which he didn’t quite make out.

“Sir?” He asked respectfully.

“You can’t hang out here.”

As Joe stood up and began gathering his belongings, the patrol car rolled off as quickly and quietly as it had appeared. My authoritarian antipathies began to flare. I have found Joe at this corner every week for the past six months. Who is this officer to tell Joe he doesn’t belong here? For lack of a home, this is Joe’s home.

I looked on pitifully as he packed, opening his suitcase and stuffing various garments, a notebook, and other possessions into it. He was unable to fit his pillow, which had been lying on the bare concrete, so he zipped the bag, stood it on its tiny plastic legs, and wedged the pillow between the handle bars.

“What’s with the newspaper advertisements?”

“They help keep my sleeping bag dry… and warm.”

Indeed, the mid-October climate is becoming rather cold. I would imagine it gets pretty frigid at night. He swept the large paper ads to the side, pulling out his sleeping bag and squeezing it in with the pillow.

He then pulled the tiny wagon near to the suitcase and tried to consolidate them, hoping to fit latter into the former. The wagon was too small and would not likely have lasted long under the weight of the suitcase; so the wagon was left behind, along with his KFC spittoon, and newspaper ads. I gazed at his habitation nostalgically, tragically. His habitation seemed so much dirtier, disorganized, and grossly empty without him in it.

I offered to help carry his things, but he insisted on taking care of it himself. With one hand he pulled the rolling suitcase behind him. With the other he held his food bucket and a canvas grocery bag. I walked with him to the corner of thirty-third and fifth.

“Where are you going to go?”

“Just a few blocks up.”

“Don’t these guys know you live there?”

“He must be new.”

I gently put my hand on his shoulder as we parted ways, wishing him a good day. I know he’ll be alright, he seems to be resourceful and shrewd enough to survive, even outside of his niche; still, I had better see Joe in his same old sidewalk spot next week, sitting in that meditative pose, staring off into the sky, thinking about God-knows-what. Or else so help me…