Archive for July, 2015


imageOn some level, maybe I’ve grown accustomed to ignorance. Not that I’m completely ignorant, but more so that I’ve got an ability to ignore that which surrounds. That whole statement sounds so New York. And maybe in that light, I’ve become more New Yorker each day.

For instance, I week ago I once threw change to an old man struggling on two canes. The weathered seventy something year-old glisten Fuji Apple red in the morning light. Eaten by blistered peeled skin, his hands shook unceasingly like a Home Depot paint mixer. There was no computer genius here, no lost mathematician or concert pianist. He was a societal cast away.

Yet dropping a few coins into his coffer became his morning ritual. That seemingly downtrodden man followed me, found where I worked and met me there each morning for several days. He became a pseudo toll agent and stood defiantly in my path until someone produced a few coins.On several occasions, I tossed a few outdated tokens obtained at a western Indian casino. After deducing who the culprit was, this gentle soul became belligerent. One morning, he was hauled away by NYPD authorities and I never saw him again.

But this reminded me that sometimes acts of kindness become entitlements. I am not not referring to entitlement programs offered by the government for the poor. Rather, it’s when an act of compassion is interpreted as comeuppance. And that’s what addicts do.

So many times in my life, I looked for hourly, daily, weekly and monthly comeuppance. It was a prerequisite to the day. At the end of the day, I became just like a New York castaway. And tired of my shit, people no longer moved to help. They sat. They watched. They commented upon my fall from grace and laughed.

Their lack of faith in my humanity did not dissipate overnight. Rather, I chiseled away my own humanity piece by piece, moment after moment, excuse after excuse. Like ‘Red’ in the ShawShank Redemption, I’ve lost my humanity, not because I’m an addict of this or that, because you think I deserve it.

The list of those celebrating my demise were many, Katherine K., Karen N., Joanne F., Mari T., Matt M., Tim B., H.H.H., and many many more. Yet no matter what anyone thought of my life’s experiences or worth, like all people, there was so much more underneath to learn. But no one did. Instead, personal redemptive efforts were suffocated, smashed and crushed like used cigarette butts.

There were many sleeplessness nights, where the desolate prodding of loneliness and loss accumulated like anvils. If I had life-affirming qualities, there were extended periods they where unacknowledged. But in that depth of darkness, I learned to tolerate life’s burs. Eventually, I became tough, calloused and could bear the verbal abuse of a thousand men. I became like and unlike those who walked New York’s concrete pavements. Like them, I wandered in-between corrugated steel girders almost without notice. Unlike them, I was full of compassion, love and beauty whose flowers simply waited for a few drops natures nectar.

It’s a weird place – a divergence between heaven and hell. But at the end of the day, we manufacture our own hell quite well. Find a way to live in heaven.

imageAs I think about it, trial and error is vastly overrated. I keep hoping the next town, the next person met will open some unknown mantra and shed light unto Shangri-La. Yet addicts repeat steps others accomplished. Or mostly, what others haven’t accomplished. We continually yearn for the ‘something for nothing.’ Our often depressing day-in-day-out life relishes an idyllic world, where hope cures ills, where the guy gets the girl, bravery trounces cowardice and justice wins.

Addicts and common folk alike, simply cannot accept that we must do something for ourselves. You got here, wherever that ‘here’ is by yourself – and accordingly, we’ll have to find a way out of it – by ourselves.

New York City reminds me of all this and more.

My first impression of New York is vastly different from television. For the true witnesser, one quickly understands that dirt covers everything. Architecturally speaking, in the midst of all the grime, nothing seems eloquent. People become after thoughts. Streets are witnesses to personal unseen demons. Street grates and vents are clogged by strewn trash. The discard of humanity is archeologically petrified by wind, rain, snow and salt. Why toss stuff into a trash can when the street’s receptacle is logical, quick and readily available?

Whether we care to admit it or not, all us are like New York streets. Like personal shame, hidden fear and restlessness, crushed styrofoam, discarded remnants from Wendy’s, McDonald’s, and Burger King line New York roadways. Discarded gum liners, cigarette boxes, severed construction cones, old mattresses, foam, fragmented shipping boxes dot become pseudo roadway markers.

Every six blocks Apple iPhone 6 picture is silhouetted on some large building. One in particular caught my eye. It was a picture of a lone Saguaro cactus against the backdrop of a sun burnt Tucson, Arizona sky. It’s caption read, ‘Taken by an iPhone 6.

Saguaros only grow near Tucson, Arizona. I’ve been there. Most New Yorkers haven’t. They’ll buy into Apple’s dream, that the iPhone 6 will produce some semblance of freedom and openness. It won’t. Probably never will. Few will ever embrace the open skies of New Mexico, Colorado or see the sun flowers of North Dakota.

Statistically speaking, New Yorkers live, breathe and die in New York. Few venture beyond the stagnant miles of steel and glass. Dressed in business attire and white sun dresses, the hordes simply bustle past their surroundings, willingly accept their surroundings and their fate.

The chronically drunk and addicted are pasted against shop walls. It’s not unusual to stroll past high priced outlet stores without seeing a forgotten soul splattered against the window pane. In their eye, there is no other life, there’s no hope. They’re soulless. Days filled by walking endless concrete carpets and alleyways, sleeping here, resting there, hoping for tossed parcels of used burgers and reclaimed sub sandwiches.

It’s difficult to sort fact from fiction. These are the same folks whom conservative pendents extoll as lazy, dirty and dangerous. Yeah, they are dirty. Sure, they can be dangerous. But society’s disdain and hatred put them there. With iPhone earbud drilled embedded into ear-canals, New Yorkers, walk past these wanderers with extraordinary contempt, nary a footnote in the biography of life. We’ve consumed ourselves in ignorance.

I hate my cowardice in dealing with people.

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