I live in a city. I work in a city.
Everybody knows that’s where the money is.
I’ve been crowd-guilted into leaving change for a person who poured me a coffee and walked it the three steps between the pot and the cash register.
I’ve been approached by a man who asked me for $45. For his prescriptions, he said. Said he’d take a check.
I’ve been followed by an extremely drunk woman who, if I wouldn’t give her cab fare – cab fare! – wanted me to at least give her the decorative pin off my jacket.
My favorite beggar so far, though, has to be the man I saw standing at the Dowling exit, just off 94.
There he is. No sign, nothing but him and the howling wind: him, what I would guess to be an inadequate jacket for the weather conditions, and a banjo.
I turn down my radio, lower my car window. Strangely, I can’t hear him; and yet, there’s this man, just two car lengths ahead of me, a’pickin’ and a’grinnin’. His face completely expressionless, he hops from one foot to the other, his left hand running up and down the neck of the instrument, his right hand strumming madly.
He looks, as my dad likes to say, like a heckuva player.
But there’s no sound.
He certainly looks like he’s making sound.
And that’s when I see it. The banjo is made out of cardboard boxes, shaped in a very good imitation of a banjo. No strings, no frets. Everything has been drawn on. I smile as he continues to hop around at the quiet intersection.
The light changes, and as I pull up I yell at him. “Hey!”
He looks at me.
“That’s the funniest thing I’ve seen all day. That’s gotta be worth something, don’t you think?”
He comes over to the car and I hand him two dollars.
“Thanks for brightening my day,” I yell.
The light changes, and I pull away.
But he doesn’t hear me. He is back at the banjo, hopping from foot to foot, strumming manically.
Princesses of the New Age
27 minutes ago