Archive for January, 2011

New Yorkers are used to seeing homeless people on the streets and sidewalks – almost every street and sidewalk – sometimes more than one begging on a single block. You get jaded. You can’t help it. I mean, what am I, a social worker? Am I supposed to give to these people who may be junkies, alcoholics, meth heads, or wackos? I’ve been attacked, pushed, shoved and spit on by these, these … people.

Hmmm. They are actually people. They are actually my fellow human beings. I don’t know for sure what led them to beg, plead and sometimes literally cry, tears running down their dirty faces, for a dollar, a quarter, a mere penny. Some may have gotten themselves into this fix due to their lifestyle; some may be crazy; or they might have been sane when they first were forced to live on the streets and the became crazy.

As a science fiction fan (stay with me, folks, I swear this is related), I think about the apocalyptic movies and TV shows I’m seen where a lone human, shell-shocked and desperate to find another survivor, searches through rubble and walks down eerily empty city streets hoping to see another human. The lone human, usually the hero, is often grubby, streaked with dirt and debris and, presumably, if he or she has been searching for a while, doesn’t smell very appealing.

See where am I going with this?

If said hero comes upon another human, the hero is elated, relieved that another of his kind survived. They might even embrace, forgiving of any body odor or ragged clothing. These fellow humans wouldn’t care if one had been a banker, lawyer or a street person in their past lives.

So, with those kinds of thought and images deep in my brain, but still a jaded New Yorker, I sighed when I saw a man begging outside the supermarket on a bitterly cold winter afternoon. Great, I thought. Now I have to avoid this guy twice, both going into and exiting the supermarket. Rather clever positioning on the guy’s part, actually.

I don’t often go to that particular market, but they have a few items the health food stores don’t carry. I couldn’t find the frozen veggie dinner I was looking for, but I did find a gorgeous plant, a new flavor of Belgian beer, and a yummy-sounding raspberry chocolate bar. I bought ’em all.

The exit is a double-door situation, giving me time to put my gloves back on. The homeless man was still smack-dab in the middle of the entrance and exit of the supermarket. And as I set my bag down to button back up my warm new winter coat I got for Christmas, I heard the beer bottles clink and saw the plant tip. I grabbed the bag to protect my groceries: the beer, the chocolate bar and the beautiful plant. Not a single nutritious necessary-for-sustaining-life item among ’em.

Alexa, I chided myself, are you really going to give the poor guy outside the cold shoulder a second time? I mean, my shoulders are toasty and warm. His jacket has holes in it and looks more appropriate for summer than 19 degrees with a bitter wind chill, and his bare hands are almost as red as my stylish leather gloves.

I took off my gloves, still standing inside the double-door exit area. I looked for small bills. Maybe a couple of singles ,,, screw it! I removed a bill, put back on my gloves, picked up my “groceries” and exited the store.

I walked up to the man – gosh, he was old enough to be my grandfather. This homeless man should be enjoying a warm Florida afternoon in a rocking chair on his porch.

I handed him a five dollar bill and said, “Take care.” Lame! Shouldn’t I say something more profound?

He looked me in the eyes – many homeless won’t even raise their heads to look at who gives them money – and his face crinkled into a huge grin, revealing many missing teeth. “Thank you, ma’am. Bless you, bless you. I wish you a joyous year,” he said. He looked at the $5 for a long moment.

“Bless you, too. I hope things get better for you.” Also, kind of lame, but I didn’t know what else to say. A tear rolled down my face. I smiled back at him. And hurried away from my fellow human, embarrassed by overwhelming emotion. (I hate to cry in front of anyone. Makes me seem less the tough New Yorker.)

No one – NO ONE! Should be that grateful for a $5 bill.

The tears were really flowing now, and I didn’t want them to freeze on my face. I stopped to wipe them away, and take a deep breath to calm myself. I wasn’t crying just out of pity, but at the thought that I had helped one human being have a slightly better day. I felt grateful and more than a bit guilty that I could afford to buy frivolous thing like those in my grocery bag.

No, I’m not a social worker. And I can’t give $5 or even $1 to every homeless person I pass. But I could help one old man have a meal tonight, and if he spent part of my gift on a bottle of booze as well, that was his business. He was entitled to a little drink of joy, too. After all, I lifted his spirits and he lifted mine.


So far (and it ain’t far), I’ve enjoyed blogging and receiving feedback, with sometimes unexpected consequences like great tips for treating the common cold, or a chance to just puke up (writing wise) a topic that upsets me and many, many others.

So, comment, grouse at me, smile and say something nice, or encouraging, or inspirational (if you’re one of those strange people who do that frequently and actually enjoy it) or just say, “Hey!”

Looking forward to greeting and grousing with you all. Come smooze, as we say in the city, NYC.

Cheers and beers and even tears are OK,
Alexa deMonterice
(aka The Cranky New Yorker)

So, it’s a dank, dreary, damp, day near dusk (yeah, I like alliteration, so sue me). I’m heading out to the local bar to meet some friends. I’m cranky because I have the start of a cold – a bad, mean-spirited, won’t-let-you-go-without-a-fight cold – I can tell. I’ve had longer relationships with colds than many boyfriends.

Being a typical New Yorker, I have no patience for red lights. So, I’m peeking around a van parked near the crosswalk to see if the traffic has slowed enough to allow me to cross without getting squashed like a big cockroach. Cars, cars, trucks and taxis: No crossing without impending death for me right now. It’s cold even through my gloves and coat, and I swear this is the world’s longest red light!

A woman comes up on my left and also peeks around the van. Then she glances back at me and says, “Oh, I’m so sorry.”

I give her a quizzical look as she hasn’t stepped on my feet or so much as brushed against me.

“I didn’t mean to cut in front of you,” she says. “Are you trying to hail a taxi, too? You were obviously here first.”

I am speechless for a moment. Who the hell is this woman? This polite woman. Polite, considerate and didn’t even shove pass me. She’s gotta be from out of town, but savvy enough to know the cab-hailing process in New York. A tourist with a really good guidebook, I decide.

“Are you crazy?” I ask. “Nobody asks that in the city.”

“Well, I do,” she says with a smile – and I’ll be darned if that isn’t a distinctly Brooklyn accent, now that I’m paying attention.

“I’m not waiting for a cab,” I tell her, “and thank you for being so incredibly polite.  Have a nice night.”

We smile and wave to one another and I finally cross the street.

I never wish people “a nice night.” What has this woman done to me?  I almost forgot about my chest cold.

UPDATE: It was recently reported by a travel guide that NY is NOT the rudest city in the country. Los Angeles is! Ha! Take that you plastic people in La-La Land.

So, like a lot of other blogs, I could blather on about my pet cat (though since I just got one for first time in 30 years, I may blather a tad at some point–and you WILL enjoy it. Ya hear me?), some hot guy, my job, how much politicians suck or what I ate last night for dinner.

Do you really care to hear about any of those things?

I doubt it.

I’d rather tell stories or just riff. It’s what I enjoy. I hope you will, too. 😛

In-your-face blogger, that’s me. Been called Oscar the Grouch of horror/science fiction field. OKey-dokey–been called much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, worse. 😀