Category Archives: New York

Crazy People Say the Craziest Things

In New York there are any number of characters. And I do not mean the Singing Cowboy. These are real, honest to goodness crazy people whose goals are not necessarily to sign a book deal or land a recurring spot on Letterman. They’re just living their lives in the only way they know how. The characters are part of what makes New York, New York; and if you can manage to stop blocking out the chaos of the world around you, they’re hard to miss.

There’s an elderly man who’s ridden a bicycle around the West Village for years. He has a boom box strapped to the handlebars and it plays Sinatra singing New York, New York on a loop. The man doesn’t seem to go anywhere in particular; he just circles the tree-lined streets around Bleecker and Hudson, spreading his love of the city.

If you ever spent time in NoHo before it was called NoHo (acronyms gone wild, if you ask me) you would be rather familiar with Crazy Plant Man who was eventually immortalized in an Adam Sandler SNL sketch. He literally walked up to you while you were eating at a sidewalk cafe and, sporting a potted plant on his head, would growl, “give me your money! I’m crazy! I’m crazy!”

Intimidation through horticulture.

This week however, I was introduced to a new one who may just have taken the cake.

I was riding the subway home around 7 when a deep, gravelly voice caught my attention. I half tuned him out, assuming it was a standard issue E train panhandler. But for some reason the passengers seated around me were giggling, even as they tried to avert their eyes. I glanced down at one end of the car and saw a middle-aged black man behind darkly tinted glasses, all gangly arms and legs. He carried a wadded old red tee shirt which he coughed into every so often. But what stood out, besides his strong, rhythmic voice was his body language which was more that of a performer than a downtrodden addict repeating an “I’m hungry” spiel for the 160th time that day.

Then I realized

(holy crap)

the man was doing stand-up.

He had an entire homeless guy comedy schtick, punctuating every punchline with man, I tell you…

Man, I tell you folks….you wonder why I’m panhandling right? After all, I got me a/c. It’s called the express train. And I got me an oven. It’s called the third rail. Man, I tell you…

I been living down in these tunnels for nine years. That’s when I left my wife. 389 pounds that woman was. 389 pounds. She used to ask me for designer jeans. Jordache, she said. I said woman, the size of the jeans that we’d have to buy to fit you, they ain’t called designer any more. They called heffer. Man, I tell you…

My wife, she used to ask me for everything, my wife. She asked me for champagne. I said, I’ll show you champagne. We walked down the corner with a dixie cup, opened up a fire hydrant, poured a nice cool glass of water and dropped in two Alka Seltzer. There’s your champagne, woman. Man I tell you…

I asked this gentleman for a dollar once on the subway. Rich looking gentleman, nice suit. One dollar, that’s all I asked for. It took him twenty full minutes to get that dollar out of his pocket. By the time that dollar made it to me, George Washington himself was crying. Man I tell you…

He cleaned up.

I mean, if you’re going to give a dollar to someone on the train it might as well be someone who actually did a little work for it.