Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Confrontation

East Houston Street between 2nd Avenue and the Bowery, on the sidewalk outside the Liz Christy garden, where I had stopped to photograph More Roses, this man was engaged in combat with a sign post. The thin green pole, not the grey lamp post. I guess he knew his limits. Or maybe appearances are deceiving: maybe the sign post was the really dangerous one. He was also talking to it before karate chopping it repeatedly, and I burst out laughing. I couldn't help it, he just seemed so serious about teaching it a lesson, and I could tell he wasn't angry with it. More benevolently righteous.

There are a lot of crazies in New York and you learn not to bat an eyelash, because it's so hard sometimes to tell the sane from the insane, and more frequently because you don't want to get sucked into their world by making any kind of contact. They are timely reminders of there but for the grace of god, etc...

I once a bought a piece of cellophane-wrapped cake for a man who could not afford it in a bodega: he hadn't enough change, and had to put it back. He had just enough for his chocolate milk, counted out in pennies and dimes. I followed him out of the shop to give it to him, rather awkwardly. He was wearing a tin foil helmet with many antennae, and an improvised headset made of wires going nowhere, perhaps for deflecting evil rays, and then communicating their presence, and wore a plastic hospital bracelet on one wrist. After he had accepted the offering graciously, he asked me about my accent and proceeded to speak about South Africa in a more informed fashion than the average passerby could have (who might frequently mistake South Africa for the continent), saying how sad it was that the then president Mbeki's views on AIDS were so warped.

I don't know how long this contretemps lasted. He had a suitcase on wheels nearby, and was perhaps going to take care of many other sign posts later. You can never be too careful.


  1. much posting this day!

    It seems the test of being a "real" nyer is how well you evade involvement in these things. Every now and then one catches you off your game, sucked in and how to get out? I'm reminded of polar bears pacing back and forth in the central park zoo. I think he's right, why not take on the sign post, after all it is a SIGN POST of civilization. Go get em! Better it than us anyhow.

  2. Richard Bach used to remind someone in his stories that one should not mourn the disappearance of Dragons and Evil Magicians, forces that drew ordinary people to turn into Mighty Knights and fight for the poor and oppressed. They are still around, he would say, they just have disguised themselves with modern attires; they are Taxes, Inflation, Crime, Pollution and what not. The knight in us is still needed but we must not seek an ancient winged dragon to fight against while there are so many modern evils around, and we must trade our sword for a protest sign and our castle for a classroom. (I'm expanding a bit, it's been a while since I read those.)

    Any way, that dude knows better. He's recognized the absolute evil packed into sign posts and does something about it daily. He's a knight on a perilous quest. If I had walked past, I would have gone over and thrown a few punches at the sign post in sign of support.


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