Sunday, 12 August 2012

Who Are The People In Your Neighbourhood?

What must it be like, to feel invisible in the world?


This was Mary and her niece, begging for money on the streets of downtown Manhattan. Pretty sure they don't like begging. I like their painted toes.

Steve is one of the critters who come out at night. Scavenging through the hundreds of dumpsters that line New York City.

At 5c a bottle, he can make $80 a day. He said he's happy. He lied.

Steve lives in a flat over in the Bronx, barely affording rent and food. "I'm my own boss ... if I need a day off I take it. I gotta listen to my body. It's hard work."

He knows he's doing an important job. "People don't care. They don't recycle." We shook elbows. Later I lay awake in my hotel bed with garbage air in my lungs. Thinking.

I loved that Dan was reading a book. A western. "It's a true story 'bout the Indians and how they got slaughtered. It's pretty sad." He isn't scared of living on the streets. Says the shelters are disgusting. "Full of crazy people!"

I said man, I wish I could do something for you Dan. He looked me square in the eyes.

"Take me with you back to Australia."

I wished I'd asked him back to our hotel room for a shower. Instead I ran back to give him more money. As I threw the second twenty in his cup, he didn't even care. Looked up briefly from his book with a "Thanks babe."

I like that he called me babe. With a shower, good feed, and a sleep? Homeless Dan could start reaching some of his potential. Get a job, probably pull some chicks. He has a spark, you know?

One night in Times Square we came across a guy taking a breather, sweat riveting down his face. I paid him for a photo and asked him not to pull his headpiece down. It's a "thing" for people to dress up in cheap polyester character costumes and pose for photos with tourists.

                    A picture really CAN speak a thousand words.

Maybe it's because I've walked around in such profound deep emotional pain for the past few weeks, or maybe it's just the travelling making me notice things more .... but man the invisible people were in rich abundance.

A dazed chick in a bikini top with her sign just saying "hungry" ...  would've been safer in a brothel.

The old guy outside our hotel every night. Every time he'd split the money with the person next to him. The attendant in Balthazar who wakes up every morning, puts on her uniform, and goes to work. In a toilet. Handing people paper towel, wiping their skid marks for the chance of a dollar.

Last night we walked past a tittie bar and this really angry, young drunk guy was refused entry and shouting at nobody. He was FURIOUS and I wondered if this is how mass-murderers are made, isolated and ignored.

This is Gloria. She cleaned our hotel room every day.

Gloria is from Jamaica. She's been a maid at that hotel for 24 years. If there's a power outage in the city, she walks from her place in Brooklyn to work midtown and back. She told Dave and I to have safe travels home. To keep talking to people. She said that some people were so lonely in the world with nobody to talk to, and I said I know, Gloria. I know.

"My sister - she die. My brother die ... and then my uncle? He die. They all die in the past few weeks."

We said we were sorry. That my dad died a few weeks ago, and then our dog died. Straight away she nods.

"Yes. When a dog dies in a family, it is to help guide the dead person across the way."

We walked off and had to put our sunglasses on quickly. When I get home I'll sign up to some kind of community thing to visit people. The people who have no people ... I'll take my boys in and watch strangers faces light up and Rocco will careen down the hallways and Max will sit and soak it all in.

This one person did me undone ... I didn't catch her name. Just walked passed her in the high end of town. Her hand was in a splint, sat there with a puny sign saying "Every little bit helps." Her face was stony. It only changed when she realised it wasn't one dollar I pressed into her hand, but twenty.

"Oh my god thank you so much, oh thank you." She cried from relief and I cried from something else. Told her to take care, told her that people care.

I walked off and imagined a tidal wave of water suddenly cascading through all the streets and fancy shops, sending clothes and shiny stuff swirling.

Cardboard signs getting ripped from grubby hands. Chanel earrings getting ripped from ears.


  1. Know you think you're anything but. But you're one amazing human being.

  2. I know you think you're anything but. But you are one amazing human being.


Write to be understood, speak to be heard. - Lawrence Powell

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