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Saturday, January 1, 2000
By Paul Ford
Ladies and gentlemen, I am hungry, and I'm selling socks, I'm selling these socks, because I need the money, because I am broken, because I am not your color--but aren't we all down here together. I am without skill or hope, with no promise for better things. You, too would beg if you had to. Paul Ford, I see you there. You stopped doing volunteer work with the homeless, didn't you? Because your job makes you too busy. Whose suffering have you lifted, Paul Ford? I want a dollar. You spent fifty times that today, on laundry and a haircut and lunch and dinner. Am I not worth one-ninth of your bad haircut?
Ladies and gentlemen, out of the fineness in my heart and faith in human nature I'm telling you this is Bergen Street, and I have AIDS, cancer, nervous tic, stress, chronic fatigue syndrome, crotch rot, bad breath, an eating disorder, post-traumatic stress syndrome, night sweats, and a pimple. I am very contagious.
You, ma'am, you wish you'd gone to Vassar instead of to a state school, because in magazine publishing it makes a difference and you worry you're lagging behind. You, sir, you worry because your kids aren't getting the same advantages as rich children. You know, I still have fantasies of being a famous musician? I live in subway stops and can't play anything except some trumpet, but I still want to be more famous than Louis Armstrong. Everyone down here wants to be a writer or poet, all of us have written our Nobel acceptance speeches in our heads, fantasizing about exchanging life for frictionless glory. I would have as much distrust if I was in your shoes, but I'm wearing a pair of Air Jordans without laces, and they smell like someone else. I fished them out of the trash. So I can't even wait for regrets, I need your help now.
This is Carroll Gardens, and every penny you give me will go straight in my lungs via a glass pipe. So? Why are you so worried about those quarters, when you'd throw them after a gumball or a slot machine with abandon? Why are you judging the investment as if I was a car salesman telling you that the seats are leather when they're really vinyl? This is human skin, brown and breathing. I'm asking you to judge my total worth and invest only a few pennies. When I told you I was sick I didn't lie. I have broken into a realm waking up is a five-stage task.
This is Smith and 9th. Paul, before you go, a quarter? No? Well, then I'll curse at you: you fat fuck, you bastard, you child molester. Give me a dollar!
All right, don't get angry. It's just that I hate being in this position, but you put me here, and I have to push back. Stand clear of the closing doors.