Sunday, July 20, 2008
One Man's Doorstep is Another Man's Bed
Here in New York, I've found it very difficult to avoid getting up close and personal with total strangers, as packed subways and tourist traffic jams are an inevitable part of life. Such is the case with my doorstep, which has become a haven of sorts to the homeless denizens of Hell's Kitchen.
Today I found this errant can of red beans, no doubt left by one of our famished neighbors. And beans are just the beginning. I've stepped over discarded takeout boxes, cigarette butts, and once a used condom. (One of my friends was grossed out by the idea of people having sex on our doorstep, which hadn't even crossed my mind!! Thanks, Tammy) Every few days I will find an actual presence there -- napping, smoking or chilling with other homeless people. For example:
One day, after running some errands, I found a homeless man napping on our doorstep. I noticed there was fried chicken drizzled down his shirt. I felt bad about waking him, disturbing his peace like that. I proceeded to say "excuse me" a few times, and when he still didn't stir, I started tugging on the door while he was still sleeping in front of it. He started waking up. Visibly disoriented, he kept repeating something like "I don't mean any harm..." As it turns out, a policeman saw the situation unfolding and came over. "What seems to be the problem?" he asked. I thought it was pretty obvious what was happening, but I'm glad he was there to help. He shoved the chicken man off with a threatening voice; I never saw the poor guy again.
I guess this is what happens when you move into an apartment building across the street from a soup kitchen and $1-slice pizzeria. It would be terribly selfish for me to complain, though; it's annoying, but at least I have more than a concrete slab for a bed. That said, it's pretty hard to ignore the harsh realities of life when it's waiting to greet you at the front door.