Remember “Hungry Jew”?
Of course you do. Yes you do.
Well, thankfully he doesn’t remember me. Or didn’t recognize me yesterday when he was so close to where my friend “L” and I sat in a Starbucks on the Upper West Side. (Yes, the same Starbucks whose employees acted like I asked for “freshly let infant’s blood, type AB please” instead of soy milk in June.) (Yes, I need a beating for hanging out in a Starbucks. But that’s an issue for another time.)
It was odd to see him out of context. Not sitting on a corner with his sign and his dog by his side, or sleeping in an alcove on Broadway, or standing beside his cart somewhere around 19th or 20th Street no farther west than Fifth Avenue. So to see him on West 67th Street, walking with his dog and pushing a shopping cart, he looked like every other dirty man wearing filthy shorts and a yarmulke on his way home for lunch at his comfortable brownstone.
“Oh my god, I can’t believe he’s all the way up here,” I said to L.
“Who? Where?” she asked.
I directed her attention to 67th Street, just beyond the big glass window and the side entrance to Starbucks. To the man and his dog and shopping cart heading to the corner of 67th and Columbus. I quickly related my association with him.
She turned around to look outside, and said, “What? Is he wearing a yarmulke?” Because you know, ladies, don’t you, how difficult it is to nab a nice Jewish boy here in a city full of ineligibles. She was just about ready to leave our table and dash out the door and down 67th Street, when he came in to Starbucks and saved her the trouble. He stopped not six feet from our table.
“Oh, I can’t look,” I said as I sneaked a peek. “I don’t want him to see me, I don’t want him to see me.” I sort of ducked my head and untucked my hair from behind my left ear and let it fall across my face.
Contrary to the other times when I’d seen him, when he looked relatively normal (if you looked beyond the dirty shorts and general filth), this time he looked like the homeless person he is. The dirty shorts and general filth were intact, but the good humor was not. Right away I could see he was clearly off his rocker or “meds”. Or maybe he just needed caffeine.
He just stood there for a beat, silently. I thought perhaps he was deciding if he should approach our table and ask me to buy him something. I was hoping he wouldn’t want me to order something humiliating, like a grande tall venti caramel frappuccino latte mocha L-Dopa with an extra shot.
He took a deep breath, puffed out his chest, and yelled, “WAKE UP, STARBUCKS!!!” at the top of his lungs and from the bottom of his heart and liver and pancreas and everything else. The floor and counters shook, and the Equal I’d just placed in my iced coffee stirred itself from the impact and swirled down into my cup to hide.
Everyone, of course, turned to look. Several people tittered. Some laughed. Others sat and stood in stunned silence. This was the Upper West Side, after all, far from all the crazies (except for Regis and Kelly across the street at ABC, of course). L and I just stared at each other, and I think one of us sort of whispered/whined, “Oh no.” The other of us may have muttered, “Oh fuck.”
The metronome beat out three counts, and then David (that’s the homeless guy’s name) yelled, “I’M GAY!!!”
And ran out to his dog and shopping cart to a round of applause and laughter.
It was so disappointing for L. Because with his first outburst, she thought she’d finally found the Jewish entertainer of her dreams, a man fit to meet mama. But with his second, she knew that although he was a member of the “tribe”, he was on the other “team”.
What a shanda.
Remember “Hungry Jew”?