Living for the Citay 2: Beggin Bums

Yo-To all my peoples begging for change holding down the same exact block every day please remember who you ask for loot. Here’s why: it’s a recession, inflation is real, I haven’t birthed any chirrun-so I can’t write you off or claim you as a dependant on my taxes. Begging is a charming side-effect of city life, NOT! What I’ve noticed over the years are several people who hold down the same corners for ages and still every time you walk by not only ask for money but tell you the same tired story. Here’s one, let me set the scene: While parallel parking one evening a woman pops up from behind a skinny young tree trunk and tries to ‘help’ me navigate into the space. Of course I already know she’s going to be asking me for something. I don’t have to wait long, as soon as my car door cracks open she’s on me with a story about her and her nonexistent kids needing bus fare to get across town. Now depending on my mood and the creativity of the story, I might pull the Biggie ‘…ain’t no tellin will I fuck em or will I diss em…’ or in my terms you never know if I’ll lace them with some change or give them the stiff arm. In this case I think I gave her the two singles I had in my pocket but I didn’t believe any parts of her story; I might sound harsh but oh well. I’m more prone to give women money rather than men simply because historically men have more inherent opportunities in the world than women; it might be wrong but oh well I’m just being straight with you about my thought process. Don’t get me wrong, just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean you’re definitely getting any paper BUT your chances are higher.

What brought this on you say? Well on my way to the parking garage after work, I was hot-stepping down the sidewalk hustling to get to my car to run my errands when this dude stopped me and asked me for $0.80. He asked me this while slouched over a garbage/recycling can, elbow perched on the lid, dragging on a cigarette and looking out from under his hood-only one eye visible. Right away I knew this was the repeat offender who gets on my damn nerves, mostly because he’s like a friggin magic genie popping out of some hole in the atmosphere in every neighborhood across Baltimore. No lie, I’ve seen him in every neighborhood in downtown and mid-town. I have a hard time with him because it’s clear by his various guest appearances that this is how he makes his living so I really don’t appreciate his begging. One evening I witnessed him ask a blind couple for money, trying to hem them up while they waited for a taxi. I rushed his ass and the husband was like no worries, “…I would have cracked him with my cane…” Unfortunately I’ve seen his whole game for the past five years so there’s no story you could tell me about him or his past that would change my mind.

One of my favorite stories took place in LA. My roomies and I walked over to a local liquor store on a Friday night. After the end of a long work week my roomies and I put our funds together to buy something strong to wash away our worries. On our walk over to the watering hole a guy stopped us and asked for change; we were like ‘nah’ in unison and kept it moving. While at the counter of the liquor store making our purchase, he must have walked by and spied us. He had the nerve to walk in the doorway, throw his hands in the air and say “I thought ya’ll said you didn’t have any money!” He actually sounded incredulous and upset. Needless to say he got cussed out, no need to relay the specifics of our reply but you can pretty much choose anything that comes to mind! In all seriousness I tend to use my gut when it comes to whether or not to give someone money because in your spirit you know when someone’s running game or being real with you.  If I give you money I don’t care what you do with it, you can buy yourself a pack of smokes a pint of liquor, whatever helps you get through, no judgment…but just don’t run a story by me and absolutely don’t post up on my block.

I had to beg for money once…on the streets of NYC back in 1994. I was going to college in Westchester Co. at the time so we would frequently drive to the city. Well on this occasion after tearing up some good grub at BBQ’s (does anybody remember how good that seemed back when we were young and counting our own change?!), we were all walking back to the cars (there were two) and I was walking ahead not paying attention, didn’t turn off on the right side street, turned around and nobody was there! Keep in mind this was pre-cell phone days. After standing on the same corner for what felt like forever I realized I’d been left AND had spent all my money at the restaurant. I had no cash and back then no ATM card. I sat on that corner and realized I was going to have to rely on the mercy of strangers, that’s when I began casing people trying to make the right decision as to who to ask for a quarter so I could use a pay phone. All I have to say is thank goodness I had a Georgetown sweatshirt on…I think that helped. I finally saw a woman who I babbled my story to asking for a quarter. This woman had mercy on me and must have seen the wild look of panic in my eyes at the thought of spending the night on the streets of Manhattan; not only did she give me change she gently advised that calls were more than a quarter and gave the amount needed. Needless to say I made my call and was safely back on campus an hour and a half later. So yeah, I’ve been there too, once!

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