Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Panhandlers, Judgments and The Iron Horse

While riding the Iron Horse back from work this past afternoon (After taking the work keys with me) I noticed that there were panhandlers on the train. Now seeing panhandlers on the train is not a rare sight. But who they are is what made me think about something Professor Lobel mentioned in my American Urban History class this past semester.

I'm not sure in what context the discussion of judgments that we make when faced with a panhandler was made but I feel that it fit my current situation. There was this white guy on the train asking for money to get a place to stay. Having just gotten out of jail, his family said he could not come back home (Makes you wonder what he did) and after getting beat up at the Atlantic Avenue shelter he was not going back there so he needed money from riders to get a room until Monday. For him, Monday was the day when he was getting his old job back. Now this story can be changed with different situations and language just like we did as kids with Mad Libs. What if it was true?

In my mind, the first thing I did was look at him to see in what shape he was in. He was dressed in clean clothes, nothing too flashy so why couldn't he just needed money for a place to stay. Here's where the judgment issue comes in. Had he been dirty, dingy with tattered clothes would he have made me feel any different about helping him.

I'll be honest, unless you're missing a limb (Like the guy who on the N line in Astoria has no lower extremities and rides on a skateboard to get around) or something comparable to missing a limb you won't get any of my money. But is that the right way of looking at it. I would always say that being poor doesn't mean that you have to be dirty. Allow me to elaborate. People have this idea that if you're poor and live reasonably within your means then you won't get any assistance. This applied when I worked at the law firm doing investigations. I'd go to these apartments in some of the poorest neighborhoods to assess potential lead poisoning cases concerning kids and often I'd walk into a pigsty of an apartment. Maybe they were just dirty people. But when you see it over an over again, you grow to believe that people do in fact feel that they will garner the most sympathy from you if they look as if they need help, in this case living in filth. So how does this fit the guy on the train. I'll get back to him in a second.

Now let me give you the flipside. Those of you raised in Astoria will attest to this. There's was (or still is) a supposed homeless woman that asks for money along Broadway and different parts of Steinway Street. She wears dirty clothes and sunglasses while doing so. In actuality, she's well off and lives in one of the plantation style houses on 12th Street near Astoria Park. Why does she do it? Who can truly tell. Now, if you saw her next to my guy on the train, who would you think would get the money. I'll leave that for you to answer.

So getting back to my original thought, this guy asked for cash and didn't get any from me. He got a buck from an older gentleman. To me he didn't look as if he needed help. He didn't sound like he needed help and he really didn't appreciative at getting the buck. Maybe he truly needed it for a room or for his fix. Who truly knows. Sometimes I wonder if my judgments on who gets my money are correct or not. In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter. Again I say, who truly knows.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day and The Iron Horse

So riding the iron horse from Parkchester to work on Memorial Day is a literally a trip. The train is packed to the doors with passengers heading home from their jaunt to The Puerto Rican Riviera: Orchard Beach. Loud, vulgar and cursing like sailors (and that's just talking about the teenage women that sat in front of me) my ride is punctured by shrieks, squeals and slurs. Now that wouldn't be unlike any other day of riding the 6 train from the Bronx to work except for the next fellow I'll elaborate on.

The weirdest sight is the man with a fire bandana, sunglasses and possibly all the jewelry that he owns around his next. Now this happy fellow is sitting with a black shopping cart full of beach items such as an umbrella, a small cooler and a number of bags. Now that's not totally odd but for the small bag that sat at the top of the cart that moved at random intervals. Apparently, this gentleman went to the beach, accompanied by two small kittens. These two little white and grey furballs had a day at the beach. Guess he didn't want to leave them alone on Memorial Day. How thoughtful of him. Luckily for him the seagulls didn't get a hold of them. That would have made for a hell of a memory.

BTW: Thank you to all the veterans who have and are giving the ultimate sacrifice so I can sit here and ramble and babble about bullsh$t. Thank You.

Remaking Movies. Good or Bad.

So to comment on the discussion that we had at the bar about rehashing and remaking movies, I believe to continually remake older movies is not only an insult to those who originally made and acted in the movies, but it also serves as a detriment to our youth. True there are some people that aren't film buffs as my friend Myron David said but why make a half-assed version of a film instead of having the people just watch the original.

As it is, many people don't read books and newspapers preferring to get their education and knowledge from the TV and other video mediums. This in turn is creating a semi-illiterate population who not only can't read as well as they should, they can't talk as they should. But I digress and that's a rant for another day.

So, instead of their making an effort to look and learn about the past, we prefer to just modernize, rehash and repackage. In the long run, many of the actors, directors and movie roles will only be remembered by film students and film buffs. The movie industry should take its cue from both the books and sports industry in honoring the past works. Instead of rehashing a old movie, just re-release it for a newer generation, as book companies do by putting older books in print. Reprint them as they were so that nothing gets lost. Also, as with sports, the breaking of a record doesn't just celebrate the person who broke the record, but it also celebrates those who came before the today's athlete to make his accomplishment something to be broken.

True there are many negative aspects that are present in many of these old films such as racial, gender and societal issues that would disturb some today. But to just gloss over them and act as if we didn't live in a past where those issues existed will only doom us to not only repeat the mistakes of the past but to also make our future generations ignorant to the struggles of those who fought against the injustices. The re-releasing of films in theaters will help to not only educate but to also celebrate the past instead of denigrating it as is being done with the remakes today.

Welcome aboard for the ride

Being a Native New Yorker and having worked in a bar/club/restaurant for over Ten years has exposed me to many things that I believe most people have not seen. This is basically a forum for me to express my thoughts, share my observations and bore you with my rants. Jump in on the discussions and add your own ideas and rants. Any discussion is good discussion. I look forward to your input.

Francisco Hilario Jr.