When I was a kid, we’d take trips into the city to see shows, and I remember being exposed for the first time to real live crazy people, like the ones I'd seen in movies and on TV. Older men and women who wandered crowded NY streets talking frantically to themselves (or possibly to someone the rest of us weren't able to see.) As an adorable young innocent, these people scared the shit out of me.
Then, years later, I moved to New York and inevitably grew accustomed to such nut jobs, as they became simply the people in my neighborhood. They ride the train in to work with me every morning, they walk with me to lunch, they even shop[lift] at my local grocery store. Some of them are homeless, while some of them look a lot like my 11th Grade English teacher, and blend right in with the rest of us.
A few wackos in particular spring to mind. One of them, an old woman who lurks around my neighborhood in Astoria. She is about 85, but she doesn't look a day over Hideous. Her face is made of an old leather purse and macaroni and cheese. She has only three strands of straw hair jutting out from atop her pointed head, and even fewer teeth in her mouth. She roams the streets chain smoking and babbling angrily. And God help you if you come within her line of sight. Once, on my walk to a party, I stopped at a store window to check out my reflection, as I'd bought a new outfit for the occasion. She caught this, and belted out, "YOU LOOK LIKE AN ASSHOLE." I immediately went home and changed.
Another gentleman resides regularly outside my office building. He's about 50, and (in mid-August) wears only the tightest leather pants, cut off above the ankle, and a matching leather jacket over a painfully fitted black turtleneck, (I believe a Women’s Petite by GAP, for those of you interested in duplicating the look this Summer.) He carries a long, black, wooden walking stick with an enormous brass eagle's head for the handle. Clearly not for medical purposes. It just goes with the outfit. He staggers up and down the block, mumbling to himself and rudely heckling passers-by about (of all things) what they are wearing. He's the Joan Rivers of Lexington Avenue. (Meanwhile, when did homeless crazies become so fashion conscious?)
As I walked to work yesterday, after a particularly crazed Monday Morning, I noticed people were staring at me. A common occurrence, of course. Thought nothing of it. I was horrified to suddenly realize that my mouth was going a mile-a-minute. Scrambled words, thoughts, and profanities were pouring out uncontrollably, and the people staring were in fact not admiring my blouse or even the dramatic new part in my hair. They were wondering who the hell I was talkin' to. It was 8:30 on a Monday and my brain was already so packed with anxiety and bullshit that it began to overflow, and spew from my lips. I was mumbling into the air for all to hear.
So, I've now gone from being terrified of these crackpots, past tolerating them, and on to almost understanding them. Relating, even. I think when you live in this city long enough, you reach a point when the day-to-day noise and stress stop being just something to complain about and start doing a serious number on your mental well-being. Sure, the examples I've given are extreme cases, but you have to ask yourself, "When did these people start noticing the signs? If things don't change, could I be just a few years, a pair of tight leather pants, and a walking stick away...?" (And most of you already have the leather pants.) Maybe they're not just raving lunatics. Maybe they're our future.
Enjoy your day.
You look like an asshole.