I have met my friend Josh The Alaska Poet for coffee at French Roast on Sixth. It’s really cold. People are bundled. When the restaurant’s front door opens, even with an outside door, it’s a meat locker blast inside. Josh and I have run through plans for his zine, TwentyFourHours, and for re-issuing our Fables for the New Millennium. He’s headed now to pick up his wife from her mid-town editing job, but we’re continuing the conversation as we walk south on Sixth, nearing the castle of the Jefferson Market Library (formerly the Women’s House of Detention) across the street.
And there’s the beggar who, 15 years ago, used to stand in front of the A & P, even after it morphed into the ultra-snooty overpriced Food Emporium. I never liked this guy; I always thought he was the beggar with the limo around the corner. I don’t know this for a fact, but in my lexicon, he’s The Limo Guy. This is the man who shakes his cup, jingle-jangle, and says “Can you help me out, gentlemen?”
He’s now moved across the street and is standing near the former Jefferson Market food store that will soon be the sales office for the condos that are replacing St. Vincent’s Hospital. Later, for that. For now, I turn to say something to Josh, but he has turned back and is giving money to The Limo Guy. I wait. Josh catches up with me. We start walking, and I say, “I never give money to that guy; I don’t trust him. Not that I’m a miser when it comes to guys on the street. There’s this guy, we call him “Mr. Rockefeller…”
“Cause he’s rich?” asks Josh.
“No,” I say. “Because when he’s out on the street, he’s always saying ‘Hey, Mr. Rockefeller, got a nickel?’” And I continue to tell Josh how this Rockefeller guy, whose name is Jimmie, won’t let me give him anything because he and I have these great political discussions.
At which point the guy who’s suddenly walking next to me, an African-American guy wearing a Yankees cap, says: “That Jimmie sure is something.”
“Have you seen him lately?” I say. “I get worried about him when I don’t see him. You remember he was in the VA hospital for a long time.”
“I remember,” says the guy. “But I just saw him last week. He’s fine.”
“Well, tell him I said Hi,” I say. “Robert,” I say.
“I’ll do that,” he says. And he walks off as I say goodbye to Josh and go into the grocery store.
Serendipity is one of this city’s great gifts. Keep your eyes on this spot.