Tobacco Road

“Got ana change?”

“No, sorry.”

“How bout a cigarette?

“I don’t smoke.”

I’ve counted seventeen people panhandling in a twelve block radius, in all colors, shapes and sizes.

There’s the heavyset black girl with a huge sign reading: PLEASE HELP…HAVEN’T EAT’IN  IN A WEEK…kind of hard to believe when you consider her size.

A few feet from her sits a young Latino teen, his head in his hands, clasping a cup wrapped in rosary beads.

We then have the guy with his own portable easy chair he moves from corner to corner, a popcorn bucket at his feet like he was home watching the game.

A mother and three kids perch on the ground at 86th and Lexington, the eldest eight, youngest two.  Their collective woe inspires me to ask…did you eat today? Mom says, no…the four year-old, forgetting his role says…twice, his mother squeezing his arm in disapproval.  Hey he’s four, he hasn’t honed the skill of begging as yet.

It’s hard to know when you’re being hustled..hard to sort the true needy from the scammers.

I’ve been told many of them have sponsors who park them near the subway, collecting them and their profits at sundown in exchange for a cot and a lousy meal.

But the ones who I never question are those with pets, who loyally sit beside their masters happy, to just not to have been left behind.

Some insist it’s a ruse to get a softie like me, others say it’s admirable, as low as they’ve dropped they didn’t abandon their animals, me going with the latter.

I’ve bought dog food and leashes, cat treats and collars, litter, meds and blankets.

The ASPCA said, homeless people take better care of their pets than many who have maximum means.

When I saw a young man holding a pit mix in his arms like a baby, kissing his head, I couldn’t help myself.

“Did you two eat today?”

“Yes ma’am, we did.  But thank you, appreciate you asking.”

See, there’s dignity, even on a street corner wrapped in a bath towel, a tattoo of Mary gracing an arm, with holes in their hearts, sweaters and shoes.



About Susannah Bianchi

I'm just a girl who likes to write slightly on slant. I've had a career in fashion, dabbled in film and to be honest, I don't like talking about myself. Now my posts are another matter so I will let them speak for themselves. My eBooks, A New York Diary, Model Behavior: Friends For Life and Notes From A Working Cat can be found on Thanks.
This entry was posted in animals, Faith, food, grace, humanity, money, New York City and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Tobacco Road

  1. micklively says:

    There have been many concerted efforts to distinguish between “deserving” and “undeserving” poor. One thing I am absolutely sure of: charity will never be the answer.


  2. skinnyuz2b says:

    Susannah, too bad you couldn’t carry a light-weight lie detector. Maybe one with a slight jolt when an untruth is told.
    The first time Pookie-Pie and I were in Jamaica I gave away all our cash to the panhandlers and made him go back to the hotel to get more. He finally said, “Why don’t you just throw it up in the air and get it over with!” I’m much wiser now.
    If I ever take up panhandling, I’m going with the easy chair and popcorn idea. And now I know that I should bring a pet, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s quite an industry, I’ll give you that. The warmer weather doubles those in easy chairs. Just now I guy swore at me because I wouldn’t give him anything. I don’t carry cash as a rule because I hand it out like Monopoly money.


  3. I’m baffled as to why people would choose “homeless engineer” as their profession. It’s not an easy job. The rejection alone would kill me! Just imagine how hard it must be to get that weathered look? The saddest part is it truly hurts those who are actually in need, most of whom are mentally ill, and now fall further into the cracks of this world. Horrible! It’s a sad day when you realize that there is competition in being homeless.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s so hard sometimes. I’ve heard all the stories. I am a tough one to part with money unless I know for sure but a pet would do it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m guessing your walk in any direction brings heartbreak into view. I would not be able to handle it well.

    Liked by 1 person

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