Friday, April 29, 2011

Everyone is celebrating. Part 4.

It’s getting to the end of the day and it’s still nice out. I’m sitting in a room that has a nice view of the East River and it’s blue. Lots of times it’s gray so I think this is better. There was talk about a late day thunderstorm but that isn’t going to happen. Storm clouds have dissipated and there are these fluffy white balls drifting in the sky and it’s pretty.

A bunch of little kids are playing in the playground and there’s a bus festooned with yellow balloons next to it. If I hadn’t watched out my window so many other times this would worry me, but I’m pretty sure the bus belongs to a church group who volunteer at the playground most days. They play games and sing songs (they actually blare them over a loudspeaker) and if this is annoying, I close my window. Usually, it’s nice.

Most of the kids are dressed in shorts. I guess they had them ready to go when it got nice out and today it did. Two of the little kids are carrying what look like Easter baskets and a different little girl is wearing a bonnet. This is good to see as since I live on the Lower East Side it is sometimes surprising when people have it together.

Because I smoke cigarettes on the street and because I share them with anyone who bums one, people talk to me. We chat about how expensive cigarettes are and about how soon smoking outside is going to be illegal. We chat about who has loosies (individual cigarettes) for sale at $3.00 each and various schemes about how to “get over”. A lot of this stuff is bravado and you know it even though you also believe that some of it is true.

On the Lower East Side there are pervasive pockets of poverty that are multi-generational and for the people in the pocket, exhausting. Even if they’re “getting over” the energy and commitment to this is astounding.

There’s a school here that has the highest percentage of children who qualify for a free lunches in the city. Sometimes you’re exposed to a wearying level of need and it’s in your face. It’s in some of my neighbors faces too. You see it at our 24-hour pharmacy where some young woman with a couple of little ones is waiting for a prescription that she got from the Emergency Room and it’s 11 o’clock at night. You see it when someone puts groceries back after the bill is too high at the market’s checkout line and you see it when you see all of the people who make living collecting returnable bottles for the deposit change. Poverty is debilitating.

Every holiday, the 24-hour Rite Aide has a sale on holiday items the night before the holiday. They do this with Halloween, Christmas, Easter and Mother’s Day. Everything is 50%, except for greeting cards, and people line up to buy things. They buy candy and costumes for Halloween. Toys, small electric things and candy for Christmas and for Easter they buy stuffed animals, chocolate rabbits and peeps. The array of goods celebrating motherhood is truly astounding and ranges from all manner of very large candy boxes with Mother written across them to individual foil-wrapped chocolate roses and large bottles of Jean Nate bath bubbles, perfume and oils in a special, signature, Mother’s Day wrapping. This stuff is usually 25% off on Mother’s Day, and that is confounding.

People wait until the very last minute to buy things because they have to. Sometimes, people wait for the actual day when things are 90% off, especially if they’re going someplace late in the day. I think people count on this. I think Rite Aide probably knows this and that is why they do it. I like them a lot for this, except when I’ve run out of toilet paper and find myself in line with all those holiday shoppers.

Even if you’re all annoyed because you really do need toilet paper and the lines are moving really slowly, the lines are usually pretty happy affairs. The store is really over-stocked for whatever holiday is going on so people don’t have to settle for things that will almost do. There’s plenty of stuff and everyone’s chit chatting about how they’re going to celebrate and there are magazines that no one buys, but everyone paws through, so in addition to holiday spirit you also get caught up on what’s with Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen and a couple of other celebrities that you might not know the name of because you haven’t watched the Housewives of somewhere.

I like the attitude of people who live here. I like that they get it together for a celebration. There’s something wondrous about an exhausted person’s determination and grit. I like that most holidays center on little kids. I just don’t like running out of toilet paper. And, I really don’t get the puny price reduction for Mother’s Day things.

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