The tallest building in the city boasted a subterranean shopping mall and whenever I would visit the city, I loved to go down there and have the shoe shine guy do my shoes. He only charged a quarter but I always gave him at least two dollars …one dollar for each shoe …. I think the guy loved me after awhile ….
I was only 18 at the time, but I was making $300 a week back then running my own printing business. That was back in 1956. Today that same $300 would be worth $2,916 — so you can see that I could afford to be generous …. both with myself and with others. I loved to wear a blue double-breasted suit when I went to town. Nobody ever questioned my age when I would go into an upscale restaurant or club and order wine with my meal.
This shoe shine guy was an interesting fellow. He always had some kind of story to tell. I mean the guy was a veritable encyclopedia of interesting stuff about the big city …. its people … its history …. places to go …you name it; If you wanted to know, this was the go-to guy for the information you needed. He could even tell you where the most popular cat houses were if that was your thing. He is the one who first guided me to the Colony Club” restaurant where I always ordered châteaubriand flamed at the table — and a good red wine. My other favorite apéritif was called “Benedictine.” It was a liquor that tasted a little like cough syrup and was served in a dram glass. The waiters at this club liked me a lot too because I always tipped an amount equal to the cost of the meal. I seemed to always get really choice tables there.
Every experience was not always the best experience.
One day I was walking down the city street and this guy approached me, holding out a can filled with pencils and speaking in unintelligible language …. (I later discovered he was deaf and could not speak intelligible English.) He shoved the can of pencils in my face and mumbled something and I thought he was offering to give me some kind of little advertising gimmick or something. So I took a pencil, smiled and thanked him and walked on.
I was suddenly aware of this guy pointing at me and shouting at the top of his lungs and suddenly I was taken by the arm by a very large beast of a man who took the pencil and unwrapped the paper around it and said to me, “Read the paper!”
“The paper around the pencil said, “Thank you for your contribution to the hearing impaired.”
I hadn’t asked for the damned pencil and I really didn’t want it but I gave the man a quarter and he seemed to be pleased and I walked on embarrassed out of my mind.
There was this panhandler that I met at the Greyhound bus station. He seemed to be there every time I went to the city. One day I stopped to listen to his tale of woe. It seems he had been a war veteran who had fallen on hard times through no fault of his own and could I spare a dollar for him to get something to eat. It took him about 20 minutes to get from the beginning to the end of his sad tale.
The next time I saw this one, he was panhandling somebody else and I made the mistake of greeting him with, Hi there! Nice to see you again.”
He immediately went into a raging tirade screaming at me and cursing me with every word in a common sailors encyclopedia of profanity. I asked him, “What the hell is wrong with you? Why are you so mad at me?”
He informed me that by interrupting his spiel to the other person that I had cost him money from a “Mark” that he would never be able to earn again. I offered to make it right with him but he was more concerned about missing an opportunity to shill “A Mark” than he was about the money. I made sure to avoid him from that day forward.
There are many people in the big city and I have just told you about a couple of them.