Dirty Pretty Money


photo by E. Herd

In Grand Central Station:

I gave a buck to the accordionist who plays “La Vie en Rose,” “Lara’s Theme” and gypsy tunes.

I gave a buck to the violinist with a sign on his wheelie cart that says “Need money to get my wife a liver.”

I gave a buck to the harpist who looks Eastern European and has a warm smile. He plays “Cielito Lindo” and some tunes I don’t know.


I gave several bucks to the Marine Vet on the street who used to be bundled up and stationed on the grates at the northwest corner of 42nd and Lex. We talked for a while. He said he was shot up in Afghanistan, lost his home and his family, got slashed and robbed at a homeless shelter and wouldn’t go back. I saw him for weeks during the winter, then was afraid to make eye contact. He looked worse and worse each time I saw him. He didn’t look up anymore. I felt like a bad person for avoiding him, not being able to help. Since I really can’t help, why talk to him, I reasoned to myself. I felt powerless to help, ashamed even. I don’t see him anymore. I wonder where he’s gone.

Giving away a couple bucks here and there won’t change anything.

I think I can do more.

I have to figure out how in our new Gilded Age.

13 thoughts on “Dirty Pretty Money

  1. Indeed, what’s enough?, what can one do? with limited resources..in the face of overwhelming disparity .
    At any given moment we make a choice, which is the more pressing, ’cause de jour…’ who get’s the $
    it’s always something, seems to be the, ‘…way of the world’ , something about this realm of existence .
    Also lots of folks using it, scamming to get over on people, , -love that you give to musicians.
    Re: the Marine Vet. I am a Marine Corp Vet (Viet Nam era), and he should know, -every vet knows about the VA (if he is authentic)- that the Veterans Administration does a great job of assisting Vets in all aspects of their civilian life, with a myriad of programs, social and mental health as well as physical well being, and, it would seem that they are bending over backwards to make-up for past transgressions that recently received major scrutiny from an outraged citizenry.
    Read a Tolstoy quote the other day that sums it right up, (something to the effect of), ” It’s everybody’s job to be a better person” What else is there to do? It’s a full time job.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Exactly, TC. Another friend told me the same thing re the marine vet. I think he may have some mental health issues that keep him from seeking the help available or else, he might be a scammer, but I don’t think so. I guess the vicious and vast divide between the uber-rich and the have-littles and have-nothings is getting me madder than ever. This isn’t the America our forefathers imagined. I’ve always given to musicians–doing honest work, they’ve earned my dollar.


    • No, it is not the America, the founders imagined; sad truth, it hasn’t been for some time… It’s not even the America I grew up in….., have long felt that all the guys who gave the ultimate sacrifice in WW2 are turning in their graves, this is not the America they died for.
      Why this is so is a complex equation. However, am inclined to see it all as the result of a deep seated spiritual / consciousness disorder, or malfunction…so that now more than ever, egos run amuck unchecked by any shred of conscious order… “Beware the Jabberwok….”
      The crazier it gets, the more crucial it becomes to be as fully present and aware as we can be in our own
      fleeting moments….
      Sweet Dreams

      Liked by 1 person

      • Eloquently stated, TC. It’s not the America I grew up in either. Yes, they must be rolling, as is FDR who embodied the belief that the fortunate, such as himself, had a responsibility to assist and lift up those less fortunate. That was an American value, which no longer seems to exist. Yes, we must be fully present, aware and accountable. That we can all do, with or without money.


  3. I should have mentioned why I was a little skeptical inmy last comment. I can’t be sure, since I was not there, but it seemed that the man in question identified himself as a “Marine veteran.” That raises red flags because a real Marine will never describe himself as a Marine veteran, ex-Marine, or former Marine. They have a Code much like the French Foreign Legion. Once a Marine, always a Marine. I understand that they also have a benevolent organization, like the Foreign Legion’s, to take care of their own in times of distress–for their entire lives.


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