if you have lived downtown in the les/ev within the past 10-15 years, then larry the crackhead may be a well-known personage in your lives as well. he was the tall, affable, black, wonkily-toothed guy always working the tompkins square area, usually wearing a suit of some sort. his voice always kinda sounded (to me, at least) a lot like snoop dogg's. i never once heard him raise his voice at anyone, or get into any fights, or be anything but calm and friendly whilst panhandling, which is pretty damn rare for a crackhead. you'd frequently see him over on 2nd avenue between 7th and st marks, back when the homeless used to sell stuff off of dirty blankets. (i got some waycool stuff there BITD, damn.)(and wasn't that block in the king missile video for "detachable penis"?)(yet another reason to hate giuliani, he took away my neighborhood flea market.) one time my friend gary bought a fake plastic log fire there, with a rotating red light bulb behind it for that Authentic Fire Feeling, from larry, for 5 bucks. 5 bucks! i would've paid 20, easy. also i think a few people of my acquaintance may have possibly even gotten high with larry. but i shall reveal no names. (and NO, it wasn't me.)
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anyway. me and my cousin tony used to always be at 7A early mornings, having breakfast in the open window after a long night of wrongness, doing the NY times crossword puzzle and brawling over it, having margaritas and key lime pie (omg yummy), possibly being quite ill in the bathroom, hitting on brian the waiter (me, not tony), whatever. and almost every day, we'd see larry. he eventually became "our" crackhead. he really really liked us, and not just cause we always gave him a buck or two. see, most crackheads, when you give them some money, you can tell how close they are to getting a nickel of redtop or bluetop or whatever.....if they leave immediately, then your dollar or fifty cents was all they needed to make up that essential 5 bucks. if they move on to continue panhandling, you know they're still a buck or two short. now with larry, well, he'd stay and chat with us no matter what. one time he even helped us settle an argument about the crossword puzzle. sometimes he even brought us "presents", stuff he had to sell but gave to us for free! cause he loved us, see? one time he gave us one of those hairdryers you get in hotel rooms, that are bolted to the wall. (it didn't work. it's the thought that counts.)
when i moved to spain about 7 years ago, the crackheads there were not nearly as cool as larry. they were icky creepy smelly gypsys who tried to steal my dog, by painting drippy white spots on him and insisting it was a totally different dog. clearly an altogether lower class of crackhead. i remember mentioning this to tony, and he said he'd say hi to larry for me the next time he saw him. (he later said that larry remembered me, but seemed to think i was chinese. crack can do that, i guess.)
the first time i came back to NY, in the winter of 2000, we went to 7A a bunch of times. no larry. tony said he hadn't seen larry in a while. i was a bit concerned, but hey, crackheads come and go, and usually turn up eventually. when i came back again after the next summer, still no larry. me and tony decided something bad must've happened, and we drank a toast to poor larry that very night.
well. a year or so later, i saw him working the west side, around houston and 6th av. i was hailing a taxi and he came over to open the cab's door and "spare some change miss?" at me. i gave him a 20 and said "great to see you larry" and boy, was he happy to be remembered. i was pretty drunk and would've stayed to talk to him, but the friends of mine i was with were most concerned that i A) actually knew this panhandling crackhead by name and B) wanted to stay and chat; they dragged me off into the waiting cab. i can't say for sure if he remembered me too, but it was a nice piece of my history that had a somewhat happy ending.
now it's been a REALLY long time since i or anyone else i know has seen larry. so once again, i'm hoping he's ok. (well, as ok as he can be, what with the whole being a crackhead thing he's got going on.) if you see him, give him a buck for me, ok?
this is in or around les/ev