Confessions of a New York City Street Peddler (Part 3 of 3) – By Dr. Howard Karlitz
Epilogue: A Play in Three Acts
It’s a week after David quit for good. He’s on the corner Fifth Avenue and 42nd street talking to a hot dog guy about then Mayor Koch backing down on his attempt to eliminate food vendors. “Too much Greek clout,” the vendor says, “especially with Dukakis on the way up.” Suddenly a police van pulls up and three cops jump out and arrest a peddler for selling her photo¬graphs of New York in front of the library. She’s cuffed, miranderized, and led into the back of the truck. Meanwhile, across the street, a three card monte game goes on undisturbed, with a large group of French tourists being bilked out of hundreds of dollars as pickpockets work the periphery of the crowd. Next to them some dope dealer is selling crack, another quaaludes, another loose joints. It’s not the cops’ fault. Evidently they’re being told what to concentrate on. It’s the city’s doing, the result of the “crackdown of the month club.” It’s all part of what they consider to be the “effective utilization of law enforcement personnel.”
David didn’t quit. You knew it all along. He’s on Fifth Avenue selling wallets, feeling safe, surrounded by African Rolex guys, when suddenly someone breaks down and runs shouting “Alpha, Alpha!” He runs too, and from around the corner nervously watches a van cruise down the block on a “click-click” patrol. (”Click-click,” by the way, means arrest in African lingo, the sound of handcuffs snapping shut.) He hangs out, and a little while later Gus comes up to him. “Be careful,” he says, “the Africans got a lawyer. ACLU. He claims they’re being discriminated against. That 99% of the collars are black.”
“He’s right,” David answers. “That’s because there’s no other peddlers left. Alpha chased them away. It’s like Catch-22.”
“So,” Gus continues, “they’ll be looking for the few old timers still out there. To kind of even things up.”
“Forget it Gus,” David laughs. “They’ll never catch me. I’m too quick. Besides, I’m protected, an endangered species. The great white fucking hope!”
David got click-clicked for the first time the next day on the corner of 40th Street and Fifth Avenue selling scarves off a garbage pail. They grabbed him and an African to his right. The cops came up on foot behind them. David and the African never had a chance.
An hour later the two of them are sitting alone behind bars in a downtown holding tank and get to talking. Surprisingly the African speaks pretty good English. He’s from Ethiopia and the conversa¬tion soon turns to home and the stories David’s hearing regarding violently repressive condi¬tions are unbelievable. David quickly realizes that to him, this is all child’s play.
Twelve hours later a guard comes over to the cell and tells David that his I.D. checked out and since he has no priors, he’s being released under his own recognizance. He does, however, have a court date next month. When the guard opens the door and David gets up to leave, the African instinctive¬ly rises too. “Where are YOU going?” the guard growls. “Sit your black ass back down.”
“Sorry boss,” the peddler responds step-n-fetchitly.
The metal door clangs shut behind David, leaving the Ethiopian alone in the cell. David starts walking away when suddenly he stops and turns back to the jailed peddler. “Why do you stay here man?” He asks. “Really?”
“Because I’m free,” he answers.