New York, May 9, 2006
As I was walking down the street I saw him sitting on the sidewalk, his back against the wall of a bodega. I had seen him wandering in the neighborhood before, but never up close. As I got nearer, I saw his hands. He was missing fingers on both hands, hands that were gnarled, twisted, dry stumps. His face was discolored, his bald head full of scabs and scars. His eyes hung low with heavy burdens, physical and spiritual.
I couldn't tell if he was a burn victim or was suffering from leprosy (I have seen lepers up close in China and have a good idea what it does to a body).
He had his cup held out. I walked toward him as I took money from my wallet. He asked me, "how's it going for you today"? "Excellent I answered, couldn't be better." I stuffed the money in his cup. "Thanks and God bless you." And you too I answered.
As I walked away I shivered and a tear exploded from my eye and slowly rolled down my cheek. I haven't cried in a long time. I did today. I was shaken, overwhelmed, desperate.
I finished my workday, took a shower and put on my tuxedo. The cab dropped me off in front of the Pierre Hotel. I walked up the stairs, stepped into the room and joined the cocktail party that preceded the benefit dinner for The American Cancer Society.
As many of you know I am a theater fanatic; plays, musicals, Broadway, off broadway, it is a passion for me.
And much to my delight, I was seated next to...Chita Rivera. THE first name in musical theater, the doyenne, the queen, the living legend, and here I was sitting next to her.
We ate, we drank, we discussed Nelson Mandela, antiquities and theater life. We were serenanded by THE Roberta Flack. As she sang the line "killing me softly with his song..." my mind wandered back to the man on the sidewalk.