Thursday, January 10, 2008

Caper From Hell

BEST NEW YORK CITY CRIME STORY in quite a while involves an incredibly clueless plot hatched the other day in Hell's Kitchen. Two jokers thought it would be a good idea to cash their recently deceased friend's Social Security check, so they plopped the dead guy in a wheelchair and rolled on down to the nearest check cashing center, where their ill-conceived plan met its inevitable end:

They went inside to present the check, but a clerk said Mr. Cintron would have to cash it himself, and asked where he was, the police said.

“He is outside,” Mr. O’Hare said, indicating the body in the chair, according to Mr. Browne. The two men started to bring the chair inside, but it was too late.

Their sidewalk procession had already attracted the stares of passers-by who were startled by the sight of the body flopping from side to side as the two men tried to prop it up, the police said. The late Mr. Cintron was dressed in a faded black T-shirt and blue-and-white sneakers. His pants were pulled up part of the way, and his midsection was covered by a jacket, the police said. While the two men were inside the check-cashing office, a small crowd had gathered around the chair. A detective, Travis Rapp, eating a late lunch at a nearby Empanada Mama saw the crowd and notified the Midtown North station house.
(FROM: Corpse Wheeled to Check-Cashing Store Leads to 2 Arrests By BRUCE LAMBERT and CHRISTINE HAUSER)

Hell's Kitchen is where you'd expect this kind of desperate scheme to unfold if you know anything about the neighborhood. It still has pockets that give off that hopeless, unseemly vibe -- with methadone junkies, winos and other shady characters stumbling about in higher numbers than are usually found in your more gentrified sections of the City.

And so these two clowns look almost exactly as you would expect them to look -- shifty, seedy, down on their luck. It didn't take long for The Times to weigh in on the episode, with a piece entitled In Corpse Episode, Echoes of a Grittier Time, by Christine Hauser, that strikes a nerve, hits a chord ... choose a metaphor and let's get on with it:

Jimmy, James O’Hare, lived with Fox, Virgilio Cintron, in a second-story apartment on West 52nd Street. Both men were in their 60s and Mr. Cintron was ailing, so Mr. O’Hare often took care of laundry and grocery errands. He shopped for soda and sweets at Adam Altareb’s 99-cent discount store on 10th Avenue, counting out change or small bills at the counter. They regularly lined up for a free meal around the corner at the Sacred Heart rectory.

They were tolerated, even treated with affection, although they could be trouble: Each had been arrested numerous times since the 1960s on charges including robbery, drug possession and burglary. Their neighborhood was slowly improving, and in some ways, it was leaving them behind. “They are a throwback to the old Hell’s Kitchen,” said Paul J. Browne, a police spokesman.

In some nebulous way, for all its comic potential, it speaks to something more significant: reflective of a different time in NYC's distant history: one more sordid, yes, and even more chaotic -- but somehow an era that, at least looking through our rose colored rear-view mirrors, seemed also more genuine, more human, more real perhaps than the present age, which gives off a fin de siecle vibe that permeates the streets that in some ways is more offensive than the stench of an old alkie's breath.

1 comment:

jimithegreek said...

weekend at bernies, nyc style!