Two Looks At Minorities
Couture, Cheap and Charitable
Housing Works is the nation's largest non-profit
minority-controlled AIDS service organization. Our mission is to reach the
most vulnerable and under served among those affected by the AIDS epidemic
in New York City, primarily homeless persons of color whose positive HIV
diagnoses are complicated by a history of chronic mental illness and/or
chemical dependence, and provide them with a comprehensive range of services
designed to help them gain stability, independence, and dignity, and improve
their overall health.
On first read, the mission statement of this extraordinary organization reads
wrong. "minority-controlled...organization?" All I could think of was that the
Board of Directors followed some sort of Parliamentary Procedure gone wrong.
But I'll forgive them the error in the name of brevity.
Go to www.housingworks.org. They
are the most amazing thrift shops I've ever encountered. Ever
since my beloved and I — wait, my beloved — found the one at 90th Street and 2nd
Avenue in New York we've been re-visiting it weekly, because the goods change
on a weekly basis. They apparently only take (or are offered) the cream of the donation crop. I
never thought that I'd find shopping enjoyable. I never thought that I'd find
shopping with my wife enjoyable. Well, both happened since we've found Housing
Works. These chic, delightfully decorated shops feature professional
window-dressing (featuring the best of the best "finds," available at www.housingworksauctions.com).
They're very clean, aesthetically pleasing and, well, fun.
I bought a Gucci tie there today for $30; nary a
stain, crease, etc. I priced a Gucci tie once (at a Gucci store) and suffice it to say the amount
they want for one new is enough to feed a family of six for a week. A
month ago my wife picked up a Coach bag that she'd really wanted for awhile for
$10. It'd been used, we surmised, because it had a tiny scratch near the clasp.
I have picked up the coolest things with which to add flair to my restaurant:
(stainless-steel jumbo martini glasses, a gorgeous wooden tray with exotic wood
inlays, a crystal wine cooler, a couple of really nice decanters, and enough
artsy plates to fill a cupboard).
Their predominately-volunteer staff are absolutely charming. I've met a
former architect (he made his bucks and now lives a bohemian lifestyle and
volunteers every week). There's a transvestite (she/he volunteered it after I
called she/he "miss" one day; we decided it was cool because I thought her
clothes were gorgeous and she/he concurred) who is on the A-list of the who's
who of New York nightlife currently. There's a big, wonderful blonde woman
with whom I share cooking tips. There's a big, militant-looking black woman who
laughs at me and says "You're back again; all the way from Connecticut. How're
the white folks doing up there?"
The shoppers range from people who appear not to be able to afford anywhere
else to shop (not all of the offerings are haute couture, mind you), to society women
who plan where to have lunch after they shop (I swear some of these women are
related to Fran Drescher). Plenty of college kids can be found there, too, at
the right time, picking up the most delightful outfits.
If you're too far away to enjoy shopping there, and have a couple of extra
dollars, why not donate? After all, this cause is worthy. This organization is
the "net" which catches the souls who fall through New York's Social Service
Was it something in my coffee? Was it the pollution? I nearly called my
psychiatrist today to tell her I'm having very strange thoughts.
You see, this afternoon I was driving down Second Avenue in New York City. A few blocks
before the 59th Street Bridge, I spotted a group of men,
all burdened with heavy luggage, standing on the sidewalk. Oh, they looked
like they were from the Middle East.
Now, the United
Nations General Assembly has just re-convened. Dubya left
yesterday, but there're still plenty of people who hold high office in
their respective countries staying in the City. Suffice it to say that the
city's Homeland Security color is orange, or yellow, or some kind of color that
Martha Stewart would identify with autumn.
It crossed my mind to call the terrorism tip line (which I'd have had to
obtain from directory assistance) and tell them that there were a bunch of
guys who bear a striking resemblance to the 9/11 hijackers
hanging out on a street corner accompanied by large parcels. I chose not to make
the call for more reasons than that one should only call if you spot an
unaccompanied large suspicious parcel in a public place. These large
(semi-suspicious) parcels were accompanied. By guys with names like Mustafa,
Ackbar, Halvah, and Farshid.
All I could think of as I drove over the bridge was the tremendous guilt
I'd feel for the rest of my life after seeing a huge explosion in
my rear view mirror, and a high-rise apartment building crumbling.
Or perhaps a small mushroom cloud. (Yeah, this is what actually went through my
Now, there are plenty of police in New York. So I left it up to them whether
or not to engage in profiling with regard to this rag-tag
bunch (they were archetypal taxi driver kinda guys; bearded, curly hair too
long, polyester slacks, sneakers, and sport coats which didn't match the slacks).
The silliest though crossed my mind. Pull a U-turn at the end of the bridge,
go back, stop in front of them and ask them a question.
Oh, the question: "Do
you believe that you'll live in Heaven at Allah's side with 72 virgins
at your disposal if you martyr yourself in the name of Islam?" Then
something even stupider crossed my mind. Are suicide bombers intelligent enough
to actually lie about something that serious, their core belief;
in order to carry out their plan? So therefore (as wifey slept comfortably in
the passenger seat) I ran over in my head what I'd do if they said "oh, no, we
don't believe in martyrdom." Would it be a trick, or would they just be
residents of Elmhurst or Astoria who stayed on the 7 train (or watever
the heck train runs through Elmhurst) too far?
Now, of course, I might not be here writing this if they said, "Oh, yeah;
we're all for martyrdom. As a matter of fact, in this suitcase over here, I've
got some blasting caps and a whole lotta C-4; here's some duct tape, would
you kindly tape the suitcase to my back?"