IN MY ELEVEN YEARS HOMELESS in New York City, I've seen hundreds like this kid here. Eddie's a real easy mark.
"Hey Cadillac Man! Hey Cadillac Man!"
Eddie, shut the fuck up! I ain't deaf.
"Look! Look!" he says, waving a check.
Snatch it out of his hand. I am tempted to tear it up but look first, a check made out to him, eight thousand dollars and change.
Very good Eddie, cash and hide somewhere at your mom's place.
"Yeah yeah okay, come by the park, I will buy you coffee."
My man! I will be there.
"Cool, cool, gotta go see the Wizard and pay him. Later Cadillac Man."
Eddie is an okay guy, loves his juice and doesn't have to be homeless. Chose to live out here. "I want to be with my friends," he says, causing his mother a lot of heartache. On bad-weather days she would come around with hot food and clean clothes. "Cadillac Man, have you seen my Edward?" I can't lie and bring her over to the park.
Most of the times, he's sitting there, bottle in hand, reeking of alcohol, piss, and shit but that doesn't bother her. She would take away the bottle and spoon-feed him talking softly, stroking his hair.
Other times he's under the park bench covered with a tarp, she's pleading for him to come out, then looking at me with those please-help-me eyes.
Eddie wasn't much good at canning and panhandling; I have seen his mother slip him money though. Would buy the cheapest, rottenest beer or booze, that way he didn't have to share with anyone. Contrary to what outsiders believe, that we will drink anything is a myth. Most of us have certain tastes and will not vary. He got to be a pain in the ass, always mooching—"Spare a quarter? Spare a quarter?"—and you would, just to get rid of him.
Yessiree, he hit up everybody until one day he met up with the Wizard.
The Wizard has been around these parts a lot longer than I have. Word on the street was that he had mystical powers and performed miracles if necessary.
When I was told this by others, I couldn't stop laughing and they backed away from me thinking that I am crazy for not believing.
Then I heard something that I could believe. You wanted welfare or SSI benefits, he is the man to see. Got cut off? Not a problem for the Wizard, he will get you back on in a flash!
One day I saw him talking with a bunch of guys, he stopped and we made eye contact. Confident smile with steel-blue eyes trying to stare me down while the others watched. It didn't take too long, the smile wavered then the eyes switched to someone else with the conversation starting up again.
So who is the Wizard?
A truly unique character, really stands out in the crowd. About my height, thirtyish, with long brown hair and a wide white streak in the middle down to his shoulders. Wore a dark-blue coat with gold stars and crescent moons and on his feet white patent-leather shoes! But what I liked the most, the crooked wooden cane with a big crystal on top. Actually, it looked more like a clear plastic doorknob. Yet my people flocked to him for advice and he embraced them all for a price!
Like I said before ladies and gentlemen, ain't nothing for nothing out here.
The more he talked, the more he charged you.
On check day you would find him by the bank or check-cashing place collecting from clients. Which leads us back to Eddie.