Drunk Hasidim Rolling Around on the Sidewalk, or Why NYC Kicks Ass Sometimes

I felt personally blessed this Purim. Let me tell you why. Last night I was on the B44 bus, the second leg of my bus-ride to my friend’s loft in South Williamsburg. I was on my way to see the season premier of The Sopranos. Also we ended up watching Curb Your Enthusiasm, the Dave Chapelle Show, Arrested Development (from West Coast time), and South Park. I don’t have cable, so when it’s right there in front of I feel like one of those kids who’s parents’ won’t let them eat sugar, and then they go to the fair alone and can’t stop shoving cotton candy down their throat until they puke.

But I digress. So I was on the B44 bus, when the driver mysteriously said it was the last stop and dropped us all off on Bedford and Wallabout. It was a little past 8 PM on a Sunday so there weren’t very many bus riders. Besides for me there were 3 older black ladies. We stepped off the bus trudgingly to wait for one that would complete its route. We were smack in the center of Hasidic territory. It’s far enough south that the plague of the artists has yet to infect this particular area. It’s just cheap pre-fab apartment buidings and housing projects.

Across from us we all noticed a beige Toyota Corolla with 4 hasidic men, sound blaring, their hands waving out the windows. The lady standing next top me said, “Woah – I never seen them happy before.” I explained it’s the Jewish holiday Purim. The only non-depressing one as far as I know, I think to myself. And these cats were seriously letting loose. I was sort of stunned that a religious holiday can make anyone so damn happy. Generally I need pills.

“Well everyone has to have a little fun,” the lady next to me said between giggles.

Then they drove by us, and waved. They actually waved. This is unusual. Not that I have spent a lot of time in the company of Hasids, but walking down the street, on the train, or in the Payless Shoes on Broadway, not once has one ever acknowledged me with so much as eye contact. God forbid, a wave. I was so stunned I couldn’t even wave back. And I’m the kind of person who waves back at a wave no matter what.

Before I could ruminate on this, three more young men stumbled across the street from us. On the corner one of them leaned against the building and sat down, and then the other two sat down too. One of them then layed down entirely on the sidewalk, his legs spread open under his shiny black robe. How does his round fur hat stay on I wondered…

We are all confused. The lady next to me said, “Umm, what’re they doin’ now?’

A forth man came over and dragged one of the guys up to his feet and they start dancing around together.

“Oh my God. They’re drunk!” I gasped.

Our little bus stop crew erupted in laughter. And none of us could stop laughing for what seemed like a long time. The more we laughed, the goofier the four guys got. At one point, they were all on their feet again and in a rockette-like line kicking their legs out. They were about as obnoxious as drunk college freshman, but in their robes and fur hats their drunkenness was supremely ridiculous.

After several more minutes of this, the four, arm in arm, crossed the street and teetered off. As if on cue a B44 bus pulled up and we all piled in. At the next stop, another seemingly drunk Hasidic man climbed in, and asked how much the fare is. See, they have their own busses – they don’t need the MTA. It’s two dollars and the man had only one dollar in change. It was one of those days when I had ten pounds of change in my coin purse, so I offered to change the guy’s dollar. He came over and as I was fishing out quarters thrusts the dollar bill closer and closer into my face, as if I think he’s not gonna pay. I was slightly unnerved by that, but then again, it’s like home-schooling, these cats just haven’t learned how to interact with the Other People in the world.

Anyway, as the bus rolled through the celebration, I thought for a minute how neat New York City is, something I don’t think very often these days. It was a mild night, and out on the street were lots of kids in costumes, and generally happy religious folks. It was almost heartwarming. And then I got a chocolate milkshake and fries at the McDonalds near the bus depot – Yum. Happy Happy Purim.

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