Hate at the Intersection of Bdwy & 12th


It was May 1987 and a man was navigating his way down the middle of Broadway in Lower Manhattan. He looked like a Roly-Poly doll, wobbling about on either side of the line in the road, trying to find his equilibrium. City drivers and yellow cabs bobbed and weaved around him like bumper cars without the bumping. It didn't seem to phase him. Either he was fearless or he just didn't care. The man had a scowl on his face and the kind of eyes you don't want to make eye contact with. His pants were falling down and he kept grabbing at them, pulling them up, grabbing at them . . .  like he had a tic. His shoes were missing laces.
I was in front of Strand Books browsing through the used book racks, but it took only one light speed glance to know that if he made one slight pivot towards me, I'd shift the other way. Or, maybe run. All New Yorkers had two sets of eyes in those days. One for seeing. One for parsing.
The man made a full stop at the intersection of 12th and Broadway. Smack in the center, like he was there to direct traffic. Instead, he spun around, like a top at the end of its spin, and bellowed, "you know what I hate?" so loud people hurrying on the sidewalks turned their heads, but only for one harried moment. New Yorkers rarely linger if they have a destination. You need a reason to stand still in this City.
"You know what I hate?" No one answered but it didn't matter. He had a prepared response.
"You know what I hate?" he yelled again and launched into a stream of complaints: garbage on the street, taxis, someone named Flossie, pigeon shit, some bitch who dissed him, cops, etc. Each had its own run-up: "You know what I hate?" It was a public display of self-interrogation but what seemed to matter most was the question. He threw it out there like a clarion call to arms.
"You know what I hate?"
On and on he yammered giving voice to an unremitting laundry list of all the unfair, rotten and trivial things that rubbed him the wrong way. He was hell-bent on serving all of New York City a mouthful. He rarely paused for breath, racking up his grievances even while his voice turned hoarse. 
He had a lot of hate in him.
I stood there and, for a few fleeting moments, ruminated running out in traffic to join him.
We all hate something.