New York Daily Photo Analytics

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cosmetics

What is more unsettling than contact with a crustie? How about a crustie wearing a pet rat? (If you are not familiar with crusties, see my previous posting here). Take a close look at the photo and you will see that this girl is sporting a white rat under her hair on the back of her neck. A crustie's dreadlocks typically goes unwashed, so I imagine her hair provides not only a secluded spot for her companion but also a nesting ground for a variety of flora, fauna and other edibles. 
You expect many strange things in New York City - it is a magnet for the fringe elements of society. But there are things that shock even a seasoned New Yorker - for me, a crustie with a rat around her neck was one of them. 
People know the city is extremely liberal and most of all tolerant. There are individuals involved in all manner of activities in public - frequently, authorities and law enforcement just turn a blind eye. Two nights ago, two mounted police officers observed the onset of a fight with one individual wielding a guitar as a weapon. The officers left - no one knows why. The fight escalated and one individual was knocked unconscious, required an ambulance and was taken to a hospital. Those of us who witnessed the occurrence are convinced that in any other locale, there is no way someone that menacing would have been left unchecked.
One issue is, of course, that many activities that are disturbing or distasteful are technically not against the law and individuals here are brazen enough to have tested the law many times, risking arrest. Many criminals are quite street savvy and know exactly what is required to be arrested. Even those who are technically engaging in activities for which they can be arrested is a problem - most are released the next day and are back out on the street. My contact with crusties has been rather benign, but they have been a serious problem - see this New York Times article here.
But what to do with the "undesirables" or homeless? It would seem outreach programs would make sense, but I rarely see or hear of any efforts like this anymore. Many homeless prefer the freedom of the streets to shelters or programs, so there is resistance to being helped. 
New York City is a center of fashion and even the homeless often have a sense of style, putting together an outfit from whatever is available. I like our crustie's earpiece made from a small twig and flower ... 

Note: One posting that many readers commented on was about Stephanie, a young homeless woman who lived on Spring Street for quite some time. See the original article and photo here. I saw Stephanie using makeup a number of times - somewhat repellent to watch and sad but in another way heartening to see the girl still had human dignity and enough pride to make an effort using cosmetics.

8 comments:

ken said...

Brian, The NY Times article is from June 11, 1995. Not sure you could still consider it relevant to today. Interesting post though.

Ken

Brian Dubé said...

Ken - Yes, you are correct. I did notice that and I was surprised the group went back so far in time. However, the crusties still populate the area including Tompkins Square Park and I'm not sure much has changed regarding their lifestyle.

Michelle Johnson said...

You have to wonder what their story is that brought them to living on the street. I think its sad that the police turned their eyes/ ears away from the guy who needed an ambulance. Out of sight out of mind, I guess. At first glance I didn't notice that white rat concealed in her hair. And that flower earpiece is really nice.

Hope all is well.

Anonymous said...

Click on this link to see the only time its okay for white people to have dreads:

http://www.hulu.com/watch/40968/saturday-night-live-digital-short-ras-trent#s-p2-st-i1

Mary said...

And the crusties always have a dog or two in tow...

bluestar2012 said...

Whatever happened to Stephanie, the woman who was homeless and read voraciously?

Brian Dubé said...

bluestar2012 - She is still around lving on the streets in the Village. I see her from time to time. She looks worse.

Anonymous said...

This girl is one of the nicest people I've ever met.