Thursday, January 10, 2008

How Not to Cash a Check

Bizarre story in the Times this morning. Two old addicts in Hells’ Kitchen – the kind the area used to be full of –lived in a building on West 52nd, had lived there all their lives. “Needle brothers,” the neighbors called them. Both in their sixties. One died, apparently, in the apartment, no foul play suspected. The other guy – and a friend from Queens- tried to cash his Social Security check. No dice. The guys at the check-cashing place said he needed to be present. So, they got a computer chair with wheels, put the corpse in it, and wheeled him down to the check-cashing place. By this time, according to the cops, rigor mortis had set in and the dead guy’s leg was bouncing off the sidewalk as they wheeled him to the check-cashing place. A cop was sitting at a diner, looked out, saw the two guys with the third guy in the wheelchair, and thought, “That’s a dead body.” The two are being arraigned today for attempted forgery.

What’s interesting about the story is that twenty-thirty years ago, it would have been – well, typical for that neighborhood. Now, with high-priced bistros, swanky lounges, stores that sell high-end baby gear, it’s a bizarre tale. An aberration. Something freakish and dark in the midst of what is now a very affluent community. A community that barely uses a check-cashing place, much less drags a dead junkie in a computer chair to one.

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