New York City, one story at a time. Currently sharing stories from Indonesia. Now a show on Facebook Watch.
HONY BOOK FIRESALE. On one day each year, Amazon gives a 60% discount on the HONY books. That day is today. Both books are currently available for just over $10 and they normally retail for $30. So if you’re considering giving the gift of HONY this year, now is the time to do it! Use coupon code 5HONYS for HONY Stories and 5HONY for Humans of New York. The deal is limited to 10,000 people for HONY Stories, and 5,000 people for the original Humans of New York. But even if you miss out on the coupon code, they are still marked down nearly 50%. I’m working hard on the next book, but until then-- I’m still quite proud of these two! Hope you enjoy. Happy Holidays! LINK IN BIO.
“My high school wasn’t very challenging. I never had to struggle. I was 15th in the class. Section leader in my marching band. Top of this. Top of that. Where I grew up, not too many people go to college out of state. So when I got accepted into West Point, I assumed that I’d continue to succeed. But I finished my first semester with a 2.5 GPA. Not only was I barely surviving, but I felt like I was trying as hard as I could. I started thinking: ‘Am I dumb? Can I even do this?’ My second semester I had a physics teacher named Major Bowen. He was honest with me about my faults. He told me that I needed to get more sleep. And that I had poor time management skills. But he also told me some nice stuff. He said that I was a good student to have in class. And that I was definitely smart enough to succeed. It’s nice to hear that stuff when you’re surrounded by so many naturally talented people. Major Bowen showed me ways to become more efficient. I started using calendars. I started studying in groups. I began tutoring people in calculus, because teaching is the best way to really learn a subject. Six weeks into the second semester I got my first test back, and it was an ‘A.’ It was a ’90,’ but it was an ‘A.’ It was like: ‘Oh, wow. I can do this.’”
“The symptoms didn’t start until I was seventeen. I was volunteering at a soup kitchen one day and I got such bad stomach pain that I had to sit down. That’s when I learned about Crohn’s disease, which basically means that I have ulcerations in my intestine. It’s pretty brutal. Constant pain. Sometimes I can’t get out of bed. Other times I throw up blood. Once I got so desperate that I tried to heal myself with a thirty-five day water fast. It didn’t work, and by the end I was down to 95 lbs. I’ve gone through a lot of depression because of the pain. Honestly, if it wasn’t for my wife and kids, I might have ended it by now. It’s heartbreaking for my wife to see me go through it. And it’s heartbreaking for me to put her through it. I feel like I’m holding her back. She’s so adventurous. She loves dancing, and traveling, and going out, and exploring. And I can’t do any of that. We took a three-day trip to the mountains in Seattle and I spent the entire time in tears on the couch. Same thing happened when we took the kids to Disneyland. I just hate being the sick husband. She has to pick up so much of the slack. But we’ve been to marital counseling. And I’ve told her all of this. And she swears that she wouldn’t change a thing. And that she loves me just how I am. And that I’m not a burden. I don’t know, man. We’ve been through so much shit together. I guess she just really loves me.”
“Every month in prison they had something called Inmate Council, where you get to meet with the prison administration and make suggestions. I volunteered to be the representative for my housing unit. And toward the end of the meeting, the warden asked if anyone had questions or concerns. The NBA finals were going on at the time. So I raised my hand and asked: ‘If the Cavs force a game seven, can we keep the TV on past lock up time?’ And she agreed. She agreed in front of everyone. So when game seven came around, all of us were excited. We gathered around the TV in the dayroom to watch the game. But right as the second quarter was starting, the television clicked off. The CO came down and tried to kick everybody out. I told her the warden gave us permission, but she said it didn’t matter. And that’s when things began to go downhill. We refused to leave. The CO went behind a protected gate and pulled the silent alarm. We grabbed all the tables and chairs and stacked them up against the door. We covered the floor in shampoo and water. The security team came back with riot gear and huge cans of pepper spray, but we kept the door closed for over two hours. When they finally got inside, they were slipping all over the place. We just laid down on the floor and put our hands behind our back. I was given thirty days in solitary confinement. But I had to do the right thing. Women are allowed to vote because some woman wanted to vote. The Civil Rights Movement started because Rosa Parks didn’t want to get out of her seat. And next time there’s a game seven of the NBA Finals, I bet they’re going to leave the TV on in Building Six at Rikers Island.”
“All my early memories are of my mom being an alcoholic. We lived in a pretty ghetto area. There was never food in the house. We stole electricity from the neighbors. Things were so bad that my dad got custody of us when I was five, but it wasn’t much better with him. He always chose his girlfriends over us. We moved around a lot. During this time my mom would send me drunk texts. She’d call me a horrible daughter and accuse me of forsaking her. My whole childhood was unstable. And I always craved stability. The more I saw the relationships that my parents had with other people, the more I wanted to be a part of it. I moved back in with my mother last year. I helped her pay the bills. I made sure she had food on the table. I woke her up in the morning to go for job interviews. It was awful. She was drunk all the time. But I knew that she needed me, and that gave me some sort of purpose. I don’t really know what I’m doing with my life. Or who I am. Or what I want to be. But if someone is dependent on me, then at least it’s a reason to stick around. All my relationships have been like that. I’m drawn to people who are insecure. Who need to be wanted. And then I do things to make them feel alone so they rely on me even more. And if they ever try to pull away, I use my feelings to make them feel guilty. It’s pretty toxic behavior. But I learned from the best.”
“I’m a singer and songwriter. And a bartender. And a babysitter. On weekends I host four course dinner parties for $65 a plate. And I make soap to sell online. And candles. And tea baths. And hair conditioner. And shampoo. Basically I’m broke. And I need a vacation. But I’m on the move. And I’m not stopping until somebody writes me a check for some of my music.”
“There were moments we had hope. At one point he took this trial drug that magically melted his cancer away. But despite the emotional swings, he only ended up living for sixteen months—which was exactly the initial prognosis. Our three kids are still in high school. Everything is uncertain right now. It’s like I’m twenty years old again but without the excitement. The only way I’ve been able to cope is by not stopping. I couldn’t control my husband’s death, but I can make sure my kids don’t suffer in any other part of their lives. We still get together with friends. We still plan things. I bought us expensive Broadway tickets on Father’s Day. And afterward we went to the horse track, which was his favorite thing to do. The homework is still getting done. College applications are getting filled out. So I don’t have time for a meltdown. People think I’m doing better. But honestly, life doesn’t seem good anymore. It’s all so unfair. Everything just comes to a screeching halt and you weren’t done yet. I wasn’t done having a husband. My kids weren’t done having a Dad. So nothing really excites me anymore. But I’ll still decorate for Christmas. And we’ll still go to Disney World in June. Because I never want the kids to think that they’re not enough. Not long after my husband’s death, my son saw me crying, and asked: ‘Aren’t we enough to make you happy?’ That broke my heart. I decided that I’m never going to let them feel that way again.”
“I’ve wanted to go into construction since high school. I used to help my dad out all the time. Everything in our house we built ourselves. But my teachers tried to steer me down a different path. They’d encourage me to ‘figure things out.’ They’d say: ‘Why don’t you do this?’ or ‘Why don’t you do that?’ But I chose construction because it’s what I like to do. I got my union card at eighteen. The pay isn’t bad. I get benefits. It feels good to be young and working every day. But I see all these advertisements on the subway, and they basically say: ‘If you want to be successful, you have to go to college.’ All my friends went to college. Some of them have liberal arts degrees that I didn’t even know existed. A couple more dropped out. The ones who graduated can’t find jobs and have a lot of student debt. But they still look at me like I’m on the wrong path. When I tell them I can help them get a job in construction, they always say the same thing: ‘Why would we want to do that?’”
"I lived in chaos for a long time, but I’ve been sober for thirty years. And I’ve got a tremendous amount of gratitude for that. Right now I have no money, no job, and no man. But I’ve never been happier. Because my only addictions are chocolate ice cream, gossip, and feeling good.”
“We normally spent time together on Sundays. Because that was the only day he wasn’t drunk. We’d watch football together. I could name every player in the NFL. Then he’d take me out to the backyard and have me throw footballs through a tire. He wanted speed and accuracy. He said he didn’t want me throwing like a girl. He showed me how to use my hips to get extra power. On weeknights he’d usually come home and pass out in the living room. But if he’d been drinking hard liquor, he’d get angry. That’s when I’d go up to my room and put on my headphones. I’d listen to Alice Cooper or Black Sabbath and turn up the volume. But I started to notice a pattern. The yelling would get louder and louder until it suddenly stopped. And that’s how I knew the beating had begun. The next morning my mother would have bruises or fractures or missing teeth. She’d always give me some lame excuse about falling down the stairs. But I knew what was happening. And for years I had this rage building inside of me. Then one night, I finally took off my headphones. I went downstairs and caught him in the act. I ripped the phone off the kitchen wall and threw it as hard as I could at his head. Right through the tire hole. He woke up on the floor, called me a terrible daughter, and never touched my mother again.”
“Everyone is at war, except for me. One uncle is fighting with the other. My aunt’s not talking to Grandma. Grandma isn’t talking to anyone. She said that nobody’s coming to her house this year. Christmas is cancelled. I guess it’s always been like this. But now everyone’s old enough that they don’t have to pretend for the kids anymore. All of it’s out in the open. I miss the ignorance of childhood. When we’d all go to church, cook a big dinner, gather in a circle to read the Polar Express, and I wouldn’t notice that the adults were talking to the children more than each other.”
“I was working as a prep cook at a BBQ joint in Harlem. I got off work early one day, and I discovered my wife with another man. That was the beginning of all this. I’d been with her for twenty-one years. I was devastated. I got right back on the bus and headed back to the city. I went straight to the bars on 42nd Street. I got wasted every day. I lost my wallet, my phone, my contacts. I didn’t want to do nothing. I just said ‘F it.’ I’ve been out on the streets for eight months. When it’s time to rest, I find a place to sleep. But I spend most of my time here on this block. These are the best people on this block. I’ve never experienced so many good people in my life. Some of them help me out every single day. They say: ‘What are you doing out here? We’ve never met anyone like you.’ Lily and her daughter brought the whole family to meet me on Thanksgiving. I felt like a celebrity. Then there’s Cheryl with the glasses who just walked by a couple minutes ago. Love her. John and his wife, love them too. David and Michael are the best. And what’s up to my man Sean from the beauty parlor. Shout out to T and Marianne. So many good friends on this block. But they aren’t going to see me much longer because I found a program that’s going to give me a place to stay, and a job cleaning the streets. I’m done with this life. I don’t belong here. And I know my grandkids miss Grandpa. So if you don’t see me here soon, you can say: ‘He’s done it! He’s gone!’ But I’m going to shock everybody. Cause I’m coming back with Christmas cards.”