February 12, 2014 —
I walk by Randy Lee Hulcy every day, because he lives on Fifth Avenue and 60th Street, and it’s on my way to work. Randy is easy to spot by his big bushy gray beard, and he is often strangely (albeit fashionably) dressed with colorful scarves, dress pants and dirty high-top sneakers. I’d guess that he’s 65 years old, but it’s hard to tell.
Randy has really set up shop on this picturesque corner with a tent, air mattress, rolling office chair and American flag. He’s tucked himself amongst the majestic tree-lined cobblestones of the sidewalk, out of the way of 59th Street and the zillions of tourists who come to visit Central Park.
Randy is separated from the (mostly) anonymous people I see around my neighborhood living on the street because he’s pinned up a handwritten sign saying, “My name is Randy Lee Hulcy.” It took me a few days to notice it, but ever since I’ve paid a little bit more attention to him.
He is very organized, with lots of stuff (mostly junk) packed neatly into a rolling cart. He always seems to have food and lays out chips on a placemat. Often Randy sips from a large Coke bottle; I’d wager there’s probably some rum in there.
Occasionally, there are people with him and the faint smell of marijuana in the air. They are usually deep in discussion, and Randy seems lucid and with it—though sometimes his eyes go glassy and he talks to himself; shouting angrily, his manner off-putting. On a nice day I’ve seen him dance and play air guitar while listening to an old walkman.
Often his things are left unattended and I wonder where he might have gone off to and if he’s worried about someone taking his stuff. He’s usually back the next day. But one day, I realized I hadn’t seen him in a while, a week or two, maybe more. I was curious as to what had happened to Randy, if maybe he had found refuge somewhere else, or worse, perhaps he wasn’t coming back.
Did anyone besides me even notice he was missing?
A short time later, a different man showed up. He was clean cut, younger and he slept a little more out of the way on a sleeping bag behind a tree. It wasn’t exactly where Randy had been, but it was close enough for me to consider what would happen if Randy came back.
I didn’t see the new guy very much over the next month, but he was there, living out of sight behind a tree on the corner of the park.
It wasn’t until after his beard grew back that I recognized him, and as more time went by he started talking to himself more. Then the sign came back up, and Randy Lee Hulcy was back.
It’s freezing outside and he’s still out there. Last week I walked by and EMTs were talking to him, urging him to seek warmer shelter. I overheard him say somewhat belligerently that he was staying.
I have a sinking feeling that one day he will be gone, and he will not return clean shaven a few weeks later.
I will notice, Randy. I will remember you for teaching me about anonymity and the simple power of knowing a person’s name.