Gay Talese, who has chronicled the life of the city for decades, is pitching in to help the homeless with smartly written signs taped onto the cardboard from his laundered shirts.
After careful scrutiny, Talese has determined that part of the what's holding back the city's homeless is bad copy; their pleas for money scrawled on cardboard lack a certain snap and topicality necessary to grab a passerby's attention.
So Talese has been distributing signs -- that he's typed up and taped to the cardboard from his laundered shirts -- that read "Please support Pres. Obama's Stimulus Plan. Begin right here . . ."
The esteemed writer explained his actions in the Times' City Blog.
I handed out these boarded messages at random to people who approached me for money, explaining why I thought their economy would be stimulated by my street signs. I further pointed out that the big bankers and industrial leaders the government was bailing out had lobbyists and public relations companies doing their bidding; but these wandering men who were seeking handouts in the street had to tap into the topicality of their plight, had to link themselves into the headlines and the top priority of President Obama. Stimulus, stimulus!!
Talese has been handing the signs out to needy folks he encounters on the streets of his east-side neighborhood.
The inspiration for Talese's largesse was a man he saw asking for handouts standing beside a bottle for donations atop a card table, a familiar sight to any New Yorker.
"I told him, 'You might make more money if you were more topical,' " he recalled for the Post. "The word is stimulus. If you were more up to date, you might get the attention of more pedestrians."
On Tuesday, Talese was named winner of a George Polk Award for career achievement in journalism.