I’m smoking outside the laundromat on Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint, waiting for the end of the rinse cycle. A large man suddenly steps into view, as if he had been waiting there for me, and asks: “Hey, you got a cigarette?”
To be perfectly honest, I’m immediately a little terrified of the guy, so I just nod my head and pull a cigarette out of my pack.
“Thanks, man. I could tell you were cool when I saw you walk up.” He takes my lighter and throws his head back after his first puff. “My name’s Jimmy. I run this neighborhood.”
With his close-cropped blonde hair and bullet-shaped head on top of a big burly physique, Jimmy certainly looks the part of the neighborhood thug. Add a thick Brooklyn accent and a few tattoos, and I feel like maybe it’s a good idea to just agree with what he tells me.
“You smoke weed? You want coke? Anything?” Jimmy says he “knows everyone” in Greenpoint, and can get me whatever I want. Before I can even refuse, he says, “You’re cool, you’re cool, don’t worry about it, I got you covered.” It seems like he’s talking to himself more than to me.
Jimmy says that his two brothers are both NYPD police officers who also live in Brooklyn. Despite this — or maybe because of it — Jimmy still lives his wiseguy lifestyle on the streets of Greenpoint. But sometimes it catches up with him.
“You know that bar on the corner of Freeman Street?” he asks. Sure, it’s right down the block, a dive that’s usually empty except for a couple of hipsters at the pool table. “I got shot on the corner there a couple years ago. I was making my usual pick-ups, had about a grand in bills in my pocket. It’s my normal routine, you know, I get stuff for my friends, they pay for it. Weed, drugs, money, whatever. We were drinking. I know everyone at that bar.”
The Sopranos-style slang that Jimmy uses makes me doubt his stories as anything more than gangseter movie-inspired fiction, but he continues and says that when he stepped out of the bar that night, there was a car waiting for him on the street. “A friend yelled ‘Watch out!,’ and I looked up just as these guys in hoodies started shooting at me from their car. They got me here,” he points to his left thigh, “and here,” and he points to his torso, near where his appendix might be.
“They got my friend, too. But he’s ok now. I never found out who they were, but I know they were Hispanic or Mexican or whatever. You can just tell. Put me out of commission for a while. Now I’m back, and I’m running this neighborhood.” Jimmy says they didn’t stop or try to get his money, and he never knew what they were after.
“You let me know if you need anything man,” Jimmy says. “I can get you whatever you want. Girsl? You want girls? I got girls for you.”
I think my laundry is ready, so it’s time to say goodbye to Jimmy. I’ll probably see him around the neighborhood.