Jimmy sits on a stoop in Greenpoint on most days that have good weather. He has a 9AM and 1PM “show”, which usually just involves him calling out to people he knows and having conversations on that stoop. He hangs out each day and greets the people going to and from errands and work and plans with his little black dog, Lea. We spoke to him about how he’s seen life change as a life-long Brooklyn resident, and how he met Lea.
Jimmy: My name is Jim, I was born and raised in Greenpoint. How Lea came into the picture is a friend of mine’s daughter was six years old, around seven years ago. She wanted a puppy. We went to all these different places, but they didn’t have any puppies. So we looked all around that day and came home that night, and I got a call at about 9:30 in the evening that she had located someone on this Polish communication platform and that they had puppies for sale.
We went out there and it was a bunch of puppies, and Lea was the smallest, and she fell in love with her.
She was sitting in the back of my car with Lea on her lap, and she was so happy. Unfortunately, my friend had just gotten married and had moved to Maspeth, but her husband was allergic to the dog! So I not only got her apartment, but I got Lea, so I've had Lea ever since. Lea is such a good dog. She's a shitzu, but she's so tiny. When people ask what she breed is, I say, she's a shitzu, but her father was a great dane. And they say, “What?” and I say “but she takes after her mother.”
Lea is great in the apartment, because she's very small, very petite, and she doesn't bark and she's very sociable. We sit on the stoop here because the people who bought the house after I moved allowed me to sit here, because I take care of the garbage and watch the cat for them when they go away.
Lea will sit down in the middle of the sidewalk and like a femme fatale, she’ll wait for people to pet her. She's never met a hand she didn't like.
Heed Foods: When did you get Lea?
J: I got Lea 6 years ago.
Heed Foods: How do you compare being retired with Lea and before you had Lea?
J: Lea is keeping me healthy, because I'm up on the third floor, and I take her out three times a day, so I have to go up and down the stairs. She's good company, she's very very restful. That’s what pets are, they give you their love, their attention. When I'm on the phone, she thinks I'm talking to her and she'll come over and she's licking me, and I’ll say, “I’m talking to my sister!”
I walk everywhere that I wouldn’t walk by myself. I’m walking with her! It’s a good reason to be walking in those areas because I have a pet to walk! She’s very docile and a lot of people love her! She’s cute and affectionate.
Heed Foods: I’ve noticed you have created this community around you, and Lea is another tether to the community.
J: She is. That's how you meet a lot of people. Other people have their pets, and normally there are people you might just pass on the street but now you have something in common.
As a matter of fact, that's why I'm very bad with names. I’m going to make up names for the dog, because I can’t remember the name and forget about it - the owner’s name! That’s another thing.
It’s very difficult, because the more people you know, the less you remember.
Heed Foods: Have you found that it's really important for you to have this community as you've lived in this neighborhood your whole life?
J: My friend Bob lives close by. He loves it over here because where he lives, most of his friends have passed on and when he comes over here he has the whole community thing and he’s met a lot of people. That’s what it is, you have access to people. Growing up you could walk down the street in the summertime, everybody is at the window open. You wouldn’t miss an out because you could hear the baseball game down the block. That’s what it used to be like, you had stoop time! That’s not the case anymore, everybody is in a hurry. It’s a rat race.
Heed Foods: Have you seen a lot of those changes?
J: Oh yeah, I've seen the changes. Before, you’d have people on their stoop and they knew everything was going on in their neighborhood. It was more like a hands on thing, even you’d have a police officer walking the beat, and now you have patrol cars going around. Before that, they knew what was going on in the neighborhood because they would talk to people.
It was a different story when I grew up, but it was a different world.
"Money isn’t everything. It has its purposes, and it allows you to not have certain stresses. You can’t take it with you, although my uncle said he was going to sew it into his pockets."
Heed Foods: Do you think in some way we’ve lost something. With everybody in a hurry, and not being able to fall into or listen to the natural rhythms of the neighborhood?
J: Yes, especially with cell phones. I go to a restaurant and sit down and see a couple, and they’re both on cell phones! What’s the story here? You’re supposed to be communicating with each other, looking into each other's eyes, not to see if somebody called you two minutes ago.
They’ll check the phone and two minutes later they’ll check it again as if you know, an earthquake happened in that time. So you miss out on the conversation, and here, we make conversations because I get people involved. I like to joke with people.
You miss out on the context with people, because they're in such a hurry. Of course, I know they have to make a living but when you’re off. You’ll see them all together at the bars - that’s the new things. When we grew up, they had church, dances, places to meet people and now, it’s all bars. It’s all that.
Fortunately, some of it is outside, so you could hear yourself. When you go into a bar sometimes, you're yelling practically!
Plus, you’re in a restaurant, you’re not meant to be talking on the cell phone.
Heed Foods: It sounds like you’ve lived many lives. What are some things you wish you knew when you were in your 20’s?
J: My sister wanted to teach me how to dance when I was young. I should have learned to dance. A clue about women is that they love men that can dance. You can be anything you want, but if you can dance, you’re good!
Dancing is something I wish I got more into. It gives you confidence.
"A dog like this doesn’t come around in a long time. That’s what I would say in 30 seconds. I’m very blessed to have her. I think God was looking down on me when he gave me Lea."
Heed Foods: Are there any life lessons?
J: Yes, don’t spoil people! If you have a problem, don't walk on eggshells, because that doesn't help. It makes it worse. You gotta talk to each other, and you can’t wait until someone says, “we have to talk.”
Marriage is not 50/50, it’s 100%/100%.
Money isn’t everything. It has its purposes, and it allows you to not have certain stresses. These millionaires might have eight million, and they’re looking at the other guy, saying, “that guy has 12 million!”
You can’t take it with you, although my uncle said he was going to sew it into his pockets. If you have friends and family, that’s all you need. Money is not a means to an end. You don’t want to be penniless of course, or to the point where you can’t eat or can’t even afford a pet! But, it’s not everything.
Heed Foods: Do you have anything to say on love?
J: When you’re with somebody for all those years, and you break up for whatever reason. It will feel like the end of the world, that you’ll never fall in love again. Wrong! If you leave yourself open, love will happen. The lightning bolt, you never know when it’s going to hit you. But you have to be open to it. Sometimes too when you’re not looking, you’ll find.
I would say to young people, don’t settle. Don’t have somebody just to have somebody. You’re putting yourself into a spot, the right time will come along. It’s like when I’m looking for a parking space - it’s always there when I don’t need it.
Heed Foods: Has owning a dog taught you anything?
J: It has opened me up to not being as shy. I have something to start the conversation with. You can talk to people. You have access to all different types of people if you get yourself involved. Joking is a good ice breaker, people like to laugh. There’s so little to laugh about right now that people are just looking for a nice, safe place to fall.
Heed Foods: Imagine you were writing Lea’s dating profile, how would you describe her?
J: Affectionate. Friendly. Gentle. Just comfortable to be around. She's just a pleasure to be around, she's very friendly. She loves children! If she sees a carriage with a baby in it, she has to go and look.
Heed Foods: Imagine you have 30 seconds and Lea will understand everything.
J: You’ve been a pleasure to have. You give so much love, you’ve brought so many people around to me, you’re so comfortable and you’re such a sweetheart. I wish I had you when you were a puppy. A dog like this doesn’t come around in a long time. Her nature is so good. That’s what I would say in 30 seconds. I’m very blessed to have her. I think God was looking down on me when he gave me Lea. I’m glad that that husband was allergic to Lea.