Panhandlers for Obama

March 6, 2009

Long before The Sopranos, I learned about real-life Mafia from Gay Talese in his stunning 1971 book Honor Thy Father. So his recent byline in the New York TimesCity Room blog caught my eye.

Talese recounts helping panhandlers improve their income by composing better-worded signs that invoke President Obama’s name.

Word gets around. Tonight, a man and woman camped on the sidewalk outside my neighborhood Safeway grocery brandished a sign with this spiel: “Obama Wants To Make A Lot Of Change! We Only Need A Little.”

It works, the woman said between bites of meatloaf.