Hello Kitty with Kids

We Got Scammed By Hello Kitty In New York City

Remember how we went to New York City in October? I never blogged our bloopers, most of which happened around Times Square probably because I peed on it when I was 19 years old while waiting for that stupid ball to drop…

My son is Southern. He was born and bred in Richmond, Virginia, and while Richmond may technically be a city, it’s not crowded no matter what a Virginian might say about getting to Short Pump at 5 p.m.. However, a New York subway stop Time Square at lunchtime, or really any time, is crowded. This meant that most of our experience of getting to and from the subway platforms particular when we decided the kids would LOVE TIMES SQUARE were spent not silent or filled with random cell phone conversations and iPod music snippets, but with my son kindly saying: Excuse me. Pardon me. Sorry. Excuse me. Pardon me. So sorry.

I’m pretty sure New Yorkers thought he spoke a foreign language and at least eight of them switched to the other side of the stairs WITH FEAR.

After we finished excusing half of New York for trying to get to the subway, we walked towards Times Square. As in most cities, a strange smell wafted up from the grates and the construction, which compelled my son began a helpful campaign of letting every person who walked by us for the next two blocks know by yelling at them: HOLD YOUR NOSE! IT SMELLS!

I actually think people appreciated that one although I’m not sure they knew who or what “it” was at least he wasn’t predicting the end of the world or selling them gold watches.

We finally reached Time Square, and my kids couldn’t quite understand why we had bothered coming here after FAO Schwartz and Central Park. I reminded them that Spider Man comic books took place here and my son was slightly placated. After five minutes of watching commercials on giant televisions and trying to explain Broadway to them, we were giving up when a favorite character of my kids appeared: Hello Kitty!

She seemed a little shabby, but I noticed 7-10 other recognizable characters so I thought that the Disneyfication of Times Square was in full swing, and I was being too hard on her. I encouraged my children to say hi to Hello Kitty thinking it would turn the stinky street of people who didn’t appreciate a good pardon me right around for them.

She was delighted to see them, immediately hugging them both and then demanded money.

Holy crap, I had introduced my kids to Hello Scam Artist Kitty.

Yes, a person had rented a Hello Kitty costume with seven of her closest friends, and they were panhandling in them. Sneaky genius bastards.

My kids looked confused, and I told her that we didn’t have a dollar. I slunk off feeling defeated by a city that I had once thought of as my own since my other choice growing up was Bridgeport, Connecticut. We went into the Walgreens at Times Squares to get a few toiletries  which is merely a very large Walgreens, but besides charging twice as much, it was comforting because WE HAVE THESE AT HOME, and by “home,” I now meant “Richmond,” where we don’t have children’s characters who play on my kids’ hearts and make me feel like a country bumpkin.

After magically wasting 25 minutes in there, we walked out and headed towards the subway station. My son, still clutching his I Love New York Hello Kitty from FAO Schwartz, asked: Can I hug Hello Kitty one more time?

Scott looked at me and said mostly with his eyes: I have a dollar now that we’ve been to Walgreens.

My son’s question reminded me that I don’t have dress up in a dirty Hello Kitty outfit and beg for money to make few dollars. Maybe I am foolish, but I can’t even buy chap stick at the Times Square Walgreens for a buck. However, my kids really loved Hello Kitty. Was that worth a dollar?

Hello Kitty with Kids
Every last cent.

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Me and your donations of awesomeness

Never Underestimate The Generosity Of Others

Remember a week ago when I posted about ways to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy? Thanks to a freader, I listed a donation drive by local neighborhood, but it ended only hours after I posted the piece. However, social media, Richmonders, and y’all did not .

A woman, who recently moved to Richmond from the tri-state are, saw a retweet of the post and reached out on Twitter: I’m volunteering in NYC. I leave Monday night, and I’d love to bring up supplies.

Okay, I’ll organize a donation drive in a few hours. NO PROBLEM. I used my post on Sandy plus Facebook, Twitter, email and my front yard from 7:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.. I warn Christine: We might not get much response. And she said that she felt good that at least I emailed with her and we were trying.

Sandy donations the beginning
The box I put out. Mostly filled with hope.

I got a few email replies to my post that morning so I sent my address to them (because I didn’t include it in the post since my paranoia runs deep enough) and every so often I’d look out my window and see a few more bags. Then I’d tear up bit and post about crying. It was embarrassingly wonderful and I realized we might actually fill her car. I emailed my neighbors, and I posted a few pictures on Facebook. I reminded everyone they had until 4:30 p.m., which wasn’t convenient on a Monday, but people came on their lunch breaks and after school and from all over the area. And those who couldn’t come due to time or location, donated money or mailed something up North to those families I linked to in the original post so I felt pretty good when I went to run errands in the late afternoon.

But when my husband came home from work an hour after the one day spur-of-the-moment donation drive ended, I could not get the goofy grin off my face.

Me and your donations of awesomeness
You are amazing. Also, I think we might need a bigger car.

We packed Christine’s car, and she delivered the donations to Sixth Street Center and Trinity Church in New York City on Tuesday and Wednesday.


Meanwhile, I had people asking me to continue the donation drive, and had to politely refuse because I was now searching for more cars, events, and postage. I now had a living room full of donations from your generosity. Richmond is amazing.

My living room of donations
My living room after Christine left. I’ll admit that I was nervous at times because I didn’t want to let down those who donated or those who needed the supplies. But I had a lot of faith, too.

I just kept putting the word out and our backup plan was to mail the supplies up to New York and New Jersey. It’s the least we could do after all y’all had done on Monday.

However, since that night, we’ve filled Carrie’s car, a NYC marathoner who decided to run the Richmond marathon when her race was canceled and responded to my Facebook post and who happens to be working with Far Rockaway Queens, which is one of the first stories that inspired my original blog piece. (I love that last part the most!)

Carrie's car off to Queens
Marathoner, answerer of random Facebook posts, donation driver and mom. She pretty much rocks.

We dropped off gloves and hats for a hard-hit Brooklyn neighborhood at one of my long-time reader’s home.

We dropped off the rest of the non-perishable food and clothing at a Sandy hurricane drive in Glen Allen to be driven up this week (and if you’ve followed the donation stories in the news, you know how difficult it is to find places that can handle clothing now so we should all be extra grateful to them).

We have one more car going up at the end of this week to New Jersey. Susan, a wonderful woman, who just wants to help in any way that she can, reached out to me when she heard about my leftover donation conundrum. Her husband is already in N.J., and we will fill her car with last of the donations on Thursday evening.

I set out to share some stories so we could help those effect by Sandy. You reached back and encouraged more through passing the post along and emailing me and showing up in front yard. You reminded me to never underestimate the generosity of my freader, my neighbors and my city. Besides the occasional Go Giants, no one cared where I grew up or who I voted for. No one asked for credit or links or pictures (although I am giving as many as I can convince because y’all deserve it).

I say all the time: The readers of my blog renew my faith in humanity. Well, this experience, while overwhelming at times, like when my living room was filled with three carloads of donations, and Christine’s car was full and driving away, reminded me that we are everywhere.

People want to love and help and give. We may not always know how or when or do it with much grace, but people are good and kind, and when given the opportunity, we will show up.

Thank you for giving me the chance to show up.

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