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Varney Baxter, Unemployed

“Do you know Steve Harvey? He’s one of my influences. I thought, I’d love to look like that one day. And I did, yeah.”

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What are you doing today?
I’m just taking a Sunday stroll through the neighborhood. I always like to walk through Tompkins Square, see people outside on the weekend. It’s real beautiful, the sun is shining—you know what I’m saying?

Do you always dress up to go out?
It’s a normal look. I like to do it every day if I can, so that I stand out. I’ve been dressing like this over six years. It makes me feel good and I love the attention. The yellow brings out allll the people. They say, “Oh, you look good, can I take a picture?”

Have you lived in the East Village for a long time?
Yeah, almost thirteen years. They’ve got all the bad apples off the street, so it’s nicer now to live here, but the rent is off the charts. I love to walk around. I like to challenge myself and walk long distances—I do that sometimes, yeah. I once walked up to Harlem and back to the Lower East Side. That made me real, real fatigued. The exercise keeps me on my tippy toes with those young kids, you know?

What else do you like to do?
I like to play basketball. There’s a park on Chrystie and Houston, and I have a regular game with my friends, but I don’t play to win or lose. I play to get the exercise, you know?

Have you been looking for a job?
It’s hard out there to find work. I’m a little worried, but I think I’ll be fine. It’s very bad, though. I keep myself busy, otherwise I’d get bored, but not crazy. Not like a person who doesn’t have cigarettes or something.

Interview by Emma Rosenblum


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