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So there's this guy from Union Square whom, I've realized, terrifies me to the bone. He terrifies me so much that I'm not even sure I want to write about him. But it's impossible for me to ignore, considering I see him everywhere I go (Union Sq, East Village, even just now walking in front of my window at the Astor Place Starbucks).

And this fear is not because he's some big scary guy who I think'll kick my ass if he sees me talking shit. My fear is based on something he exposes about the human condition, and the inescapable traps we create for ourselves, and voluntarily allow ourselves to cook in, until it's too late.

I used to call this guy the "Free Hugs Lurker," because he always lurks around a few feet away from the Free Hugs kids wherever they are at the park. He doesn't carry a sign or anything. He just lurks in their vicinity. Anyhow his new name, his real one that's obviously going to stick, is "Hairplugs." And his name is Hairplugs because he's clearly your average middle age man with male pattern baldness who's gone and gotten one treatment of hairplugs, and then stopped before it was finished. So what he's ended up with is a perfectly measured grid of hairplugs plugged into the top of his scalp, but clearly not enough of them, so you can see exactly what's going on, and it's hideous.

But the scariest part hasn't happened yet. Because what happened last week was one of the Free Hugs kids, the one who tore his shirt off and was yelling "Where are my bedbugs, homey?!?!" came up to me and told me basically that he saw the video I made of him, he finally got the joke, laughed and called me an asshole for making him look stupid and all that, but he was fine with it.
He did however want to know, for real, what really was the problem I have with Free Hugs. I brought up the Free Hugs Lurker and pointed out how odd and creepy I thought it was that "grown men like this hung around all you kids every day, following you around the park, lurking." And I specifically asked him what was up with that particular guy. "What do you think of that guy hanging around all the time, just there lurking in the background with you kids?"

At first he just explained, "Oh, that guy. Yeah, he's a nice guy..." and all that bullshit, but then he told me he once asked the Lurker "Yo, what's up with your hair? Why don't you just shave your head?"
And the Lurker responded, "They're hairplugs, and I could only afford the one treatment. I paid too much for it to shave them off."
And that, my friends, is the line that sent chills up my spine.
I've seriously laid awake a few times since then trying to absorb that self-inflicted prison sentence.

Just before I started writing this about him, he walked by the window in front of me. He was wearing his awful Terminator sungalesses, marching straight ahead. As he strode away, he pulled a comb out from his back pocket and ran it over his pitiful scalp several times.

I see him every day sitting by himself with those shades on staring straight ahead. Just staring. And I know the undigestible reality he's doing battle with on the fringes of his ego. It's the sort of thoughts that make one shake ones head "No" while walking down the street alone.

Your comments welcome...


If you're beyond curious to see Hairplugs, he can be seen lurking in the Sunday Stroll through Union video at about 1:11 on the far left in the green shirt. He's pointing me out the the Free Hugs Nazi to, in some way or another, find his purpose in life.
He sometimes shaves the sides of his head (the part that'll grow back) in an attempt to disguise everything that's going on. And, at least to me, he vividly sums up the ugliness the Free Huggers attract, while simultaneously illustrating the jailcell we're all so willing to build for ourselves if we let it, brick by brick. No take-backs.

“You really need to get to know Jesus in the REAL way!!!!!!!!!!!”

subject: dressing up Jesus

I don’t know what kind of humor this is supposed to be, but when do you put dresses and a devil’s costume on Jesus!?  You really need to get to know Jesus in the REAL way!!!!!!!!!!!

Shellia Ventura

Like "REAL" as in calling him on the phone and scheduling a dinner date with him for tomorrow night to share personal experiences with each other? Because, Shellia, that's how you get to know someone in a real way.

Unfortunately if someone's already dead before you're born it's impossible for you to know them for real. The best you can do at that point is know the person sorta. Sorry. That's just life.



“i'm going to start off very blunt.”

subject: Jesus dress up

i'm going to start off very blunt.
this whole "Jesus Dress Up" thing is very offensive.

this is the Saviour of the World we're talking about man,...and this is the thanks we give Him?
God loved us so much that He sent Jesus to die on that cross to take the punishment for our sin. He didnt have to do that. He's so perfect and so far above us, but He loved us so much that He died for us. the Bible says that the punishment for every wrong thing we do is death. every wrong thing. so i deserve to die for everything i've done. but instead, God sent Jesus to die in our place. thats so amazing to me. i dont deserve that at all. none of us do.

i have no idea where you are spiritually, but you have to realize that you have to draw the line somewhere. this is very offensive and disrespectful.
Jonathan Cross

Jonathan, I couldn't have written a more eloquent paragraph to completely encapsulate the overall prison of the belief, and the reasoning for why you belong there. You were born into a jail of self-loathing and utter hopelessness, but if you submit completely you'll one day get to experience wonderful FREEDOM! ...when you're dead.

Excellent job! I'm sure your paradise in the grave is going to be everything you dream it to be. Now lie flat in the dirt, face down, in total submission, and run out the clock on this life as fast as you can. You're going to PARADISE!!!!!


“...my purpose in life is to live for God.”

i'm pretty excited about it. God's doing some pretty incredible things in my life.
first off,... i understand your beliefs. i'm not trying to convert you or anything, just kinda sharing what i believe and why. people are different and i'm cool with that.
i'm not condemning you to hell. who am i to judge? i'm human.

i was once in a place where i doubted God though. like....kinda like i didnt believe any of it, ya know? i went to church and stuff cause my family did, but wasnt really getting anything out of it. however, in april 2010 i asked myself, "why am i here? what's my purpose?". and i finally realized that my purpose in life is to live for God. at first i was like, "why would i wanna do that?"...i didnt really want to. no one really wants to. but then i stepped back and looked at the big picture. i looked at all the incredible things He's done in my life, and then i thought, "how can i not praise Him?". i mean,..to think that this amazing God loved me so much that He died to cover the punishment for my sin......that blows me away. so incredible.

and you described it as a prison.....to a nonchristian it might seem that way,...but its a totally different story to a christian. i dont HAVE to live for God. i dont HAVE to go to church. i dont HAVE to pray. i dont HAVE to read my Bible. i choose to. all other religions are based on works. they say you have to be a good person, or do this, or do that. i dont have a religion. i have a relationship with Jesus Christ.

ha. i'm sure you've heard that before, right? its true though. i mean, i see this God who saved me, and i wanna know so much more about Him.
its really cool to,...i'm positive about almost everything now. i try not to worry about things now because i know that everything's going to work out. God's got my life now. and He's perfect! so what do i have to worry about?

thanks for taking the time to write me back though. i really appreciate it. and sorry if i offended you or anything.

- Show quoted text -

Jonathan Cross

Hey Jonathan,
No offense taken. It's your life and you can do with it what you please. I can't pretend it doesn't all sound totally backwards and counterproductive, but if it's what you want to do with your life, so be it. I think my only wish would be that you don't try and talk other people into it. There's just so many ugly and destructive aspects to your beliefs it can be troubling to think of them being passed around and taught to kids as reality. I'll list off some of the poisonous ideas I think your beliefs harbor, and if you can keep those particular ideas away from the kids, that'd be beyond terrific!

#1. Don't share the part about how you think you're not responsible for the wrongs you commit, or that it's possible in any way to put those things off on someone else. You will always be responsible for that thing you stole, or the person whose foot you stomped on no matter what you do. If you kill your mailman, there's no way possible, no matter what, to lose responsibility for that, ever. Thinking you have an imaginary friend who you can put all your crimes & wrongs onto is terrible. So yeah, please don't spread that misconception around. The LAST thing we humans need is the idea that we can do great wrongs and then, someday down the road, not be responsible for those wrongs. Phew! Nice to get that off my chest!

#2. I'm so glad you brought up the idea that living life for yourself is wrong, and instead living it for the gods (or one god) is more important. Let me assure you Jonathan, even if there were miraculous gods up in the sky making weather, having lightening fights and blowing around clouds, living for them would still be a waste. They have incredible lives already without you. They're tall as buildings, they never die, and can toss planets around without any effort at all. You thinking that living your life for them makes any sort of difference to them is just incorrect. Let me ask you this. If you were to create a race of people, would your top priority be that they worship you and live for you and basically skip out on searching out their own purpose, spending their days praising and adoring you and living for you? Or would you think it better for them to live their own lives, and instead of giving all that time and love to you offering it to the people around them? That one just seems obvious to me, but maybe it's because I'm older. So again, don't promote the "living for the gods" idea either. That ones grossly wasteful, and it oppresses thought.

#3. While we're one the subject, I also wanted to point out how different dying is if you're a god (as apposed to a man) and how the notion of it being a sacrifice is completely exaggerated simply because of our personal point of view on death. See, unlike us, when a god dies they come right back to life. They can bounce between heaven and earth and back again at will! However when you or I die we're done. That's it. No take backs. Game over. So the sacrifice is actually far far greater and more impressive than when a god dies. I only point this out so you don't fall to your knees into a pool of tears and submit all your dignity every time you think about Jesus dying for you. He came right back to life a few days later, and not only that, but he gets to be god of the whole universe for the rest of eternity.
It's just a misconception I'd like people to get a grip on. Another note to hold onto when you're sharing your beliefs.

#4. And finally, the number one thing I hope you keep to yourself, is believing things without any solid evidence is a good thing. The idea of "faith" or believing things without evidence is a direct road to misinformation. It also opens the doors for cults and belief in all different sorts of liars you come in contact with on a daily basis all your life. Thinking there's other ways to separate truth from fiction besides evidence and commonsense leads to a life of continually being suckered into lies. The best people to take advantage of in this world are those who accept faith over evidence or logic. And believe me, there's a lot of bad people out there who are aware of this. It's really really important to question things that sound make-believe. And it's completely reasonable to expect evidence for the things you choose to believe, and doing so deserves no punishment.

I'm so happy you're letting me suggest to you all the parts of your religion I'd like you to keep away from kids and people who're susceptible to bad ideas. You could really make a difference in improving the stereotype religious people get for prioritizing the gratification of their own hearts before thinking about how it might harm the people around them, all while worrying about the hurt feelings of the gods. Because believe me Jonathan, the gods are doing just fine without our hugs and kisses, and there's nothing the ants can do to satisfy the heart of the ant farmer other than simply living their lives.


“if there wasnt a God,...what am i losing?”

i have a question for you. even if there wasnt a God,...what am i losing? if i'm going to die one day, and thats it....then what am i losing? and if i'm wasting my life worshipping a god that doesnt exist,...in the end....what's it matter? why would it matter what i believe? it wouldnt. so basically,...according to your beliefs,....i'm not losing a thing. so according to your beliefs,....it doesnt matter what you believe because once you die,...its all over.
hmmm,...and another thing. i dont force what i believe on people. that'd be stupid. God gave us free choice when he created us. people make their own choices, and i'm cool with that.
oh,...i dont remember saying anything about not being responsible for what i do. i am. everybody screws up. and that makes us imperfect. we could never be perfect no matter how hard we tried.
but anyway,...i already know what i believe. but i still havent quite heard what you believe. so tell me

Jonathan Cross

Are you serious? You're asking what you'd be losing living a lie? Um gee, how about life? You do realize that this life on planet earth should be your priority right now, right? I mean, when you wake up every morning you should be thinking about what this day will bring, and not about what the paradise you hope exists afterwards will bring. It seems like such an obvious kernel of information, but I'm also not sure how far gone you actually are. Are you to the point where you're pretty much over this boring life and ready to see what's beyond the grave? Or do you still find joy and satisfaction here, now? Because that's what you should be living for.

It just sickens me to think this is what people turn into who get it in their head that there's this eternal afterlife in paradise waiting for them. In my opinion no one should ever be told that information, even if it's true, because if you believe it you can't help but not appreciate this life as much as you should. Being an atheist, I appreciate every day and live it to it's fullest knowing this is probably it. 

I think you need to ask yourself this: Is this life worth it if this is all there is? Your answer to that question will answer all of mine.

I never said that you forced your beliefs on people. I don't know where you got that. I was just hoping you'd not spread bad ideas around. Like you shouldn't tell people killing children is okay because some people might listen to you, force or no force.

I'm an atheist. I believe all the gods mankind has invented are make-believe. Every single one of them. 
“i'll be praying for you.”

well hey man, i really appreciate your time. its been fun. i'll be praying for you. 

Jonathan Cross

No answer for: "Is this life worth it if this is all there is?"

I'd really appreciate your answer to this before you split


“if there's no god, then what's the point of life.”

if there's no god, then what's the point of life. i dont see one

Jonathan Cross

Christ. That's what I was afraid you'd say.



“Jesus was a real person who did no harm to anyone.”

Does hanging on a cross looks like fun to you?

Even if you don’t believe he was the Son of God, Jesus was a real person who did no harm to anyone.

What makes it such a good idea to ridicule him for loving you?

Leslie Wolfe

I think sending people to hell is harm they're responsible for. And last I heard, hell really really hurts, so that's bad and harmful. They could have made it so people don't get harmed there, but they didn't. That is why I ridicule them for loving me!


“The same power that created everything also created me and loves me.”

So no one should face the consequences of their actions?  

God gives everyone the chance every day to make their own choices.  Good parents teach their children by allowing them to make choices; if the child’s choices are not in their best interest, there should be reasonable consequences for their behavior.  Later, when they are older and out on their own, they learn that there are still consequences for their actions, natural consequences.  (For instance, smoking can eventually lead to lung cancer.  Alcoholism can lead to cirrhosis of the liver.  Murder can lead to life in prison.)  There are also personal rewards for taking good care of yourself and being good to people around you.  

If I understand this principle, I can see that even if I don’t like the consequences for poor choices, that doesn’t make the consequences go away.

The more I rebel against the idea that God loves me like a good parent and wants what is in my best interest, the more self-destructive I eventually become.  God loves me enough to let me choose my own way.  If I continue to choose a self-centered life, then I end up with negative consequences.  

Since I didn’t create the universe and everything that is in it, I have to face the fact that there is a power greater than me who did.  The same power that created everything also created me and loves me.  He helps when we ask for help, he is always there if we want to get to know him, and he will never leave you if you turn to him.

He was even able to forgive the people who nailed him to a cross.

Leslie Wolfe

Conveniently however, your faith based belief system eliminates the consequences for your actions. You've made the consequences go away because you don't like them, even though you're just as guilty as anyone else.

Self-serving rewards is a clue that it's pretend.

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