I arrived in New York City from Milan 8 years ago. Almost immediately I noticed pennies on the ground. Well, ever the superstitious Paddy, I picked up each one and pocketed it, parroting, “See a penny pick it up and all that day you’ll have good luck.”
The next person I met, I plucked out my penny and pushed it on them reciting the second part: “Give it away and your luck will stay.”
Invariably their faces contorted in disgust. NYC pennies are the undesirables. The downtrodden, they live in piss and squalor, in rat infested allies. They call themselves money but have no value; they’re a dead weight to NYC”s hard-grafting entrepreneurial big spender.
But I had to start small. I came with no job and no papers. Their streets were paved with gold, mine with copper.
As I collected, I imagined that I would make a showstopper of a necklace out of the pennies one day (the ones I couldn’t pass on) when I got the perfect job, apartment, relationship, papers…
Meanwhile I stored them in this little red box:
Well, luck lit up my life plenty during the next seven years.
I climbed the ladder, designing for a succession of companies and my New York salary took me further and further away from the appreciation of pennies.
But I found that gold-paved streets clashed with my choice of footwear.
A series of boyfriends, employers, and friends were forced to stand by as I crawled about in the face of oncoming yellow cabs after that little glimmer of copper lurking between the Meatpacking District’s cobblestones. Other people didn’t seem to see the pennies like I did. They rolled their eyes and scoffed.
I got a green card the same year I met my husband.
Pennies continued to drop in my path. I wrote my long-simmering novel. It was published.
Pppppick-up-a-penny and ppppppass-it-on.
We’re about to move into our new apartment. There are too many pennies. If I made a necklace, it would be as wearable as a Victorian torture device so instead I made a decision.
I would translate my pennies into a language that New Yorkers could understand: money.
My bank sniffily told me I need to “roll” my pennies if they were to accept them. Nothing is free in this town. I needed to work for my pennies in the end. When they were all decked out in their federal uniformity, they looked like something from Wild Wild West times. It definitely lent them a more respectable appearance.
I popped into the bank and handed over the sum of my Paddy good luck. The lady smiled indulgently like she would have done to a child whose nose just reached the counter. But instead of a lollypop she slid three bank notes through the hatch. There was that highly coveted and unmistakeable green pallor of dead presidents.
From pennies to bucks, my luck amounted to the sum total of $12.
Twelve hundred pennies. A dirty dozen.
My luck-tinged debut novel is available to pick up for a small sum of pennies. You can buy Silk for the Feed Dogs here.