In Los Angeles, I was very involved in helping create policies that would clean up America's biggest Skid Row, which consists of 55 blocks and somewhere between 2,000 and 10,000 (depending on who you ask and how you count) "homeless" people.
In my talks with the LAPD, I learned that we have a very strong "$5 economy," as they call it. That means that $5 is sort of a lowest common denominator, a sort of "Skid Row Nickle" or something. For $5, you can purchase the following things on Skid Row:
* A baggie of Heroin
* A hit of Crack
* Various sex acts
* [anything that can be readily stolen from a car, e.g., a cell phone, and anything that can be readily stolen from an industrial business, e.g., a wooden palet]
It is not a coincidence that these prices correspond, since people are willing to commit a sex act for whatever amount of money it will take to score the next hit.
In Binghamton, I have observed that we have our own "$5 economy," but that's only because things are so cheap here. Here's what my Skid Row Nickle will buy me in Binghamton:
* Hamburger, fries and drink at Nico's, the sit-down restaurant overlooking the river ($5.75)
* New heels put on my work shoes, complete with complimentary shoe shine
* All of the buttons resewn onto my overcoat (these are heavy buttons that take forever to attach)
* 2 glasses of wine at our favorite "special occasion" restaurant, called "What's Your Beef?"
* Entrance and free refreshments at the Binghamton Moose Lodge "Casino Night"
* Spaghetti with Meat Sauce dinner at the Johnson City Elks Lodge fundraiser
What a difference a culture makes . . .