Anthony Weiner goes shopping, calculates in bulk

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Weiner at a 22nd Street grocery store. (Dana Rubinstein)
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On Wednesday in Union Square, an old lady in gym shorts yelled at Anthony Weiner.

“I’m not voting for you!” 

Just a few seconds earlier, Marianne Edwards had been bending Weiner’s ear about N.Y.U.'s expansion plans and how much she opposed them.

Weiner had no real opinion on the matter, but they had seemed to part amicably. Until she turned on him.

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“I was just talking to you and you weren’t yelling and now I walk away and you’re yelling,” said Weiner. “What happened? Where did we go wrong?”

“Well, you know it was very obvious that you really weren’t listening,” said Edwards.

He apologized, she told him (and the press) she’d never vote for him, and then Weiner moved on to his next angry interlocutor. It was Anthony Grina, a 24-year old Brooklynite in a green polo shirt, who was angry about the high cost of gun permits in New York City.

“The Second Amendment doesn’t say you get it cheaply,” said Weiner.

“I mean, it says it shall not be infringed,” said Grina.

“We charge for all kinds of things. ... As a matter of fact, you probably have to apply to set up a food stand.”

“That’s not really freedom, if you ask me.”

“So I can’t charge you for anything? ... So you don’t want to pay taxes?”

“I mean yeah, I don’t want to pay taxes.”

“Neither do I. Unfortunately, that’s the cost of doing business here in New York.”

“Yeah, I don’t know.

“You don’t know?" said Weiner. "That’s why you turn to people like me. I do know.”

The actual purpose of Anthony Weiner’s mid-day visit to Union Square was to talk about food stamps.

Right now, the Senate is considering a farm bill that would cut funding for the program on which 1.8 million city residents rely. Weiner, who lacks an official platform from which to oppose such bills at the moment, doesn’t want that to happen.

Weiner would instead like to see the 500,000 or so New Yorkers who are now eligible for the program, but don’t use it, to take advantage of what's being offered.

To that end, if he becomes mayor, Weiner said he will allow applicants to apply online for food stamps and send home information about the program with students.

He also said he wants to see a better foodstamp program, although again that's a federal issue over which he no longer has control.

Right now, foodstamps cover $31.08 in food per person per week.

To demonstrate the inadequacy of that amount, Weiner will perform a relatively common political stunt: he will subsist on a foodstamp diet for a week.

“I would encourage all the members of the media to do it too,” said Weiner. “Any volunteers to do that? Any? ”

No.

“So far this morning I’ve had one teabag,” said Weiner.

He walked up Park Avenue to go grocery shopping at the 22nd Street Morton Williams, reporters in tow.

On the way, he got distracted.

“Who are you talking to?” he asked a black woman who'd been chatting on her cell phone when she noticed the former congressman walking by.

“Who is it?” he said.

“Her name is Shirlene.”

“Hi Shirlene,” he said, into her phone. “This is Anthony Weiner. Where do you live?”

Shirlene was not forthcoming.

"Where does she live?” he asked her friend, 43-year old Debbie Maddox.

“Manhattan," said Maddox.

“Oh good, so you live here in the city. I would love to have your vote in the Democratic primary. If you at least tell me you’ll consider it, I’ll take a picture with your friend.”

Shirlene obliged. So did Weiner.

“I would definitely give him a vote, yeah,” said Maddox, afterwards.

Inside the grocery store, Weiner discovered that his options on food stamps were indeed quite limited.

His first move: bread. Bimbo soft white bread, to be exact, $1.69 a loaf. And to slather on top of it, a $2.99 jar of Skippy peanut butter.

“You know, rice and yogurt makes a good protein,” suggested a freelance photographer who goes by the name Umar.

Weiner moved to the tea section and tried to ascertain how much the tea bag he’d used that morning had cost. He looked at the 100-bag box.

“You’re only going to be doing this for a week,” said New York magazine writer Mark Jacobson. “Why would you buy something that’s 100 packets?”

“Jacobson I’m so glad you came along,” said Weiner.

“I’m trying to help you,” said Jacobson.

Weiner determined that his tea bag had cost him $.02.

Jacobson still wasn’t satisfied.

“When somebody who doesn’t have any money goes to the store, he buys one cigarette, not a whole pack.”

I asked him if there was anything he could do at the local level to supplement the meager program. “I’m open to that idea,” Weiner said.

He moved onto the rice section and legume section.

“Sir a gallon of milk, small yogurt, make your own yogurt and you have enough yogurt,” said Umar.

“That’s a really good idea, right there,” said Weiner.

“Don’t go for the Goya,” said Jacobson.

Weiner grabbed a bag of green peas.

“These are harder to cook,” said Umar.

“Is this event over yet?” asked Weiner.

Matt Taylor has more on the event here, and Jill Colvin has more here.