Kips Bay. Thirty-three-year-old Thomas Decoteau spent five years in jail for selling drugs, nearly seven years in the Army, which sent him to Iraq and Afghanistan, then nearly four years with the Big Apple Circus. He has dealt drugs since he was a teenager.
Thomas has an Argentinian wife who's back in Argentina. He's the father of two kids, but one died at birth. He has 100 acres in Maine which he won't sell because "it's sacred."
On the streets, Thomas has an older friend whom he calls his "mom." She is always picked up by cops at Grand Central and dumped at Bellevue Hospital. Once they spent all night in the same hospital bed at Bellevue. She has come on to him once, but Thomas resisted, "because I don't want it to be like that. I see her as my mom."
Thomas was on his way to see his "mom" at Bellevue when I ran into him. Walking down Lexington, Thomas was ranting and screaming but when he saw me taking a photo, he said, "That's beautiful," in a normal voice. After I talked to him, Thomas calmed down, "You just saved my life."
"Bullshit, man, I didn't do anything."
"If you didn't talk to me, I'd probably be picked up by the cops for screaming on the street."
"Maybe I'd have walked in front of a car," and Thomas started to walk onto the street into traffic. I yanked him back. "See? You just saved me again!"
"You're so full of shit, man."
PBS did a six-part mini series on the Big Apple Circus. Thomas appears in the first episode.