In March 2003, Tom Chiarella hit Manhattan with two grand in twenty dollar-bills to see just what they could get him:

It won’t get you much … Not in the way of merchandise, anyway. No, you have to give the twenty. Pass it, release it. This is about as much Zen as I can muster: Stuff your pockets full of twenties and doors will open by themselves.

After hearing detractors say Manhattan was a special case, he decided to take his show on the road, traveling to Salt Lake City, Vegas and Los Angeles.

At the end of the second piece:

Our steaks came. A hostess stopped by. The sommelier joined her. My friend greeted them both by name. When we left, he said goodbye to everyone working in the restaurant by name, too.

“Man,” I said when we were on the terrace, “what’s with the names? Do you eat here every day?”

He smiled. A wind blew up a staircase. Men and women churned around us, moving from one important place to another. “People want to be remembered,” he said. “In my experience, names work way better than a twenty.”

Despite their simple premises, Chiarella manages to write each piece in a way that keeps you reading, even when the end result is something you may have guessed at long before you clicked my links.


Updated to reflect the article was from 2003, not this year. Thanks goes to Jason for catching it in his post.