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Money for nothing: Activist tosses paycheck’s worth of cash in air

  • Money rains from above in the aftermath of a stunt where Paul Vidich, 28, tossed $389 worth of $1 and $2 bills skyward in the intersection of Main and Pleasant Streets Thursday. —Darren Port

  • Paul Vidich holds $392 in his fists before throwing them into the air at the intersection of Main and Pleasant Streets, Thursday in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Paul Vidich throws $392 into the air at the intersection of Main and Pleasant Streets, Thursday in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Paul Vidich throws $392 into the air at the intersection of Main and Pleasant Streets, Thursday in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Paul Vidich holds $389 in his fists before throwing the money into the air Thursday in downtown Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Paul Vidich, left, watches as his $389 floats to the pavement after he threw it into the air at the intersection of Main and Pleasant streets Thursday afternoon in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • People pick up $392 in one- and two-dollar bills at the intersection of Main and Pleasant Streets in Northampton, Thursday, after Paul Vidich threw them into the air. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • People pick up $392 in one- and two-dollar bills at the intersection of Main and Pleasant Streets in Northampton, Thursday, after Paul Vidich threw them into the air. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • People pick up $392 in one- and two-dollar bills at the intersection of Main and Pleasant Streets in Northampton, Thursday, after Paul Vidich threw them into the air. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • People scramble to pick up $389 in one- and two-dollar bills at the intersection of Main and Pleasant streets in Northampton, Thursday, after Paul Vidich threw them into the air. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS



@stevemusal
Thursday, October 12, 2017

NORTHAMPTON — It was perfect autumn weather — cool and crisp, not a cloud in the sky. But for a moment, at the town’s busiest intersection, there was a downpour: Paul Vidich was making it rain.

As the sun dipped lower behind the downtown buildings and the clock at the intersection of Main and Pleasant Streets clicked over to 5 p.m., the 28-year-old carpenter took his paycheck from a recent roofing job — $389 in $1 and $2 bills — and tossed it into the air for anyone to claim.

“This is like a big wad of my problems,” he told onlookers, shortly before yelling “money!” and tossing up the cash.

It was all part of Vidich’s plan to demonstrate what he called “the absurdity of money,” and in the aftermath, he said it went off without a hitch.

“I smiled so big,” he said, adjusting the bright pink bow in his hair. “I didn’t feel or see any animosity,” he added. “I just saw the friendliness of it.”

Indeed, there was no visible fighting among the crowd of about 30 people, who crossed to the center of the intersection with Vidich as the crosswalk lights turned green and caught the falling cash before traffic could be disrupted for more than a couple of moments.

The crowd ranged from the curious to the cash-strapped, from college students filming with smartphones to longtime residents of the street who covered their shoes with duct tape to catch the most dough before it blew away.

Not everyone approved of the stunt. Before throwing the money, Vidich found himself confronted by a woman who bemoaned the suffering in Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, and wanted to know why Vidich wouldn’t simply donate the money if he wanted to be rid of it.

“You pick it up and give it to them,” Vidich said, before he was interrupted by the clock striking 5.

After the event, he said “I’m grateful for her,” saying she wasn’t saying anything he hadn’t thought about himself. In the end, however, he felt that the act of giving others money directly helped him more.

“I was extremely present; I was extremely there for the experience, and it was really simple and beautiful and joyful,” Vidich said. After the money left his hands, he said, he felt liberated.

“I have a lot of money anxiety,” Vidich said before the event. “Money is a large part of the way that I think, and I feel like that’s a very common thing in our world right now.”

He said he planned to confront those fears head-on. “This fills me with anxiety, doing this, and that’s part of the reason I think I want to do it: I have this money obsession that feels unhealthy.”

But, Vidich said, it was not just about facing his anxieties.

“It’s definitely going to mean things to other people; I don’t feel like I want to tell them what it means to them,” he said. “I’m not going to go do this in the forest by myself. It’s about our society’s relationship to money, and how that has influenced my relationship to money.”

In the pre-event interview, Vidich said that he worried doing his stunt with money might provoke a monetary reaction from police — a fine for littering, for example. He said money makes people do funny things.

“If I threw down $300 of something other than money, I think it would have a different effect than money,” he said.

And he had one other fear.

“I have a fear that the money coming from the bank will be very fresh and all stick together, and not fly everywhere as my dream has it.”

Neither fear came true: the wind caught the paper money easily and blew it about like dry leaves, and, despite some nervous laughter in the crowd when the sirens from two ambulances sounded in the minutes leading up to the cash toss, no representatives from the Northampton Police appeared to stop the stunt.

A spokesman for Northampton Police on Thursday morning offered no comment on any potential safety or other issues, saying that police were unaware of the planned cash giveaway at the time and would look into it.

Steve Musal can be reached at smusal@gazettenet.com.