Friday, May 23, 2008

often the walk thru midtown and downtown, which i've been doing for years now, ever since i got an office job and realized that after years of blue collar work i must do something for physical exercise, is rather tranquil with very little going on in the way of heavy traffic or fellow pedestrians. most people tend to respect each other's space and give some distance. i'm talking about the walkers and not the drivers who are for the most part nuts behaving as if someone crossing the street in a crosswalk and on a green light is invisible.

tonight however was a little different. because it is friday night and because this friday is the start of a three-day holiday, memorial day, which is the traditional kick-off for summer, i knew the streets would be choked with clubbers and hipsters and so on. i thought about taking my camera because i've been thinking of snapping pics of my city during my perambulations and posting them here for a taste of the community where i choose to spend my life.

my city and my walks in my city have influenced my writing both in content and technique. how could they not. i find it damn near impossible to write on the fly as i find myself, in the best of moments, in a kind of walking meditation. these are some of the best moments when the mind and the body become thought and action. often i find myself listening on conversations as i pass, and since everyone is on their mobiles yakking it up eavesdropping is quite easy, and looking at my fellow creatures as they also move in and out of their days.

tonight i was walking thru lavender heights, the section of midtown with a continuosly growing cluster of gay clubs, and the streets were of course packed with people. for the most part i feel safe, i am a fairly large guy, 6' ft and over 200 lbs, but i sure the hell don't look tough as anna pointed out to me recently as i was goofing around trying to look and behave like snake plissken, as played by kurt russell, in john carpenter's kick-ass film escape from new york. i might even be naive in my own self-perceived toughness. i've probably mentioned this before but i remember when a friend was looking for a flat to rent in midtown. me and another friend were walking and found an apartment complex with a 'for rent' sign posted outside. we stopped to read it and write down the phone number when a voice called down from the third floor and asked if we would like to see what the flats looked like. since it was a young man who offered i said, sure. so up we went for a few minutes then thanked the him and went on our way. later my friend, the one i was walking with, the one who joined me in that young guy's place, said that the guy could've been a serial killer. perhaps going to his rooms wasn't such a smart thing to do after all. i told her that i hadn't even thought about that, didn't have an inkling the guy might've been a psycho. i figured that no one would fuck with me because i'm a fairly large man. i had no fear or even trepidation in the guy's sincerity.

that doesn't mean i've not had some close calls. when you are a walker, especially in a city where most people drive, you see and hear some strange shit. sometimes dangerous shit even. as i mosied thru lavender heights about a block ahead of me was a young asian couple dressed for the clubs who just passed a couple of street persons, one black and one a very tall mexican. the black guy shouted something to the young woman and her boyfriend turned around and screamed 'fuck you you fucking asshole'. in a second it escalated to what looked to be a brawl. the mexican got in on it and started slurring 'i'll kick your ass motherfucker'. but the girl pulled on the young man's arm and the hatchet-faced, and that is not a judgement call at all, i mean these two dude had deep lacerating scars on their faces which were evidence that these guys know a violent life, dudes put their shirts back on and continued down the street. i was glad the girl defused the tension by not letting her boyfriend's arm go and kept walking as i was walking towards them and i was wondering what i'd do if they started to tussle. i could tell the dudes were fucked up and slow but i thought that a fight with both of them could have a deadly outcome. despite the u.s. cop shows where a person can get hit a dozen times with a baseball bat then get up and shake it off it would only take a couple of blows to kill a person. they were not good guys because as i passed them the black guy screamed, i'll take your bitch and fuck her till she she split. that is a direct quote.

i also knew that a potential fight with two drunk bums on a crowded street in the midst of gay clubs would not last long since -- and i'm guessing of course but human nature being what it is, both good and bad -- many men would run to break it up. in other words, i had no fear from the two dudes who were still walking about a half block ahead of me. they then stopped another young man and bummed a smoke off him then asked for money and when the guy said he didn't have any they said, well you got an atm card right.

then it was my turn. i could here those idiots behind me as i waited for the traffic signal to turn green. then the black guy asked me the same things he asked the earlier guy. he asked for a dollar to buy cigarettes. when i pointed he was already holding a cigarette he then said, no man cigarettessssssssssssssss! when i told him i don't have any money he said, you got plastic right. i responded, you want me to give you my plastic, in a tone that sounded like, are you fucking nuts. that's when he told his compadre, we better get outta here before i get all jackie chan on this motherfucker.

which maybe he might've tried doing. instead they crossed the street and kept up with my pace for a couple of blocks shouting to me and whoever got in their way. then they disappeared into another street with their plastic bag of cheap vodka and orange juice. and no, i was not nervous, tho there was a second when i thought that they might just indeed try to get all jackie chan on my ass. i knew i could take them, i don't know how i knew this but i did, one on one. that sounds like braggadocio but it isn't. simply a feeling i had, a naive feeling, yes. two against one and they would've killed me. the mexican was very passive in his demeanor however and as i kept replying the incident i thought that all i'd have needed to do with him is shout out sit down and shut the fuck up.

i've already written a poem using this encounter as a platform. i also got a rush from it. not the i just escaped death rush or i just bungee jumped rush. more like a rush from living in the center of a city, one that is dynamic and vibrant and sometimes unpredictable. it lasted the whole way home and when i told anna about it her chuckle was the balm i needed to come down and rest on what we used to call in college the real world.


At 3:59 AM, Blogger Nicholas Manning said...

just excellent, richard. thanks for this. it's true these situations are utterly unpredictable: say one thing and people will start laughing and joking with you. say another . . .

At 2:37 PM, Blogger Tom Beckett said...

If you ever have someone get violent with you, Richard, it won't seem cartoon like at all after it is over. Though it might a little bit as it is going on. When you survive an attack, and the adrenaline waves recede, you're gonna sweat and your heart is gonna try to crawl between your ribs.


At 11:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I say We go get the mother fuckers! And school em down!
Take care B.

At 10:55 PM, Blogger richard lopez said...

b.: i think those guys flunked out of the school of hard knocks.

tom: it's been years since i've been in a similar situation and yes, when the euphoria and/or adreneline recedes, i've been left shaking and shaken. i'm a born pacifist really and deeply.

nicholas: scary yes, but i guess my goofy feelings about the whole situation was because i knew that the street as crowded as it was with folks ready to celebrate a friday night felt like a safe place and the two idiots i was deeling with didn't act at all with great menace. i've encountered scary people before and if thugs were horror movies and some of the scariest on the streets are say the exorcist i'd say these two morons were as terrifying as plan 9 from outer space.


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