A Tapestry of Poor and Royal Hue
I once was asked by a lawyer friend who taught at the Nashville School of Law to pretend like I was a student from the class before. I was to come into the class, pick up a term paper from the teacher’s desk, tell her that she had been unfair, then walk out. This scenario happened in about two minutes, but it was very frenetic and caused a stir in the quiet classroom.
My friend Linda, who has since died of colon cancer, told me that she questioned the class after I left. She asked them what I looked like. Some thought I was short, had dark hair, wore glasses. Some thought I was a light-skinned black man. Some thought I was blonde, long hair, no glasses. Some thought I was wearing blue jeans, others thought I had on a blazer and khakis.
Linda said that the little scene she planned was a success. What she wanted to prove to her hopeful lawyers is: you can’t count on anyone, not even hopeful lawyers with 20/20 vision to get it right when it comes to being a good witness. Almost everybody imagines half of what they see in times of distress.
Once I got mugged by two men in NYC late at night after I had been to a bar. I was walking home on 82nd Street between Columbus and Amsterdam. I think I had one beer. I saw a man coming toward me. Instead of crossing the street like you are supposed to do, I thought I’d be brave and just walk past him. When he got to me, his partner jumped out from a basement stairwell with a machette and wrapped it around my neck. “Walk slowly and don’t say a word!” he said.
There was no one on the street but us. They took me into an apartment building up the road and robbed me of the little money and jewelry I had on. Our exchange was short, but I had time to see each of them clearly. I even talked to them, calmly.
When they left the building, they said to wait for ten minutes before I departed. I did as I was told. Quivering as I walked out of the building, I immediately called my roommate to come and get me. When I went to the police, I had no idea what either of the guys looked like. I went through 5 books of 100’s of pictures of guys who almost looked exactly alike. I couldn’t even see the two guys in my mind, and they had just accosted me. I tried and tried to envision them, but nothing would come to mind.
Honestly, I was out 22 dollars and a fake designer watch I bought on Canal street for 3 dollars. Not a big take for those two short-sited dudes. So, I didn’t really care if the muggers were caught. Maybe my mind wasn’t focused on anything but keeping my neck from getting severed. I’m not sure. Though terrifying afterwards, I had a strange calm around me during the entire robbery. I was easing the minds of the robbers the entire time. “It’s cool, man. I’ll give you whatever I can. I want to help you out. You don’t have to rob me for me to help you…”
My take on the robbery truly disarmed them.
When I think back about my time living in NYC, I remember so many things. But more than anything, I think about how quickly I adapted to the danger and the bugs and pests, which now I can’t imagine I would allow in my life. I mean, on the first week I lived in NY, I took a walk in lower Manhattan in what’s now a great area to live in, around Houston Street, and ended up in the middle of a two-car gun fight. I hid behind a garbage can the gangs battled it out. When it was over, I brushed off my clothes and thought, damn… I just survived my first gun fight NYC. Who’s Da Man?
When I lived in my first apartment in NY, it was a five story walk-up. My apartment was on the first floor. We had large aluminum bars on all the windows to protect us from robberies, but certainly not mice and roaches as big as my fist.
Still one night, as I was working night turn, I was asleep at 9 pm and someone was breaking into my apartment while I was still in bed asleep. I turned on the light and yelled, “I’m calling the police now. Get the f**k out of here. I got a gun too. (I didn’t have one.)” Then I made a lot of noise. It scared the living daylights out of me. But it made the robber leave.
I believe that was the most frightening thing that ever happened to me. It was soon after that, I moved out of the city and into a house in Queens with some church friends.
But even in the 90’s in Queens we had our own share of trouble. We asked a black friend from church to be one of our six roommates. We didn’t realize that the neighborhood was racist. Unfortunately, we had bricks thrown through our front window everyday, until we had to ask our friend to move out.
I look back at my life and sometimes can’t believe what I lived through. There is certainly enough there to write hundreds of books and tell many stories and get doctors to prescribe plenty of psychotropic drugs.
But the truth is, the colors of my life are beautiful—even the dark, muted ones. When they are juxtaposed with the vibrant ones, they all seem to make some wonderful sense, like a tapestry only God can see and smile at.
Please follow and like us: