right choice? wrong choice? I have to be me

tonight I took the boys to Cleveland Park to pick up a pizza from Vace
Vace only does carry out
it is a popular thought that Vace pizza is the best pizza in the city
okay.... Ghepettos may be better for certain things
but Vace can not beat for its affordablility and its ease
we ordered a large pizza with pepperoni for cost just below twelve dollars

the boys loaded into the car without effort
we drove the short but greater than walking distance in the honda element
definitely not a walking option for a man with two small children intending on purchasing a pizza, a frozen lasagna, and some san peligrino soda
sure the trailer is an option... but that is not how I roll

as we drove past Jamal's Park and Shop the boys chimed in with a harmonious request to see the dogs at the pet store
there is a Petco in the Park and Shop mini strip mall established over seventy five years ago
a drive in mall that is said to be the first of its kid in US history
or something to that effect
urban now... but the birth of suburbia in its time
born in the same age as the birth of the automobile

even my 100 year old neighborhood of Mount Pleasant has a suburban past before its urban present

traffic was backed up ahead leading to the Uptown theater
with the light in my favor I hooked a mid block u-turn and dipped into the Park and Shop
with a ticket in hand I told the boys that we would give it a shot
there were no spaces
we gave it a shot
I was a few cars back in the queue waiting for a space
our shot came up empty was headed out of the park and shop
the boys returned with a harmonious request
I told them that we would go to the pet store if everyone was able to listen and follow directions
that meant listening to orders about speeding up, slowing down, stopping, or taking our hands as we take the sidewalk back to the strip
we immediately left the park and shop and saught parking on the street

the Petco was a good time killer
the drive to Vace was short
the search for the parking space was effortless
not close, but effortless
which gave us plenty of time for a walk through at the pet store

there were turtles, fish, parakettes, and guinne pigs
there was even a puppy customer shopping for a dog bed
the parakeets were the top draw
it took some bargaining to get them to leave
but no real debate
there was some begging boardering on whinning as we passed the gumball machines
but we marched on
a promise of some Jordan Almonds at Vace pleased all including myself

it was a set of long city blocks from the pet store to Vace Pizza with plenty of distractions along the way
there were all sorts of store fronts and restaurants drawing the boys attention
some open doors drawing them in
a man panhandling got less attention than the guy on guitar playing for change
a woman from work said hello before she went into a paint your own pottery place
then finally we arrived at Vace

even if the timing was such that the pizza was ready when we arrived there were still the hands of young octopi to control
they were good
but they are little boys
which makes them curious and touchy
so I issued commands as I gathered my San Peligrino, my frozen lagsagna, my frozen eggplant parmagain, and my order from the register
dean got the bag full of candy covered almonds
grant wanted to get another bag
I tried to control the situation while focusing on paying for my order with a credit card
the boys were good... human not mischievious... which in my eyes is good

the march back to the car went through the same set of meanderings
all three of us moving at slightly different paces
dean out ahead
grant dragging behind
and me trying to gather them in from the middle

there was a pee break before the car
grant peed in his pants while dean peed on a tree
I tried to get grant to use the tree
but it was not worth argueing
potty training can go that way

the house and car were close
a wet set of jeans were not worth getting worked up about

we drove home
down then up porter street
through an alley
then onto our street

ahead was some activity
some teenage mischief
as I rolled towards the intersection I tried to weigh the situation
one young man was hidden behind a telephone pole while another was behind a metal utility box
there were an assortment of other late teen aged boys walking in the middle of the street

then I caught the object of their attention
it was screaming man
the older man that lives in the woods down the street from my house
the boys were teasing and harassing the clearly crazy man with the crutch
there was space for me to flow through so I went past in my car
watching the activity all the while

the numbers were not fair
the odds were not in the favor of screaming man
I pulled over higher on my street than I would normally park
a young man dashed across the street in an aggressive yet playful way
he leaped and screamed spooking the man who was using his crutch to guard himself

it was hard to tell the intention of the pack of teen age boys
no matter their intention the homeless man was not enjoying their unwarranted attention

with the rush across the street there was mob to man contact
things had just escalated to a new level
I stepped from my car
a rock flew past screaming man's head and a bottle crashed on the street by his side
before things got out of control I rushed up the block
I shouted something characteristic of some sort caucasian stereotype in a Richard Pryor or Eddie Murpy stand up performance
without getting too preachy about the fair treatment of one's fellow man I raised my hand to the air with my cell phone
telling them to cool it before I called the police
still marching up the street with my young boys still back in the car the urban youth scattered

eye contact and a thanks was shared from the screaming man to myself
his thanks drifted off into a description of what happened with all sorts of gestures and an utterance which was not english
just unintelligible jibberish
certain his adrenalin was rushing as he was under attack
I have encountered this man many times recent years
my dogs never cared for him always barking as he passes the house
a few times they rushed him in the woods
screaming man usually talks jibberish to himself then snaps to complete coherience when talking to others
with all the excitement he was stuck in jibberish mode
but I got his point.. the hand gesture like a cup said it all... those kids have no balls

a strange irony
so much of urban culture and their quasi coolness and their quasi toughness
sucker punches
drive by shootings
gang aggression on one defenseless victim
sounds like a pack of pussies too weak to stand alone
rather than the actions of men of strength and confidence

with the kids still in the car I went back to dealing with my family
continued further down the block and parked
looked back up the hill for the urban youth
thought about what had happened
sure I put myself at risk
my car may still be at risk if these kids return
but things looked like they were going to move from stupid young tough guy talk to stupid young tough guy action
and well
I had to be me and step in between it

just like halloween night last year with the latino kids
there was moderate regret
a tad wish that I had not gotten involve
a claim that I won't let that happen again

as it turns out lisa had watched much of this unfold
apparently the young boys had flushed this man from his camp in the woods
chasing him up the street like a pack of wolves around a wounded male moose
not sure if the moose has the strength to fight off the wolves
the wolves kept their distance

last night the sound of a party down the block or around the corner had loud bass shaking our house
I thought to myself about what may unfold later that night or days to follow

would this pack of young males come back to seek vengence on me or my car?
would this group of boys come back to terrorize screaming man again?

I thought about calling the police
it seemed as if the activity had dispelled
through the night I listened for activity on the street below the sound of base
it reminded me of the time when the young boys returned after I chased them away when they stole my pumpkins on Lamont Street
they came back
like a fool I snuck around the house through the alley and met them on the sidewalk


gwadzilla said...

I never called the police
the response time of the DC police would not have helped

a friend of mine who works with the courts said I should have called the police and waited 15 minutes before I got involved

from where I stood...
fifteen minutes would have been too late

my arrival was right on time
as it seemed like a moment of transition

not sure what was going to happen or what could have happened
there would have been more bottles and more rocks
maybe the run up would have progressed into a sucker punch

who knows how far this would have escalated?

in my mind it was best to "nip it in the bud"
that is what andy would have said to barney... "nip it... just nip it... nip it in the bud"

as much as I felt that I may have been at risk
I still felt I should get involved
I am glad that these young men did not turn their attention and their aggression on me

I do not want to get shot
I also do not think I can just stand on the side and look

Frank Brigandi said...

I get between things as well. though, i do not have your physical girth, I have more of an intentioned aire about me i've been told,when my voice or stare takes on a different meaning. it makes people look away, or freeze. a few morons have actually second guessed me, or was I the moron....hmm, I have approached groups of teenagers, young men, even men my age, acting innapropriate and disgusting toward each other or someone else. i've been in more fights than anyone i know, i never initiate them, in high school I was the kid standing up for the retarded kid getting a beating or teased, and I took on anyone willing to go towe to toe with me. for what? for the sole right of passage, no one deserves fear, in any way, for any reason, i'm the guy giving the drug dealers an earful with their thriats in my hand, that's me, the one with a stab wound, bullet scars, shotgun pocks, lacking the common sense to look away, but I can;t and never will, i never claim to be the smartest tack in the pack, but I will usually go in first and draw blood if that's the way it's going to be. yes, I have fear, but my conscience pains me more if I don;t do anything, the loss of sleep as I re-run an event I didn;t try to do anything about...it hurts worse than surgery and the scars are uglier. well, for me anyway.

gwadzilla said...

one problem...
I can not fight
but thtat does not stop me from sticking my neck out
maybe I am just stupid

Frank Brigandi said...

not stupid at all, more like, intolerant of stupid.
I learned how to fight by getting beat up.