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‘Yo Got Change?’
At the Gas Station with Oliver

Oliver and I pulled up in the conversion van at one of the worst gas stations in Baltimore County, right on the city line, on McClean Boulevard, just before Perring Parkway, across the street from the KFC.

I sat in the passenger seat as Oliver came and went between the dysfunctional pump and the attendant at the counter.

A young group of wannabe thugs, ranging from 15-21, were hanging around, eying the white devil in the van. They step back from Oliver as he walks in. But a less menacing man—a tall, thin, distracted fellow in his mid-twenties—pulls up and walks in. Two of the six youth yell,

"Yo got some change fo a ten?"

This was a suggestion to open up the wallet, to which the man looked at the biggest, oldest fellow like he was stupid, and the mini-mob backed down as he walked into the store to pay for his gas.

As this was happening, a stunning young woman in her late 30s pulls up in a nice car. She has her natural hair, picked out in semi-bunny-ear fashion. This girl looked like she walked out of the 1970s, a real, dark chocolate black woman.

The thugs then began to bunch together like gawking fools, crowding the door, stumble-bumming out of the way when Oliver walks back out. They still try to get her attention but she's checking Oliver out, who doesn't spare her a glance. The alpha-creep of the group then says something to her and she looks at him and begins a banter, first looking over at me.

Oliver says to me, "Did you hear what that idiot said to her?"

He then went to the gas pump and we both listened as the woman defended herself, having ascertained that at least one of the two men at the station were paying attention, and those men were together.

Her lines:

"I have a man."

"Knowing I have a man, why would you ask me that?"

"I have a child with that man and you accuse me of being a whore?"

"We have enough problems in our community without betraying our men."

"Look, you are a nice looking black man, so, if I didn't have a man we could get together. But I have a man. Have a nice day."

This woman conducted herself well, with a diplomatic closing statement.

Oliver got into the van and said, "I was doing installation with Alex at [names an elite private school] where her son goes. We saw her there picking him up. She handled that well."

This was an excellent example of female self-defense, in which she checked the masculine landscape before responding to the insults she was being subjected to and doing so in a way that should not drag the two men she has determined will come to her aid.

At a glance, an older white guy with a hyper-masculine black man in an all black area, speaks of cohesion. These two men probably work together and have a preexisting cohesiveness that will be more effective that the thug group, which is trying to attain an above clown level of cohesion.

On Bitches

Your Trojan Whorse

Add Comment
Sam J.May 31, 2017 5:10 AM GMT+4

"...At night, I wore Japanese silk kimonos and walked the streets seemingly unafraid..."

I got a kick out of that. The name "Rick Shaw", Japanese silk kimonos...hmmm.
Rick ShawMay 29, 2017 12:13 PM GMT+4


I've been trapped on your website for a few days. Thanks. What you have written and how you write (your style reminds me of J.G. Ballard sometimes) brings back memories.

I lived in several of the "red zones"* of Baltimore for many years. I was often the only white person for blocks around. I didn't have a car. I walked many miles a day. I took busses when they ran and hailed a hell of a lot of cabs. I had a few cabbies on string who appreciated my business when I paged them. I tipped them well enough to make it worth their while. I've had guns pulled on me on the street but was never shot. I was never successfully mugged.

My father was a street fighter/prize fighter/small-time boxer who rose up through white trash Boston slums and finally managed to fight his way out and bring his family along with him. I came along as his first born son. He taught me many things that helped me later in life. The most useful thing he taught me as far as my experience living in Baltimore was that there is a difference between contest and survival: "Do you want to win, or do you want to survive?" The rules are different. I never saw any rules posted in the streets of Baltimore. Or any rules posted in any other large city I have lived in.

I also had excellent teachers for the several martial arts I have studied and I have sparred a lot, a lot, a lot. It all helped. I am no expert. But I do have a clue.

When I lived in Baltimore some of my black friends informed me that the reason I experienced no problem on the street was because I was known as "that crazy-ass white MF from up/down/over on/under/near ________ ". Maybe part of it was because of how I dressed. I cut my hair so that there was never enough to grab onto and use against me in a fight but left it long enough to fling out wild and in disarray. Wildman hair strategy. I cultivated it. At night, I wore Japanese silk kimonos and walked the streets seemingly unafraid. I always had a destination—I was not merely prowling. I was often afraid but I have found there comes a point when fear can be a positive and instructive tool. And flash through to discover that you are still alive. Or dead, maybe. But I haven't had the experience of finding myself dead yet. In retrospect, I think I was just lucky. Being well known is not a particularly good strategy. You might get tagged. I nearly always "kept to my own lane" but I'm still ashamed that I didn't do more to help some others when I could have helped in situations that I decided to avoid.

One thing I haven't so far seen touched upon in your writing is any reference to the convoluted superstitions of hoodrats, dindus, BT-1000's, etc., including the just plain poor folk both white and black in Baltimore. It's a shifting mirage, I know, but I think it would be a rich area to explore.

Carry on.


Penn North, off of Fulton Ave not too far from Druid Park Lake Drive

Hollins Market area, near the market it was called sowebo by the yuppies

Charles village, near Waverly and points south and west

Baltimore street, 300 block east or west, I forget now

The blocks I lived on near Hollins Market had about 40% boarded up homes. Lots of rats and junkies. One thing I learned early on was, "Never walk through grass or weeds." Why? "More used needles than grass, that's why."