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Rick Shaw Commented on ‘Yo Got Change?’ May-29-2017


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."

James on Urban Superstition

Thank you, Rick. Below are my works dealing with this, all fiction and humor. This summer I will write a nonfiction book on it, Magic Dindus and White Devils.


The Truth about Black Folks as T. Spoone Slickens, Inquire

A Hoodrat Halloween

Skulker Jones

A White Christmas

Ire and Ice


A Hoodrat Halloween: The Legend of Reggiemon Thom

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