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Returning to Baltimore City
Against Crackpot Defense: Baltimore, City, 8/22/23
© 2023 James LaFond
In the weekly editorial call, Lynn informed me that a twitter person noted that masculinity was in such a state of crisis that people like [James LaFond “You know who I’m talking about, Lynn”] move to places like Baltimore to play at dangerous living. She defended me as simply getting busy as a working man in my ancestral home town.
Thanks, Lynn, but I was less successful than that.
I was born in Baltimore, from whence my family escaped to Pennsylvania where I lived as a teen. Upon the commission of an extremely violent crime, I moved back to Maryland, in Baltimore County, outside the terrible City that had belched forth nearly all of my extended family.
I needed a job so I could leave the apartment of my mother and sister where I slept on the couch. My Grandfather picked me up in his car and drove me to a point on U.S. Route #1, 8 miles from Baltimore City. He said, “When I was a painter, I walked 17 miles to work every day, and then back. You can do at least 10 miles in and back. You have no skill and no high school diploma. Simply put in an application at every place of business for entry level work. Do not turn back until you see black.”
“Yes, Sir,” I answered and began down the road in my father’s ill-fitting dress boots that I bought from him for $70. Doing as he said, having to admit to a businessman, a receptionist and doctor who interviewed me that I had tried to pass 9th grade twice, and failed, and despairing of making a third attempt, quit school on my 16th birthday so I could learn how to do some kind of work “on the job.” They all wished me well, gave me some tips on being interviewed by others, and sent me on my way.
Ironically, eventually, 4 miles from where I now sit in Northeast Baltimore, blisters forming on my ankles from the loose zip-up boots, at White Avenue and Belair Road, I saw a black man, getting on a bus and heading downtown, a janitor who worked at Miller Motors that had a showroom on that street corner. Not knowing that I would spend 4 years managing the local supermarket 3 blocks back on the west side of the street, in the 2000s, and 8 years renting a room on White Avenue as an e-pulp writer in the 20teens, I crossed the street, headed back north and walked into Bel Garden Bi-Rite and filled out a job application at the courtesy booth. Little did I know that a future roommate of mine, known by one and all as “Bonehead,” had just lost a finger on the forklift and that a replacement was needed.
My only work experience had been landscaping, collating [1] in a print shop, and sanding dry wall. The old lady who brought my application out from behind the low white counter, looked up at me with promise in her one good eye, and in disappointment at the white sheet of paper, and said, “We are looking for an experienced clerk who knows how to handle freight… I see here that you have no driver’s license and you live in Perry Hall. How did you get here?”
“Walked, Ma’am.”
“Nobody walks that far anymore. You are hired. You will start at $3.50 an hour and you will be here at 7:00 AM. Do you need bus money?”
“No Ma’am, I have three dollars, that will get me down and back.”
“Then I will give you an advance on your pay after work tomorrow,” informed the matron.
That was in September of 1981. Miss Betty cosigned on a house note for me in 1983, even though I only made $7 an hour. Her status as a business leader and pledge that she would continue working me like a dog for 75 hours a week, impressed the bank adjuster and I became the last person of my race to buy a house 2 miles down the road in Gardenville, 2 miles into “the black” as my step father noted critically. But I could not qualify for a loan outside of the city. This was the house I could buy, the closest one to work that I could afford. I walked 2 miles to and from work for the next ten years as the corridor for the #15 bus was invaded and conquered by my dark hunters.
By November of 1992, I was up to making $10.25 an hour and getting buy making house and car [2] payments on working 75 hours per week. Promises of higher wages and better benefits at union stores beckoned and I resigned in Mid Month, stayed to train my replacement until Thanksgiving, and then began taking 2 to 3 hour bus trips through Baltimore City at night to work at distant union supermarkets for a staggering $11.40 per an hour!
In 1994, working 6 jobs at 118 hours per week, I was injured, lost the car my wife used for grocery shopping and visiting her parents in Pennsylvania and had to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy by 1996. The neighborhood had been overrun, my oldest son sent out of town to save his life and my youngest son and wife confined to the house as I ventured out by foot and bus among the savage conquerors.
By February 1999, my wife and I were attacked by gunmen as I escorted her on her first venture outside the small brick house and she demanded we move.
In September 1999, having saved up 3 unpaid house payments, I, my wife and youngest son escaped to the low rent Baltimore County waterfront of Dundalk. I still worked deep in the City and my commute involved two miles of walking from the County into the City, the taking of two busses, which required waiting on two City bus stops, which were also open air drug markets, and then walking for a mile through the other side of the City.
By August 2000 the small brick house was auctioned off and my credit score plummeted further.
From 2000 through 2017, I lived and worked in Baltimore City and County, never able to afford paying rent with work in the same area where I lived. My wife kicked me out in 2002. For a brief 4 years, from 2006 thru 2010, I worked as the lowest paid store Director in Maryland to help my youngest son through college.
Finally, on December 11th, 2017, the back injury returned and limping to work on a cane, I was attacked by two pairs of muggers. The second pair had me defenseless and dead to rights—two giant Nigerian bruisers of some 6’ 6” inches and 300 pounds—and they found me too pathetic in my commitment to fight in my shredded clothes and let me off the mugging hook, like a fish that was molting and no longer good to eat.
In humiliation I quit work, was unable to sustain rent payments from writing and coaching money, and took to the railroads to visit readers, living in their garages, mudrooms and basements and on their couches.
I have not lived in Baltimore since 2018.
I am homeless.
I return to Baltimore to visit friends and family and reside for a few summer months in the winter of a failed life with a fighter I coach. The least I can do is try and defend his property like a lame old dog, and to document in brief his plight. For the Brickmouse, though born and raised in White Suburbia, and his bride could not afford to buy a house in habitable white flight migration zones. They could only afford a house in the outer margins of the terrible city that spat me out. Being the bard of the Brickmouse might not rank with those who sang the songs of Achilles, Odysseus, Beowulf and Roland—but this kid once dropped a heavyweight with a sneaky left straight and yesterday he ran down a light heavyweight Bantu buck and got his way in the back alley parlay.
There are worse fates for the least-famed chronicler of his age.
My answer in brief, to those kind souls who would defend me on social media, is don’t do it. Double down for them, “LaFond is homeless because he was unable to make enough money to pay room rent anywhere, even in Baltimore! He should be living in a cardboard box but for the kindness of others. He does not have the luxury for urban slumming or homesteading—he’s just a lingering ghost still haunting the house where his identity was murdered by the better members of his dying race.
-James, Tuesday, August 22nd in the 4th Year of Our Lord Floyd
-1. Putting page 1 on top of page 3, on top of page 4...until all 435 pages of the 390some Fox grocery catalogs were ready to be bound with spiral binding. 3 years later, in another state, I would be ordering from these very product lists as a rookie grocery clerk.
-2. A powder blue 82 Ford Escort. This car was driven 1500 miles per year, including the 500 mile annual round trip to Pittsburgh. My wife picked up and signed for my paycheck for 10 years, to the point where she was forging my signature on lease documents 15 years after she fired me. The car had to have 3 new exhaust systems installed.
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Maud'Dib     Apr 14, 2024

Quote from above

"-James, Tuesday, August 22nd in the 4th Year of Our Lord Floyd"

I've really enjoyed you stories over the years discovering you on the Mot20C.

You are the traveling sage, putting forth truth and wisdom. Men/Women are drawn to you because of your hard truths. Sure, you embellish from time to time, but any sage worth his wisdom uses that for teaching.
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