When I was known as Tarzan, by the boys n the hood, we had all come out to the state hospital in the city, many of us from the inner city straight to a ward, for all our own, various ailments and reasons. Other people, down on the avenue in the inner city, knew me only as the driver of the old, green car, who was looking for dope with a couple of my homies. At the time we were on the inside, I was still partying, and those homies on the ward knew. I never snuck around about it.
None of those people on the ward had gone out to where I had met any of these other men, hanging out for a transaction to take place, to see if those crackers needed shooting. I functioned in the inner city, on autopilot, but I did function. I had no idea what I was doing beyond instinct, but got my instincts from childhood. I understood, somehow, that the people downtown were very dangerous people, with guns on them, just out of sight of Police, not from me. Those people had more than a craving to use those firearms on somebody or other.
I do my best to emulate the great masters of passivity. I choose gentleness and kindness. There happen to be times that I’ll get very angry and frightening. My doctor tells me that at those times my mind aggravated with an epileptic seizure. I have both grand mal and petite mal seizures, but they happen rarely. Maybe you’ll hear me scream and cuss, rarely. Once in a blue moon, I’ll get loud and dirty. I’ll claim that behavior on rare occasions, but I invariably practice nonviolence. I looked on in horror at my Dad’s irrational, senseless violence. Is there any other kind?
I thank God I was not required to join the military and experience combat.
One of the greatest masterminds of the times of the Woodstock Generation, was the greatest pacifist in America of his day. This man was a remarkable man of God for the social revolution of the 60’s, was the Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. I never saw him in person, although I did see the man on nationwide, live television broadcast from Washington, DC.
I found Dr King to be significantly motivating in a spiritual sense, more so than was safe or secure for his own life and health. Dr King was a minister of Almighty God completing a personal mission to speak a specific message to the nation. He was more than mesmerizing, and awe inspiring, Dr King was remarkable. The man was given a message to speak to a nation divided.
He delivered that message at the forfeiture of his own life, the way Abraham Lincoln did.
The man came all the way from Selma, AL, to downtown Washington, DC, on shoe leather, of all things, marching for an entire, people’s freedom, based on some issues the nation could no longer ignore. It seems impossible that Dr King would have been assassinated, but then, not everyone in this thought like my Grandma. Grandma had been born in 1885, and held, passionately, some old, tried and true Yankee ideals.
Another great man, taking up his own conscience, was Dr Che Guevara, of South America. Dr Guevara developed his own social void through interacting with a leper colony, which was a not only, grossly unpopular, but was also heavily ostracized by the surrounding community. Sympathetic to the social plight of this leper colony, the medical doctor developed significant beliefs and positions regarding the equality of social position among all men. Che worked with the people on an island confinement center, which was replete with stigma of their malady.
Dr Guevara’s mind became very much caught up in social reform, which reached beyond the leper colony, as I understand it. Che wanted to restructure the global society. Che was assassinated by a US Marine Corps professional trained marksman and assassin, whose name was Babcock. I happened to meet a guy named Babcock in North Carolina once, shortly before Che was assassinated in 1970. Babcock was careful to keep his mission to himself, but a tell tale comment was that he needed to go complete his assignment. Well, he wasn’t talking about a tour of duty in Vietnam.
The young Marine, who had a young wife and a small child to provide for, allowed me to believe that he’d been to the War in Vietnam those many months of his absence. We even shook hands, as I congratulated this Babcock for his work overseas. I really wasn’t a very good flower child. Maybe I’d get high or drunk along with the crowd, but I was politically incorrect.
Babcock produced a hardy handclasp and cordial interaction after just a few minutes up from napping on the couch in the afternoon. I was reassured, by his manner, that Babcock was a squared away Marine. I was utterly disinformed on the facts of the matter. It took another flower child, much later my in life, hundreds of miles North, to complete the picture of Dr Che Guevara for me.
There was a movie about Che in the theatre in the university town, soon after Che was gone, back in my university era, which I attempted to see. Che’s assassination, which was the substance of the movie in the first place, I must admit the matinee I tried to attend proved to be too much for me rather quickly. I walked out of the movie theatre, hasty to flee the violence, the first few scenes had been played. It was the first chance I had to learn of the wonderful, social reform genius, who had abruptly been snuffed out, around the same era the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King were.
I have studied these people and their personal behavior over the years, as well as the oldest men, who lived on the streets of small town, southwestern Pennsylvania, because I was searching for the soul and essence of nonviolence and passivity, in it’s most effective setting. I was a chronic runaway child in my day and time, and the old men were my mentors of nonviolence when I knew them. Our family moved every year. I didn’t know anybody very long in those days, but I could have suffered worse fates on the street all day. I toyed at some bad habits, but toying was about it.
But back to my narrative. All the sundry dark skinned guys on Convalescent One, Takernon Center, were adult, Afro American guys. They proved themselves to be basically about as passive as I am. I was afraid of them at first, but found it unnecessary. It’s been a while, and I could be wrong, but I don’t recall ever seeing a fight among any of the yo’s or the homies. I know I was never attacked by any of them. That’s a better average than I noticed among any evenly mixed crowd on any ward I’ve ever been on. I don’t know what it was about that the other places I’ve been, but people were always craving to commit violence.
For a while there, I was the only Caucasian Patient on the ward.
I just took my time and learned what I didn’t already know of the inner city street dialect. I must admit I had a running start on that prep course in particular. Besides, the other guys on the ward spoke that language. My language was more than just making the sounds and inflections of their speech, just as my Spanish has become. I studied enough Spanish, as well as how to make Spanish sound like Spanish, in my adolescence, as well as in my adulthood. The other part of my linguistics training was a lot of chorus, choir and vocal training. I know what to listen for.
I was always good at making foreign or unfamiliar sounds, so much so that mimicry, however accurate, would have gone over like a red crock, and I understood that early on. I guess I could have mimicked the Black dialect on that ward, but I never wanted to try. On the streets as many times as I’ve been, I learned how to get along with others at a gut level. I notice that as a writer I am seldom taking a stance. I’m always moderating what I say by qualifying with the words, kind of, or sort of. I know I developed that practice, and am certain there are others, as a defense mechanism.
I was a chronic runaway by the time I was five years old, fleeing the irrational violence of my father, learning what to do to survive on the street as a child first, and then as an addicted adult. When I was a child, I made it home at night, for the possibility of a hot meal and a warm bed at night. When I was an adult, I was surviving as a practicing drug addict when I was down and out – whenever Takernon Center let me go be on my own again.
I do my best to treat a human being like a person first, and – as whatever you treat me like – later or shine it on. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and false moves I’m not proud of, but I’ve always found a way to go on. We be good to go whif each ova when we be good to go, and hit be copacetic whif me when hit be copacetic whif yo.. Me and the guys honestly did not know each other in advance. In our time, we’ve found a way to keep the peace with each other regularly. That’s what it’s all about.
More to their credit than mine, many of us became good friends eventually. I was there almost one full year. Meeting on that ward was our introduction to each other. Well, you know what happened. It amounted to mostly talk from a few of them. The rest of them stayed out of it, watching the ever-present TV, or preoccupied with whatever thoughts they were having. I had a need to respond. In case you’re wondering, I don’t know anything about how to fight and never needed to. There was a time that one of the homies stole my steak off my plate, walked away with it, and I didn’t fight.
We got steak once and only once, in all the ten years time, I was in and out of Takernon Center. I let a young man take mine from me without consequence. I am not about personal possessions under threat of violence or prosecution. My nonviolence spoke volumes to the hearts of those men. They heard me loud and clear without me saying a word. You might think I told them with body language that I would let them walk all over me. But that is not what they heard. Material things are not important to me. Avoiding violence and not inflicting pain is what is important.
Those fellas had to play with doing everything Jail they could think of for me, except beat me up, outright. They weren’t that brutal. In fact, they were ordinary people with extraordinary issues. For the most part, I never knew what most of them were in there for. Come to think about it, a lot of those guys were really nice people, in unfortunate situations, just like me.
What they wanted to do with me that first day, was to tease me good and proper, to check how I was going to pan out with them. Frankly, I think some of them were more afraid of me than I was of them. I don’t quite see how that was possible, but I wasn’t them. At least some of those men were definitely sick people, according to their frequent behavior, when they began to relax. I was no longer the center of attention. Some played with me and let me go. Others ignored me most of the time.
This one fella got his hands all over my shoulders and arms, as if he were the Serpent, Himself. He never did hurt me or violate me, and I would have been highly upset if he did. He just kept petting my shoulders and my arms. He kept laughing in his good natured way, until he delivered the terms of his ransom. What he wanted from me were my shoes.
I only had one pair, so I was reduced to my stocking feet, for a floor that was nothing but basic cement. Who knows, a guy might never come back for his shoes. That means the bully scores a free pair of shoes. After a while, he gave mine back to me when I asked – and gave them to me the first time I asked. In case you’re wondering, I’ve never been to jail, getting to be an older man, but used to watch TV about jail. I was raised better than getting myself arrested.