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Harm City Holdout
A Normal Saturday Night in Baltimore


I am reposting this old article for the many new readers who might be curious about the origins of the Harm City page, and who have most likely not read any of my Paladin Press books.

Take care, and don't get boned!

James 3/19/15

Last of the White Savages

I have been called hyperbolic for suggesting Baltimore is an exceptionally dangerous place. I have also been called a ‘scary person’ and a ‘badass’ for having survived three decades on foot, at night, in this mid-sized city that has managed to remain in the top ten for most violent American cities every year since the early nineties. I disagree with both of these characterizations. I might be a ‘weirdo,’ an ‘eccentric,’ a ‘Bohemian.’ But I am no badass and I have not inflated Baltimore’s violent nature. I do have ‘bad hips’ in jiu jitsu parlance, and that could be loosely translated as me being a badass. And, yes, I have focused some measure of negative attention on my hometown. But that is about the extent of my ‘street cred.’

For decades I was just a hard-working scrub that did not make much money, and was stuck in the city that my more lucratively living relatives managed to flee from. My wife and I had decided to forgo a two-income suburban home so that she could actually raise our children as opposed to that being accomplished by a daycare center. Now that my sons are adults, living suburban lives, I have ‘opted out’ of the ‘rat race,’ and rent a room in the city, so that I can pursue my writing. The subjects I write about are not lucrative, so I have stayed behind, a white trash loner in a majority black city overrun with gang sets and group-based crime, though it is undergoing a minor renaissance in select areas.

The violence study I did in the late 90s is skewed in a number of ways. For instance I did not seek interviews with strange women out of respect for them: “Excuse me, miss, I am the Violence Guy. I would like to know if you have been raped lately, does your husband beat you…”

The survey was however, comprehensive to my life-way and the lives of those I know, and the men I sought out in my quest to widen and deepen my understanding of my environment—just one singular environment out of hundreds of urban centers across this continent. Let us say then that The Violence Project did generate an accurate ‘urban working class violence profile,’ with the understanding that the female victim numbers are both skewed and weak, and that the cultural setting is regionally distinct and the population density moderate.

The process of collecting the information and turning it into thematic books was made more dynamic, more interesting, by the fact that I worked at night in various locations, all of which necessitated me travelling through some of the worst parts of Baltimore at the worst times. I have always worked in supermarkets, usually on the night crew. Night crew clerks make their best money on Saturday night, when they get paid overtime. When I was writing my violence books I had at least one crazy incident or threat a week, providing plenty of timely illustrations to help illuminate those other people’s misadventures that I had studied. It might come as no surprise to learn that much of that ‘crazy’ stuff [I’ll ballpark it and say 30%] happened on Saturday nights.

Inspired by Robert Wagner, homeowner advocate and infomercial humanitarian, I am now living in ‘reverse-retirement.’ I no longer prostitute myself for Saturday night OT, but stay home and write. Last night, Saturday, December 16th, 2012, I agreed to do my boss a favor and work for a man who is on vacation. What I am about to relate to you is simply a trip from Northeast Baltimore to Eastern Baltimore County. I used to take such commutes 360 days per year from 1992 through 2006. The story I am about to tell you, is being told, not because I rate it as crazy or unusual, but because it represents my typical work commute through the late 1990s and early 2000s. I am now looking at things from an older, more enlightened perspective, in a city that has been somewhat altered for better and for worse.

Early on last night I decided to pay special attention to as many facets of nocturnal Harm City life as possible. I also, did not take any written notes. When you are out there with a notepad, everyone treats you differently, mostly more deferentially than otherwise. [I do believe that this went some ways toward inoculating me from violence back when I was ‘The Violence Guy’.] So, I write this today from memory, a micro-memoir, a slice of life from the perspective of one of America’s most reviled organisms: the stay-behind white-trash urban survivor, a being with no egalitarian social traction, a low-caste semi-person with no wealth or privilege inherited from the ‘master race’ that wiped out the red man and enslaved the black man, and also a man with no excuses for his failure to materially thrive.

The Peace Pipe

10:45 P.M.

I would be taking the downtown bus and then an out-of-town bus, to get to the East Side. Cross-town bus service was finished for the night and a cab lift would cost me $40. I walked a half mile to Harford Road in Hamilton, the last neighborhood south of Parkville. Parkville is a very large zip code that straddles the city/county line. Lately the crime has been much worse in Parkville than in Hamilton. The wave of Section Eight subsidized welfare mothers and their criminal spawn has migrated through Hamilton and are now besieging my betters up the road. The night is completely overcast and moist, a slight drizzle in the upper air, dissipating to a foggy mist at street level. I do not pass a soul on this secondary street.

When I arrive at Harford Road, city cop cars are racing out to Parkville where the county police chopper can be heard hovering two miles to the north. Two Saturday nights past [2:30 A.M. Sunday] there was a double fatal stabbing out there, so that crosses my mind as I cross the street. I also wonder about Will up at the 7-11 just south of the county line. He’s been robbed a few times this year and twice had to lock up the store when county cops drove rioters from the VFW hall down into the city. I wonder if perhaps all of these city cops are headed out to repay the favor by driving some Harm City Hood Rats north into Whitebreadistan.

10:55 P.M.

I take up a position by the curb at the bus stop across from an old church and notice a small crowd of teenagers up the street on the other side. I look down the street and see a few bar patrons coming and going at the local dive. One of them comes north and walks by me, speaking to someone on her cell phone. I should have been minding my Six O’clock but I was minding hers. She was in her mid-twenties, 5’ 1”, 115 pounds, with b-cups, long, thick, silky black hair, a long thin nose, and a nice…a, voice—that’s right I was attracted to her melodic tone. I can recall no other features, have not even the slightest inkling as to the anatomical properties that might have been responsible for stretching that long tight white sweater over her new snug blue jeans.

I immediately began looking for a man. Women this good looking, particularly the rare good-looking white woman of Baltimore, do not travel alone. She is either a vice cop who will try to chat me up, or she has just had a fight with her drunk boyfriend. Sure enough, I hear her confirming ‘suspicion two’ as she walks past me toward the crowd up the street, “No, no, Baby, I don’t go with him anymore. Oh, he’s back down at the bar. I’m not getting back with him…”

And so she strolled on by, appealing to the conscience of some poor sap that she had obviously dumped some time ago, trying to get him to toss the remote aside and get in his reason for her calling so he can come pick her up and then kick himself in the mind when she kisses him on the cheek and heads into mom’s house with that ‘sorry for the lack of chemistry’ look on her face.

11:00 P.M.

Being a man of science I observed this young lady’s progress up the sidewalk under the street lights, placing her BMI at…let me see…darn I forgot my calipers—at about, just right. Look, I’m a boxing coach, body-typing is my business I will have you know. Just as she passed the next stop, she headed back my way, pocketing her phone. She was being pushed south by the group of screaming and laughing kids. She picked up her step until she got down to my stop, and then began lurking behind me, no longer on the phone, just pacing nervously. The kids kept coming down this side of the street having crossed 150 yards north of my position.

The group was 14-15 years old and middle class. These are often the most obnoxious youngsters, because they are not real hoodlums, but want that same level of respect, so tend to be real loud. There were four males and two females. This is a ratio that will generally insure foolish behavior on the part of at least one of the males, as he tries to show off for the girls. The woman was now milling around the stop, having suddenly found a use for the grungy looking old dude in the bomber jacket, hooded black sweatshirt, torn painter’s pants, Polygamy Porter hat, and shredded work boots.

As the kids neared us they got quiet, all stared at me, and then surrounded me. The lady then darted for the wall of the building behind the bench and between two bushes.

‘Good girl,’ I thought as I palmed my Bic pen in my right coat pocket.

I had a welterweight in the street behind me, a middleweight and a featherweight over my left shoulder. Between me and the dark-haired girl with the nice pale skin was a lightweight in a windbreaker and ski cap and a female. To my right was the other female. My right foot was on the curb and my hands were in my pockets.

A moment of silence while some punk grows a set of hopeful balls…

In situations like this I kind of get tantric. I focus on one antagonist and do not take my eyes from him as I visualize doing the same thing to him over and over and over again. I pick that option out of my limited physical inventory without thinking about it. I just go with my emotional state. If I’m alert and feeling sharp I just visualize checking, gouging and sprawling. If I’m angry I visualize punching and stomping. If I’m feeling sluggish I visualize stabbing.

I was feeling really sluggish. By the time he began talking to me I had already stabbed him in the throat repeatedly in my mind. My right hand was wrapped around my plastic ink pen, and my left hand was open, ready to slide out of my coat pocket and palm his right shoulder so I could pull him into the stab.

He said, “Yo, yo got a menthol cigarette?”

I looked through him, not a stare-down, or a glare, just a vacant look.

A Ghetto Context Break…

First, let’s make one thing crystal clear: when a male in Baltimore asks a strange man on the street for a smoke, it is not about the cigarette. The purpose is 1. intimidation, 2. bonding, or 3. the beginning of ‘an interview’ which will determine your suitability as a victim. Since I am not psychic I always assume 3. to be the case.

In Baltimore two kinds of smokers smoke menthols: blacks and white stoners. White drunks smoke Camels, Winstons, Cowboy Killers, etc. This kid actually began on a diplomatic note. We can forgive him for not realizing that he had the ill luck to run into the only working class white Baltimorean who does not smoke and get high. This was the equivalent of Daniel Boone taking Rebecca on a trek, and, upon passing a Mingo drifter on the trail, suggesting they smoke a peace pipe. He might as well have said to the girl closest to him, “Hey, baby, I know how to talk to these old fiends.”

Back to Our Hip-hop Hero

He kept looking at me but stepped back a little, just out of arm’s reach, “Yo, can I have a menthol cigarette?”

I looked through him, feeling myself empty out, draining myself of thought and emotion as I, in my mind’s eye, trapped and stabbed, trapped and stabbed, trapped and stabbed.

Now, when I begin visualizing an action when confronted my ‘go cue’ is touch-approach-deploy. I will—if alone and not protecting a non combatant—never act without being touched, charged, chased, followed, or having a weapon deployed against me. This is not ideal. Once I have brainwashed myself to react in a certain way I will stick with that until there is separation or until I am touched again. If I get touched again that is what I call my ‘devolution cue,’ I just become an animal. My frame-of-mind may be described like so: I’ve turned myself into a bullet and loaded myself into their gun. They can shoot themselves or put the gun down.

I don’t know how ethical you think that is. I am not a gregarious person, not a talker. I am also not a dominating personality, not a yeller. I’m a quiet private little person who draws a line in his mind and waits for it to be crossed. So, my method of mentally cuing up for such encounters suits me. If I was a coked up offensive lineman maybe yelling would be the way to go.

They were all standing still. This guy was not going to initiate. I expected the touch to come from behind, and kept visualizing launching on this guy when that happened. If an adult male gets attacked he needs to get visibly marked up and mark up as many of the ‘innocent’ youths as possible, to take them out of the witness pool.

I am not afraid of these guys, but of the police, the state’s attorney, the people who will take my freedom away for having the indecency to defend myself in their domain.

He then screeched as he did a close kneel with hands on knees like a transvestite imitating Marilyn Monroe singing to JFK, “Please give me a menthol cigarette!”

I kept staring and visualizing as he repeated this same plea the same way over and over and over again, literally screaming at the top of his lungs for a "menthol cigarette."

Then, the girl next to him, off my right shoulder, reached over to him and slapped him in the shoulder with her fingertips, “Fool, don’t you see he ain’t playin’!”

For emphasis she pointed with her other hand to my hands in my front coat pockets. The boy then stepped back and looked around at his friends as I continued to visualize and stare.

He barked, “Yo, whateva whateva. Lez head down da street, yo.”

With that they were off down into the center of Hamilton to do whatever important things remained to be done. The brunette then walked up to my left shoulder, “Hey sweetie, could you spare a cigarette?”

She was streetwise enough to know that this encounter had nothing to do with cigarettes. I looked down into her pretty brown eyes and said, “Actually miss, I don’t smoke, I really don’t.”

She said, “Wow, have a nice night, baby,” and walked back up the street as she slid her phone out of her back pocket, past two guys in their early twenties who had just crossed the street and were noting that the cops had returned from Parkville already. That is when my bus rolled up.

Strange Ways

11:35 P.M.-1:00 A.M.

10-15 years ago the #19 bus would have held, not only the five working passengers commuting home, but a gang set as well. It seems the Harford Road Boyz have gone the way of Rome and I caught a nap as the other patrons texted, facebooked and nodded off. I used to pass through downtown daily. Now it is quarterly. My transfer point was on Baltimore Street, known as ‘The Block,’ where the strip clubs are. When I was younger this area would be overrun by groups of suburban 21-year-olds and creepy old perverts, with a sprinkling of hookers.

I found The Block was much changed. There was a heavy police presence. Baltimore has recently garnered some gay pride and formula racing tourist dollars, and is trying to overcome the bad image cast by HBO miniseries and 2012’s Saint Patrick’s Day flash mob attacks on tourists Stoning Baboons.

There is, ominously, only one hooker, and she is very good looking with her pimp maintaining a high profile. I saw a handful of white couples, paired up in fours. I saw about ten other white male pedestrians in pairs and alone. I estimated about 500 black male pedestrians, mostly in groups of three to six, and a handful of Hispanics.

There was about a dozen of us people of mixed age, but mostly older, waiting at the stop, observing the insanity around us. I spotted about 30 black women, travelling in pairs and trios. The crazy thing was, these were largely West Baltimore ghetto girls who had dressed up in almost nothing, seemingly in competition with the unseen dancers, in order to pick up men. None of them were comfortable in their high heels, and I would say that the average size was 5’9” 200 lbs. The clingy miniskirts were so short that any normal step would render them naked from the waist down.

There were three people working drug packages and one guy eating discarded pizza crust off the sidewalk while he tried to sell discarded bus tickets.

The white men that were visible were all driving, either cop cars or luxury sedans and SUVs. One SUV-load of stoned and drunk white men were shadowing a group of three black girls, calling out the window asking about prices, assuming they were hookers. A young guy standing at the stop next to me yelled to the insane looking Eastern European drunk that was hanging out the window, “Yo fool, they either givin’ it away or kickin’ yo ass. Nobody pays fo pussy anymore up in dis joint.”

Our next laugh came as two women, escorted by a single submissive man, argued violently as they walked the two blocks in our view along Baltimore. It took these girls from 12:05 to 12:30 to cover two blocks, only to kick off their high heels and begin punching each other.

The 11:30 P.M. bus had not come.

The 12:00 A.M. bus did not come.

The 12:30 A.M. bus did not come.

The two old ladies with their canes were looking beat as the rain began rolling in.

The 1:00 A.M. bus did not come.

Then the cops started shutting down the intersections with traffic cones and I left my co-commuters behind and walked west two blocks.

1:10 A.M.

There was no bus in sight and cabs were getting scarce. Two gorgeous after-hours dancers and their body guards were dismounting from an Escalade and headed down toward the Hustler Club and the other fleshpots.

Beam Me Up, Haji

A Middle Eastern dude banked his cab around off of Light Street. I waved him over and he passed me by, headed into the block to pick up some drunks, who were far better dressed. Then he noticed the cones and backed up, asking me where I was going. He was all ears when he found out I was in need of a $60 fare. As we rolled through the Inner Harbor and out the East Side we traversed what was effectively a deserted wilderness. We passed two traffic stops and an arrest in progress by the city cops, and one traffic stop and an arrest in progress by the county cops.

I like how cabbies, mostly recent immigrants, really try to provide the best in customer service by dialing in a radio station that they guess will please their patron. He switched the hip-hop to country, then to classic rock, then—took a good look at me—and switched on an AM channel for a book interview. I never stopped looking out the window during this process. When he had tuned in the talk show I smiled, and he finally spoke, “Good evening to you, Sir.”

I said, “Thanks for the lift, Sir, I really appreciate it.”

But I thought to myself, ‘Why can’t half of the people in Baltimore be as decent as this guy?’

So there you have it, a typical Saturday night in Harm City from the lone pedestrian viewpoint. Put it together with the epilogue below and you have nearly a week of fairly usual encounters. In addition, according to my supervisor, my exposure to violence is about to shift by an order of magnitude, back to where it was in the 90s. The store had been open 24 hours before, but sustained so much crime—including shootings, stabbings and bodies flying through the front window—that business hours had been scaled back. We are poised to climb back on the crazy train in two weeks, which should be to the material benefit of this column.

I a Killa!

After outlining this article on Sunday morning I was unable to complete it until today. I am glad it happened this way. You see, upon realizing that any ‘civilized’ readers would think me odd or wrong for staring at a man or youth demanding a cigarette instead of engaging him in polite conversation and the denial of the habit, I decided to break a 15 year policy, and say “I don’t smoke,” politely to the next man or youth to ask me for a cigarette.

As fate would have it he was waiting for me at 11:43 P.M., Wednesday night, December 19th, two days before the end of the world. I turned the corner to the suburban market where I work and two gutter zombies were scrounging for used butts to smoke. The big white trash guy looked me over and decided I was not to be harassed. The small black man, about my size, was, however, drunk. Normally a guy his age, in his early 30s, will know right off the bat when he sees one of those rare white men who are not terrified of black men. He was off his game.

As I walked toward him he said, “Hey brutha can you spare a smoke?”

I responded politely, this being one of my benefactor’s customers, “I don’t smoke.”

He became aggressive, “Don’ lie; you be lyin’!”

As I passed him I said, “We can discuss that.”

I drew my razor and butted it against my hip to expose the edge.

Before he had even turned around and saw that I was armed he was chanting, “I kill people, yo! You be lyin ta a stone-cole killa!”

I got to the door and turned to face him. His threats continued as he retreated, “I be killin’ people—I be commin’ fo ya, yo!”

He never did see the blade as I kept it hidden. That use of a weapon is called ‘holding,’ and, despite the beliefs of self-defense instructors and law enforcement, it is common.

As my supervisor let me in, I laughed, “Can you believe that maggot wants to kill me for not smoking?”

He responded, “He’ll get his chance in two weeks when we start staying open all night.”

Of course, this man was not threatening me because I did not smoke. He was just using smoking as a point of departure for his violent art; his descent into the dominant chest-thumping of the Urban American Male of African descent who, thanks to our centuries-old corrupt slave mentality, believes himself to be a genetically superior combatant. And why shouldn’t he? He lives in a society of white cowards, most of whom would stand by shivering as soon as he declared his superiority.

I don’t blame him for failing to realize that he had come across one of those nearly extinct white apes that does not care to bow to his dark master. I blame the generations of soft she-males of European descent, the same people that told me in the 1970s that white men weren’t tough enough to box, that told me in the eighties that I could never hope to kick-box with an Asian, that told me in the 90s that non-Hispanic men were not fit to stick-fight, the same soft society that tells me now that I am too old and not Mexican enough for manual labor, even as I work circles around men less than half my age.

I don’t blame the righteous tobacco-craving representative of the Urban Master Race. I blame the sniveling society that spawned him, the society whose members cannot face the sunrise without caffeine, noon without nicotine, and sundown without alcohol.

You see I am not a ‘badass’ just a knucklehead who refuses to acknowledge any master but the man who pays me and the government he serves.

Welcome to Harm City, White-Boy

https://www.amazon.com/Welcome-Harm-City-White-Boy-Wednesday/dp/1519739850/ref=sr_1_26?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1499281642&sr=1-26&refinements=p_27%3AJames+LaFond

Narco Night Train Kindle Edition

https://www.amazon.com/Narco-Night-Train-James-LaFond-ebook/dp/B01KCWKY2O/ref=sr_1_50?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1499003880&sr=1-50&refinements=p_27%3AJames+LaFond

Add Comment
Charles MeislingDecember 22, 2012 1:22 AM UTC

As a form of research I emplore you to buy a pack of menthol cigarettes, and engage in smoke-charity at your next opportunity. Note the transaction's effect on things. You could be rewarded with a smile and a nod, and after all these years!