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‘I’m Not Tryin’ Ta Go Ta Jail’
A Friday Afternoon in Harm County at the Dawn of Black Spring


Last Friday, as I left the school at the corner of Joppa and Loch Raven in scenic Baltimore County, and stepped away from the door facing Pastore’s Deli across Loch Raven, I was feeling pretty good, having sparred with a law enforcement client for over a half hour. The right eye is so bad now from two boxing lifetimes of getting hit that I must always have sunglasses on in the sunlight. Even so, I was feeling fist-proof, as my younger, taller, quicker fighter had only laid a glove on me twice.

Then, in my line of sight, the veritable picture of sloth emerged from within the tiny moral space he had previously occupied in the crack between the concrete walk and the curb…

He was forty-years-old, nearly black, with a slight paunch, sunken chest and glossy complexion, wearing black cargo shorts and a tight, sky blue T-shirt. He immediately homed in on me, with his slavish panhandling posture, his head arching low on his pigeon neck as he said, in an African accent, “Excuse me, sir, I’m not tryin’ ta go ta jail.”

[Translation: If you do not give me what I want I am willing to commit a crime to attain my ends, even if it means an arrest and possible criminal conviction]

I stepped around him as he turned, stopped, cracking into a broad grin as I took off my sunglasses, the sun now to my back, savoring the implicit threat, awaiting its consummation.

He then backed up against the other wall of the corner as I closed with him with the sun to my back. His tune then changed, “I’m not sayin’ I’d go ta jail on you, sir—I got a daughter, need food and clothes. Please, sir, help me stay outta jail, ‘cause I gotta do what I gotta do to put clothes on her back and food on da table, sir.”

I stepped up to him and said, “I’m broke—get paid tomorrow. Sorry. Good luck.”

I then replaced the sunglasses and walked down to the liquor store with him following me. I walked in past a pack of hoodrats, two of whom marked me to the tallest. The man did not follow but began begging a local white stoner coming out to the main drag to buy his dope.

I bought a 24-ounce can of Miller Genuine Draft and a 24-ounce can of Molson from the Puerto Rican clerk as the Russian chick stocked the shelves.

As I stepped out, I noticed the beggar and the stoner walking together, talking about something in hushed tones. There were three male hoodrats and two females. As I walked past them the two smaller ones nodded to the big one and he began to follow me, so I crossed the street. When someone follows on a walk, crossing the street is a good way to check for intent.

He stopped.

They watched me.

I stepped up on the curb across the street and pulled out my flip phone, my beer in the left hand.

He looked at them.

They nodded toward me.

He looked at me as I pretended to be fussing with my flip phone, standing there, half turned away, on the grassy strip between the sidewalk and the gutter.

As he neared me I put the phone in my pocket, sliding it past the folding knife, and cupping the knife butt between my thumb and forefinger as I turned and looked directly into his eyes.

He stopped, turned his head to look at them and they nodded “No,” to which he dropped his head, looked at his feet and quick-stepped around me and headed down into the rentals.

I looked at him go, looked at them, and scanned the rest of the area before moving off.

Really, I thought they did a reasonable job of avoiding a low-yield mess.

This is how a pedestrian begins to establish his predation signature, by always remaining alert, using eye-contact and tactical positioning to control the pre-contact aspects of the encounter, and by adapting non-verbal confrontational solutions to implied threats and developing aggression.

Add Comment
KmanApril 27, 2016 8:37 AM UTC

James,

This story is a classic example of what Marc "the animal" McYoung refers to as " failing the intetview" phase of a street crime.

K-
SidVicApril 26, 2016 4:08 PM UTC

James,

I took a position at Uof M school of medicine in 1996. I worked on greene street. I was in Japan at the time i accepted the position and they sent me a orientation packet. I digress, but my background is strict scot-irish southern. Anyways the advice for baltimore, in this UM packet, was as follows: wear comfortable running shoes, don't carry items- keep hands free, walk close to street not buildings, telephones with direct access to security are on every block (plus they assured that if you were incapacitated that it was just necessary to get the phone out of the cradle and the cavalry would arrive!) etc etc....

I was robust young and remember laughing it off. My Jap friends were genuinely shocked and concerned. Back then i regularly regrew appendages when they gotten broken off....

Anyways, despite being a complete idiot i seldom ventured into the red zone of your map (good work on the map by the way). i did eat and park north of the market (found cheap roof lot), however. So i found occasion to travel in the red zone, sometime late. A couple of times i was on very alarmed among large group of youngish black males, but i never had any serious problems. I made eye contact and smiled broadly at all. I was surprised that northern negros seemed surly compared to those i was used to in the south (not all- some were sweet as hell).

I remember telling telling a black balto friend (he was west indies originally-they good ppl) who was quizzing me on how i found baltimore about my strategy of grinning like a fool. He laughed uproariously and told me to keep with what was working.

In retrospect, i believe that i was lucky mostly, and that my smiley demeanor was unusual enuf to keep them off me.
responds:April 27, 2016 4:30 PM UTC

This is great man, am posting as an article.