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Messing With Crazy Mark
White Wednesday #10: Rediscovering Northeast Baltimore’s Hardiest Primate: 2007-2008
In late 2006 I took a job managing the same supermarket where I used to work as a night crew clerk, the very market from which I had fired Crazy Mark numerous times back in 1992. The employees began dropping like flies under my cruel whip and lethal clipboard and pen that never lost an unemployment case. When the Ghetto Grocer came to work slackers were immediately pushed onto the endangered species list.
I would post a schedule for my work hours—unheard of among store directors. I did this as a guarantee for the owners, sales reps, and serious workers that I would be there and accessible during those hours. It was also a deception, for I always came in early, from 5 minutes to 5 hours—they would never know. I would sneak into work in street clothes and then skulk back to the stockroom where my one locker sat like a plague ship at anchor. As I put on my dress shirt and tie I was able to hear the gathered clerks in the produce prep area speaking about what an asshole I was. I would wait until an employee would say something particularly damning about me and then slam the locker door shut and they’d scattered like cockroaches.
For the above tactic I was named ‘The Snake.’ I was also The Man, The White Devil, The Devil, and Goddamned Jimmy!
One of my most vociferous detractors was Pete, a big Ozark Mountain redneck who had ended up in Baltimore after a stint in the Navy as a corpsman, during which he proudly held Ronald Regan’s dick in his hand as the People's catheter was inserted. Pete hated me but had a great work ethic, and alone among the white staff did not fear blacks. On one particular occasion I was questioning a black male shoplifter and taking his bag of stolen goods when he decided to resist. Pete was right there, lifting the player off his feet in a bear hug and carrying him out into the lobby to the blind spot where there was no camera coverage. I looked around to make sure no witnesses were there, and as the player threatened Pete, gave him the nod. The six foot four inch redneck in beard and flannel shirt body slammed the oppressed hero—who was merely seeking compensation for past White crimes against his kind—to the pavement, accidentally catching an ankle on a shopping cart. We then had the punk arrested by a black cop for threatening Pete!
That bit of back story is important in the story of Crazy Mark, for he and Pete would later become involved in an altercation.
One morning at about 10 a.m., I was headed into the hood on the bus with a pack of hoodlums that were skipping school. I was doing this on purpose to come in behind them when they began to shoplift and pin them between Pete and I. Duz, who was my daytime counterpart, was having a hard time dealing with gangs of door crashing shoplifters in their mid teens, and had directed me to take countermeasures. Five to seven of these reprobates were about to off load at the stop in front of the store when one yelled out, “Wo, Yo, no! Fuckin’ Sasquatch en shit!”
Three of the boys backed away from the rear door well as another kept his hands on the bars seemingly intent on offloading. Then the apparent leader of the group slapped him on the back of the head and said, “Is yo stupid nigga? Fuckin’ Sasquatch be commin’ fo payback—I told Yo dem bricks en bottles would jus’ bounce of a ‘is gorilla-ass hide! Get up in hea’ nigga!”
Now pushing to the door myself and wondering what the fuss was about, I saw my old nemesis, Crazy Mark, from way back in 1992, running through traffic, cussing at motorists who beeped, and glaring up into the bus with his wide unblinking eyes. Mark was immediately recognizable even though he had grown a thick mountain man beard and his skin had aged in the urban wind. He ran with a loping intensity, cannonball shoulders hunched forward and stretching the seems of his olive drab military surplus coat as he put out his hand for the driver to stop.
The bus stopped, and as I offloaded through the back doors Mark reached forward to push the front doors open. When the bus driver began to open them manually the boys started yellin’ “Oh Gawd no busdriva—don’ be lettin’ his scary ass up in hea!”
As I got off the back Mark was slamming his palms into the side of the bus screaming, “Fuckin’ nigletts! Fuckin’ nigger driver!” And the bus banked out into the road and accelerated as if zombies were trying to climb on and eat brains.
The man then looked down at me and I was impressed, that although I had gotten soft and had a paunch and lost most of my hair, Mark was wolf man hairy from head-to-toe and had the hard muscular lines I remember from his youth. Looking at his rage I was immediately glad that my appearance had changed over the intervening years to the point that people I once knew well did not recognize me.
I stepped up to him, as we were on the sidewalk in front of the store I managed—a sidewalk I actually patrolled—and said, “Can I help you Sir?”
He snarled, “Yeah, if you’re fast enough to catch those half-grown niggers!”
I responded, “If so I wouldn’t have snuck to work behind them on the bus hoping to pin them in the doorway between Duz and Pete.”
Mark then pointed at me like he was identifying me in court, with one eye brow scrunched and the other eye bugged out, “You are Him!”
I thought that was it and imagined Mark swinging me around like a rag doll until he got sick of it and threw me under a bus. But a strong front, even if false, has its uses. “Yes I am—nice to see you again Mark.”
Mark was reluctantly admiring of me, looking me over as if astonished that such a little twerp could keep so many people in line. “Aren’t you the slick one Boss. I didn’t know you spotted me or that they even knew my name in there. I cash my coins here. You’re Him; ‘The Snake’; ‘The Man’ that the niggers and weaklings hate—the new Boss!”
“Yes I am,” I said, with a feeling of relief that Mark did not match me with my former self.
Mark then gave me a pat on the shoulder as he looked around, dissecting our surroundings into sectors and scanning the entire point of the compass with intense darting eyes before turning his head to the next sector. Seemingly satisfied that no enemies were in sight, he gave me a nod of grudging admiration and opined as he nodded with the back of his head toward the store, “They hate you in there. That’s good; the Weak always hate the Strong. Fuck them, and bury them.”
“What kind of work do you do Mark?”
He looked at me and then looked up into the sky, placing his hands in his pockets, “I clean out vacants; run the change into the coin star machine in your store, sell the aluminum cans at the yard. I used to work here a long time ago.”
“What was that like. I heard the night captain back then was a real jerk—some little long-haired guy.”
It is so strange to look at someone’s face when—not knowing who you are—they get that far off look as they try and recall the person you once were. “He wasn’t a bad guy; a strict boss. I was screwing up so he fired me. I have issues with authority they say.”
Wondering who ‘they’ was I patted him on the arm and turned to go, saying, “Then we ought to get along fine. It’s nice to speak with someone I am not responsible for.”
He looked at me and asked, “Feeling the weight already? It must suck being responsible for the Weak.”
I was amazed at how consistent Mark’s ‘strength’ and ‘weakness’ ethos had remained all these years.
It then occurred to me that Mark had qualities that a Ghetto Grocer could use, and offered some linkage, “Hey man, if you ever come across those old copper wheat pennies, I’ll pay you a dollar each. My son collects them.”
Mark just nodded ‘yes’ and raised one hand as he stepped off into traffic and began cussing at a motorist to get out of his way.
Over the next year and a half Mark would stop into the store with handfuls of wheat pennies, which I bought up for a dollar a piece, rounding it up to the nearest twenty. In this way I wanted Mark to see this store as a safe neutral ground where he would behave around blacks, nor engage his enemies, and hopefully serve as a deterrent. For the black youths that ‘messed’ with him by stoning him and calling him names—and occasionally arming up with bricks and bats and attempting to slay him like some mythic beast—were the very same boys who mugged my clerks, snatched purses from old ladies on the lot, and stole candy from our store shelves.
A few years ago, when I first saw the Jack Links ‘Messing with Sasquatch’ jerky commercials I could not help but think of Mark and the youth criminals of Northeast Baltimore who were engaged in a boys versus beast battle that I know would have thrilled me as a kid.
In 2009 this reciprocal relationship with Mark would come under some strain when he and Pete came to me with a demand that I either declare one of them guilty of dishonor, or preside over the dinosaur battle that was brewing between them in Aisle 11.
The Tao of Crazy Mark will continue next week, on White Wednesday, with Managing Crazy Mark.
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MaureenFeb 26, 2015

I'm enthralled! See ya next week!
responds:Feb 27, 2015

Two more installments and then I promise to try and locate Mark for an interview. I hope he is still around.
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