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The Streets Have Eyes #1
From Hood-rats to Heavy Metal Meat-munchers
© 2013 James LaFond
The Vigilante Conundrum of the Crack Epidemic
The 1990s in Baltimore was a watershed of violent crime. During this period I hit bottom, and became what I would now describe as a borderline psychopath. The tipping point for me had nothing to do with being threatened every week, attacked every month, or even shot at, during my commutes to and from work as a pedestrian and bus patron. I found all of that to be rather interesting.
The two things that pushed me over the edge were my wife and children being threatened and attacked; and me being repeatedly stalked. The anger of having my helpless family members threatened when I wasn’t there was the tinder. The actual experience of having criminals hunt me on foot, and with automobiles, was the spark that turned me into a whack job. The fact that I could not outrun vehicles or teenage hood-rats set me to breaking the law in order to protect myself.
During that period I walked the streets of Baltimore with illegal firearms, and combat blades, up to and including swords. My life became a game of ‘are the cops going to be hassling me tonight’ or are ‘the hood-rats going to be ambushing me?’ I usually made the right call and went out unarmed when the cops were looking for me and armed when the criminals were looking for me. Eventually it became too much stress and I decided to cache improvised weapons along my regular routes, at bus-stops, and in various desolate locales where I would lead those punks who followed me through side-streets and alleys and parks after I got off the bus.
Now, having turned Baltimore’s decaying structures and overgrown byways into my arsenal, I just lost it; and left the house every night resigned to a violent death and the bleak hope to take someone with me. A lot of the results have found their way into my various survival books and articles. But there were also the strange and weird encounters that my courting of danger engendered. Some have been interspersed through my first book as comic relief, and some tales have never been told. So I conceived of this look into the 1990s underbelly of Baltimore, as experienced by an oddball urban survivalist walking the edge of sanity.
At the time I was a thin long-haired loner, clean shaven, and sporting a bandana with either American Indian or Confederate motifs, depending on who I wanted to antagonize. The street people often mistook me for a Lumbee Indian. My street names when clean shaven were Rambo, Tarzan, Cain and Tonto; when bearded in winter Caveboy was what they called me the most. During the period when I began accepting lifts from anybody that pulled over, I had stopped carrying combat knives. If armed I usually settled for a hammer, screwdriver, or some kind of razor or ink pen.
Earl’s Crew
Eighteen years ago a crew of teenage drug-dealers were using my oldest son to hold their pager. They had threatened him, robbed him, attacked him, and then kept him quiet by threatening to hurt his mother. We could not even keep a winter coat on his back. One of his friends filled me in and I tracked Earl, the set leader, down. His four boys came after me at a bus stop one night and lost their nerve. They retaliated by calling my wife and telling her that they had killed me. I went insane and called Earl at his mother’s house, to give a detailed description of the fate he had just earned. He was a tall 17-year-old who walked around in a Malcolm X outfit, and bipedal locomotion was a privilege he had just forfeited. I thought he should be aware of his upcoming handicapped status.
His forty-something mother interceded with violent threats against my family; the ‘queen pin’ of their drug network I suppose. I told her, “If those four boys in the BMW are the best you can do”…and then I descended into a rant about killing her son, torturing and binding her, raping her daughter, eating her dog, and roasting her small children over the bonfire that had been her house. I had become a psychopath when backed against that wall at the back of the starkest part of my mind. One more threat from Earl or his crew and I would head down the street with a gas can and a machete.
My parents had grown up in the idyllic 1950s, and had imbued me with their ethics, as evidenced by my willingness to settle down and raise a family. I now knew from hard experience that their peace-and-love wait-for-the-cops-to-show-up mindset was not compatible with the reality that I faced. At this point in my ghettoized Fort Apache of a life I had finally cast aside all of the reasons they had instilled in me for coexisting with an evil world. If I could not at least protect my family, I would take an equal number of the enemy off of the planet as a preemptive strike. I would not go to work leaving my dependents defenseless in a city with a [then] 45-minute police response time for a home invasion in progress. [This is now 10-15 minutes in Baltimore.] I decided that the very next threat from a member of that drug gang was my tripwire—the end of my life.
After that incident the young men in the area all avoided me. Earl was killed in the projects. One of the others was capped down the street. The evil mother moved. I should have rejoiced in their fate, but could not. I was still left with that hole in my soul that I had ripped open that day, when I had committed myself to the vilest acts imaginable. I decided against trying to patch it up, and settled on a slow interesting suicide; letting the sick world filter through it in hopes that enough debris would get caught in the self-installed psychological orifice to effect a plug. I had no end game, and hardly realized at the time that I was beginning my journey as a real writer; not just a scribbling fantasist or history buff.
I immediately began accepting all solicitations: punks that threatened me on the nocturnal bus stop encountered a nut-job that just wanted to die killing them; panhandlers encountered a Mister Hide like animal; dope-fiends, whack-jobs and sexual predators cruising around as illegal cabbies always got a $10 from me as I hopped into their ride and palmed my razor, wondering if this was the end. It was a dark time and has found expression in non-fiction form as When You’re Food, and in some of my fiction as well. I will tell the most interesting tales spawned by this ‘letting go of my social senses’ in this series of articles. The first one is the story below, which also shows up in a piece I did on ‘show wrestling.’
The Heavy Metal Meat-munchers
I was waiting for a bus at 9:45 on a Saturday night when a guy speeding down Route #1 in a black Toyota pickup skidded, slammed it into reverse, and zipped back to me, running his rear wheel up onto the curb, and yelled out the window, “Hey dude, where you goin?”
I said, “To East Point, to the supermarket.”
He yelled, “When do you have to be there?”
I answered, “Eleven.”
He whooped, “Then get in man! The Heavy Metal Marauder is breaking bad tonight.”
I then got in the vehicle of a self-described superhero who was dressed all in black and was wearing a black knit hat in June and somehow forget to tell my wife about it the next day.
The man’s name was Nelson, and he was in his mid-twenties, living in his deceased parents’ house, still obsessed with a high school sweetheart that had become a Playboy Bunny, was waging a guerilla war on the local rock radio station on behalf of some ‘underground heavy metal station’, and fancied himself a pro wrestler.
Nelson drove aimlessly around telling me his life story and of the waging of the Metal versus Rock war, and assuring me that I would be to work on time. He remembered how important a job could be. After all he had had one once upon a time. Nelson did talk in the third person, which is always a red flag. What really got me worried was that, instead of raising his voice like a pro wrestler to stress a statement, he drew an explanation mark in the air with his finger.
Eventually we pulled up to a large seemingly abandoned frame house in Rosedale, a working class enclave on the city/county line on the East Side. It was early summer and the grass had yet to be cut. The shrubs had not been trimmed in years. He crashed through a makeshift backdoor and welcomed me to his castle, or should I say lair.
Nelson then began knocking back vodka and showing me the posters of his former girlfriend which she had even autographed—before she ran screaming for her life I suppose. Nelson showed me all the holes he had punched and kicked in the walls practicing Heavy Metal Combat, and then introduced me to a vast living room with a boarded up bay window. The floor was covered in old mattresses and he dove into the air, landing with a roll, and then demonstrated an elbow drop. Then he lay on his side and asked me if I wanted to wrestle. He was about 6 foot 200 lbs, in an altered state, and I was 5’ 8” and an emaciated 147 lbs and still clinging to my tenuous sanity.
Run! I thought.
But I had my dignity to consider. What would Robert E. Howard’s ghost think if I ran?
I excused myself to go to the bathroom—meaning all the while to flee for my life. I had, like a witless German peasant in a Grimm’s fairy tale, been disoriented by the heaped trash and broken furniture, and lost my way. I got to a door at the end of a dark hallway and was then frightened more fully when a snarling, slathering, snapping of jaws and the clawing of nails and the crashing of heavy bodies sounded on the other side of the now trembling door.
Nelson’s hand then came to rest on my shoulder and he said calmly, “You don’t want to go in there. That’s the Heavy Metal Meat-munchers; Rotts.”
I remember thinking to myself, Oh yeah, they are the big muscular Dobermans with pit-bull heads…and there are no large bags of dog-food in sight—priority egress!
I put up a manly front though, “Thanks Nelson, I need to piss man.”
He walked me away from the Door of Doom, “The plumbing is shot. Let’s use the yard and then go on a mission…”
Yes, a mission! Why had I not thought of that reasonable alternative to psychotic mattress wrestling and a brief gory end as dog chow?
After doing a ‘raid’ on a local billboard by plastering his underground radio stickers on it as I fidgeted nervously in the cab of the Toyota among his promotional supplies, which—yes, I’m glad you asked—did include duct tape, he finally dropped me off in front of the store. Nelson gave me his phone number in case I ever needed a lift or just wanted to wrestle. I thanked him and donated some gas money to the ‘war effort’ and got out.
Big Rich, the night captain, was out front waiting for me and just looked on in amazement as Nelson finally cranked up the radio station he was so supportive of and drove off with eyes wild with excitement. Rich, who is incapable of communicating below a shout, of course shouted, “Christ Mo, smoke crack much!?!”
There was one time, years later, when I was fleeing from an ex girlfriend who was trying to run me over, that I finally got desperate enough to pull out the business card I had written Nelson’s number on. I figured if anyone would be up for an emergency it would be him. But lo and behold, I had, at some point, sweated through the wallet and the ink on the card had bled…
The Murderous Company We Keep
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Charles Meisling     Jan 17, 2013

nelson sounds so kick ass.
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