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Living Lost
Honoring A Derided Male Instinct
© 2012 James LaFond
What can former NBA badass Charles Barkley and an aspiring hip-hop artist teach us about self-defense?
A lot, as long as you remember not to listen to your wife when the time comes to practice what I am about to preach. So, as if you could not have guessed, I give you another piece of dubious literature in the ‘Don’t forget people are predatory primates’ self-help-through-disturbing-enlightenment sub-genre.
Charles Barkley
The day after I interviewed a young man about being the target of a violent crime, I saw Charles Barkley perpetuating an ‘old wives’ tale’ and was inspired to write this rebuttal.
‘Sir’ Charles has recently been making some diet commercials. In one of the TV spots he plays the ugliest transvestite I’ve ever seen. In a more obscure commercial, he gives lip service to the generations-old American criticism that men are stupid, stubborn and socially inflexible, and that these facts are borne out by the natural reluctance of men to ask for directions when lost. This criticism of American men is so old that it has become a commercial and sitcom cliché.
So, we know what the people who pay NBA players to wear dresses think of the folly of not asking for directions when you are lost. Let us then slide a little ways down the African-American economic ladder for the viewpoint of a local North Baltimore hip-hop artist.
Vagabond
“It was just after dark I’d have to say, spring or summer. Bobby had called me and asked if I wanted to go to a club with him. I was like ‘sure’ so we decided that I’d meet him over in his neighborhood in Park Heights…
…I got lost so I asked this guy for directions, asked if he knew Bobby. He said sure, he knew Bobby. He said to follow him that it was just one street over. So I follow this guy and he’s on his cell phone…
I turn this corner and the next thing I know I see all these people and somebody shoves me. Then I get punched in the head from behind and this dude is saying, “Where you from?”
I said I was just minding my own business and he says, “Oh, so you think you tough?”
Someone grabbed me—I think he came up on me from behind—and I punched. I hit him and he fell. I punched a guy who had a big front [a gold grill].
There was a lot of people. I have no idea how many. It was nice out and there were a lot of people on the street.
I was stayin’ on my feet okay with my hands up and this big dude with a hat hit me hard! He hit me so hard I was gone! So they all pulled me toward this brown car. I’m on the ground and they’re stompin’ me. I was coverin’ with my hands and elbows. Then I got hit in the neck and it didn’t feel right. You know, I had been getting hit, and this hit just didn’t feel right.”
Vagabond showed be an inch long half-inch wide scar left from a stitched puncture wound to the left muscle of the neck into cervical vertebrae #2 indicating that the attacker was right-handed. Although he never saw or heard a blade it looks to me from the scar that he was stabbed with a broad-bladed single-edged folder with a deep-wedge cross-section.
“I’m on the ground trying to cover and get up and wrestling with these guys while I’m being stomped. That’s when I saw this guy reach over someone who was hitting me. I raised my elbow to cover and he got me in the elbow [indistinct scar on left elbow on the outside where the tricep and radial muscles attach]. That’s when I figured it was a knife…
…We saw some cops and everybody ran.”
This last statement is so important. Vagabond was ruthlessly and opportunistically ambushed and now knew that he was in a fight for his life. However, the last people in the world he thought would help were the police. He ran from the police just like his attackers because, in Baltimore, if you are a young man fighting for your life, there is an even bigger enemy out there, and that enemy is the police.
“I called my mother and made it to this seven-eleven at Mondawmin. There was this guy there about ten years older than me. He looks at me and says, “What happened to you?”
I said, ‘I got banked.’
I was goin’ to take the bus home. But this guy gave me enough money to get a hack [illegal cab] home. My mom did get me to the hospital and I got stitched up.
You know, I’ll never ask for directions again. I didn’t realize that askin’ for directions was just like sayin’ ‘Hey I’m alone bank me.’”
Calling out the Hyenas
There are some interesting aspects of urban life illuminated by this young man’s story. From a behavioral standpoint it paints a very concise picture of an impulsive ambush.
Vagabond’s attackers had only about three minutes to plan and spring their attack.
Of course there is the police-as-ultimate-enemy theme, which is usually present in black-on-black situations.
This does illustrate a rare use of the knife, in that knives are usually used by lone individuals and the stabber, until this, the 318th edged-weapon incident I have documented, has never before stabbed in such a reaching manner. Of course the stabber was reaching over another attacker. Vagabond was also fairly certain, although it was dark and he saw no blade, that the stabber had his index finger extended along the blade.
What is not surprising here is that a lone older man helped the stabbing victim out. The tendency is for groups of bystanders to ignore a stabbing victim, and for individual males, always older than the victim, to help out.
By far, the most salient point to be taking away from Vagabond’s story is this: when you ask for directions what you are actually saying is, “I am lost, alone, isolated, and in your power. If you are ever going to attack someone this is probably the best chance you are likely to get.”
Remember we are all being hunted every day. Fortunately, like the healthy zebra grazing next to the just-fed lion, we usually fail to make the menu through no fault of the predators we coexist with. When lost, unless at sea or on Everest, I recommend remaining lost. Just make sure you keep moving as if you know exactly where you are going or who you are looking for.
Here’s to avoiding the neighborhood welcoming committee.
James LaFond, May 2nd, 2012
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