Crack Cocaine, A Digital Camera & A Lesson in Trust

I can remember a couple times in my life that I’d been had. You know, taken for a ride, inadvertently placed in a vulnerable situation at the mercy of another life form no matter how low that form may be. One time in particular seems to stand out in my mind. I must of been no older than 18. My life was consumed by graffiti and venturing into the inner city in search of decaying walls to paint. On a muggy summer day, a group of four piled into an early ’90s Geo Prism and headed to the “shit” so to speak, where copious amounts of crack cocaine were both dealt and consumed by the local villagers.

The location was intriguing to the likes of myself and comrades of primarily suburban, practically rural, Eastern European decent, due to the vastness of train tracks that lie on the leg of the Rapid Transit Red Line. Behind a starved ghetto lay the opportunity to recklessly draw our self-appointed monikers on a traveling steel canvas, which at the time was the most conceivable outlet for our testosterone filled animosity.

Blind with compassion for the sport and naive in our youth we ventured to destinations where 1950-esque’ segregation remained prevalent; this is the social structure to this day in the greater landscape of the Cleveland Metropolitan area. The neighborhood where we parked our car would put anyone of our color, creed and humble beginnings in jeopardy of our lives and this day that’s nearly what happened.
We exited the vehicle and almost immediately here the welcoming sound of a middle aged man yelling out of his bedroom window.

“Hey crackers! You ain’t welcome here and I’ll fucking shoot you for what you did! Don’t you think I’m lying, cracker!

As our attention was now on the man in the window we zeroed in on his hand waiving a small caliber pistol at us like we were soda bottles at his private shooting range.

The man continually exclaimed, “I know it was you mutha-fuckers that painted my Cadillac!”

Obviously we looked guilty, hands full of spray paint, eyes full of wonder. Truth be told we were not the one who painted the gun toting man’s beloved Cadillac. We were naïve but not so much that we ruined personal property in the neighborhoods we were in. The man was now headed down the stairs and towards us. As he approached the gun remained loosely pointed in our direction. The man now explained to us that some “white boy” was down here last week and painted his vehicle entirely gold. After a moment of us explaining that we were only here to paint trains and would never do that to someone’s car the man quieted down. In retrospect I think the run down the stairs wore him out and he wanted to go back upstairs and rest.

If you’ve ever had a gun held to you, it’s very surreal and obviously your mind and endorphins are overreacting to the point of near delusion because how this event played out baffles me to this day.

As the man calmed himself and lowered his pistol it became apparent that he was addicted to crack-cocaine and manic beyond belief. At some point, in this haze of events, my friend Danny and I wound up inside the crack-head’s home where he began to weep. I remember he put his arms around Danny and I still holding the hand-gun dangerously close for comfort. He was not angry, but sad and apologetic. He said he felt horrible for what he had done and claimed we were his brothers that we needed to look out for each other. I believed him, I genuinely thought he cared and that this could possibly have turned into a story of friendship, again I was wrong. After the pity party with the Bobby Brown of Cleveland, he offered to redeem himself from our ill first impression of him by offering to sell us an extremely expensive digital camera for extremely cheap.

We exclaimed, “Are you kidding me man! Of course we want to buy it! Can we see it?”

Our new best bud, replied, “Yeah you can see it, my man has it at that house right over there.” He pointed at a row of houses that I now realize he had no connection too. He said, “Gimme $80 and i’ll go over to his house and grab it for you boys, wait right here.”

Surely this man was trust worthy, he had just nearly took our lives and poured his heart out regarding his qualms of racial indifference. This was in a matter of 20 minutes in which I felt we really shared something, an experience, a bond, the invaluable birth of friendship. So of course we shelled over the cash and patiently waited for our shiny digital camera.

Twenty minutes or so passed and the crack head hadn’t returned…fifty minutes…an hour and a half and still no camera. We tucked our tails under our legs and hopped back in the Geo Prism and drove back to suburban America.  We’d been had.

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