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In Da Hood

      Very few who visited the premises at old 231 would argue very strenuously that we were situated in what could be construed as a traditionally ‘bad’ neighborhood. Now some might immediately jump to the conclusion that I mean this in some sort of racial way, which I don’t as the area was a rainbow of diversity. I mean this in an economically run down, lots of scary looking characters about, ‘crack house at the corner’ kind of way. While none of us ever experienced any incidences of violence against our persons, there are plenty of tales to be told that might otherwise have never occurred had the house been situated in Williamsville.           

     Living in an area that some might consider worrisome, the primary concern is generally threat of break in. I knew from personal experience that the house could indeed be easily broken into, demonstrated aptly by Knaus on our first day. While I normally didn’t spend much time letting this condition cause me lack of sleep, there were a few instances where I admit to being just a bit worried. One instance was an occasion where I came into the basement, I think with Aaron and someone else, and found the basement window leading into the backyard wide open. Now, at no other time did anyone ever open this particular window, nor have any cause to this time either. Our first action was to perform a very thorough inspection of every searchable inch of the place, including the fort I had built in the basement, until we concluded that we did not have a new inhabitant. The only conclusion I can draw from this was that we did have a bona fide break in, and the intruder upon seeing our complete lack of anything of value, left discouraged and empty handed. I also feel it possible that Malice made short work of him and devoured the remains entirely; an acceptable resolution as well. To guard against future non-events, I tied enough shit to the basement windows that would have caused plenty of noise and no little inconvenience.           

      The most memorable intruder incident happened one winter’s twilight. I came home to a house empty but for the cat and the freakishly realistic scarecrow in the Florida room. I adjourned to the bathroom to do some light reading and was just finishing up when I thought I heard hushed whispering coming from the kitchen. Cold sweat sprang from every pore. I knew for certain the house was empty previously and from the bathroom I should have been able to hear the side door very clearly. Indecision gripped me. Do I flush? Will doing so spook the intruder/ burglar/ vampire giving him time to leave, or will he rush the bathroom? Do I go out the bathroom window? It was snowing out and I was barefoot, so this seemed out. Or do I just lock the door and sit here, hoping he will take what paltry possessions we have and abdicate without further incident? The bathroom environment was becoming less pleasant by the moment, having not flushed. Time to grow up and be a man Wolf. I flushed and strode out, just as big as billy-be-damned. In the kitchen, gaunt and wraithlike, stood Knaus resplendent in his black leather trench coat, cradling Malice in his arms and whispering sweet nothings into her ear.            

     I recall Aaron telling me of a similar incident where he also felt he was alone on the premises and heard whispering outside his doorway. He also managed to summon up his courage and take charge of the situation. In this instance he grabbed his trusty piñata bat and burst forth with a mighty barbaric yelp. In this case as well, his emergence found a shady looking character in Knaus, standing in the shadows and murmuring to his fuzzy familiar. Reports of the incident indicated Knaus never moved or reacted, simply standing confident that the layers of shellac applied to his head would easily absorb even the most devastating of blows. Aaron’s reaction here was a far cry better from a time where he perceived a knock down, drag out brawl between Dave, Knaus and me to be a hulking intruder ramming himself into our front door to gain entry, to which he responded by quickly hiding his wallet and keys and pretending to go back to sleep.           

     One of the other indicative features that we were not living in the best managed of areas was the proliferation of scam artists. I recall once incident in which Aaron, Knaus and I were taking a winter walk down to Mike’s Big Mouth on Bailey and were approached by a man in apparent need of bus money. His story was that he made it all the way down to the area from Broadway, but forgot to bring enough cash to get back. He estimated the amount to about 5 bucks, when 80 cents and 5 cents per transfer was the going rate. The interesting part about that was that he kept reassuring us, 3 strapping college men in broad daylight, that he was absolutely not mugging us. His insistence on that fact, coupled by the fact that he kept with us for several blocks pleading the funds more and more aggressively, made me begin to think otherwise. “He protestesh too loudly” and all that jazz. Since he never produced a weapon, we never produced cash, as giving in would have meant turning back from the delicious subs we intended to get at Mike’s.            

     The best scammers were the ones who would come right to the door. One evening, I believe either the night of the Wolverines party or a Frank party, a man came to the door with a wonderfully told story about how he needed a few bucks to buy formula for his new baby. Although we knew he was completely full of shit, we took up collection anyway as his heartfelt performance was of such merit to justify reward. The most common type was the ones who would come by and shovel our driveway, then knock on the door to demand compensation. As neither Aaron or I had a car, and really couldn’t care less if it was shoveled or not, generally told them ‘too bad’ and shut the door. Jason, however, was a sucker for the scam every single time and gave the guy money. This I’m sure was one of the many reasons he could never pay the rent on time as once it became known that someone was willing to pay, the driveway was shoveled on a very routine basis with Knaus reaping all the benefits.           

     The shady character himself was not completely immune to surroundings either. One morning Knaus came out to find that someone had the nerve to affront his person by breaking into his ’79 Olds Cutlass. They evidently had no conception of his capacity for retaliatory action. While the contents of the car, consisting of old Transvision Vamp and Shriekback tapes, were left unmolested, the intruder somehow managed to extract a single thin dime that he thought permanently wedged into a crack in the dash. He had spent no little effort trying to coax it out himself and as I result, I believe he had a grudging appreciation for the tenacity of the effort and resulting accomplishment. In another instance, I recall Knaus was spotted by Ann schlumping his way down Comstock, headed home from some mysterious errand. Ann cat-called him I believe, with a few “Hey Baby’s!” and such, inspiring enough fear that he actually began to hurry along at a greatly accelerated rate. Those who know Knaus best understand that he never moved faster than a slow saunter, even in the direst of circumstances (reference the toilet incident).           

     My personal ‘favorite’ incident was the first and only public assault and beating I ever had the misfortune to witness. It was a beautiful summer day and I was just leaving the house to walk to Collector’s for work. As I emerged from the driveway, a beat up old Cadillac came barreling down the street and screeched to a halt around the corner, directly in front of the house. A young man had been walking down Comstock toward the L&T and broke into an immediate run. Four figures simultaneously flung open the doors to the Caddy and burst forth like greyhounds after the rabbit. He made it as far as the L&T and almost made it safely inside, but for the fact that Moustache Guy saw him coming and quickly locked the door. They had him down in seconds and proceeded to kick the crap out of him. Moments later sirens could be heard in the distance and the four assailants quickly disappeared.           

     At the time of this, I had the vague notion to sneak over to the Caddy, still running with all doors open, and abscond with it for the purposes of dropping it off at the police station lot. My job at Collectors had exposed me for several hours each day to heroic selfless figures and idea of vigilante justice had enormous appeal. Fortunately, better judgment prevailed that day as it first occurred to me that they may have seen emerge from the house and therefore knew where I lived, and second, they evidently knew, and possibly even liked, the fellow they were beating the ever loving shit out of. What they would do to me is something I didn’t want to imagine. I never knew what became of any of them.           

     As bad as the neighborhood was, I never really felt any threat of harm or danger. During times of stress, such as when attempting to type out a 20 page paper the night before it was due, I used to clear my head, sometimes in the wee hours of the morning, by stepping out into the night and walking to the South Campus to wander around. In one instance I was returning from such a walk when before me appeared a large group of black youths in full gangsta regalia. It was, I believe, the infamous Mailbox Gang. The group parted and let me past without comment. I think that as part of the neighborhood we were afforded a certain level of protection or at least safe passage. Although I doubt the hood has become much worse, I have little temptation to set forth down there on foot, even in the light of day.


2 Responses

  1. Nice. I forgot about the Cadillac beating. Did I confuse this with the other incident when the police chased a guy who drove up onto our lawn, and escaped into and through our backyard?

    We did have a crack house on the corner. I recall strolling down there to watch the Police wait for the owner to come home, but he had obviously been tipped off. As the Police started to pack up and leave we looked around and looked at each other, quietly postulating the same thing – we better leave the area if the police are, or they will have to come back for another crime.

    Another incident of false invasion had me in my room and Wolf upstairs, each certain the house was empty. We each grabbed weapon of choice, I had my trusty pinnate bat, and snuck towards the source of the sound. At the same exact time we both left, screaming into the kitchen, brandishing out weapons! We were left in the kitchen, facing each other in somewhat surprise.

    A note about pretending to go to sleep. I was securely locked in my own room with anything I found of value, which was not much, so I was not concerned. I was also pretty tired. I often had arguments with Wolf over why I took the keys. Wolf argued a burglar would never take key, and I claimed a smart burglar would take the keys and try to return later in case the home owners were not smart enough (or too poor, like us) to change the locks. In hindsight a truly smart burglar would follow the golden rule, “never return to the scene of the crime”.

    I have had other pending arguments with Wolf, like when he claims if you do not like a food you should re-try the food item every year to see if you now like it. I think this was part of his plan to laugh as I eat something I hate.

  2. I stick to my guns on the food argument. Now, if I hadn’t done just that, I would never have discovered that I now like Brussels sprouts, mayonnaise, squash, and yes, even pasta. If, however, reap the added bonus of being able to witness some poor schmuck trying something they hate, all the better.

    I remember the incident you are thinking of. I was going to bed one night and heard a terrific crash, followed by gun shots. I dropped to the floor and crept downstairs where Knaus was sleeping on the long couch. I woke him up to tell him of the shots, but he just irritated and went back to sleep. Figuring I hadn’t heard shots in at least a minute and a half, I went outside to take a look around. A car was smashed into our tree and the drivers side door was open. There were about 4 cop cars about and all the neighbors had come to see what was going on. A few minutes later the cops came back down the street practically dragging a handcuffed man who was wearing nothing but a pair of pantyhose. He seemed quite put out by the situation and was verbally expressing it loudly. They stuck him in a cruiser and took him away. I never found out anymore information on what had happened, as the police wouldn’t tell us. When I went back inside I tried to wake Knaus to tell him about it, but again he got upset at being woken and went back to sleep.

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