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A Sideways Glance

Updated on April 23, 2015

A wise man once told me, the key to survival is self awareness. Actually, the guy who told me to that was a complete and total jackass, but I’m he heard it from a wise man. I have sucker written all over my baby face. I’m not big enough to look like I’d do damage, but I’m tall enough that an ass kicking wouldn’t look embarrassing for the owner of the foot. I’m the baby bear of beat downs, just right. In fact, a fight between me and a baby bear would be fairly even. (Come on, I’m still fighting a bear.)

I’ve never NOT been lost. The world in my head is much better than the world around it. If you ever visited you would agree. Sting died in a plane crash after the last Police album and never got a chance to go solo. Snickers bars are good for you, especially your teeth and waistline. My ex grows a soul and it rejects her, like a bad transplant. But this is the city, and I MUST pay attention.

I’ve had the pleasure of being mugged by every race and creed. I’ve never asked their religion. My favorite involved being pistol whipped right in front of my house the day I moved in. They broke two teeth and all they got from me was a bus token. It all boils down to this. If a pack of males walk past a solo male, they need to violently advance on him. Why? Well, what happens if they never see him again? You only regret the things you don’t do. So I’ve forced myself to remember to make eye contact. Listen to what is going on behind me. I learned that if I ignored a bad feeling, I was about to feel a lot worse. It's always better to feel like a coward when you look behind you, then to know you are a coward when you are on the ground looking up.

It was on Chinese New Year, 2004, in Chinatown, Philadelphia.. It was about three in the afternoon. Between my apartment and Chinatown was a brisk walk under a ghetto tunnel, past a local whorehouse. I was letting my guard down when I successfully came out the other side. I let my mind drift inward, but kept enough wits about me to notice most of the traffic lights, and navigate myself eventually to my bus stop.

I was consumed by celebrating dragons, children, and fireworks. For those of you who never saw the Chinese New Year celebration, I feel for you. I was just entering a waking dream fantasy where I was showing the drummers a couple beats, while cute Asian ladies batted their eyelashes at me in polyrhythms. It was a really cool fantasy. I believe that was the reason I didn’t see him walk up on me from the front.

He was a middle aged man, and from his dress, he looked like his family had been at least second generation immigrants. He blended into the crowd so perfectly. I didn’t feel the animalistic fight or flight response. He went from seeming like a casual participant to shooting me a look I couldn’t quite read. Like a baby seeing a grasshopper for the first time, I didn’t know how to react. I just kept walking, and figured he was a just a harmless nutter. But then, out of nowhere, he sprinted right towards me. He didn’t have a look of rage, it was pure concentration. So, before I could raise my hands in self defense or even let out a little bark of a yell, his hand was on my head. I felt my entire body shift to the right. My reflexes finally kicked in, and my fist instinctively made a ball. It was just about to cock back when out of the peripherals of my left eye I saw the explosion of the bottle rocket that almost landed in my ear. I thanked the stranger, and we both had a good laugh before heading back into our respective days.

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