Okay, so it was more a skirmish than a war, but it could have escalated into a war.
Most of the time we lived at 916 Acklen Ave. an older African American woman lived downstairs. Ms. Patricia, as we called her at her request, would sit on the top step of the front stairs and watch the world go by – at least the people on the street.
There was a gas station down on the corner that had acceptable greasy fried chicken and great potato wedges, if they cooked them enough. We’re talking actual wedges of a freaking potato, not the miniature things in the frozen food section or fast food places. And it was pretty cheap so it wasn’t unusual that we would frequent the place to avoid the “what should we have tonight” conundrum.
When we left to walk down to the gas station, Ms. Patricia would give us a couple of dollars and ask us to get her a quart of beer. She never accepted the change. From what we could ever ascertain, she preferred to be called Ms. Patricia because she hadn’t had a last name she liked or could relate herself to.
Then for some reason, Ms. Patricia moved out and Martin moved in. Sonja, our other roommate at the time, began dating Martin. As it turned out, Martin sold pot. Which at first was a good thing. When he got a shipment in, he would give us free product to help him break up the bricks into baggies. We didn’t think grass was all he was selling. Which made me nervous. However, having no frame of reference, we didn’t know to be wary and worried. (Did I say we were young and stupid?)
Turns out a neighborhood gang did not appreciate Martin – and us by extension – selling to their customers. Since we didn’t do any selling, or buying for that matter, we had no idea. Until one late afternoon when we were hanging around in our apartment upstairs. Assumably, Martin was downstairs.
Suddenly we heard the screech of tires. It sounded like someone was doing donuts in the street – which wasn’t too far off. Whoever was in the old Cadillac was making sure we all had time to get to the window with the rest of the neighborhood. One more reverse laying of tread in the street, then forward, a hard right, and then they rammed into the side of Martin’s car. It was the closest I’ve ever been to a gang war. But it wasn’t really a war because Martin wasn’t in a gang. It was more of a warning statement.
We decided we would just stay in for the rest of the night, staying clear of Martin. Not surprisingly, he wasn’t around too much longer after that. We went back to being harmless musicians and college students to the neighborhood.
Keep writing the songs that are in your heart.
Peace be with you.