The sun spangled multichromatic glory in liquid waves of luscious, vibrant brilliance down upon the rough streets of Southeast San Diego. Flawless cerulean was the sky. Soft and mischievous was the wind, scented with the aroma of Nature. The discerning person, the soul steeped within the all consuming reality of the natural world, could instantly discern the scent of cedar upon the wind. And pine. And sap. And loam. A cornucopia of scented flowers. Peonies. Daisies. Honeysuckles. Butterflies flitted to and fro with colors so beautiful and exotic that they looked like the painting palette of ancient Afrikan Egyptians sprung to life and incarnated themselves as these large, lovely butterflies. The Monarch Butterflys were more than Monarchs...they were veritable Pharaohs of pristine prismatic life.
Yeah. I wasn't paying attention to none of that, right now. Know why?
Cuz I was heading toward a small store rather ostentatiously called THE LOGAN AVENUE MARKET, owned by an Arab named Achmed, and usually overseen by Achmed and his son Samir or Achmed's wife, Amal. Everyone liked Amal. Nobody stole from or disrespected Amal. Achmed and his son? Different story. Both were intensely racist and disrespectful to their customers. Amal? The exact opposite. I was hoping that Amal was in the store today, because she knew my situation was very difficult, and she would oftentimes go out of her way to give me free food to eat. I would reciprocate by taking out the trash or doing various and sundry work...for free...at her store, and whatnot. But Achmed and Samir? Would spit at us or call the police on us faster than they would even look at us. I wasn't exactly a major fan of either of them, and the feeling was reciprocated as far as I knew. So please God, let Amal be in the store...
...Krazy K. My enemy. And his crew. Among them? TONI. A beautiful dark skinned, athletic, teenage siren who I really liked...but I kept my desires for her hidden. Why? Because Toni liked bad boys, which I most certainly am not. Never would be. Krazy K is a bad boy, though. Through and through.
From across six lanes of street, Krazy K leered at me. Looped his arm around Toni's shapely strong stygian shoulders. Made sure he saw me watching...staring...when he leaned in to kiss her sweet, full, moist lips.
I still played it cool. Me being cool and pretending not to care at all that Krazy K kissed Toni? Must not have been the reaction that he wanted me to have. Because he lost all of his cool.
"Yeah, nigga!" Krazy K. "SHE..." [ he pointed at Toni ]..."is with ME! She ain't got time for no nerdy ass school boys like yo sorry little broke ass no money havin ass! Nigga, I gots CASH!!" And he raised a fistfull of 20 dollar bills, gained from his illegal trafficking in marijuana no doubt. "I'm a REAL nigga! A ganxta! I oughtta go over there and whoop yo ass."
"You remember what happened the LAST time you tried that, right?" I responded coolly. "Or did I kick the memory right out of you?"
Toni spun around and stared at me in surprise. She had never heard me speak like that. And the very notion that a quiet nerd like me would NOT be too intimidated by the presence of Krazy K and his crew to even SPEAK to a fierce hotheaded ganxta like Krazy K was very much a novelty...a dangerous novelty... in and of itself.
A nerd even remotely suggesting that he would fight a ganxta...much less was VICTORIOUS in a fight against a ganxta...was a death sentence.
Krazy K instantly broke free of Toni at my comment. His boys were hot on his heels. "Bring yo lil bitch ass over here, then!" Krazy K was in the grip of his infamous, ferocious fury. "Come OWN, punkass nigga! Come own ova here!"
"Yeah!!" Krazy K was pacing back and forth, his crew was hyped up. Krazy K was calling across the 6 lanes of traffic separating us. "Brang [ not "bring", Krazy K said: "BRANG" ] yo narrow lil ass over here so I can beat the black off you!"
His crew echoed the calls. "Yeah, bring yo bitch ass ova here! We stomp you out!" "Nigga, we finna whoop yo ass like yo Daddy's belt!" "Yo, ain't that Ras? Lil nigga with the books? Aaahhhaaaaahahaha! That nigga stay broke and neva got no bitches! He don't neva bust no guns or nuthin else! He probably beat his meat while he be studyin, cuz beatin his meat is the only time he bust on anything, and lookin in a mirror is the closest he gets to seein ANY pussy!!! Ahahahahaha!!!" "I knooowww this bitchass nigga not talkin like he wanna scrap?! Nigga. We literally KILL his ass!" "Hemustbeoffdatshermwiththatbullshit!" [ Yes, that whole sentence is spoken as one word. I'll explain in later chapters who said that and why. ]
The green light was getting old, and was changing to a red light. The traffic blocking my way? Slowed to a halt. All I had to do was wait for the green light to let the traffic flowing my direction to pass unobstructed, and I'd get a straight line run of 60 meters right into Krazy K and his crew.
The light turned yellow, and Krazy K and his crew grew got more hyped. Toni's eyes got bigger, she was looking at me like she was really seeing me for the first time. I could tell that she...like most people...only thought of me as a forgettable but likeable, athletic but nerdy bookworm.
I was getting ready to jump the light, when I felt the hand drop on my left shoulder. I looked up to the person who put the hand on my shoulder.
Leaning on his stout, shiny, well taken care of metal walking cane? Was Old Greg. My grandmother's friend. My father's "uncle".
"Ras. Will you help a old man cross the street?" It was phrased as a question, and Old Greg purposefully put enough power in his voice to carry across the street and be clearly heard by Krazy K and his crew. However. Old Greg wanted to take me in the exact opposite direction that Krazy K was standing. Old Greg was trying to take the bus North on Logan Avenue. Krazy K was across the street and headed South. With Toni. Who I liked.
But I knew Old Greg's statement wasn't a question. I know an order when I hear one. He was simultaneously trying to guide me away from what would certainly be a bloody fight, and give me an acceptable excuse in the eyes of most people to turn down said fight with Krazy K and his crew.
Toni's eyes clouded. She clearly didn't love Old Greg's interruption of the building hostilities.
Old Greg saw the conflict...and growing inclination toward refusal...in my eyes, even before I had sussed through my feelings enough to know that I was going to tell him "No". And that's when Old Greg lowered his voice so the kids across the street wouldn't hear him, and dropped this bomb on me.
"Ras. Boy. I know your grandmother. I knew your Daddy before he could WALK. You're a good boy, not a hothead troublemaker like them boys ova theyuh." His Oklahoma twang was powerful yet somehow dignified at the same time. "Don't you go ova theyuh! Your grandmother TAUGHT you better. Don't you go do nuthin that will make her mad or sad! Your Daddy? TAUGHT you bettah. I remember your MOTHER even BEFORE she married yo Daddy. Yo Momma? TAUGHT you better. Don't you go doin nothin that will disrespect your family. Don't you do that. Your family DESERVES better. You walk me across this street to that bus stop, you hear?"
I looked back at Toni. Her eyes...previously alive and glittering like a newborn solar system at the notion of me coming across the street...were speedily losing their shine. Their regard for, interest in, and desire for me.
"You HEAR me, Ras?" Old Greg repeated.
Dammit. I heard. I heard. And I obeyed. When the light changed? I and Old Greg walked away. Walked away from yet another senseless violent conflict pitting young Black men against young Black men. Walked away from the magic and the promise in Toni's eyes. I saw the regard, interest, and desire for me permanently die in Toni's eyes. Felt like I was raked by a leopard's claw.
Krazy K and his crew went ballistic. "Nah, fuck that! Brang yo ass!" "Brang yo muhfuckin ass, muhfuckah! You ain't get to talk allat shit and not git that ass SPANKED, lil nigga!!" "Bitch ass! Bitch ASS! BITCH! ASS! NIGGAAAA!!"
But me and Old Greg kept walking to the bus stop across the street. And Old Greg's observant brown eyes didn't miss a thing.
"Don't worry, Ras. That girl? She'll come round. She'll see that them boys she with? Are nuthin. No good. But you? You're something special."
I most definitely didn't feel special. I felt...not heart-broken, but...pretty deeply disappointed. And it hurt. Almost as much as...but different than...the way my stomach hurt from not eating over these last few days.
And to make things even better? As I sat there at the bus stop with Old Greg, I saw Amal...Achmed's wife, manager of her store...walk out of her store, get in her car, and drive away. There went my only free meal of the day. That's when my stomach woke up and began to kick and twist. I swear, it was going to start talking to me and probably cussin me out, if I didn't find something to eat. Fast.
When the bus came? Old Greg gave me a quick hug, and just before he boarded the bus, he said: "You're something special, Ras. I've seen a whole lot in my life. I've seen special before. I know it when I see it. You? Are special. Don't you squander that. Don't you go put innocent blood on your hands, or get in a mess because of no out of control ego or because your "little head" is thinking louder than your "big head". Ya hear?"
"Yes sir." I said to Old Greg.
Old Greg looked me in the eyes. Knew I was about to do something to get me in trouble before I knew it, the way that old people know what young idiots do before we do our idiot stuff...but I wasn't going to go start anything with Krazy-K. Hugged me again. Got on the bus.
That's when I looked up at Achmed's store again, and realized there was only one thing that I COULD do.
Never stopping my movement, I spun quickly to face him as I followed with a left hand fingers stacked atop each other spear thrust eye poke. Samir screamed like the sucka he is. Even though I didn't poke my fingers into his eyeball, a powerful thrust to your eyelids can really suck. I knew from first hand experience of being shellacked by my teacher, my Uncle Bobby, during our sparring sessions. Now Samir...who never even had the remotest clue that the world contained such horrors...was experiencing the distinctly acute pain of eyelid jamming. By his yowl of I DON'T BELIEVE HOW MUCH THIS HURTS!! pain? I could tell he was getting a good dose of The Agony Tour Experience. His knees buckled, and he would have fallen, but my vicious uprising right elbow uppercut stood him back up. I mean, the trip hammer blow of my elbow had him standing up so hard and so fast that he locked his knees out...I could hear them make a popping noise as lactic acid escaped, like cracking knuckles make but louder... and raised onto the tips of his toes.
That's when I flowed into a reverse bow stance as I slammed a right hammer fist into Samir's unexpecting, unprotected testicles. The hammer fist lifted Samir involuntarily off of the ground and back onto the balls of his feet, raising his heels off the ground while his butt was pushed back in the "butt back because my nuts been smacked " dance. You know when little kids try to sit in chairs that are set higher than their butts are? They have to get on their tip toes and hop backwards to drop their butts in the chair and sit down comfortably. That's exactly what Samir did. And when he hopped back, groaning in serious pain, his butt thrust backwards, his eyelid and nose both red and bleeding? That's when the world shaking pain of his groin really got to him. He gasped-choked,belated covered the family jewels and dropped to his knees,releasing the food that he confiscated in the process.
Yeah I know I know I know: that ish is waaay STUPID. I was 15 and hungry,okay? Cut me some slack.
"They on you?" That was Mike Mike. For those who don't know Ebonics of that area in San Dawg and that time period...Mike Mike was asking me if the police were chasing me, or were they chasing somebody else.
Mike Mike was a 17 year old, ganxta from Lincoln Park. Lincoln Park had plenty different street names that referred to their gang. It was...Lincoln Park aka Syndo Mob aka Leprechauns aka Syndicate aka Spinach Shooters aka...you get the idea. Lincol Park...most commonly referred to as "L.P."...is the Blood gang that ran this area. Their primary colors were green and black like the National Football League's Philadelphia Eagles, so Mike Mike was decked out in the requisite green jeans,green Filas and checkered green and black Pendletons. He was lookin fly.He also held the bball comfortably perched on his right hip with his right hand.The bball game had temporarily come to a halt while Mike Mike questioned me. Because Mike Mike was a Little G in the gang, he had pull over most kids his age in this whole section of the city...if they belonged to his gang.
"Yeah," I responded.Me and Mike Mike had potentially conflictful history. Why? Because. Like most of the gangs around here? Once a few of the OGs from L.P. heard that I could fight, I was smart and I was a gifted athlete,they decided that I needed to be in their gang.I politely refused their invitation to join.They then set about "jumpin me on".Now that means that they find somebody about my age to beat me up and either WILLINGLY--meaning I want to join the gang--or FORCEFULLY bring me into their gang.Since I wasn't willing to join on my own,they decided that they'd hand me beatdowns until I changed my mind and saw the wisdom of being down with their team. They've tried 5 times so far,and the score was 5 KO victories for me,zero wins for L.P.The reason Mike Mike and me might have beef is because Mike Mike's younger cousin--16 year old Krazy K,standing 5'9' to my 5''5" and weighing 170 to my 114 pounds--was the last guy I KO'd for trying to "jump me on".
"Yeah," I confirmed to Mike Mike.He wouldn't dime me out to the po-po no matter how much he hated me.Back then,bruthas hadn't been sippin on that Snitchin Sauce that they're on now.
"Whassup?" Mike Mike wanted to know.
"Got me some eats," I answered,raisin the Snickers and Doritos.
Everybody on the court busted up laughin. I joined in.
"They on you," Mike Mike pronounced "on" as "OWN"..."for some 50 cent Snickers? I ain't knowin what's worse: them punkazz po-pos tryin tuh roll on a nigga for some SNICKERS, or a nigga bein so BROKE that he gotta STEAL HIM some Snickers."
Everybody on the court just cracked up laughin then,except this time I didn't join in.
Oh well.A few more of these here Snickers and Doritos bags will assuage my feelings.I got busy with the eating again.
"Ay," Mike Mike called as he went back toward the court,"gitcho school boy ass out here so I can clown yo sorry lil ass on the court!"
"You ain't clownin NObody," I replied instantly."I be right back." Not..."I'LL" be right back. Nah. "I" be right back.
Mike Mike started the game back up.
I was already eatin my third Snickers,and gettin relaxed despite the police sirens playing in the background.I was watching the athleticism in the bball game,enjoying the warmth of the westering San Diego summer sun firing its crimson and gold beams,lovin the rap and R&B music spilling forth like sonic soul gems from the various passing cars and opened apartment windows in the PJs. My hunger and thirst had been sated,and I stepped away from the bball court to take a stroll to my dawg Preston's apartment.
Preston was 15 years old and lived with his moms in the apartment wing near the First Tower.He was the only other kid I knew who loved sports,martial arts and comic books in equally insane portions of intensity like me. Not even Duhrell--the third member of my crew of close friends--loved comic books the way me and Preston did.I remembered how the three of us used to laugh together,but then I quickly shut down that memory.It was hard to hold the water in my eyes back when I thought of that and how Duhrell couldn't laugh with us anymore.
Preston's pretty mother--who was ALWAYS workin--answered the door and told me that Preston--who I called P-Rock--wasn't home yet.I asked her if she could put my sports bag in Preston's room--"I'll be waitin for P-Rock on the bball court,playin Mike Mike and nem" (not 'THEM",I said "NEM")--and she did so.Me and Preston were always droppin off comic books and stuff to each other,so me droppin off my sports bag wasn't nuthin to see as unusual.
I walked back to the bball court,and started chillin with the rest of the peeps waitin to jump in and ball.Since I had time on my hands,I treated myself to the nonstop eyefest of the parading eye candy of Black women in their unparalleled fashion and unequalled bangin bodies gliding by.Some of these beautiful girls called out to me and I was more than happy to respond.
"Yall callin this lil school boy ass nigga?" Mike Mike was grandstandin on the bball court."Yo,yall pretty ladies hole up"...Mike Mike did not say HOLD up,he said HOLE up... " a minnit. I'm uh CLOWN this nigga fo y'all."
The crowd was like OHHH and the pretty girls were laughing.Now I had to step to Mike Mike because I couldn't lose face in front of the hood like that.
"You ain't clownin NO...BODY.Like I already toldjoo."
"Come own out here then,short ass nigga!" Mike Mike dribbled the ball between his legs and around his back with smooth,easy skill. Mike Mike could ball,and he knew it. So did everybody else,including me.On top of that? Mike Mike was rockin a 5 inch height and reach advantage over me,at 5'10.He enjoyed a 71 pound weight advantage too,at 185 pounds to my 114.Then Mike Mike said:"This nigga lookin like a broke ass bootleg TAYE DIGGS." and EVERYBODY ON THE COURT except me liked to have CRACKED UP laughin.
I cut the laughter off by stepping onto the court.Accepting Mike Mike's challenge.
Mike Mike got that derisive look on his face that clearly said LIL NIGGA PUHLEEEEZE!! I'M FINNA CLOWN YO SHORT ASS!! and waved off the kid who was guarding him on the other team.
That other kid was LeTrey.LeTrey could ball himself,and didn't take kindly to having his game interrupted.
"Nah Mike Mike," LeTrey protested."Git this lil sawed off ass nigga off the court and let REAL NIGGAS ball! you could clown him after he play a couple games with them elementary school niggas...they all the same HEIGHT!"
Gales of laughter from all sides.I didn't take my eyes off Mike Mike.
But Mike Mike wouldn't be swayed.
Mike Mike started walkin backward to center court,waving me to him."Come own lil nigga! Wit cho light eyes lookin like a girl.You GAY or sumfin? Gay ass OMARION gone extra black and bald lookin nigga! Come yo lil kungfu Yoda ass own over here foe I can clown you." That wasn't a typo...Mike Mike said "foe I can clown you" instead of "SO i can clown you."
Without a word I trotted right on up to Mike Mike.By this time the whole court had emptied,even though Mike Mike and I were only occupying the half court that was nearest to the crowd.
"Check lil nigga!" Mike Mike bounced me the ball."CHECK" is a street ball term wherein the defensive player calls for the ball to be inbounded to him while he checks to see if his team is in defensive position.The defensive player HAS TO RETURN THE BALL IMMEDIATELY to the offensive player unless the offensive player's team MISSED a shot that TOUCHED THE RIM on THE PREVIOUS PLAY BEFORE THE CALL FOR CHECK. Yeah I know it's complicated to those of you who don't play street bball,and I don't have the time to give you a primer.Just take my word for it,aight?
I bounced the ball back to Mike Mike,and Mike Mike bounced it back to me. That's unusual even in street ball.
"Naw lil nigga you wanna check and be sho that ain't NOBODY ON THE COURT,cuz when I blow by yo ass I don't wanna hear no EXCUSES 'bout how you FELL DOWN cuz you thought some niggas was up on the trey (three point line for you non-street ballers) or up under the hole (basketball hoop). Or some shit like that!"
More laughter and some girls called out in a sexy sing song chorusing union:"MIIIKE MIIIKE!!" and he was eatin it up...but I saw what he was doing. He was trying to syke me out by playing to the crowd,trying to goad me into an angry exchange of words that would cause a momentary lapse of alertness on my part so that he could blow by me and probably slam dunk it on me.
Not havin that Mike Mike.Talk all you want,not fallin for it,dawg.I remained tightly focused and alert.
Mike Mike bounce passed me the ball for a second time,while loudly stating:"Yo you wanna check again lil nigga! I'm TRYIN to be NICE to yo SORRY LIL ASS so you can have THE BESS (not besT with a "T") CHANCE YOU CAN NIGGA cuz I'm uh break yo ankles (juke you make you look stupid and make you fall because you can't keep up with my quick moves) and pull up on yo ass ( take a jump shot and make it)!"
I immediately bounce passed it back."You gonna play four square or bball?"
The crowd kinda chuckled at my words,and Mike Mike immediately read the slight psychological shift in the crowd's demeanor and correctly concluded that I'd gotten back a measure of their support.His next move was predictable.
Showin nice ball control and unexpected quickness for a dude his size,Mike Mike juked right left then drove hard right,using his body to shield me from his dribbling right hand as he drove with crisp power and authority toward the hoop.In less than a dozen commanding strides he was inside the key and jumped high off the ground,his body arched back in a two handed Shaq style gorilla jam.He hit the rim with enough strength to shake the chain net so loud that it momentarily drowned out the rap and R&B that up until that moment ruled the airwaves of the PJ's.The crowd OOOOO'ed in admiration and appreciation...
...which became a gasp of shocked consternation as they realized that Mike Mike's hands were empty.Mike Mike had driven hard to the hoop,and he and the whole crowd swore he had the ball in his hands as he went up to dunk.
I hadn't moved from half court,where I calmly stood...dribbling the basketball that I stole from Mike Mike as he went up to dunk.
"DAAAAYAAAAMNN!!" the crowd exploded in delight.
Mike Mike turned a predatory glare on me,then raced up on me to lock down on some serious D (that's "defense").He had to thoroughly overwhelm me and quickly turn the tables on me to save his rep.
But I had a different idea.
As he locked down on me,I juked leftrightleftspinrightcutbackleft while dribbling the ball with lightning speed between my legs around my back and BETWEEN MIKE MIKE'S LEGS. I pulled off a fancy looking, fluid, Kipura technique properly called "Nyani Rahisi" but which Brazilian capoeiristas called a role. The move was beautiful and fluid, and looked like I was purely styling on Mike Mike with a move that's nothing but flashiness. But that's one of Kipura's deadliest, most cunning secrets. Movements that look completely aesthetic and dysfunctional in reality are highly potent, highly guileful, difficult to see coming, skillful manipulation of distancing and angled position that makes it impossible for my opponent to steal the basketball from me. At half court,I pulled up and fired a beautiful southpaw rainbow arcing "J" (that's:"Jump shot"). I'd so bewildered Mike Mike with my agility,quickness,and superb ball handling skills that his back was still to me and he was turning to face me as I let the shot go.By the time he faced me,the ball had long left my hands.
"Yo...I ain't OMARION, but on YOUR court...In front of YOUR CREW!...I made SURE that YOU GOT SERVED. Hahahaha!!!" I crowed triumphantly into the malice stamped across Mike Mike's features.
The crowd liked to have LOST THEIR MINDS LAUGHING.This time,I joined in and Mike Mike was quiet.Seething in anger and humiliation.
In fact,I was laughing so hard and enjoying myself SO much, that I almost missed those four cops sneakin up by the bushes and trees trying to nail me from behind.
END PART 1. PART TWO COMING SOON.