Running On E Part 1

Running On E Part 1

                                                          RUNNING ON ‘E


The Prodigal Journey From Nowhere And Back


Norman Peterson

For my friend Becky from another life another time ago.

In Memory Of Ma, Lil Ma, Mack & Kerry

Some Where Along The Way

Birth is where our journey begins

The moment we draw our first breath

Stealthily we trudge along

to keep a date with death

There are many roads we travel

Each with varying speed between

Hastening the inevitable

Or sometimes it would seem

Death is as the vultures

That circles high in the sky

Watching us at every turn

As we dare to defy

Words of wisdom the wise

That’s folly to the fools

Now is all anyone has

To use it as one would choose

Make time for yourself

Do it everyday

Stop and smell the roses

Somewhere along the way

If things get overwhelming

Take it in stride

It’s a phase of life

Thus relax, enjoy the ride


O' God grant forgiveness to our living and our dead

To those who are present, and those who are absent

To our young folk and our old folks

To our males and our females

Oh God whomsoever You grant from among us

You grant to live, help him to live a believer

And whomsoever from among us You cause to die

Let him die in faith

O' God do deprive of the reward of patience of their loss

And Make us subject not to trial after them..

A Muslim prayer for the deceased


Earlier today I buried my mama. As they lowered her body into her grave, I couldn’t stop crying and kept asking God; "Why did You take my mama? Why? Why? She was such a meek and gentle soul, she'd never go anywhere without telling me. " Now she lay in St Luke Cemetary graveyard dead. Amid my tears i could only think tt had been a long journey back from no where and back

Mama seemed to be in decent health, but I knew she had been slowly slipping away since Lisa enlisted in the Army. I don't know which bothered her more, by enlisting in the Air Force some 25 years before. She had done no wrong except live eighty-one years. People die every day, and being forty-nine years old two months shy of my fiftieth birthday, I was devastated. I have attended my share of funerals, including the only grand mother I really ever knew. But this, my mama, was different. Since the death of my grand mother Lil’ Ma, she had become my heart and soul. My safety net, my ace in the hole, my biggest supporter, even my best friend. Not in my wildest imagination did I think my mother would ever die so soon and leave me here alone, but she did, and I'm gonna miss her very much, for the first time.

She had gone through so much in her long life, starting with granddaddy Mack abandoning the family when she was 7 years old, to surviving a tornado in ’47.

She lived under the roof of my domineering grand mama until she was approaching 40. That was when she married my step dad Homer. He was for the most part an ok provider, but as I later learned from my nieces he was an abusive husband.

Her greatest joy however, was in her extended family, we always came first. Especially my niece Lisa whom she raised from a preemie. although she took special pride in others, including my best friend Marvin.

Granted most caring offspring’s would say this about a mother or loved one who dies, but she was the really most loving and unassuming selfless person, I’ve ever known. Even if she wasn’t my mother. That also included my aunt Effie who by most account was saint. I can't help feeling, bit by bit; I had been digging n her grave and gathering nails for her coffin for a very long time. albeit it took nearly thirty years for her to lie in it.

In spite of the waywardness of my bothers and I she love John, Tommy, her grandchildren, and me equally. Even being her son, I don't think I deserved that much love. Especially since when it seemed every chance I got, I did hurting things as a young man. The one that stands out most was my sophomore year in high school. At our annual Negro Farmers Of America NFA (FFA counterpart) all members were to bring their parents. I couldn't talk her out of going, so I did the next worse thing, I didn't eat with her, she never knew why, and to this day I never told her. She later in life would recall that night, fondly.

I didn't have the heart to tell her I was ashamed of her, and that I hid in the school bus that brought us there. All of my other friends ate with their parents. Yet, she took the evening in stride. To her, I was mama's ol' big boy, whom she was very proud. Of course I did give her other reasons to be proud, I was smart in and out of school, I was the first and only in our immediate family to graduate, of which I was an honor student. During my freshman year I won countywide public speaking contest for poetry, when no one gave me a chance. Still it was no big deal because things like that seemed to have come natural to me. I guess it's only fitting in the end, it was the Will of God that would finally bring me to reality, before taking her from me. After all, I had gotten so far away from what's real and what was make believe, I could no longer tell the difference. Because of no being able to tell the difference, I accept fully my share of the responsibility for breaking up the family into tiny pieces. I don't know when or where, but somewhere along the line I developed a plan that whatever route I took in life my vehicle would be economics, and excitement, fueled by the volatile mixture of ego-eccentricity and expectations. Be that as it may, I think they drive most as well. Where we differ are the routes we take.



Stepping Out

It was the late fall '62. How I hated baseball season was over. Summer was my favorite time of year. It was a time when the days seemed endless. And when they were over, I would go to visit my friend Marvin. We would often sit on the porch and talk about how we were going to be big league baseball player. We would talk late into the evening and dream. But summer was over; I was two years out of high school, with no job, and no prospect of going to college and was slowly sinking into complacency. How I hated that too. Here I was nineteen years old, with big dreams, and yet I hadn't gotten off the mark. The following week would change my life my relationship with my family forever, in fact it's the last time we were ever a complete family again.

Shortly before the long days of summer were drawing to a close, my cousin Hozie revealed he had big dreams too. Somewhere along the line, he got this wild hair about how we could get away. He wanted us to join the Air Force. When he first mentioned it to me I wished him good luck, because it was baseball season, we had a winning team, and I wasn't about to go anyplace. I was hoping perhaps a scout somewhere along the line would see me, and I'd end up in the majors. But as summer grew to a close, I began to realize, this wasn't going to be the years either.

After the season was over, shortly there after, my turpentine job ended too. It meant from now to spring, I'd spend the weekdays and nights reading, and weekends playing cards at Browns place, and generally living off my grandmother.

Hozie stepped up pressure for me to join the Air Force. I remember his telling me about all the places we would go, and that we could even join under the buddy-buddy plan. He was never my closest buddy, so the idea never appealed to me. Finally, I gave in and agreed to travel to nearby Panama City to take the Air Force exam. I had no intention of passing the exam. I thought if I went through the motions, he would pass, I would fail then, I could get on with my life, such as it was. Monday, following the Sunday I agreed to, he showed up bright and early. It was eight o' clock, much too early for me, but I got up and got dressed. Somewhere along the line I had mentioned to grandmother, that Hozie wanted me to join the Air Force with him, she was incensed. I was her favorite, and he was trying to entice her pride and joy to "jine the A'my". Lil' ma as we called her, could be mean if she didn't like you. And she was mean to him. Although she didn't approve, she allowed me to go.

When we got to Panama City, we barely had enough time to get to the recruiter office. The test wasn't hard, but tricky. In the testing room my emotions started to play tricks on me. Part of me didn't want to flunk the test. So I decided to work slowly, that way if I didn’t answer all the questions, at least I’d have them all right.

Three days later, Hozie came to visit me, he had the rejection notice in his hand, and he had failed the test. He was curious to know if I had received my notice yet. I had not. A week passed, and I was curious, and disappointed. If I had failed the test what was taking so long for them to notify me. I wished I had taken the test serious. Another week passed and I was ready to give up, it was then I got the news. I had passed, and did well on the exam. It seems the notification had been at the home of the person who went to the community mailbox. It had come two weeks earlier. That was the first time I can ever recalled feeling jubilation and fear at the same time.


One And The Same

The notice stated, I should get in touch with Technical Sergeant, Robert Anderson, there were no specific time or date. I thought the matter over, if I really wanted to join the Air Force. But being curious, I thought it couldn't hurt to at least to see what the next step would be should someday I really get interested in joining.

When I arrived at the recruiter’s office, it was as though he had seen a long lost friend. He went through the whole Air Force indoctrination spiel, of which I was beginning to feed into it. I signed the entire required document o take this thing to the next level.

Now all I needed was a birth certificate to wrap things up. There was one small problems, I couldn't find it. That took me on a three-week wild goose chase. Until I went to high school, I never knew there was a difference between the spelling of my name, and that of a girl. I think the person who filled in my birth certificate didn't know the difference either. Therefore the name I added a letter to in high school, was not the name on record. It must have driven the Air Force nuts looking for me under one name, when my birth certificate was under another. Through careful search, my mother found it. And we discovered the error. To correct it, we completed a, "one and the same," document, and I was on my way, to looking around the next corner.


Air Force Blue

On the 29th of December '62, little did I think, I was about to embark on twenty-one year journey. Sergeant Anderson had briefed me on what to expect at the military induction center in Montgomery, Alabama. There would be a physical exam, then a military entrance exam. Barring any surprises, I should be ready for military services.

At this juncture in my life, I have always thought of as being a worldly person. It may have been due in part, to the amount of reading, and the number of movies I had seen. In truth, I had never been more than three hundred miles from home. My bus left, Chipley, (a small farming time, where I graduated from high school) at seven o'clock. Because I had no luggage, ma put a change of clothing in a brown paper bag. As I had been conditioned, by years of segregation, I went straight to the rear of the bus and sat in a corner, Although, I had heard of Montgomery, I had no idea how far away it was. It may as well as have been on the other side of the world. Somewhere along the way, I started having second thoughts about my decision. I developed a nervous jerk that seemed to control my every movement. At times I couldn't stop. I tried sleeping, which eased the tension, but I could only sleep for a relative short period. Approximately, three hours later I arrived in the largest city I had ever seen in my life, Montgomery, Alabama.

Other than the trip I took in '57 to the Florida State Fair, I had never spent a night outside the Vernon, Florida community. The bed at the induction center was hard and the room was cold, I developed the nervous jerk again, and sometime during the night I fell asleep, and it never reappeared.

The following morning the military persons on duty awakened us, we were told to make our beds and prepare for breakfast. This was my first encounter with SOS on toast; I have yet to meet a military person, (other than myself) who liked it. SOS is an acronym for shit on shingles. Actually it is creamed beef on toast. After breakfast we were herded into the physical examining staging area. There we went through our physical exam. After the physical exam, came the hard part, we were taken to the day room to watch television, and wait for the results.

I had always loved watching Television, but this day, I couldn't have cared less. One by one I could hear the name of the recruits being called. Well into the afternoon, a number of names had been called. I assumed the names that were being called were the ones that passed the exam. I always thought I was healthy. When I was in the sixth grade, were given medication to rid ourselves of worms, I'm not sure what that meant, not even to this day. I do recall if a child didn't look well, the grown-ups would say, "that child looks wormy." I never asked what it meant, because worms have always been something repulsive to me.

My mind started playing tricks on me. I have never failed at anything in my life, whether I applied myself or not. Now, I felt awful. As much as I wanted out of, I didn't want to go home. I had seen too many who came and returned because of some glitch in their health, or flunked the exam. What would I say, to my friends back home? This was awful." Peterson, Norman L," the voice called. I took a deep sigh, and braced myself for the bad news. I was so distraught as the person spoke. He was poring over my test, and then informed after this interview that we would be going into another room to take the Military exam. I didn't understand. Why should I take an exam when the hadn't called me with the others. As it turned out the recruits they were calling were the ones who for what ever reasons had fail their physical. I was so excited, I forgot how badly I wanted to end this thing right here, and go home. The following afternoon, I found myself taking the military oath.


Hello World

On the morning of January 1, '63, I was awakened early. Because I was the only recruit to pass the exam, there would be no train ride to Basic Training to Lackland Air Force. I had to fly. I was briefed, given an itinerary, which contained and rushed off to the airport. My heart seemed to have raced, a mile a minute. I could feel resemblances of the jerk I had three nights prior. I had never been higher than the third floor. And now I was going to fly a thousand miles to San Antonio, Texas. "My God," I thought Lil Ma was right; I didn't belong in the military. If I could've backed out, I would've. But I couldn't. My itinerary called for flying from Montgomery to New Orleans, with stops in Pensacola, and Mobile. Once I arrived in New Orleans, there I was to change planes, fly into Houston, change again and onto San Antonio. On paper it all seemed simple enough (sic). In reality, it was up to that time my biggest nightmare. How on earth was I ever going to pull this off?

I don't recall, but the 300 hundred trip seemed like eternity. In retrospect, fear and anxiety will do that to the mind. When the plane arrived in New Orleans, I was a nervous wreck, scared and hungry.

New Orleans airport in the 60's is a far cry from what it is today. There were no concourses for planes to dock. You got off the plane outside. That day was a beautiful day the sun was shining and the temperature must have been in the seventies. It was a sharp contrast to the frost I left in Montgomery. My thoughts turned to home as I headed for the terminal; some of lil' ma's biscuit with bacon and syrup would taste good at this point. The hunger pains had my stomach howling. At this point, I really did want to go home. Once inside the terminal, I saw more people than I had ever seen in my life. Most of whom was dressed in business attire. I felt intimidate, yet at home. One of my biggest ambitions was to get a job, where I could wear a suit and tie to work. My first objective was to find the gate where my plane would leave. A simple task like that should've been easy, but it wasn't. I wouldn't ask for fear someone would think I was some country bumpkins. It didn't matter; I was wearing a sign advertising that I really was. I was wear pants that were too short, shoes that went out of style in the 50's, rotten teeth, and a hat called a stingy brim. I matched my flight number with that on my ticket, but there was another problem: How in the hell am I supposed to know where gate 27 is. I finally asked a skycap, and he told me. But, along the way, I forgot, and had to ask another. With that out of the way, I could go look for myself a meal. I started to look for a place where Colored people ate. I didn't see one. At a number of other concession stands I saw White eating. I assumed that they were for whites only. I looked for a candy machine, and didn't find one.

At approximate 2 PM, I boarded an Eastern Airline Boeing 707 for Houston. I settled back to try and sleep. The hunger pains were killing me. Once in the air felt better. The airlines offered snacks, but I refused. I'm not sure why. I think it was because I didn't know what they were charging. After they made their rounds. A Black minister must have heard my stomach. He asked why I didn't accept the complimentary snacks. I lied, by saying, I never ate while flying. We made small talk. I must have sounded intelligent enough, for he seemed to befriend me. He had been to a convention, and was on his way home to Houston. There were a million things I wanted to ask, but I recalled Lil Ma's words; open your mouth and you let all your ignorance come out.

When we arrived in Houston, this airport was different. It had concourses where planes could dock. At the gate, his wife met him. He introduced her, the informed her, that I was on my way to the Air Force. She too must have heard my stomach. He pointed me in the direction where I could get food. His wife sensing I was a country bumpkin, whispered to him to take me. He did, and that was my first integration experience. There were no White Only, Colored Only signs. As if it was yesterday I recalled sliding on the stool, trying to make myself seem small, that no one would notice. I felt relieved when in the area, I saw another Black eating. After all, I was on my way to the Air Force, not to cause trouble. Although I hated it, my grandmother hated it, and almost every one I knew hated it, but we had our place in Vernon. I ate, paid for the hamburger with my own money, instead of the food voucher the induction had given me. I finished and boarded the plane for the last leg on this journey.



I wished I didn't, but I remember Charles Summers. The first person I saw when I reached the staging area in the San Antonio airport, was this loud braggadocio dude. He seemed to know everything about everything. He was smoking and drinking, and cutting the fool. I didn't speak to him. I sit and reread orders I didn't understand. As planes came in the area started to fill with recruits, little did I know, most of these guys I would spend the next weeks. About an hour after I arrived a bus from Lackland Air Force Base picked us up. The person in charge, informed us to smoke if we chose, because it might be a long time before we got the privilege again. Boy, did he know what he was talking about. Also the bus ride would be the last motorized vehicle I would sit in for nearly 8 weeks.

After arriving at Lackland, were processed in. That when they relieve you of the document the induction centers had supplied you with, a brief personal history. Once processed in, we were assembled outside. This would be the start of endless marching, starting with going down to base supply, and getting field jackets (fatigue jacket), and caps. Recruits that had been there perhaps three weeks saw us and laughed, calling us Jeeps. It was a name, as we learned later, for new recruits.

My first night was anything but memorable. I was yelled at and treated generally unkind. The next few days were spent teaching us the Air Force way of doing things. It wasn't long afterwards that I discovered what the purpose of Basic Training was. It wasn't to teach combat survival, but combat submission. Not bad, for a country boy to figure that out all by himself. The rest of basic training was spent playing the politics of what they expected.

I was probably the weirdest recruit that ever went through Lackland. When we got a weekend pass, I never went to town; instead I went to the movies at the Billy Mitchell theatre. On the seventh week of Basic we received our orders. I was assigned to someplace I had never heard of, Ellsworth Air Force Base. It was located outside of a town called Rapid City, South Dakota. By not doing the best I could on my Air Force entrance exam, this was my reward. I was to become a 62210 a cook. Before, I was to report to there I had 21-day delay in route that meant going home. I never thought I'd hear myself say it but I was glad to be going home. I was somebody now. The final week, they allowed us to sew on our Airman/Third Class stripes. For one week we were the senior recruits, and we flaunted ourselves everyplace. The day I left Lackland, I said goodbye to a guy I genuine liked. His name was Pitzenberger, a blonde kid from Ohio, he was going into Air Rescue. The next time I would hear of him would be in the Air Force times, he was killed in Nam, either in late '65, or early '66. When the healing wall came to our town, I looked his name up. And he was there.



If I had had the money, I would have flown home in grand style. But the amount we were given would barely be enough to last until payday at Ellsworth, after paying meager bus fare, since home was in the opposite direction to where I was going. The first of three stupid mistakes I would make as far as travel was concerned. The other two will come later.

When I left San Antonio, I was all spit and polish, in my Air Force dress blue uniform. My service cap was pulled so far down over the bridge of my nose, I had to tilt my head backwards to see. I had bought myself a blue military handbag, and a garment bag. In eight short weeks, I had come a long way from that brown bag I started with. To the letter, the bus went to every city I had flown in on the way back. First Houston, then New Orleans. What I saw, in those cities and what I recalled, you would've thought I lived there. My mind was like a sponge. I've always believed, if you going to be a man of the world, then you should possess knowledge of that world. I memorized streets, buildings points of interests. When I returned to Redhead, I would not return the same person that left like so many others I knew. I would be different. I was a flyboy, in the greatest Air Force in the world, and I was proud. I was not an Army grunt. Anyone could join the army. But only the chosen few of Blacks were allowed in the Air Force, and I was one. The only other I knew, was my cousin Cyrus.

When I arrived in Redhead, as usual, my family was excited to see. Amidst all the excitement, I could sense, mama and Lil ma were proud too. As usual, I said hello told them briefly about basic training, then I was on my way to visit with Marvin, who was my closest friend. Somehow being with the family did matter to me. I guess at nineteen years old, that's to be expected. Three days after being back in Redhead, I knew why I wanted to leave in the first place. Nothing was going on there. You can only tell so many "war stories" before they start to get boring even to me. Although I had told mama, I would be there for two weeks, I decided to leave after one. I lied by telling her it would probably take a week to get to South Dakota by bus. And that if I didn't report on time, I would be AWOL, and it could mean going to the stockade.



The trip from Redhead to Rapid City must have been nearly 2000 miles. It was tiring but exhilarating. Traveling by bus gave me a close up view of several cities I had only read about in books. Mobile, Baton Rogue, Dallas. Yes Dallas, the big D as I had heard it called. The most impressive cities however were Denver and Cheyenne. It was also a chance to see mountains.

When I arrived in Rapid City, it was around 2 AM, in the midst of the worst snowstorm they had had in years. It served me right, as the trip had taken a mere three days.

My first morning at Ellsworth, was one I'll never forget. The snow was piled so high on the side of the streets, standing my five foot seven frame couldn't see over it. For the most part, I spent the day acquainting my self with the layout of the base. The second day, like a dummy, I reported to 821 Food Service Squadron for duty. Immediately I was assigned to the flight line. We were the cooks for the Strategic Air Command B-52 bomber wing.

I was also assign to room with an airman named Madden. Madden was from Phenix City, Alabama. Today, I realize that we were practically neighbors, in that Phenix City was closer to Redhead, than Montgomery. But, as far as I was concerned, it may as well been on the other side of the moon, because I could make no connections.

My first night with my room, I started feeding him a line of how worldly I was. And I dazzled him about the women in my life, when actually I had never had a girl friend. But, when you had read as many books as I had, you could dazzle anyone. Madden was so gullible, or wanted to call my, he invited me town with him and a few of the fellows. I had mixed emotions about that, since he and a two other airmen were being court martial for rape. But against my better judgment, I accepted. I knew if I didn't I would have a reputation for talking the talk, but couldn't walk the walk. He made a phone call to one of his partners, stating that, " the Boot," was going to town with us. Boot was a term used like Jeep. It meant you were fresh out of Boot camp.

As soon as the sunset; we went out to G I corner, and hitched a ride downtown, to the Coney Island Bar. My first night in downtown, I will always remember. All of the Black airmen frequented this place called Coney Island. It was a combination night club/whore house run by a Black woman from the east, Cleveland as I recall. They sold sex upstairs, and the club was downstairs. Few airmen ever went upstairs. Not many more ventured inside except to play records on the juke box, or maybe buy a beer. Most would go to the liquor store buy whiskey and wine, and hang outside talking about life in, "the world." ( Another term used meaning life outside the military.). The whiskey would be passed around among the fellows, as we sometimes called ourselves. The wine would be for squaws from the Rosebud Native American Reservation. Because they seemed to have low tolerance for alcohol, a half gallon of Arriba wine would get a lot of the fellows, "a shot of back," ( sex ).

The night was clear but cold. It didn't stop us, however from hanging out talking about, the world. About midnight, I heard a scream up one of the alleys. Madden jumped of the car and ran to have a look. He came back quickly, and out of breath. He yelled, " They got "Skeeter Butt, Ya'll les go."

Skeeter Butt was a young Native American woman who I was told had had sex with ever, "head," ( Black ) on the base. It was not uncommon ten or twelve guys to pull a train on her, once she started drinking.

Madden grabbed me by arm snatched me into one of three car that had started up. " I know where they are going." he told the driver. We raced out of town following the car in front of us. Sure enough, he knew. In the middle of nowhere, we come upon this Volkswagen wagon. Already there must have been ten guys standing in line, smoking, drinking and waiting their turn. The headlights on the car shone directly on the girl and one of the airmen having sex. Having never seen a Native American as fair as she was, I panicked. I thought she was white, and I didn't come all the way to South Dakota to be lynched. I quickly got out the car and told Madden I was leaving I wanted no part of what was happening. He tried to talk me out of leaving. He said if I didn't want any of that back, to stay in the car, it would be okay. That wasn't good enough for me, I knew if the police came out I would be just as much of an accomplice as they were. He tried once more by telling me if I left, the police would for sure come there if they caught me walking, besides he said the base was too far away to walk back. In my state of panic, that didn't matter. I left.

I learned one thing about the plains that night: Distance is deceiving. Lights that appear to be several hundred feet away can be miles. I could see the well lit Ellsworth, it appeared to be perhaps two miles away. It wasn't, from where I left the guys pulling their routine train it must have been twenty miles. It took me three hours of walking, and sometime running through snow, mud and ice to reach the main gate. When I arrive at my room, Madden had taken a shower and was in bed sleeping. With him I never lived that night down. Little did I expect within two years, I'd be carrying on in the same manner.

A week later, Summers who I had gone through basic training with showed up. I don't know why but he spotted me for being an easy mark right away. Madden, needing money sold me his stereo two days after our trip into town. The moment Summers stepped into my room, he started in right way, about how I should let him have it in his room. I wouldn't do that, therefore he tried another tactic that worked. He had a Timex watch, he claimed that was worth twice what I paid for the stereo. Recognizing a good deal ( sic ), I made the swap.


A Shot Of Back

It took six months but I achieved cook status. I received my 62250-skill level, then shortly thereafter, I received, as it turned out my last stripe. Things were happening fast, as I was transferred from the B 52 flight line to Minuteman missile site. The position was ideal; three days on three days off. The sites were strewn throughout rural South Dakota. The bus ride from the base took about an hour. Later on the trip took about twenty minutes as Air Force began using Huey Helicopters. The same types that was used in South Viet Nam. On Friday November, 22 John F Kennedy was assassinated. It stopped my world cold. As a Black man I wanted to weep, but there were no tears. I felt angry, but at whom. For a number of days, my world was topsy-turvy. What was going to become of Negroes in America. After all we'd come too far to turn around. But, the words of my Lil ma rang out in my mind: This too shall past.

Several months past, and I was beginning to recover from the despair of President Kennedy's death. It was time to get back in the swing of things with my running partners. During the year I changed friends, except for two; Summers, and a new found friend Carter. Herb was from Wheeling West Virginia. He was fun loving, straight talking guy.

Summers, who had gotten married while on leave from basic training; had rented a mobile home off base to take advantage of the separate maintenance allowance. He didn't have enough money to send for his family. that was just fine with Carter, and myself because we could hang out as his place our days off. In fact his place had become the party spot. Because he was a cook, he kept the place supplied with New York Strip, Filet Mignon, and roast beef. Any one who wanted to stop by could. He had one rule bring your own liquor, and leave all you don't drink. Black GI's from every squadron used to stop by for a steak and a drink, if not that, they would bring their woman by get a shot of leg, ( sex ).

In spite of all the talking I did about women I had, I was twenty years old, and was still a virgin. Guys all around were having sex. If I had run around with a certain crowd, I'm sure I could've. But being from the country, I had a certain mentality: I don't want to go to jail. Then, about a month and a half after my twenty-first birthday, it happened. My twenty-first day, in it self was harrowing experience. It fell one of those days when Summers, Carter and myself were off at the same time. The morning started out quiet enough. Carter and I got dressed and walked off base to Summer's place. When they found out it was my birthday, we went to the liquor store and bought a bottle of Gordon's gin. We had no sooner broken the seal, and in walk Irene, Cheryl, and Glenda. They were Native Americans, who the Black airman passed around like a fifth of liquor. Because Irene and Cheryl was the best looking, Carter and Summers struck up a conversation with them. Who knows what went on the back rooms. Glenda and I stayed up front, and drank gin. All morning long we sat at the table drinking. As the alcohol begin to take effect on us, Glenda turned romantic and began playing toesese with me. Having had no real woman experience, I didn't know where to take it from here.

The reason I never had a woman was twofold. If it had been a movie, I would've known exactly the right words, but since it was real life I didn't know what, or how to say anything that would lead to sex. When I did stumbled on someone who was willing, I didn't know when to shut up. This had happened to me earlier in the spring of '64. I went to town with an Airman Royster. I might add after the first time in town with Madden, I never went back with him again. We ran into one of his old girl friends who could no longer stand him. We were invited to a club in another part of town. Right away, I knew the young lady liked my style. We struck up a conversation, and it was casual at first, but my mouth went into another gear, and I talked her ears off. Before I realized what was going on, she was locked up with Royster. Needless to say, the following day, he thanked me. )

As morning turned to mid-day, and mid-day to afternoon, Glenda and I moved from the table to a couch, we drank and listen to music. I don't know if it was the alcohol, or I was oblivious to the everything that was going on sensing I was close to that, "first time." But this was not to be the day.

When night fell, Summers' place was the party spot. Airmen had gotten off work, and came by to drink, and shoot the shit. Among those airmen were a guy called Baptiste. He apparently had an affair going on with Glenda. He was on his way into town looking for her, and had dropped by for a drink. ( a lot of Airmen did it. That way they didn’t have to buy drinks at Coney Island. Much to his surprise, he found here there. He called her outside, and tried to persuade her to leave with him. She didn't. She told me when she returned inside, she told him she wanted to stay and be with me. She made two mistakes, she brought up another man's name, and she should've left. He went back to base, got his gun and came down to shoot me. I never knew this until later on. Carter knew what was going on, and intercepted him on my behalf. I was so drunk, I couldn't have cared if he had or not.

Several weeks later, it did happen. It was another one of those mornings, Carter and I arose early, and went to Summers place. On this day he was out in the field., therefore we had the place to ourselves. No long after we made breakfast, another cook named Martin drove up in his '55 yellow convertible Olds. He was a short timer (less than a year of military time left). He had two women with him, Cheryl and Cabina. Cabina was drinking heavily. When she came inside, she got loud and started cutting up. When every one ignored her she plopped down at the kitchen table, and napped. Martin remembered, he had to pick up a part for his car. He zoomed off to town. He wasn't a mile down the road, when Carter whispered to me, now was the time to get a shot of back of Cabina. I wanted badly to get this sex monkey off my back, but I was afraid to come out and be so blunt. He rousted her, as so many drunks do, she opened her eyes just enough to see who it was. As if he had read my inner most thoughts, he asked. " Cabina, why don't you give Pete a shot leg?" She muttered, "I won't give him a shot of leg, but I'll give him a shot of back. " Then she fell back to sleep.. With his egging I lifted her out of the chair and drug her to the middle bedroom. She was part sleep, drunk, and part on the verge of passing out. When tried to lay her on the bed, she flopped like a wet rag. I wanted sex real bad by now, as the blood raced through my loins, but I didn't want it this way.

( Two years earlier, I was about one minute from having legitimate bona fide sex. Hozie, who was indirectly responsible for my leaving home, had a sister. It didn’t seem to matter she was a close cousin. She was pretty, but I heard she was loose too. The day following my return, from basic training, I had gone looking for Hozie. He wasn't there. One thing led to another, then another, and we made plans to get together the following day. As night follows day, and the next day follows the day before. I was excited. To get laid because I was an Airman, would've been the greatest initiation anyone could've had. I didn't have a car, but since I'd spent the previous eight weeks walking every place, three miles was no big deal. Heck, to get laid, I would've run ten miles. When I arrived, she was there and looking good, I think. She had made special arrangements to send her younger brothers away. I had no idea of how to get into a sexual situation. All I knew the word was she was easy. We started making small talk. Sensing my inexperience, she made the first real move rubbing slightly against me. Suddenly my instinct took over, and I felt I knew where to take from there. As I felt myself being overwhelmed by desire, somehow I glanced in the distance, down the dusty road that led to this place; I saw Hozie.)

I laid her back on the bed and managed to undress her from the waist down. A million thoughts seemed to have raced through my mind. Her vaginal area was nothing like I had anticipated. There were very few pubic hairs, and it had a funny shape to it. I rushed to take my pants down. The moment I was ready to enter her, I had an orgasm all over her. Moments later Carter stuck his head in the door to see what was happening. Since I knew from his vantage point he couldn't tell, whether I was in her or not, I went through the motion of having sex. I knew Cabina was passed out, so she would never tell. This ploy worked, as the word got back on base that I would screw, but didn't believe in taking my clothes off. Last time.


Shame On Me

At summer's end in 64, I suddenly got a case of the homesick blues. I'd been in at Ellsworth for more than a year and a half. I began to feel bottled up. Summers in the Dakotas were beautiful, and I hadn't learned to appreciate fall yet. The weather could fluctuate as much as fifty degrees in one day. Rapid City was so weird weather wise it was considered, the Miami, of the northwest. Although, from an airman named Crimm, I had acquired a taste for jazz, I missed most was rhythm and blues type music. That's where my roots were. The radio stations played crossover music, which eliminated artists like James Brown, Solomon Burke, Garnett Mims, Bobby Blue Bland, and Major Lance. Although, I did like a few of the cross over songs, Where Did Our Love Go by, the Supremes, Going To The Go Go by the Miracles, and who couldn't like My Girl by The Temptation. Still, something was missing in their music. It didn't have what was to be called later, soul! Nobody Lost Someone, or had to Cry Cry Baby, not even said Bye Bye Baby. In late summer our party house at Summers had come to an end. His wife Carolyn came up from Nashville and he moved downtown, away from the base. Until he could do better, he convinced me to loan him the my new television, my stereo, the bed spread off my bed, even my curtains.

Now most of my time was spent with Airman Rainey who was from Portsmouth, and Carter. Most of the time we just sit around, the day room, and talked about things back in the world. I guess that was where I received my armchair P.H.D. Rainey and I would spend hours analyzing Rockydukes letter. On occasion, I would help him compose a letter, or write her myself, hoping she would fix me up with friend names Beryl (Burl). They were sophomores at Hampton in Virginia. That went on for about a month, and I became frustrated, because all Rainey wanted to do was get drunk. I mid October, I had almost sixty days of vacation time accrued. If they carried over into 65 I would probably lose them, so I put in far thirty days leave. Yes, I was so bored I wanted to go home for Christmas.


Down Home Blues

The evening of the 16th of December, the bus whirled out of the station in Rapid City, and I was on my way back to Redhead. I took a seat and prepared myself for what was going to be a boring journey. In Dallas, however, the trip turned interesting. My bus was running behind, therefore there was only enough time to go from one bus to the next. It was there I met Doris, she was in line with her daughter, and was having difficulties trying to manage her carry on baggage, being a good soldier, I help her and took a seat right behind. Right away, I like her. She was on her way home to Columbia, Mississippi. She lived in L A. (As it turns out I would never see this woman again, although almost thirty years later she would surface again in the news. It seemed she had won a lottery ticket in California, and they didn't want to pay her.) We spent all that afternoon talking about various thing, mainly her family. It was an all afternoon, all evening trip. We exchanged telephone numbers, and addresses before she reached where she had to change buses. Why I'm recalling her, is because somewhere during the night, soul singer Sam Cook was killed in L A.

When I arrived in Chipley, it was nine or ten P. M. The town was virtually closed. There's never any night life in farming town like this, in spite of day of the week; it was Friday. I had a choice, I could walk the thirty two miles, call a cab, and pay a small fortune, or spoil the surprise, by calling to have some one come pick me up. I got lucky, I ran into a cousin who took me. I can't ever recall seeing ma, or Lil ma so happy. I had to admit, it was good to home.

The next day good ol' Hozie found out I was home and wanted us to go out. We had never been running partners, but I knew Marvin, (who had been one of my two best friends since early childhood) he didn't have a car. I wanted to act like an airman. Early Saturday evening we stopped at a nightspot called, The Shop. During the high school years, I had twisted a many nights away there. It was still a hangout for the young and older people of Redhead. It was there I heard Gee Whiz by Carla Thomas, and Hold On To What You've Got, by Joe Tex. Those songs floored. They were so beautiful. Listening to them, I want rush out find some one to fall in love with. I played those records on the jukebox maybe a dozen times.

About eight o clock we left the place and went to a place called the P 38 that was another nightspot in another county. We went inside briefly and nothing was happening. We left there and motored up to Defuniak Springs, a county seat town. Because Hozie knew all the hangout where women would be, we stopped at the Silver Kitchen, nothing was going on there. It was too early to go home, so he suggested we go into the Fort; Fort Walton Beach, an Air Force community. I agreed to, but I was not comfortable with the idea. Civilians were not kind to airmen. Since, I wasn't in uniform; what the heck I thought.

Fort Walton by night hadn't changed much in two years. We went to another nightspot familiar to Hozie. There was a record hop going on, I bought a tickets and we went in. I don't why, because I didn't dance that well. Hozie, trying to impress, immediately found someone to dance with. And there she was, the person he chose. She was beautiful, and seemed fancy free. When, he finished he brought her over and introduced her, as Billie. As happenstance would have it, it was someone he knew from Red Bay. The place where the P 38 was located. Because of all the movies I had seen, without having to get on the dance floor, I knew I could pique her interest, and I did ( only I didn't know it she had a thing for airmen.) for when she wasn't on the dance floor she would stroll up and make casual conversation. Don't ask me how he did it, but Hozie convinced her to go back to Defuniak Springs with us. She probably thought it was all in fun. But Hozie had something in mind that shocked even me. On the way back, she stopped to used the rest room, it was then he revealed his plans. I had a sinking feeling, it was dejavu from nearly two years earlier. When we got outta town he would find a spot off the main way, and either she was going to, put out or get out. He was serious too, words like using his knife to cut her panties off. I had the same sick feeling I had the night I went to town with Madden. She had been drinking and was dozing. This girl couldn't have had a clue what she was about to happen to her. When he turned off the road. I knew I couldn't take part in this. I had him stop the car I got out and told him I'd wait until the got back. He proceeded down that road, and turned the lights out. As I was walking back toward the highway, wondering what were they doing, and if I had been too hasty in my decision. After all, Hozie was pipsqueak, and if he reasonably sure she'd put, he wouldn't try. That's the way pipsqueaks operate. I heard a noise behind me, I didn't know if was a wild animal, or someone. As it turned out, rather than have sex with him she jumped out of the car, and came running back down the road. I felt good about that, because I was interested in her, and I knew if things had gone according to his plans. I wouldn't have given her a second thought. Long ago I had peeped Hozie's whole card, he wouldn't do anything unless he had company, after all that's why I was in the Air Force. While we were waiting on him to return, she thanked me for not being like him. I asked her for a date and we made plans without Hozie.

I spent all day the following Monday in anticipation of my date with Billie. I called her a couple of times just to make sure I wasn't dreaming. This was my first real date ever, and my first opportunity to have sex with a Black woman. It's not the way I planned it, it just happened that way. Of which will explain my behavior later on ( sic ).

My family didn't own a car, therefore I hitched a ride with another cousin. She lived in a rural area like myself. When I arrived, she invited me in to meet her family. She lived with her sisters and grandfather. I didn't understand, but she seemed so proud me. After answering a number conversation making questions, we went out on the porch to talk and court. Talking and courting was not what I had on my mind. Sensing this, she suggested we go for a walk. We walked up the highway out of view of the house, and turned up a trail, which was an old plowed firebreak. It started to rain, but it didn't make any difference. We got real nasty there. That firebreak is where I had my first real un-embarrassing sexual experience; no premature ejaculation, no fidgeting, no fumbling. This was the real deal. I had to have this woman. although she was a senior in high school. I didn't think I could live without her.

The following Friday was Christmas. We made plans to go to a party in yet, another small town. The place was called Caryville. Even though I didn't have transportation, I arranged to have my cousins’ chauffer me around. I don't know if the party was great, or what. I was in another world. I couldn't take my eyes off of her. When the evening ended, which about midnight, my cousin four of his friends, Billie crowded into the car, and headed back. The road back didn't lead to her house, there was an intersection about a quarter mile away. I had them park there while I was to walk Billie home. About half-way there, we began kissing, and necking, and I started say crazy things like I wished I didn't have to go back, or wished I could take her with me. Things got heated as our animal instincts started to take over. All though we were dressed in our Christmas outfits, we had to have each other. She was wearing her sister's new leather, and I had a light tan garb. We walked off the edge of the highway to a culvert. There she took her coat off and spread it on the ground. What happened next I'm not sure, but when it was all over, we covered in mud, and I was engaged. Some time during the heat of passion, I had popped the question, which she accepted.


Surprise! Surprise

The bus ride back to Ellsworth was too short. I spent most of the trip writing poems and love letters to her. In as much, she also received a city-by-city tour through me eyes. When I got back to Ellsworth, the love ether still hadn't worn off. I couldn't wait to tell the fellows about this girl. As days turned to weeks and weeks to months, I began to come out from under the either. What had I done? I realized, I didn't want to be married. The barrage of letters began to slow down, and my interest began to wander. I went back on the warpath, chasing squaws. Because, I didn't have the courage to break off the relationship, I pulled a bold move. Disguising my voice I called her, pretending to be some airman who saw her at a party, and wanted to take her out I asked her for a date, and she accepted. I was overjoyed and hurt at the same time. I ceased to write anymore. She wrote letter after letter. I never opened, nor answered them. It was about March when her letters stopped coming. And it was about the same time; many of my friends started to ship out, or be put out.

Summers was one of those who chose to be put out. The exact day escapes my memory, but I was on duty in the field. I get a telephone call from him. I thought perhaps he needed money, therefore I was all braced to say no. But the call was to inform me, he was getting out, and that he was going to take my record player, and pay me for it later, along with a few of my personal items. He was going to ship my television, but he needed that for company until he could be processed out, and that before he left he'd leave it another airman's place. I never saw the television or Summers again. A few days later, I received orders; I was being reassigned to place in Newfoundland. I was hoping it would be Harmon Air Force Base. No such luck, it was a remote site on the Pine Tree radar line, called St Anthony, (St Ann for short). As usual, I was afraid, saddened, yet exhilarated, that I was moving on. This was second stage in a series of permanent goodbyes. Make no mistake about it; there is nothing good about goodbye, because like death, it is so permanent. There were three people I had developed a special bond with; Carter, Rainey, and one I have not mentioned Sam. Sam was a family man; he and his wife Sophie had three or four kids. Not all my free time was spent chasing. I would visit he and Sophie often, whether to eat, or play pinochle. He was an avid pinochle player. He was much more than a dear friend, he was like the father I never knew. But, this was just one more in what was to be a lifetime of goodbyes.



Between the times I received my orders, and the time I actually left, I received a shock to my system. Malcolm X was assassinated in New York. Other than listening to a number of his speeches, I never met him. I had followed his life and time since Mike Wallace of CBS did a television special on this vocal, yet unheard of group called the Nation Of Islam. I think what I admired most about him was he had the courage to vocalized the rage every Afro-American either felt, or had felt at one time. Being brainwashed a Christian, I couldn't subscribe to his religious beliefs. His words were no different than ones I had heard of the very lips of my grandmother; the difference was she only uttered them to me. When the news was flashed, a small part of me died with him. Who would speak up now for people like me who carried hidden anger, but wore the guile of grin and lies shielding tears, hiding eyes? (I never subscribe nor cared anything for Martin Kings tactics. I never marched in anybody's march, or sit at anyone lunch counter where I wasn't welcomed. How I hated to have to spend money with those who treated me that way. I recalled my first taste of racial discrimination. I was perhaps a junior in high school, I accidentally wandered into a drugstore in nearby Bonifay, realizing I was in the wrong store, I didn't want to look foolish when the sales clerk came up to me, and in her best southern dialect, " kin I hep ya?" I fidgeted momentarily in my mind for something to say, I glanced over a saw these two white kids drinking a coke: I ordered one. She whispered, we don't serve Colored people here. That rocked me. I never spent another dime in that store. How could anyone accept my money for one thing, then take that same dollar to bar me from my constitutional rights. I was raged). I didn't know Brother Malcolm, but he knew me, he knew Lil ma, yes even Ma, who was a passive person, very well. PBUH.


Road Not Taken

I had a ten day delay in route. This delay would change me, the way I would live the rest of my life, and my relationship with my family forever. Going home was one of those roads I perhaps should've taken, but didn't. I could've gone home, but I could've gone home, but I wasn't ready to deal with Billie. I eventually would, another time. When I was making plans to leave, I called ma and told her I was leaving Ellsworth. I mentioned that I was shipping some stuff home, including my component set, and all my recordings. During our conversation, she mentioned my cousin Roc had moved to Minneapolis. A big mistake on her part. I called him, and asked if it was okay to spend a few days before I went home.

When the plane approached the run way, although it was after sunset I had a great view of the Minneapolis Saint Paul skyline. If the skyline was indicative of the city, man was I going to like this place. When I arrived at the main terminal, Roc, and his wife May, whom I had never met, along with his two small boys, Lil Montreal and Lil‘ Pete. We weren't close growing up but we were close kin, after a few moments I felt at home. May was from Pensacola. She had an air of class about her, which compared to Roc, who was totally different. He was country, and had brought his country ways with him. I spent the better part of the evening distancing myself from his country mentality. I guess with all of the lies I told about me in Rapid City, as to my background, I started to believe them. I knew my actions wouldn't betray, because I had seen hundreds of movies about high society. The question in my mind was what level would I have to elevate myself to. It didn't take long. They were ordinary folk with middle class values.

The next morning was a very untypical May morning. All though spring was busting out all over, there had been a light dusting of snow over night. That didn't stop me. I woke up early, went outside to look around. What I saw was a world of endless beauty; avenues lined with elm trees. The leave were spring green. The streets were clean, lawns were manicured. The likes I had only seen at Old man Moody. (He was white man, who had gotten rich taking Black folk land by hook or crook.) I knew I was going to like this place. I had arrived on Friday evening; therefore the weekend was spent showing me off. May had taken a shine to me because; I was probably a refreshing change from Roc. We talked about many things including Roc. I got the impression she felt she was more than he deserved. That too would bear me out another time. I enjoyed Minneapolis so much, I changed my tickets and decided no to go home after all. I made another bold move, I sent for my stuff and had it shipped to Minneapolis. Before I departed for Newfoundland, I asked Roc if it was okay, if I sent him money to put in the bank for me until I got back. One thing I had desperately wanted for more than a year; that was a new Mustang. I knew if I sent the money home, ma would spend it as fast as she received, of which I couldn't have blamed her. Being virtually uneducated, she and my stepfather, who had less education, were having a difficult time making ends meet, seeing they were partially supporting my brother John and his family.

I left Minneapolis four days early. I don't know what century I was living in. Somehow I thought it would take several days to fly to Trenton, New Jersey. It was five hours. I took a bus from the airport. It went through downtown. Trenton was the dirtiest looking city, I had ever seen. Not that I had seen that many cities. People were hanging out on street corners, drinking. It reminded me of Cove Boulevard in Panama City, where I enlisted. In spite of the sight I was undaunted. I wanted to live in the big city, always had. I was no country bumpkin; I was only born there.

I spent the next few days lounging around, and attending movies. one movie I particularly remember was, "Major Dundee." It was the first western I had ever seen where Negroes had major speaking part. Brock Peters, starred along with Charlton Heston, and Richard Harris. A few days later, I found myself out of the country. I didn't bother writing to ma, knowing all the time she was probably worrying, since things were heating up in Viet Nam. It didn't matter to her that I was ten thousand miles away, I wore the uniform, and that was all that mattered as far as she was concerned.

I flew from McGuire Air Force to Harmon Air Base where I was processed in, after which I had two days to kill. An airman I knew, from Ellsworth was there I called on him and we exchanged pleasantries, and I was on my way.


Saint Ann/The Hill

St Anthony was so remote, there virtually were no roads in. There was cleared strip where planes could land. Then by pick-up truck were driven to the hill. The village of St Anthony sit nestles between the foothills and the Atlantic Ocean in northern most Newfoundland. I was told the famous Goose Bay lie just across the way. The running joke was there was a woman behind every tree, but there were no trees. The radar site was constructed on the side of those hills. At the top sit this giant dome, then scattered down from there were tiny buildings that resembled mobile homes. Corridors connected each. The site was a self-contained unit, where as there was never any needed to venture outside, especially during the winter. The wind blew so hard in winter there were time I thought the site would be blown into the ocean, but the were securely anchored and wired into the hillside.

When I arrived, I was relieved to see there were other Negroes there. One in particular, a loudmouth braggadocios name Barron. I didn't care for him at all for three reasons. He always had a, shit-eating grin on his face. He called me country, in spite of every thing I did to convince him otherwise. I think I hated that label most. The last reason was his ever other conversation was about sex. As it turned out there were other Negroes I did like. A couple was from Florida, Ford, and Pratt.

I was assigned second shift duty, which was fine with me. We worked every other day. Because I received advanced pay, and had made an allotment to Roc, I knew the first three months would be lean. The first thing I did, was get a second job. My plans were when I got back to the world was to buy a new Mustang, then see the U S A my way. To do that I needed about twenty-five hundred dollars for the Mustang, and about five hundred for me. My first job was setting pins in a two-lane bowling alley. Another job became available in the snack bar, I took that too. Then I learned the officer's club paid good for catering to their various affairs, I landed that too. Initially there was very little reason to have money; except for an occasional drink, or playing the slot machine at the Airman's club, and maybe a movie which about a quarter. I literally deprived myself of any luxuries. An isolated assignment for Black airmen in a place like St Ann was like prison. All there was to do was listen to music, exercise and drink. I saw far too many Airmen make transitions from good soldier, to fuck up. They would, within six months become drunks, found in the corridors each morning, unable to perform their duties. The locals were allowed to come on site, to drink and play bingo, but white Airmen always escorted them, (which is another story in itself. No black had ever had a woman during his assignment there.


Talking Loud Acting Proud

To me the Negro airmen who were there when I arrived seemed lifeless. Negroes not trash talking is a disgusting site. They were al counting days, well I had three-hundred plus days, and I'd be damn if I was going to sit around making marks on some calendar. It didn't mean I would lose sight the time I had left, those days counted themselves. It meant I would find a way to make the most of a necessary situation. I started trash talking, which pumped a lil' life in the fellows, but they were still dreaming about going back to the world. Two months later, I got lucky, about two months after I came; God sent Dugger, my kind of guy. He was upbeat, and always had a funny story or anecdote. We were a natural; we became so close we started calling each other cousin.

He and I came to one conclusion, if these honkies got a piece of tail, then damnmit we were too. The first thing we did was to make ourselves more visible. On Saturday nights the Airmen’s club hired a local band. It leader was a guy named George, who was also one the kitchen help. When the music played, we would ask the locals for a dance. At first they resisted, but George would let his wife, and his brother's wife dance. Then as fate would have it, a Black guy from one of the Caribbean Islands by way of New York, moved up with his white wife. It opened the floodgates for many things. I learned many lessons about the United States white males. Lesson number one, the only culture he respects is his own. Whether he's outside or inside the United States. It doesn't matter what country he is in, the natives are the foreigners. In my heart of hearts, I believe that's what went wrong in Viet Nam. He can get along with other races well, if his symbol of purity isn't disturbed, (white female). And he has a guiltless conscious. To him the world evolves around the two P's p-----, and power. He who controls the p-----has the power.

Bubbos, and his wife Helen became our most frequent guests. The white powers structure got together, and tried to bar them, but if they were barred, it meant no one could come up; that didn't work. Helen had sister named June, she was flaming redhead, and there was very little doubt about her race. Shortly there after racial lines were drawn. I was on the front line. I wanted a fight; being soft spoken and easy going I don't what was coming over me. There was an Airman, named Bozeman. He had a reputation of sucker punching his victims. Bozeman looked Hispanic, but was white. He played his looks to his advantage, when things were going great, he was white, but the moment he got in trouble he would fall back on his Mexican looks. Once he punched a priest, an officer, at the Airman's club and gotten away with it.

(I peeked his whole card a long time before it came to this tense situation. he was trash talking once, and I invited him down to the Gym, where we proceeded to box. I studied his style; it took about thirty seconds to figure it out. With in a minute or so, he lay on the Gym floor. I knocked him down with a good right hand. He got up wanting a rematch, but I'll let him carry that memory to his grave. I never gave him one because I didn't ever want him to think he had a ghost's chance of beating me. It ate him, as he always wondered if he could take me after that point.)

Sometime during the year a Negro Airman Cooley came up. Cooley was six-foot-six weighed about 245 pounds. He had played basketball at Alcorn College. What he was doing in the Air Force, I to this day don't know, but there were a lot of misfits in the Air Force, heck I was one of them. I just didn't know it at the time.

This particular Saturday night was the night. This was the night, were going to turn the Airman's club out if any crap went down. The Black airmen who didn't want to tangle left early. Dugger, a couple more airmen, and myself remained. Cooley was on duty, but he'd be getting off soon. I can't recall having fear, I’d had my filled of people being prejudice and was ready to go to war. We were out numbered badly, but that didn‘t matter. I noticed a number of white airmen who lost their nerve exited too. The one I wanted to leave was a big white boy named Boone. He stuck around. The plan went into motion. Bozeman came up to Bubbos, and started saying something to him. He was true to form. (Every one he had punched out, he would slide up to them say something smart, they react, and he’d punch their lights out.) He kept talking to Bubbos, and the he made a fist. At that moment, Cooley stepped up behind him, forced his fist open before he could throw it. Every one on the hill feared John, the whole place squared off but no one did anything right away. Bozeman looking up at John hunkered down, pretending to laugh it off. Somehow the news made it down to the mess hall. A cook we had who was Cajun came running up, he didn't know what was going on but Cooley kept him at bay. He went back to the kitchen and got a knife, he came back, threatening to use it . By now the whole site was aware of what was going on. The base commander Allen came down, closed the club, every one went home. That was the end of the Southern Confederacy in Canada. Dugger, and I finally got sex, and it encouraged others to do the same.


Heading For The Promised Land

One year and three days after I arrived at St Ann, it was time to leave. I didn't want to go. I was in love with June. It didn't matter that I had stayed a month over my required time. I wanted to live in Canada. Other than having to deal with the Jim Crow environment on the site. I felt for the first time in my life, like an equal partner in life. I was ready for the world. By spending the extra month on St Ann, I didn't have enough time to be reassigned back in the states. That meant, I would be getting, an early out. My orders were to report to McGuire AFB in Trenton. I wasn't sure I wanted to get out. My retention officer had painted a dismal picture for Afro-Americans. After all since I had left, race relations in the states had gone south. In '65, there were riots every place, including the Watts riots. But, the war in South Viet Nam was heating up. The V C had started shooting paramedics and anyone else. Pitzenberger, who I had gone through basic training with was a paramedic, he lost his life. Laris White, who I went to high school with, had gotten killed. I had a choice to make. I figured I stood a better chance among my own people than with Charlie. They didn't make a distinction between those who wore the uniform.

After spending a few days at Harmon AB. I caught a military transport from Europe to McGuire. The best time I had in my Air Force career happened at McGuire. Andrew Ford who I was with at St Ann was stationed there. I checked in and when the sun went down, we partied. I don't know how many days these shenanigans went on. I was hoping they would lose me in the system, but one morning there was a note on my un slept in bunk: You've either got to re-enlist or get out. Two days later I was out. Old women and children, you're be called before the call me. I had done my time.

A New Day A New Time A New Me


Seeds Of Disaster

The airport limousine sped up the New Jersey expressway to Philly. I tried to take in the view but my mind was clouded, as to if I was doing the right thing. Although I felt I was, somewhere in the back of mind there was doubt. The Air Force had been a valuable training ground. If I thought I could've made Airman First Class, I would've re-enlisted. Being Negro, and being in food service, I didn't have a chance.

When we crossed the river into Philly, I saw my first row houses. I wished Minneapolis didn't have homes like that. The skyline however was all that I expected. There were tall buildings, and people everywhere. This was the place that had given birth to American Bandstand, featuring the likes of Chubby Checker, Fabian, Bobby Vinton, and many other rock and rollers of the fifties. As those thoughts passed. The strangest feeling came over me. I kept thinking to myself, soak it up, because it will probably be the last time I'll ever see this place. It may have been, twenty-eight years later, I still haven't set foot in the city again.

Because, I had military standby tickets, I got bumped from the first Northwest flight, therefore I didn't get out on the late afternoon flight. It would be another two or three hours before I got out. Finally at eight PM, we were airborne.

After a stop in Cleveland, and changing planes in Detroit were on the final approach to Minneapolis-St Paul. It was June 2, '66. Inside the terminal May was waiting for me. It seemed she and Roc had separated. That was only the good news. She didn't know where he was living was the bad news, but the worse news was, she thought he had squandered the money away I had raked and scraped in Newfoundland for. I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Surely he wouldn't do that; we were first cousins by blood. His father and ma were full blood brother and sister. I felt that May was being a bit presumptuous. People can get that way in dire situations. When we arrived at her home, we talked well into the night. She was glad I was back, and hoped that I would make Minneapolis my home. Then she looked on the dresser drawer and handed my final allotment check.

The following morning Roc called to see if I had arrived. For some obvious reasons he seemed not to want to talk to me. But I most definitely wanted to talk to him. Without my asking, he mentioned, he had spent the money but as soon as he was on his feet again, he would, make sure; I'd get it back. At that instance, I could've killed him. Twelve months of working, conniving, depriving, and for what? So this Negro could have a good time on my money. Hell! I could’ve sent the money to ma, and there would have been more of it left. If it took the rest of his life he was going to pay me my money, and I didn't mean a nickel at a time either. Did this Negro understand what he had done? He'd taken away all my freedom, not to mention my dream of owning a Mustang was down the tubes. I chose to come to Minneapolis, because I knew if worse came to worse, I would've had a car and enough money to get home. The money was my hedge against going bust. I had thirty-two dollars, and an un-cashed check for 125.00. It was every thing I had on this earth. I had no offer for a job, and no place to stay. Sure May said it was okay, but here was a woman, I had known for less than a week in face-to-face time. I had talked to her several times by telephone, but telephones don't reveal personalities. At this point in time, I had no alternative for to accept her offer. I wanted two things I wanted my money and I wanted revenge any way I could get it. Yet, I didn't explode over the telephone; I would wait until I saw him face to face. I calmed down and listened James Brown singing It's Man's World, Percy Sledge, sing When A Man Loves A Woman. and the Righteous Brothers Just Once In My Life.


Besting A Bad Situation

I spent Saturday being chauffeured around by May and her children. In addition to Montreal and Lil Roc, in January past, she had given birth to Ann. This was not going to work, I kept thinking. I don't need the aggravation. As soon as I saved enough money, I would get my own place and move out. That never happened, although I tried several times. I spent Sunday poring over the classified section of the newspaper. There were several ads for short order cooks, but I was sick of cooking. I wanted to do something else. Control Data had an ad for computer program trainees. I like that, therefore the next morning I would be there apply for the job and get it. It didn't work out that way. What I applied for and what I actually was referred to by State employment office, was a horse of a different color. Two days later I was working a night job at a place called Dayton Rogers Manufacturing Company. The company's business was stamping metal parts. I hated it from day one. It paid 2.49 an hour; 99.00 a week. I knew this would not be my life's work. Many nights I had lain in bed at St Ann wishing I could get a job that paid 100.00 per week, this was close but it wasn't a hundred dollars, unless I worked overtime. I had to get out of this place. I wanted a job like the one May's brother-in-law, Chuck, had with Graybar Electric, he was making 125.00 per week. I deserved as much. I probably could've gotten a job there, but they required at least two years college. I didn't come close to having that much, although with all the credits I took through the AFCS, I would've qualified. One Sunday morning, while shuffling through the pages of the classified, I ventured over into the home listing. I had to get out of this house, because I had so little money, I didn't dare go any place, or date anyone, I was starting to get stir crazy. Also May was starting to look good to me, and she was aware of it though we kind of kept each other at bay.

What happened later was never my intention and I have a lot of regrets. One Saturday night she had gone out with her boyfriend, apparently things didn't go right she came home after all the kids had been put to bed, and one thing led to another then another and within an instance we did it, right there on the floor. she and I made love for the very first time.

That one act would send me on a downward spiral for the next four years. We became secret lovers, I don't know if there were anything secret about it. About mid July, I started paying closer attention to the home sections. I decided then I would buy a home, My cousin still hadn't paid me money but I was doing okay. I was helping pay the rent, I bought them a RCA color TV it didn't matter it was hot. Basically, I had taken over his household. The next thing on my want list was my own place. I no longer wanted to rent . I wanted to own. Besides; If I bought a home, I knew it would make him look bad among all his friends. Afterall Chuck, who had been his best friend and his wife, who was May's sister. had bought a home in the latter part of June and had moved in. Here it was he had been in Minneapolis, three or four years, and all he could manage to do was chase white women which he loved. I knew that the Air Force owed me for fifty nine days leave time, which would amount to a little more than five hundred-dollars. Being a veteran, I would use my VA and could get into a home with literally no money down. I started the search by myself in the beginning. May, thought it was a joke, but she could see the burning determination in my eyes. I am at my very best, when the odds seem insurmountable. Soon, she joined in the house hunt. In me, she later revealed, she saw a winner, she started to believe. One day out of the clear blue, we ventured down into Chuck and her sister's neighborhood, and there two blocks from where their home was, my dream home; four bedrooms and two baths, with a basement that had a family den. It took some finagling, but a real-estate agent named Mitchell. helped me get it. It was also the last time I got to call the place mine. May took mental possession, and called the place hers since.


A Man Of R- E -S- P- E -C- T

By late August, we had settled in to the new place. the house note was 105.00 per month, which seemed easy enough, but it would and did get hard. I was exhilarated about the new place, but because I agreed to let May call it her place, the excitement of owning a new home was gone. It didn't seem right, also my conscious was beginning to bother me. I was overloading myself with bills, to keep up with the Jones. Why should I keep doing it. It made no sense to. But, it had reached the point where she was now controlling my every movement. I kept thinking as soon as I get ahead, I'll buy ma a place since she was living in abject poverty.

In September, I enrolled under the G I bill at the Minnesota School Of Business. I had visions of becoming a computer programmer. Even then I knew computers would be the wave of the future, and to get in on the ground floor would give me running start to a job that paid 125.00 per week. because of the way the GI bill system works, I had to withdraw because I had no money to pay until it kicked in. I was hurt deeply. I had to pay the house note, the Sears bill which was far a washer and dryer. Department store’s bill which was for floor model stereo. And a woman’s clothing store bill, where it was not uncommon for May to buy two or three dresses, with matching shoes. She had all but quit her job, that was a heavy nut to turn for some making 99.00 per week.

In November, I started looking seriously for another job. I was beginning to miss a lot of time from work, putting more and more of a strain on my budget. In retrospect, I understand why I did it. I was naive, about a lot of things but more important, she played on psyche by comparing where I was now to the type of people she thought lived in Redhead. She understood how badly I was trying to distance myself.

December, brought with it hope. Through an employment agencies, I found a better position. It wasn't wearing a suit and tie all day long, but I could wear one to work. I was hired by Pillsbury R & D laboratories. I started the 12th.


Stepping Stone

The lab tech position was exactly what I needed. It got me out of the greasy environment of metal stamping. I was so excited about the opportunity, didn't know what it paid until I received my first paycheck. Again it fell short of what I had been anticipating. I was sure this job would pay 500.00 dollars per month. It paid 439.00. At least there was an opportunity to better myself. Only one other Black worked there, he was chemist name Cal Norris. We hardly did any more than exchange pleasantries, as he kept to himself most of the time. he knew something, it would take me four years to find out: We were both tokens. The corporation had it's eyes on us. If we behaved like good little boys, there was a possibility they would hire others. In defense of the position, no two days were alike. One day, I'd be testing batches of Space Food Stix, the next day snacks, which didn't have a name at the time.

I had no idea about the state of my relationship with May, we were totally different that when we were out in public. I wanted a girlfriend but couldn’t have one because I knew they could call me at home.

Yet, two weeks after taking the position, I met the second woman, I should've married. I was catching the bus on the way home, and ran into Gwen, she was seventeen, overweight but beautiful. Without a great deal of fanfare we struck up as conversation, and before I knew what happened, she asked me out to dinner. I didn't know how I was going to pull it off since I would be expected home at a given time. I met her immediately after work, and took her to well know Chinese restaurant the Nankin. We had a brief dinner, caught the bus, and went home.

That outing set a lot of wheels in my mind in motion. I was in love with May, but she didn't love me that way, besides she was six years older than me, and she always used that as an excuse for not committing. Our relationship was a secret, even though she took decent care of my sexual needs. Or was it the other way around? The whole thing was becoming insane, she and I were living together partly at night, I would go to her room, after the kids went to sleep, then I would have to go back to my room, before they woke up. It that wasn't stressful enough, Roc during the day and early evening hours came and went almost at will. Had I let him, he would've moved in. I did have two rules as it related to him, he couldn't move in, nor spend the night.


Of Worlds I Dream

Gwen and I became closer and closer, we hadn't dated since the first time, but I saw her daily. We took the same bus home. She couldn't understand why I wouldn't let her call me at home. I concocted some lie about, having a mean cousin that I thought liked me. I was getting restless as a lab tech. I didn't have the patience to wait to climb the corporate ladder. I had done well there. I was well liked, and got along good with every one. We had a softball team, where I was one of the stars on the team. I couldn't help being on of the stars, I was the only Black on the team, and playing a key position. Being in this middle class work environment, I started to lose my blackness like most other Negroes that lived in that neighborhood. I began to sound white, act white, think white, and although I kept it suppressed, I began to crave things that were white; like women.

One day I heard through this corporate grapevine, about a Black salesman named Jim Tucker. I didn't know Pillsbury had Negro salesmen on it's sales force. That was what I wanted to be, since he was getting ready to become Pillsbury national minority recruiter. That Summer I enrolled in home study/classroom Sales training course. It would take a year to complete, but I've always pursued education. If I couldn't get a job like Jim's, perhaps some else would hire me. This was it. I would finally get a white collar job.


A Second Hustle

The year of '67 were unlike any other, before or since. To make support my keeping up with the Jones, I had to take a second job. It seem ideal enough. I worked from 6 until 9:30 in the evening. With Lyndon Johnson's great society in full swing, the anti-poverty program was in bustling with money for anyone and anything. There was Sabathani Baptist church located at 38th Street and 3rd Av, they opened a community center to help keep kids off the street. This was my part-time job, working as a counselor. The community center indirectly gave birth to the Sound Of Blackness. While school was in session the job was a piece of cake. But summer was a different story. It was the year of the Long Hot Summer. Our job was to keep teens off the street, and their minds occupied. This became the first generation of Black kids who knew no fear. The white motorcycle gangs were itching to create a stir. It was a summer where the older black community, the police, and the white community was very nervous. We spent most evening patrolling the south side, while The Way, a community center on the north side patrol that side of town. Some of us were shot at, spat upon, and harassed by the gangs, or racist thugs, who took it upon themselves, to keep Negroes in their place. The situation became so grim, a rumor patrol was set up coordinated by created rumor control center. We became the rumor patrol, and what started out a fun job suddenly became a dangerous one, and without much fun. September finally came, and we survived with out a riot, or even losing a life.


The Call

December came around, I was in pretty good shape financially. Nothing much had changed, I was still living the big lie. I had had enough, and was making plans to visit an old girl friend back in Newfoundland. In the early hours on the morning of 12th, the telephone ring. It was the first I had ever had a funny feeling about a telephone ring. My step dad was on the other end of the line, I can remember his exact words; He said, Na'amun, yo ma tole me ta call ya and tell ya, Dean turned and died. I was stunned, I didn't ask what happened, or anything, I thanked him, and told him I would be home for the funeral.

God, I thought, how could you take away the closest thing I had to a real sister. Her life was so brief. She was thirty five years old. Thirty fives years previous, her mother died the same way.

( Editor's note: Since her death, I have wanted to ask a thousand times, what happened? As of this writing, three of the four people who knew are dead. What ever took place, it must have been painful. Only twice have I heard my mother speak of it, and all she would say when we passed a certain spot, " Cecil was born right there." Who's Cecil I asked not remembering since he died along with Dean that night. She gave birth to twins, Cecil and Lisa. Though she had low birth weight, Lisa survived. )

Because they lived in a rural area thirty two miles from the nearest hospital. Dean went into delivery about five miles from home. What ever took place must have been tragic, my brother John has never been the same, and it's only been recently I have asked God to give me the courage to forgive him. I never felt like my sister-in-law got a fair shake with my family. My grand mother felt like she did about my step dad. She felt John could've done better. She always contended that Dean grew up undisciplined, because she was treated by those who raised her as their dead sister's child. Who by the way she had a twin also. I could see things they could not. First my brother, had taken a bright student, and gotten her pregnant. He himself was a classic underachiever. But many parents can do that to a child. He immediately moved in with my mother. I always liked her in spite of all the spats we used to have. When I left home she was the only one who supported my decision, and she was always talking about the day when I'd be coming home to visit. God, I'm so sorry I didn't go home sooner. The death of Dean cause something to happen that never happened before. It was the first time I ever hugged my brother.


Smoking Hot Summer‘'68’

I am an American

proud as I can be

This is my country

The land of the free.

I love my America

With her many colors

But does she love me

Her darker brother

For those who weren’t around or too young to remember, '68 was time of great political and social unrest in America. The country was on the verge of imploding. It also marked the year when there was a significant shift in political leaning. It swung from left toward the right and in later years the extreme right.

While many well meaning but politically naive Whites outside the south felt Presidents Kennedy and Johnson had advanced the (so called Negro), cause to where it should be, others felt he had taken an unprepared people too far. They were in uncharted territory, and were ill equipped. They had neither the education nor the know how to deal with being first class citizens. To put it in another context, the Negro just wasn’t ready. They were quick to point out the failures of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs. Many felt privately that it was little more than social welfare for the loud militant Negroes, as they appeared to be the ones who benefited most. Not all but some were abusing loans for startup business; others had no concept about operating one. For they were the ones that assumed what ever was left in the till on Saturday night was the profit.

It didn’t matter that much of the money for these programs went to administrative cost ran by White people, and that included having the SBA looking the business person’s shoulder. Suddenly the, “Negro,” was caught between a rock and a hard place. He found himself as being either stereotyped and or stereotypical in their minds. It seemed none cared that Negroes had been at the struggle for over one-hundred-fifty years and it had been over one hundred years since the passage of the fourteenth amendment guaranteeing us the same rights afforded to all others.

In the south and more conservative regions of the country they felt the president had forfeited their birthright by forcing, “those,” people on them without a chance to adjust and prepare them for what it was like to live in an open society. They felt that a number of recently enacted legislations dealing with issues of rights went far beyond what the founding White fathers had intended. That attitude gave rise to the continuation of Alabama’s Democratic Governor George Wallace, to make another run for the Presidential office. Only in ‘68 he ran as a candidate for the Independent American Party.

There are those who would say the ‘60s came to an end at the end of the decade. As an idealist firmly entrenched in a new ideology of the ‘60s, it ended a year earlier at the end of the '68 democratic convention in Chicago.

I have always believed as humans we travel through seasons of twenty years in our life. I was barely into my second season in life. Oddly enough for me, '68 was actually a continuation of '67. Much of what was happening in '68 had spilled over from the previous year.

I was twenty-five years old; had a decent job, and things were looking up. I had received a certain acceptance by my peers both Negroes and Whites. The previous year I enrolled in a sales training correspondence school. I had six months of correspondence, and after that six months of class room training. The class room was on Tuesday evenings and one Saturday mornings each week. I had purchased a home in in a middle class neighborhood in south Minneapolis, Minnesota.

As a country we were in an all out war in both South and North Viet Nam, we had gone from being advisors and aids to fully engaging in a shooting war with well-orchestrated insurgents. It was a full sale clash against ideologies, which pitted democracy against communism. Until he was chosen to be Chairman of Joint Chief Of Staff, the US commander was General William Westmoreland an American fighting man, a World War II and Korean Conflict veteran, versus North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong. Their commander was General Vo Nguyen Giap. He and Ho Chi Minh had fought along with Mao Zedong (later called Mao Tse Tung) against the Japanese in World War II. He also devised the tactic that defeated the French at Dien Binh Phu in '53.

By authorized military released account, US Forces had built up to around five hundred of thousand combat troops engaged in the ground war in the South and hundreds of planes in the air war in both over the South and North. US B-52 bombers incessantly hammered Hanoi, while fighters did much the same along the Ho Chi Minh trail to disrupt troop movement from the north as well as provide tactical support for the ground war in the South. Furthermore there were also untold numbers of special forces waging war in neighboring countries such as Laos, and Cambodia.

Having served in the military, I had serious mixed feelings about what was going on. Oftentimes, when the topic arose whether it was a moral or immoral war, or even if we should be there, I’d skirt the issue. While on active duty, we were told that it was important that we defeat Communism in Southeast Asia, or like dominoes the entire Pacific would fall under its domination. After all it was my sense of patriotism after the Cuban Missile Crises that ignited me to enlist in '62.

Ironically, a number of people I knew were fighting and dying there and it hit real close to home when I learned one of my cousins who had been my best friends was a POW. It left me with a sick feeling inside. I found myself being sucked in to quicksand of politics. If you were an antiwar protestor the government kept files, I didn’t want to have to look over my shoulder at every turn. After a great deal of thought and for personal reasons I came to the conclusion it was wrong for us to be there, and began letting my feeling be known. What was happening in Vietnam wasn’t so different that what happened in America some hundred years prior. I shared Muhammad Ali sentiment when he stated once no Viet Cong ever called him Nigger.

From one standpoint it bothered me in coming down on the antiwar side of the issue. It was like my right arm was taking issue with my left because I was right-handed. Yet with a younger brother in two years that would be been draft age, my decision made it easier for me to sleep at night.

In spite of the war, I had other and greater concerns that went far beyond war on some distant soil. I wanted to work for simple justice for Afro-Americans on US soil. Granted, being from the rural South, I had wimped out and moved north earlier in the decade, avoiding that struggle for social reform in the early ‘60s.

Although, by '68 America seemed to be heading in a more tolerant direction on race and racial reform, there was still much work to be done in changing attitudes and stereotypes.

In a small yet important way, I was glad when I got involved in a local social and economic reform program at a Southside community teen center . The center was formed to help educate those mired in poverty-like conditions on the near Southside. Our center also gave those kids who weren’t into sports or other recreations someplace to go during the early evening hours. Most during the school year attended Minneapolis Central High School. In the 60’ it was like many inner-city schools, De facto segregated by White flight.

The recreational arm was seldom opened during the day. Those who were hired on full time went out and did a lot of the legwork as far as finding jobs, political activism and things that would benefit the community as a whole. That also included securing funding for the center. We who worked evenings did some door knocking to make the community aware of a number of opportunities that was available to them. But mainly we were there to help keep Black kids out of trouble and under wraps for the most part.

The center received much of its funding from the city which was siphoned through channels connected to the anti-poverty program, which was part of President Johnson‘s Great Society. Though I didn’t have a sociology degree or any other, a friend got me hired on, as a part of its staff. Perhaps as memorable today as anything that happened then, was when a few of the kids that attended the center went on to found the nationally known group Sound Of Blackness. They perhaps didn’t know it, but I learned more about American psyche from them, than they learned about social adaptations from me. During the school year our jobs were a piece of cake all we had to do was open up the center, and oversee their behavior. But during summer, it was a different story. Our jobs were to keep them off the streets and out of trouble. Most of the teens didn’t have jobs to earn money where they could afford to go to other places. Teenaged clubs in '68 were virtually non-existent.

It was also up to us to plan various curriculums of field trips and arts exhibitions along with a few indoor games.

After the turmoil in the previous year, '68 got off to a rather bleak start for me, I was mourning the loss of my sister-in-law in December. She died tragically giving birth to twins. They’d lived in the rural area of Vernon, Florida. What bothered me so much about her death, with quicker medical attention she probably would’ve live. They lived thirty two miles from the nearest medical facility. Like most Black folk in their community, she hadn‘t received any instruction on proper prenatal care or the dangers she faced by having more children. Her two previous pregnancies had been most difficult.

On a broader base politically, we were all proud that Carl B Stokes taking office as the first Black mayor elected in a major U S City. Shortly there afterwards the drama began, less that a month later, actress entertainer Eartha Kitt attending a White House conference embarrassed just about every Negro man in America, and President Johnson by denouncing the war. That act of defiance gained her a lot of cool points with the predominantly White anti-war groups. (It’s ironic how our attitudes haven’t changed much since then. As African Americans, we still saddle each other with the burden of being representatives of our race, as opposed to our family and upbringing.)

In Vietnam, no one could be sure it we were winning the war or not, we were told we were, but the number of troops that came home in body bags told a much different story.

Martin Luther King Jr. and the SCLC had gotten in on a grass root movement that started in the south. It was called the Poor People’s March. They were in the final planning stages of and idea believed to have been taken a page out of the then late Malcolm X’s book of human rights. Back in '64 shortly after converting to orthodox Islam, he suggested a radical strategy, he felt we rethink calling our struggle Civil Rights Struggle in America. He had a plan that called for making it a UN problem under the umbrella of Human Rights grievances from around the world. He wanted to do the same thing as the people of South Africa and Rhodesia were doing in fighting apartheid. He felt we should plead our case beyond US political domain in front of the UN. The SCLC plan however, called for variations and a plan of inclusion, which would include everyone regardless to race. They along with other Negro leaders felt it was a still Civil Rights problem that should be resolved by Americans for Americans in the halls of congress. They had the power to solve them by enacting the appropriate legislation.

The Poor People’s March planned called for it to be held in Washington just as the Civil Rights march in ‘63. They had prepared plans that anticipated thousands would show up. What made it different that the '63 March on Washington, it was a Southern grassroots movement that didn’t have the wide support of labor unions, and their leaders in the north, as well as other important Black political figures.

In the meantime in South Vietnam, late in January there was an all out assault called the Tet Offensive in January when the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army launched an all out, go for broke engagement on dozens of South Vietnamese cities and towns, including its capital Saigon. They were hoping for the same success General Giap and the Army Of North Vietnam had against the French in '53. It completely caught the US forces by surprise. Though the all out attack failed the resounding effect could be felt here at home.

Whether it was retaliatory in the mindset of the US fighting men, but in March a platoon of US Forces attacked the tiny hamlet My Lai and massacred (by military count) 347 men women, children or more. Initially it was seen as great victory, until the pitiful shame of what really happened was revealed a year later.

Meanwhile, back here in America it was an election year and despite his waning presidential approval, most every one had assumed President Johnson would be running again thus the democratic convention would be a rubber stamp on his re-nomination. While presidential politics were important in the grand scheme of things, from my prospective it wasn‘t priority number one. I shared the opinions of many of my friends and associates, while a number of the campaign promises of the '64 as it related to the Afro-American were kept, others remained a dream. Important legislative bills were mired in committees and subcommittees in congress hampered by southern politicians and Republicans.

All across America, far too many Negroes were living far below the poverty level, as well as countless numbers of lives being lost in the Negro struggle for equality. Granted, since the March on Washington in ‘63, there was ongoing dialogue between Washington and (what had been known as) the “Big 6”. They were made up six of the most influential Negro leaders. Martin Luther King Jr. of the SCLC Whitney Young Jr. of National Urban league, James Farmer former director of CORE, A. Phillip Randolph of APRI one of the architects of the March On Washington in '63, Roy Wilkins of the NAACP, Floyd McKissick of Core were all involved and actively pressuring the government to enforce compliance, in fair-housing and would become the battle cry of white backlash in the ‘90s affirmative action. In the same month of March, after a close election in the New Hampshire primary President Johnson when he bare eked out anti-war candidate Junior Senator Eugene McCarthy from Minnesota, he decided not seek reelection. Perhaps he saw the handwriting on the wall because the war managed to split the Democratic Party wide open. They splintered into several selfish interest groups, the establishment, the labor, the anti-war, and Afro-American.

Even after signing the Civil Rights act of ‘68 prevention discrimination in the sale, renting, and financing of houses, his popularity from his first elected term had plummeted with Black people. Many had become disillusioned because the anti-poverty programs he created hadn’t produced the desired results. Furthermore it came to light, there was a disproportionate number of poor Black troops were dying in Viet Nam. Like a number of their brethrens, those who didn’t return in body bags returned as junkies, cripples and dysfunctional misfits.

Whether it was social conscious or strategic political capitalization, but it caused Martin Luther King Jr. to step beyond the Teflon protection of the non-violence movement and publicly came out against the war. In the press he has crucified. It is believed that J Edgar Hoover leaked to them that either he was a Communist or sympathizer.

Almost immediately after president Johnson made his decision not to run for re-election, Senator Robert Kennedy entered the presidential race, which gave hope immediately to a great many Afro-Americans. They were excited about the possibility there could be another Kennedy in the White House.

Then like the deliberate destruction of a multi-story building, America began to implode. In spring on April 4th, Martin Luther King Jr. was slain in Memphis, by James Earl Ray, an avowed racist, who later recanted he was the shooter. As expected the slaying triggered renewed riots in several US cites. On the heels of that tragedy came another. On June 5th, Sirhan, Sirhan a young middle easterner in Los Angeles, assassinated Senator Kennedy.

The two tragedies highlighted how divided and how different as a country we were and viewed the same things. Dr King’s death was called being slain, while Senator Kennedy was viewed as an assassination. To me they were both dead, and had died as a result of a bullet from a killer’s gun.

In Minnesota were pleased, as punch that it appeared Senator Hubert Humphrey would get the presidential nod. For the then Negroes, he had been instrumental in getting key legislation passed in congress, thus as a people we hadn’t forgotten. Granted he didn’t have the charisma of Senator Kennedy, but the same compassion. He also understood how critical the Black vote would be to his election.. There was an old saying circulating that Blacks never elected a president, but no president was never elected with them. Senator Humphrey became almost relentless in soliciting endorsements. He even sought the endorsement of the now late soul icon, James Brown. Though he flew under the radar of the press, as many Negro entertainers did if they weren’t mainstream. In '68 after the death of Martin Luther King Jr., James Brown was one of the most important political Negro figures in America. He often traveled into hotspots in the inner city and help to calm things down after racial unrest in ‘67 and ‘68. He gave of himself and of his time unselfishly. He had the ears and the minds of the young Afro-Americans with his message. James Brown along with his performances, made social messages. At all of his concerts, he continuously hammered home; stay in school, get an education; it’s the best way out. It was a powerful message that was not wasted on the young.

There was a great deal of uncertainty that circulated through the minds of those of us who worked at the teen center. It was only June and summer hadn’t arrived yet and we had no idea what to expect. We wondered privately how were we going to keep a lid on things. Granted the local political leader mapped a strategy to deal with any tenuous situation should cooler heads not prevail, but when the fire started all they were going to do was get on television and plead for calm. Until that time I had never heard of any nationally known Black political leader that walked into a firestorm of racial unrest. Bobby Kennedy was the only White one I ever heard of that did that.

Because of the riots in Detroit, Newark, Tampa and Washington DC of ‘67, the approaching of summer ‘68, political leaders within the city were very much on edge.

Later in the month we heard an early rumbling that Hell’s Angels were coming to town and were itching to put Niggers in their place.

We the evening workers began to spend most evenings from mid June to late August patrolling that neighborhood and those that bordered. At times on weekend we assisted The Way in their effort. The Way was another predominantly Black teen community center located on the near north side of town. Some of us who were patrolling were shot at, spat upon, and harassed by White thugs, who took it upon themselves, to instigate Afro-Americans to riot.

The situation became so grim; the City Of Minneapolis set up a rumor patrol. It was coordinated by a control center set up in the Foshay Tower downtown. Armed with portable c-b radios donated by a local electronics store; we became the rumor patrol which was the eyes and ears for what was or wasn’t happening on the streets of Minneapolis at night.

It was our job to check out every rumor than was called in, regardless to where it was in the city. What started out a low-keyed fun job working in the center in '67, a year later had become a potentially dangerous one with all of the threats of social upheaval. We always understood we were just a police arrest, or a racial incident away from the city erupting in violence. It was a relief to see September approaching and that school would finally start. Every one gave out a collective sigh of relief, and we had survived the ripple effect of both assassinations.

August 22nd the antiwar protest started outside of the Democratic National Convention. Most of us who was really interested in what was going on could only watch the horrors that unfolded on television. Once again we held our collective breath that it would not trigger a chain reaction in our city. As summer drew to a close, we knew we had made it through a long hot summer without getting burned by racial unrest.

Oddly enough however, the winds of change blew anyway and from a direction we never expected. Former Vice President Richard Nixon was making a comeback, he won the Republican presidential nomination and squared off in the general election against Huber Humphrey. Until the '67 Mister Nixon political career was on a downward spiral. Somehow by feeding into the law and oder fears of White America he turned all of that around. He had not won any type of election since he ran with President Eisenhower in ’56. He had run for governor of California in '62 and had lost rather handily to Pat Brown.

Yet, six years later in the general election, he defeated Hubert Horatio Humphrey for the White House, by a razor thin margin. A part of his over strategy he promised an end to the war with honor, and appealed to disgruntled democrats Whites in the north, toyed with southern hot buttons as it related to less government interference from Washington. If left the informed Black leaders very much on edge. That meant by another name a return to state’s rights. He even went so far at to appeal to those who had just about had as much of the hippie generation and the antiwar groups as they could stand. He called them the silent majority a catchy label that stuck to this day.

I was in the military in '64 and didn’t get to vote. (I knew nothing about absentee voting then). It was also the first and only time I ever voted a straight party ticket. and much to my disappointment, in my first general election and my candidate lost. The disapproval of President Johnson and the way the war was going carried over into the ballot box. With President Johnson the Afro-American owed him a debt of gratitude for doing something about up the hornet’s nest of social injustices.

After the election the country as a whole, though optimistic the war would end soon was in racial shambles. For many Afro-Americans they were disillusioned, as there were still unfulfilled promises, and expected no help from President Nixon. In retrospect that didn’t turn out be true, because President Nixon had more Afro-Americans in his administration that both Kennedy and Johnson.

With Dr King‘s gone, earlier in the year the poor people‘s march that he was spearheading petered out. I heard rumors that there was a storm brewing between Reverend Jesse Jackson, and Reverend Ralph Abernathy. With the death of Dr. King there were no clear-cut leaders left who could lead while bringing all the political egos together for a single purpose. Somehow the momentum of the mid ‘60s Civil Rights movement and social reform lost a lot of its steam.

Sometimes during that year, being an astute observer of political winds, I sensed a shift of political leanings for those who were White and involved in Civil rights. As White kids were coming out from under the anesthesia of racial guilt. They discovered all of the things they were fighting for Afro-Americans to have were things critical to their survival. As it were they would have to compete for the same jobs they were conceding away and against laws in their eyes that seemed to disfavor them. It was the equivalent to handing over the keys to where daddy had his goodies stored in his candy store then suddenly realizing it was theirs too. Those who had become disillusioned with the establishment, splintered took up other causes.

In the past White fathers who were head of corporations in the private sectors who had been reluctant to groom their daughters for corporate positions did so gladly as it helped in certain categories of the EEOC guidelines.

With many Black leaders, those who were the loudest often got the political grease, as they were offered meaningless mid and upper level positions. Sometimes their only qualifications were being Black and loud.

There was a running joke of how to shut up a Black militant? Give him an expense account the keys to the executive washroom and flush him down the drain with debt. I can in ways attest to that. While I didn’t get the keys to the executive washroom, I did land what I thought then was a dream job; I was hired by The Pillsbury Corporation as a sales merchandiser with a company car and an expense account and submerged myself in debt.

In spite of the love fest the following year at the Woodstock musical festival, America was no longer the same as it had been for ten years.'68 marked the ending of the anti-establishment beginning the era of the me-too generation. '68 was the year when idealism gave birth to realism. Prior to that year many of us who felt we could bring about real change in the establishment from without came to the realization, it could only be done from within. And to be within, one had to get within; to get in one would have to play the game of reformation and reconciliation. Like everything else in America the Black prospective was different, it was called Tomming or selling out.

In retrospect of the lessons learned in the early summer of my discontent was social programs and enacting laws to bring about simple justice, will only set the table for receiving the good things in life. Moreover it can be compared to that of a banquet where every one is invited. Yet, I’ve found that only the takers, not the taken would, take what they want from the table. The taken will watch and wait to see what is left and wind up with a hand full of scraps.

In spite of all the ugliness of that year there were beauty. In the entertainment world, Aretha Franklin released her break out hit ‘Respect.’ No one cared that it was a cover of an Otis Redding b-side tune. I also got to attend a James Brown concert in the Minneapolis auditorium. Later that year released his block busting Black pride hit single, ‘Say It Loud.’ And we transitioned from being Negroes to Afro-Americans to Black all that memorable year '68.

In spite of all that was going on in ‘68, I accomplished personally a lot, my brother was having a rough time in dealing with the death of Dean, and what ever happened that night I felt a change of scenery would do him good. I suggested that if he could save enough to pay his way up. He could stay with me until he decided what he wanted to do from there forward. That was the first of many mistakes regarding family unity. In late spring of '68, he came. I can still see him at the bus station, his belongings were tied in a very old suitcase. Whether he felt ashamed or not, I was for him. He stood out like a country bumpkin. I knew how I must have appeared five years earlier. The question was could he make the transition as I had.

His first night evening there gave me an insight he would make the transition. , I took him by a swank nightspot, named The Establishment. It was located in the Foshay Tower, the then tallest building in downtown. It didn't take him long to get out of his doldrums. That evening he took the car, and went it alone. He didn't return home to the following morning. As if that wasn't bad enough, he showed up with a trampy looking White female.

Needless to say, all of this didn't set too well with May. She didn't care for interracial dating at all. We talked about it, and I agreed the moment he found a job, soon thereafter he would get his own place. Having worked in the anti-poverty program, I made a number of acquaintances. One was a guy who worked for the Urban League. I called him about finding a job for John.

Three days later there were an abundance of jobs he had to choose from. And though he didn't choose the one I preferred, it was a baby I could put to bed.

Even earlier in the spring of '68, I had graduated from the business school, I had been attending. John, was doing fine, and had found himself, a black girl friend. And by letting it be known, I had aspirations for Jim's (soon to be) old job. I was promoted into the position. Jim had broken the color barrier at Pillsbury, and now he had talked himself into becoming, the company's national minority recruiter. I was assigned his two year old company car, and was well on my way to achieving my life long dream, (wearing a suit and tie to work.)


Lost In Translation

Some where, in the back of some room, someone must have conspired to make sure I didn't get the same breaks my predecessor had gotten. Although I didn't realize it until some years later: I was given a fancy title, with little money or responsibility. Sales Merchandiser, my business card read, but it was just a sixties name for flunky. At the time, I passed it off as my lack of a college degree.

May got caught up in the title too. She went out and started spending like I had double my income, when in reality, the raise was seventy dollars a month. Not long after being in this position, began to get frustrated. I realized, I had never had an adolescence, I couldn't do things that others my age were doing. And for a number of reasons. I had hocked myself into debt, I could no longer pay my bills on time. I had a ready made family, and most important I was beginning to feel used. This was a tremendous burden for someone like myself who was so restless. The chance taker in me was beginning to stir. Our relationship started to turn sour. I guess I resented, I was doing so much for her, and not doing anything for my mother. There were actually times when I had to sneak to send mother to Momma.

Spring turned to summer, summer to fall, then came winter. Winter meant Christmas was upon us. Christmas is a time of year, even to this day, I have mixed emotions about. It's not because I am a Muslim, because I think Muslims enjoy Christmas as much as Christian do. It's a time of year, I remember when as child I would be filled with so many expectations, and almost every year, I would be disappointed. I never got anything I wanted. Today, I understand why, I never knew were poor. Lil' Ma somehow managed to keep that a secret from me. For the most of the year, I got many of the things I wanted. Yet Christmas was time we came together in spirit. Although, I can never recall our having Christmas dinner. The food was always the same, whether it December, the 20th of May, the 4th of July, or Thanksgiving.

John went home, and I couldn't. because I didn't have the money. That became my line in the sand. I would give no further. My reality had become some one else's idea of who and what I should be.

After the first snow melted, and the first buds oped, I was introduced to a new friend. Other than my Grand mother, there's been three people, that had an indelible affect on my life. Chuck, Willis, and Mack Chuck's brother. And of the three, I would have to say Mack stood out the most. Mack was, the bold, the beautiful, and the ugly. All three traits were very pronounced, he had a heart of gold if he liked you, he was a constant thorn in your side if he didn't. He loved, and hated women at the same time. He was gentle, and ruthless. There were no middle ground with him, you either loved him, or hated him. I've done both.

In the Spring of 69, we began hanging out together. A little background on Mack; he was an ex-con, and a nickel and dime hustler with big ideas. One of the reason I liked being his running partner, however, he was tall, and handsome, with boyish charm. Good-looking women swooned over him, therefore being around him meant I was always going to be in the presence of the best looking females in Minneapolis. It was from him, I learned about the true woman. At some point, they are all vulnerable, the key was to read them, quickly, but well the attack them through their vulnerability. Dozens of times it would happen over and over again; he tell me what this woman, or that woman was like. Dozens of times, I would want him to be wrong. He was nearly always right. Some men do well with certain types of women others do well with other types. Mack did well with all types, regardless to their economic, or social status. He had one rule, since he was married, he would never screw around in the streets for nothing. A woman must have some way of giving him money, or buying him things. No freebies. Had he been a bit more diplomatic, he would've been worth millions. But he never cared much for diplomacy. Here's a guy who came within an eyelash of pulling off a multi-million dollar golf course project. He had charmed a wealthy Wayzata socialite, who believed in what he was doing, and as the project started taking shape, his ego got in the way. Being that as it may, he moved on to other challenges.

As a footnote, in December of '93, Mack died of throat cancer. In retrospect, I wonder with a few breaks early on in life, how successful he could've been. In all of my travels, I've never met anyone who had more heart, or gall.


Three Into Two

Sometimes, during the Spring of 69, May came down with gallstone, and was hospitalized. She misled me, pretending that she was pregnant. In the hospital, she got this wild hair that her family was taking advantage of her, therefore, when he got out, she would change all of that. I don't know when or where, but she met some guy. She claimed he was only a friend. They would hang out all times of night, she would visit him at his home, or he would come over, they would drink and party until all hours of the night. I would have to go to bed in my own home spending many restless nights wondering where was going on down stairs, or the music was so loud, neither myself or her children could sleep. Having a vindictive streak in me, it was during one of those nights, I decided, I would get even, to hell with everything. I began to distance myself from being there, first mentally, then physically, by hanging out with my new found friend Mack. I have gone through life telling others I've never struck a woman, but in retrospect, I recall once she realized I was distancing myself, she started stalking me. Once after we had a verbal spat, I went walking up to the (then named Nicollet Park). I ran into a woman I knew, (and would have liked to have known better, but I could never bring myself to.) She had followed me her car. the young lady and I chatted for a while until I spotted her. I broke off the conversation and went back home and went to my room, locking the door. About ten minutes after I arrived, she came tearing upstairs, screaming, and cursing. she kicked the door in and got in my face screaming and shouting obscenities. She attempted scratch me in my face, I slapped her. She bolted out of the room, trying to get her estranged husband to intervene. He didn't but I knew then, the relationship, as promising, and as sick as I thought it was. It was OVER...

My first night of freedom felt very strange. Mack and I drove down to the Club, Sweet Georgia Brown. Of course that was after we stopped of at the Nacirema and had a couple of belts. Usually about this time of night the party people hadn't yet arrived, but more importantly, they hadn't yet started charging a cover. When we entered the bar, there she was, The shapeliest redhead I had ever seen. I thought how wonderful it would be to have her as my new girl friend. I eyed her and like I have done so many times since. I let her win the first round, by embarrassingly looking away. Mack must have had the same thoughts I did: He whispered to me that he was gonna make a move on her, and he did. ( Words just doesn't adequately describe how smooth with women he really was. He was the best ) With in a matter of seconds, he slide up on the vacant stool that was next to her, and began making small talk. Before I realized what was happening, they were carrying on like old friends. I was glad to see a pro in action, but I hated him for doing it to me. Not much else happened that evening. Mack's brother Maurice was appearing in the place that evening so we hung around until the place closed. Apparently things didn't go well with this redheaded white chick and Mack either, as it stood he took me home.

When I got home, I had a near death experience, Mae was there but no Billy, and she was up and mad. Mack came inside, and she was livid. She started screaming and yelling to the top of her lungs. I tried to ignore her, but that only served to incense he. She lunged at me with a paper knife, stabbing me in the chest. Fortunately, for me it stuck in the cartilage. I bleed, but not profusely. Seeing my blood made me realize, there was no way this relation was ever going to be over, unless I did something so terrible and so repulsive to her, she herself would arrive at the same conclusion, and I did. I made one the biggest mistakes I had ever made in my young life up to that point...


A Lil' White Stuff

The following week-end I moved in with John. That Saturday night, I went to the Sweet Georgia Brown without Mack, and there she was sitting all alone. That same redhead Al had hit on. Apparently, as happy to see me, as I was to see her. She came up and started making small talk. Without exposing my interest in her, I started to build up her relationship with Mack, until she let me know she was more interested in me. We spent the evening at the bar together, and made a date for the following evening. The next night we went out had a meal, found a motel room, did the nasty, and got engaged in a left handed way. By that, I didn't come out and ask to marry her, however, I did utter something about a lifetime , of being around her. ( Now most women have heard this a gazillion times during love making, and perhaps almost none take pays any attention, or even hears, as far as that goes. This one however did, and later on I'll tell you why.) I didn't learn until three days later she not only heard, but had taken it serious, as she started making wedding plans, nothing elaborate, just going out, putting me an expensive diamond wedding on layaway.


Friday November 13th

Being engaged got my attention, I realized I had taken this thing too far. Sure, I wanted to slam the door in the face of my relation with May. But not the extent where i wanted to be married.

I tried every way I possibly knew, to get out of it without saying so. Bobbie set a date, and I hadn't made any plans, or made an attempt to buy a ring, so a few days ahead of time, I went to Goodman's jewelers and purchased a ring. I had lil' money so I charged it. To this day I don't know if I ever completely paid for it. The second week in November came, and was still mentally dragging my feet. On Thursday, November 12, '70, she went to the judge and got the seven day waiting period waived, and Friday November 13, would become a day that would set me adrift forever.

In Minneapolis, every marriage application is printed in the following afternoon's paper. I never realized how many people read those vital statistic columns, especially Mack and May. One saving grace, is that the paper came out in the afternoon

On the morning of November 13, I arose as any other morning, showered, and got dressed and went to work. About 11:00 am I called another best friend from another, I ran in, I asked if he would be my best man a for lunch, at first he thought I was kidding. When I assured him, however, that I wasn't he agreed to.

Kerry, who is now deceased, (thanks to our friendship) was the national minority recruiter for Pillsbury, he had replaced the same Jim Tucker in personnel that I had replaced in sales. We met in the spring of 69. To get and idea of the job description, he was assigned to spend a day in the field with me. From day one I always liked him, he was from Covington, Kentucky, had gone to North Dakota State on a basketball scholarship. The company had hired him right out of college. Besides I could Identify with him far more than I could with Jim.

He also was my eyes and ears downtown in the tower as well. he later would hire the first Black female salesperson. One Sandy Brady, who is in herself another story. We were like the three joints in the index finger, as one, and well jointed. Kerry, later would develop an affection for___, no they started going together. But, after the day we spent in the field, we became close in a different circle. I was a man of many circles, probably because I never knew where I belonged.

Shortly, after noon I picked him up, and we drove to St Paul, and the corner of University and Dale we met Bobbie and Kathy and her girlfriend Kathy. Things went smoothly, Bobbie went back to work, Kerry and I stopped at Burger King had a burger, and I drove him back to work.

Kerry, Kathy, Bobbie and myself, met after work in downtown Minneapolis in a bar called Busters we had a couple rounds of drinks, and that was the extent of our reception. Because it was payday, I had enough money to rent a room at Holiday Inn for two days. We checked in and spent the week-end there.

Little did I know Mack and May had been looking all over hell for me, bent on stopping me from marrying this harlot.


Cultural Shock

On Tuesday, we went apartment hunting, and finally settle on one in South Minneapolis. Since, she had been previously married, we didn't have to buy furniture, ( Thank God ). Therefore we went about the tiresome task of carting it from her mothers home to ours.

( I'd like to preface the next eleven months by saying. Today, I think mixed marriages are destined to fail in almost every case, with exceptions to the rule. Mixed marriages aren't really mixed at all, the are a cross between cultures, and counter cultures, which produce mixed impressions.

There are a number of reasons I believe this; first I believe the first thing that happens is that both parties comes to the table dressed in the emperor's robe. In spite of how much Blacks know of white values, they're totally unprepared to deal with it on a personal basis. And whites comes carrying absolutely no concept of Black values, however they do manage to bring an armful misconceptions, and suspicion about us. These are major stumbling blocks on the road to a successful relationship between races. Blacks tend to view whites with the stigma; it doesn't matter how close you get, when they're not around, whites really calls them niggers, which is ridiculous, (like some white person is gonna look around, see there are no Blacks are around, and the have a good ol' nigger hoedown). And white usually approach blacks, with the stigma, they are wayward people with, lack social graces, laid back, and loose lifestyles, that includes lotsa sex. For most that may as well be the great wall of China.

Bobbie and I settled in to live as husband and wife. It was then she revealed her ugly past. In so many words, she mentioned she had been a prostitute, which didn't bother me that much, because I'm a firm believer that prostitutes can be very good wives. But it was some of the other stuff she did, including robbing and stings. In the summer of 71, I wanted to spend a few days down home. For what ever the reason, I wanted to go home. My intentions were to take the trip by myself, and was only going to gone for a few days. She insisted on going. From the conversations we had I knew this would not be trip she would enjoy. My parents had no running water, no indoor facilities. And she coming from a middle class background, and being a very selfish person, this wouldn't work. She finally convinced me she could deal with. We flew into Valparaiso Florida, and was met there by one of my boyhood friends, Sheeby. He lived in nearby Fort Walton Beach.

Sheeby and Chris his wife were on their way in life, she had just graduated from college, and was teaching school, he had landed a job with the local telephone company. Therefore, they were doing okay by anyone standard, although the did live in mobile home.

Bobbie, right away got the impression that this was the way it was gonna be. We spent the first two days there, then it was time to visit my folks, in Redhead some forty miles away. Needless to say, once we arrive, and when she saw the shack my folks lived in, her expression told me she was not ready for that. She refused to spend a night there. When Sheeby and Chris returned to their home in Fort Walton, she insisted we go. I couldn't hurt my mother that way again. I sent her and I stayed. My mother may or may not have known what was going on, if she did, til the day she died, she never uttered a word.

The time came and went, we basically spent separate vacations. I never forgave her for that. That coupled with the bills from when I lived with May, four months later we called it quits. Lesson bought and paid for in full.
Free At Last

The Seeds Of Disaster

For the first time in my life, I was free. I wasn't living with anyone, I wasn't obligated to anyone. Also in retrospect, I was on the verge of being homeless. I had quit my job with Pillsbury, and had no way to pay the rent, and the first of two I had to move in with my brother John. I reacquainted myself with Mack, and for two months I did nothing but hang out with him. What I learned in two OJT with him would last me a life time. My first lesson was how to survive without a job, that meant hustling everyone for what ever you can get. Second, when you're without a job there are two things that's plentiful, sex and whiskey. Although at the time Mack and I were pa'tners, he was not a person you wanted to be on his pa’tner list. He arose every morning a dawn wanting a drink, and he'd call and we'd hit the streets. There was this Club in downtown call Cassius,( named after a Anthony Brutus Cassius. The place had turned into a dive, however in the 40's and 50's it had been one of the nicest Black clubs in town. At Cassius we'd have breakfast, and wash it down with brand and seven. In two weeks I got tired of that, I was never much of a drinker in the first place, and after seeing how it had affected Kerry's life. I stopped making the trips. Then we switched to visiting there in the early evenings, then on to the Sweet Georgia Brown, where I had met Bobbie. It was there Im saw her for the first time since the divorce. I was totally unprepared for that. Maybe because I had no money, and she seemed to be doing okay. I knew then it was time to get out and get a job. Because living from woman to woman was getting old, not to mention I had no transportation.

In retrospect, while preparing myself for a future role, I let a care well meaning woman slip in and out of my life. But, that's another book.

A mutual friend of ours suggested I apply for a job at the telephone company, and I did, and much to my surprised, they hired me.


The Good Life

In August of 72, I started a marketing training program. It seems they needed marketing reps, and because of my background, I was tentatively what they were looking for. ( It's funny how black people devalue themselves in the face of opportunity. Case in point when I interviewed with the company. I was only looking for a job. I never knew how much I brought to the table. I was high trained and very adept. When asked how much it would take to hire me I had no idea. The figure I had in mind was far less that what they were offering. It seemed because of my experience, they started me a one level from the top.

Wow! I would be making 850 dollars per month. I could finally participate in the human race. Within six month, I bought a '70 Lincoln Mark III. Every since I my buddy Kerry got his, I wanted one. That was my burning desire.

One of those ladies that had been good to me during my struggle was one Dorothy. She was another I should have married . She really cared about me, but because of something my friend Sandy said, I never took her serious. Which in retro was kind of stupid. Sandy cautioned me that she was looking for what she could get out of a man. Nothing could’ve been further from the truth. She gave me money, and use of her car. Never any questions. I don't believe any other man did before. She was very frugal with her money. But the moment I got the position. I dropped her like a hot potato.

It was also payback time for Mack, because he too had partially bankrolled me. He too demanded payback. His wife had a friend, that she introduced me to, a divorced White female. This was another in a long line of excellent women that came into my life. Phyllis was the most creative person, I have ever known. A hairstylist by trade, she was an artist, and a seamstress. During our year and a half romance, she made me dozens of chic outfits, took me in rent free. In the meantime, my salary had climbed to nearly 15,000 dollars a year. To quote a James Brown song, I was doing it to death. When women knew you were with the telephone company marketing department, they flocked like birds. Also I did a number of fashion shows, and that made me even more popular. In about 8 months or so I was growing tired of my relationship. It isn't because she was a homebody, it was because of after my relationship with May, it was hard to take any women serious, especially the fiasco with Bobbie. Bit by bit the relationship began to come unravel' Bringing home crabs didn't help matters any. In defense of Phyllis, she was no fool in spite of how I explained them away. Unbeknown to me, she was making plans to move out of that apartment, and buy a home. But, I too was biding my time and making plans.


A Playa's Playa

Mentally, I had already dismissed her, but needed a place to stay for the time being. It should have come as no surprise being the person I was, I wasn’t in love with her any longer, basically I was fooling myself. In the summer of ‘73, I landing a well paying position with Northwestern Bell Telephone Company in their marketing department. It gave me new life. There I met my greatest joy and biggest disappoint.

I was working on the second floor of Chamber building, and had been noticing a young blonde chick in frames on the third floor. She would always smile and speak. I am one who firmly believes, never work and play in the same place.

After careful consideration, I realized, we really didn't work in the same place, just the same company. Be that as it may, the next step was getting to meet her. I at one point was never good at meeting women cold like that. Mack was a master at it, he had so much style in doing it.

Mack had moved up in life, he had found him a divorcee, and had turned her out, suddenly he was a bona fide player. He introduced me to couple of players who had moved in from California, Frank and Dave. They were a most unlikely pair. Frank was tall real dark Black guy, and Dave was a very fair White guy. What I like about them, you would've never suspected they were players. They lived a very low-profiled life style, no flash. They looked like a couple of ordinary Joes.

In late October, Dave moved to another apartment, had an apartment warming party, and indirectly they invited me. Because, I didn't want ask Phyllis. There was Chinese chick I had met, and made plans to take her. As fate would have it, on the day of the party, during my lunch hour in Dayton’s I saw Andrea. When she struck up a conversation, but I saw an opportunity, and out of the clear blue I asked her to the party that evening.

She didn't readily say yes, she said she'd let me know before we left work. Just when I had given up, she called saying she could make it.

Looks can be very deceiving, because although she looked white, and pristine, she was Italian, and anything but pristine. She also was dating a black guy on the side. Which kind of disappointed me. On thing I've found to be true, when white woman date black men, they tend to assimilate black culture. Normally I could pick this up, by listening to, and watching for things I associated with being black. But, Andrea had none of those traits, or mannerism.

When I went to pick her up, I found out she lived an a very modest apartment, and with another man, who was white. When I rang the room, apparently she threw him out, without my knowing he was the person that passed me at the security door. I was without my special friend, (a twenty-five automatic gun). But it would be the last time, I would visit her apartment without it again. It was another lesson I learned from Mack; it was better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

The party at Dave’s was a rousing success, only people in, the life, were there. Although I wasn't in the life I felt like I was. Incredibly, I felt like I belonged here. even more incredibly, I think Andrea felt, she belonged there too. After the party, I took her home, and found a new home, if I wanted it. Whatever the other guy was to her, he was out. She fired him. I was the man.

The day I went home to my official residence, ( my brothers place) and my mind was churning a mile a minute. I can be a player. So what if I didn't have Mack’s charm, street sense. I was more educated, and I understood business. I read Ice Berg Slim's book pimp, and I had seen the CBS on players. All I needed to do was come up with a plan, get Andrea to buy into it, and see what happens. Presented the plan would be easy, but how to go about getting her to buy into could be risky. After all we did work together, and you could go to jail for a long time. In two days, I laid out in my head, then on paper. what was to become our future corporation.

After committing it to memory, I built a convincing case around it and the following weekend, I laid my future plans out. She was very interested in the plan, apparently none of the men in her life had ever had one intelligent thought in their head. All seemed to have wanted to lay her. Here I come in talking about us, and we, and our being as a family. most of all, my plan included having her in my future. This was something we could build from the ground up. I explained to her, however, we couldn't get there from working where we were working. What she said next knocked my socks off. She said, she saw the merit in my plan, and she wouldn't have any problems prostituting herself. It was all too easy. Perhaps she didn't understand, but she did. The next question, was what have I done, and where in the hell do I go from here. I didn't have a clue how to get started.

Besides before I let her get started, I need to reeducate her. For two weeks we did nothing but role play about being a, working girl. I went ego tripping, ranging from showing her how in a real sense, a house wife who doesn't work was a prostituting herself, to this was a business no different from the one she was about to quit, (yes quit, after she decided to do this for us, I didn't want her being around square people). Sometimes doing our training period, Ione of us  got the idea to sign up with an outcall service during the day, then stick her in a massage parlor in the evening. These environment was safer from cops, and pimps. Besides; I would never want a woman who worked the streets, they are to harden to be refined. Her first trick was a dentist, 100 dollars. I believed she got a rush out it. It blew her mind men would pay for something she's been arbitrarily giving away. I knew tehn I had a star.
She was chomping at the bits. But, I had to keep the reigns on her, because she was new, and the rush she got out of making money, she would be prone to make mistakes. At this early stage, I didn't want her going to jail. Every evening after work we would hold class, I gave her the benefit of all I knew about men, and in almost case, if I told her something to expect and how to go about it, it worked to a tee. I had a set of rules she had to abide by: Rule # 1, always trust your feelings about a trick. If you develop any sort of odd, or awkward feeling , avoid the trick. Rule # 2, no black tricks. Brothers all wanted to negotiate the price, then screw all night, and then try to screw you out of your money. Rule # 3 Never get emotionally involved with a trick, because every trick has problems of some type. Rule # 4 Nothing kinky, that only opens Pandora’s box. Rule # 5 Make damn sure she followed the first four.

From ’74 to ‘77 I had it all; money women and looks. Those were three things I felt would always be there, such is the folly of a fool. I didn’t drink or smoke or do drugs but managed to stay high on arrogance, because people were always building me up. I was different from the other payers I ran my business as corporation. I was one of the owners of a restaurant which was successful, and at one time employed 28 people. I had second restaurant that didn’t do so well, but it was still ours. Life was good. In ‘77 I purchased mama a used mobile home, which was big step up, she had hot and cold running water and central heat for the first time in her life.


Running On E

I hate starting anything with a quote, but this one seems appropriate: The hardest thing in this world to do, is climb down off that high horse gracefully. Believe me, I was no exception.

Through my own doings I got involved with a Jew named Nathan, he was a slumlord which I had been warned about by both someone who did business with him as well as my attorney. My ego was so large it wouldn’t let me listens. I didn’t even bother to take time to check him or his stories out, later I learned there were dozens of horror stories about him. I all started with him stoking by dream of franchising the restaurant. Ultimately I learned the grand scheme of the plan would’ve left me holding the not for 750,000 SBA loan. It all started with him issuing the corporation a 2500 dollar bad check and my fragile corporation began to crumble. That coupled with the death of my grandmother. Tried downsizing and anything I could do to save the business. My only option was to sue bank whose employee had set me up with the guy, but I didn’t want to do that. In February of ‘79 we closed the door.

My relationship with Andrea fell apart. For almost three weeks, I never left the confines of my apartment. Whether wallowing in self pity, or disbelief, that it had gotten away, and what I had to show for it was a mountain of bills and little else.

Andrea was everything I wanted in a women, call it egotism or what but she good in bed, smart and a fast learner, it didn’t hurt she was attractive. Yet in all of my arrogance I regret I never told her, My biggest disappointment in spite of all my common sense telling me otherwise, she was another I should’ve but didn‘t marry her.

We unloaded what we had left of the equipment. It was enough to pay the last month's rent. Because we had neat toys, I was able to unload most of them. When you're, traveling in the fast lane, you pay little attention to others admiring what you have. There were many takers to buy furniture, appliances, and what ever you might own. It's as if they wanted to cling to a piece of history. At this junction I was in no position to try and hang on to the good stuff. That which no one wanted, I gave away, the rest I stored in the basement of Kerry's home.

Speaking of Kerry, here he and I go again. Because of his alcoholism, he had lost one of the most influential corporate jobs in the twin cities. How he had maintained his home is a mystery to me. There were only so many janitor jobs available, but night by night, and in between the bottles he would clean restaurants.

For the time being, I couldn't see myself doing that. Had I listen to Andrea she would've had no qualms about going back out there, but I had had it with that life. Not only that, but I felt I had lost control over her after she violated a cardinal rule and broken a sacred trust with me. Three years earlier, it seemed she had engaged in a threesome with her girl friend and her girlfriend’s Black boyfriend. The boyfriend was a former pro football player with the Los Angeles Rams. This was the same chick I had tried to turn Willis on to. She had broken rule # 3, and the scared trust she had collected no money for her effort. But in retrospect, she was the greatest teacher I ever had, be without her ever knowing she taught me much of everything I know about me.

Previously in 76, while I was hustling at the golf course, I had met a beached blond Italian divorce' named Lori. She was a star in her own right. Although she was very cosmopolitan, originally he had come from the iron range in northern Minnesota. She was a square chick that was totally hip, and I never got much money from her, but she was good for the ego. Everybody and his brother was after her for a number of years, but she would give any of those guys any play.

We had been seeing each other off and on for three or four years. Now that this fiasco was over we grew closer together, even though I really didn't want to because, she was one of a few women, I couldn't break. She was liberated long before there were ever a liberation movement. She was everything I love in a woman, and everything I disliked. She was smart, calculation, brutally honest, and was built like a brick shit house. Also she had a lot of very well to do friends.

For the most part during my player years, it was a nice escape from seamy side of life. Her presence was like non I've ever seen before. When she walked into a room, it lit up, not to mention everyone stood up.

She was employed by the city as assistant social worker. Every time we were together, when we weren't trying to screw each other brains out, it was a psychoanalysis session. What I didn't like about her, was she had come from an abusive marriage and had low self-esteem. Although we tried it just didn't work.

In February of 82, I finally stopped drifting. It happened in a most unusual way. In trying to stay alive, I took a job at Minneapolis-Saint Paul airport. I was working as an airline boarding inspector ( flunky with a tie). On or about the second of that month: I was going about my business of inspecting carry on luggage, and there she was; Frances. She came into our area looking for direction. At first I thought she was White, I made a half ass pass at her. In her response I heard a black dialect. There are two thing I dislike very much in others. White people who try to talk and act black, and black people who try to talk and act white. With myself being an authority on the latter. After a closer look I saw, in fact she was Black. What came over me I don't know. It had been so long since I had had meaningful contact with a Black woman. Out of the blue, I blurted out an invitation to lunch, ( because my shift was from 5 am until 1:30, my lunch came about 9:30). She tried to nice her way out of it, but I would not take no for an answer. She, however wouldn't give a definitely yes either. Only my ego heard yes.

Needless to say, my pride was hurt. As luck would have it, she was flying U S Air, and it was leaving from my concourse. Apparently, she wrapped up what ever business she had in the place, and was on her way to relax a few moments before flight time.

In my infinite wisdom, I had to try to save face. I went to the gate and struck up a conversation with her. Much to my surprise, she wasn't stuck up, she was warm and cordial. I went in to poetry bag and romanticized the city, and she seemed genuinely impressed. At least I think I got the point across, I wasn't something the cat had drug in.

In an instance, my life was about to change forever. The U S Air gate attendant announced that there would be no turn around flight. It had been snowed in in Indianapolis. My race, and ground to a squeaking halt all in one. I really did want to spend some time her, but by the same token, how much entertaining can one do with thirty dollars in one's pocket. I was about to find out, and if I must say so myself, I did rather well as you'll soon see.

It was about 11:30 am at that point. I asked her once more to have lunch with me, this time she accepted. The lunch, however did have to wait until I finished my shift at 1:30.

Although, I wasn't sure if U S Air would book her on another flight before I had a chance to rap to her. By now I was in another world. I'd met some chick carrying a briefcase, and she was having lunch with me. WOW! I was excited.

1:30 came around I was anxious and skeptical. I was anxious to see her, and skeptical as to if she was going to be there, She had already stood me up once.

When I surfaced from the blue concourse, there she was I place.

In the waiting are there were nice restaurant. I knew I could feed her and probably buy her a couple of drinks, but hopefully I wouldn't have to. By the time we finished having lunch, it would be time for her flight.

To break the ice on a first date, I often ask how much time do I have?

As it turns out they rescheduled her on a 5 pm Northwest flight. That was a long time to entertain on thirty dollars. But, if I ordered something shy of bread and water, and she didn't go crazy, I could pull it off. I was lucky, she was a simple woman, who apparently made a lot of money. She ordered braised short ribs, and a soda; BING! 4.95, I had a salad, and a fish sandwich. total cost of lunch including tip 13.00.

I was feeling pretty good about that time, because with 17.00, I had a little breathing room. Northwest planes were on the Red concourse, we found a cozy lil' bar that overlooked the runway, and we could watch the afternoon sun play hide and seek with the Minnesota gray skies. We talk about a lot of different topics. In a matter of an hour or so we were into it. We had become very comfortable with each other. I had noticed the ring she wore, but I could tell if it was a wedding ring of not, she kept playing; now you see it now you don't

. Besides it wouldn't have mattered anyway, nothing was going down. After he second Singapore Sling she removed all doubt, she was married, but in her own words, she liked to get very friendly with some men she meet. It was a nice queue, but no money, I could kiss the honey goodbye. One thing about the Singapore Sling the were 1.75 a time, but no one could stand up to no more than three. After the second one, she was calling me sweetie, and we were holding hands. 5pm all of a sudden came very quick, too quick. But my luck was still holding up. The plane was cancelled again, and I still had more than ten dollars in my pocket. Yet before I jumped for joy, I realized that was an outside possibility, I might have to feed her again. But the glass and a half of Rose' was having it's affect on me as well; I neither any longer gave hoot if I didn’t have any money or not. Although not this day, but I was going to parlay this woman into be. I didn't have to, she asked me to meet her in Chicago that week-end. That's when reality sobered me up. I agreed to without any thought. Because had I thought about it would've known, I couldn't buy lettuce on a whopper, and I didn't work for the airline directly, so a free ticket was out, but I went along with the spirit of the moment and started making plans. To this day it still saddens me. I didn't go, I never Frances again. Of which this Frances story isn't over.

Six years earlier I could've afforded to meet her anyplace in the country, but now I had 7.50 to my name. Without ever knowing it she anchored me. I knew I had hit the wall and it was time for a change.

For two months after I met Fran, every Monday, I would Teleflora her flowers or some memento, and every day I would write her hokey poetry, and would call her at work, whereas she would on an occasion call me from home, seriously inebriated. I sensed perhaps she had a problem with alcohol, but it didn't matter, I loved her and will always love her. Not as the one that I'm sorry to say; got away, but the one I'm glad to say I'm sorry she got away.

In December I came home to Florida for the holidays, and made the decision I would return home to stay. Needless to say, not without a great deal of thought and soul searching. I had been in Minnesota it had become home, and home had become someplace to visit. After the holidays I return to my job and immediately quit, and without giving her any warning I called her and told her I was leaving. That's not the right way to split up with anyone, but I had to do it without thought. I didn't want to be analyzed circumcised, or ostracized about my decision. It was mine I did what I thought was better for me. 




A Chicken Comes Home To Roost