South Rome Chronicles- Q-Stick

Growing up grades Kindergarten through sixth, downtown Rome did not mean as much to me. We were living in a rural area and passing through downtown was not necessary for us. However, when we moved to South Rome Broad Street was the key to the world. There was Paradise records and tapes, H.Richards, Panacea beauty supply, Krystal’s, Schroeders, Top Hat, Kessler’s, and some store that had Sebagos in the window.
Unfortunately, for every good memory there is a bad memory. Although Q-Stick was primarily a pool hall, we went there for the video games. That is where I became well versed in the game of Galaga, Centipede, NBA Jams, and Street Fighter. It was extremely smokey all of the time because there were no real smoking restrictions.
Q-Stick was a forced feed for all that visited. I would monitor the vehicles outside to see what type of crowd we were working with. There were occasionally big trucks with Confederate flags either on the plate or a flag flying on the back. I often thought about where I would go if there was some type of confrontation. The easiest and fastest way back to South Rome involved crossing a bridge with a river flowing under it. Needless to say whenever I got close to it I would steer clear of the sides and walk briskly.
One night I left Q-Stick rather late and on foot. There were probably three or four of my friends, all African-American, walking back to South Rome from Q-Stick. We walked out of the back of Q-Stick because we didn’t like trying to cross at a certain spot in downtown. Out of nowhere comes this big Chevy truck steaming down the street. The next minute we were being called niggers. We started running and I think the running is what made them turn around to chase us. I remember hiding behind buildings in terror. I remember thinking if I could just get across that bridge I would be safe. I could hear the laughter coming from the truck and could not seem to comprehend the type of anger that was on display at the time.
Before now I didn’t talk to people about this incident or use events like this to fuel any hatred. A ten minute walk from my house turned into a night of terror for me. Now take this story and add anxiety to the terror and imagine carrying all of the unanswered questions for at least 28 years.

South Rome Chronicles- The Making of an Alcoholic

Let me start by saying I am not an alcoholic! I was pretty close to it, but not even aware of the reason that I started drinking around age 13. What I did recognize was that things didn’t really matter when I was drunk. We would pool our money together, walk to Big H, and get some wino to buy malt liquor for us. We were told to eat pork skins with it in order to create a dry mouth. The dry mouth could be fixed with beer. More importantly, the anxiety that I brought from rural to urban seemed to go away when applying alcohol to the problem.
I remember one night sitting in a car in the parking lot of Twin Oaks, car load of the homies, drunk. We had one person beat boxing while we traded two liners like “My name is Kwesi and I’m the best! I’m like superman with the S on my chest!” Lame? Maybe! But the alcohol made us feel like we were without problems. We didn’t always get into the clubs because they were strict on age for a few years. But they never stopped us from sitting in the parking lot just taking in the moment.
Throughout my days in South Rome I looked forward to Friday because I knew I could make up some reason to spend the night with someone and get drunk. We would spend the night and not even bring clothes because we lived in walking distance of each other. I was basically spending the night to shift the responsibility from my mother to somebody else’s mother for a day or so. I was basically sedating myself to survive the weekend. The shots, the people driving slowly in cars with tinted windows was something out of a movie that was usually followed by slow singing.
It wasn’t until I got older that a friend of mine told me that I was dealing with anxiety. He said it will make you feel like you are having a heart attack but nothing show up on an x-ray. Smoke filled rooms and clubs were a challenge to manage, but I would sit and take deep breaths just trying to fit in. I was counting days until we could move; however, after we moved, my family both blood and just by association, were in South Rome. I often wonder what happens to bonds like those that we created.

South Rome Chronicles- Virginia Circle

Imagine living on the rough side with a privacy fence being the only thing to separate you from a fantasy world painted white. Here I am an adult thinking about how so deeply submerged in predispositions that I was. I actually believed that living in Virginia Circle was like living in a different world. I remember walking down Myrtle Street headed towards Wilson Avenue and looking to the right to take a peek at the homes on that side of the fence. To the eyes things didn’t seem too different, but I guess I imagined that the privacy fence somehow made them exempt from the challenges of South Rome.
I never once processed how terrifying it was for them to hear gunshots and never get used to them, whereas I stopped flinching. When I first started living in South Rome I would flinch, even go home at the sound of gunshots. I was terrified. Somewhere along the way naivety had me believing that the shooters were not always out to hurt anyone, and that they could accurately direct their bullets when necessary.
So here I sit years later wondering whether the people in Virginia Circle were prisoners in their own small neighborhood. Virginia Circle is considered urban which destroys the usage of the word urban to exclusively refer to things that are hood or ghetto.
I have never walked through Virginia Circle because I thought the cops were always close enough to ensure the safety of the occupants. I remember people suggesting that we walk through just to see it, and I would decline for the fear that we would be arrested. I do not know how loving Virginia Circle homeowners were or are; however, I do know how loving the people on the other side of the privacy fence were. Is it even called Virginia Circle? I just remember it was a place not prepared for me.

South Rome Chronicles- The Griers

There are two phone numbers that I remember from my childhood; my grandmother’s and The Nixon Ave Griers. This family helped raise my brother and me. During our times together we cleaned an office and ate more Bojangles chicken than we could handle. The highlight of my afternoons was calling the house and talking to whoever picked up the phone. If Tickey Toe picked up, we’d talk; if Oh picked up, we’d talk, and Kerry never picked up because he was at Bojangles. I talked to Mama Grier too, how funny that must have been to have a 12/13 year old asking about her day. It wasn’t always what they said, but more the fact that they let us into their lives enough to take our calls. No one from that house ever told us that we couldn’t drop by whenever. There crazy dog Kojak did make dropping by sorta scary. I never took this relationship for granted; I have always appreciated the role this family played in my upbringing.
I remember when Pop Grier was called to branch out and start a church, definitely felt like the family was breaking up, despite where we lived. Fortunately I became a charter member of The Life of Jesus in Action. These are my peeps that taught me that mentoring is not always planned, but often an open door. Salute to the Griers.

family

amidst the fireside chats
is a fire on the side
a chick with bad intentions getting air play
sold in at least 50 shades
100 proof like that phi-mu-lade

I never took a nip from the flask,
tasked to drive the LTD
had to stay sober for my brother Q.
A task I’d gladly do again to witness now, to see it through

A fair share of Swedish Fish and talks of riches untold
with the $800,000 home staring back from mantles elevated
like the blood pressure of slave descendants-on pork parts
the first time I jacked wifi
while eating like everyday was a birthday MD style

I am piecing together my family tree
excuse syntactical errors and my ignoring of words riding on red wavy lines.
I just need to pay respect right now.