Friday, July 3, 2015
Adieu, —to thievery!
Adieu, —to thievery!
((A Neighborhood Escapade) (1962-’63))
The result of this narrative will inform the reader of the particulars of me becoming a thief, which in essence was short lived, and stopped forevermore at its early stage: I stole a record from a record shop once I must have been fourteen, it was I believe an Elvis or Rick Nelson one, and was caught, then respectfully talked to by the manager about it; it was a small 45-recording desk (the cost being 89-cents at the time), as they were called back then, and then being caught red-handed, I was reprimanded in the Manager’s back office for the penny theft, the issue was dropped, with me saying ‘I learned my lesson’; but had I?
Then I stole a bike once, it was parked on the sidewalk alongside a railing on a bridge, and I told my mother I found it, and I had to bring it back to where I found it and leave it there for whomever it belonged to, and that was a two-mile hike back home. Henceforward, I would have perpetual falls in all my thievery. Alas, I took two carrots out of my Mother’s boyfriend’s garden—Earnest Brandt jealous he had bigger carrots in his garden than mine, and I tried to transplant them, and it was obvious, but I was only eleven then, and Mr. Brandt noticed it, and my mother scolded me for it. And once when I was hungry, a handful of carrots, out of the University Farm fields I’ve mentioned in a previous writing I stole, that one I got away with. Well, I graduated to a higher level thereafter: I stole three cars for joy rides (wanting to be like the boys in the neighborhood, I mean Gunner, Mouse and David stole 600, and had a set of keys that could unlock any car door in America, and turn any ignition to on! they were pros. But Gunner and Mouse of course got caught and sent to a boy’s reformatory…)
Anyhow, back to me, the first was with Bill K., my buddy in crime, a year older than I, and a Washington High Student to boot, and once upon a time we were going to start a band up called ‘The Blue Dreamers,’ we both played the guitars, but it never developed. As I was about to say, the first car was a 1954 Chevy, not too classy, I was fifteen or sixteen then, and once a 1957 Chevy, to which another car chased us all over the city after Bill or I gave him the finger for whatever reason, I think we were happy drunk, laughing like mules, I was driving running over everyone’s lawns. Bill was a better driver than I so we had to shift seats while in motion, that was a stunt for the movies. And now we are up to my last escapade in car theft, and any thief for the most part worth talking about, which really never took place, and thus, I was metamorphosed that day into believing, I was a bad risk for thievery, and fortunately, I have never returned to that devil side of me. In those far-off days I was a declining Catholic, I had to do a lot of genuflections to get to the priest, to get to God, to get my sins forgiven; for a long while I gave the church up.
But the premise here is twofold, and I do not want to get off track, and of course both are in proportion to one another, and run parallel I suppose, and yet separating: know when to stop, and have good-judgment in doing so; second, no need to imitate the neighborhood, sometimes learning by social comparison can be dangerous to your health, that is to say, attaching to their bad acts by wanting to belong, thus to steal cars to show and tell. And now for the story of the last car, and the adieu to that occupation (incidentally, believe it or not, I would become a counselor for the Bureau of Prisons, with the additional duties of a Parole Officer, in my later years, how coincidental)!
The Lord raises up, those who are ready to fall, and elevates those who are ready to lead.
The old man walked with tottering steps. It was still morning, not early not late, I remember the rays of the sun were hitting the parked cars, alongside this five story apartment building, about a mile from our neighborhood, I had been pacing the same stretch of parked cars for some fifteen minutes, the old fella, stood there like a symbol of what and why, and hope. As I look back, did God send me an old geezer for an archangel, or was he the devil panting, while planting seeds in my head tempting me to go ahead with what I was planning! I mean I was ready to take a car if any of the automobile doors would open, and my intentions were to look for the keys thereafter, a spare key, and I was testing the doors. Then all of a sudden a police car pulled up, checked me out, one officer stepped out of his squad car, intimidated me somewhat, I felt I was in the makings for going in for car thief, should they fingerprint the door levers of several cars.
“What’s your name sonny,” asked the officer.
“Chick Evens,” I said.
“What are you doing pacing up and down here like you’re looking to rip-off a car?” said the officer, not sure if I wanted to steal items in the cars or a car itself. The old man stood there with a folded umbrella, as if he felt it was going to rain. And the officer looked at the old man, figured he surely recognized what events were in the making, and of course I was hoping he’d not pay the old man any mind. I looked to him like a ruffian I suppose, I gave him the evil-eye you might say. But he didn’t flinch. Kept his composure as if indifferent to it all. I was clean and groomed well, and dressed in the fashion of the day. Previously to the police officer, I had given the old man a fierce glance once or twice, my eyes appearing restless and suspicious, whereas he took a few quiet and steady steps backwards, and now the officer was questioning him as a concerned citizen. And I felt it was curtains for me.
The police officer was in his full uniform, his badge shinny as brass or copper, whatever they’re made of: “Was he not about to steal a car, sir?” questioned the officer to the old man.
“Not that I know of,” he replied. I held a capacious look.
The old man had a flat effect on his face, you couldn’t read it if you were a psychologist, or a gambler. And the officer, a young man in his mid-twenties, was overcoming with intensification, disgust. He wanted a flat “Yes!”
The old man perhaps more frighten from the look I gave him—concerned with retaliation, or perhaps on the other hand, his style was almost polished with a cultured mind, a strange contrast indeed, said not another word on the matter, nothing to incriminate me came out of the mouth. Again I must say, the Lord raises up those ready to fall, and I was.
After a moment’s hesitation, with good luck I came up with a story that I was waiting for someone, which accounted for my so called mysterious pacing; simple and to the point. Perhaps not believing my story, nonetheless, he said reluctantly, “I suppose that’s plain enough.” And then finally took his eyes off me, and joined his partner in the car. As for myself, I beat feet out of there, never looking back once at the old man.
Believe it or not I’ve thought of that old man a number of times in my life. There is kind of a lesson to be learned here, at least for me, an idiom (or phrase, or we can call it belief, or a credo I’ve picked up because of that day) sort of, which has made me use better discretion throughout life: now over fifty-years have passed, and that is: let the lion breath, do not corner him, should you, you simply allow him to multiply his strength and increase his courage; it is fight or flight, and let’s say you’ve already taken flight away from him, what is he left with? The latter! Is it not better to give him hope and safety, and thus, you will gain a victory nine out of ten times, that is if he is wise he will count the cost. Everything in moderation. And by his restraint, and the officer’s wanting to corner me, the lesson was learned, I needed no more reconnoiter in the car theft business, although as you read through these escapades, there are a few more modules I hard to absorb, or as they say mug up.
July, 1, 2015 / No: 1091
In remembrance of my mother, who tried to make me walk the straight and narrow?