Thursday, March 01, 2007

02-23-2007 – Stabtown

So, I just had a dude pull a knife on me for the first time.

Walking home from work down 104th street, right by the venerable Lingnan, through a bit of urban wastespace that’s spent decades within “Coming Soon!” distance of some kind of glistening downtown revival, this kid purpose-striding up the street southbound calls me out, Hey Buddying me as to whether I “got any brick.”

A very vague term, but in every possible sense the answer is “no, man.” Busy cellphone-talking some intense shit with my girl, I walk on.

Don’t you fuckin’ walk away from me!

Uh-oh. I keep on walking and talking, approaching sneakers krrking on the winterlong snowpack behind me, until I feel the slap on my shoulder. I turn to face a kid who couldn’t have been over 16, his mouth pursed and turned down into the kind of battle-scowl that looks like its wearer is about to cry, doing that loud tough-guy nose-breathing.

“I asked you a fuckin’ question. You don’t got any brick?”

“No, man; I don’t have anything.”

“Some guys didn’t stop you and sell you some shit?”

"No, nobody sold me anything.”

“Don’t you fucking lie to me. Don’t you fucking lie to me.”

That’s when the knife comes out, pulled from the left-hand pocket of his coat. He doesn’t brandish it or wave it in may face, just holds it there. There’s nothing romantic or picturesque about it – it’s not “wicked”, it doesn’t “glint” – it’s a utensil this kid happens to have, and he’s showing it to me.

I don’t really know why I’m not shit-scared at this moment – that very morning, somebody got knifed on the street in front of my the building where I work; some office dudes watched through binoculars as the blood-pools cooled – but at no time do I feel like this kid is going to knife me. Maybe it’s because I don’t feel alone -- I still have my phone clamped to my ear with my fiancée on the other end; can the cellphone oblivion that turns drivers into blind/deaf missile pilots numb one to an imminent knife attack? Maybe it’s the false protection of “broad daylight”.
More likely it’s pose of the punk himself, and the status of his little knife. The moment he pulled it out, he didn’t get harder or tougher or braver; it was almost like he was embarrassed, like he’d played his hand too early and knew it. His eyes lost their tough-guy focus and started to wander around my face. The knife became part of a dorky uniform, a lame formality.

What is it with this town and knives? We’ve gone stab-happy. I suppose that from a global – or even merely North American -- perspective our emergent stabbiness is kind of quaint; we’re in the Stone (Stainless Steel?) Age of mindless civil violence, country cousins trying to imitate our way to that dreamed-of “World Class” by being all hard with a blade. Or maybe the filthy greed-flood of dirty money that runs through our streets and the arrogance of zero unemployment have turned us stone-cold sociopathic – how can we all be in the same boat when half the city is riding on his-n-hers jet skis?

It’s going to be a stabbin’ madhouse around here when the goddamn downtown arena gets built – and it will get built, have no doubt; the same sort of narrative of inevitability is being woven for it, courtesy of Edmonton’s awesome cabal of moneymen, boosterists, homers and press lackeys, as the one that preceded the invasion of Iraq. I see an apocalypse, friends; once we trudge through the next few bastard years of false choices, false promises, false threats and false estimates and emerge 800 million dollars poorer and one [YOUR NAME HERE CHEAP] Centre richer, downtown will become a drunken post-game carnival of bloody daggers… at least until the also-inevitable 100-million-dollar CCTV public surveillance web goes online.

Anyway, about this punk kid and his knife. I finally manage to convince him I’m neither carrying drugs nor concealing the location of the “some guys” that are. He nods and tucks his threat-utensil back into his pocket.

“OK. Peace out, brother.”

"Yeah. Take care of yourself.”

And off we go on our separate ways, two perfectly civil Edmontonians.


Anonymous said...

Holy Christ!


Anonymous said...

Hi...girl on the other end of the phone here. Before this happened I’d been thinking about cell phone conversations (probably because I've been on the receiving end of so many lately). Specifically, "What if something really fucked up happened to the person on the other line, what could you do”?

So it was one of those creepy "your thoughts become reality" situations when D had to deal with this individual.

There's a particular Tone of Trouble. All I heard was some guy yelling and somehow I knew it wasn't random...suddenly I was back in those punk rock skid row bar days. Yeah, I got that "oh shit" feeling.

The funny part is, after the initial few seconds I wasn't nervous at all...D had the situation well in hand, he spoke in well modulated tones, employed street vernacular and "hey man" and "brother". (but just enough to level the playing field, not so much it would have twigged any kind of bullshit detector on the part of tweak-boy)

I knew when the guy started to say, over and over "do you promise?" (Re: were there any guys back there)--that it would be OK. And it was when D--not the guy-- said "brother"-- "I promise, brother, I wouldn't lie to you" that there was a palpable relaxation of tension.

Good job, D, I've never heard anybody talk a freak down so well.... it is testament to your calm demeanor (your voice never wavered!) that I never would have guessed a knife was pulled...had no idea until after the guy walked away and you told me.

Anonymous said...

You should have stabbed him first. That'd teach him.