about that time i was detained on suspicion of bank-robbing in minneapolis

So Wife and I were tooling around, yesterday, wallowing in Existence, relishing primitive pleasures, getting some shopping done and so forth. Popped into the Apotheke to fill a plant-based, quasi-Hippie anti-allergy prescription for Wife and also to order more spermicide. You have to order the tubes of this precious stuff days in advance because, for whatever reason (everyone else is Gay, on the Pill or celibate?) they don’t stock these tubes on the Apotheke shelves and I have never loved Wife more, this week, than at the moment she asked the Apotheke’s clerk if it was possible to order an extra-large tube. The look (half visible over her plague mask) on the clerk’s face! We haven’t quite run out of the sperm-killer that we already have but I tend to get nervous when we’re down to half a tube, which is more than enough to stop the number of hypothetical fetuses that could currently inhabit the Earth. We’ve gone through two abortions after Daughter was born, so, overkill is the banner under which we ride to the tournament. I am, of course, The Black Knight, Wife the White Queen/Princess. The dragons in this metaphor are those hypothetical fetuses.

Next thing you know, we were on the train, headed downtown, hoping to get a brisk walk back home out of the trip (although the rain soon dashed that hope) and we found ourselves in a wagon full of young protesters with various slogans on various flaps of cardboard all having to do with Black Lives Mattering: a huge (15,000 ish) demo, we discovered,  was scheduled to coalesce at Alexanderplatz. Gentle aside to idealistic young Germans: shouldn’t you be brandishing signs saying Turkish Lives Matter…? Also interesting: an older fellow in an official looking outfit (orange workman’s vest but some sort of officer’s cap) was walking up the aisle of the train counting the passengers and recording the count on a device. Can’t they just scan the train as it slides through the station and capture the data from the phones thereon? It isn’t the 19th century, people! (sarcasm off)

As we swayed in the crowd of young protesters I quipped, “I should make an announcement: ‘Black Guy here… ask me questions!'” because I was the only Person of Color in the wagon.

“Black American,” added Wife.

“Right, even better! Exactly.”

Then it hit me. I had an even better qualification. I said “Have I ever told you about the time I was arrested in Minneapolis on suspicion of Bank Robbing?”

No?

It was early in 1981 and probably about a month after the Reagan Inauguration. Minnesota, you may or may not recall, was one of the few states in America that would have preferred Carter to Reagan, and the electoral maps and charts of the election’s postmortem, a term later,  in the perfectly-named year 1984  (Mondale vs Reagan) were even funnier: Minnesota had politely seceded from the union. The electoral map in ’84 looked like a completed national jigsaw with the last piece missing at the top of the middle but, back to the spring of ’81…

It was very cold. I was wearing a parka, with a navy-blue watchman’s cap stuffed in my pocket, walking along in downtown Minneapolis at morning rush hour and flanked by White Hippie girls in full serape/sari/caftan/cape/bangles/ feathers/ and headbands uniform as if it was a perfectly normal thing to do. I was walking with the mother of my Son, K, and K’s short, round, counter-intuitively self-named belly-dancing Hippie friend Willow. My Son had been born just a few months before, on 9/11 (a then-meaningless date), in 1980. It was January of 1980 that I’d been suckered into co-creating him. Early March of 1980, I had no idea that I was a father-to-be. I was back in Philadelphia, at the Funeral Home I’d lived at while attending an all-boy (virgin) college prep school. It was at a liberal arts college in St. Paul, in the year 1978, that I met K.

But now it was the spring of 1981 and K and Willow and I were walking under the elevated umbilical of a portion of the Skyway (an ingenious system for connecting lots of downtown Minneapolis’ office buildings in such a way that shoppers, businessmen, bums and secretaries can go about their business without exposing themselves to the bitter cold)  when a cop car screeched to a halt at the curb and a cop popped out and shouted to me with ironic politeness,

“Sir, may we have a word with you?”

Suddenly, I was bent over the cruiser’s fender, spread-eagle and frisked and cuffed. The cop snatched the navy-blue watchman’s cap out of my parka pocket with an air of triumph and held it aloft so two cops in another cop car, across the street, could see it.

“Oh that’s mine,” I said, confused. “I definitely paid for that!” I thought they thought I had shoplifted the cap from Woolworth’s. No, the cop corrected me. They were thinking I had robbed a fucking bank.

I was stuffed down into the back of the cruiser. I could hear K and Willow’s muffled screaming and cursing and crying as one of the cops in the car with me radioed headquarters and the other stared back through the criminal-proof grating separating the front of the interior of the car from its back. I said to the cop who was staring at me, “They’re just freaking out because they’re so upset, please don’t overreact” and he nodded.

The cops from the other car had put K and Willow in the back of their cruiser without handcuffing them. I watched the cruiser containing them drive off. I was peculiarly calm.

“Did those girls help you rob the bank?”

“I didn’t rob a bank.”

“What were you three doing downtown?” (I can’t remember how I answered that question because I can’t remember what we were doing downtown during morning rush hour but I surely made certain I’d never make that particular mistake again.)

A description of the bank robber came over the radio while both cops stared at me through the criminal-proof grating and I had to admit that the description of the perp was uncomfortably close, in all but one detail: six foot tall, 170 pounds, light-skinned Black or Puerto Rican male of 18 to 25 years of age wearing a parka and a navy-blue watchman’s cap. Armed and dangerous.

“I guess it looks bad, eh?” I joked. Was I insane?

I made some other jokes that i can’t remember as the cop car with me in it (an historical first!) pulled into traffic,  gumballs flashing and siren on, and the more calmly I joked and chatted, the more puzzled the cops staring at me,  through the grating and in the rearview, seemed. In emergencies I can become quite calm (lucid shock? it’s useful)  and there are things, at times,  that I must deal with, things I fear,  that I will tend to run toward, headlong, like a Berserker. But why was I so calm at the very real prospect of doing 20 years in prison,  utterly innocent of the crime? Even then, we all knew that American prisons are always full of innocent Blacks (and Whites and Indians and Asians, too… but mostly Blacks). The cops were justifiably puzzled by my unjustifiable sangfroid.

I was puzzled, too, but in a more Existential sense. What was I even doing in Minneapolis? Hadn’t I escaped it?  Why wasn’t I in Philly? I had returned to Philly to escape K’s clutches and the freedom I enjoyed, after escaping K’s clutches, had lasted little more than a month. Those six or seven weeks were the freest I ever was and ever would be, no real responsibilities to anyone other than myself,  and even then, that Freedom was a nothing but a fragile delusion.

The chronology goes:

Sometime early in the year of 1978 I was wondering up and down the halls,  from floor to floor, of my college dormitory. My friend Rick had played the prank of hiding my art work all over the building, including in the emergency stairwell and various dormitory toilets. I still don’t get the point of that prank (Rick is cognitively peculiar, one of the Smart Idiots who make ideal suckers for Scientology, to which Rick belonged for years, and for Real Estate scams, for more than one of which Rick has had the pleasure of falling, whereas Smart Idiots like me only ever fell for girls). While I was busy retrieving my sketches and watercolors, a girl way up on the fourth floor walked over to me, stuck out her hand in a parody of a history-in-the-making greeting and said,

“Hi, you’re Steven Augustine, I hear you’re crazy.”

If my Son ever wants to trace the origin of his existence to a phrase or a moment, that was it.

K then pursued me with flattering intensity. Several girls were into me at the time (including a girl I always avoided who looked like a Playboy Bunny with acne, and a girl with Bowie-like, two-tone eyes, with great talent as an artist, whose decently-goofy boyfriend, Alan, lived in the dorm room next to mine), but this was the first time I had been wooed so aggressively. I had just turned 19 (I had lost my virginity in high school, at 18)  and had then had a brief affair with one of the prettiest girls on the college campus… an affair that fizzled, I now realize, because I wasn’t the macho sex machine that I appeared to be. I was too lazy and/or egocentric and too mindful of not being a harasser to chase girls. So K got the job. She found my tiny tin boat in the swirling waters of the student body (with its delightful oil-rich Carter-era Iranians and a Thai princess named Toy)  like a magnetic, time-delayed mine.

We went to a midnight campus showing of the movie Harold and Maude and spent the first night together. I blew out the bedside candle with a little too much force and its wax spattered my face and K touched me there tenderly while I laughed. We fucked like the blind teaching the deaf to drive. We were very sweet, tried our best in the ensuing days to be (mawkishly) poetic, held hands nervously whenever we ventured a block or two off-campus and everything was fine for nearly a week.

I may have been “crazy” Steven Augustine but I wasn’t, so to speak, in her league.

I can maintain my abstract empathy in light of the damage inflicted on her by her gun-loving, Klan-member father (who molested her)  and her gun-loving brother (who raped her) in the house she grew up in,  in deeply-racist, upper-class Ohio, next door to the infamous Earl Butz*, but you can’t expect me, now, after all the serious damage she has inflicted as a punishment for ever trusting, or caring about, her,  to not sort of hate her in retrospect, because I do.

Victimized by a victim: try it, it’s awful.

We weren’t a month into the metaphorical hostage crisis before I started thinking I’d made a serious mistake. Ah, but I couldn’t leave, you see, because she was damaged and hurting and so “in love” with me that she reiterated, most every day, that she would kill herself if I did. She talked about wrist-slashing, she talked about pills, she talked about gas. What a sucker I was.

We had slept together (as satisfyingly as if I’d slept with a drugged, hairless and de-clawed cat with a clitorectomy) and, as if it was the 19th century, I owed her for that, apparently, and she became my responsibility, my albatross, my embarrassment, my punishment and the living embodiment of my slap-worthy naivety. I should have been free those years, free for all my twenties and so I panicked and began, discreetly, to gnaw at the delicate ankle-bones of my fox-foot in her bear trap but even the ankle’s finest bone was obdurate. I saw that I was trapped but not that seeing it that way was optional.

I think it was my mother, whom I pitied, who taught me that Love is Pity. It took me far too long to unlearn that.

I know now that Love, most of all,  is Gratitude.

I look back and see with crippling-cringes how K carried around that phony clarinet case of hers with its airport stickers, indicative of places she’d never been (nor be) to;  the clarinet she could not even slightly play (nor ever learn to);  her transparent Woody Allen fetish (other than her fixation on me she had a Jew Fetish: in other words, her self-esteem as a WASP was so catastrophically low that only the intimacy of her Social Inferiors could reassure her);  her imitation Annie Hall wardrobe; her incessant and “ironic”  “darkie” jokes;  her antisocial whispers in my left ear in the midst of my normal conversations with others; the time we sat in a circle of smirking friends and I died of canonical shame when she picked out the tune for Diamonds and Rust on a borrowed guitar inserting her overblown lyrics (“he is a holy man”);  her flailing rages;  from how far in the back of her throat her throttled voice came; the haunted sleep she moaned and kicked through;  her compulsive telling of gratuitous lies and her constant warnings about what her Klan brother and father would do to me if/when they came to town.

I had recurrent nightmares of a pregnant K from which I’d wake, relieved,  as though reborn (as if it was on death-row that I’d dreamed that I had been).

The strength and experience and honest healthy selfishness to say flat out I do not love you, goodbye:  this is what I lacked.

The life-diminishing ordeal of being with K dragged on and on like a wasting disease that society isn’t even kind or just enough to name for you. Nobody understood and nobody saw through the brave face I put on and nobody understood (least of all myself) that when I so vociferously defended K,  from the critiques and attacks of various baffled friends,  that I was pushing in hopes of forcing a critique so devastatingly precise that it might release me from the obligation I thought, idiotically, I had to her.

Wait: remember the night that  K and Rick and I tripped in that apartment overlooking the highway overlooking downtown Minneapolis? The apartment with the “psychedelic” mannequin in the window?

We had a source for Microdot LSD in the drama department of the college we had all recently dropped out of to work in Dayton’s department store. K had had a fantasy, before we dropped out,  that we three would move to Lake Geneva, Illinois and she’d be a bunny at the Playboy Club there and Rick and I would be musicians or jugglers or a minstrel act or whatever and I humored that childish fantasy until the last possible minute (just like I humored the fantasy that we should buy a new car, a fantasy that went so far as us taking a test drive with an actual dealer, who was drooling to get a sucker’s signature on a valid legal document), at which point I suggested we get jobs in downtown Minneapolis instead. It was jaw-droppingly easy to get a decent entry-level job in 1978. You’d get one, quit it after staying up too late for a concert on a Thursday night, and go get another the next day. I did that three or four times. I worked hard while I was working, wherever I was working, but never for more than half a year.

K and Rick and I tripped that night (although, in retrospect, I never saw K actually swallow her tab) as the sun was setting and the ambient roar of the twilit highway our apartment overlooked subsided and crickets took the stage and the incense wafted and I suddenly became aware that the Doors record was skipping and skipping at groove’s end, sissss-dhut, sissssss-dhut  and had been for how long? Minutes or hours? What we were hearing was no longer music. Night had fallen. The mannequin at the window was worried. Something was wrong…

“Where is K, Stevie?” asked Rick.

Cut to: drug-addled Rick and Steven clinging to one another and inching down the long black hallway toward the master bedroom where K and I kept our bed.  Rick’s little room was opposite the bathroom and the bathroom was three quarters of the way down the hallway to the master bedroom. Nothing is more contagious than terror in the tiny feedback loop of a LSD community of two. I well remember Rick shivering in my arms, and I in his,  as we crabbed-walked very slowly down the hallway toward the only light in the apartment, which was gushing from the too-wide-open bathroom door. This must have been the fall of 1978, maybe ten months after K and I had first met and perhaps three months after the three of us had dropped out of school, though it felt like two or three years had elapsed. Going from seeing Harold and Maude together to this Mansonian moment, on LSD, was like The Beatles going from I Want to Hold Your Hand… to Helter Skelter… in less than a year. Is it all of Youth that whirs with zero respect for proportionate Time like that or were we just especially trapped in the twittering life-cycles of fruit flies back then?

Rick and I got to the very edge of the bathroom door and I peeked around it and flinched and warned Rick not to look (if Rick started screaming I would never stop). My God, it would have been terrifying enough if I hadn’t been tripping and I’d seen it in the middle of the day: K standing straight on the top of the toilet seat, kohl-rimmed eyes doll-blank,  head tilted sharp like a neck-snap. And later I realized the horrific part was wondering just how long  K had stood in that position waiting for us to discover her.

And, again: was she even tripping?

The problem with autobiography is how complicated, plotless, trivially-detailed, side-storied, self-contradicting, largely random and impossible-to-narrativize-ishly non-sequential (proceeding in parallel developments)  Actual Life plays out. I will skip K’s affairs (which I encouraged) and my affairs (which somehow failed to free me from K and her threats to off herself if we ever truly split up) and the apartment K got for herself (which gave me hope but failed to free me) and the apartment I got in Dinkytown, over Vescio’s Italian restaurant, around the corner from (Positively) Fourth Street: my very own place but still I was not free. I could step out on the roof and gaze upon the roof of Dylan’s old place,  kittycorner to where I strummed my brand new 12-string in the summer of 1979 and a girl looked up, one hot afternoon, smiling as I played and that smile paid for the guitar.

I will skip to the Eureka moment I had soon after that smile and the decision to move out of state, back to Philly.

Why hadn’t I thought of it before?

I would get the fuck out of the Twin Cities and go back to the good old bedroom in Philly;  I would put time-zones between me and my albatross,  without explicitly breaking up, giving  my albatross no definite signal on which to peg the committing of a suicide. Let the damn situation atrophy, let her Klan dad and Klan brother threaten to come and kill somebody else, let them nurture their fantasies of self-evident superiority at some other hapless Colored or Jewish tinhorn’s expense,  I would return to Philly and play in piss-reek New York clubs on the weekends and Life would finally begin, art fame or bust. At least I’d be free! 

I couldn’t wait. I packed with gusto. I gave things away.

It was shortly after Christmas of the year 1979.

The night before the Monday of the week I was to take that 36-hour train and escape to the Life I should already have been living,  K hurried to my flat in Dinkytown and she was winsome and funny and rather lighthearted about my imminent escape, a changed person, it seemed,  and I was so relieved, so grateful that it was soon to be over…

… that we slept together.

This is the part in the horror movie at which one yells at the dummy on the screen. The stupidity of the young could power a cornfield.

As K pulled me toward her on my bed that Sunday night before the Monday of the week I was scheduled to escape her, pulling me toward her to make love (one last time)  to her (for the first time) as a free-willed,  adult individual towards whom I owed nothing, no responsibility, providing the only (mild) non-pity aphrodisiac I had known since first meeting her,  I said:  aren’t you going to use your diaphragm?

And sneaky lying clever K said the doctor says i’m infertile because there’s too much scar tissue on my cervix, implying with a look or a gesture that the incest had had something to do with the scar tissue which had supposedly rendered her supposedly safe to fuck sans diaphragm. Compassion was a vintage curio-shoppe hand-grenade that I cradled in my armpit like a charm. Still more than capable of exploding, I learned.

I fell for it. I said,

Okay, (verbatim) but if this gets you pregnant we’ll have to deal with it. (ie: abortion)

Sure, K agreed, but I’m like 100% sterile. I can never have kids (flash forward to the abortion she had with her actual legal husband in the middle of the 1980s, a fetus they kept in a jar) but there’s nothing I can do about it… so into her vagina my moronic erection was guided and pressed, by K’s own pelvis, especially deep, therein to release my Son, who is wonderful,  from non-Existence. The stupidity of the young could power two cornfields.  Could power ten. Don’t ever be young if you can help it: the world will fuck you up.

After the fuck that fucked me up we saw Eraserhead. Fittingly. Knowing already she was pregnant,  K,  during the part of Eraserhead  in which Lynch mercilessly permutates his monstrous practical-effects baby through icky death-horrors while I laughed so hard and “insensitively”  (huh?) that I could barely breathe, K gripped the armrests of her cinema seat as if it were a Cronenbergian gynecologist’s chair and wept.

I happily took the train back to Philly that week, oblivious as a corral reef.

The Funeral Home saw me back again. My only responsibilities were Funeral work (help to fetch and carry stiffs, usher the bereaved, trim the hedges, mow the lawn, get the cans to the cub on trash day) for a decent weekly salary, free weekends, proximity to New York and all the Freedom I could eat. I bought a rattly Jaguar and a Fender twin and rehearsed in my kitchen (I had a house to myself). A girlfriend (Black/ Korean/ foxy) I’d had in High School glimpsed,  in-transit,  me mowing the Funeral Home lawn, shirtless and ripped and  shining with sweat and after her brakes ceased screeching we became an item again. (Janis J., who pestered me to fuck in an 8-thousand-dollar coffin, though the Undertaker would have killed me, the kind of insanity I welcome and which hurts no one).

S in Philly the '70s - Copy
me in on an early visit to Philly in 1970, six years before attending High School there

I had weeks of glorious faux-Freedom,  my first as an adult, no damaged daughter of high-end Crackers to worry about. The possibilities seemed infinite although it’s important to note that it’s often dawnest before the dark.

The day my mother long-distance-called me I remember clearly a shock I’d got leaning bare-armed on the metal trim edging the kitchen’s Formica counter while gripping the Jaguar’s  guitar strings before the phone rang.

Mother said is there something you want to tell me?

I said what?

-Is there something you want to tell me Steven?

I said mother are you drunk?

For K had called my mother, to tell her about the 6-weeks of adorable diamond-sized grandchild she was carrying,  first. Ethical? Mother very helpfully advised my stalker: whatever you do don’t abort! Which would have been fine had my stalker and my mother assumed sole responsibility for the child, no? 

K called the father of the fetus to inform him next. I just want you to be here for the birth, she lied.

As I always tell my Son (who is, staggeringly, pushing 40 this year): I’m glad your mother tricked me… if she hadn’t, you wouldn’t exist. What I resent is how unfairly she treated me after you were born, and how she never took responsibility for her decision, and the lies and manipulations, and how she played the heroic single mother after I finally escaped (after she threatened to have me jailed for not paying enough child support) after staying in Minneapolis, for ten years, to raise you,  my Son,  as tall as I could before I was forced to leave.

And therein is the crux-irony of this tale: nine years after the day I was unjustly detained on suspicion of bank-robbery, a suspicion that could easily have sent me to prison, a situation I was lucky enough to escape… the mother of the child I had been deliberately fooled into co-creating (she admitted it in a fight once; a fight that culminated in her finally making good on her threat to try to kill herself, leaving our 8-month old son alone in his cradle)… threatened to send me to prison for failure to pay enough child support.

When K gave birth (after a 36-hour labor, with one of her lovers, Paul Cohen, in the room, perched like a creepy Experience-vulture on the edge of the birth-futon until, and I swear this is true, K’s  “water broke” at the climax of the process and the fluid squirted Cohen in the eye! And the pussy fled in freaked-out disgust) I saw my Son emerge and he was, at first, ugly as a salamander but I loved him. I cut the cord, cuddled him, sang to him and kissed his smushed and weirdly-purple, gooey face.

I bottle-fed him (K’s fittingly-inverted nipples weren’t up to the job) and sang him to sleep and he grew stunningly beautiful in a day and I carried him in a backpack around the post-Hippie quadrants of South Minneapolis all week long. K had her boyfriends Mike, Brad, Dan, Kurt and Paul (all Jews but half-Jew Kurt) and I had my girlfriends The Art Orphan, Sofia and Katrina. When K got tired of me playing the house-husband, I painted houses for money and K played “mother” but she wasn’t quite up to that. Whatever changes in the arrangements she wanted to make (more or less impulsively) I agreed to.

When K met another Steve one day, a tall, half-good-looking (slightly bug-eyed) non-Colored, non-Jewish Bohemian type in a leather jacket and a subtly decaying,  off-smelling, Edward Goreyoid sensibility, K confided in me that it was something special. We were crossing the campus of the U of M at the time and when I gave K my “blessing” to pursue Steve whole-hog, she flew into a rage, calling me a “bastard,” chasing me across a parking lot, swinging at me with ridiculous fists.

Nevertheless, K and S were soon married, and were paying the mortgage on a house in cheaper, rougher North Minneapolis, as well as putting a down-payment on a new car. They both had real jobs. I didn’t even have a bike and frankly, I didn’t want one. I was house-painting (except during my stint as the toy boy of a wealthy and powerful Art Curator contracted by The First Bank System, an adventure detailed elsewhere on this site) and seeing my Son on the weekends when K or S dropped him off at my attic pad in  a flame-haired lesbian’s antique shop (The Emerald Dragon). This was the mid-1980s.

It was only a couple of years later that Steve dumped K for a former flame and K went on the warpath.

K couldn’t do much harm to Steve but she could certainly fuck me up pretty badly, in ricochet-revenge,  as a penniless man who loved his son, so she aimed her wrath my way. I had given her my last electric guitar (a sleek black ax I have a picture of, around here, somewhere) to cover “child support” (she was making ten times what I made and whose decision had it been to go out of the way to trick a poor and idiotically-trusting  Bohemian into being a father? Mine?). That’s when K called and lowered the boom: she had no choice, she said, but to report me (for failure to pay a randomly-calculated magnitude of child support that had never been ordained by any court).

I had no money.

Prison it was going to be.

“Absent Black Father”?  Fuck your stereotype-happy ass. Does anybody really give a fuck about justice?

My girlfriend at the time saw an ad in the paper for a super-cheap ticket to London and we flew.

GF I left for London with

I cried and cried the day we left but reasoned that I would stay in touch and live with my Son again when he was 16 or or so (he was a few months shy of ten when we left for London). Almost every night,  in dreams, or even speaking of the situation, I  cried. For five years I cried until I returned to Minneapolis in 1995, bumping into him on the street (my friend and ex Sofia had been spying on him, for me, for those five years and the plan had been to surprise Son, at the grocery store he was working in in order to afford a pager).

I had escaped a prison sentence: I was going to live, sadness included. I don’t imagine you can picture what prison, for a non-predatory, not-ragingly-macho (and fairly handsome) “colored” guy of my genre would have been for me but I can assure you I’d have been dead in a year. Or wishing that I was.

And K had wanted to send me there. She had intended for me to pay the price for the fact that her husband had dumped her. But I escaped.

And Lucky, wasn’t it,  that I escaped that Fate the first time the race-dice rolled that way,  on that chilly morning in ’81, when I was detained on suspicion of bank-robbing?

The cops drove me up the street and around the corner to an office building that was connected to the Skyway. Up an escalator our curious party went, my cop friends and I, my hands in cuffs behind my back, walking along the concourse past various shops I had frequented, during lunch breaks, when I had worked in Dayton’s department store just a couple of years before. I’m sure I must have paraded, with my cops, past at least a few people I was familiar to or had even worked with: and there I was, finally, in my proper Racial Form!  No longer the pithy Surrealist, the well-read young anomaly capable of quoting Joyce, the bizarrely articulate, brown-faced Mensa-IQ’d prankster and Mystery: I was finally (finally) a mere Nigger in handcuffs! Contradictions finally resolved. The World put racially right again.

My two cops escorted me to a tiny,  quick-service branch of the First Bank System (five years later I’d be writing the high-end artspeak catalogue for their yearly 30 million dollar-budgeted, Neo Expressionist acquisitions). There was a crowd of cops and bystanders waiting for my performance. I was instructed to approach the teller and say “Give me your money!”

O, thank the gods the teller was a dark-skinned Hispanic. I owe that woman everything.

 

 

.

* Earl Butz was a United States government official who served as Secretary of Agriculture under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. His policies favored large-scale corporate farming and an end to New Deal programs, but he is best remembered for a series of verbal gaffes that eventually cost him his job. Butz said: “I’ll tell you what the coloreds want. It’s three things: first, a tight pussy; second, loose shoes; and third, a warm place to shit.”

But don’t racists always attribute to their targets the supposedly-shameful qualities and preferences that are so more-or-less universal that their accusations ring true to the highly-selected sensibilities of their ideally-racist audiences? Isn’t that how the half-correct Essentialism of contempt, and discrimination, works?

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