oh, holy sh…

25th December, 2007

Late this afternoon I went to see a new film called ‘Starting out in the Evening’ starring Frank Langella and Lili Taylor. It’s about a writer in NYC and I liked the story, the acting, and even the homesickness it induced.

When I left the theater it had turned dark and I realized that, like the film’s title, I too was starting out in the evening.

Feeling hungry I decided to see if a nearby pizza place I like would be open, and headed south, on foot down Charles St. Baltimore looked particularly empty as I approached W. Mt. Royal, and I noticed another person across the street – a young man dressed in dark jeans, a black down jacket, and a dark ski hat pulled just over his eyebrows. Both his hands were in his jacket pockets and he was looking around before we both began to cross the wide street towards each other.

We met at the median and as we passed he said something like “Happy Holidays”. I turned to say “Happy Holidays” back and found him pointing a gun at my leg while demanding whatever I had.

I’ve encountered would be muggers before in this area and my technique, which I don’t recommend, is to run like hell in the direction of a busy street. This has worked for me thus far. I don’t recommend it because it startles the mugger and that is dangerous. I find the adrenaline boost fuels my flight and it seems like I’m moving at warp speed.

As we were already in the middle of a six lane, well-lit (albeit deserted) street I figured I already had an advantage. I bolted and within about two strides realized the laces on my left shoe were loose. Four strong strides later the shoe flew off in an awkward tangent and I faced a decision: stop and get my shoe or sacrifice it for the three dollars I had in my pocket… then I factored in my cell phone with all of its’ photos, etc., and I opted to sacrifice the shoe. I continued to run in one sock. I should also mention that a few months ago I sprained my right ankle while doing an art project in NY State (more on that in a future post) – so running in this configuration was doubly complicated and uncomfortable – but I needed to run. Fast!

At first I wasn’t sure if I was even being followed, but I quickly sensed that I was, then, to my dismay, a few steps later I heard someone behind me yelling for me to stop. Hell no! I ran down Charles street to W. Preston, then made a hard right, thinking, hoping that I would run into a crowd headed to either the church I knew was on a corner of the next block, or, perhaps, entering the Meyerhoff theater where the BSO plays – perhaps they were giving a Christmas Eve concert, hopefully?

I didn’t see anything, or anyone and my pursuer was still yelling at me to stop. Near the corner where the church was I saw one little, elderly woman in a red wool coat with a rain bonnet on and a small, gold purse walking south, slowly. We were all on a collision course. I realized that I was leading the mugger right to her, and when I got to the corner I stopped and wheeled around, ready for something awful.

In an instant the guy was in front of me, walking in the middle of the street, holding a large, black gun. As he drew closer I saw he was smiling, I also noticed that he was about twelve, and wearing white pants. I then observed the gun suddenly morph into my left sneaker.

“This your shoe?”
“Yeah… thanks, I’m sorry, I heard you shouting while I was running and I thought you were the guy trying to rob me – that’s why I didn’t stop, I’m really sorry.”
“Yeah, I was across the street when you started running and your shoe bounced right in front of me.”
“Oh, well, thanks a lot!” I said, reaching for the shoe.
“You have any money?” He said, seriously, while cradling the shoe in his arms and twisting his body away from me.
“Give me the shoe. Now.” Said the woman in the red wool coat, who had reached us at the corner.
“I presume this is yours…” She said, looking at my sock while handing me the shoe.
Before I could say anything she continued:

“I don’t know what you two are doing out here, but in case you haven’t heard it’s Christmas Eve. Can’t you both go home to your families and have at least one blessed night this year? Really, this is just…. Merry Christmas, now please just go home!”

We all went our separate ways. She continued south, I continued west, and the kid walked east. Not wanting to linger, I waited to put my shoe on until I’d turned a corner and was sure I wasn’t being followed. I also double knotted both laces, then continued home.

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