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Nearly getting robbed, killed or worse ...

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  • Nearly getting robbed, killed or worse ...

    At The Mighty Rossta's (and others) suggestion, here's . . .


    It’s 4AM on Frenchmen Street in New Orleans —

    on a dosey-doe night of subterranean hideaways and pirate characters right outta “Treasure Island” and hanging in the Blue Nile next to Will Blades the young Hammond B3 master as he works the keys and valves and peddles to Karl Denson on sax and Stanton Moore on drums on a stage so small the players could shake hands without getting up,

    and after the magic music’s over, I’m thinkin I should just go to Congo Square now for the Herbie Hancock all-star sunrise concert that we were all staying up for — they’ll be people there early setting up so it’ll be safe in this historic park as sunrise blossoms in this ever-blooming city.

    So, I go in search of a cab, and this couple from Michigan are lookin too, and we finally find one. I get in the front, the couple in the back, and Boom!, we’re off to the Quarter to drop them off and then take me to Congo Square!

    Everything’s gone blissfully since I’d been in New Orleans for four daze. I call JazzFest “The Festival of Random Acts of Kindness” because that’s what it is. The traveling out-of-towners are my kinda people, and the locals are blowing my mind in their friendliness and positive approach to life.

    So, we drop off the couple, and the unofficial rule-of-thumb during JazzFest is — when there’s multiple people in a cab, everybody pays 5 bucks. So, we stop, and the cabbie asks the couple in the back for $10. The dude only has a 20. And the cabbie says he can’t break it — which registers as weird. Then he asks me if I have a 10. Which, even in my crazed haven’t-slept-much-and-just-seen-God-Yolanda-and-Bruce mind — strikes this old New Yorker as bad and that he’s trying to get me to pull out my money to see what I got. Which I don’t fer nuthin. If this little moment and insight hadn’t have occurred, I may not have acted fast enough on what was coming ahead.

    The couple come up with a 10-spot, pay the cabbie, get out, and we start driving to Congo Square, which is just on the other side of Rampart from the Quarter. I realize if I’m headin to the park for a while I wanna load up on some beers n smokes, and ask the guy to stop somewhere along the way. This actually gave homeboy his opening. “You want me to take you to a place that has beer and cigarettes? Yeah, okay, I can take to you a place that has beer and cigarettes. I take you there.”

    And again, everything has gone absolutely perfectly over four wild daze in this great city of New Orleans.

    And we’re actually having a nice long talk about Yolanda Adams. Gospel music. The grace of God. And he says he knows of her, and we’re talkin The Spirit and how music and spirituality and this city go together.

    I have a vague sense of how far Congo Square is, and it feels like we’re kinda goin’ too far, and I eventually said something but he goes, “No, it’s just up here for the place with beer and cigarettes.”

    Finally he turns off Canal somewhere, and on the corner we’re turning there’s an open 24-hour store with neon beer signs and everything, and I’m lookin at it n goin’, “Hey, that place looked like it had beer & cigarettes.”
    And when I turn back to the new road ahead, we’re now driving underneath a freeway — way-the-hell far away from the Quarter and Congo Square — and it’s completely black for as far as you could see. There’s a tall brick wall running along the entire right-hand side of the street, no streetlights, everything under the freeway is black — and suddenly all the warnings I’d read about crime in the city came flashing back. This is it.

    He says, “There’s a place up here with beer & cigarettes. I take you to it.” … after we’ve just past one. And I immediately look at the door for the handle. And of course it’s an unfamiliar car and it’s totally dark and I figure I only got one move. Like, if you grabbed for something and it wasn’t the handle . . . he’d know what you were doing.

    So, I’m secretly eyeing the door trying to figure out the handle while still looking up ahead where it’s just black dark nothingness as far as you can see, all the while pretending like I don’t think anything’s wrong so he’s not suspecting anything.

    The guy’s going fairly fast, and I’m thinkin jumping out would prolly result in injury. Like — you could end up worse off.

    But there’s nothing ahead and it’s only getting worse by the second.

    Then he unexpectedly slows down — at the first in the tall brick wall — and starts to drive into … a cemetery!
    At 4 in the morning.
    In the worst neighborhood in America.

    At the slowdown on the corner I think, “This is it,” lightning reach for the dark shape I’ve guessed is the door handle, pull it, and thank God the door opens! I hear the guy say, “Hey, what are you doing?!”

    I look down and it’s a gray gravel-dusty road surface, and in this nanosecond-flash realize that the ground is stationary and is just sitting there like always — only the car is moving . . . so I’m just stepping out onto that solid gravel ground.

    I fling the door wide open, and step out of the car just like you do every time, but bending knees a bit and shooshing right into it like letting go of a bumper after taking a hoppie in winter in Winnipeg, and barely even spilling beer from the Blue Nile cup!

    I immediately run back to the corner of the totally black road under the underpass and it was like the horror days of old New York — just scary as shit. He’d taken me into the middle of the Treme which is freakin’ Harlem circa ’75 and there’s homeless encampments and no lights and nuthin but slimy black scariness in every direction.

    To my left is a 10 foot brick wall and a cemetery, behind me is a badguy and miles of blackness, and to my right is a lightless ghetto. All I could see were the lights of distant Canal Street straight ahead the way we came, two long city blocks away.

    I’ve just been diagnosed with a bad heart, I haven’t slept in a day, and I’m in the middle of the worst neighborhood in The Murder Capital of America.

    I only got one chance — maybe I’ll die tryin’ but it’s all I got. So, this very white guy in shorts starts running through Harlem at 4 in the morning — the hour of which may have been my saving grace because it was Sunday night into Monday morning and my old New York life taught me that this unique time deadzone is usually devoid of even the badguys.

    I won the 1500-meter foot race at River Heights Junior High, but that was a lotta beers n butts ago. But I got no choice and no other chance or direction home. And so I’m just running this black-of-night marathon towards the light, and apparently the whole time with my freakin beer in my hand! But fuck it – I didn’t wanna die of thirst!

    And I’m running it like a football player for a touchdown, reading the field in front of me, watching for anyone coming out of the darkness or any car coming at me or anyone coming from behind.

    And about a hundred feet from the lights of Canal the guy drives back past me just as I was expecting him to do sooner, and he actually yells, “Hey you owe me money!” out his window. If I hadn’t gotten as close to the lights as quickly as I had, I believe the phrase would have been, “Give me your money.”

    I kept running.

    And made it all the way home for a refresh and what-the-hell-just-happened?!?!, and back out the door for Herbie at sunrise. Nuthin was gonna stop me. I was still one of the first people there and right at the lip of the stage for my hero Herbie Hancock, plus Terence Blanchard, Ellis Marsalis, Kermit Ruffins, The Treme Brass Band, a massive African drumming collective, Harry Shearer and a buncha others including me blessed International Jazz Day at its very birthplace.

    No bastard’s gonna stop me when Herbie Hancock is on the line.

    And that’s the whole everlovin’ story of that.

  • #2
    So very glad to hear that you made the right choice, and were not injured, especially when stepping out of the moving vehicle.

    That is quite a harrowing story. I don't know if you got his license or cabbie information, because this is obviously someone who should be reported.

    You probably would have been safer walking from Frenchmen to the park, although you certainly didn't know that at the time.


    • #3
      holy smokes, that is scary!


      • #4
        Sorry you had to go thru that and I'm glad you're okay. And damn you sure can tell a very entertaining story bro.


        • #5
          Holy crap! Glad you're ok!


          • #6
            Sooooooo, you didn't pay the guy? Unbelievable.

            HA! JK, what a ridiculously terrifying story. Glad you made it out unscathed, and with your humor intact, i.e. the running with the beer imagery had me cracking up.


            • #7
              Originally posted by Brian O'Canada View Post
              At The Mighty Rossta's (and others) suggestion, here's . . .


              And so I’m just running this black-of-night marathon towards the light, and apparently the whole time with my freakin beer in my hand! But fuck it – I didn’t wanna die of thirst!

              NOT FUNNY!! Ok, that part really was!

              Seriously...that is awful. I'm so sorry this happened to you & I'm happy that you're safe. Those survival instincts really kicked in. Wow..crazy!!


              • #8
                Did the beer make it out of the 'hood, or did you have to sacrifice it to sustain your ability to outrun a cab???
                btw, horrible story, but great storytelling!


                • #9

                  Glad you made it. I got chased riding a bike several years back. If not for the bike, I would have been gator bait, can't run a lick any more


                  • #10
                    Thanks, my beloveds!

                    It's neat so many say "sorry it happened to you" because I know you guys have taken ownership of and responsibility for that city. Before going to my first Fest this year, you guys all made me feel really welcome, and also prepared.

                    and I love that everybody loves the beer part! It is hilarious. And totally true, and I didn't even realize until I got home to the apt. that I'd carried the damn beer with me the whole time! (I was kind of in shock, eh?)
                    It's one of those plastic glasses with "Blue Nile" on it — and sho nuff, that souvenir of survival got carefully packed and is sitting beside me back here in Canada — where we don't take kindly to people messin' with our beer!

                    What a trip!


                    • #11
                      Holy Crap Batman! Glad you survived, great story telling!


                      • #12
                        Pretty scary stuff. I hope it doesn't keep you from coming back. Shit like that can happen anywhere.


                        • #13
                          Gee.. that sounds bad...

                          and I am sure that you were scared out of your mind to do what you did..
                          Sure we have a horrible murder problem in the city.. but it has been a while since we have had a tourist killed... (of course you might have been the one)

                          but seriously... it sounds like the guy was taking you to congo square.. maybe not the most direct route.. but from your description.. you bailed out of the cab somewhere off Claiborne Ave. between Canal and Orleans.. had you run the other way.. you would have been in Armstrong park.

                          I am not taking up for cab drivers in N.O.. they are the absolute WORST.. but if I were drving a cab at 4am in New Orleans, I am sure I would not let on to anyone that I had any cash (not offering them change for their 20).

                          The driver might have been trying to rip you off by driving you around with the meter on... tell me New York cabs don't do that... particularly since you asked him to drive you from Frenchmen St. to Armstrong Park.. probably less than a mile.. he was padding the meter.

                          You also asked him to take you to a place for beer and smokes at 4am.. again.. the cabbies are not good here.. he may not have known of any place close to where you were.. or along the route to where you wanted to go.. so he was taking you to someplace that he knew.

                          Again.. I belive that what you think was happening to you was real.. but for it to be true.. it would really have to be that someone stole a cab and picked up a fare to rob them, because the real licensed cab driver would not be able to get away with it (well unless he killed the victim.. again highly unlikely)..
                          also.. why would he not have taken all three of you to a secluded spot, robbed you all and left you on the side of the road in a dark neighborhood?

                          you also bailed out of the cab in probably the worst place on your ride.. and you could have run directly into the Iberville housing projects.. but then again.. if they saw a crazy white guy running thru their at 4am.. they would probably be more scared of you (crazy) than you would be of them.

                          Look.. New Orleans ain't disney land.. and even though I have lived here for 52 years . I don't know one local who would go to Congo Square at 4am... but you must admit that you just might have over reacted out of irrational fear.. along with not exactly making the smartest decisions to go to places in a strange city in the middle of the night.


                          • #14
                            Wow quite the story. Glad it all worked out. I know that scariness. Terrifying.


                            • #15
                              You (or someone) should send this to Herbie! What a ride - in all the wrong and right ways!!!