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The NYC Nomad Almost Gets “Knocked the F&$% Out”

I’m not a particularly confrontational person.  I’m even less confrontational when I’m standing outside Breukelen Coffee House on Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights holding two large coffees, one on top of the other with a bag of croissants squeezed between my elbow and my waist and an Iphone tucked into my waist band of my shorts after a Saturday morning run in my Vibram Five Fingers shoes.  I had gone on this run to pick up some breakfast for my host and I before the Crown Heights House Tour (which was amazing).

While in line, a girl asked me about my shoes and we started chatting.  See, I’m non-confrontation and friendly.  We talked in the coffee shop, which then lead out to the sidewalk which then led me to mistakenly bump into 3 black guys walking down the street.  I apologized, and my new friend and I continued our conversation laughing about something completely unrelated to the bump.  My other new “friend” didn’t quite see it that way.

He walked probably about 10 paces past us and then came back and asked me “What the F&%$ are you laughing at?”  If you can picture the initial description (coffee, pastries, phone, shoes), you’ll understand that I stopped laughing in my defenseless position.  I kept eye contact with him he asked again, “WHAT the F&*K are you laughing at?” to which I think I muttered, “we were just talking.”  He then told me “I would knock you the F$%& out.”  I didn’t really doubt him, but focused in on his teeth which made me think that maybe he had once been knocked the f out.  He was in my face and my adrenaline was certainly flowing, but I did all I could to ensure the situation didn’t escalate (read: kept my mouth shut) and he walked away after we stared at each other for a few seconds.  The girl I was with was upset (she lived across the street, deals with this it sounds like) and had a few words for them.  His final parting shot was something to the effect of “you are lucky you aren’t a *$%%& or I’d knock your bitch out too.”  (My internal monologue…um, that’s not my bitch.)  He said “this is still Franklin Avenue,” a nod to the gentrification of the neighborhood.

It’s a story, and a good one since I didn’t get knocked out, but it’s also really bums me out.  I understand that, in my outfit outside of that coffee shop, I was the very picture of gentrification.  And even though I don’t live in that neighborhood permanently I suppose I’m somehow contributing to it.  I tried to think for the rest of the day of something constructive I could have said, but really couldn’t come up with anything.  A friend suggested “can i sleep on your couch?”  Kidding aside, the anger sucks.  I admittedly have no concept about it, or where it comes from (I’m sure it comes from somewhere), or if it can go away.

But I hope it can, and I hope that sometimes it does, and I hope the next time I’m on Franklin Avenue someone doesn’t tell me they are going to knock me the fuck out.

P.S.  Tumblr should create a function to shield certain posts from my parents.

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