A note before I get into the story of this interaction.

It is very graphic.
It involves criminal activity, violence and coarse sexual language.

While I personally wasn’t offended during the occurrence, to recount the story it must be told. If you might be offended by such things I suggest you wait until the next update. This is a unique interaction to be sure.

A man came up to the table with a thin mustache, dark sunglasses and crazy braided hair that stuck out in every direction. He had a distinct long scar that ran from near his eye, down his cheek and running down diagonally down his throat. He never sat down and wouldn’t tell me his name.

He spoke in that curious and grandiloquent blaxploritorical style…

I would like a creative approach to not be murdered.

This was unusual and and asked if he was concerned about getting murdered.

At all moments in time I am in danger of having my enemies try to slay me.

I wondered who his enemies were. He told me that he leads a gang here in New York and his rivals have been after him for a number of years. He has evaded being killed by numerous means – all traditional ones, ones you might guess or even expect – bullet proof vests, body guards, evasion and the like. But with the economic downturn he said the pressure has ratcheted up because turf and monetary control is more important now.

This was already pretty crazy but the unnamed gang leader was about to take me to Crazytown.

I can’t say this is was familiar ground or that I had any clever stock answers to deal murder avoidance so at this point I just had to tread water until a foot hold showed up. I replied:

I might be able to give you a creative approach to not get murdered, but I need to know the method you are currently using so I don’t repeat yours and so I can get a sense of how you think.

True. It was a bit of a punt but it had to be done. The gang leader burst into a staccato monologue about how the Bible allows for murder and even the New York State Penal Code does as well – in self defense, if you don’t leave the scene. He said that making it self defense was key when you kill someone. He finally stood still enough for me to see what was clearly the knarled whirls of bullet wounds turned into scars on his fore arms.

But Gang Leader then told me that his self defense method, while effective was slow and carried risks. He now launched into his next grand pronouncements about gang life:

The thing about two epic gangs is that when two motherfuckers are always pressing, pressing, pressing all you get is pressure. Heat and friction, know what I’m sayin’? But that just goes back and forth until eternity unless a larger third force comes upon them to change the dynamics of the war fare. So the bigger gang is the biggest gang in this country – the NYPD. They are as much a criminal gang as we are but they operate under with the force of the so-called law

I know what my enemies are nefariously doing and where they do it…so I have no fear to go unto the NYPD and report their asses by revealing their secrets. And right now, as of two days ago, my enemies are in lock up with their hands bound behind them in cuffs out there in Rikers. Arrested and soon tried and found to be most guilty. But my safety is not permanent yet.

Tomorrow I will go and visit my enemies in prison – they on one side of the glass and me with three fine bitches on the other. I’ll ask them how they like prison. And while I be asking them that I’ll be fingering these girls and putting their juices on the glass and making these dark niggas furious with my taunting. Motherfuckas be getting enraged at my madness! Their anger will get them in more trouble in prison.

But when it comes time for their parole hearings in a few months I’ll be sending my mother, my sister, my cousins to the hearing and make sure they say to the Parole Board hearing how they won’t feel safe with these criminals on the street, how they have been threatened before. And my enemies will be thrown back in prison. Buried deeper and deeper in the system so they’ll go to worse prisons where they’ll get raped and cut and hurt. And this cycle will repeat again and again and that is how my enemies will never prevail over me.


This is seriously nuts. Just a peek into a world and a state of mind that I just don’t instinctually (or even actually, really) know anything about. It has a logic to it of course. But not a logic I want to live with. But I listened to every word he said. I didn’t flinch or judge. I heard him. I felt his pride in his method and I felt the fear and anxiety that bred his world view as well.

In sitting with all people in Union Square I am discovering that “creative approaches” are often not that wild and crazy wack-a-doo thing but is often really just about pointing attention into a realm where it doesn’t often go and show what might live there.

So I said to Gang Leader:

I think I have a creative approach for you that is different than yours on how to not be murdered.

Gang Leader crossed his arms across his chest and said ‘”Proceed.”

I looked at this man and  he was finally slowing down, stopping his wild gesticulations and meeting me as I told him:

To live outside the law, you must be honest.

Gang Leader heard it, took it in, smiled, thought and said:

That is deep man. That is a many layered statement of truth that has many an application.

He paused. He considered it further.

But that won’t work for a man like me, man. I have already turned. I am honest in my own way but not actually honest. I will reflect on that and see if I can live up to that but I don’t think I will be able to. I am not sure I can ever be truly honest and therefore I will always be in conflict with the law. But I thank you for that brother. That shit is real and I don’t think I have ever thought about being such a dishonest nigga.

Pretty honest statement from a dishonest man.

We did the respectful fist pound, he gave me ten bucks and he walked off.

What can you say to someone like this? What would you have done? Regardless of that answer the statement “to live outside the law you  must be honest” is as true for us the non-criminal as it was for him.