MINNEAPOLIS

I guess I am realizing about now that I walk around the world in somewhat of a na├»ve way. Not like a turkey drowning in the rain or anything, but I never seem to get how many damaged people are out there. I remain Anne Frank-ish, that despite everything I still persist in thinking that the world is good, and maybe it is. But I am always so disappointed and shocked still by creeps and weirdos. It must be the Wisconsin in me, or more accurately, my Wisconsin mother in me, who still has trouble comprehending that she shouldn’t open the front door to a smiling stranger. I never felt like I had to be fearful, and I still don’t, despite some disturbing experiences. I don’t know if that is good or bad, and I don’t know if at this point it is changeable. Maybe I just have to hope for good luck, or that I make my own good luck.

Sometimes luck is not with you, though. Sometimes bad things collide, and something happens that you could not really have anticipated nor prepared for, and you are just on your own with figuring how to deal with it. I can think of an incident while visiting the lovely town of Minneapolis many years ago. When you think of Minneapolis, it is pretty much Mary Tyler Moore, Midwest friendliness, Prince, lakes, A Prairie Home Companion, and cold – nothing too sinister, right? I was with a close female pal, and we were out and about on a nice afternoon exploring, walking the downtown area close to the First Avenue club, where we were seeing a show later on that night. There were lots of people around, it wasn’t a terrible part of town, the sun was shining, all was well.

The only thing I can think of that made me a target, out of all those people, was that I was dressed in my rock gear of the time: miniskirt and boots, leather jacket, bleached out hair. Nothing too sleazy, just typical punky/new wave/mod crap. And of course I was still ME, with the glasses and rounded features and dairy-air to me, kind of silly. So why me? Why not my friend? Why not any number of other women walking around? Did I look weak?

As we walked down the sidewalk, suddenly a tall thin black man grabbed me, hard, and threw me up against the rough brown bricks of the old building he had been leaning against. My head fell back with a bang on the wall as he dragged me off the sidewalk a few feet into an alley. Now, despite my generally pleasant outward demeanor, I am a fighter, and I do not take well at all to people messing with me, much less doing something as serious as this. But I looked up at him, into his face, and everything in my gut said, “Don’t fight. Think.”

“BITCH! I WANT TO KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS! TELL ME THE FUCKING TIME!” He smiled an ugly cold grin at me as he kept yelling and held me to the wall. “DID YOU HEAR ME, MOTHERFUCKER!! TELL ME THE TIME NOW!” He was very agitated and jittery, with watery bulgy eyes. He was either high or out of his mind or both. He kept repeating that he wanted me to tell him the time, and I heard laughter and voices at the end of alley. When I turned my head to look, I saw a group of men, his friends it seemed, smiling and waiting, amid the dumpsters and garbage. Waiting. Ready. Moving towards us, slowly.

Trouble. Bad bad bad trouble. My friend was frozen in fear, and no one stopped to help. What a bad day for me not to be wearing a watch. Ha.

Anyone who has had to deal with someone who is like this knows that the potential for disaster is huge. It’s not like you can reason with them, you have no idea of what kind of violence they are capable of, if they have weapons, if they will back down, nothing. There is no right answer for what to do. You have a split-second to make a decision, and you have to hope like hell you made the right choice. He was squeezing my neck with his arm, tighter and tighter, and becoming more and more infuriated.

“Let me go find a clock.” I said it as calmly as I could, even though I was terrified. “There’s a restaurant with a big clock in it right over there. I can get the time there.” The diner I had breakfast at earlier was a few doors down, and it did indeed have a huge old school clock in it. If I could get there, I would be OK.

He backed off, but grabbed my arm as I started to move back towards the street. “YOU GONNA COME RIGHT BACK HERE! YOU GET THE TIME AND COME BACK OR I’M GONNA KILL YOU, BITCH.”

“OK, OK, just let me go get the time. It’s right there.” I could hear my voice shaking, and I hoped he didn't. He dropped my arm, and followed my friend and I to the diner. He stood outside as she and I pushed our way into and through the very crowded front seating area as fast as we could. I glanced up at the big clock. 2:02PM. I could hear him pounding on the front window glass as we ran to the back of the restaurant, found an exit door, and never stopped running until we got to our hotel, nervously laughing, scanning faces the whole way. We went to the show that night, had a good scary story to tell, probably drank too many beers to calm the still-rattled nerves.

I was 21 years old.

I still like Minneapolis, I still think there is more good than bad, and I think I am really glad I listened to my gut that day.