By Dan Valentine
Back to Nashville again and my one-night stand. (Never been fond of one-night stands. Who can stand that long?)
The doors of Operation Stand Down opened up. I had an MCI calling card on me with a few remaining minutes on it, in case an emergency should arise. Standing at a pay phone, I called my sister, Valerie, in France. Told her my predicament.
“Broke!!! Danny, how can you be broke?”
“I only have a few minutes on my card, Val.”
“Homeless! Danny, how did you become homeless!”
“Val, you’re using up my few remaining minutes.”
“Nashville! What are you doing in Nashville?”
(To be fair to my sister, I had said almost the very same things to my brother, Jimmy, when he was in need. If you’ve never been homeless, you don’t have a clue.)
“Money?!” she said. “I don’t have any.”
That was news to me. Last I heard she was a millionaire. Just like I once was. Well, stuff happens, as they say.
“Just $600! For the hostel here. For a month’s stay.”
Well, to make a long, minute-munching call short, she said she’d see what she could do.
Tossing my card in the nearest trash–no remaining minutes left–I made my way to the hostel where I had stayed for a month before going bust. I told Ron, the owner, my plight. Told him my sister was sending money. He offered me board and breakfast in exchange for helping out at the hostel.
That morning I had waffles with Nutella. Most enjoyable, to say the least.
I had a Net 10 cell phone, with minutes on it. Not usable for calls overseas. I phoned an old friend from my New York days. Don’t ask me why.
“Danny!!!” She was happy to hear from me. She is a composer. Very talented. She’s a graduate from the Manhattan School of Music. We were teamed together at the BMI Musical Workshop. We collaborated on what I think are some very good songs. Only one prob: She’s a multiple. Besides her wonderful, talented self, she has some six different, distinct personalities. Each with her/his own, individual name. Of course!
And only one writes music!
One personality acts as protector, one is an elderly woman, one is a little boy, one manages all the others. The last, a very important role–time-consuming!
Not to disturb anyone, I walked from the hostel, cell in hand, to the end of the block, telling her my plight of the last few nights, when suddenly a “crazy black man”, brandishing a baseball bat in his fist, came storming out of the bushes, screaming obscenities and more at me. My talking must have disturbed his sleep–what little sleep a homeless person gets. I could sympathize.
He was in attack mode. I backed away, told my former New York partner what was happening. She could hear him screaming at me. “Gotta go,” I said. “Call you right back.”
He chased me to the edge of the hostel grounds. Like a fool, I screamed, “Help, police! Someone call the police!”
A couple came out of one of the dorms. Saw me. Saw him. Stepped back inside.
Lesson learned: Never shout Police! Shout Fire!
Finally, after what seemed an eternity, the enraged man shouted one or two more remaining things on his mind and walked down the street, out of view, with his bat.
Whew! Close call! I phoned my friend back. And she (the protector, the manager, pick one from a hat) said, “I’m sorry, Danny, but I can’t take the stress!”
She can’t take the stress?!!
“I’m at a very sensitive time in my life.”
So is I!!, to coin a phrase.
“I’d prefer it if you wouldn’t call. Take care, Danny.” Don’t take any wooden nickels.
A couple of days later I’m walking down a busy street in Nashville, close by Vanderbilt University, when I hear a booming voice in back of me. “Mutherf**kers, clear the way. I’m comin’ through.”
I recognized the voice immediately. It was him! Baseball bat in hand.
He walked by, not knowing me from Adam. Just another white man in a sea of white faces. The enemy. All of us, a major threat. One call on a cell and he could be arrested. For what? Pick a charge out of a white cop’s helmet. Whites are given warnings. I was. Black men are rounded up, locked up, and the key thrown away. It happens! That little bit of knowledge alone can make you crazy.
I watched him walk down the street, head held high, shoulders back, baseball bat in hand. Proud. Bottom of the ninth. Team down four-zip. Bases loaded. Two outs.
Without hesitation, all along the boulevard, couples window-shopping; coeds on their way to class (on their cells, tweeting, of course); businessmen and women scurrying to luncheons; camera-toting tourists, with sites to pose in front; they all cleared a wide, wide path for him.
Moses, baseball bat in hand, parting the Red Sea.
And I like to think: It gave him great joy!