Thursday, November 24, 2005

My Harrowing Thanksgiving Story - 1978

I had spent Thanksgiving day in Princeton, New Jersey with a fellow student, Kathleen. Her family owned a well appointed new England Cape Cod. We were both graduate students at Rutgers in the MFA program. Her father, a Princeton professor of god knows what I can't remember, was very cordial. The dinner was unmemorable, but I was very uninteresed in food at that time in my life. I think it was the classic Turkey with chestnut stuffing. Most notably they told me that the house next door had belonged to Albert Einstein. We walked out to the back yard to show me where he had carved his initials in their tree. Perhaps my gullibility was being tested. Probably. They also showed me the quarry where AE would row for excersise and contemplation. It was a pleasant evening and I was honored to celebrate Thanksgiving with the East Coast upper crust, a mere lad from South Saint Paul, Minnesota.
I took the train back to New Brunswick, a ride of about thirty miles north on highway 27. I arrived in town at about 9 or 10 in the evening and the streets were empty. I walked down French street and headed up the main drag, Commonweatlth Ave. ( I am not sure that this street still exists) All the students with family had gone home for the long weekend. The town was eerily quiet.

As I walked I was glaringly alone. At 24 weighing 125 lbs I wasn't very imposing. In the half lit streetlights along the narrow riverfront street a White Cadillac of not very recent vintage idled along side me. The passenger’s seat window rolled down. A heavy set black man leaned toward the window and said to me “Do you need a ride?”. I had noticed the car from over my shoulder and was already aware of its positioning. “ No thanks!’ I said cheerily, trying to throw him off with a lackidayzical attitude. The low rumble of the idle continued and he paralleled me. This time he was more firm “Get in” he said with a threatening hand gesture as if he had a gun. I did not look to make sure, it would mean looking into the car. Distance is safety. “Oh, no thanks I don’t have far to go” I replied with implied idiocy, to confuse him at my lack of understanding of his threat. He became visibly flustered. He continued to roll along side me for about 25 yards. One thing I knew, unless he had friends there was no way this guy could catch me, period. If he was going to shoot..... oh screw him I was walking on.

He pulled ahead of me and around the corner, where obscured by a building I could not see the Cady, but I could still see the glow of its tail lights. I came to the corner and never speeding up or slowing down, I walked by. He was sitting with the drivers door open legs outside the car, and just looked at me. - He stared consernately at me. I never ran.

I continued on home to my room at 17 Baldwin Street and had a brandy.


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