Yet again, I'm doing my hoops/exercise routine at Ryland Park in San Jose.
Not sure how far along into today's session I'd gotten when a grizzled, but fit man of 45 asked to join me shooting around. We did so, even executing some fast-breaks, until I took him up on his one-on-one challenge. "Wes" claimed to have done time recently and because of this, hadn't shot hoops in a long time. It showed—his jumper had zero arc and a third of them clanged directly off the vast backboard.
There was no doubt I'd beat him, but because he was in good shape and athletic, he would at least make me work for it.
I don't remember exactly when he did so, but at some point prior to starting, he guessed me to be 42—seven years too high. That was all the motivation I needed to crush him 11-0 in back-to-back games.
As the second game progressed, Wes couldn't contain his anger, smacking himself at allowing one score, belittling himself on others. He became obviously fatigued—at 5'10", his only real shot at defense/rebounding was out-hustling me—but refused to take up my suggestion for a break. Few of his shots had any hope of falling. He'd beat me off the dribble and not realize it, twisting and contorting himself out of any advantage and allowing me to recover.
After the second game, I walked about 75 feet to the drinking fountain, passing back by the courts on the way to my car. By that time Wes had collapsed in the grass as if gunned down. True, he didn't reveal any scars to me. But he called me 42!
Sometimes, the public accosting begins innocently enough...then violently swerves into a puzzling direction.
I'm in line at the discount store with dear daughter Josie, who's about 2½ at the time. Behind me, a seemingly harmless woman of about 50 takes her place in line behind me (accidentally banging my shopping cart).
As would happen far too often during my kid's toddler years, Josie's beauty led to, well, verbal rape.
MAUDE: She treasures you.
ME: Yes, she does.
MAUDE:...is she yours?
ME (thinking): No, I just go around holding random kids for fun.
ME: Yes, she is.
MAUDE: She's beautiful.
ME: (trying to disengage) Mmm-hmm.
MAUDE: You know, I grew up in Africa, and they take such good care of their own. They are so generous.
ME: Okay. (At this point I'm really trying to tune this kooky chick out.)
MAUDE:...Do you plan on giving her a good education?
(That gave new meaning to the word "random", but I distinctly felt this question was pointed, and that an answer of "no" would earn me a visit from the authorities.)
ME: She's not even three. I'm just trying to get through this weekend.
Maude continued on about whatever, which motivated me to do something I'd never done before or since—turn my back and refuse to acknowledge another syllable. No matter how much I dread public interaction—loads, BTW—I will be polite to literally everyoneuntil/unless they prove themselves unworthy.
But I'd had enough of this chick's faulty wiring fairly quickly. I think Maude honestly meant well in her mind, but when the overwhelming majority or your socializing is done with cats (as I strongly suspected), your human interaction skillz suffer. She eventually rambled into a point only she heard, and my final minute in line expired in peace.
This one qualifies as public by only a few feet; I'm headed up my stairs from a couple hours of hoops. I'm still wearing a sweatband, my clothes are soaked, and a basketball is in my arm. A neighbor known for his 420 habit spots me and makes the following statement:
"You be ballin', huh, G?"
Nothing, and I mean nothing gets past this dude! Let's see: guy comes home in sweaty athletic outfit holding a basketball, and based on those observations alone, he was able to figure out said guy plays basketball. Hey—you reading this, FBI? Don't let this talent slip through your fingers; I'll point you his way! Follow the trail of smoke!
I'm on a grocery walk. The route I use takes me across the road my complex is on, then down another that leads away.
The gated parking lot for said complex, if the person is positioned right, allows views all the way up the street I was using. This layout left me exposed to arguably the oddest, most puzzling question I've ever been asked.
A little setup: the 2nd-floor unit near my parking space in the lot houses a guy we call "Bruh Man", after the legendary character on Martin—he's got all the characteristics and even the voice to match, and like original Bruh Man, you wonder if the guy is from Mars. Not only would you not be surprised to wake up and find this guy in your kitchen...you'd almost expect it.
This "Bruh Man" and I have exchanged occasional chit-chat—he spends many of his days on his balcony, talking up any neighbors who may pass below. He doesn't seem like a bad guy, just...unique, like his fictional namesake. "Hey, big man! How it do?" he'll call down to me. I'll always respond politely.
On this day—as I'd already began to head up the road—the familiar voice called out.
"Hey, BIG MAN?"
No way could he be calling out to me, some 300 feet away. Even if he could see me clearly enough at that distance...what could he possibly want with me?
I checked behind me, both checking to confirm I'm the big man he's calling, and also to check the ground behind me—maybe Bruh Man saw me drop something. (There was nothing.)
Moving back in the direction of Bruh Man's balcony—which, again, is across both a street and a parking lot adding up to about 300 feet in distance—he calls again. This time I affix my eyes on him and point to myself as if to say, "Me?"
Now that he has my attention, Bruh Man relays his question:
"Hey Big Man...got any dope?"
Since not all TSR visitors have met me, it should be said that there is not—and never has been—anything about me that suggests I use dope. Because I don't use dope. I've never used dope. (I know; yawn) No judgment against anyone who does, but I don't like the stuff and don't pretend otherwise. In precisely zero of the half-dozen or so exchanges I'd had with Bruh Man did dope come up. At no time was I smoking dope, selling dope, smelling of dope or speaking out in support of dope.
My reply: "Nope. Sorry."
Only in Bruh Man's mind could hollering 300 feet across a primary street to a man you're barely acquainted with (and whose name you don't know) in search of an illegal substance during the middle of the afternoon sound like a good idea.
Follow-up: Bruh Man disappeared for three solid months after this encounter, leading me to believe he cried out for dope one time too many and the wrong person(s) heard him and shipped him off.
This takes place during a visit to mom's; she wanted to cash a check today but the bank was not open, so I offered to run her over to our local check-cashing center. Armed with a TIME magazine, I waited in the car while she handled business.
It was a warm day, so my window was down—a mistake in retrospect.
A minute into my reading, "Kenny"—a stout, beanied black man who'd been standing against the wall, approached my window. His attire and manner of speaking would have alarmed an older person unfamiliar with urban folk, but to me he was just some dude about to ask for a handout.
KENNY: Hey, what up man?
ME: What's up?
At this point I realized Kenny—who somewhat resembled the braided edition of the NBA's Derrick Williams—was under the influence of something. His gaze was vacant, and he didn't appear solid on his feet. He didn't answer me right away, so finally I said...
ME: I don't have any money for you, sir.
KENNY: Oh, no, no, no, man, I wasn't gon' ask you for that, I uh...um...I....um....
Kenny trailed off, then gradually stopped moving altogether, almost as if he fell asleep mid-sentence. Having already lost close to 30 seconds of my reading time, I decided to put an end to...whatever this was.
ME: I'm gonna go back to my magazine now. Take care.
With that, my eyes and focus went from Kenny back to my TIME. What happened next is 100% true, I swear on everyone and everything that matters to me.
Kenny absorbed my comment for a beat, then turned back toward his spot, confusedly muttering "...Michael Jackson..." on the way.
Later, after filling in my top dawg Chicken about the encounter (and laughing about it for 10 minutes), we came to this conclusion: because I was not reading about or listening to Michael Jackson to trigger such a comment, Kenny must have thought I was Michael Jackson and had come over for an autograph. Disappointed after being dismissed, he likely went home and smashed up his Thriller and Bad albums, as well as any other MJ memorabilia he owned.
If you're reading this, Kenny: I'm genuinely sorry. If I'd known you thought I was Michael Jackson—and how could you not, we're practically TWINS—I'd have given you an autograph and a little concert. Hey, Leon Kompowsky pulled it off!
This one came from nowhere...
After playing three full-court games of hoop earlier that morning, I'm taking my kid to the park around 1pm one Saturday. On the way I pass my neighbor and somebody preparing to lug two mattresses down to our parking lot.
I put Josie in the car, then realize I didn't so much as explain why I wasn't offering to help with the mattresses—under normal circumstances I wouldn't care, but this guy did me a huge favor a few weeks ago, so I owed him something.
When he reaches the lot, I apologize for being too worn down from basketball to assist. He basically says don't worry...but some random dude in the driveway not affiliated with either of us felt compelled to chime in:
"You wasn't playin' no BASKETBALL! YUK, YUK, YUK!!!"
He then moves in for the "I'm-just-playin" fist-bump.
This guy's eyes are well past bloodshot, he's wobbly...he's wasted. Again, it's 1pm.
He's not done. The 20 feet or so back to the car feel like 200. I can't recall his subsequent blather word-for-word, but it was slurred, incoherent, and punctuated with two more fist-bumps as I—for some reason—talked hoops with him. With any luck, this fella sobered up and staggered back into whatever moving vehicle he was tossed out of.
I have purchased dish soap at our local drug store, and walked over to the discount store next door for a few more items. My soap and receipt are in my hand unbagged when I reach the checkout girl. For obvious reasons, I let her know right away where the soap is from...
ME (holding up receipt as well): I bought the dish soap next door.
HER: Oh, is that a hint?...HINT HINT.
What the flying f---?
I'm only telling her this so I don't get accused of trying to lift it.
No "hint" involved. What the hell would I be hinting at, that their dish soap prices suck? Unlikely—everything there is a buck or less.
My response? Stony silence. Hopefully she got the "hint".