Ghetto Life, Part 1We had just gotten a new couch from the thrift store, a real one that you could sit on like a grownup instead of lying on the mattress on the floor in front of the television set. It was a gorgeous spring day in Richmond’s early March, sort of like Nature’s teaser trailer for the full-on blockbuster spring due in about a month’s time. The sun was shining and our mattress-couch was in the alley for good. Everything felt great and it was time to party—we put the word out and threw a party that very night.
Only the underemployed can put on a party like that one. We had liquor and mixers in the kitchen, beer on the porch of the house next door and over thousand dollars worth of vintage vinyl sitting in stacks on the floor. About sixteen million people trod a shambling parade through the living room, tracking a sticky mix of spilled liquor and paint chips and splinters from our rotting front porch across our forest-green Astroturf carpet. People were abusing the inflatable furniture like mad, having ninja fights with the inflatable couch and the chair as weapons.
This one enterprising young bozo just climbed in and out of the front window all night instead of using the door. While I sort of respected his initiative, I can’t say I was completely in support of the practice, either. I certainly wasn’t the first person on the scene with a band-aid when he cut his hand on the rusty nail sticking out of the windowsill. Eric and I had seen it there for months and never cut ourselves when we broke in with credit cards after locking ourselves out.
We had to go see to a situation in the street after more than one guest complained that some dude was repeatedly body-slamming a pit bull in the road. I watched from the front porch as a typical Richmond dude (tattoos, wallet chain, cargo pants) sat on the curb working his way through a box of beers. All of a sudden a pit bull sped out of the darkness like a hair-covered bowling ball and head-butted the box, sending beers flying all over the street. The dog grabbing an errant beer between his teeth, clenching so hard his head-muscles bulged like golf balls as he shook the beer like a freshly caught rabbit. Naturally, the shaking caused huge jets of beery foam to spray all over bystanders and straight down the beast’s throat.
Before I could pick my jaw up off the porch, the beer’s owner (and presumably the dog’s as well) scrambled up out from under a car, shouting, “Motherfucker I TOLD you to leave my beer alone!” and picked the thing up over his head with BOTH hands and threw it across the street...just as the partygoers reported.
It was, without a doubt, one of the stupidest scary scenes I have ever witnessed. I still can’t tell if it is more stupid for a human to attack a sober pit bull with his bare hands or a drunken one. You be the judge.
We threatened to call the cops on our own party until that clown left, dogless. Nobody knows where the dog went.
Somebody put the Monks on the turntable real real loud, and you could hear manic shouts, banjo strumming out the windows and circus keyboards down the street. From out in the darkness, I could hear someone go “aw, NAW, you white people cannot put that shit on for a motherfuckin’ party, man…” It was 3 a.m. and the last of the partygoers were leaving.
A black man in his fifties came in, reeking of liquor, urine and mud. He wore a filthy fringe jacket, baggy jeans and had dreadlocks streaked with mud and grey hair. We couldn’t very well say “uh, everyone gets to be here but that dude with the dog and you,” but he bore watching. He went STRAIGHT for the records and proceeded to drop the best mix of funk and soul I have ever heard, even though half the collection was mine. When he saw the Rick James record, he lost his mind, thumping his cane and howling.
He played the whole album twice, dancing ecstatically, oblivious to everyone else leaving around him. By four a.m. it was just me, Eric, and Willie in the living room, dancing to Rick James’s Ghetto Life. We must have heard that song ten times that night.
It was 3 am when Willie came into out lives to flex music control, and six months before we were rid of him. During that period I heard Ghetto Life about fifty times a week…no exaggeration. He may have been incorrigible, demanding, and insane, but Willie changed something in Eric and me forever. It was at least a year before I could listen to Rick James without my blood boiling, but now whenever I hear him, I think of that old guy dancing on my porch or shouting “white honky faggot,” (Willie’s little pet name for me) through the window, and I smile.