Friday’s Weekend Column
Crime in the City

by James Glaser
January 20, 2006

I moved to Northern Minnesota back in 1973 and left this summer. In all the time I was up there the only crime I saw was some poaching, and some of that was me. Oh, I guess if you want to call a bar room brawl a crime, then there was quiet a bit of crime in the early years, and public intoxication at the 4th of July celebration, and the Fireman's dance is common, but violent crime in public doesn't happen up there very much.

In the inner city setting of downtown Tallahassee things are different. This week I was working in my shop varnishing a bench I had just finished. I had the roll up door open, and was hanging up my paint brush after cleaning it. I heard a low angry voice say, "Give me your fuckin' wallet." This caught me a little off guard. I turned around, and this guy hit me with his fist a glancing blow to my cheek. I would like to think that I was bobbing and weaving, but I think I just lucked out and moved my head back real quick like at just the right time. But he got a good jab into my ribs

The adrenalin started flowing really fast and strong. Without any thought I grabbed a hunk of closet pole about two feet long and swung at his head as hard as I could. He was moving too, and my blow came right down square on his shoulder—you know, the bone right at the top. I knew that I had hurt him badly as all he could say was, "Oh fuck," and he lit out of there like a sprinter. That hunk of pole was just like a billy club.

I called the police, and a K-9 squad was there before I could explain everything to the dispatcher. That Tallahassee policeman with his dog asked what happened and which way did he go. I pointed, and he and that dog were off in a flash.

Long story short, they didn't get him, and for the next 30 minutes I was being questioned and had to fill out a report about the whole thing. Well you know how a crowd always appears when a bunch of squads show up? Not here. In this part of town people stay away from the police, and only my landlord and the guy with the gallery next door were there.

Here is the strange thing. Dumb me, it takes some guy trying to take me out, for me to wake up to the fact that I am in a high crime area. Come to find out, the shop next door was robbed at gun point a week ago, and the building I am in had a band in the gallery last Saturday night, and somebody took off with the cash box filled with donations. I'm not the only naive one, they didn't have the cash box screwed down to anything. They said that guy took off like a sprinter too.

So, it is wake up time for James. Now I have to be alert and think about what I am doing when I'm down at the studio. Thirty years of bliss in rural Minnesota made me forget that some people are out to hurt other people in some parts of this country. This might be part of the Bible Belt, but not everyone is reading the right book.

This little episode has reminded me that America is made up of the "haves" and "have nots." What is really sad, is that I didn't have much cash on me, and so the poor dumb slob that tried to take from me was risking a few years in prison or longer for the chance to get about fifty bucks.

Some where along the line this guy lost out on learning right from wrong. I would guess that both his family and his school failed him. I sure wish my swing would have been more on the mark, because a guy this desperate and this dumb will try the same thing on someone else.

Maybe that Marine Corps training paid off again. I sure hope that is the last time I need it.

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