Posts Tagged ‘hip hop’

“Thud!”

The familiar sound of bone crashing into meat, muscle, and tissue reverberated through my head. I knew what happened before the sensation of pain, bright and burning, radiated through my jaw and into my head. I’d been punched in the head, hard! A sharp, stabbing pain in my jaw followed, making it painful to touch, talk, or move; but I was still standing, and still able to turn to face my attacker …

I should start at the beginning.

Back in those halcyon and seemingly carefree days of 1984 (or ’85), I was one of a few of white boys who became enamored with the hip hop, breakdancing, and graffiti art zeitgeist. Our fellow classmates at Hamady High didn’t make it easy on us – the redneck whites tried shaming us for listening to what they called “n***** music,” while the black dudes eyed us with skepticism and the familiar refrain of “white boys don’t have rhythm.” Still, we soldiered on, and the ritual of backspins on flattened cardboard boxes was a familiar site in many a Mt. Morris Township driveway. I was in the thick of it all, happy to have cultivated a talent and the props that came with it.

On the night in question, fellow b-boys M&M, Duster, and Special K asked me to see the Fat Boys at the Capitol Theatre. While I preferred RUN DMC, Newcleus, and the Wild Style soundtrack, I was thrilled that the guys wanted to include me. My pre-teen and teenage years were lonely at best, with few people willing to risk social suicide by hanging out with me after school. I practically jumped into Special K’s car, completely oblivious to the trauma and life-changing events that were about to unfold before me.

So we were standing outside the Capitol, waiting to be let in to the show, when someone sucker-punched me. Turning to confront my attacker, I saw was a sea of various shades of brown skin and what seemed like hundreds of pairs of brown eyes glaring back at me. I’d been in situations where I wasn’t wanted – parties, school functions, etc. – but this was the first time where there was the possibility of dire consequences attached to my “intrusion.” I was outnumbered and painfully aware of how out of place I was. I didn’t belong, and I wanted out!

During all of this, a strange feeling of calm came over me. It’s called “normalcy bias,” and it’s something I wouldn’t learn about until 30 years later. The term refers to the state of calm that overtakes some people during disaster or emergency situations. Rather than going into a blind panic or doing something to save themselves, those afflicted with normalcy bias will calmly sit or stand in place, waiting for help to arrive or the situation to right itself. Sadly, those who are paralyzed by normalcy bias often die … even when safety is one simple decision away.

So there I stood, feet frozen to the sidewalk, not knowing what to do. The irrational part of my mind kept expecting someone, anyone, to come to my rescue. But who? My friends? Security? Prince Markie Dee? I was helpless and alone, afraid to confront my unknown attacker, yet equally terrified to say anything to my friends. I was afraid that my need for safety would’ve ruined everyone’s night. It sounds silly now, but that was my reality then – the legacy of Trauma Central, where my family’s happiness was my responsibility, and their miseries my fault.)

I did the only thing I thought I could do: I scooted a bit closer to my group and continued to stand there, my back to the crowd that no doubt aided and abetted my attacker.

“Thud!”

So one punch to my jaw not enough for him; I was an idiot to think that it would be. Again, the pain radiated throughout my head and again, my mind was flooded with the most powerful feelings of terror and shame … a rather toxic cocktail. I also felt anger, the kind that anyone feels when caught in a helpless and hopeless situation. If there was any good that came out of that second haymaker, it was that it jarred me out of the normalcy bias that had me in its thrall.

No doubt seeing the look of sheer terror upon my face as I scooted closer still, M&M asked, “What’s wrong, Ribner?”

“Someone fuckin’ hit me!” My reply came out in a forced whisper.

“Who?”

“I don’t know.”

M&M quickly told Duster and Special K what was going on, and an impromptu plan was formed. Switching places with M&M, placing my back against the brick wall of the Capitol, while Special K – the oldest and most streetwise of our group – stood facing the crowd and my attacker. As if in response, a young man approached M&M and, after a brief exchange, opened his jacket to give us all a look at the handgun he had in a holster, secured to his side.

“Gimme whatchu got,” he demanded, “and I’ll make sure dey don’t fuck wit chu.”

Wanting to protect me, M&M, Duster, and Special K forked over whatever they had between them and gave it to the stranger while I stood on the periphery. There was a lull in the attacks as we waited for the line to move; but with the adrenaline coursing through my veins and my heart pounding inside my chest, each minute was an eternity. Eventually, the line inched forward a bit, and then a bit more … we kept moving like herded cattle, unable to keep from casting nervous glances over our shoulders as we did.

Suddenly, the double glass doors of the Capitol Theatre opened and the crowd burst forward.We got jostled around in the movement and I found myself beside my friends; there was no one between me and the attacker in the crowd. My heart sank as I knew I was once again in a bad place, but all I could do was keep moving forward and not get separated from my friends.

“Thud!”

Ears ringing and vision blurry, it was clear that the Cheap-Shot Artist wasn’t deterred by the presence of our erstwhile guardian. (As we suspected then and still do now, the two were likely in on it from the beginning … the opportunity to bilk and beat some pussy-ass, cracka-ass, honky, peckerwood muthfuckaz was no doubt too tempting to ignore.)

Within seconds, we were sucked into that huge, gothic structure known as the Capitol and we found ourselves standing elbow-to-elbow with each other – and everyone else who had been in front and behind us – in the lobby. Then, as if on cue, everyone stopped and we were once again standing still. I was fortunate to not have lost my friends, but somewhere in the crowd, my attacker – whose identity was still unknown to me – was nearby. I was trapped, and I knew a decision had to be made …

Here’s Part II …

And Part III …

And finally, Part IV …