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An Experience In Chicago

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

With all the racial upheaval going on, a fun story, hopefully, to bring in a little light.

I’ll tell you a story of an experience I had in Chicago in the 1970’s. Not sure what this has to do with George Floyd’s death but here it goes. I was traveling across the country to NY. The folks I was with, wanted to stop in Chicago and visit friends attending the University. They lived off the South/West corner of the school. In the years that they lived there, they never went right at the sidewalk, only left because, they told me, the black neighborhood started on the next block.

This kind of scared and upset me. So I decided right then and there to go out the door and go right at the sidewalk. When we arrived, that’s exactly what I did. Walking down a residential street, I noticed no one outside except one elderly lady. When she saw me, she immediately went inside. I continued until I arrived at the main street with shops and stores.

I saw a social services building, went in and checked it out. Left and continued down the sidewalk. I noticed lots of young, black men just leaning against store walls. I could feel their anger and hopelessness (gosh we failed the black community by making them slaves to government programs like housing projects and welfare).

I decided I had better head back. As I was going up another residential street, about 25 yards up ahead, a huge black man was standing there and he showed the fiercist, meanest face to me. He was Sonny Liston only bigger. Alarms were going off in my head and I wanted to take flight up the other side of the street, but I steadied myself, telling my mind that to run would be a big mistake.

As I got within several feet, he abruptly stuck out his hand and gave me the biggest smile I have ever seen. I can tell you I stuck my hand in his and shook it with all the enthusiasm and joyous relief I could muster. I passed his test and what a test!

He invited me to his home and we had lunch together with his daughter whom he wanted me to marry! Hah, she was standing in the kitchen doorway, smiling with exasperation. We had a lot of fun and great conversation.

Before returning to the friends house, I took a walk up the street bordering the university. The afternoon sunlight was creating a beautiful color in the grass and the trees. A middle-aged black woman walking her dog stopped me and asked if she could talk. I said yes and she wanted to know about California. Looking at me, she could tell I was from there.

She wanted to move to San Francisco, but her friends did not want her to leave. I think I told her, I hope I told her that if they were her friends, they would be happy for her to go. We had a good conversation about California and I encouraged her as much as I could to move there.

Later, when I got back to the house, all were anxious about where I was. They couldn’t believe it when I told them the story.

What has this to do with anything? Probably nothing, but maybe that conquering fear is a battle we must all face. In one afternoon, after arriving, I had made a couple of friends.

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