Five minutes later I climbed out my window for a smoke while I spoke with a friend on the phone. I got yelled at. “White boy, pouring beer on us! Quit it! Fucking cracker!” I was confused. The beer I poured out wasn’t enough to even reach street level. But apparently it had. So I got hollered at. No matter, I sat there silent till the howling crowd below settled down. Moments later missiles began to explode around my head. It took me a second or two to understand what was going on. But as egg dripped off my hand I knew. Glancing down I saw fellows winding up and letting fly. The white specks growing larger as they approached my head. I quietly slipped back inside my window. Nothing came of it after that night, although I must admit worrying a bit about a confrontation the next couple of days (my plan: buy them a case of beer and apologize). Street justice. Don’t pour beer out your window in Harlem. It’s a reasonable rule. Eggs are a good enforcement mechanism.
The guys who egged me were part of a troop that owned the corner that consisted mainly of fellows in their twenties and thirties. I passed by them every day and never had any trouble with them. They be just chilling, or so it seemed.
Several weeks after the egging incident I came home to find two cops standing at the street corner. The loitering fellows had disappeared. And the cops stayed for several months. Soon into their stationing I ran into two of my neighbors, both African American women who had lived in the building for years. Both, independent of each other, approached me enthusiastically: “Have you noticed the cops on the corner?” Me, “Yes…” “Oh its so nice that they got rid of those punks!” Then it dawned on me.
Some of my Harlem colleagues had mentioned to me the prevalence of catcalling. They got use to it, but sometimes it gets out of hand: “Yo, white bitch, want to suck my cock?” It’s worth noting that this exchange is not unique to Harlem. As a dude, this never happens to me (duh), so I have an experiential gap. I walk through a pack of guys and don’t think twice about it. The ladies on the other hand weren’t getting the same treatment. Not only that, but according to my neighbors the fellows on our corner were slinging illegal substances.
Another exchange regarding Harlem punks. A couple months back I was watching the Packer game at a newly opened Buffalo Wild Wings on the corner of 124th and Frederick Douglas Boulevard (8th Ave). The service is slow and the food mediocre, but they’ve got the game on and it’s close by. On my second visit I had a brief exchange with a Black Harlemite. I commented that it was great to finally have a place to watch the game in Harlem (really, it’s slim pickings) and he agreed. But, he added, “They got to make sure they keep the riffraff out of here.” That’s all he said. I didn’t inquire further, but nodded my head in agreement. And I nodded it not as a white dude annoyed with the black youth, but as a dude who lives in Harlem and doesn’t appreciate bad behavior.
A lot of ink has been spilled on broken window theory. I don’t intend to enter the fray. All I will say is that the street corner is cleared, and while Bdubs is far from perfect, it’s kept out the riffraff so far. It’s a good thing. On that my neighbors and I agree. Now if they can only stop fellows from pouring warm beer out their windows.