“Little Kabul” is what it’s known as, the area in Fremont CA between Mowry Avenue and Thornton Avenue, mostly along Fremont Blvd. The area is officially called Centerville although Little Kabul is widely used and appropriately so.
Anyhow, I was driving South on Fremont Blvd, approaching Thornton Avenue and my phone rang inside my pocket. At this point I launch into a ridiculous routine where I dig for the phone with my right hand while straightening my right leg so the pocket is accessible. At the same time, I lift my left knee onto the wheel to keep it steady while I finish retrieving the phone and begin the task of unraveling the rubbery white iPhone cord from all around it. The phone has rang 4 times by now and I realize I’ve only got one more ring till voice-mail so I go ahead and “slide to answer” and then wedge it between my ear and shoulder while getting my arms and legs back to driving.
“Hey this is John!” I say perkily as if I were standing behind a customer service desk at Geico insurance waiting for the call.
“Hi John, this is Joyce and I’ll be your project manager for the big lunch bag job you have in house.”
Joyce and I exchanged how ya doins for a moment and were about to get into project details when I saw something up ahead, just passed the old Centerville movie theater on the right.
“Joyce, I’ll have to call you back!”
I pulled the car over and put one tire up onto the curb like a vice cop would in the same situation…cuz that’s how I roll.
“Hey! Get off of him!…I said get off of him!” I screamed, as I threw the teenaged skater kid with a tattoo of a rabid looking
squirrel on his neck off of the 70 something year old man and onto the sidewalk.
“This little bitch took a chunk out of my stomach!” The kid whaled as he held his bleeding belly just to the left of his naval.
“Why” I said, as I helped the man with the kids stomach flesh running down his mouth.
“I don’t know man, we was just skatin by and he jumped on me and freakin bit me man!”
“BULL SHIT” seethed the old man, as he wiped the blood from his mouth and onto the sleeve of his jacket. “This little shit told me to get out of the freakin way as he nearly knocked me down on that damn skateboard! I’m sick and tired of this shit, I’m not gonna put up with this anymore!”
I turned to the little shits and yelled, “GET OUT OF HERE…NOW! The cops will be here in 2 minutes and they aren’t going to believe you guys are innocent…GO!”
They grabbed their boards and and took off North up Fremont Blvd and then ducked in behind the movie theater to get to side streets.
“I’m John, you ok bud?”
“No I’m not fine! Those little shits nearly killed me with those damn skateboards and they have the freakin nerve to TELL ME TO MOVE!”
My new friend was clearly inviting the same rage that had just literally taken a bite out of crime back into his head as he retold the story so I needed to change things up…
“Get in, let’s get out of here. The cops will be here in a sec and they aren’t gonna go away if they see you like this. C’mon get in, I’ll take you home.”
I had just wolfed down 2 chili cheese dogs from Wiener Schnitzel earlier so I reached in the bag and handed him a few napkins to clean his mouth and face off a bit more.
“What’s your name?”
“Stanly, it’s Stanly…I tell ya, I’m sick and tired of these damn kids thinking they are big shots or something. NO RESPECT! Who raises these people, monsters? You see him swearing at me and kicking me while I was on the ground? I’m an old man and this kid thinks he can take me! Shit, he had another thing coming… guess he didn’t know he was messing with a green beret! I tell ya, he’s lucky you pulled up cuz I was just gettin started, I was gonna tear him to pieces!”
At this point it finally occurs to me that this wasn’t a case of a punk kid picking on an old man and it back firing. This was a case of a possibly disrespectful, maybe punk kid getting jumped and nearly eaten by Stanly the crazy ex green beret!
“Well Stanly, you did a pretty good job of tearing him to pieces. How about we get you home and cleaned up?” I said, trying to stay calm as he wiped his face over and over and over again, turning the napkins I had given him into dirty bloody shreds.
“What was your name again?”
“Ok John, yeah, just pull into the hub shopping center up ahead and I’ll get out. I was on my way to get a battery for my car so I’ll just get out up there at the hub and go from there. Hey thanks a lot for the ride..crazy these freakin kids right!?” He says.
“Stan, you’re pretty worked up, how about I just take you home so you can relax for a few hours and then go at it with the battery again later ok?”
“No no no no, I said please just drop me off at the hub Mr. John, that will be just fine thank you sir.”
For some reason he started calling me Mr. John and Sir…
It was clear by now that Stanly didn’t have a home, or at least not one he was willing to share the whereabouts of with me. I put on my signal and turned into the hub and found a parking space outside Radio Shack. I didn’t know what to do and my heart was pounding out of my chest.
“Ok Stanly, I gotta tell ya this doesn’t feel quite right just having you get out and on with the day after what just happened. Are you sure you don’t want to take it easy for a little while?”
“Thanks for the lift Mr. John, I’m gonna get going”
“Hey Stanly, I know this may sound weird, but would you mind if I said a quick prayer for ya before you go?”
At that, he looked me right in the eyeballs for the first time and I saw him.
“That would be nice Mr. John” he said, then he clutched his hands together and lowered his head, more than normal, so much so that his chin was pressed against his own chest so firm that it contorted his face, and there he waited for his prayer.
“Lord, Stanly and I come before you right now and we ask that you would calm our nerves and bring peace upon us. As you well know, that situation could have gone much worse, and we thank you that nobody was seriously hurt. Lord I pray you would bless Stanly as he goes from here, and remind him that above all else, you love him deeply. Amen.”
“Wow, thank you John that was really great, and thanks again for the help”
“It was good to meet you Stanly, try to take it easy today, and keep in mind hurting these kids is never the answer, no matter how disrespectful they are, they don’t deserve to be hurt.”
“Well, thanks again..”
And that was it.
He got out and walked away…and I was left there with my pounding heart and a mind going at a million miles a minute trying to make a bit of sense out of the last 15 minutes.
I turned the air up to full blast, not to get cool but because I felt like I couldn’t get a lung full of air. I stuck my face in front of the vent and just took the air into my nose for a good long while. I regained some composure and eventually starting piecing back together the fact that it was Tuesday afternoon and I was on my way back to the office to make a few calls and….”Joyce!”
I reached in my pocket to grab my phone so I could call Joyce so we could finish the conversation about the lunch bag job that never quite got started.
I looked at the phone and according to it, I was currently on a call and had been for the last 27 minutes!!
Clearing my throat..”Joyce?”
“OH MY GOD WHAT THE HELL WAS GOING ON I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO DO IM HERE IN CHICAGO AND YOUR WHO KNOWS WHERE IN CALIFORNIA AND SOMEBODY WAS KILLING SOMEBODY AND THAT CRAZY GUY WAS IN YOUR CAR AND…OH MY GOD ARE YOU OK!!!!???” Said Joyce.
I proceeded to fill in the details for Joyce and her coworkers as by now they were all gathered around her speaker phone, listening to the drama unfold. Eventually we did end up talking about the lunch bag project and finally we had a good chuckle as we both confessed it was a most unique way to get acquainted for the first time.
Joyce and I ended up on the phone each day, sometimes several times a day for the next three months or so while the project was in production. I think our action packed 1st inning, made for fast friendship. We had a lot to accomplish related to this particular project and we were able to move through it like we’d been doing it together for years.
Funny how walking a mile (or 27 minutes) in someones shoes can change everything.
I’ve never seen Stanly again, I always look for him when I’m in Little Kabul.
Tidbit on the “Lunch Bag” project…
I earn a living by helping companies with all things print. In this particular case, my client (ad agency specializing in non-profit mail) wanted to mail 780,000 direct mail pieces. The unique thing was that they wanted the mail piece to be a brown paper bag chalked full of information about how to financially support local homeless shelters. It’s what’s known as an “acquisition” mailing. The brown bag was clever because the information inside talked about how many meals could be provided if the recipient found it in their heart to give $10 or $20 or $100 per month to the shelter. I happened to represent an amazing direct mail company (Joyce’s company) that could print and automatically insert all the info into brown paper bags and then mail them, so I was able to partner my client with this awesome company and then move the project through to completion.
These days, I own a print firm of my own called Calinoi [kal-uh-noi] and also represent several other firms throughout the country. We literally help our clients with all things print. For example, currently we are doing 100 printed poker chips for a Harley Davidson club, 150,000 Direct Mail Postcards for a marketing firm, 80 Tshirts for a general contractor, 100,000 direct mail invites for a church and a 47′ tall exterior sign for a world class auto manufacturer.
I have the coolest job of anyone I know, and I’m really thankful.
You can check out my company at http://www.calinoi.com