Sunday, July 4, 2010

Finding the Right Words

The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest's family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: "By what power or what name did you do this?"

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them… - Acts 4: 5-8

Today’s Reading: Nehemiah 10-11; Acts 4: 1-22

One day when I was about 10 years old my family and I went to the Slauson Swap Meet after church service at Crenshaw Christian Center. This was the early 90s, the same LA that was so artfully displayed in Boyz N the Hood was in full effect.

That movie was real as steel by the way.

Anyways, I’m a suburban kid bumbling around the swap meet

but I didn’t have to be from the hood to know the rules of the game. You never wore blue or red and British Knights and bandanas were also completely out of the question.

So there I was at the swap meet in my neutral colored gear walking around looking at all of the random things to buy. Oblivious to my surroundings as I looked at all of the goodies I stepped on something. When I looked down to see what was under my foot I saw all red…

Uh oh… pristine red sneakers with a horrid scuff mark matching the black soles of my kicks…

Hopefully, I panned up the leg to see if the situation would improve but nope… red pants.


Then a red shirt, and red hat!!! I was face to face with a Blood…

Not a good look for a taller than his age 10 year old such as myself. I was hella scared! Stepping on someone’s fresh kicks was a crime worthy of severe punishment. And that held true in suburbia! For all I knew old buddy had killed for less (aww the mind of a suburban 10 year old… but don’t front like I wasn’t at least partially on point.)

I had no idea what to say or do. Then I remember thinking… just say sorry.

So I gave my sincerest apologies… the most sincere apologies I may have ever given in my life and dude was hella cool! He was like “it’s alright little man” and then he kept on pushin’.

Good grief.

Sometimes we are in situations where we don’t know what to say. Maybe we have to address a large crowd or have an important conversation with a loved one to resolve conflict. But when we are in those difficult places where we don’t know what to say it’s always good to remember to stop for a second, take a breath, and listen to your heart and spirit.

The right words will come.


  1. I'da been scared for my life too. But yeah. All you can do is just be as sincere as possible. Especially if it means saving your life haha.

  2. O.K. Clarence, you’ve inspired me to come forward with my little “near death experience”. Though it wasn’t over inadvertently smudging some kicks, there were definitely a lot less than six degrees of separation between your tale and mine.

    About 10 years ago, I had a Saturday night DJ residency at a spot on the Sunset strip. It was Woody Harrelson’s cool, but short-lived oxygen bar. One of the O2 Bar’s distinguishing features was that it served really good vegan raw food (I know this will sound like an oxymoron to many), “smart” drinks and no alcohol. The other distinguishing feature was that they served pure oxygen through hookahs in an opium den type of setting. On a boulevard where people come looking for self destructive activities, you can see why the O2 couldn’t last. That being said, the one feature that would ultimately hasten the bar’s demise (no booze) allowed for yet another special feature; it was open until 4am. I rocked the 1’s and 2’s from midnight till close.

    Things always started popping just before the regular bars were making their last calls. I knew to start turning up the heat around 1:30a. One night, as the afterhours crowd started to fill the dancefloor, I was doing an old school hip hop set and out of the corner of my eye I saw a brother in a blue flannel shirt approach the DJ booth. I was a little too busy to take a request, so I made a point of not making eye contact with him. He stood there patiently for a minute or two and then . . .

    “Yo man, do you have a mic back there?” I hear him ask pleasantly.

    “Naw, I don’t have a mic for you” says me not looking up. There was, in fact, a mic but not for any old body who just walks in off the street.

    A few seconds pass.

    “You don’t have a mic anywhere back there?” he persists a little incredulously.

    His voice sounds kind of familiar, but I don’t really notice because I’m so preoccupied with making sure the place is bouncing.

    “No, I don’t have a mic for you, bra.”

    I make a transition. The first few bars of “Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” eminate from the speakers. Then dude tries a different tack. He reaches over the turntables to shake my hand. I finally look up and our eyes meet just as I hear him say . . .
    “My name’s Dre”


    It crashes down on my melon like a crowbar of light (to borrow a phrase from Kamau Daaood).

    THAT Dre!

    Instantaneously I realize that my footprints are now on the cortez. There was no time to feel scared, awkward or guilty. There was only one thing to do . . .

    Man, I put that mic in his hand so fast it wasn’t even funny!

    What happened next truly blew me away. Dr. Dre, one of the architects of the West Coast gangster sound starts rocking “Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” word for word, nuance for nuance . . . and I mean beautifully! Totally impressed, I segue into some instrumental (can’t remember what) and he proceeds to do what real MC’s do – move the crowd. This continues for about a half hour and the spot goes crazy. When he finally puts the mic down, he comes back behind the DJ booth with me and we chop it up about music for a while. Man, that could have gone down very, very differently!

  3. @Mark Whoaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!! What an amazing story!! I'm so glad that he was patient enough to make you realize that it was him. He knows the game. He knew that you didn't recognize and when you did you gave him the space that he deserved... and he KILLED IT!!!

    Aww man I wish i was there. That's story you can pass down for ages!!! so awesome!

  4. It's hard to get your foot out of your mouth once you've already jammed it in there.

    Watching your tongue reaps many rewards. Even if doesn't feel as if it does at the time.

    Great reminder. :-)


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