I’ve got this friend we’ll call Smuckers. Smuckers is a good, good friend of mine for going on 15 years now (hard to believe, huh?). Smuckers got his name because of me, and I wasn’t a very nice guy about that. Now, I’m a big guy. Smuckers is also a big guy, but somewhat bigger than me. One day at band practice (insert lame “American Pie” joke here), he showed up wearing a plain, blank, purple Fruit Of The Loom style t-shirt. In this day and age, I might’ve made a Barney reference, but oh no. As I watched him approach the practice field, mercilessly I yelled, very loudly, “Hey , where’d you get that shirt? You look like a big-ass jar of Smuckers grape jelly, man!!” And the crowd went wild. It was high comedy to everyone except Smuckers. I’ll give him credit, though; although he hated the name, he owned it, giving it no power over him. I had the same thing happen to me earlier, when I was dubbed “Butterbean” by a drunken junior after an argument about butterbeans and lima beans. Stupid, I know. Beats the hell out of arguing over women, though. Anyway, I knew what it was like to have an unwelcome name thrust upon you (although that didn’t exactly stop me from doing it), and I admired him for taking ownership of his albatross. He’s a very cool, very funny cat that I consider a brother.

And in actuality, he is a brother. Or brotha. We met in college, and because we’re both black and share the same last name, people thought we were related (cousins, brothers, whatever). You know, cause all black people look alike. Oh, and we’re all related. And we can all dance, we’re all hung like mutant stallions, and we all like fried chicken. Let’s see what other stereotypes I can think of….hey, I’ll do this. I’ll list out all the stereotypes, and I’ll indicate if I do/am that thing. Here goes:

Common Racial Stereotypes for African-Americans (we’ll just call ’em ‘Black People’ here)

  • All black people can dance – No. Some dance horribly, like they’re getting beaten by a bag of arrhythmic Yanni CDs. Personally, I dance a little bit, just enough to make people say “No, it’s not exactly a convulsion, per se – oh, I think he’s dancing.”
  • All black people like chicken – No. Again, some dislike it. However, I’ll say this: the percentage is WAY higher. I love me some chicken, man. LOVE IT. Dave Chappelle made a very funny joke about this in his “Killin’ Em Softly” standup show.
  • All black people look alike – HAHAHAHAHAHA! This one is laughable. Black people look more different from each other than white people do, in many cases. Our hair varies, our skin tones dance across the rainbow, our noses and lips differ, and the size and shapes of our features also vary across the spectrum. Strange, then, that some people think that we do indeed all look alike. Look again. Wesley Snipes, Will Smith, and Cuba Gooding Jr. do not look alike. OK, putting Snipes in there wasn’t exactly fair, cause he is one black, dark-skinned, leaving-fingerprints-on-charcoal bastard.
  • All black men are hung like mules – OK, there are reasons why stereotypes exist. There is a kernel of truth in each exaggeration. Meet that kernel.
  • All black people know each other – No, although it may seem that way when you see us on the street and we speak to each other. You’ll observe the typical “head up” maneuver, the common “what’s up, man” greeting, or even an intricate handshake/hug that we all seem to know. It’s just instinct, man.
  • All black people can play basketball – Anyone who has ever seen me play knows this ain’t true. I am the Helen Keller of basketball.

Anyway, I could go on and on. And you’d slowly reach for the mouse and start clicking the “Back” button on your browser. And no one wants that.

After college, Smuckers relocated to Columbia, SC, and a couple of years later I ended up taking a job there too, although I refused to move to that festering cesspool of a facsimile of a city. Columbia is a 3rd world city in a 2nd world state. I lived about 80 miles away, and liked it, and actually liked the drive. But it wore on me, and soon I began looking around for a place to crash a couple nights a week. Enter my old pal Smuckers, who literally lived 1 mile away from my office. Score. For minimal rent, I could crash on Smucker’s couch twice per week, and watch him clear an apartment by cooking microwaveable pork rinds. (aside: that’s some nasty shit, y’all. Avoid.)

On Wednesday nights, we used to go sing karaoke at a bar in the Five Points district, which harkened back to a college tradition. Often we’d go with a whole group of folks and just get drunk, loud, and crazy. We knew the guy that ran the karaoke from college, when he was hosting karaoke in a bar in Clemson. Because of this, we were instant celebrities in the tiny realm of karaoke. We were Karaoke Kings!! Yeah, I know. It sounds pretty sad to me, too. We each had signature songs that we’d sing each and every time we performed. Mine was “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince, which usually involved me climbing on top of a speaker, which itself was usually on top of a table, and then leaping from there all the way down to the floor onto my knees during the guitar solo at the end. In order. Oh yeah, and I was also drunk off my ass whenever I did this trick, cause ain’t no way I’d climb on top of a rickety table and speaker while sober. Smuckers’ signature song was “Copacabana” by Barry Manilow. He would sing the hell out of that song, and he would do an all-the-way-to-the-floor split, which was pretty amazing for a big guy. The next morning he’d come out of his room, hung over, bleary eyed, and he’d ask what happened the night before, because his legs hurt.

One night we went to the bar and met a couple of friends there: there was Poor, an arrogant but decent guy we knew from college, and Mischief, a good friend and my coworker. I had already decided to take it light that evening, but Smuck-Dawg had had a bad day at work, and he decided to get ripped. Now, he was never shy with the ladies, but that night he was a straight-up wolf, man. He must’ve talked to every woman in the bar that night, including one questionable-looking chick that I coulda sworn was a man in an ill-fitting dress. Nonetheless, Smuck worked the crowd like a pro. The rest of us were content to just chill, watch the karaoke all stars, and generally behave like asses. After a while, though, we noticed that we hadn’t seen Smuckers in a while, which was unusual, because when Smuckers is drunk, he’s hard as hell to miss. He moves around like a pinball on speed. Anyway, we scanned the place for him and finally spotted him sitting at the bar, laying down his game like a mason lays down bricks. He was sitting next this woman who, in the smoky hazy distance looked to be attractive (obvious foreshadowing here). She was slim, had shoulder-length dark hair, and a pleasant-enough looking face. As we watched, Smuckers took his game from “stun” to “kill”, and moved in on this poor chick like Kirsty Alley moves in on a ribeye. He was kissing that girl like it was his job. As normal, healthy, young American males, we did what was expected of us – we laughed. Hard. We high-fived each other like we’d won Game 5 of the Finals. Of course, single-minded Smuckers paid us no mind whatsoever. Eventually we got bored, and went back to drinking.

About 5 minutes later, he brought the young lady over to our table for introductions. It was at that moment that the sharp rays of reality shone through the murky cloud of bar smoke and inebriation – for us, at least. What we thought was “slim” was really “anorexic”; what we saw as a “pleasant-enough looking face” was really one pepperoni shy of a meat lover’s pizza, and that hair we noticed had a startling trait – it was streaked with a large stripe of white, right down the middle, kinda like Rogue from the X-Men, if Rogue was an ugly-ass crack whore with poor dental hygiene. Somehow, we managed to not laugh directly in her face. It could’ve been that we were trying to not screw up Smuckers’ game, or that we simply weren’t drunk enough. Either way, they managed to escape the table intact, and his game was still on. More power to him.

About 20 minutes later, we noticed that he was no longer in the bar, and neither was the lucky lady. Since he was my ride, I was mildly concerned, but Mischief helped a brotha out by dropping me off at Smuckers’ apartment, where I immediately passed out. At around 5:30 a.m., in walked the Super Stud, clothes slightly askew, tired as hell. Naturally I thought he nailed the Skunk Skank (as we termed her), and tried to rain praise upon him, but before I even got started good, his looked caused me to pause. I asked him what happened, and the following timeline generally describes what he said took place.

  • 1:00 am: Smuckers and Skunkie leave the bar together, preparing for a forgettable night of drunken bliss.
  • 1:05 am: As they’re walking down the street engaging in small talk, she begins to randomly attack cars. Just started hitting and kicking them like they had offended her, and laughing the whole time. Smuckers grows concerned.
  • 1:09 am: Now she’s throwing herself against every vehicle within sight. Concern skipped right over fear and went directly to “Oh Shit”.
  • 1:10 am: In an effort to keep her from hurting herself (and maybe even a ploy to still try and score), Smuckers grabs the girl around the waist and restrains her.
  • 1:11 am: Girl screams, flails, cries, thrashes, and behaves a lot like a psycho chick. Which she was.
  • 1:11 am: Police officer drives past the two on the darkened street.

Let’s pause for a moment and consider this scene. A large black man is holding a small white woman around the waist in the middle of the night while she’s kicking and screaming. In Columbia, South Carolina. Yeah.

  • 1:12 am: Police officer surveys the scene, and in a surprising move, does not arrest Smuckers on sight.
  • 1:30 am: After explaining everything, the police officer actually believes Smuckers, and arrests the girl.
  • 5:30 am: After going to the police station, attempting to bail the girl out, not understanding the rules of arraignment, realizing she’s been arrested for drunken disorderly, destruction of property, and resisting arrest, and figuring out he doesn’t owe this chick anything, he comes home.

He never heard from her again. Despite his drunken state, he smartly neglected to tell the Skunk Skank his last name. However, we did stay away from the bar for a few weeks. That Smuckers….he’s my boy. But his taste in women was for shit, that night.

Peace.

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