Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Zulu Rescue





Having my head dragged over the threshold of the chicken house, didn't so much speed up my waking, as it further troubled, confused, and dragged out my dream .

In the dream I had been wandering around an unfamiliar city, looking for something. I might even have been able to find it, if I had known what it was I was looking for.
My dreaming had at least gotten to the point that there seemed to be something vaguely familiar about the city I was in.
Then, I found myself up on the flat roof of what I recognize now as the old Strand Theatre, which is, or was, at the foot of State Street hill in Ithaca, just across from the spot where, years ago, I was knocked down by the thief who was riding my own bicycle.


In front of me were several other people who, one by one, jumped off..... not to their deaths, but almost soaringly, with slow descents and clumsy but safe landings, like baby birds learning to fly.
So It was just occuring to me that this was a dream and that I had better either wake up of take off..... when I felt a pressure on my chest and heard a clicking.
The dream I had been having was already evaporating and being displaced by a memory of the day the guy on my bike knocked me down at that Ithaca intersection. The memory was so sharp, when I opened my eyes.....to see Gorgeous George the rooster, standing on my chest and pecking at one of my buttons... I was surprised it was not Shaka Zulu in his dashiki I suppose the confabulation has to do with a connection between having my head knocked against the curb back then, and knocked again over the threshold of the chicken house so recently. That and the tapping.

Because after the bike hit, and a moment of unconsciousness I felt that tap, tapping on my chest, and opened my eyes to see a brown guy in an African robe, his face close to mine, asking once with each tap, if I was alright: you alright? you alright? you alright? unitl I finally said I was.
That, to say the very least, was an exaggeration .
My head hurt, my butt hurt, and I didn't know if I was in Africa, or Ithaca, whether had fallen off the State Theatre and broken my neck, or what.

He handed me my shoulder bag , and asked me if I wanted a cigarette.
I said yeah..... forgetting that I had not been in the habit for quite a while.
He helped me sit up and then asked if I had any cigarettes.
I said no, so he helped me to my feet, and said we needed to go get some.
He asked if I had any money.
I had buried a coffee can with some cash in in it at the base of the lady statue in the cemetery, but I just said I was a little short.
He asked if I was a midget. I am not a midget or a dwarf, etc. as you know, but I didn't go into that right then. No.
He said his name was Shaka, and that fortunately for me, he had a few bucks at that moment in time.
.
We went across the street to Mayers smoke shop and my new friend bought a pouch of the cheap floor sweepings that are so loose and dry that you have to twist the ends of the cigarette or the tobacco will pour out when you lean over or tap off the ash.
We took it to Dewitt Park, sat on a bench in front of the Baptist church and Shaka rolled up a couple. He added some lint from a pocket or a pouch inside his dashiki.

We sat there for an hour or so in the October sun, talking and smoking most of that pouch of tobacco and all the pocket lint.
My new friend's name was really Shaka Zulu. He had it legally changed to that after moving to Ithaca. If you're from Ithaca, you probably know him. Black pride was one thing, but Shaka had discovered that the African name and the robe were an advantage when he went up the hill to pick up girls on the Cornell campus.
Before Ithaca and the name change..... in Vietnam, he was PFC Ronald Wright. In his experience, the Army sucked so bad that when his tour was over and he had been shipped back to the U.S. he deserted at the dock, instead of going to get his discharge.

I would eventually get to know Shaka in a lot more detail, and if you are from Ithaca , you know something about him too, but after an hour on the bench, I had to get moving. My head hurt some, but mainly, I was stiff as Hell. My head had hit the curb, but the bike had hit me a hip shot.
Shaka himself had already been up on campus that day, so he went to look for a guy who owed him money, and I headed on up to campus to look for brother Davey.