Friday, February 7, 2014

I just wanted a hat...

Den of the Beastly Bear

Morning Folks!

The first enclosed mall in Michigan was Northland shopping center.

It had been years since I'd been there, last trip was as a child with my parents...sometime around 1972.

A few years ago I was looking to buy a new hat, specifically a felt Cuffley in dark brown. Now I don't know that you've noticed, but Haberdasherys are few and far between these days...there was however one in Northland!

So on a day off work I traveled down to have a look around. Northland is down near, but not "in" Detroit and I'd heard rumblings that it was a little rough down there.

I wasn't worried. I wasn't going to hang out all day...
I was shopping like a man, in and out! 

Plus, I'm a bigger guy...been around a bit, bounced when I was younger and if things got really bad, ever since Michigan became a "shall issue" state I've carried a concealed weapon almost daily.

Besides, what were the chances...

First clue that Northland had fallen on harder times than I was aware, was the Southfield PD substation in the front parking area.

I parked my car, the old mojo working pretty well as I got a nice close spot. Walked in, found a directory and started making my way to the hat shop.

As I walked I recognized the bronze statues from my trips here as a boy. Like this one...any idea why I liked it as a boy?

As I walked through what had once been such a grand mall, it all seemed somehow to have lost it's magic.
The first thing that struck me was an almost complete lack of children. This seemed particularly odd as I was there in the middle of the day, there SHOULD have been mothers with children! 

I noticed also there were no single women, nor were there women together in small groups...all the women were with groups of young men.

I've told you all about my trips to Chicago, and working in Detroit and in all those times race has never been a factor to me. I treat people the way they treat me, but I always default to "friendly" and generally I get it back. 

I'd smile and nod, make good eye contact and gave a friendly "How ya doing" as I passed people. 
And never once have I felt the naked hostility I felt that day.

I did feel every eye on me as I walked into the shop.
Long story short I didn't find what I was looking for.
Well, nothing ventured nothing gained...

As I was leaving I needed a restroom. It was quite a ride down and I'd had a couple iced teas before heading out.
One of the unique features of Northland is that the rest rooms are downstairs, along with the mall offices.
As I headed to the stairs I noticed a group of 4 young black men chatting in a group at some benches. As I passed, conversation stopped but they remained seated. As I reached the stairs and headed down out of the corner of my eye I saw them heading my way.

Now as a natural born sheepdog, I recognize a pack of wolves when I see one. I, at this point had no there is only one way in and out of the basement and it was those stairs. Not wanting a confrontation with a full bladder I continued on into the bathroom, made my way to the farthest urinal from the door and conducted my business.

As I finished up, the wolves were at the door. 

They sauntered in trying their best to look uninterested and harmless, except they hung by the door and sinks without coming in any further. As I walked up to the farthest sink from them, a look passed among them.

A quick wash, and I grabbed a paper towel to dry my hands. In the mirror I saw them starting my way, and the leader made eye contact with me through the mirror. I gave a harmless smile and nod. He laughed and shook his head with what I can only assume was a "This fool is clueless..." laugh. 

I held his gaze as I brushed the coat I wore back on my left side, and set my hand on the butt of the "cocked and locked" .45 auto resting there. 

His eyes became saucers as he grabbed his two closest buddies by the arm to stop them, when they looked at him he nodded to my reflection in the mirror. As they all met my eyes, it was my turn to smile and give a small slow shake of my head.

They all froze and I heard mutters about my proclivity for sleeping with women that have given birth!

Keeping my hand on my pistol I turned to face them
"I'd like to leave now guys, if you'll just step over there away from the door..." I motioned with my head.

They silently moved away from the door...I made sure to face them as  I moved to the door and opened it.
"I'd give me a good head start if I were you..." I said as I let the door close behind me.

I made my way as quickly as possible to the exit, casting furtive glances over my shoulder the whole way, into my car and I was off! 

Now I may come off sounding cool in this, the exact opposite is the truth!

I was shaking so badly by the time I hit the car, getting the key in the ignition was a greater challenge than you can imagine! And had I not just used the bathroom, I wouldn't have had to go!

When I got to work the next day, I told my good buddy Damon about what had happened. Damon is an ex Marine, Desert Storm vet, semi pro football player for the Pontiac Panthers, and part time armed body guard for Eminem...yes THAT Eminem. He's 6'4", 395lbs. Of badass and I'm proud to call him my friend.

He kind of looks like Mr. Clean's dark chocolate twin brother, bald with two gold hoop earrings per ear, and one in his eyebrow!

He looked at me and said "You went WHERE? ALONE?!?"
He blew out a mighty breath, shook his head and put a hand on my shoulder.
"Bra, I don't even go to Northland alone!!! Don't ever do some stupid shit like that again!!! Call me and I got your back!!! Man, what was you THINKIN???"
He asked.

"I just wanted a hat..."

Be well Folks!

Beastly Bear


  1. Reminds me of the time our college radio station students and teacher went to Washington DC from Maine (a tiny Catholic school no less...we were total bumpkins) for a collegiate broadcasting convention. I wasn't interested in getting wasted at night, nor was a friend of mine, so we walked all over downtown DC, AT NIGHT, finally stopping at a McDonalds to get some food around midnight. We walked in, only white kids in the place. It was packed and everyone stopped talking and started whispering. We ordered our food and sat down to eat. The security guard came over and stood behind the booth Dennis was sitting in, facing the rest of the restaurant, took his nightstick out and started casually hitting his hand with it as he stared down the crowd. My friend was from northern Vermont, but I at least had been to Boston & New York a few times and I finally realized what was going on. I quietly told Dennis to eat fast or take it with him, but we had to get back to our hotel ASAP. Fortunately it was nearby.

    1. Glad it worked out and your security guard had your back! Had the same thing happen in Chicago on a late run, in a McDonalds too as chance would have it. The entire restaurant looked in total disbelief that I was in there...but it was more quizzical, as if a dog had stood on it's hind legs and ordered a Big Mac meal in perfect English! Lol!

  2. You're a brave beastly bear.. Good thing you were cocked n' locked.

    1. Not so brave, but awful grateful I was carrying that day!

  3. my god Joe, glad your ok, what a scary situation...glad you were carrying!!!

    1. Thanks Dave, the wolves missed their chance that time!!! Let's hope there's never another!

    2. fer shure man!!!!

  4. OMG That is so scary. Thank God you had a gun and knew what to do!!! Sure glad you got the hell out of there OK!

    1. I hesitate to think what might have happened had I not been carrying that day...