Forest & Second

3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. 5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.”   Romans 13:3-5

Forest & Second in Downtown Detroit, MI. That’s where I lived in a slum apartment for two and a half years as I went to graduate school at Wayne State University. I did not turn on the lights when I came home from the theatre at night. Why? I didn’t particularly like watching the roaches run for the cracks when I turned them on.

The bath tub had hot & cold running sludge, so I bought a portable shower from Sears, a garden hose, and adapter. I ran the garden hose from the kitchen sink fifteen feet away to run the shower. I was always careful to be sure the water was plenty hot. It wasn’t like I could just reach over to adjust the temperature mid-shower.

A friend of mine was one of those all-American guys; exceptionally good-looking, a gymnastics background and the accompanying physique. He only tried to go running in the area once. He had to outrun the prostitutes who tried to chase him down – “He’s MINE!!”

I sarcastically called where we lived The Entertainment District with its ready supply of sex and drugs. It’s also the area that was overrun with the race riots in the 60’s. It could still be a dangerous place.

I never had a problem down there. I kept my head on a swivel, walked with purpose, and always stayed away from crowds I couldn’t define. Crowds in that environment could mean trouble as easily as not.

I drive for a living, being in outside sales. I’ve had a couple Mickey Mouse traffic stops that either saw me sent on my way or just a warning. I was always very submissive, even if I thought the stop was ludicrous, because police do not bear the sword…or the 9MM… in vain.

So I look at what’s been going on in Baltimore this past week and shake my head. If you don’t want trouble with the police, make nice. Even if they are harassing you, which no doubt happens. Don’t give them a reason to take it further. PROVE THEM WRONG by submitting to authority, even when misused. It is not a contest you are going to win, so don’t even step in the ring.

The riots? I remember what a farmer I once knew told me – and please pardon the language, but it loses something when watered down: “Don’t shit where you eat.”

You might wonder how I put up with the roaches at Forest & Second back in the day. I kept my place as clean as possible. The kitchen was spotless ASAP after every meal. Any food not in the fridge was kept in sealed containers. Organic food waste was put in a plastic bag to be taken out the next time I left the apartment (I recycled the bread bags). I kept my act clean and together.

I went one whole summer without seeing a single roach. How? The apartment next door was empty and I stayed clean. I saw my first roach in months when some slobs moved in that fall.

It’s pretty simple, really. Conduct yourself with purpose and dignity. Have goals that are (currently) beyond where you are now. Keep your head up, both for awareness of your surroundings and self-respect. Follow the rules. Don’t go with the crowd. Don’t even get very close. Respect authority, even if it is abused. At least you’ll stay under the radar. Overall, keep yourself clean, both physically and morally.

Just follow these basic principles, and your life can go along fairly well. Even if your current address is Forest & Second.

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