Friday, February 07, 2020

The Tale of Grandfather Lewis-An Excerpt From The Novel "The King of The Woods"

By Der Kosmonaut

"You have to forgive your old granddaddy Kevin. There’s a saying among old Jazz musicians. ‘When you ain’t talking about jizzim you don’t know nothing about Jazz!” He roared again in laughter.
“CHSS CHSS CHSS CHSS!!!” My father was just tickled by Grandfather Lewis.
“Now your mammy says that you want to go to England and start a band. Is that right?”
“Yes it is Grandfather Lewis.”
“Now when I axed if you wanted to make Jazz they told me no. I thought ‘What? My grandson ain’t playing no Jazz! He ain’t no grandson of mine!’ Too bad I really didn’t give your daddy my wiggly piggies!” He laughed again.
“CHSS CHSS CHSS CHSS!!!!”
“Excuse me Kevin.” Grandfather Lewis said as he told a small bottle of brandy and poured it into his glass. “I hope you ain’t no Baptist or nuddin’. I just need a bit of nipple just to keep myself honest. Hegh, hegh, heghhhhhhhhhhhh!” Grandfather Lewis chuckled.
“Back in the day,” Grandfather Lewis continued. “I and the others on the circuit used to do a little reefer. You know the funny green tobacco. Just a little bit. Can’t be a dope when you got to make the dough if you know what I mean. A little reefer here, a little nipple there, a little girl in the corner and lots of jizzim for the jazz if you know what I mean.”

 

 
One afternoon about one hour after I had come home from school, the intercom buzzed. I was curious to who it was. Usually when my father had expected parcels he had them delivered to his office. I had already checked the mailbox so it wasn’t the mailman. Perhaps it was Goulash.
“Hello?” I answered.
“Is Barbara home?” I heard a scratchy voice reply.
“Who is it?”
“This is her father.”
I balked and grew suspicious. New York still had a high crime rate and like a typical New Yorker I was properly trained to be aware of robbers and con-artists. I doubted the man who spoke was really my mother’s father. I became paranoid.
“You’ve got the wrong apartment.” I replied and then went back to watching TV.
The intercom buzzed again. I became alarmed.
“What do you want?!” I answered rudely with an aggressive and threatening tone to frighten him off.
“I’ve been told that this is the address and apartment for my daughter. Her name’s Barbara Blake now. That’s the name on this button. This is her father Charles Lewis.”
  This was too weird only because it was too accurate. I never knew the first name of Grandfather Lewis. However, my intuition told me this man was telling the truth. Still, it could have been a very clever con-man or someone worse who might have been stalking my mother. I wasn’t prepared to take the responsibility. I also knew that this man was going to keep buzzing. I also realized that one my neighbors might let him in if he announced himself as my mother’s father. Then he would be in the building and outside my door. I had to think and act quickly.
“Well she’s not home now.”
“Is this her son or her husband?”
“I said she’s not home now. You have to try again later!”
“Is she at work?”
“I told you that she’s not home!” I said raising my voice.
“What time will she be home?”
“I don’t know!”
“Well tell her that her father’s back in town and that I’m staying up at the Harlem Y on 1-3-5. She can call me there and leave me a message.”
“OK. Will do.”
“Thank you!”
  I was excited and nervous at once. Could it really be my Grandfather Lewis? I had heard so much about the man though none of it was any good. I no longer doubted he was who he said he was. I also felt relieved because I had followed the protocol concerning strangers ringing my intercom. As soon as my mother arrived home, I ran up to her.
“Mom! Guess what?” I said with the utmost glee.
“What child?”
“You will never guess who rang the intercom this afternoon!”
“Who?”
“I think it was Grandfather Lewis!”
My mother was stunned at first before she got angry. “Now listen Kevin, I just got home from work! I’m in no mood for foolish nonsense. You’re almost 18. You’re too old to play stupid pranks on your mother!”
“No mom! I’m not lying. Around 4:30 the intercom buzzed. I asked who it was. At first he asked for you and then said his name was Charles Lewis.”
“Oh my Lord!” My mother exclaimed. “What did you do?”
“I didn’t let him in of course. He kept asking when you were coming home. I told him that I didn’t know. He wants you to call him. He’s staying up at the Y by Grandmother Harriet’s. He wants you to call and leave a message for him!”
  My mother looked stunned. She didn’t even take off her jacket. She didn’t switch to Channel 2 as she always did to watch the news. She sat down and stared blankly.
“Are you ok mom?”
“I don’t believe it! My father’s back after all these years!” Then I saw a look of anger and hatred never before seen. “He has a lot of nerve coming to my house after leaving us.”
She stood up and dialed the phone.
“Ma! You know what Kevin just told……?” My mother didn’t finish the sentence. I could hear Grandmother’s Harriet’s voice yelling on the phone.
“Is he really back, Ma?..........Why does he want to see me?...........What did you say?”
After a half hour of animated discussion and swearing and anger my mother put down the phone. She turned to look at me.
“It is my father. He just came back from Seattle yesterday. He wants to see me.”
“That’s cool mom!” I was overjoyed. “When did you see him last?”
“I saw that cheating prick last when I was 5 years old.”
“5 years old! Do you remember what he looks like?”
“No. How could I. The bastard left when I was too small to remember him.”
“Aren’t you going to call him?”
“Hell no!” My mother roared. “He can kiss my ass!”
“Why not Mom? Don’t you want to see your father?”
“Hell no! After what he did to my mother, he can take a long walk off a short cliff!”
“Well I want to meet him. I want to meet my real grandfather for a change. Mr. Blake is not my real grandfather. Dad’s father will probably never turn up. I want to meet him!”
“Why do you want to meet him?” My mother roared at me accusingly. “What has he done for you?”
“He hasn’t done anything for me. That’s why I want to meet him! I want to meet my real grandfather!”
“Well you can do what you want. You know where he’s at. I want nothing to do with him!”
   One hour later my father returned from home. Both my mother and I were anxious to tell him the news first. We competed to be the first.
“Harold!” “Dad!” We said in unison.
“You won’t believe who had the nerve to show up here?” “You will never guess who came by today!”
  My father was confused and surprised. He had yet to even shut the door behind him.
“Let me close the goddamn door and come into my house please!”
“Shut up, Kevin. I’m going to tell first!”
“What’s going on with you two?!” My father asked.
“Harold, my father showed up out of the blue today here after 40 years away!”
“Say what?” My father’s head jolted with stunned shocked.
“That’s right Dad!” I interjected. “He came by around 4:30 today. He buzzed the intercom looking for mom but I didn’t let him in.”
“Why not?” My father asked with anger. “Why didn’t you let your grandfather in?”
“I didn’t know if I could believe him, Dad. You know what you taught me about buzzing in strangers!”
“But it was your own grandfather, son!”
“I didn’t know that. He could’ve been some slickster trying to get into the building. Besides, I never met him.”
“That’s not the point!” My mother rejoined. “That man has lots of nerve coming to look for me after leaving me and my mother 40 years ago! I would’ve knocked Kevin upside his head if I came home and saw my father sitting on my couch!”
“Why Barbara?” My father questioned. “If my father whom I had never met arrived today, I would want to meet him. In fact, I would’ve kicked Kevin’s ass for not letting him in!”
“I don’t want to see the bastard!”
“Why not?”
“I told you why not! He left me and Ma for some white bitch. Now I see where Kevin got his taste for white girls!” My mother gave me a nasty side glance.
“Oh Barbara. Why can’t you let bygones be bygones? I bet you he came because he misses you. He probably regrets what he did and is trying to make it up to you.”
“What do you know about it Harold?” My mother lashed at my father.
“What do I know? You’re kidding me, right? At least you got to know your father for your first five years. I don’t even know my father’s name or what he looks like. I think my father was more irresponsible than yours!”
“Well, the nigger can drop dead twice as far as I’m concerned!”
“But mom! I want to meet Grandfather Lewis!”
“So do I actually!” My father agreed
“Well then the two of you niggers can go up to the Y on 135th street and see him. I want nothing to do with him!”
  I couldn’t sleep that night thinking about Grandfather Lewis. I tried to imagine what he looked like. I had never seen any photographs of him nor had Grandmother Harriet ever described him physically. Ever since I discovered that Mr. Blake was not my biological grandfather, I wished that I had a real grandfather. Grandfathers Lewis’ return to New York made me more excited than the revelation that my grandmother was French-Canadian.
  I thought about all of my real grandparents. I thought from time to time about my grandfather from Canada. Was he still alive? Was he still in Canada? I didn’t even know his name. Shortly after I discovered my grandmother was from Montreal, I dialed Montreal Directory Assistance. There were hundreds of listings with the last name Gagnon which made me quickly abandon that enterprise. My paternal grandparents I probably would never meet especially my grandfather. I thought of Grandfather Lewis as a jazz musician. I thought that he had to be a really cool person in spite of all the bad things I had heard.
  I thought about Grandmother Harriet. Though I was still fond of her, her rejection of Emily hurt me deeply. I couldn’t figure out why she so vehemently opposed to her. Then suddenly it dawned upon me in an instant. Grandmother Harriet was scarred from her husband leaving her for a white woman. When I dated Emily, I had inadvertently opened old scars. I also understood my mother’s disapproval.
  What confused me most was why society made such a big fuss over interracial relations which obviously had been going on since the beginning of time. My father was the product of such a relationship in Canada in the 1940s. Grandfather Lewis had an interracial relationship also in the 1940’s in the United States. It was hardly a new phenomenon so what was the big deal.
  What really foxed me was why my mother had so much resentment against her father. I could understand if he abused or mistreated her. Was she really so damaged by an absent father? Did she feel that he personally rejected her as he rejected her mother? My mother’s sentiment was a mystery.
  The next day I again returned from school. I was surprised because only one lock had been applied. Whenever the house was empty, both locks had been applied. When someone was home and awake only the bottom lock was applied. When we were all home and in bed, we had the bottom and top lock applied as well as the chain latched on. I heard voices inside. When I opened the door I was surprised to see both of my parents home.
“What are you two doing home at 4 o’clock?” I asked both of them.
“Come into the living room, Kevin.” My mother said serenely.
  Sitting on the sofa was an extremely handsome and well dressed man. He wore a navy blue suit with pinstripes. He had a bushy white afro with a matching white bushy beard. His eyes twinkled through crimson red bloodshot eyes. I saw my reflection in his face. I hadn’t a doubt that he was.
“Kevin,” My mother began. “I would like to introduce you to your grandfather” Then turning to him she said “Papa I want to introduce you to your grandson.”
Grandfather Lewis stood up very slowly and with elegance I had never seen in a man before. His twinkling eyes never took their gaze off mine. I really thought I was meeting a British aristocrat. He grabbed my hand and gave it a firm handshake while looking deep in my eyes.
“Well, I see you ain’t got no faggot for a son, Barbara! I see you got yourself a real man who knows how to produce a real boy!” With that, Grandfather Lewis let out a roaring scratchy laugh.
“It’s very nice to meet you at last Grandfather Lewis!”
“See my eyes might look like Satan’s but I ain’t the Old Devil you and your mother said I was!” This was followed by another howling scratching laugh. “Turn around and let me see how you look.” Grandfather Lewis directed.
“Damn as if you were my only son! Let me in on a little secret Kevin.” Grandfather Lewis spoke with a conspiratorial hush. “I gave your father a secret wedding gift. I gave him some of my wiggly piggies in case his balls ever went flat. I guess they did and he used my gift anyway!” He roared with laughter.
The joke was so vulgar and outrageous that if I hadn’t laughed, I would’ve screamed in pain.
“Nah, I’m just messin’ with you some boy.” He sat back down again.
I grabbed a chair from the dining table and brought it to the living room. I liked Grandfather Lewis from the start.
“You have to forgive your old granddaddy Kevin. There’s a saying among old Jazz musicians. ‘When you ain’t talking about jizzim you don’t know nothing about Jazz!” He roared again in laughter.
“CHSS CHSS CHSS CHSS!!!” My father was just tickled by Grandfather Lewis.
“Now your mammy says that you want to go to England and start a band. Is that right?”
“Yes it is Grandfather Lewis.”
“Now when I axed if you wanted to make Jazz they told me no. I thought ‘What? My grandson ain’t playing no Jazz! He ain’t no grandson of mine!’ Too bad I really didn’t give your daddy my wiggly piggies!” He laughed again.
“CHSS CHSS CHSS CHSS!!!!”
“Excuse me Kevin.” Grandfather Lewis said as he told a small bottle of brandy and poured it into his glass. “I hope you ain’t no Baptist or nuddin’. I just need a bit of nipple just to keep myself honest. Hegh, hegh, heghhhhhhhhhhhh!” Grandfather Lewis chuckled.
“Back in the day,” Grandfather Lewis continued. “I and the others on the circuit used to do a little reefer. You know the funny green tobacco. Just a little bit. Can’t be a dope when you got to make the dough if you know what I mean. A little reefer here, a little nipple there, a little girl in the corner and lots of jizzim for the jazz if you know what I mean.”
“CHSS CHSS CHSS CHSS!!!!!!!” I haven’t heard my father laugh so much in a couple of years.
“So tell me Kevin, what do you play?”
I turned red in the face because I couldn’t play an instrument. I was too embarrassed to tell him that I couldn’t play an instrument. He was too cool and I didn’t want to look wack in his eyes. I avoided the question.
“Were you in Seattle Grandfather Lewis?”
“Yes I was indeed in Seattle. It used to be a great town! Used to I must say. They un done wrecked that city I tell you. But Seattle used to be the best damn city in this country. That was the only city where a nigger didn’t have to watch his back, though a nigger had to watch his dick if you know what I mean.”
“CHSS CHSS CHSS CHSS!!!!”
  I guffawed until I realized that my mother was around. It was the first time I had ever heard anyone use such language around her. I glanced at her to see if she was steaming inside but she wasn’t. In fact, she seemed to enjoy her father’s sense of humor. She didn’t laugh but she smiled.
  By evening we drove up to V&T restaurant as we always did for special occasions. Grandfather Lewis was a crack-up. Practically every other sentence was a joke. I had never met anyone so lighthearted and funny! He monopolized the conversation over dinner. He was chock full of stories about all the cities he visited and all the women he bedded. He was a playboy but oftentimes it got him into trouble.
  “Now one time I was over in Omaha playing a one month gig. Whatever you do Kevin, keep your black ass out of Nebraska! Anyway, I was the only colored person ever allowed into this nightclub. I was warned that I couldn’t ever look at any white women in the nightclub. The owner told me that 2 niggers had been lynched because they looked at some of the white women the wrong way but really in the right way if you know what I mean.
“So there was this foxy baby! I mean she was a real fox. A fox with black fur. She had long silky black hair and these green eyes just like a cat’s. Now she started coming into the club every week. I seen her looking at me but knowing the score, I just pretended that I was a blind darkie. Heh, heh… Now I know how Ray Charles managed not to get killed back in the 50s. So this cat woman started ordering drinks from me. The waiter at first refused to give do her requests before he didn’t want me killed. I brought in good business and if I got lynched, his tips would go down. But this cat woman kept insisting. First he told me that it was from an anonymous admirer in the audience. After two weeks the waiter warned me about this woman. She wanted my dick and was determined to get it. I knew my way around this country better than anyone else. I know white folks better than any other man alive. I knew how to have my things without getting caught with my pants down if you know what I mean.
“So one night I after a gig I went out the back door. I wasn’t allowed to use the front door. I could only come and go out the back door. I had to park my car in the alley because I wasn’t allowed to park on the main roads. Then suddenly, the cat woman pounces on me. She was a real jaguar. Now I know that I should’ve left her alone but then again the wiggly piggies started oinking downstairs if you know what I mean. As I with the woman a po-lice cruiser comes by. To make a long story short, this was the underage daughter of the Omaha Chief of Po-lice. I threw her ass away and jumped in my car. I always kept a full tank of gas exactly for moments like this. I got the hell out of Omaha with the entire po-lice force chasing me. I also kept a spare license plat just of emergencies like that. I got the hell out of Nebraska and haven’t been back since!”
 After dinner, we drove Grandfather Lewis to the Harlem Y. He and I set plans to meet the following Saturday. I really liked him. He was the most dynamic person I had ever met. I thought he was the funniest, wittiest person I had ever seen. I eagerly looked forward to seeing him the next weekend. My father was really keen on him as well. I never saw my father get a kick out of anyone as much as he did with Grandfather Lewis. My mother didn’t make any comments concerning him which I found very curious. At school I told Shannon and Edward about Grandfather Lewis. As usual Edward was dry and wry.
“You have a strange family, Kevin. First you discover that your grandparents aren’t your real grandparents. You find out that you have a white French grandmother and John Doe as your grandfather. Now all of a sudden your other grandfather appears from Seattle. It’s no wonder that you’re screwed up.”
“What does that mean?” I replied offended.
“How can you not be a screwball with all your screwy family history? The next thing you’ll tell me next is that you were adopted or that you have white brother and sister who you met by accident.”
  The following Saturday I met Grandfather Lewis at the Columbus Circle gate to Central Park. He was promptly on time and dressed in a grey suit with a bow-tie. Ever since Pee-Wee Herman arrived in popular culture in 1985, bow-ties were viewed a comic nerd attire or terribly old fashioned. However, Grandfather Lewis sported it exquisitely.
“I haven’t been in Central Park since the 40s. It’s hardly changed. It’s good to be back in the Big Apple. The city’s changed a lot. There were always skyscrapers but these new ones must’ve been built in the 50s. I can see the World Trade Center from Harlem but they ain’t got the class and style like the Empire State or Chrysler building.”
We passed by a hot dog vendor.
“I miss these. I haven’t had a New York hotdog since the 40s! You want one Kevin?”
“Sure Grandfather Lewis!”
“We’ll blow me down!” Grandfather Lewis exclaimed as he looked at the menu on the cart. “Knishes! I forgot all about knishes. Damn! Fuck the hotdog! Gimme a motherfucking knish! Do you still want a hotdog Kevin?”
I nodded in the affirmative.
“Gimme a knish and a hotdog. What do you like with your hotdog Kevin?”
“I’ll take mine with mustard and onions please.”
“And I’ll take my knish with mustard!”
We took our food and walked a few yards away.
“Let’s sit on the bench. It’s not good to eat and walk at the same time. It ain’t that I’m no bimbo who can’t walk and chew her gum it just doesn’t look good. Besides I don’t wanna ruin my clothes. I stain my clothes then I’ll be taken to the cleaners!” He roared jovially.
“You didn’t answer my question the other day, Kevin.” He resumed.
“What question?”
“I axed you what musical instrument you play.”
I blushed with embarrassment again.
“Well I don’t play any, yet.”
“You don’t play no motherfucking instrument? How do you expect to be a musician? Is you a singer?”
“Well sort of. I want to learn how to play the synthesizer and do lead vocals.”
“The synthesizer? You want to be like John Cage do you?”
“Who’s that?”
“You don’t know who John Cage is? Damn boy, your parents ain’t teach you shit! John Cage was the avant-garde jazz musician back in the 60s. Shit even I know who he is!”
I felt embarrassment and shame.
“I’m surprised about you. You being a bookworm and all that you haven’t heard of John Cage. You must be sticking your nose in all the wrong books.” Grandfather Lewis paused and grimaced.
“What’s the matter?” I asked
“This knish is shit! That’s what happens when you get those East Indians pushing around those hotdog carts. Back in the 40s the only people pushing those carts around were Jews. Now that the Jews got rich they left their businesses to those East Indians!” Grandfather Lewis stood up and threw the knish in the rubbish bin. I had finished my hotdog. I stood up and we walked towards the Carousel.
“That’s the problem with the motherfucking country, Kevin! The foreigners have un done taken over everything. Americans don’t make shit anymore. Excuse me, all Americans can do is shit but they don’t make any. The Japanese have bought everything up. The other day I was reading that the Japanese were about to buy Rockefeller Center! I saw the same thing in Seattle. All those chinks and Japs were buying up everything! Seattle used to be a cheap city to live in until the chinks and Japs bought all the property. This country is in decline, Kevin! You would’ve never had guessed that we won the war with all the Japs taking over everything. I may not live to see it but you will, Kevin. Soon the chinks and Japs will own us. That means that niggers like us will be pushed even further down.
“I was lucky when I got drafted at by the end of the war. I got sent over the England and didn’t see any fighting. But my brother and all my friends got sent off to fight the Japs. The Japs are the biggest motherfucking racists! They make the crackers down in Mississippi look nice. Even the Nazi Germans treated our people better than the Japs. In Seattle, I learned never to trust chinks. They will cheat you in a minute and when they deal with our people, they try to cheat us any more than white folks. I want nothing to do with the chinks and the Japs. But mark my words, the chinks and the Japs are going to take over the country and that means niggers are through!”
  I was stunned from what Grandfather Lewis spoke. He was so full of hatred and resentment against Asian people. I had never heard such vitriol from anyone that I had spoken with. It was a common lament in the 1980s that the Japanese were taking over the country economically. I had heard right wing talk radio bigots speak such hatred but never had I heard anyone talk as Grandfather Lewis did in private conversation. Black Americans and Asians did not get along in the U.S. I heard Grandmother Harriet and other Harlemites complain about all the Korean grocery store owners. In Black New York, Koreans were viewed as the number enemy and competitors with Black people.
  I had nothing against Asian people. I had a couple of close Korean friends at P.S. 87. I was friends with Bobby Chan at church. For me Asians were just like anyone else except for their physical features. At worst, I thought they were a bit arrogant and standoffish. I also thought they took school too seriously. My worst impression of Asians was that they were boring nerds. Since Bobby Chan was the only Asian I knew personally, most of my impressions of Chinese people were through that prism. I found that many male Asians seemed rather taciturn and remote. The girls were more outgoing but not all of them. However, I took it to be a simple matter of cultural and social upbringing and nothing so sweeping and generalizing. I certainly didn’t harbor any resentments or hatred as I had against Italians. I thought Italians were the worst enemy of Black people. Chris Napolitano, Al Pataglia and Bensonhurst proved beyond reasonable doubt that Italians were the mortal enemies of Blacks in New York. It was certainly not Asians!
  I wanted to change the subject. I was not comfortable with Grandfather Lewis’ anti-Asian racism. I asked him about his marriage to Grandmother Harriet.
“How did you meet Grandmother Harriet?”
“I met your grandmother after I get home from the war. There was a party for all the Harlem Vets at The Apollo. That’s how I met her. She was the prettiest girl in all of Harlem. What I liked most about your grandmother was that she was a real Yankee. She wasn’t one of those southern nigger bitches. I had had enough of southern nigger bitches! Whatever you do Kevin, never go out with a Southern nigger. The worst ones are from Georgia! I’m from Kansas City so I know how southern niggers are. That’s one of the reasons why I came to New York in the first place. Harriet was a fine woman! I was happy with her.”
“Why did you break up with her?”
“Well she broke up with me. I was too much of a ladies man for her. I guess you know all about that Kevin.”
“Is it true that you had a child with a white woman in Seattle?”
“Yes. I actually married her. We got married in California. Her name was Kathy. We have a daughter by the name of Jane. Kathy died in a car accident. It’s my own goddamn fault. I was drunk and got into an accident. She was with me and she died. I went to jail for that.”
“You went to jail!”
“Of course I did. I was with a white woman. I was driving drunk. She died. I lost my daughter Jane. The State took her away from me. I lost all rights to ever see her again.”
“How long were you in jail for?”
“For four years.”
“Damn!”
“I lost everything Kevin. I lost two wives and all my daughters. There is nothing worse than being an old Black man. I have many regrets in life. The biggest was to lose Kathy. Goddamn liquor is what the white man uses to keep us and the Indians down, Kevin. Whatever you do, don’t become an alcoholic like me. However, what I don’t regret is marrying a white woman. Stay away from Black women, Kevin. Find yourself a nice white girl. They will love you and do anything for you. The will give you money and they will feed you. Black women are bitches. Your grandmother was the best Black woman I could find but even she could be evil and mean. Black women are just gold diggers. All they want is your money but they don’t give anything in return. You’re a handsome rich young man, Kevin. You will have no problem finding a young white woman to marry. But lemme give you a word of advice about white girls. Don’t go for the poor ones like the Irish and Italians. They’re no good. You’re going to college soon so you won’t have to worry about those. But find yourself a rich white girl and you will be alright.”
“Have you heard about Emily?”
“No. Who’s that?”
“She was my girlfriend for nearly 2 years. She was a white girl. My parents were against us being together, especially my mom. Everyone was against us being together.”
“Is that why you broke up?”
“No we didn’t break up. She committed suicide in the spring.”
“Godfuckingdamn!”
“I still can’t get over it. She was the best girl!”
“Well Kevin, there are plenty of girls. You will find another one.”
“That’s the thing Grandfather, I don’t want another girlfriend. I want Emily back!” Tears started to fall from my face.
“I understand Kevin. You will get over her in due time just as I got over Kathy. Jail was good for me in many ways. I had to take a look at my life. I had lots of time to reflect on how I fucked up.”
“Did you have lots of problems being married to a white woman?”
“Sure I did but Seattle is the best city in the country for people like us. Outside of Seattle, we had lots of problems but generally, we didn’t face too many hassles. My wife faced more than I did. White men in Seattle are soft. Any Black man can win a fight against a white man in Seattle. So the white guys never said anything to me but they did insult Kathy a lot. Of course the folks that bitched the most were you-know-who.”
“Who?”
“You know who.”
“Other Blacks?”
“Black women. It was the other Black women that were the nastiest to me. Whenever a Black man goes with a white woman, they always complain and ask why they are not good enough. They aren’t good enough. If they were any good, I would’ve stayed with them!”
“What happened to your daughter?”
“She was put in foster care with another Black family. She’s grown up now. I saw her 20 years ago when she was 21. She’s a very nice girl. However, she hated me. She believes that I killed her mother. I tried to tell her the truth but the brainwashing from her foster parents and social workers prevented her from listening to me.”
“That sucks!”
“Ain’t it the truth!”
  We stood up and walked uptown through the park. We walked up to Castle Belvedere and looked at the Great Lawn.
“How long are you staying in New York” I asked.
“Don’t know. I’m looking for apartments but they’re all expensive. There’s not an apartment in Harlem that I can afford. The only cheap ones are dumps. I aint living in no Brooklyn or The Bronx. Shit, even the Y is expensive. What the hell is happening in New York? Everything is ten times more expensive than it used to be! I don’t want to go back West. I don’t know what I will do.” Grandfather Lewis paused as he took a sip of liquor. He continued. “What are you going to do, Kevin? What college do you plan to attend?”
“I don’t know. I want to move to England. I thought about going to Harvard but I’m not sure about that. I’m now thinking of going to college in Chicago.”
“Chicago! Why on earth would you go to Chicago?”
“I like Chicago! Anyway, I just want to get away from New York. I want to be on my own. I have too many bad memories of New York. But I will move to England eventually.”
“Chicago is a racist motherfucking city, Kevin! You don’t want to go there!”
“Really? I didn’t know Chicago was racist.”
“Oh yes it is Kevin. That city is one of the worst cities for Black people. Black folks in Chicago are no good. All of them are Southern. You don’t want to be around Southern niggers! If I were you, I would go to England. I have always wanted to go to England. I had an affair with an English girl years ago. She told me how there was no prejudice in England. You should go there.”
  It began to rain. We got soaked as we walked west and left the park. I walked Grandfather Lewis to the IRT subway station at 79th Street. We spoke at the turnstile while we waited for the train. I said goodbye to Grandfather Lewis. A couple of weeks went by and I didn’t hear from him. I called the Y to leave him a message. I was told he checked out. I never saw or heard from Grandfather Lewis again.

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