...in the bottom drawer
I knew I'd lose it so I put it in a safe place, and now I can't remember where it is.

currently stashed in: Cheshire Street, London
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July 04, 2005 || 12:48 am

The other night I was sitting, as I do, in my kitchen with the doors open to the street and a friend passed by and dropped in - a young black guy who works at the recycling and scrap yard down the road. We got onto the subject of Greensboro, what its problems were and what to do about it, which was interesting and depressing. He's a smart guy, but he couldn't really see the value in trying to give the town any help. He didn't like the incestuous claustrophobia of the town (the same points as I made here) and he was of the view that it was impossible to change anything about the people here, their beliefs (however irrational) and the way they act, or don't. He said that Greensboro should have a new mall - and when I threw up my hands in horror at this, he suggested instead a decent club or a new library, somewhere to hang out - that familiar request of the 'youth'. But really, he was pessimistic and, like young people in rural areas everywhere, just wanted to get out.

But he appreciated the quiet and the fact that he didn't have to carry a gun - which led onto another, even more depressing/farcical conversation about gun control and the death penalty. A bystander would have been amused, I'm sure, at the sight of this nice white girl arguing that you shouldn't ever kill if you have the option, that the death penalty is proven not to decrease the crime rate, and that its irrational to carry a gun all the time, and this young black guy saying that the only reason he's gone straight from dealing drugs and other crime was the fear of the electric chair, that all the paedophiles should be be killed and that if he doesn't carry a gun, how is he going to defend himself when (not if) someone breaks into his crib or threatens his girl?

There was obviously never going to be any agreement between us in this classic, cliched discussion. But so much of the time he sounded like a bewildered boy in a world that was treacherous and difficult to negotiate - the words of a 'thoughtful' rap song, full of nervousness behind the bravado. He cast himself as the hero, at 22 years old trying to put his troubled past behind him and go straight, but beset with biblical problems and temptations at every step. He's smart and deserves to go far but it's true that he's in that classic demographic where nothing will be easy, and it's more likely that his nervousness will result in him shooting someone's head off in panic, and his fatalistic prophecies will be self-fulfilling.

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