Ten days ago, Carolyn and I were in the Baltimore suburbs where our son Yosi underwent elective surgery. (He’s home in Tennessee and recovering quickly.) We needed a prescription filled. A series of events led us to witness a truth too many Americans ignore.
First, we went to Rite Aid, a block from the doctor’s office. They didn’t have the medication but directed us to a Rite Aid in Liberty Heights in the inner city. I was fascinated, because Liberty Heights once was Baltimore’s primary Jewish neighborhood. A friend grew up there. The director Barry Levinson made three movies about Baltimore—Diner (1982), Tin Men (1987) and appropriately Liberty Heights (1999).
Today, Liberty Heights is black. That had nothing to do with getting the prescription filled. So we drove there. But the Rite Aid didn’t have the prescribed dosage. We went across the street to Walgreens. Because the suburban Rite Aid gave Yosi a photocopy of the prescription form, Walgreens couldn’t fill it. And the doctor’s office closed early.
What to do? A pharmacist, black like all the staff, took over. The store had the medication, so she called the original Rite Aid, got the prescription over the phone and filled it. All was well—except that I couldn’t find my iPhone 6. I checked both pharmacies as well as our car. Carolyn called the number. Nothing. What were the odds I’d see my phone again?
Pretty good, it turned out. Carolyn texted my phone then called. Again nothing. I called AT&T but forgot my password, so the phone stayed active. We started back to our hotel. Then a man called. He’d picked up the phone outside Walgreens on Liberty Heights Avenue but taken the bus back to East Baltimore. Communications were garbled. But he agreed that we could meet at 28th Street and the Alameda. We didn’t know what we might be getting ourselves into but we agreed. It took us twenty minutes. Some of the area we passed through was burned out. Much of Baltimore has seen better days.
As we pulled up to the intersection in a quiet residential area, the man waved. We could see the phone in his hand. I rolled down the window. He approached and smiled. The iPhone confused him, he said, but he asked a kid to show him how it worked. And he waited for us.
His name is William. He’s 64. And yes, he’s black. He’s also a Navy veteran of Vietnam. We chatted for several minutes. William suffers from PTSD and sees a psychiatrist. Yet he’s outgoing and delightful. Also honest. “I’m good people,” he said. William is great people. I gave him $100. I knew he could use it. The “price” was cheap—not because I got my phone back but because meeting William made my day. Hell, my month.
There are many good people everywhere. I met a terrific woman working at the Amtrak station (we took the train to New York), a talented actor-writer, Leland Gantt, about to tour with a one-man show, “Rhapsody in Black,” and others. All African Americans. All real Americans.
Perhaps Congressional Republicans will view the President that way as they get down to business. For William’s sake and the sake of so many others, I hope they will.
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