Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Thy Hustlers.

February 26, 2014 by  
Filed under News, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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(ThyBlackMan.com) I was just strollin’ down memory lane, thinking about the old-school hustlers of my youth. They were a lot different than these youngsters who think they’re players and hustlers today. No joggin’ suits and tennis shoes for these brothers, it was Florsheim’s, and very expensive Brooks Bros. suits all the way, and you’d never see ‘em in the same one for weeks. They weren’t loud and crude, Edward G. Robinson-like cutthroats. While they undoubtedly lived outside the law, they reflected style that more like a Michael Corleone, yet, less intense. Whenever I think of them, Black versions of Cary Grant, or Caesar Romero comes to mind, because their most pronounced characteristic was style.  They were the product of an era where class was everything.
I remember how Ronnie, who was something of a hustler himself, would open up the barbershop just for them every Monday so they could get their domes laid. The shop was closed for everybody else, so every Monday around noon, the whole block would be lined with a row of shiny new hogs, and the beauticians who worked for Ronnie (only on Mondays) were the cream crop. They were the most fabulous sisters in the hood, and everyone of them smelled like a freshly picked rose after a Spring rain. I can still smell their aroma to this today.
And these weren’t wannabes trying to pattern themselves after someone they’d seen on television. These people were the real deal. They were the aristocrats of the darker side of the Black community, those who simply chose not to allow a racist society to hold them hostage. While many “mainstream” Black people weren’t crazy about their lifestyle, theyHustler-2014 understood the rationale behind it, so the community not only accepted them, but they even treated them with a tad of grudging respect and deferment. My father was a part of that lifestyle, but you’d never know it by the way I was dealt with. When I was a young boy and visiting my dad, the neighbors wouldn’t hesitate to wipe my butt, and I was treated just like the other kids in the neighborhood.   
Ronnie was a friend of the family, so during the Summer, every Monday at 11 a.m. I was headed for his shop. That was my hustle. I’d make a young boy’s fortune just going back and forth to the store and taking messages around the corner to the various people who worked for these impressive brothers. But I didn’t just love the money, it was a thrill just being acknowledged by these bigger-than-life personalities who were making such a huge impression on my life.
I loved just hearing them say my name, especially those gorgeous and pretty-smelling women – “Eric, honey, will you run around to the drug store and ask Mr. Reed to send my a large jar of this?” and then they’d hand me an empty jar of something. “Thank you, baby.” How I loved that – especially when Harriet did it. She was so beautiful that she didn’t look real. She looked like someone had painted her, yet, she didn’t even seem to notice how beautiful was. We had a special relationship, because we had Jimmy in common, and she was Jimmy’s girlfriend. Jimmy was a guy my father hired to teach me to play the saxophone, and Harriet literally lifted him out of a serious drug addiction, and helped him get his life back together. Just think about the character of that lady. Harriet was a woman who was so beautiful, sexy, and classy that she could, literally, get any man she wanted – in or out of the hood. Yet, she went after a man who had been a dope fiend for years, and had degenerated to the point that he’d become the neighborhood joke. But she had the last laugh, because by that time, Jimmy had become one of the most impressive, and respected personality in the community.
But I digress. I used to hang on to every word of these ghetto aristocrats. I would listen to their stories, and live a vicarious life through theirs. But what I really loved was their music. They’d fill Ronnie’s juke box up with coins and one monster after another would flow from it’s speakers – Miles, Trane, Bird, and they loved Jimmy Smith. Areatha was the new kid on the block. She hadn’t really established which direction she was going, but everybody assumed that she was going to be a jazz star, because the only thing by her on the juke box was “Sky Lark.”
Yeah, those were the days, but what I remember most was how suave and gracefully those enigmatic products of adversity would glide across the floor. With diamonds gleaming from their manicured fingers, and light altering the colors of their sharkskin suits, they seemed to be dancing on a cushion of air, as they did the Soft Shoe to what seemed to be their collective theme – Killer Joe. 

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No, we don’t see nothing like ’em today, and I don’t think we ever will again . . .  because they were the product of a bygone era – an era that I miss tremendously.

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Staff Writer; Eric L. Wattree
More thought provoking articles feel free to visit; The Wattree Chronicle.


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