Life In Harlem

By Susan Crain Bakos

.A thug named Mykul—all 6-foot-5-inches and 250 pounds of him—knocked me, a 5-foot-2, 120-pound “grammy” to three, down to the concrete. I was in front of St. Nick’s Pub, at 10:30 on a Monday night this past May, when he stole my handbag, a beautiful green snakeskin bag and all its contents, including more cash than I’d carried in Harlem—ever. People I knew from the pub stood and watched.

Mykul was so sure of his protected status as a thug in the ‘hood that he ambled away cradling my bag in his arm like a football. Amused that he didn’t even have to run, he grinned back at me lying on the pavement. My romance with the ghetto was over; and like every ill-conceived romance built at least partially on illusion, it was destined to end with a bang. I wasn’t expecting a head bang.

..Often I think that African Americans give us too much power. White people aren’t the primary force keeping them down. Thug Life is. I haven’t seen Mykul since that night in May. If I did, I’d probably find a safe building and hide. The physical sense of violation I felt when Mykul attacked me was so profound that I could not understand how my neighbors could stand by and offer no help, no sympathy.

I realized they are inured to it—or like the man who once lectured me, so committed to the defense of African Americans, right or wrong, that they actually believe the jails are filled with nice boys who smoked a little pot.

Susan Crain Bakos is a sex journalist, the author of 15 books—including The Sex Bible For Women. Her last NYPress story was “A White Woman Explains Why She Prefers Black Men.”

Khunrum emails: "I think Dylan said it best, "The moral of the story…the moral of the song, is simply that one should never be where one does not belong.""

Fred emails: "This reminds me of a Rodney Dangerfield line to the effect that his idea of a good date is if we wakes up the next morning and still has his wallet."

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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