Words of Wisdom
By Dr. Rodney D. Coates




People I know –a man called Slim

Some people will take you out for little more than a bottle of Ripple or a pack of Cigarettes. I mean, really, for many life ain’t worth a dollar or the paper it’s printed on. But then those peeps ain’t from my hood. There, you can find really stand up folks, who will take a slug for a brother or put one in to make a point. And then there was Slim. Almost on any day you could find Slim, leaning up against the telephone pole or sitting on the curb or scrunched up in the abandoned door way of a store that closed long back when. Even though the winter winds would blow cold air so frigid it would make the snot freeze on your nose, Slim didn’t give up that corner. He would greet us as we trudged through the dirty grey, black snow –crossing Broadway along 15th street.

15th street –was that strange no-where land where anything could happen, but mostly for us it was the boundary between our world and that forbidden zone that lurked to drag us into drugs, booze, broken dreams, and faded glories. 15th street –Slim’s world that only the fallen walked indiscriminately, and only the foolish tread without trepidation. But 15th street was the constant that immiscibly separated –yet synergistically involved. Two warring souls trapped in the cosmic construct of our being. Willing us to be damned or determined or was it damned determined to rise up from this pit. And there was Slim, staggeringly steadfast in his unwillingness to avoid anything close to work, unless it to open his bottle of Ripple.

Where you boyz up to?


You boyz stay in school, don’t be no fool, and get the funk offa this here corner. Notin but death hangs out here.

Yes sir?

“Don’t need to call me sir .. Slim does just fine, just fine.”
Crazy laughing, nobody knows the depths of his insanity.

Then he slurs:
I ain’t near that crazy. Member –you work crazy, don’t let crazy work you, cause if crazy do you then you be gone for sure..for sure you be gone down that river where nobody returns cause there ain’t nothing to return from, cause you gone lost all your …..

We still walking, Slim still taking, funny nobody every waited till Slim finished, but then he never finished a sentence before he lost track of what he was saying. But he was Slim, and he was a friend of mine.

Fixin to find nother corner soon, this’n here gone trackin the riff-raff, no-account junkies. They steal you blind to get their fix, no self-respecting wino’d have anything to do wit dem. No, no self-respecting …hey you kids?


You better stay in school. Don’t wanna end up like ole Slim, standing on this here corner, nobody knows my name –but evbody calls’ me Slim. I ain’t no slim why once I weighed moren 200 pounds. But that was…that was…she used to call me….

Tears slip down a dirty face, as memories cascade against the traces of yesterday when another stood in this space.

You boys get on to school, now ya hear. Listen to ole Slim –this ain’t the life you need to live, dis ain’t the world that you need to cover, this nightmare ain’t the end of your dreams tis the beginning of your pain. Go on now…leave Slim to his Ripple.

Walking, long past that corner, long past that moment, long past the time when the best friend we had was a man called Slim.

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