Sarah, one of our sharper shift leaders, asked, "Well, was he cute?"
Later, I found myself at Patton Alley Pub with my friend Lindsay Smith. I call her Lindsay Smith to associate her from all the other Lindsay's I know. We were celebrating my birthday a bit late because she had wanted to take me out the weekend before but wasn't able to. We sat drinking beer and talking literature when a very, very tall black man with dreadlocks came to the edge of our table and said, "Ya'll look like intellectuals, so let me pose this question." Now his voice dropped and he spoke slowly like a game show host: "What does the name... James Earl Ray... mean to you."
"James Joe what?" asked Lindsay.
"No! James Earl Ray!" he exclaimed.
"Oh." We sat in silence for a moment until Lindsay said, "I know James Earl Jones."
The man threw himself backwards in exasperation and went on to the next table to pose the same question.
"Hmm..." said Lindsay. "I really wish I knew."
We continued our conversation and she began a story about Allen Ginsberg's pedophilia that one of her English teachers at MSU, who once lived in the same apartment complex as the famous poet, had told her class. About ten minutes later, the black man stood in the middle of the bar and shouted:
"JAMES EARL RAY SHOT AND ASSASSINATED DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING ON APRIL FOURTH, 1968!"
"Wow," said Lindsay, the two of us shocked. "I really wish I had known."
I look around the bar. "Yeah. God. He's the only black man here."