When you really think about it, the creation of traditions is actually a very peculiar thing. I don’t think that anyone sets out to start a tradition, they just seem to appear. Consider for a moment that neither Floyd nor I planned on creating a tradition, however, there is absolutely no doubt that we have a tradition, or maybe a better word would be pattern, of meeting at a moment’s notice at some of Houston’s most unusual places.
I will let you guess whose decision it was to meet in a doughnut shop located next to a police station in Houston’s Energy Corridor.
As with most of his decisions, even impromptu meetings such as this one had some type of some catalyst behind them. This constantly evolving catalyst determined not only Floyd’s desire to meet, but also where we would meet. If provided sufficient time, Floyd never failed to explain the why and where behind our gatherings. So I am certain that you can understand the natural questions that arose when Floyd related that he thought it would be best if we met at a doughnut shop located next to a police station.
When I received Floyd’s call requesting an “emergency meeting”, I did not hesitate to rush to the location. During our relatively brief phone conversation, Floyd related that he was already at the doughnut shop and awaiting my arrival. Apparently, Floyd had much to share.
I hurriedly navigated my vehicle down the always pothole filled street of Richmond Avenue toward the destination. Although I thought the choice of a doughnut shop was particularly peculiar, even for Floyd, I also knew that there was some logic behind its selection.
As soon as I entered the bustling business that was hilariously filled with law enforcement officers consuming various pastry treats, my eyes fell upon Floyd dressed in a black leather jacket, black beret, black slacks, and a wrinkled powder blue shirt with a torn collar.
Once I arrived at Floyd’s table in the far corner of the doughnut shop, I noticed that his signature shiny shoes were scuffed beyond belief. I made a mental note regarding the shoes because there was only one reason that Floyd’s shoes would not be impeccable, that being his involvement in some type of physical altercation with someone, somewhere.
As I sat across from Floyd, it was even more obvious that he had been on the losing side of a physical altercation. I am certain that my concern was written across my face, however, my countenance failed to dim that darn ‘foolish grin’. I had come to expect the ‘foolish grin’ as it was rarely missing from Floyd’s face. That bemused look conveyed to all who saw it that Floyd held a secret that he would never share with the outside world.
Floyd acknowledged my arrival with a slight head nod before pointing in the direction of the long line of officers waiting to place their order. Floyd flippantly commented,
“I guess it is true that THEY love doughnuts.”
I could only shake my head at Floyd’s humorous observation regarding the droves of officers’ crammed inside of the doughnut shop. As I settled into the simple wooden folding chair across from Floyd, he quipped,
“This is just what I need, a foolproof business idea like putting a doughnut shop right next to a police station. How could you lose?”
I just stared at Floyd’s shiny bald head; knowing that he would never muster the courage to start his own business. From my perspective, people like Floyd preferred to remain on the sidelines and take potshots at those who engaged in ventures that they were too afraid to tackle.
Considering that this was an unexpected “emergency meeting”, I needed for it to be a relatively brief encounter as I had other duties scheduled for the day. Although I knew that it was an exercise in futility to attempt to rush Floyd, I did try to push him toward revealing why he needed this impromptu meeting by asking,
“Why are we meeting in a doughnut shop?”
Considering Floyd’s prior foolishness, I braced myself for some illogical reason regarding why he selected this location. Floyd did not disappoint when he answered my query in between sips of coffee that a pretty Asian waitress had recently refilled,
“This is the safest place that I know! And I definitely need protection at this particular moment.”
Floyd knew very well how to pique my interest, and he had most certainly done just that by suggesting that he “needed protection”. I wondered what kind of foolishness Floyd had gotten himself into that made him feel that he needed protection?
Although the paths that Floyd could have taken to get in trouble were endless, maybe he had attempted to swindle someone out of their money or more likely he had been caught fooling around with someone’s girlfriend or wife. Prior to Floyd answering, my intuition told me that it was the latter as Floyd was always seeking to have some type of underhanded dealings with the fairer sex.
Before I could speak, Floyd jumped in and said,
“I know what you’re thinking. My situation doesn’t involve a Lady and no I haven’t stolen anything. I may be many things, but a thief ain’t one of them. I was actually trying to do good this time and done got mixed up with a group of certified fools.
Now that I think about it, I blame you for this entire fix.”
My only reply was an incredulous,
“What? Why do you blame me, yet again, for your troubles? Hell, I wasn’t even there when whatever happened, happened.”
Floyd was most certainly anticipating my response and wasted little time explaining how I led him into harm’s way.
“You are always saying, Floyd you need to read more and help people out if you can, blah, blah, blah. Now I dare you to say that you don’t! God will strike your black ass down right now! Well, I followed your advice to read more and help others. I subscribed to not only your blog (www.ManhoodRaceCulture.com), but also have begun religiously reading your work.”
Although I was still puzzled about what Floyd was trying to convey, things became much clearer when he reached into the black leather briefcase that he often carried and retrieved an editorial I had written months prior. The piece focused upon a group of African-Americans in Dallas, Texas, who were attempting to re-create the Vanguard of the Black Power Era; The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.
As Floyd began to talk, I thought that the most prudent thing that I could do was sit back and listen. One thing became immediately clear, Floyd was eager to talk.
“You know how you are always talking about helping the community and stuff like that?”
I nodded my head affirmatively.
“Well, that is what I decided to do. You know how you are always saying that our community needs to take care of its own and whatnot? Well, I went down to join a group that I already knew a thing or two about, the Black Panther Party.”
That tidbit of information brought significant clarity to this entire situation, at least when it came to Floyd’s dress; it explained why he was wearing a black leather jacket during this sweltering July heat wave that Houstonians endure on an annual basis. Desperate to hold in my laughter, I asked Floyd the following,
“So you went and joined the Black Panther Party?”
It was at that moment that Floyd finally diverted his attention from the doughnut shop’s front door that he had been watching like a hawk and transformed his gaze into a belittling side-eye look that communicated his utter disgust with me.
“You do know that I was a Panther? Yes, I worked with Huey and Bobby on several community service projects. The free breakfast program, I was there! The free grocery program, I was there! Sickle Cell Anemia testing, I was there! The killing of Lil’ Bobby Hutton, I was there! Free Huey campaign, I was there! The killing of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, I was there! Assata Shakur’s escape from prison, well I was supposed to be there but they left before I arrived.”
Although I doubted Floyd’s claim that he was present at each of these events, however, I was too intrigued to disrupt his flow.
“So I thought that I would be a natural fit for the New Black Panther Party. If nothing else, I could advise these youngsters on how we did things during the Black Power Era. Boy was I wrong!!!!!! Those damn fools, and yes I do mean damn fools, have absolutely nothing in common with The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense that I used to belong to. In fact, they need to change their name to something other than the Black Panther Party because it’s false advertising.”
With each passing sentence, Floyd became increasingly agitated. As expected, he found a way to blame me for his negative experience. Apparently, in one of my columns, I referred to the New Black Panther Party as “the re-incarnation of the original Panthers.”
Apparently it was my use of the word re-incarnation that led Floyd astray. Floyd took my characterization of the group literally and assumed that they were seeking to replicate the original Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale led Black Panther Party for Self-Defense’s political platform and community service activities.
Floyd jabbed his stubby little fingers in my direction as he angrily charged, “Re-incarnation? Re-incarnation? Man, them niggas have nothing in common with the Black Panther Party that I belonged to.”
I let Floyd continue.
“First off, it is bad enough that they not only do not have any community service programs, these fools don’t have any plans to develop any. From what I could tell, they simply plan to march around with their guns and try to scare white folk.
It was obvious that none of them niggas had even a basic understanding of what the Panther Party stood for, neither Huey P. Newton nor Bobby Seale were avowed racists. Hell, we worked with anyone, regardless of race, creed, or color. All that we required was for them to be fighting against oppression.”
Having entered into full theatrical mode, Floyd was speaking loud enough for the entire doughnut shop filled with law enforcement officers to hear his woes. I looked in the direction of the officers assembled in the room as a way of giving Floyd a non-verbal suggestion to lower his voice; however, it failed miserably as Floyd became even louder.
“Hell, them crazy niggas are the reason that I chose to meet at this doughnut shop. You know that I just hate to see people making a fool of themselves, so I attempted to explain to ‘the Panthers’ the error in their ways. What thanks did I get for my contribution? Man, those nuts tried to jump on ol’ Floyd. Look at the collar of my shirt, man. And this was my good shirt.
By the time I was able to escape from these fools, yes, you heard me right, escaped. I had to take off running down the street to get away from them; they were chasing after me and yelling that they were going to kill me if they ever saw me around there again.
I am telling you that they are a bunch of nutty niggas; one of them fools had the nerve to say that I was an FBI informant sent by J. Edgar Hoover. Doesn’t that Brother know that J. Edgar Hoover been dead since 1972? It is the twenty-first century and those damn fools are still talking about Hoover and the Counter Intelligence Program.”
By this time, the entire doughnut shop was looking our way as an energized Floyd theatrically accentuated each syllable of his story by pounding his fist on the small black and white table separating us.
Although I thought that the entire episode was hilarious, I resisted the growing urge to burst into laughter with all of my might. Everything from Floyd’s torn collar, his ill-fitting Panther uniform, which he most certainly wore during his initial stint with the Party, to his choice of meeting place now made sense. Floyd had thoroughly convinced himself that members of the New Black Panther Party were going to honor their threat to kill him.
Floyd could tell by the look on my face that I was particularly amused by his failed attempt at becoming a modern-day Black militant.
Although I thought the story was hilarious, there was a significant part of me who considered it unfortunate that he had such a negative experience. I did my best to reassure him that the New Black Panther Party was not a real threat to his personal safety; however, there was no dissuading him from such thoughts. Floyd truly felt that his life was in danger from what he termed a group of “nutty niggas”.
As I rose from my seat and prepared to exit the doughnut shop, a frightened and pitiful looking Floyd requested that I remember this story just in case, as he put it, “I meet an untimely demise.” I simply shook my head, slapped Floyd on the shoulder and told him, “I will see you later” while doing my best to hold my laughter in.
Fortunately, I managed to hold it until I got outside.
Excerpt from the book,
Foolish Floyd: The Life and Times of an African-American Contrarian (Volume 1)
Available at Amazon
©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016