Terror On Chenery Street

December 30, 1993

I turn 30 today. I’m working at the Guest Center at San Francisco State University. It’s just a fancy term for a hotel and conference center. I’ve been here a little over two years, and it’s been a challenge with some of the odd shifts I’ve had to work. On the plus side, they’ve been quiet stints, which allow me to write music or muse about my life. It’s quiet this morning; there are very few registered guests, so I’m going to try something new. I’ve heard that the minute you were born is special to you, so I’m going to go outside at 9:41 am and send my intentions for a good year out to the cosmos.

It’s 9:40 am now. I’m in the small courtyard just beyond the front door, and I’m getting ready. What do I wish for? I’ve spent four years at San Francisco State and now I want out. I need a change. I’ve had an excellent education. But where do I go from here? It’s exactly 9:41 am now. I close my eyes and say to myself, honestly, “This is going to be a GOOD year for me!” I can feel it in my bones. My life is about to transition. But to what?

It’s evening time now. My best friend, Laurie, is taking me to Palo Alto under the guise of seeing a new play entitled “Till Death Do We Part.” She says that we needed to stop over at my parent’s house before we head to the theater. We park on the gravel path in front of the house. I notice quite a few, unfamiliar parked cars nearby. After passing into the foyer, we hear the shouts of “Happy Birthday!” My very first surprise party! I look at Laurie, knowingly. Everyone is there: Mom, Dad, Carrie (my sister), Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Dottie, Uncle Bill, and even my friend Greg from SFSU. Oh, the laughter and camaraderie! Each person has a story to tell about me. One of the best birthday parties in recent memory.

It seemed my wish was coming true. Until…

January 1994. It’s around 9:30 pm. I’m walking to Laurie’s house, on Chenery Street. It’s a quaint, residential neighborhood. But now, it’s dark and quiet, and I am alone – only for a moment. I’m enjoying the walk in the still, cold air. At the end of my journey, I will be with friends. I allow my mind to wander, thinking of where my life will take me – or where I will take my life. Up ahead I see three men loitering on the corner. The alarm bells in my head do not go off. Usually, they tell me to stay safe and avoid situations like this. Maybe I can’t hear those alarm bells because I’m a little high. Maybe I’ve lived in the big, bad city for too long. I walk closer to them, feeling slightly uneasy, but I soldier on, determined to make it to my destination. I’m now one block from them. They can see me. Too late to turn back now. Put on a brave face and keep going, I tell myself. I’m right in front of them now. Suddenly, I am grabbed. There are arms all over me now. Throwing punches, yelling obscenities. I am thrown to the ground, screaming in mortal terror. This is it. I’m going to die tonight. I have no idea what they are going to do next. I’m still screaming, helpless. There is much fear. Hands search my pockets. They find a bag of pot and my wallet, which are roughly taken from me. I am told to stay on the ground. One of them punctuates this by banging my head on the ground. Eventually, they leave. I remain, as ordered. A few minutes later, I take inventory. No broken bones. A slight headache. The rest of me is numb. I get up. Finally, I appear at Laurie’s doorstep. I tell her what happened. She is practically speechless. We search for bruises but find none – a miracle, as far as I am concerned. The police are called. They take the information down and leave. At least they didn’t grab my keys. I stay the night at her place. As I fall asleep, I wish for only good dreams.

A year after this horrid event, someone found my wallet lying on the street, with only my student body ID card still inside. It was returned to San Francisco State University; someone from the Administration office mailed it to my parents’ address. I then got a call from Mom informing me, to my great surprise, that she had my wallet. Another miracle!

April 1994. I am walking towards the Daly City BART station on my way to work. It’s early in the morning, and no one is around. I pass a homeless man who asks me for money. I tell him that I don’t have any. As I walk away from him, he rushes me from behind and grabs me, demanding money. There is no fear; instead, there is a great, swelling anger in my belly. He asks me for my wallet. I tell him, loudly, that it was already taken. He doesn’t believe me and frantically searches my pockets, only finding a few dollars that I desperately need to get home after work. God, he stinks. He tells me to stay where I am. I’m furious. I want to KILL this bastard by any means necessary. But I remain, frozen until he is out of sight. One of these days, I’ll find you, and you will know PAIN! Adrenaline is still coursing through my veins. Never before had I ever been in such a violent mood. I arrive at the office and relay the events to the vice-president. He lends me enough money to get home, remarking that I didn’t look like I had been mugged. The look on my face convinces him otherwise.

So far, this year isn’t turning out the way I had planned. My mind is full of questions. What happened to my wish for a good year? Do I need to experience pain and fear before I can appreciate the good things in life? Where am I going in life? What will I become? For crying out loud, I survived two muggings within months of each other. I’m a survivor. I’m tough. Maybe that’s the real lesson.

I didn’t know it at the time, but this year would introduce me to computer programming and a whole new direction for my life. In a way, my wish WAS granted. It just took an indirect path.

There would be many “good years” ahead.

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