A lot of people asked me about the “had my neck slashed open by a maniac in Brooklyn” episode I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. I guess a lot of folks have never heard that story, so I figured I’d write it up for the old blog.
So 10 years ago I spent two months in Europe as a roadie for a French punk rock band named Scraps. That’s a whole other story, but suffice to say we drove all over Europe and played shows in clubs of all sizes, squats, and even a cave. We survived breakdowns, engine fires, skinhead-infested East German towns, and near financial ruin. It was definitely an adventure and one I’m glad I experienced. And on the whole trip I suffered no injuries of serious illnesses.
The final show of the tour was in Paris and the very next day I left for the airport at 6 am and flew back to New York City. I made it to my Brooklyn apartment 14 hours later, tired but triumphant. I caught up with some of my friends and called my folks to let them know I was back safe and sound. Although I could have gone to sleep right away, I tried to stay up so I could reset my body clock. As I was hungry anyway, I decided to get some food. I hadn’t had Chinese in two months so that sounded perfect. Now I could have just ordered in and paid the extra $2 for the convenience. But no, I thought, I’ll just walk down the restaurant and save myself the dough.
This was my mistake.
I walked the six or so blocks down to China House, our usual joint and the eatery that had provided food for us on many a game night. There was a guy lounging outside but I didn’t think twice about that. This was Brooklyn after all. Hanging out on the street is a way of life.
Now China House was a classic NY take-out place with a screen of bullet proof glass between kitchen and customers and only a couple of tables. Their menu was posted on the wall so I walked up to see with what culinary delight I would celebrate my return to NYC. Before I could order, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned to see a large Latino guy wearing a scowl on his face.
At this point I was totally out of it. I was jet lagged, I was hungry, and I had just gotten home. And suddenly it felt like this guy was scratching my neck. Then he said, “Come on.”
I was perplexed. What the hell did this guy want and why was he scratching me? Then he scratched my arm and repeated himself. As he brought up his hand again, I finally noticed what he was holding: a box-cutter. And he wasn’t scratching me, he was cutting me open.
He slashed my neck a second time and again said, “Come on.” To this day, I have no idea what he was trying to say. “Come on, give me your money? Come on, let’s fight? Come on, buy me an eggroll?” Who knows? What I do know is that my sluggish mind finally roused itself. I had so far just stood there like a dope and let this guy cut me. Summoning up all my street smarts, I finally replied.
“Do you have some sort of problem?” I asked.
Now obviously, he did have a problem because he was slicing me up with a box-cutter. I believe he was taken aback by what probably seemed like my total nonchalance at being assaulted. He said, “Come on,” one more time and then ran out of China House and headed towards the projects. I was left in the restaurant bleeding.
This incident took place in the afternoon, when the China House staff wasn’t as concerned with security as they would have been at night. They had their security door open and an older woman had been sitting in the doorway peeling vegetables as the whole thing went down. She turned to me after the slasher left and said, “Oh, was that your brother?” Bewildered, I shook my head. My brother and I may not always get along but we don’t generally cut each other up.
I could feel the blood running down my neck by this point and I turned towards the counter. The guy on the other side looked at me and said, “You should call the police.”
“Yeah, I guess I should,” I replied.
“But not from here!” he added quickly. Ah, that’s NYC for you. No one wants to get involved.
Perturbed now, I said, “Well, can I have some napkins to staunch the blood?” He handed me a stack and I pressed some to my neck. Then I walked home, bleeding quietly to myself.
The only person home was the guy I had sublet my room to. He took one look at me and said, “We better call an ambulance.” The meat wagon arrived a few minutes later. The paramedics swabbed the wound, put a bandage on it, and drove me to the emergency room (a 10 minute drive that cost me $500). I filled out paperwork and then took my place amongst a crowd of the bruised, the battered, and the drug-addled. I was in for a long wait.
After an hour sitting and staring, I decided to call my folks again and fill them in. Figured I might as well, since the hospital was so slow. Now bear in mind I had called them scant hours before to tell them I was fine. A few hours home and I’m in a hospital with a cut up neck and arm. My mom, of course, was beside herself. I assured her that the fact I was making the phone call at all meant that I was going to be OK. While I was talking to her, the staff finally started calling my name. It took me a minute to reassure my mom, end the conversation, and get to the front desk. When I showed up, the exasperated nurse said, “Didn’t you hear me calling your name?”
“Yes, I did,” I replied, “but I was on the phone telling my mom that I just got cut up. So sorry to inconvenience you.”
She led me to he ominously titled “Stitchery Room”, where I was left alone for another half an hour. The room had a reclining operating chair, not unlike what you’d find in a dentist’s office. Hanging out there wouldn’t have been so bad except for one thing: they hadn’t cleaned up from the previous victim. Next to my chair was a small moveable tray that was covered with bloody instruments and big pools of blood. That was very comforting I can tell you.
Finally, a doctor arrived and examined my wounds. The arm slash was superficial, but the neck cuts were more serious. “A little bit deeper and he would have cut your jugular vein,” the doctor said. “Then you would have died.”
Luckily, the box-cutter makes very fine cuts, so they were able to close the wounds with butterfly tape instead of stitches. That was done after the painful cleaning of the wounds with burning horrible chemicals, which I really enjoyed after my long day.
Four hours after I left on an innocent Chinese food run, I got a car service back to my apartment. I still hadn’t had a chance to eat. My roomies were home by then and they had heard what I had happened and were of course concerned. The mood on Bergen St. was subdued that night. I’ll always remember Aaron’s response though.
“Sorry you got cut up, dude.”
Yeah, me too, but at least I got a good story out of it (and a nice scar, of course).
Yet strangely, I still miss Brooklyn.