I lived in Minneapolis when I celebrated my 24th or 25th Birthday. Maybe it was my 26th? Who knows?
In any case, I got together that evening with some friends who picked me up at my house in south Minneapolis and we went out to dinner at the Green Mill on Hennepin Avenue in Uptown. (For those not local, that's an area just "south" of Downtown Minneapolis, filled with restarants and nightclubs and to-die-for apartments and homes of high value but no parking. I'm sure it's the Greenwich Village of the Midwest.)
We were a small group, planning to meet a few other people later on that evening at a club downtown. Our plan was to go to South Beach (which would be host to a deadly shooting a few weeks later), and then meet another friend at The Quest nightclub a block or so away sometime around midnight.
As it turned out, we had to split up because a few people couldn't stay out the whole night, and one friend had to leave around midnight. So my friend who had agreed to meet her boyfriend at The Quest left with our other friend, Heidi, and I walked my friend Marie to her car in the parking garage. Then I headed to Quest and stood in line, hoping to get ID'd in time to get my free birthday drink.
I'm not sure if it's true anymore, but at the time, Quest was primarily a destination for those of African-American descent. It was a very popular and very cool place, they played great music with the unfortunate side effect (as in the case of several Downtown Minneapolis clubs) of playing host to the occasional murder.
Seriously, part of a great night on the town meant risking getting caught up in the warzone antics of a few sociopathic malcontents who like to make city living miserable for their targets and anyone standing anywhere in their vicinity.
So there I was, alone, in line at the Quest. Just to set the scene, I was wearing a short little black skirt and a form-fitting top, both of which revealed my figure and my great-looking legs. (* sigh * I miss them) While I've never been a great beauty, I was quite easy on the eyes at the time, and fit in quite nicely at this dark, bass-thumping nightclub.
Indeed, I came in just in time to get a drink...but there were no birthday deals, so I paid to enter the club and for a rail drink. A screwdriver or rum and coke, I think. It doesn't really matter.
I wandered through the crowds, searching out my friends, who were supposed to be there. I coudn't find them, and was beginning to panic. Was I blind? Where were they?
I don't know why, but I've always had a fear of being left alone someplace, or being "stood up" somewhere. That night, that fear became somewhat of a reality. Although I knew that my friends would not intentionally abandon me someplace like the Quest, of ALL places! What happened?
At some point, I met a guy who was either there with friends and got bored, or arrived there by himself in hopes of finding some sort of entertainment. He approached me as I was standing alone and clearly searching the crowd, and we struck up a conversation. This man was a complete gentleman, and in fact, helped me search the club for my friends. And no, he wasn't white. I'm pretty sure I was the ONLY white chick in the entire place at the time, which is part of what concerned me with finding my friends...they were white, too. They should have stood out!
This gentleman in his kindness basically became my escort (the good kind!) and talked me into standing still for awhile, with the thought that my friends might ALSO be looking for me. He logically pointed out that if we were all roaming on the opposite sides of the club, we might find each other if one of us takes time to stand still. I saw his logic so stood talking with him for a bit, hoping one of my friends might happen past, at which time I also planned to invite this kindly stranger into our own mix.
When the man left for a moment to either head to the bar for a water or coke or something, I remained where I was, and some gangsta-type guy walked up to me and said in a low voice, "The Brotha wants to talk to you."
Now, mind you, I was still in a bit of a panic, I'd had a few drinks (although not that many that evening, even though it was my birthday), and in my distracted illogic, I had some hope that this guy was really an emissary of my friends. Never mind that my friends would not send a stranger to bring me to them.
Just the same, I went into a darkened corner with the guy, and there I was brought to the "throne" of another guy who was clearly in charge of the bunch. No one was looking at me. The "Brotha" had his hand partially covering his head in quite the kingly manner, and as I approached, he addressed not me, but his henchman who had brought me to him. He did not speak, just waved his hand in a "shoo-ing" motion.
I was largely ignoring him, instead, looking for my friends. I didn't know who this Loser was, but realized as I was there that I was in the besotted lair of some kind of local gang. The Crips? The Bloods? The Rolling 30's? Who?
In any case, the henchman pawn that led me to his king basically told me I was dismissed, (to give him credit, he didn't seem real thrilled with his role and actually had a sense of sympathy about him,albeit misplaced) and because I didn't really give a rat's ass anyway, I walked away. It wasn't as though they were holding my friends hostage. I wondered how many of those guys were packing heat, though, and how they'd gotten through the metal detectors.
I told him what had happened, and he just shook his head. It was around that point that I realized I'd just been a sow on display and had been "rejected". And you know...I've never forgotten it. I've come to realize that The Quest was that particular Gangsta Loser's own personal sow arena.That horseapple in a do-rag was sending his gangsta pawns out to find fresh meat for his approval, and if they didn't meet his image, in other words, if he didn't want to "tap that" then they would be dismissed.
Hi, I'm a cow. Like every other woman in the club that night, according to that jerk. Better a living cow than a horseapple, that's what I always say.
How I wished I had hooves so as to trample such carrion into the manure they choose to imitate.
But really, never mind. That's an old story that will never die in any age. The nice guy who befriended me and I both realized my friends weren't there, and so he actually gave me a dime to complete the fee for the payphone so I could call my friend. She didn't have a cell so I called her home number, hoping she'd check messages. She answered the phone!
Apparently, they had gone to Quest, the boyfriend of our other friend wasn't there so they returned to South Beach to pick us up...but Marie and I had already gone!. So she went home, not knowing what else to do since I didn't have a cell and it was plausible that I had gone with my other friend. Well, when I called she agreed to come back and get me, being I was stranded and all, so my new friend and I walked out and stood on the corner, waiting. It was a warm and pleasant June evening, and I was happy this guy really seemed to have no interest in hitting on me. He was legitimately a nice guy.
I learned during our sidewalk conversings that he was an Entymologist who had, until recently, lived in Chicago. He told me he was concerned with what was happening at the Quest, because, just after we'd walked out the door, there was a fight and a massive police response. Traffic downtown was gridlock. He said that clubs that catered to the black population in Chicago had been shut down because of crime, and he didn't want to see the same kind of segregation in Minneapolis as that which exists in Chicago. He liked the fact that a woman such as myself, and others of my friends (which I'd told him were also white or varying races) could come and go in such clubs, and that the main clientele of the Quest would come and go in the other Downtown nightclubs as well.
Among my friends, for our part, we thought nothing of it; although there remains a certain amount of segregation in every big city, in my observation, Minneapolis doesn't even come close to what is experienced in Chicago. I regularly hung out with a mixed crowd, and was comfortable in doing so. Perhaps the greatest evidence of this was my presence that night at The Quest; even though I never saw another white face, no one paid any mind to me or I to them. No one cared. Neither of us was "threatening" to another.
So it was that my new friend waited with me until Heidi pulled up in her Jetta. I had his phone number, but never called afterward because I "wasn't the kind of girl to meet guys at the bar". Yet, I have to say, I've never forgotten him, an oasis in a desert of immorality. A gentleman among creeps.
To this day, I believe that God sent this man to me to protect me, to help me get out of a bad spot, and to give me companionship in a place where a woman alone would have been in a very dangerous position.
The Quest is still in existence, and has hosted groups such as the bluegrass-influence group, Nickel Creek (one of my favorites). But I don't know what it's like now on an average Friday or Saturday night. I think, other than attending a concert, that was the last time I visited The Quest.
No, I don't think the guy who befrended me was an angel, but he continues to serve as a reminder to me that God often uses us all to provide protection and comfort for strangers, and we should follow that call.
So I ask you to pray for the man who helped me that evening...may God bless and keep him, and raise up more men like him! He was the very image (spiritually) of St. Joseph. I wish I could meet him again, if only to thank him for his simple assistance to a young woman out of her element and without the protection of her friends.
I continue to believe he was motivated out of true good will, recognizing a woman alone, out of place, and out of her element. I've always felt bad about not calling him back, but at the time I was not looking for a boyfriend, I felt he was too old for me, and, well, I had met him at a bar (never mind we were both sober).
I trust he is likely now happily married and watching out for his own little girls. I hope he didn't feel too slighted by not hearing from me (for some reason I don't hear the earthquake of a breaking heart), but just the same, I remember him well, whoever he was, and hope that all mothers and fathers raise such good sons. He did their parents proud and I will forever be grateful.
My only regret is that he is not a friend of mine today.
Ladies, God takes special care of single women and often sends help even when we don't know we need it.
Gentleman, please look upon this example of how God uses men to protect His beloved.
It isn't rocket science; holiness is pure common sense, willing the good of the other and always living in the light of knowing we find our ends in God alone.