“Look at all this space I have! I just love it!” Gangsta Boo is standing in front of the prepackaged meat section in a fairly crowded Trader Joe’s in Nob Hill, San Francisco. His arms are outstretched, which is taking up a lot of space because he’s a big guy, and all the invariably yoga-pants clad, 95 pound, skinny white moms and tight lipped, neck-scarved single white gay men are ducking and darting around him like water parting before Moses.
“Big scary black man! Everyone run away! Watch out! He’s making carnitas!” I laugh and wait for him to barrel down the next aisle so I can follow in his wake. It’s true – we almost have an invisible force field around us as people cleave away from the aisles and walkways when they see us coming.
As we continue to weave our way around the cramped store, picking out various sundries for the rest of our Sunday afternoon, Gangsta Boo makes a point to shake the hand of every other black person in the store. Granted, this isn’t a very daunting mission because, well, it’s San Francisco, so there are only two other black shoppers in the store, but Gangsta Boo shakes their hands and asks them how they’re doing like he’s running for President of the Minorities in San Francisco or some shit. It’s quite charming, and it’s also quite a scene to behold, like a quick cultural infusion of East Oakland in these otherwise gated San Francisco streets. They’re not used to us here.
That’s when the pretty black girl who works there strolled past us. Gangsta Boo immediately dropped his Hawaiian BBQ chips in the cart and cooed, “Hey, what’s your name” and followed her down the aisle. I know in scenario like this I’m supposed to be incensed by the flagrancy of that move, but I knew what it was about. He came back moments later, grabbed my ass, and said unprompted, “Just had to show my black queens some love. She’s not really my type, but, y’know, hadda let her know she looked good today.” Sure, I get it – not really the tactic that I would use, but I don’t make the rules. This is Gangsta Boo’s world, I just live in it.
“Did that lady try to stop you?” I asked, gesturing back at the white woman who was glaring at us.
“Yeah, but it was gucci, she’s just looking out for her people, and I appreciate that, but I told her it wasn’t like that.”