Jimmy Jam

Years ago when I worked for New York City Department of Corrections as a Dietary Aide I had the pleasure to meet a man name James aka Jimmy Jam. James, a cooks helper worked from can’t see morning to can’t see night. Overtime was Jimmy’s girlfriend. We worked the 3am – 12pm shift at the Brooklyn House Detention for Men on Atlantic ave. and Smith Street. At the time, I was a young man and I didn’t realize I would be receiving a new perspective on life as Jimmy’s mini lessons of life would unfolded before me.

I watched Jimmy from a distance and I learned from a man key factor of life. This man raised the price of Pum-Pum. The way Jimmy acted, treated, and carried on by spoiling undeserving women had gotten me tight and I found it hard to swallow most of the stuff he was cooking.  I hated watching Jimmy do his dance when the female officer’s came into the mess hall to eat and get their daily hookup. I despised him and those that took advantage of him like cancer. If it were a Friday evening the hot place to go to after work would be a local bar that served food and played music around the corner from the job. It was a normal hangout spot the police and correction officers would gather cause they knew the women knew that was their spot.

It was a lollypop bar with women looking for a lifesaver. It was an easy killing for the men in blue. Some of the female officers would visit the mess hall to find out if Jimmy was going to hang out at the spot because that would guarantee them at least 2 drinks of their choice. All they would have to do is just smile at Jimmy and pat him on his little baldhead. Some women would even rub is head and Jimmy would just hold his stomach, grin and then laugh like a cheesy cat.  I just shook my head watching the officers carrying on about in such manner starting Jimmy up like an old 1967 Chevy that needed a new engine.

Jimmy had to have been no more than 4’-11” and weighed about 130lbs. His stomach was far over his belt buckle. Jimmy was a functional alcoholic whose choice of drink was Hennessy. James would drink Hennessy until the bottle read Tennessee.  One day while in the break room I asked Jimmy why does he throw his money away the way that he does? He said first of all “I take care of my daughter she comes first” second “Look at me I’m nothing much to look at, I’m out of shape, I’m fat and sometimes I have to pay for attention if you know what I mean?” He added that one day I will get old and one day I would have to come to the realization that young women will no-longer come my way or find me attractive unless I paid for it.

I thought how freighting and started looking at every older man in the break room differently. I remember excusing myself from the table and going into the bathroom to look into the mirror. I pictured myself old and grey and thought to myself would I experience the same? Will there be a day when I’d have to pay for it? Pay for the attention of a woman? Pay for love? Nothing in life is free but damn will I grow old to the point a woman wouldn’t even want to look at me without having her hand out?

Some 20 years have pasted since my Brooklyn House days and there’s not a day I don’t think about Jimmy Jam and his message of lost sunshine, misfortune and self-portrait. As I watch the grey hairs set in I guard against the day that I have to reach into my pocket in order to make another person happy and want to spend quality time. I guess I could be happier but I am thankful for God being gentle to me over the years paving a way towards a better life.

Thank you God. Thank you for allowing me to be part of this one big classroom you’ve provided for all of us to learn and draw from. I accept each and every tests and popup quiz you have to offer; all for a beautiful understanding of life and I also appreciate the gifts that are on loan to us. Thank you for allowing me to pass through.

Harlem,

Heaven is at the foot of Mother…

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