The Crayola of Misfortune



Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI

Neighborhood: Uncategorized

“Hey, can you spare some coin?” The guy sounded pleasant enough as he approached our car. Todd was tucking his spare keys into the ashtray and I was applying Mac lipstick (ooh baby) to the sounds of John Briggs (a local jazzy techno artist). We climbed out of Todd’s shiny 1998 Pathfinder, we were summer-drunk and ready to hit the bowling alley next to the Majestic Cafe on Woodward for some slides and turns in those weird little multi-colored shoes.

Through the light blanket of dusk that covered the humid atmosphere I could see the guy was young, clean shaven and carrying this totally random Crayola crayon over his shoulder. It was the biggest crayon I had ever witnessed: maybe 3 feet tall or so. Anyhow, he didn’t look to be in dire need of assistance. You see, my friends, in the lovely town of Detroit, as in most major cities, one must prioritize the giving of change to panhandlers. You may not have to have to, but if you don’t you will rarely put your wallet away.

“Sorry, we don’t have anything to spare, my man…” Todd answered. The crayon-toting panhandler continued to follow us. “OK then, could you trade me some Canadian change for some American?” Downtown Detroit is unique in that the international border to closer to the City than many suburbs. I can remember bouncing in the backseat of my parents’ Mercury as a kid as we crossed the Ambassador bridge, excitedly anticipating a Chinese dinner in Windsor at this tiny little place we used to frequent. So, carrying around Canadian change is a pretty normal thing.

“I don’t have any change,” I said. I didn’t. Todd didn’t either. I snuggled my arm into Todd’s as the guy came closer. “Well then, looks like you two could use this change more than me. See, I just got out of jail, I’m not allowed to travel out of the country, so I can’t exchange it. Here, take it.” He reached into the depths of the giant Crayola and produced a fistful of Loonies (Canadian dollar coins).

“No thanks, man, we can’t take your money,” Todd replied. “Oh, I insist,” Crayola guy said. “Somebody might as well have it. There’s a few bucks here.”

Eager to end the exchange and get to bowling, we took the goods and headed inside. As we laced up our bowling shoes, Todd tossed, “Now that was weird. I’ve never been given money by a panhandler.”

I had already started to take down an apple martini as I stared dreamily at the bowling pins and planned my strategy. “That sure was odd,” I agreed.

The room was crowded with kids wearing Wayne State T-shirts, punk style mohawks and bright colored shorts and button down combinations. An eclectic blend of the downtown southern-touched, artsy and collegiate sets. We had a great time bowling to the top 40 hits of the moment.

And then it happened. We relinquished the stuffy bowling shoes, stopped to talk to a few old friends, and decided to call it a night.

We went outside and… No car. Gone. We walked around the block. We had been parked legally, there was no way it was towed. It was stolen while we were bowlin’.

“The spare keys,” Todd muttered. Shattered glass marked the oil stained spot where we had been parked. “Ugh,” I agreed. “Explains that giant Crayola,” Todd remarked with a light smile. I just shook my head in disbelief. We sat on the curb of Woodward avenue and waited for a cab.

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