BY JEFF DEENEY TODAY I SAW a white kid, maybe 12, with dirty blond hair cropped short, pedaling an adult size tricycle with a wooden box between the rear wheels up D Street towards Indiana Avenue. Attached to the back of the graffiti tagged wooden box was a fifteen inch stereo speaker that blared rap music loud enough to shake my windshield. The face of a car stereo was mounted to the front of the box so he could reach down to adjust the volume or skip tracks while coasting along. There was asubwoofer inside the box nestled in a tangle of wires that linked the whole thing together. The speaker itself was vibrating, rattling the wooden box as the rapper Scarface said to everyone in a two block radius, “I murder by numbers nigga, one, two, three, darin’ any motherfucker to come test me, ya standin in the jungle nigga.”
The boy pulled to the curb near Indiana Avenue and I pulled in behind him, pulling my van up to his rear wheel as the Latin kids who sling dope on that corner swarmed him, looking his bike over like it was a shiny Escalade right off the showroom floor. The white kid was brimming with pride but kept his face hard and blank as he cranked the volume to a deafening blast, clearly showing off for his friends. He cut the volume as I walked past and they all turned to stare uncertainly, like most corner kids do when they see me approaching. I noticed the white boy had a string ofKanji characters tattooed along the inside of his left forearm, despite the fact that he barely stood higher than my waist.
“Did you make that?” I asked him, pointing at the box.
He looked at me like he was going to tell me to go fuck myself but gave me a straight answer.
“Yeah, my cousin helped me, he built the box but I did everything else.”
“That’s cool. I like that,” I said, but this time got ignored so I walked on. Behind me the music started to blare again, its throbbing bass beating on my back.
When I left D Street to head back to the office I saw the same kid cruising down Kensington Avenue just north of Somerset. I pulled up next to him, took my foot off the gas and coasted at his speed. When he finally looked over and saw me smiling at him he smiled back. It was a wide, confident smile, like he knew he was coolest thing happening inKensington today. I laughed and so did he. He stood up and pedaled hard, veering off onto Boudinot Street, every head on the Avenue turning in his deafening wake.
AFTERWORD: The afterwords for previous Best of Today I Saw selections have been focused on whatever serious social issue underlied the original narrative, that I felt could benefit from the extra years of experience and insights I’ve gained working in the field since. But there’s no larger message here, aside from this: Ride on, Awesome Tattooed Twelve-Year-Old Kenzo Kid, ride on.