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I Was Robbed at Gunpoint in Harlem

I Was Robbed at Gunpoint in Harlem


I've never been robbed before, let alone at gunpoint. But that would change quickly once I moved to Harlem from a small suburban Pennsylvania town. In fact, it would happen on my second day of living in my new apartment.

My Friend Dave & I

It all started when my close friend Dave and I decided to pack up and move to New York City. I was a screenwriter and playwright, and he was an aspiring actor. It was our dream to live in New York, and we finally did. However, Dave was able to move into our new apartment on 116th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard (thirty minute walk to Apollo Theater) a month before me due to some obligations I had to fulfill at my soon-to-be former job.

Now, this was back in 2005. Harlem wasn't like it was in the '70s and '80s or even the '90s. But it was still a bit sketchy. If you were heading uptown from Central Park West, the moment you'd hit 110th Street, you'd see a change in the scenery. Central Park is now in your rearview.

Apollo Theater NYC Apollo Theater, 253 W 125th St, New York, NY 10027

After completing my job obligations in Pennsylvania, I arrived in New York. The first night was dedicated to relaxation after moving all my stuff into the new apartment. My second night in the City of Big Dreams was all about celebrating. Dave and I found a cool little bar on the Upper West Side and got shit-faced drunk. I mean, SHIT. FACED.

Then we made our way to Grey's Papaya and stocked up on hot dogs – probably about 15 hot dogs, to be exact. Still unfamiliar with the NYC subway system, we took the 1 Train to 125th and Lennox Avenue when the C or B trains would have taken us much closer to our apartment.

We also should've gotten off at 116th, but we missed it. It was about 3:30 a.m., and we walked back to the apartment, about eight blocks away. I was leading the way for some reason, but when I finally got to the apartment, I turned around, and Dave was not there!

Bag Full of Hot Dogs

Hot Dogs

Now I know what you are thinking. I should've just gone into the apartment. Well, I only had keys to the entrance door and not to my actual apartment. I guess I could've called Dave to see where he was, but I had a prepaid cell phone and was out of minutes. And I didn't have a single dime on me, only a bag full of hot dogs.

So all I could do was wait for Dave. Soon 3:30 a.m. became 4:00 a.m., and 4:00 a.m would become 4:30 a.m. Before I knew it, it was almost 5 in the morning! No sign of Dave, and I was fed up. I walked a block down the street to use the payphone when I realized - "Oh, yeah, I don't have any change on me."

So I kindly asked a passerby for change, explaining my cell phone was out of minutes. Instead of giving me change, this "gentleman" pulled out a gun and asked for money – in front of about five spectators hanging out on a nearby stoop. I tried explaining to him I didn't have any money – why else would I ask him for change? The guy seemed a little out of it, and I didn't want to get killed, so I gave up my cell phone. On my way back to the apartment, I saw the guy trying to sell my phone to the guys hanging out on a stoop.

The Cigarettes & Heinekens Guy

Heineken & Cigarettes

Obviously frustrated and perhaps stupidly, I asked another nearby stranger for a cigarette. The sun was up, and people were out and about, so I didn't see any risk. The stranger came out of a bodega with a pack of Newports and a six-pack of Heineken. He seemed sympathetic towards my situation, so he gave me a cigarette and offered me a beer.

So I was like, "Sure, why the fuck not?" I needed a beer after the shit I've just been through. That was a dumb move. The stranger cracked one open for himself and asked me to join him on the stoop across the street from my apartment to talk. I sat down next to him at the top of the steps. But he shook his head and said, "No, sit here," pointing to the next step down in front of him.

The back of my head would be right near his crotch region. Immediately sensing what was going on, I made up some bullshit excuse and headed to my apartment across the street, letting myself into the front entrance. I sat there for another 15 minutes until the stranger was gone. I went back outside, downing hot dog after hot dog while waiting for Dave.

Finally, it was after 7 in the morning, and here came my friend Dave moseying his way to our apartment. "What the fuck happened?" I screamed at him, telling him everything that had happened the previous night. "Settle down," Dave said to me. He then told me that he was so drunk and disoriented that he got lost during our walk home from the subway station.

So his instinct was to go back to the train, where he fell asleep and did figure-eights around New York for almost four hours. He offered me some Jamaican beef patties as an olive branch, but I screamed at him "Dude, I just ate 15 fucking hot dogs!" Luckily, this never happened to me again, and I still live in New York City nearly 15 years later.

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