Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Time This Guy Looked Under Martin Luther King's Hotel Bed

Here's a conversation, word for word, as I heard it.

Older gentleman: Did I ever tell you about the time I looked under Martin Luther King's bed?

Me: ...No.

OG: I didn't?

Me: No. Not that I recall. Why--

OG: I can't believe I never told you this.

Me: Why would---

OG: So I was working in a hotel down in Birmingham, Alabama? Working at a--yeah, all the famous Black people used to stay there. It was awful back then. 1958 or so. You know--

Me: I'm from Alabama. I've heard. Firehoses and--

OG: You're from Alabama? You don't have an accent. What part?

Me: I do when I'm tired. And The Shoals area. Florence.

OG: Florence! That's WC Handy. That's where he's from.

Me: Right.

OG: His aunt taught me. Went to school with his aunt, she taught me. He didn't leave a dime to her. You know that? He didn't leave a dime.

Me: I don't know that he had a dime to leave her.

OG: Is that right?

Me: I don't know.

OG: Hm?

Me: That he had a dime.

OG: Hm.

Me: I don't know.

OG: So you're from Florence.

Me: Lots of people are.

OG: But you don't have an accent.

Me: Only when I'm tired. Helen Keller was from the area too.

OG: Helen Keller. She was fucked up.

Me: I--

OG: Pardon me. But she was fucked up. A deaf--she couldn't hear, she couldn't see, she could barely talk. She--

Me: She did quite well for herself.

OG: If I ever was like that, put a bullet in me. No way I could do that. I'm from Birmingham. You know, lots of people are from Birmingham. Carl Lewis, Tallulah Bankhead, Jesse Owens. Condi Rice was down there too. You know I knew her?

Me: No.

OG: Awful. Awful woman.

Me: So you looked under Martin Luther King's bed?

OG: Yes. Looked under his bed. I was at this hotel, see, and I was young. Pretty young. I was in charge of bringing up all this stuff to guests, food and whatever else they needed, and that was my job, right. And all the famous Black people stayed at my hotel because it was Birmingham in the--must've been 1957, 58, somewhere around in there, and I worked at the place for Black people to stay. It was different back then. You're young. You don't remember how it was. Why should you?

Me: I've heard the--

OG: And so I was sent up to deliver Martin Luther King his dinner. He'd just been stabbed. He answered the door himself. He'd just been stabbed. In the heart. Some woman had just stabbed him in the heart, and here he is. No bodyguards, no secret service, nothing. He's in that room alone, and he answers the door. I could've had anything in my hand. I could've--you know what--I could've been a member of the KKK. Just got a tray in my hand. Could've had a gun for all he knew.

Me: And you--of course, the KKK, and all you did was--

OG: And I was sent up there with a purpose, keep that in mind. Everyone downstairs was saying, He's up there, he's got a woman with him. Martin was married, keep in mind. He was married at the time, and it wasn't his wife up there with him, so I was sent up there to find out if he had a woman up there. So I was gonna look under his bed. There wasn't a soul in his hotel room that I could see. Except for him, and he handed me--I remember--he handed me 50 cents for the meal and the tip and I, you know what I did, I did this, I dropped one of the quarters.

[Two things: This man has the subtlety of a sledge-hammer, and I can't believe 50 cents used to pay for room service]

OG: Dropped that quarter, and then went down on my knees. I don't mean I went down on my knees that way. Went down just to look under the bed. People today, you know, think going down on my knees might mean something else.

Me: Didn't occur to me that you went down on--

OG: Went down on my knees to look under the bed. No one under there. The only thing I saw was my quarter. So Martin Luther King was standing over me--and I'm just down there to see if there's some lady hiding under the bed--Martin is above me and he's thanking me.

Me: That is kinda cool. You met Martin Luther King and--

OG: And so I go back downstairs--

Me: --and he tipped well.

OG: --and everyone asks if I found the woman. Right. And it occurs to me, sure, I looked under the bed, but I didn't check the bathroom or the closet.

Me: Good places to hide.

OG: She could be in other places, you see.

Me: Like the quarter under the bed or in your pocket.

OG: He liked women. [pause] This other time, I went up to a room, and there was a man there in sunglasses. A woman too. She was in panties. She excused herself and went to the bathroom. I'm standing there asking, Why is there a woman in panties? And I ask the man, man it is night. Why are you wearing sunglasses. What are you, you blind or something. And the man says he's blind. 'Yes, I'm blind,' he says. It's Ray Charles.

Me: Ray Charles?

OG: Ray Charles. The--I didn't know who he was at the time. And I kept thinking, "Why is that woman in her panties in there? How can he find his way down--does he go on smell?"

Me: Maybe--

OG: So that's how I learned about Ray Charles. He's not from Birmingham.

Me: Maybe he's from.... I think he's from Georgia.

OG: See, I don't see why that woman was in there. Panties. She was running around in panties, and he didn't see it. Had some sunglasses on, and blind, and I still don't understand why she was there. Why do you think she was there?

Me: Maybe she--

OG: I was there for a good period. All the famous Blacks stayed there at one time or another. I still wish I'd looked in Martin Luther King's bathroom. Bet he had a woman standing just right there, next to the sink. Maybe another one in the closet.

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