Barry sings the clueless white guy’s lament |

Barry sings the clueless white guy’s lament

Barry Smith

My friend Arman once made the mistake of telling me the following story:Around 1993, Arman, an audio engineer, was working on a rap album in LA. Sitting in front of the mixing board, Arman played back a recent track he’d mixed, while the rappers stood over him, listening. Again, this was over ten years ago, before this particular brand of “street” had become the commodity it now is. Also, keep in mind that Arman is a bit of a white guy.”Man, that’s the sh–!” one of the rap artists said after the song was over.Arman swallowed hard and replied: “Well, I don’t know what else to do, really.”The rapper tried again: “No, man … that’s the sh–!”Arman: “Well, I suppose I could turn the bass up a teeny bit more, but it’s just so loud already …”This exchange went on a few times before it dawned on Arman that his work was being highly praised, rather than his life being threatened.Man, I love to tell and retell that story. Arman was so clueless! Ha ha ha!Just a few nights ago I was standing in front of my local opera house trying to sell an extra ticket to the event about to start inside. It was a ticket I paid $25 for, and I was selling it for $20, because I’m a scalper with bad business sense.I stationed myself next to the door and made it known that I was open for business.”How much for your ticket, dude?” some dude finally asked.Twenty bucks. Dude.”You take five for it?” he asked.Uh, no.”No, dude,” he repeated, moving closer to me, “will you take five for it?”No. Twenty. I would have taken less than 20, but only with proper haggling, which this was not.He stepped closer, and asked again if I’d take five for it, this time making some real obvious motions with his eyes to get me to look down at his hand. In his hand was a credit card.”Know what I’m sayin’, bro?” he said. Said it a few times, in fact, all the while concealing and revealing this credit card in an exaggerated psst-buddy-wanna-buy-a-watch manner, like a three card Monte dealer who believes his own hype.”You take five for it? Know what I’m sayin’, bro?”The thing is, I had no idea what he was saying. I just didn’t want to admit it. And he was waving this credit card around in such a way that I couldn’t quite determine what it was. My hesitation didn’t seem to faze him, as he seemed content to stand there for a while, asking me if I knew what he was saying. My mind quickly ran down the possibilities.1. He’s offering me a stolen credit card, plus five dollars (or the “take five” is merely code for “stolen credit card,” and this would be a strictly cash-free transaction.) A stolen credit card wasn’t really what I had in mind for the evening. Also, if it was a stolen card, why would he trade it for a $25 ticket? Why not go on a spree, then offer to trade me something cool for my ticket, like an antler chandelier?2. It was his credit card, and he assumed I had one of those credit card machines with me. All the hand movement with the card was merely a result of his blood alcohol level.3. It was his ATM card, and he wanted me to accompany him to the machine for his withdrawal. Also, “take five” is street lingo for “I will gladly pay your asking price.”4. It was his library card, and he was completely insane.Whatever it was he was proposing, I passed, and sold the ticket to the guy behind him for ten bucks.But the incident disturbed me. I fear that I may be losing some of my formidable street knowledge. I mean, I once negotiated a drug deal with a man who only spoke Sanskrit. I had dreadlocks in my 20s, for God’s sake.My biggest upset, though, is that unless I figure this out, I’ll no longer get to laugh at Arman for his lack of street cred.So, somebody help a brother out here. Any theories about what was going on with the credit card guy? E-maizzle ’em to me. I need some guidance in order to remain the viable fountain of hipster knowledge that I am. Know what I’m sayin’?Barry Smith, an Aspen-based freelance writer, moves his lips while writing this column, and hopes you do the same while reading it. E-mail him at or visit his Web page at

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