Snapshots: On Solid Ground

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In this week's snapshot, actor and playwright Jeff Obafemi Carr stumbles across some old and new pitfalls in the Nashville neighborhood where he grew up.

Mr. JEFF OBAFEMI CARR (Actor, Playwright): I came close to running out of luck, when I almost fell down a well - or was it a cesspool? I'm still not sure.

CHIDEYA: Today's weekly Snapshot comes from actor and playwright Jeff Obafemi Carr. He says if you ever happen to stumble and fall, the biggest trip could be who comes to your rescue?

Mr. OBAFEMI CARR: I bought a house in the neighborhood I grew up in, near my widowed mother who still resides in my childhood home. I was lucky to buy it at a good price years ago. You see, we live in an inner city, speedily gentrifying community with increasing mignons of hip, progressive, urban pioneering neighbors.

I just love the new politically correct terms for yuppies who decide that these little black neighborhoods have the cutest little cottages. All they need is for people to move into them that can give them the love, attention and exponentially increasing property values their presence alone can bring.

These watchful neighbors then patrol the old hood with their cell phones handy. If they see something that just isn't right, they call up the codes department, anonymously of course, and cry foul. So a couple of weeks ago, my mom's hot water heater gave up the ghost and flooded the basement as a memorial. Yours truly drew the task of pulling 40 years of accumulated memories out of the basement to get to the flooding and save the day.

Well, what do you know? One of the ever-vigilant friendly neighborhood preservationist saw the pile by the basement door and reported my mother's home as the site of a public dump. Welcome to America. Luckily, I'd already ordered a dumpster unbeknownst to the good neighbors, so I sped up its delivery, charged the iPod, put on my favorite work jeans and started attacking memory mountain one little bit at a time.

Mom was going to help, but I told her I had it covered. I was jamming to the soundtrack of (unintelligible). Happy thoughts was sailing as I stepped into the mini mountain with my right foot. That's when it happened. I hadn't looked where I was stepping. If I had, I would have remembered I was directly over a hole in the ground my dad put a piece of wood over. And that was a good temporary fix, but I should mention that my dad passed away six years ago.

Well, mix the way the five feet of junk, seven or eight years of rot, a fresh rain and a primary weight of a 6'2, 190-pound brother man on a size 13 boot, and what do you have - every bit of that mix headed two directions at blinding speed, forward and down.

Instinct may be reached to both sides. And with a mix of luck and skill, I was able to catch myself just as I felt cold water rising up almost to my knee. There was no bottom.

I said, whoa, out loud, then I had another thought. Wait a minute, is this a well or a sewer? Oh, crap - an unintentional pun. I pulled myself up as one of the tenants was singing some Italian aria in my ears.

My foot and leg were covered with something wet and black. I immediately ran and grabbed the garden hose, sprayed off my boot and pants' leg, and thank god, my mom wasn't helping me out because it could have been her.

As I stripped and prepped the washer for my clothes, I thought to myself that if I would have fallen in, all I could have done was scream for one of my neighbors to come and rescue me. I wonder if they would have come. And if they did, would they have said, hmm, promise you'll repaint in earth tones, preserve the subway tile in your bathroom and restore the original glass doorknobs in your hallway, and we'll pull you right out of there, neighbor. I guess I'm thankful I wasn't in that position this time because I would have been SOL -surely out of luck.

CHIDEYA: Jeff Obafemi Carr is an actor, playwright and co-host of the radio show "Freestyle." He lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

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