An Artist Journey: 23 Years In Prison“If you see me walking down the streets, and I start to cry each time we meet…walk on by”
Isaac Hayes- Walk on By
Cooped up in my cell while lying on my bunk bed, I watched the final scene of Dead Presidents as it was coming to a close. In the final scene Isaac Hayes is belting out his version of “Walk on By”. Isaac, with his version, added a complimentary sound to the scene. Isaac Hayes had that deep, syrupy voice, which sounded like a dungeon keeper, or the King’s executioner. His voice and track behind the scene seemed fitting to accompany the somber mood of a bus ride to prison. The protagonist, Anthony Curtis, was played by Chicago native Larenz Tate; he was the passenger riding on that long bus ride to prison, while Isaac crooned this sorrowful tale.
Fifteen years to life was his sentence for a bank robbery gone a muck, and that left a body count of victims killed during the heist.
“Walk on By” plays, as Anthony Curtis stares out of the prison bus that will take him to prison for the rest of his life. You can feel the sadness of his fate and the dark realization of his reality. The scene seems to suggest to the viewer to fill in the blanks, or to imagine the dire circumstances. What is going on in Anthony Curtis’s mind, as he contemplates his life in prison- forever, and of his journey down a road with a one-way ticket? What would be going through the viewer’s mind, if placed in this situation? Vicariously, we live through, or experience life through art- film being one of those picturesque mediums.
“Coffee, tea, or me baby, touché ole’; my opening line might be, a bit passé’”
Teena Marie- Lover Girl
1984 and this was one of the songs coming from the radio on the prison bus that I was a passenger on. Different theme, different era, and different mood in contrast to Isaac Hayes’s “Walk on By”. The song was at the top of the charts that year. “Lover Girl” seemed to be more of a celebratory song. Teena sang of wanting to be some man’s “Lover Girl”, and Isaac sang of crying.
I liked “Lover Girl”, as I do “Walk on By”, but at the time I couldn’t really appreciate it. If my bus ride was on film, Lover Girl wouldn’t gel with the director’s vision or mood of the scene; then again, if it was my life on film, it would, because it would hold truth to the story line. So Teena sang on the prison bus, while I, in shackles, looked out the drab fenced in window, and pondered my future. At this point, I was left to wonder and speculate what would become of my life. Would I be tried by some chump trying to prey on me, being a fresh nineteen years old? Would I have to kill some ************ to make an example of them, and let them know that I ain’t no punk?
****, they gave me twenty eight years; twenty eight years! Their goes my ************ life! Oh, yeah, I was mad. I was mad, sad, and ****** up in the head all at once. **** it, my mindset was that of some young soldier who’s never been to war, but who was ready to die. If someone was going to test my patience, or try me, I was ready to go down in a blaze of glory and take someone with me. Far from my mind was any thought of rehabilitation; there was no time for being a nice guy where I was going. Nice guys get **** on- no different then the streets, or in the county jail, where I just left.
I fought back the tears and sucked it all in. Just like Anthony Curtis, I was living out a scene from Dead Presidents long before the film’s release, and this was a moment where I wouldn’t be exiting the theater once the credits rolled. I was immersed in this film that appeared to have no ending and no light at the end of the tunnel. ****, this was a bus ride filled with dread, frustration, regret, and hate. It was this range of emotions that would ride passenger in my mind for the duration of the trip to prison, and for the crazy ride I was in for, while being resident N44210 in the Illinois Department of Corrections.
Larenz Tate captured that painful ride and experience very well, staring out of the prison bus with its wired windows. You stare out and have nothing but time to think about your life and where it will lead- the road of uncertainty. It’s a sad journey.