‘Chopping it Up’

Back in September, while looking around for someone to interview about Colorado Springs’ bus system, I encountered Larry Wilson, who was sitting by himself waiting for his bus to get back home from work. Mistaking me for a salesman at first, Larry was cautious, but it only took him a second to warm up. We didn’t talk much about busses, but covered just about everything else. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Interview & photo by Pema Baldwin

Lived in Savannah about 20 years — probably 15 years. Originally out of New York City — a little part of Manhattan. Strictly hood. 

It was like a brotherhood. I had a chance to grow up with older people, so it was different. Mine was that my peers out in the streets were just like my parents. They groomed me until I got to a place where they were able to let me go. You follow me? My buddy over there — he was older than I was — when he said something I listened to him. Not to say he was all right, but he had to guide me — to show me different things: how to do this, how to do that. The rest, I guess, is human learning. It was an experience. 

I think we all have done something — we experience it, and we go, “This wasn’t life.” Did it for a little while and then we stop. Smoking reefer — it’s an experience. Crack or meth. We’re all tempted to try something, but to stay there? That is another level.

The thing I’ve tried most is love and understanding.

I fell in love with somebody that was not even the likeness I was supposed to be with. I found out in the bitter end that love was still there, but I couldn’t do that level of love. Silliness or chasing after sex — that place where you just do anything because it says that it’s love. There must be some restrictions. 

Now true love: it’ll keep going. You follow me? I fell in love with somebody because they had a particular thing that I wanted and then I thought that this was all love. We fall in love because we want to have sex, we fall in love because we want to get high together, and then we keep going because we think that this is love. The love for you as a person — I still love you — but to keep going because we’re just doing it about the drugs or something — we can’t love like that. That’s imbalance. It’s toxic love. 

I got into some trouble in about 2013. I went to Cripple Creek and wrote a bad check. I didn’t mean to. I just didn’t pay the ticket. I had to pay Cripple Creek back. I went to court for the ticket. When I didn’t pay the ticket, they put me in jail. Oh, they put me in jail for probably three weeks — two weeks. 

Well, if you don’t pay the money you’re gonna have a warrant. When the judge tells you to go to court and you don’t go, you’re gonna get a fine. If you get a fine, they put a warrant on you when you don’t show up. Then you gotta go to jail.

Anyways, I was in jail. Met some real nice people, but the main factor is that after I didn’t go to my appointment, they decided that they were going to lock me down. I was locked down for about eight months. So, when you don’t pay a ticket they put you in a group of folks — if you got a drinking habit or a drug habit they put you in and you go to classes. When you don’t pay a fine, and you refuse to pay a fine, they put you in there for two or three months. You gotta get a job, gotta go to work. You pay them $500 a month and then after you pay the fine, they let you out. So I had to do that, and that’s where I’m at right now. It’s been an experience. 

I’m a born-again Christian. I love the Lord. So, I’m getting a chance to witness other walks of life. When I was in New York I used to go down to visit the Haitians and Mexicans. Just chop it up, you know. I play chess, but mainly why I went down — I just wanted to chop it up. I wanted to see another source of life. I liked to dress, but mainly I liked interacting with people.

When I was in jail I played chess. We’d sit across from each other, but I didn’t play to win. I played for the camaraderie of one another. I could beat you all day long, but it wasn’t about winning. It was about finding out who was sitting across the table from you, but I had fun. 

I still do that now. I walk up to people sometimes and sit down and talk; chop it up. To be outgoing is everything for me. To go someplace I’ve never been is my life story. I just want to find out what other folks’ life is like. 

That’s another thing. You ever got with somebody and really like their charisma and find out they were doing something they weren’t supposed to be doing? Now you thought that this made you part of the crowd, so now you’re going to do it. When I was younger I probably would have followed that crowd, but I always had somebody that says, “Don’t do what I do. Do what I train you to do. I need you to stay straight, clean, nice young man, but I’m gonna teach you something about what life says.” But I learned some things about what it was to be a part of what we may call life, and be energy towards life. 

Make mistakes. Be honest about what my mistakes may be. Have integrity enough to find out whether I was fooling myself. I’ve always liked to be truthful with myself. You know how we could say, “No, I’m not like that.” Come to find out in a dark room: “Oh yeah. You got some traces of that.” 

I didn’t arrive at every place in my lifetime that I thought I would. You have to ask yourself, why? Sometimes in a lifetime we don’t reach everything. 

Can we say that we don’t press hard enough? Or “I didn’t meet the right people?” 

I’m finding out that life is very, very interesting. I’m finding out that life is mwah (kissing fingertips), as the Italians say. It is beautiful. I can say this because I know the good and bad side of life.

The thing that I thought I’d never do was find out what love was. I thought it was in the individual that I was in front of, but I found it was in me. I had to find out who I was, but I didn’t want to be a copycat to that which was in front of me. I found out that God was within me. Even if I never read another Bible or another book, I found out that the love, the kindness, peace, happiness was all inside of me, and when I got with somebody, I understood what it was to come into the full picture of the consistency of love.

Love has to be consistent: “I don’t like what you do, but I love you as a person.” Loving me is always keeping it going. Not finding evil inside of me. Not pretending to fool myself when I’m evil and calling evil good, and yet I’m evil. You know? The good attributions of what is inside of me. I found out that that is the fullness of what love is. 

Your experience doesn’t mean that you’ve come to a place of arrival. It just means that you have experience, so you’re always learning, but as young as you are, you could be as wise as you could be. Because you’re 12 or 13, 16 or 18, that doesn’t mean you don’t have experience, but experience means that I’ll wait on some things. I can have more experience.

We don’t do ego, and when we find out where ego lives we get away from it. We get back to simplicity again because the true struggle is I’m trying to better, and I need to rest in what I am.

I hear to be an artist you have to be so loud. Like, if I was on the street and I was doing art, I would still have to paint whether people liked my paintings or not. In order to, I would get my soul into my painting, and then it would sell. A true artist gives his soul out to whatever he does, but he can’t rely on what people tell him to do. 

I am not fully there, but I am willing to go all the way. 

I would like to sit in a room with wisdom. You ever been in a room with wisdom? It is not so much that he talks all the time, but when he does talk, it means so much. You’re listening for that very moment that will touch everything. 

That’s just life for me.

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