The Thug Up the Block and the Fire

I kid you not about this.

On Friday night I dreamed I hit the lottery. In  the dream I turned to “Van” and said, “Hey let’s use a little bit of these millions to fix up Ray’s house up the street.”

“Ray” is the “Thug Up of the Block” who I have written about in past blog posts. He works a blue collar job and doesn’t earn so much and his house is in need of major repair. In the dream Van and I do some HGTV magic, hire a crew, and fix up his house in a matter of hours while he is working his night-shift job.

Fires can be disastrous in Baltimore because most people in the city live in rowhouses that are connected, increasing the chance fires will spread. Photo courtesy of

Fires can be disastrous in Baltimore because most people in the city live in rowhouses that are connected, increasing the chance fires will spread. Photo courtesy of

When he walks up the street and sees his house he gets a look of joy that is indescribable. It was a pleasant dream and I woke up in a good mood remembering it.

Well, the dream came true early Sunday morning  but not in a way I would have ever expected.

Van and I were sleeping soundly when we were awakened by neighbors’ shouts and  sirens. It was a cool, fall evening so I left the windows to my bedroom open. A cloud of smoke was drifting over our street and the acrid smell drifted into the room.

Then I saw the reflection of flames in the windows of rowhouses across the street.

Van and I ran outside with many of our neighbors and I looked up the block. Whose house was that on fire? Oh no, I realized in horror. It was Ray’s house!

The upper story of the house where his bedroom was was fully ablaze. Flames and sparks climbed into the dark sky.

Wait I thought. I had his number. I ran back in the house and grabbed my cell.

I rang Ray’s phone. I was filled with dread. If he didn’t answer that could mean he was trapped inside. Dying in a horrible way.

But he picked up on the third ring. My heart leaped for joy.

“Ray your house is on fire!”

“Hey, I heard,” he yelled. “I’m not home. I’m heading home and will be there in a few minutes.”

The Drinkery, a popular gay bar on Read Street in Baltimore.

The Drinkery, a popular gay bar on Read Street in Baltimore.

Ray had been hanging out at “The Drinkery,” a gay bar on Read Street, when he got the call his house was on fire.

He ran over to busier Martin Luther King Avenue, hopping up and down frantically trying to get a cab home. By coincidence two fire marshals on the way to the blaze at his house saw him and pulled over and brought him back to our street.

It took firefighters hours to put out the fire completely — they even had to call in a helicopter to spray water on it from above. The fire damaged rowhouses on both sides Ray’s house.

His house was completely ruined — only the brick front and porch remain. The back of the house is now a jumble of charred wood, brick and siding.

Sadly, Ray lost a year-old pitbull and his cat in the fire.

A man working on a fire clean-up crew told me they found the dog huddled in what was left of the dining room. He had died from smoke inhalation and had not burned to death. I was glad that was  how it happened — I knew Ray was devoted to that puppy and didn’t want him to suffer.

Fortunately Ray had insurance and his house will be rebuilt. The Red Cross put him up in a hotel not far away and after Sunday church service I went to visit him. Van and I gave him a $100 to help out.

Ray is a proud dude but he said he is taking his family’s advice to accept all the help that is offered. The only clothes he has left are what he wore to the bar.

After talking a few minutes I got up to leave. “I’m sorry about your pets Ray but I’m so glad you are okay,” I said, giving him a bear hug.

“Well, it’s all in God’s hands,” he said quietly.


16 thoughts on “The Thug Up the Block and the Fire

  1. I’m sad that he lost his pets, me being a pet owner myself. I’m thankful he is well and that he’s able to recover.

  2. Really sadden for him…. A lot of times we don’t understand when horrific things happen but like that old negro spiritual song goes, “we’ll understand it better by and by”.

  3. Wow its almost like you had some type of foresight Immanuel, sorry to hear about your neighbors loss, his house and pets but its great he has friends like you and Van.

  4. I live in a 1920’s bungalow with the old cloth wrapped wire and knob/tube electrical system. Fire is one of my biggest fears (knocking on wood as I type this). Although “things” can be replaced, they represent stages of our lives. Pictures as well as mementos handed down are irreplaceable. Even though your neighbor is a “thug”, I’d imagine the enormity of his loss has hit him pretty hard.

    Perhaps you and Van could invite him over and drain off a little of his stress…… him a good time…….be neighborly…..if ya know what I mean (LOL).

    • PDQ he is a regular at our sex parties. Shit we offer him the “friendly neighbor” discount rate lol. I texted him today and he is hanging in their but misses his dog and cat.

  5. Damn. Sorry to see this happen to anyone. I’m glad the brother is hanging in there.

    What part of town was this in? I’m a Baltimore resodent.

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