I've never liked the street-corner rap.

Never had one "Can I come with you, Hot Cakes?" where an affirmative was in my best interest.

Stadium whistles from an L Street scaffolding, airborne kisses smacking their way down South Dakota Avenue, the "Lawd-have-mercy-Mama" at 6th and D -- and all unsolicited attention from strange men -- I can do without.

Strange, unfamiliar men, not all of them. Ninety-nine percent are gentlemen and scholars; it's the ubiquitous 1 percent, that mighty-mouth minority, that I'd like to silence, at least temporarily.

No more "Hey, Baby" right out of a strolling, blue-collar macho man's mouth; or "Can I come with you, Sweetness" clean off the lips of a leaned-back, suited-up executive; or "What's happening Slim Goody?"

My desire: to stroll the streets of Washington verbally unaccosted, except for a standard hello, a pleasant, "Nice day, isn't it?" an occasional flash of pearly or off-whites. Hattipping allowed.

This hasn't happened. So "Sweet Thing" has gone on doing the same thing I've done all the seasons of my life, politely saying hello in return for half a block of peace.

Always wanted, however, to put just one somebody in his place. But when it comes to on-the-street-face-to-face confrontation, I'm a punk. Capital P. It took my friend Sheila to teach me.

There we were, walking down 8th Street SE, two conservatively dressed women. (No slits. No cleavage. No cling. No exposed knee caps. If we'd had hats, we could have collected for the Salvation Army.)

From at least two blocks away, we heard the voice. "Hey brown SHORTY!" Sheila is short and brown; she looked around.

"I said hey Brown Shorty with the big, fine legs." (I think 2 inches of her legs were showing, but I guess the guy was hard up for an ice breaker.) Sheila sighed; she has been sighing since puberty. We turned the corner.

"Say, Miss Brown Shorty with the big, fine legs and nice booty, I know ya hear me talking to ya." Loud, all up and down Pennsylvania Avenue. I saw Sheila's top lip begin to press down, flattening the lower one, which was beginning to shake.

"I have an admirer," she said.

"There is not a punk bone in Sheila's body. She stopped walking after the third "Hey Brickhouse, I sure would like . . ." set at half-a-block volume. And from half a block, the voice looked enormous.

Several people stopped to watch. As the Holly Farms part of my personality began to surface, I was about to go into a sprint. Sheila grabbed me.

Seeing the object of his harassment waiting, smiling, the young man added a little glide to his stride, an extra mile to his smile and fluffed up his chest hairs. All 6 feet of him sidled up to Sheila. She was standing with arms folded, a calm smile on her face.

"Well, uhh, what's happenin', Sweet . . ." Sheila interrupted politely, a wave of her manicured hand. "Do you think," she asked quietly, "my mother named me Brown Shorty? Do you think that's on my birth certificate?"


"You know," continued Sheila, still smiling, with an air of genuine concern, "if folks hear you screaming in the streets like that, they're liable to think you're crazy."

"Honey," shouted an old woman from the sidelines, "St. E's is full of folks got more sense than him."

The young man stared at her, along with the other folks who had, somewhat nervously, gathered around.

Sheila strode toward the now-reluctant rapper. He took several steps backward.

"Suppose," she said, "you'd been strolling down the street, minding your own business and you heard somebody yell, 'Hey Long Tall with the Adidas and the basketball butt?'"

She spoke softly, without a hint of malice and with the same sweet smile. He still jumped. (at the thought, maybe?) She repeated it; he jumped again. Louder. Still louder.

"I didn't mean any harm," he mumbled. "You know how it is, Baby."

"I know," said Sheila quietly, "ya hear me talking to ya."

We started walking toward the Metro. Behind us we could hear Long Tall muttering. "That sure was cold, Mama. Cold."

Yeah Turkey, I thought to myself, seasons do change.