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« on: August 18, 2008, 10:38:18 PM »
(Book I: The Birth Of Mr. Make-It-Happen)
As Told To Barry Michael Cooper

This is not the slave narrative of a nigga chained to the drug game.
It is the damaged GPS of a gangster who got lost on the road to the riches.
This is the diary of Nino Brown.

Don't ask me why it took so long to come forward and tell his story. But it was NOT out of fear, because Nino is dead. It was not out of reprisals, because he had no friends. However, Nino Brown did have a family, but now they're dead, too. Outside of his wife and two twin sons, there were no loved ones. Just a crowd of haters, an audience of salt shakers who feared and despised this man. When they found out he was taking a nap forever, crooked judges toasted crooked cops, crooked cops toasted big ballers, and big ballers toasted shot callers: flutes filled to the brim with Cristal and Krug and condescension, in between bites of lobster and filet mignon spilling out of the sides of mouths framed in nervous laughter--and trying not to get butter and Worcestershire sauce on their Cartier and their Bulgari and their Armani, their Brioni, Burberry, Dior and Louis V--from the cherry wood and antelope leather private booths of expensive restaurants to the greasy-shine Formica countertops of fish and chip joints all over the country. From The Four Seasons to M&G's their secrets and their bling and their lives were safe. Nino Brown was dead and gone.

They sang songs. Schoolyard type: Ding, dong, the bitch is dead. That dirty rat bitch, that telling'-ass snitch, ding dong, wicked bitch is dead. They sang and sang, and sang, they drank gallons of big ticket champagne, they told stories of how they would have had the bitch-made turncoat killed: and then they looked over their shoulders, and their bodyguards shoulders, and their bodyguard's bodyguard shoulders, and bought tougher body armor, and bigger guns, and for all of that, they still saw the specter of Nino Brown walking through the walls of their bedroom and winking and whispering "Peekaboo, bitch-ass" before emptying the clip from the Sig Sauer in their foreheads and torsos, they still woke up in the middle of the night (from that reoccurring nightmare), shaking in a cold sweat, fighting to get untangled from pissed up 1000-thread count Polo sheets tucked into $6500 Duxiana Beds, grabbing the nine millimeters from under their pillows and aimed at shadows on the walls and stood at the window, peeking through the curtains, until either the sun came up or they fell asleep on their feet, nodding like dopefiends.

Just in case.

Of course--they hoped in the God they always blasphemed--that Nino Brown was really and truly dead, expired, not breathing anymore, six feet under, where the dirt kissed eternity and mingled with the dust and ashes. Dust to dust, asses to ashes. Nino--NIGGA?!--please be gone and come back no mo'. Where the undying worms were snacking on Nino Brown's $8000 Geoff Banks suit, but not his ghost. Because if Nino Brown was still inhaling, if he was still alive, then, well…
This is a man who inspired fear in the hearts of the fiercest cops, coldest scramblers, hardest hustlers, stick-up kids--and street dudes in general--like no other. Yet and still, they sing songs, of him being a government endorsed teller of tales: a bitch, a rat and a snitch.

Anyway, you're still waiting for me to explain why I waited so long in telling his story…right? Well, like I said, I am not going to answer that.
I will say that the media--that Marshall Macluhan army of LCD/plasma/Pentium carrion eaters, the broadband of digital vultures who chomp, tear, and feed on dead careers and those dying to be famous, literally and figuratively--speculated that he had talked to someone before his timely demise. He did. He talked to me.
Nino Brown was supposed to have been in the Witness Protection Program. Relocated to parts unknown, had his name changed--"Norris Bracken"--even some cosmetic surgery to change the face.

I kept close tabs on Nino. I scoured through all of my notes from his trial almost 17 years ago, I even watched the movie over and over, looking for clues. And two clues that seem to stay with me, are the two names he--well, Wesley Snipes portraying Nino Brown--mentioned to Gee Money--portrayed by Allen Payne--in that scene in the Spotlite after-hours joint, where they declare their love and loyalty for one another: Pusshead, and Blackie. I knew these two people were a key to Nino Brown's past. I just needed to know what door those keys opened to where Nino's soul lived. So I began to dig, and dig deep. Chasing down lawyers he burned, cops he turned, and old bitter acquaintances, I followed a rumor that that Nino Brown had been relocated to Baltimore, Md, after making a pit stop in Scottsdale, Arizona, to get his cosmetic surgery, and to change his name and his life. Many people thought rumor melted into myth, but guess what?
The myth was true.
I can admit I was driven to get to know this man-monster, and what made him tick. Why? I really don't have an answer for that just yet, and I may never be able to answer it. But all of my journalistic digging over ten years--which drove my family away, and brought me to the brink of financial and emotional bankruptcy--produced a number of gems of information, and then the Hope Diamond of a break: word leaked from an attention grabbing nurse on duty during the time of that fatal assassination attempt/car accident in May of 2007--one bigmouthed Esmelda Young, who was recently jailed for selling OxyContin in her East Baltimore neighborhood: OxyContin she conveniently lifted from her medication cart on her ICU floor at Hopkins--that hip hop record mogul Norris Bracken was in her ICU unit.

I won't go into the specifics of how I got the interview with Nino Brown. I made a promise to him before he died that I would keep silent about that, so I am going to keep that promise. Just rest assured that I was there when Nino Brown was in so much excruciating pain from the car accident on May 8th, 2007 (his S600 flipped over the guard rail of I-83 South, remember? Witnesses that afternoon report that two teenage riding on a Honda 4-wheel ATV, rode besides up besides the gleaming black Mercedes and shot the back tires out. The boys then yelled, tried to pop a wheelie, but the ATV wouldn't cooperate. It stood on its back wheels, inclining itself and its two hitmen passengers vertically, before flipping over to crush and kill both boys--identified as Tayshuan Marcrief, 16, and Bilhal Freeston, 17, of East Baltimore--instantly. However, they completed their mission on that rainy evening, because Nino and his wife Rebekka and their 4-year-old twins Nathaniel and Daniel didn't make it to Mo's Seafood on President Street, where they were going to have a quiet dinner in the 2nd floor dinning room. Instead, the brakes on the $185,000 dream-machine malfunctioned, causing the vehicle to ice-skate into a figure-8 and somersaulted over the railing onto Guilford Avenue 10 stories below. Rebekka was decapitated from the section of the windshield that shattered and buckled into the sedan's front seat. The back rear window caved in and dismembered the twins--Daniel and Nathaniel--separating their heads from their necks, and their arms from their shoulders, while they were still buckled in their car seats--as the car crashed upside-down onto the street, creating a small, fiery, crater) and the pins, rods, screws from his waist to his ankles that kept his broken carcass together, that he would literally moan for 15 minutes, even though a sea of morphine navigated throughout the canals of his veins.

But the pain Nino felt wasn't a physical pain, or let me correct that, it wasn't just physical. Nino Brown--whose skill set included teen executioner, pharm king, snitch, and then multi-millionaire record mogul and fashion magnate (his Karrie Kash collection grossed $400 million last year), under the new, government issued name "Norris Bracken"--was going through a psychic torture: the baggage of years of murder, mayhem, and destruction of others, that was now manifesting itself in the ultimate payback of an agony that tore out the guts of his soul. And he wanted to tell his story before there was nothing left. Not that that would stop his intense pain. "But at least," he told me the day right before he died, "it would slow it down a little bit."
I have no idea of whether Nino Brown went to Heaven, or whether he waits in a place of darkness to go to Hell. I am just a writer, and truthfully, no mortal man knows those things anyway. He did talk about God, about belief, about faith--in the right things and wrong things--and about regret, which seemed to be his heaviest burden of all. In a short period of time--May 10th to May 14th, 2007--Nino Brown attempted to draft an attractive self-portrait which rapidly decayed into something unrecognizably ugly. A Dorian Gray that made Nino Brown flinch every time he looked in the mirror.

In publishing this document, I am by no means, acting as judge and jury for Michael Nicholas "Nino" Brown. I am just reporting from the observation booth he allowed me to have for four days until he took his last breath. I was amazed by his ability to snapshot a world inhabited by those who choose to live outside of the law. When that Polaroid dried, it was both repulsive and mesmerizing, and ultimately, very tragic.

Tragic because what Nino Brown realized in his last days, is that he wanted a normal life. More than the hundreds of millions of creflos (the code word appropriated from the prime-time preacher surnamed "Dollar") and the mad fame, Nino wanted unassuming, he wanted mundane, Nino Brown wanted boring. Boring enough to thread himself into the smooth and transparent fabric of the upper-middle class: boring enough to vote (he felt that Barack was going to be the next President), boring enough to take Elizabeth and the twins to Lobsterfest at Red Lobster, boring enough to go on vacation to Disneyworld, or the Bahamas. Boring enough to carry the bags for wifey from the shopping cart bay at Whole Foods on Fleet and Exeter to the huge-hide-a-body-in-the-trunk compartment of the Benz S600, boring enough to kiss his babies as he buckles them up in their car seats. Boring enough to HD camcorder the Twins's first basketball game at the Friends School, to teach them how not to crash the Benz after the boys got their Learner's Permit, to wipe tears from his eyes as they graduated magna cum laude from Howard or Harvard or Coppin State, or Morgan, or NYU, or Fisk, or Wharton School Of Business. Boring enough to fall asleep in his lazy boy in his den while CNN and MSNBC News talked about somebody else killing and ruining the community. Nino Brown wanted peace, and quiet, and boring.

However, ghetto superstars are not afforded that luxury after killing more than 30 people, after poisoning the masses, after creating a sonic drug economy that was scanned on top ten CD's and rotated 24 hours on music video channels and You Tube and downloaded on iTunes onto aural crack pipes now known as iPods, thereby addicting a generation on gangsta rap. Putting the street on smash in any form means too little, too late, Mr. Make-It-Happen. Sorry.

This is not a diary in the traditional sense. It is more of a journal of the psyche, which could be attributed to Nino Brown's remarkable photographic and detailed memory of dates, places, and people, even to the most seemingly insignificant detail. Needless to say, I was and I am still, overwhelmed, thankful, and grateful.
You may or may not chose to believe the truth of Nino Brown's diary; that's your choice. All I ask you to do is read it. From there, draw your own conclusions.
The next voice you hear will be that of Nino Brown. This is his story. In his words.


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« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2008, 10:41:50 PM »

MAY 10TH, 2007
There is a checkpoint:
I have to take off my shoes. The stocky off duty Baltimore Police officer with the graying five-o-clock-shadow-of-a-moustache and the service issue Ruger strapped to his hip looked like one of the older junkies I have seen stooped in mid-nod on the corner of Pulaski and North Avenue; but he is a cop and not a junkie, and a cop wearing the most serious screw-face as he pats me down. He doesn't even look me in the eye, not once. This is all rote for him, it seems: he waves the odd metal wand in front of me and behind me. And then I walk through a metal detector.

I have no weapons.

Remember this is not an airport. This is a hospital. Johns Hopkins. Screwface nods in the affirmative to another off duty cop who absentmindedly is picking in his nose, but when he sees me screwing up his face signaling that that is some real nasty stuff he is doing, he quickly un-boogers his hand against his shirt. Booger-Boy then flattens the contaminated hand against a huge square button, and two white heavy doors woosh open. The room is off to my left.
The hospital suite is both huge and empty, with the exception of the hospital bed where Michael Nicholas "Nino" Brown lays in agony, held together by bolts, metal braces, morphine, and God's Grace.

The place smells like a strange perfume of chlorine, alcohol, piss, cotton, and wooden tongue depressors. The flicker of florescence from the neon over his bed and in the ceiling sparks the room with a clinically alabaster glaze, as if this place is an constant state of flux between life and death. The big window to Nino's room looks straight down Washington Street into the Inner Harbor. This is a great view: the Baltimore World Trade Center, the Light and Pratt Street Pavilions, The Hard Rock Café, Barnes and Nobles, the National Aquarium, and a ring of hotels that circle the tongue of the Chesapeake which licks the mouth of the city and kisses downtown.
It is overcast outside, with heavy smoky gray clouds. No rain. Not yet.

Eyes fluttering, Nino comes out of his haze and stares at me. As weak as he looks, there is a steely strength in his gaze. He looks much different from the photos I remember seeing him in: the New York Times Sunday Magazine, the Daily News, The New York Post, New York Magazine, and the rest of the media coverage in the late '80s. His square jaw was reshaped by plastic surgery to be more oval. His hairline was moved back a fraction of an inch to make him look both older and more distinguished. The Nino of The Late Eighties was a handsome, laser-eyed Mandinka warrior, almost an identical twin to the actor who portrayed him in the film. The millenium version of Nino Brown/Norris Bracken is polished, serene and clean-shaven. With the ghetto sharp edges smoothed and filed down to a Ken Chenualt clean-shaven-Fortune 500 luster. As the leader of N.B.O (The Norris Bracken Organization) Nino looked as if he could be on the cover of both Black Enterprise and Forbes.

Nino is in a hospital gown. An IV bag filled with morphine fished a narrow plastic IV line underneath his hospital gown and implanted somewhere--I'm assuming--on his abdomen. From the waist down, he is bolted in some kind of brace. The imprint of hard screws and metal rods create a defiant imprint underneath the bedcovers. There is a Blackberry Bold (Nino had it a year before anyone else) on the roll-away table next to his bed. The Blackberry is silent.

A little corner of blazing sun cut out a patch of monochromatic sky like a big lemon buzz saw. The odd palate of daylight painted the room in abstract shadows.
Nino looked at me as I pulled the hard metal seat next to his bed. He was in pain, but he looked reflective--calm, even--as he stared somewhat absentmindedly at the window.

Nino: Look at that.
Bmc: What's that?, I say as I glance over my shoulder at the window.
Nino: The dust. That's what we are, right? Where we start, and where we end.
I watched the silt twirl in the illuminated shafts piercing the wide-screen of glass, dancing a slow and deliberate ballet of silently softened grit.
Bmc: That's what the minister usually says at the funeral, yeah, ashes to ashes, and dust to dust.
Nino stared at the ceiling for about five minutes before he said another word.
Nino: What's this all about, Main Man? Why are we here? What's the purpose of all this?
Bmc: I don't know. I'm still trying to figure that one out.
Nino: You reading the User's Manual?
Bmc: The what?
Nino: The Bible: I heard one of the Federal agents in Witness Protection who relocated me to Scottsdale to get the nip and tuck, use the phrase.
Bmc: I never heard that before. I gotta use that. I like it, and the answer is yes, I do read the User's Manual. I don't understand all of the instructions, though, and I have gone off book a few times. Not a few times, a lot of times.
Nino: Then you broke The Machine, right?
Bmc: Yeah, broked it up real good, too.
Nino: You think there's only ONE User's Manual? I mean, what about the Torah, the Quran, or the Ayacana Sutta? The Book Of Mormon? Is the Bible the only one? That's what I want to know.
I had to think before I answered question, but it didn't take me long to respond.
Bmc: There are A LOT of User's Manuals. But only one can really fix The Machine. And I believe it's The Bible.
Nino: I'm not sure I agree with you Main Man, and nor would a whole lot of other people, either.
Bmc: I know that. But that's what I believe.
Nino stared at me for a long time, and then closed his eyes. His clenched his jaws so tight he seemed to be chomping down on an indigestible guilt. He remained in this discomfort for at least 12 minutes. I was getting concerned.
Bmc: Um, are you alright? Do you want me to call the nurse?
Nino slowly opened his eyes. He took series of quick, deep breaths, and then he seemed to relax.
Nino: No nurse, no nurse, Main Man. I'm good. I'm just thinking about the first time I broke The Machine. Have you ever seen a man die, Main Man? Not on TV, not in the movies, but up close, live and in deaded color?

I thought back to 01 January 1979: I was on my Mom's Terrace in Esplanade Gardens, on the 26th floor, and I watched two teenage dum-dums from 146th Street try to rob a corner store on 147th Street, that was owned by some Egyptians. Brand new to Harlem. One kid got away, looped the corner of Seventh Ave. and 147th Street and ran towards 8th Avenue, but the other kid, a big overweight 14-year-old named Tillie Thomas--the kid was like 6'3" and almost 300 pounds--attempted to pull out a black .22 from his hooded army surplus ski jacket and target the 3-man weave of tongue clucking and kufi-ed Egyptians who flew out from behind the counter; they grabbed Tillie by the jacket's green PVC shell and sliced into Tillie's stomach with small machetes. It was 3 degrees outside. By the time squad of 5 NYPD's rolled up to Seventh Avenue and 147th Street, Tillie's liver was frozen in a circular bloody snow cone onto the store's basement grating. Tillie would forever be 14 years old. It was 6:16 pm, and I saw a strobe of small flashing lights streak across the line of fifth floor windows in the tenement above the corner store.

People were taking pictures.
I didn't go to sleep for two months after that.
Bmc: Nah, I don't think I've ever seen that.
Nino gave me a suspicious look.
Nino: Main Man, I know you haven't because seeing a person die is not something that you THINK you saw. Death is a command performance. Death is something you never forget. Never. Never. Never. Never.
Nino takes a breath, and motions for me to turn my tape recorder on, but it's been on the whole time.
Nino: I got my first body when I was fifteen.
I believe his name was Kev. It was June 8th, 1978.
I shot this kid in the back of the head, near the nape of the neck: I remember this, because he had a neat v-back to the shape up of his afro blowout. He owed this scramblin' kid from 142nd and Lenox like $2000 and 50 quarter bags of hehron. In the street we called heroin hehron. That's just the way we talked back then. Dude had been skimming for some time from his crew chief, a scrambling kid by the name of Blackie. Blackie was down with the L.A.--Lenox Avenue--Boys. He paid me $800 and bought me a pair of brown suede British Walkers to slump a nigga. So I did.

I never saw the face of the kid I killed. That kid named Kev. I just know he had a brand new afro blowout that smelled like coconut Afro Sheen, that he probably got done at the Jerry's Den on 144th and Lenox from drunk-ass Lukie. Lukie with the big lips and the pink discoloration on the bottom lip. Lukie, the best barber in the Den, but whose edger blade was always too hot and too sharp and too close and nicked niggas when he was lining a "V" or a round, or a square shape-up to the back of the neck. That's why Lukie who almost got shot over that shit when he cut Blackie too close a few months ago. Lukie who always sang off-key to the Main Ingredient's Happiness Is Just Around The Bend, from their Euphrates River album that he played over and over over, showing off his brand new Sayno mini boom box, trying to shit on the other barbers in Jerry's Den who still used eight-track tape players.

The kid I killed was rocking a green Damon-knit mock neck, some green gabardine pants with the "W"-stitch over the top of the ass from AJ Lester's on 125th Street, and a pair of dark green slip-on gators with a grip bottom, and no socks. His ankles were ashy and he was mad loud. He smelled as if he just got out from the deep end of a pool of Caron's Champagne cologne. He must have put on the whole bottle, that whole $80 bottle of Champagne cologne. He was new ghetto money. New ghetto money (back in the day) always shopped on 125th Street, always talked loud, always called the Kojack car service (if they didn't have they own car) and ordered a Lincoln Town Car to take them (and they girl) to the Loewes movie theater on 86th Street and 3rd Avenue, and then to the Flaming Embers steak house on the corner of 86th, made the driver wait 3 hours, and then drive them (and they girl) to the Fort Lee Lodge Motel in New Jersey, and hit the driver off with $200 dollars, and made sure the driver picked them up in the morning, and drove them to the IHOP on 233 Street in the Bronx for breakfast. Those Sunday mornings at that IHOP on 233rd Street were always crowded with church people and scramblers: saints and sinners drowning their piety and transgression in a river of pecan pancake syrup. Crazy.

So as I remember it, yeah, the nigga was brand new money, because niggas making new ghetto money loved the R&B group Blue Magic, and he was talking about how Blue Magic rocked the Apollo when they came out in clown suits and sang Life Is A Three Ring Circus. Before he got to the part when Ted Mills, the kid with the high voice sang, "All of the ups and downs of the carousel/that I know so well…" I pulled the trigger. My body jerked, my stomach felt like it was going to come through me throat, and the world went on pause. I got woozy and my knees got weak. My fingers got wet and warm, and clammy. The nerves under the palm of my left hand--the hand that I write and shoot with--jumped uncontrollably. I saw a flash of white-orange light as I smelled the heat, the fire, the powder, and the power of the bullets as they ripped out of the nozzle. I watched the bullets fasten to his neck like overweight nails before forcing themselves inside the skin. The back of his head opened up like a brown egg that fell on the kitchen floor and had blood and pink and white pieces of brain inside. His blood smelled sweetly sour, and the smell seemed to be stuck to the back of my throat and made it sore, like when you get strep throat. My heart pounded out an interior countdown of almost twenty seconds of silence, as the kid fell in slow-mo between an ice green Buick Park Avenue and a gray Audi, before his body leaned into the lip of the sidewalk in real time as the street came to life, and filled stony air with screams and people yelling, OH SHIT! OOOOOH…SHIIIIT!! KEV GOT SHOT!!!!!!!!!
I shot him in the back of the head with a .38 snubnose.

There was a half eaten Zero bar near his dead body. I don't know why I remember that. Maybe because I used to like Zero bars.
I remember running out of the block, and I remember how fear seemed to attach itself to the soles of my Addidas Pro Level joints like ten thousand pound lead weights, trying to hold me in place. Niggas on the block froze as I ran past them, leaning away from me, the way a holiness preacher places his hand a few inches from the foreheads of members and they fall backward, slain in the spirit. Me shooting that kid in the back of the head had slain all of the onlookers, slain their teaming teen spirit of gangsterism. I looked up: old ladies with kerchiefs: holy rollers holding pink plastic hair rollers on their frightened heads, their eyes wide with "Lord Have Mercy!" their lips tight with unbelief from the box seats of their 3rd 4th, and 5th floor tenement bedroom windows--their box seat in the balcony--horrified by this one act ghetto opera, with the villain (me) quickly exiting stage left.

I kept running, and running, and running, and running, and running, until the whirr of sirens and screams, and screeching tires, and Whoop!-Whoop!-Whoops! got smaller and smaller in my ears, until I had run non-stop from 142nd Street in Harlem, Manhattan, running, running, running, across the 149th Street Bridge, until I tossed the gun in one motion with all of my might, over the bridge, until it floated down, down, down, down, down, until the dirty waves of the murky moss green of the Harlem River sucked the .38 snubnose into the grave of it's watery throat (I did that without breaking my stride), until I ran, ran, ran all the way to 161st and River Avenue in the Bronx; until my 14-year-old body stopped vibrating in the electric June air charged with the shock of death, until I was tucked inside the triangle of shadow underneath the El, washed in the erotic roar of crowd cheering at the night game in Yankee Stadium. I didn't know who was playing, and I didn't care. I had run almost three miles in a little over fifteen minutes. I looked down at what used to be the bright white shell toes of my Addidas, which were now painted with a tiny and twisted red spray. The twirl of those little red dots connected me to a destiny I could not shake. I shook around in the dizzy spin of homicide but I couldn't fall down because if I did, I knew that I would be overcome by a whirlpool of blood, and guilt, and death, and an unseen, unmovable, and unforgiving force that vacuumed me into this downward spiral of filth. Had I known at the very moment of pulling that trigger, that I would become a doomed soul, like Cain, I'd have never done it. But I did. And like Cain, for the rest of my life, no matter where I went, no matter what I did, and no matter who I did it with, I was marked.

Nino's body sagged under the weight of the those last three words: I WAS MARKED. His whole being deflated like a party balloon released of it's emotional helium. He kept his eyes closed and began to breathe really slow. Nino didn't say another word. The only other movement he made was to adjust the tiny dial on the sleep-shop drip from the IV. I watched as the meds tilted his consciousness and slid him back into the mausoleum of his past.
And then I left.