Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Wednesday Night's Alright For Fighting

Earlier this evening I talked with my good friend, the lovely
Ms. Mel of Seattle. For some reason, we wound up on the
subject of prison. It was agreed that I wouldn’t do well there.
You see, in prison all sorts of muscle-bound sociopaths come
up to you and say vicious things right to your face. But there
you can’t run back to your blog and post up a couple witty
comebacks. No, no: you have to fight them. If you don’t,
they’re going to spend the rest of your sentence stealing
your scrambled eggs and buggering you with mop handles.
And–I can admit it–I’m not much of a fighter. I’m hardly
the most physically imposing man out there and my thirst
for violence is trumped by my much greater thirst for sar-
casm and fine cappucccinos. This means I’ll have to abstain
from doing anything seriously illegal, which is kind of a drag
since I’ve always thought I’d make a pretty good burglar.

But the conversation did get me thinking back to my old
glories on the field of honor. You see, like most American
males, I have found myself embroiled in fisticuffs on sev-
eral occasions. Three occasions, to be precise and I’m
proud to say that my record stands at 1-1-1. Now, with
an excellent showing like that, it’s understandable that I
wanted to retire early so as to preserve my statistics as
something to show off to my future grandchildren. But
since I don’t have any grandchildren yet and because
I’m unwilling to wait the necessary 25-30 years it might
take to produce one, I think I’m going to share these fond
reminisces with you, my six or seven beloved readers...

If you don’t mind, let’s talk about my grand victory first.
This is the most sepia-toned of all my battle memories, if
only because it’s the oldest. Yes, this was near the end of
my grammar school years, back in a time when I was en-
trusted with the most serious position a sixth grader can
be given, that of crossing guard. It was my duty to shep-
herd no less than eight naive, vulnerable children across
two slightly busy streets to the safety of Randolph Heights
Elementary School. I discharged my responsibilities with
pride and diligence, and my crossing guard career was for
the most part unremarkable. There was one cold winter
morning, however, when trouble arose.

This came as I was standing at the intersection, waiting
for my young charges to assemble. A boy from my class
came up to me and demanded that I give him my flag.
Now, this young man (named "Gunnar", incidentally)
was among the few in our class to be deemed unfit to
take the school patrol oath. He was mean, shabby and
unreliable. He only showed up to school on the days when
his parents were sober enough to make him go and, when
he was there, he just sat there picking his nose and
hollering out swear words.

There was, of course, no way I was going to give him my
flag. There was no telling what he might have done with
it. He might have used it to lead my helpless children into
the path of a semi-truck. He might have thrown it down
the sewer grate. Whatever evil he chose to commit with
it, I knew that it would–in the end--reflect poorly on my
crossing guard abilities, so I told him to go away with all
the eleven-year-old authority I could muster. Instead of
obeying me, he grabbed my flag and tried to wrest it away
from me. I pulled back and so he pulled harder and soon
we were both rolling on the frozen ground, the flag caught
between us. After a few seconds of this, I was able to get
on top of him and, from there, extract the flag from his

It was here that I did something I’m not entirely proud
of. With my honorably vanquished adversary laying at
my feet, I raised my flag up in the air and brought it down
hard on his head. I immediately regretted it. I had seen
this move on television, of course, but in the passions of
the moment I forgot that it was generally employed to
disable or kill fully grown adults. Its use on a pre-adoles-
cent was, perhaps, extreme. Oh shit, I thought, I probably
just murdered him...

He didn’t die, though. He held onto his head and glared
up at me for a long time, moaning and calling me names.
Then, slowly and carefully, he stood up and went limping
down the street. I didn’t see him in school that day or for
a couple days after that, but he returned eventually. I was
glad. I had begun to worry that I gave him permanent
brain damage or something. I have an over-developed
sense of guilt about some things.

Following this momentary lapse into crossing guard brut-
ality, I kept my nose clean for a couple of years. Eighth
grade, though, was a hard one for me. Boys are at their
foulest stage then, and I was subject to a great many taunts
and insults. Most of these were directed at my hair, which
I wore at the time in an enormous, bushy white-man afro.
At the time, this wasn’t a retro-hip fashion move, it was just
dorky. I was a bit of a dork, I’m afraid. Most of my bullies
were content just to steal my textbooks and throw their
chewed-up gum at me, but one had a more violent streak
to him. His name was Jason and he was older than the rest
of us. The reason for this was because he was as dumber
than a hunk of horsemeat and wasn’t capable of advancing
past middle school.

This, of course, frustrated him quite a bit and one of the
ways he relieved the stress of it was by tormenting me. One
day he waylaid me as I was hurrying down the hallway to
the lunchroom. I was late for some reason and there was no
one there to rescue me when Jason and his contemptible
toady (whose name I no longer recall) leapt out, seized me
by the arms, and pulled me down a lonely corridor.

"Where’s my fuckin’ money?" Jason asked me.

"What money?" was my reply, because I clearly hadn’t
loaned him any money. We weren’t on lender-borrower
terms at the time.

It was the wrong answer, though, because it drove my
enemy into a rage. As his toady held me fast, he began
punching me up and down my body, shouting "MY
MONEY! MY MONEY! MY MONEY!". The strange
thing about getting hit repeatedly by someone twice
your size: it doesn’t really hurt very much at the time.
There’s just a little discomfort as you think, Hey, this
guy’s hitting me. I struggled, but it didn’t do any good.
I didn’t get away until the toady, who had at least the
semblance of a conscience, let me go and told Jason to
lay off me. Jason didn’t agree with his associate, how-
ever, and punched me in the face. I punched him back,
but it just glanced off his shoulders and made him laugh.
So I hit him again, in the neck, and he responded by
grabbing me, throwing me face first into a bank of lock-
ers, and then stepping on my back as he walked away.
This was the fight I lost.

No matter: it has a belated happy ending. Years later,
when I was in college, I was back home for spring break
when my friends and I threw a big party at my house.
Somewhere in the middle of it, we ordered a whole bunch
of pizzas and Jason was the one who delivered them. I
remember opening the door to him in his pizza man uni-
form and being speechless for a moment. From the look
on his face, he recognized me too. "Oh. It’s you," I said as
I took the tip we had intended to give out of the handful
of money I had collected.

"Hi," he said sheepishly as I gave him the exact change. I
took the pizzas and slammed the door in his face. All the
psychological damage he had done to me as an adolescent
evaporated at that moment. Today we could probably go
out for beers and get along fine.

Just a year or two prior to this I had fought my last fight.
And it wasn’t really a fight at all. It was more like a tussle.
I was a junior in high school then, and one of my closest
friends was a guy named Kris. Kris was from the Bronx
and he partook of that strange New Yorker charm that
allowed him to seduce girls by banging into walls and
telling dirty jokes about cats fellating their owners. Now,
he was always a great guy, an true mensch, but I’d be
lying if I said I wasn’t sometimes jealous of him. He was,
after all, just as big a dork as all my guy friends, yet he
managed to work this into a fairly successful ladies’ man
act. It could be galling.

After school one afternoon, a group of us were driving
around aimlessly when we saw some girls we knew. We
pulled over to talk to them for awhile and perhaps even
made plans to get together later that night. Kris was in
the back seat and he was sticking his head through the
window to chat them up. He was probably talking to them
in a fake Eastern European accent, which was something
we all did back then, for reasons long since lost to the
passage of time. He was amusing them far better than
I ever could and, from my spot in the front seat, I quickly
grew to resent this. To reclaim some of the attention I felt
was rightly mine, I pushed the button to roll up his window
and managed to catch his head between it and the door-
frame. The girls gasped. The guy driving the car at the
time started to laugh. Kris, however, calmly extracted
himself from the door and then, without a word, hit me
as hard as he could right on the nose. My head snapped
backwards and smacked into the windshield and then, after
an awkward silence, we began to apologize to each other as
frantically and as profusely as possible.

He’s still a great guy, that Kris, and I sometimes see him
around. I consider our fight a tie, though, and he probably
wouldn’t agree with me.