I punched him square in the face. It was a solid one. To this day, I’m still a little proud of it. It was a right jab and I was wearing leather sap gloves with lead pellets sewn in the fist for extra zing. He got blinky, staggered a bit, and ran off, slipping along the icy road as he scampered. I walked back into The Cowgirl and handed the wallet to the little guy who had it stolen. The bouncer on duty, Ziggy, came up to me. “Dude, that punch-which I didn’t see-was a felony!” he said, all worry-warty. I guess the sap gloves bumped it up to a felony assault. “Stealing a guy’s wallet is also against the law,” I said, “So it’s a wash.”
I went inside and drank the beer the little guy bought me. He was grateful to get his wallet back, and I was glad for the free beer, and the opportunity to punch a dick in the face.
That was a good night. I remember that night. That punch in that guy’s face made it one to remember. When I imagine all the dump trucks full of nights that I dumped into the landfill of forgetfulness, I think maybe I should’ve punched more faces, just to remember more of my life.
These days, I’m all for peace, love, and understanding. I like cats and gardening. Still, there was something about a well-placed punch in the face of somebody who really had it coming, that brought true joy. I’d like to think I’m over that kind of joy, but I can’t be sure. We all want satisfaction, and there is something deeply satisfying about serving as a hammer for justice. It was especially so back then, when I didn’t have any other hobbies or recreational pursuits.
I’m not talking about getting into a fight. Those were fairly commonplace. Looking back on those, I know I could have defused many of them with some patience and discipline on my part. I regret a lot of them. No, I’m talking about delivering a righteous punch in the face, one that when you look back on it, after years of sobriety, spiritual recovery, and soul-searching personal inventory, you still think “Yeah, I’d do that one again!”
I was constantly picked on as a little kid. Either for the Little Lord Fauntleroy clothes my Mom insisted in dressing me in, or the fact that my English not speaking good in talkingness, I walked around with a bull’s-eye over my balls. I didn’t need a “kick me” sign taped to my back, the directive seemed to be clear enough. Anyway, something happened along the way. I mutated, like in any comic book worth it’s paper, into a deranged vigilante. The scared-of-his-own-shadow, son of Eastern European immigrants, turned into…Count Thugula. I embraced my shadow, and became a deluded, self-appointed arbiter of justice, what our society labels a “superhero.” A drunken dangerous one that caused more damage than fixed.
My earliest real-life superhero inspiration came in the unlikely form of a gentle, orphaned waif named Jim Keller. He became my friend in eighth grade. Keller endured a brutal childhood. He suffered the kind of abuse that would have turned lesser men into sociopathic killers. But he was then, as he remains today, the Buddhist ideal of loving compassion and patience. Small children flock to him like squirrels to St. Francis. Everyone’s happy, when the Keller is near.
That didn’t mean that if somebody’s bad karma required an instrument to deliver its repercussions, he wasn’t open to serve.
This skinny little fellow, who looked more like a monk than a thug, packed a punch that delivered the White Light of Realization to drunk frat guys, skinheads, and surf Nazi’s up and down the Gold Coast. Trust me, none of them suspected that they were about to become so profoundly enlightened by The Buddhist Bomber.
One night up in Santa Barbara, in the college town of Isla Vista, Keller and some friends went to a reggae show. He had decided to linger outside while the others went in. His keen intuition told him to hang back for a bit. Sure enough, right across from him, in the little town park, three skinheads had jumped a solitary traveller. They were beating on the guy pretty good, and having a having a grand time doing it. “This will not do,” Keller thought to himself.
He hit the first skin while running in. He jousted the punch into the guy’s gut. Keller said the air came out of the dude so fast, it actually made an odd little whistle as it rushed through his teeth. Tweetle-teeeeee! Ok, that would be awesome. Jealous of that. So that guy dropped like a sack of horse shit. Then as soon as the next guy looked up, Keller pasted his mouth. He later told me that he was really able to torque his hips on that one and whip it in hard. Zang-Pow! That one was wearing braces (I love it, a skin-head with cosmetic dental work) so his lips shredded across the metal. He grabbed his face and started screaming like a little girl. That left one more upper-suburban neo-Nazi to go.
Having just watched both of his buddies destroyed in a matter of seconds by some guy that appeared out of nowhere, he decided to run for it. The other two joined him. Keller helped the victim up. The guy couldn’t express his thanks enough. Our hero wished him a peaceful rest of the evening, then went in to bathe in the good vibrations of the reggae show. God, I love shit like that. It was always sweet when Keller clocked someone. You have to figure, if you manage to piss off an easy-going, peaceful person like Keller, enough to make him want to punch you; you so fucking have it coming. It’s gonna have a little something extra on it too, because The Universe wants in on the action.
The recipients of my punches were generally in a more gray-zone of deserving it. If I was really drunk, my aim might be off. Maybe I took a statement out of context. Sometimes it seemed inevitable, so I just got it over with. I don’t do stuff like that anymore. I’ve really worked on this. Now I like cats and gardening.
A buddy from New York once told me that while throwing a good punch looks cool, being able to take one earns you even more style points, and an exponentially higher chance of getting laid because of it. I had just written about this concept in my weekly column on Monday. That next week-end, it would be put to the test.
I went to my job as a doorman at The Catamount. Two guys I had thrown out (I can’t remember for what) were outside pissed at me. One was tall, the other guy short. Mutt and Jeff. I was wary of this possible two-on-one situation, but tried to play it cool. They’re yelling, I’m pretending to yawn–then zip–the short guy dives behind me and makes like an ottoman, and the tall guy pushes me over him. It was a slick move. Impressive, really. They must have practiced it a lot back home at their trailer.
Anyway, I go down and hit my head on the street, and as I’m getting up, the tall one connects with my jaw. He had wound it up and sent it all the way from Gallup. He almost knocked my block off. I saw buzzing blue and green neon parallelograms in a field of purple sparks. When the buzzing stopped, I realized I was still standing. I was totally fine.
It was amazing. I was surprised, but so was the guy that hit me. He looked concerned. I would’ve been. I did my best, but I guess my best wasn’t good enough… for you. You rarely get a clean shot at the jaw. It’s never like the movies. He gave me his Pony-for-Your-Birthday best and I was okay. Now what do you do? What kind of brain-dead monster doesn’t go down after that? I could feel my eye-teeth start to grow.
“I’m going to give this door money to somebody, and when I come back, I’m going to kill both of you,” I calmly informed them.
They started backing up. I walked into the bar, which had been watching the whole thing through the windows, and gave the cover charge money to one of the cooks. I felt humiliated. These guys played me like a piano, and in front of a lot of people. It didn’t get much worse than that. It L.I.T. me up. (Lifetime Issue Trigger) I didn’t know how I was going to deal with these two guys, especially since they already clowned me, but I knew there was a vast reservoir of rage I could tap into. Marius just got his ass kicked, his demons were going to have to take over. A calm came over me. All I had to do was get out of the way, and let this infernal power handle it. You see, it’s like a spiritual surrender, only opposite.
I went outside but they were gone. I saw them round the corner up the block. I wasn’t thrilled about going after them, but felt like I had no choice. Here we go. They were up the street, getting into a car. There was a chick I hadn’t seen before with them. She started screaming “Oh my God! He’s packing! He’s packing!” I wasn’t, but I took the cue. I reached behind me and grabbed the band of my boxer shorts. They thought the only way I would go after them alone was with a gun. They hadn’t factored the power of wearing funny clothes as a kid into the equation.
“I told you I would come back to kill you,” I said, walking slowly towards them. Count Thugula was in full effect. The chick even seemed to be fumbling with the keys like in the horror flicks. “Hey man, we’re cool!” one of them yelled. What a stupid thing to say. Like if I did have a gun and was going to shoot them, I’d hesitate because one of them told me they “were cool.” Whatever. I’ve said stupider things when I was scared. “Not cool enough to live,” I yelled back.
Finally, she got the door open, they piled in, and drove off as I approached. It was hardly a satisfying resolution. Yeah, I wound up scaring them off, but with some phony trick. It did little to stop the burn. I didn’t get my punch! Fucking shit. I knew this dose of shame would have me sitting up at night for years to come, and I was already a light sleeper.
I walked back to the bar. I got the door money and sat down on my stool. A few women who had seen me get hit came up to me. They asked if I was alright, and I said I was. I wasn’t feeling libidinous enough to try cashing in on their concern. There might be some connection between a man’s ego and his penis, but I can’t be sure. One thing for sure was that I lost my grandfather’s watch that night, probably when I bounced on the street. I usually took it off, but I wanted to impress one of the waitresses that night. That went well. What a life.
I tortured myself that night sitting up on my mattress, pounding beer after beer. What would people remember more, how the Two Stooges Dick Van Dyked me, or how I took the sledgehammer like Iron Man? A typical alcoholic concern, anchored deep in reality. I worried about everything, except what really mattered. Poor idiot, nobody was going to remember any of that night, except if I ever brought it up. And why the hell would I ever do that?
“…and why would I ever do that?”
Because you can write about it like this ^, That’s why.
Jim Keller. Yep. We used to hang over at his house ’cause he had a pool. He’s an awesome dude with a remarkable story.
Thanks for the kind words. Hard to believe all these years have passed. Hope you’re well.
Parallelograms! Dick Van Dyked! Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha! The devil is in the details of your writing, and you two make a fine pair…