I just had a weird scene. I’m at this sports bar on the Ave watching the Warriors game minding my own business. And, for no discernible reason, this total stranger, this drunken lunatic, goes off on me and starts throwing punches at me. “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU??!!” I said, as I’m dodging the blows. To my credit, I didn’t spill a drop of the cup of beer in my hand as I’m rolling with the punches.
Then I go to the Park, I’m hanging out with the boys, telling them the story about this nut going off on me for no apparent reason. And then another stranger, this Asian college student, shows up and says: “HEY, I HAVE FOUR BOXES OF FRESH PIZZA IF ANYBODY IS HUNGRY.”
And that’s cool. But the confusing philosophical question is this: One stranger wants to fuck with me for no apparent reason. And another stranger wants to help me for no apparent reason. And neither of them makes any apparent sense. . . . Though I have to believe it all makes sense on some level. . . . I guess that’s my ultimate philosophical leap of faith: That this life makes sense. Even when it often doesn’t seem to.
* * *
The actual “fight” was surreal because it was so sudden and unexpected. Like a shark attack or something. The basketball game had just ended (Warriors lost to the Cavs — darn darn darn). I still had some of my pitcher of beer left, but I felt like splitting, so I poured the remaining beer into a to-go coffee cup for the road. Then I went down to the basement to take a quick piss in the men’s room. But there were all of these sketchy people milling around in there. And the place was a mess. Totally trashed-out. Some idiot had dumped the entire contents of the garbage can into the toilet. So I went to the next stall, but there’s an empty whiskey bottle in that toilet. Always a bad sign. People who slam straight whiskey are amongst the worst specimens in the grand pantheon of Bad Drunks. Unlike, say, beer-drinkers, who generally aspire towards this slow, gradual progression to goofy, sloppy drunkenness, pounding straight whiskey is like slamming fire directly into your bloodstream. It is more like shooting speed where you get this immediate adrenaline rush right to your brain. Along with this fiendish, demented clarity. And this Dr. Jekkyl – Mr. Hyde transformation where this monstrous side of your personality is suddenly being released. In fact, that’s often precisely WHY the whiskey-binger drinks — as an excuse to release all of his pent-up repressions.
Anyways, I leave the men’s room in disgust without even taking a leak. This young Latino guy in a blue Warriors jersey immediately follows me out of the men’s room, pushes his chest into mine and angrily confronts me.
“DID YOU SPLASH ME??” he said
“No, I didn’t splash you,” I said. “What are you talking about?”
“YOU SPLASHED ME IN THERE!!” he said.
I made a bee-line back upstairs. Grabbed my backpack and started organizing myself for my departure. Then I noticed through the front window that the guy with the Warriors jersey was right outside on the sidewalk, pacing back and forth and glaring at me like he’s waiting for me to come out. What the fuck. How did I get myself in the middle of this? I killed a few minutes milling around with the people at the bar, figuring the guy would get distracted (whiskey-bingers usually have the attention-span of a flea) and go off in search of some other victim. Then I darted out the front door and headed up Telegraph Avenue in the opposite direction of the asshole.
I darted up Durant Street thinking I had escaped from the asshole. Only to realize, to my dismay, that the asshole had followed me and was running towards me shouting: “YOU SPLASHED ME!!”
I turned and confronted him: “No I didn’t splash you,” I said.
“Oh. OK,” he said. “I’m a nice guy.” That seemed to placate him. He turned and started walking back towards the bar.
“All right, cool cat,” I said. Thinking we had resolved the grievance. Whatever the hell the grievance had actually been.
Instead, he turned around and shouted at me: “WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY TO ME??!!”
Then he charged at me and started pummeling me with punches. I had my arms up protectimg my head, so even though he was flailing away at me, none of the punches did any damage, except for one that hit my knuckle (it was a little sore the next day). And hopefully the Asshole broke a few bones in his hands while he was flailing away.
“WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU??” I asked, in all sincerity.
Which seemed to strike a nerve with the Asshole. Probably because it’s a question he grapples with on a daily basis. So he turned and headed back to the bar. And the whole thing was over as quickly as it had started.
I walked over to People’s Park. And I started giving Hate Man a blow-by-blow account of this interaction. Mostly just trying to make sense of this weird and inexplicable intrusion into my evening. Off in the distance I could hear the sounds of police cars and ambulance sirens rushing off in the general direction of the bar. No doubt the third or fourth act (and hopefully the final act) of the Asshole’s melodrama for this evening. . .
Sometimes I think there’s something a little unmanly about me. Because I generally go out of my way to avoid getting in fights. Even when someone sincerely deserves to get their fucking ass beat. I guess I feel kind of squeamish about physical violence. I find all that “macho” stuff vaguely ridiculous. Even as I’m 6-foot, about 200 pounds, and could probably do some damage if somebody really pushed me. . . Every now and then someone will push me too far, and I’ll actually start throwing punches back at the asshole. But the problem is: After a minute or two, my rage will subside and I’ll feel like a fool dancing around in public throwing punches. I’ll complete lose interest in the fight. But I have to will myself to keep fighting, because you can’t just stop at the point, because the other guy is still flailing away. You can’t just stop dancing in the middle of a dance. Once you make that commitment you’ve got to play the whole stupid thing out to it’s conclusion.
I guess my attitude, re avoiding fights, is this: “It’s a big world. And the whole point is to occupy a part of it that doesn’t include the Asshole.” That attitude seems to make sense. So I’m sticking with it until further notice.