In 1994, I was dating a girl who worked night shifts; sometimes the midnight to 0800, and sometimes 1600 to midnight. Usually I'd pick her up after work and drive her to her place in Brooklyn or mine in Yonkers. One night, we stopped for takeout at the Raceway Diner on Yonkers Avenue. It was around 1 AM, and we were walking back to my car when we passed a guy standing in the middle of the parking lot taking a piss. We glanced at him long enough to notice what he was up to, then looked away and kept walking. Then the pisser guy called out to me, "Hey, dude, sorry to disrespect your woman like this."
Here was a man with honor and great consideration for his fellow human being. Obviously.
After I let girlfriend K in the car and walked around to the driver's side door, I shouted a friendly reminder to the guy that there was a bathroom right inside the diner, not 50 yards away. I got in the car and before I'd even turned the ignition, pissboy arrived at my car door. Of course you know what he said.
"What the fuck did you just say?! Are you a fucking wiseass?!" I noticed that a girl he was with had stepped out of his Camaro and was telling him to come back and get in the car. He stayed where he was, right outside my car door.
What did I do? I got out of the car. Stupid, right? You have no idea.
Did I at least open the door real fast and hard, and knock him on his ass like they do in the movies? No. I stood up and immediately took two steps at him. I made a mental note that he flinched and moved back. I saw this as a good sign. I was exhibiting what some call "command presence," and maybe I could get out of this without a punch thrown.
He repeated his first question, so I reiterated: "I said there's a bathroom right inside. Hot and cold running water. A toilet that flushes. Everything you'd want." I was sizing him up, and I saw he was doing the same. I tried to watch his eyes while keeping his hands in my peripheral vision.
And then his friend (what?!) appears from nowhere. He's on my left side and wants to know what's going on. I never got a good look at this friend, because the very nanosecond I moved eyes left to look at him, pissboy clocked me in the center of my face. Nose shattered. At first, everything got really bright and then things went dark. My knees went out from under me and I tried to recover my eyesight, which was coated with warm blood.
I couldn't see a thing, I was down on the cement, trying to get up, and taking kicks to the head, face, and chest. I was completely at their mercy, and they didn't have any. One of them jumped on my chest and started hammering me in the face. I didn't feel anything anymore, couldn't tell up from down. I heard a girl yell, but it wasn't K. It was probably Miss Piss from the Camaro. Then I heard footsteps running toward us and hoped it was someone who could get these guys off me fast, because they didn't seem ready to quit.
The footsteps got closer and, without a single word spoken, the force and frequency of kicks and punches increased. Fresh troops had joined the fight against the poor, bleeding fuck on the parking lot cement. It got ridiculous. I was rolling from one foot to another like a soccer ball. I bounced off of parked cars, setting off all their alarms, and back into the hands and feet of the mob. I could only try to shield my face and groin.
But hold on.
I am going to share something with you now that I wish I didn't have to write. Not because it's painful or embarrassing, but rather stupid. When you read this, you will think, "Oh, come on; you had me believing the story until that part!" Trust me. This next part happened. As stupid as it sounds. As pathetically reminiscent of bad 1960s action films as it seems, it happened in real life. Mine.
One of the attackers said, "Let's finish him."
I know, I know. But remember what I said above. It happened. This was Yonkers, after all, and Rambo theatrics like that were the coin of the realm.
I don't really dwell on how close (or not) I came to being "finished." I just never wanted to go there. I just let it sit in a little place in my brain where I can pretend that a-holes like those guys weren't going to finish shit. It's better to leave it there.
Finally they went away. K came to peel me off of the ground. I was at least 50 feet from the spot where that first sucker punch dropped me. (Hey, you know what? I shouldn't weasel out like that. It wasn't a sucker punch, per se. No, I was not looking at the guy when it was thrown, but I did have some sense that a fight could happen; so I'll redact that description.) Annnywaaay, when I could finally wipe the blood out of my eyes, I could see that I was way away from where the thing started. I could also see all the diners at the window booths watching my tragedy unfold. I'm sure they saw it all. They might have heard all the yelling, but six or seven car alarms shrieking at once surely got their attention. To them, it was dinner theater. Thanks for the assistance, homies.
I remember K helping me into my car. She was trembling. Then and now, I think of how terrifying that must have been for her. I would rather take the pummeling every time rather than be the girlfriend in the car watching it all. God damn. I asked her what happened, how many guys was that? She told me there was the original two, then another of their friends came out from the back seat of the Camaro. And then four guys ran over from across the street, near the racetrack. They said, "Get him!" and joined in on the winning side of the battle. (Thanks for the assistance, homies.) Seven guys.
We went to the Lawrence Hospital ER, and hey -- they took me right away. Thinking back now, I wonder why I wasn't questioned by a cop. Maybe I was, and just can't remember. It just seems some sort of report should have been filled out or something. They would never catch the dudes, of course, but I would at least be able to read the account of it in the Police Blotter section of the Herald Statesman newspaper. That'd be a gas.
Good people in that hospital. They took great care of me. Cleaned me up, gave me pills, ice packs, heating pads, and a dark room to sleep in until the maxillary orthopedist arrived to fix my nose. I slept soundly.
Around 0900, the bone doctor walked in with my X-Rays and gave me a poke and pinch examination. He said, "Wow... someone was really trying to hurt you." (Oh? You think?) "Your nose is broken... up... and cracked back," he said, demonstrating both of these directions with the palm of his hand.
In the days of recuperation that followed, I felt less pain and more stupid. What did I do? I stepped up to a guy over nothing and got myself smeared all over a diner parking lot while my girlfriend cried, my face got broken, and my takeout got cold. Stupid. And not just because I got the snot beat out of me. On the flipside, if I'd have thrown that guy a beating instead, what would that have been for? Because he was pissing? Because he threatened me? Because he was an asshole? Jack Henry Abbott said, in short: "You are what you kill." If you waste the asshole, you're nothing but an asshole yourself.
I was a loser whichever way the blood flowed. I was a loser the instant I got out of my car. As I lay there in bed, waiting for cuts to close, bruises to fade, nasal bones to re-fuse, hospital bills to arrive, and my self-respect to return, I obsessed over my getting out of that car. A scene in one of my all-time favorite movies kept resonating in my mind.
In Apocalypse Now, Captain Willard has just listened to E2C "Chef" Hicks rant about the dangers of leaving the "safety" of their patrol boat, and he seconds the notion in a classic internal monologue: "Never get out of the boat. Absolutely goddamn right."
Today's Friday 10 loves the smell of napalm in the morning.
01 Speedy Marie - Frank Black: This is off the Teenager of the Year album, and if you don't have it, you are missing out on an amazing batch of music. It gets me every time -- how a near-perfect record like this one can be so largely unknown. This is Frank freakin' Black for god's sake! He can do no wrong and you know it. He goes in the studio and hammers everything out live with a live mix.
02 Smash It Up (Parts 1 & 2) - The Damned: There aren't many songs I listen to more than Smash It Up. In fact, if you look at my iScrobbler tracks chart, there are NO songs I've listened to more in the last two years. I've been playing this album, Machine Gun Etiquette, since I was in high school with Teddy Roosevelt. It's their third album, and marks the point where Captain Sensible took over lead guitar (after Brian James bailed) and handled a lot more of the songwriting. With MGE, the Damned made a shift in style from a dangerous-sounding, almost Stooges-like band to one that was more rowdy, kick-out-the-jams rock n' roll. This is raucous material, and this album was a big part of my teenage Friday nights.
03 The Perfect Me - Deerhoof: One of the best musical discoveries I made this year was Deerhoof's Friend Opportunity album, which this is song came off of. I have that one, and The Runners Four (from 2005) and there's not a bad track on either. Their work is hard to define and won't fit neatly into any typical genres, it's simply a treat to listen to what they do. Find them here.
04 Slow Motion - Blondie: From one of my two favorite Blondie records, Eat to the Beat. It was released in October 1979, right at the height of my pre-pubescent crush on Debbie Harry. She does things with her voice on this album that made me horny before I even knew that feeling had a name. The CDR copy I have is burned off my vinyl, like a lot my old stuff is. It's probably time to get one of the remasters on CD.
05 You're Not Blank - The Dils: The Dils were Chip and Tony Kinman from Carlsbad, CA. They released just three singles from 1977-79, and that was it. The brothers went on to form Rank and File. I like these Dils singles. I don't have the original vinyl releases, but between the Dangerhouse Records comps (1, 2) and assorted post-breakup releases I have a good handful of their output. Good left wing punk rock from SoCal.
06 The Way You Walk - Papas Fritas: Thoughtful pop music written under mostly sunny skies. I need that sometimes, and Papas Fritas is the band I turn to. The first I'd heard of them was somewhere online, when I read that Dean Wareham was a fan. So I checked into Buildings and Grounds, and was hooked. Hooked by the hooks. That one came out seven years ago. There's been nothing since, but they aren't broken up. Here's the PF website.
07 No Money - The Evens: Just the other night, I had a dream where I was allowed to be a sort of "guest DJ" in a reading lounge-type place in my apartment building. The first record cued up was a 45 by The Evens. "No Money" is on their sophomore release, last year's Get Evens. (Wow, I think I just channeled a music critic with that last sentence! <shudder>) I like them both, but I connected with The Evens a lot when it came out in 2005, and it remains my favorite. You know the backstory by now, I'm sure. The combined résumés of the two members of this band, Ian MacKaye and Amy Farina, include Minor Threat, Teen Idles, Fugazi, Embrace, Pailhead, Egg Hunt, Skewbald, The Warmers, Lois, and The All Scars. A lot of punk and indie rock history from two people.
Dept. of Sidebars: I don't know if the band name has anything to do with the people of the Russian Far East.
08 Hip Priest - The Fall: From one of the best records any music fan can own, The Fall's 1982 Hex Induction Hour. It contains some of Mark E. Smith's best, most vicious lyrics, and the band really cuts loose. The record's been all spiffed up with a remaster recently and a second disk of bonus tracks including some Peel stuff, single mixes, and live versions. If you don't order it with Amazon's 1-Click, you're taking too much time. Hurry up and get one!
09 Bloody Jack - Serge Gainsbourg: From the Initials B.B disk, a collection of duets Gainsbourg recorded with his then-girlfriend Brigitte Bardot. She's the B.B. A couple weeks ago, with a lot of other things to do, I was ambushed by my A.D.D. and found myself typing "infamous" into the YouTube search box. One of the cool things I found was this 1986 clip of Serge Gainsbourg on live French TV with Whitney Houston.
"No. I said I want to fuck her."
10 Blue Spark - X: Great song from the great ones. That riff just blows by like a freight train. I have my Selachimorpha-obsessed three-year-old son convinced that the lyric is actually, "Blu-u-u-e sha-arrrk... shark!" So now we listen to it together all the time. It is from, of course, the got-to-have-it-in-your-collection, Under The Big Black Sun.
I give and I give and I give to you people... Now give back: Put your mp3 player or digital jukebox on "shuffle all songs" and let us know (in the comments section) the first ten random songs out the chute.
[posted with ecto]