Saturday, June 27, 2009

Why I smoked a cigarette last night

His name was Ian McLean. I have no idea what the infraction was anymore, as I was 10 years old at the time, but I was determined to fight him. The fact that he was a year older than me, and one of the larger kids at my elementary school didn't really seem to phase me at the time. When I told my dad about the plan, rather than trying to stop me explicitly, he simply stated the obvious: "Andrew, if you are going to get into a fight, you better be sure you are going to win. And if you aren't, be prepared to deal with the consequences."

Based on his sage advice, I never did fight Ian McLean. And though I am not usually full of machismo, the few times I had come close to any physical confrontation I have invoked his logic and come to the conclusion that it is probably not worth it. So it was with that mindset that I managed to go through almost 27 years on this planet without having the shit kicked out of me.

I didn't really expect it to happen the way it did. Michelle and I were riding home from a movie last night on Bloor by the ROM, when some guy stepped way out onto the road directly in my path. I passed by him pretty close, so close in fact that he chose to hit me in the face with the water gun he was holding. (For clarification, he did not squirt me with it, he hit me with the actual gun) I stopped, and he told me to watch where I was going, which I found slightly ludicrous given the scenario. Things get a little bit blurry at this point, but when I actually got off of my bike he bolted down an alleyway. I gave chase for a few steps. This was probably my first mistake, as it got my adrenaline pumping which led directly to mistake number two.

Mistake number two happened after realizing that I was probably not going to catch the guy as he ran down the alley. I did, however, have my heavy steel U-lock in my hand that I figured I could propel faster than my legs could propel my body. So I let it fly, and despite evasive tactics by the perpetrator, it hit him in the middle of the back. I was totally satisfied by my aim and arm at this point, but it was short lived as I realized that the group of 3 or 4 guys he was running by were his friends. And they were not impressed.

Mistake number three, was the assumption that when this guy's friends started walking/running toward me, it was because they wanted to discuss the matter. There was unfortunately no discussion, simply a unilateral decision by the group to take me down and start punching and kicking my face as my girlfriend attempted to separate us screaming and horrified. This was actually good, because I couldn't get a word in edgewise (what with all the face shots and everything), and she drew attention and witnesses to the scene which probably shortened the duration of my ordeal. Once the group realized there was a crowd watching they took off down the alleyway running, and I got up, swaying and wondering quite justifiably what the fuck just happened. The whole scenario, start to finish, probably didn't take more than 60 seconds.

One of the bystanders went into a restaurant to get me some ice, and despite my protestations that I was fine (undermined by the gigantic goose egg on my left orbital) Michelle made me lock up our bikes and we hopped into a cab and went to Mt. Sinai. I was still a little dazed, couldn't remember the date or the events that just transpired very clearly, but my memory started coming back pretty quickly leading me to believe this was minor compared to the last time I concussed myself 13 years ago. Called the police, called my parents, called some co-workers to let them know that I would be in the next morning. Talked to the police, who told me that I probably shouldn't file a report as I could be charged with assault for hurling my lock at the guy. Which was just as well, because I could not remember what any of them looked like anyway, and I was just happy to escape with the same number of teeth I went in with. Nonetheless the cops were helpful, and soon my poor parents showed up as well. [I wonder which phone call they preferred, this one "I'm at Sinai I just had the shit kicked out of me" or the previous concussion "I'm at Shaun's I don't know what happened but you should probably take me to a hospital")

So, we all hung out in the hospital for a couple of hours. The doctor came, basically told me I was fine, saw the scrapes on my knee and suggested a tetanus shot. Got my shot and the concussion info sheet and that was it. At a little after 3 in the morning, my parents drove us to our locked bikes, then followed us (Tour de France support car style) on our short ride to Mich's house. When we got back we were hungry, so we went to the 24 hr supermarket by her house to get some food. I also confided in her that I really wanted a cigarette. Well, I didn't really want it so much as I felt the situation warranted her understanding of my smoking a cigarette, and I wasn't sure how long it would be until another such situation would present itself (hopefully a very long time). So I managed to bum one off of the very drunk girl at Food Depot, and we commiserated for a moment (she had been accidentally locked out of her house), she called Michelle sweet for standing by me with a swollen face, and we soon hit the hay (at 4am) after I ate half a sandwich with much jaw pain.

When we were in the ER waiting room earlier I told Michelle that I was kind of relieved to have got that over with; I believe getting the shit kicked out of me was/is valuable life experience. I know it happened to my roommate a few years ago and it was definitely catalyst for changes in his own life. Mich sorta looked at me like I was a concussed idiot (which I was), but even now, the next day with a stiff jaw and headache I still see value in last night's events. I remember probably 10 years ago reading an interview in Strength magazine with skateboarder Stevie Williams who hailed from a rough area of Philadelphia, and they asked him what it meant to be tough. I am paraphrasing, but his answer was along the lines of "If you want to be tough you have to get beat the fuck up". I know random skateboard pros are not necessarily a fountain of wisdom, but I gave that statement a lot of weight. (Note that he did not say you have to FIGHT to be tough, rather you have to LOSE a fight to be tough) I was afraid that I would never be tough by Stevie's definition, and I still don't know that I am. But I know now what it is like, to feel pain and be powerless, at the mercy of the merciless. And I know that I only know it on a very small scale, that what I went through was probably a cakewalk compared to what happens to a lot of people systemically.

I have also now felt the consequences that my dad referred to 17-odd years ago. And the consequence of those consequences? I'll never be sure I can win a fight again.

Thanks Mom, Dad and Michelle for being with me last night.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Did that just happen?

When I was 17, my friend and I went to a concert. We were waiting in line, and may or may not have ingested hallucinogenic fungus earlier. Either way we felt kinda funny.

So anyway, we are waiting in line forever, because that is just how things go down at the Reverb, and we are feelin' kinda funny, and we hear this kinda crazy dull roar. We were BOTH hearing it, and we figured it was odd that we would both be hallucinating the same thing. So this dull roar gets a little louder, and suddenly a half dozen cop cars pull out of nowhere and shut down the intersection. WHOA! "WTF is going on?" we are asking ourselves/each other verbally/telepathically (in hindsight I cannot be quite sure which). Within minutes, a 'Take back the night' rally marches through, replete with women wielding megaphones dancing on the bed of a slow moving pick-up truck. Before we knew it the march was past us, the cop cars pulled away, and it was business as usual. We looked at each other, and whether or not we actually verbalized it, we definitely asked, "Did that just happen?"

I had another one of those experiences on Tuesday. I was going for a ride, but had to fuel up first so I hit my favourite spot on the way to the trails, a Timmy's walk up window at the Danforth/Coxwell Shoppers. I like it mostly because I don't have to lock or fret over my bike, nor do I have to walk around a "normal" establishment in spandex (not that it really bothers me, it is more for the consideration of others). Also, for whatever reason, consuming a single cinammon raisin bagel with butter seems to give me boundless energy, not bad for $1.05.

So I place my order with what must be "the new girl". I have to repeat what I want a bunch of times, and she still gets it wrong, and her co-workers are kinda snickering and enjoying the show. I didn't really mind, as I have gotten far worse service where the employee decides to complete several non-time-sensitive tasks before taking the 4 seconds required to pour my coffee. So I was calmly walking her through her own incompetence with a smile, when one of the senior staff there, a middle aged south-Asian lady, came up to the window and took a glance downward.

"Cute bike"

"Oh, thanks" It is good to know that even middle-aged female timmy's employees can appreciate the beauty of the singlespeed Superfly I was still straddling, although I probably would have called it more "stealth" or maybe "trick".

Then, with another long downward leer "Looks yummy" Ummmmmmmm, I can see how it might be cute, but I wouldn't consider it edible.......

"Very yummy"


And just like that my bagel was ready and the next customer was being served incompetently.

I rode away with a huge grin and could not help but wonder, once again, "Did that just happen?"