I’ve gotten into my fair share of fights, the vast majority between the ages of 18 and 21. I’m a very angry, but physically weak man, which lead to the reception of a number of astonishing physical beatdowns in my younger days. I spent most of those years being a lowlife and full-time wastrel and had plenty of opportunities to tussle about having my shoes get stepped on in crappy bars. I’ve "won" maybe 20 percent of the incidents I’ve been involved in, only counting those where all of the involved parties have landed a punch or kick, if you’re a weirdo). This discounts isolated sucker punch and slapping incidents.
I might have continued down this path (which would have been awesome) if it weren’t for an episode of VH1’s Behind The Music: INXS. If my memory serves me correctly, the lead singer Michael Hutchence was a big-time lover of the ladies. One night, in London (maybe?), he got into a fight with a cab driver and hit his head on a sidewalk curb at some point during their altercation. I think he might have been drunk, also. Anyway, the next morning he wakes up in his hotel room and he no longer has a sense of smell! He goes to a doctor who tells him he has lost his sense of smell due to a brain injury received during the fight. To make things worse, since one’s sense of smell and taste are so closely related, he’s lost most of his sense of taste as well. Never being able to “taste a woman” again is too much for Hutchence to bear and he hangs himself in a hotel room.
Whether this is an accurate portrayal of what happened isn’t important (to me), it’s the way I remember the story that led me to reduce my scuffling. I read later that Hutchence may have died attempting autoerotic asphyxiation? Also, “tasting a woman,” really?
Anyway, following are a few choice incidents of fighting and fighting-lite tales from the Pre-Hutchence era:
This is a pre-fight story to get you guys in the mood. I used to live on 104th Street on the West Side of Manhattan when I was 18 years old. Me and my friend from high school lived together in a roachy apartment/flophouse some of us called “The Rat Hole” (because there were mice). He worked construction during the day, I did a number of “different things”, and we both drank a lot of Georgi vodka every night. Does anyone remember Georgi Blue? It was high-proof Georgi with blue food coloring in it. Our downstairs neighbors were a Lebanese man and his newlywed son, and the son’s Russian wife who didn’t speak much English. Seems like an awkward arrangement for a small apartment, no? The first few days they would come upstairs and bang on the door because we were playing music too loud. We made some genuine attempts to keep it down after that, but they would still regularly come up and complain those first few weeks.
One day, a few of my people were over and we all got bent and were definitely doing some dicked up stuff. At one point, I put on three skullies (or ski caps, or beanies, or whatever you want to call them) and went out onto the fire escape. I then had my friend smash Rolling Rock bottles over my head to see if it would hurt, which made a lot of noise caused shattered glass to rain down below. Lo, and behold, the downstairs neighbor comes running up to the apartment and bangs on the door. when we open it, the father had a giant ELEPHANT TUSK in his hand and was waving it around threateningly. We started laughing and told him to fuck off (but we cut the music).
The downstairs neighbors eventually moved out after getting into a brawl (involving bricks and smashed beer bottles) with a few strangers we were trying to hang out with in our apartment. That incident ended with the front glass door of the apartment being partially smashed in and me and my friend leaving before the police came. In the maelstrom of shit that went down that night, I had forgotten that I’d called a few people to come over. When they got to the building, my apartment door was obviously wide open so they sat down and started smoking weed. A few minutes later, a bunch of police officers walked into the room and started asking them about who lived there, where they went, why the front door was smashed, etc. Luckily, the cops did not shoot them.
I used to regularly drink at a bar called Cannon’s on 108th Street and Broadway. I didn’t particularly like the bar, but it was a “real” Irish Pub (no idea what that means) and had been in the neighborhood for 70 years at that time. They played terrible music at night and during the day they played sports, which is obviously the worst. On the upside, there were a lot of very old Mets fans who would regularly drink at the bar, so by wearing a Mets hat and striking up sports conversations with old fogies, I could usually make them buy me a few drinks. It was way less creepy and flirty than it sounds. The “best” part about it’s closing was how it immediately got replaced by a “fake” Irish pub called O’Connells that had shamrocks everywhere.
Anyway, one of the bouncers at this bar was a giant red-haired Irish kid who lived in the neighborhood and was very stupid and loud. I’d seen him many times, and might have even spoken with him once or twice before. On the night in question, I was at another even more terrible bar nearby called the Lion’s Head with my friend. He had to meet a girl and I decided to go with him because I was bored. We sat for awhile, the girl came and went, and we both started to get antsy. On the way out, a tall, drunk kid who looked like Fred Savage smashed into my friend pretty hard. When my friend say, “Hey man, what the fuck,” Fred Savage starts singing the chorus of Lloyd Bank’s then recent hit “On Fire.” This angered both of us because a.) he smashed into my friend, and b.) what the fuck? But we let it go and went outside to smoke cigarettes on a stoop next door.
Shortly afterwards, Fred Savage comes out with a few friends and says something to us we couldn’t make out and they conveniently hopped into a cab. I ran up to the cab and started banging on the window for the kids to come out. After a bunch of yelling back and forth, they did exit the cab. Only then did I notice Fred Savage was with the giant, Irish bouncer from Cannon’s who I’d witnessed tossing much larger, crazier guys than myself out of that bar. I yelled, “Let’s do this on Broadway!” over and over again in the middle of the street. I only realized later I was on Amsterdam Avenue. When clobbering-time came around, I missed punching the kid’s face and ended up punching his shoulder and he totally just smashed my head in with his fist and I was unconscious for like thirty seconds. When I came to, Fred Savage was standing above me looking sorry for me and I told him to fuck off, and they did. Me and my friend went home and listened to “Dipset Anthem” and drank Georgi Blue.
PINU, PISHU, SHOEBOX
One day after-school in 1995, me, my Malayali (from the South Indian state of Kerala) friend Ryan, and a white friend of mine named Martin were walking to the bus stop after school bus stop. We got to the bus with our Famous Amos and whatever poison garbage kids in New York ate after school, and encountered a large Latino fellow—maybe ten years older than us—with a hockey stick frantically pacing around back and forth. Behind him were three Latina girls around the same age as the dude. One of them was eating Funyuns.
I was slightly fat at the time and wanted to eat those Funyuns. He came up to me and Ryan and asked if we were “Pinu, Pishu, or Shoebox?” We answered that we weren’t. He asked if we “knew Pinu, Pishu, or Shoebox” and we answered no. Apparently one (or all) of those three hypothetical fellows beat up this dude’s cousin and he was out for blood. Right after we answered his second question he smashed the hockey stick on top of my dude’s head and clipped me in the face before we jetted down the block to the sounds of those girls laughing. Shoebox, if you’re reading this: you owe me, dog!
Dapwell does not look like Fred Savage. Or does he? Anyway, he's on Twitter — @dapwell