Saturday, November 21, 2009


I was bullied a lot as a kid, man. No doubt about it. This was a result, most likely, of a lack of confidence in my ability to defend myself, and the lack of anyone at home that wanted to show me how. There was really no one there that was practical to turn to for advice on that topic at the time. No one's fault, just the way it was.

I really had no tangible reason why I was bullied. other than the fact that I was a chunky kid with a floppy head of hair. Apparently, despite my sense of humor and generosity, that was more than enough of reason to taunt me. Some kids can be inherently bastards. They tried to intimidate me with comments, and try to get it to lead to violence, which usually began with shoving, and the classic non-sequitir, "Bring it on, Man, right now!!" . I usually just tried to talk my way out of it, which usually worked. It did not, however, take away the sting of humiliation as I walked away with a broken sense of honor. Tail firmly planted between my legs.

In the late 70's I caught a late night telecast of the movie, "Billy Jack". This film was mostly an awful liberal-minded movie about Indian kids in a special school getting intimidated by local wealth-merchants, authority figures, and mean-spirited kids. The title character (a green beret half-breed played by Milwaukee native Tom Laughlin) acted as their protector and one afternoon in the town square deals out some martial arts justice to a powermonger and his henchmen until the sheer power of numbers becomes too much.

However, the scene lit a bit of a fire in me. Hit me like a bolt out of the blue.

I went to bed that night fantasizing, what if I could dole out those kicks and punches, volley aggressive action from others into armtwists and hence, force them to apologize. It was fun to think about and made me feel a little bit better. Sadly, I would awaken the following Monday just to trudge back to the same school and hooligans who would deal out the verbal abuse that I was too afraid to respond to, due to plain black, cancerous fear. My mind would go back to those imaginary ass-kickings, and at least draw a crooked smile. Eventually.

I think that it was in 1980 that I discovered Bruce Lee and the movie, "Fists of Fury" (known as "The Big Boss" in his homeland) and I was awestruck. The quickness, power, and grace that Lee displayed was so much more fluid and powerful than the seemingly pedestrian supporting cast members abilities. Lee quickly became a hero of mine, largely because in "Boss" as well as in his other films, he stuck up for the little guy, the put-upon, the helpless. I could respect that.

My efforts to get my parents to enroll me in martial arts classes fell on deaf ears. It seemed that they really didn't realize the potential for violence I was dealing with, despite the knives at school, the right crosses to the cheeks I had taken, and the violent tosses to the ground resulting in abrasions and stiff and aching muscles. The pudding contained no proof.

In Junior High I had to ride the public transit system to school every day, because the school district was apparently too cheap to pay the school bus transit companies to do their fucking jobs. So the students from my school would be intermingled with civilians. One morning I offered my seat to an elderly lady, and thusly ended up standing for the ride to school. I was feeling pretty good about myself for my selfless gesture, until the bus hit a pothole the size of the sea of tranquility and i was jostled forward and slightly bumped into another kid. I quickly chuckled, and uttered, "Sorry about that.", to which he replied, "I'm gonna find you and kick your fuckin' ass after school."

Now hold on a minute. What kind of psychopath finds a reason for a fight in a slight bump on the bus? I didn't elbow him in the balls. I didn't make a pass at him. What's going through the dude's head? For the next couple of weeks whenever this cat would see me around the neighborhood, he'd start following me around, usually with one of his half-brained apish "goons" and try to start fights which I would generally somehow avoid. This kid had a vendetta. A low rent Luca Brasi. He was the only 13 year old person in the world with a death warrant on someone's head for bumping into them accidentally on a motherfuckin' bus. Unreal.


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