please stop tickling me

In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

Otium cum Dignitatae

Sunday, August 12, 2007

How to Be a Man (TM)

I was recently reminded of the fact that I used to be friendly with a fellow who once beat up two cops because they refused to buy Girl Scout cookies.
Mike had been drinking, you see, and had then wandered over to Safeway, where he encountered the girls selling the cookies. Being an obliging sort, he bought some cookies and stood there eating them.
Then the two cops walked up, trying to enter the store, where they were blocked by Mike's not-inconsiderable bulk. "Why doncha buy some cookies?", he asked.

They refused, or declined in any case. Perhaps they were using a tone a bit more dismissive than they would have chosen, perhaps looking at Mike and seeing some homeless dude who wasn't worthy of attention until he started trouble.
He obliged by starting some. After demanding that they be nice and purchase some fucking cookies, they got bent out of shape by his tone, and things pretty much fell apart from there.

Mike was beating them both soundly (and I really wish that I knew the chain of events between the initial conversation and the resultant ass- whuppin') when (I believe) six more of their number quickly arrived to subdue the fucking idiot. The Safeway in that town is across the street from the Police Department.

For all the implausibilities of the story, I do not doubt that he was indeed winning the fight. Mike was the product of a shitty Catholic childhood (beaten by his father, probably molested by priests) that turned all Frankenstein's Monster. By the time I met him, he had been the guest of various municipal, county and state institutions for the majority of his time alive. He had no sense of smell (which was amusing as hell during the period in which he had a basement full of marijuana plants), and also could no longer feel pain.
Father O'Sheely relates the tale of how, like most jailbirds, Mike once again found Christ whilst Inside. Shortly after getting out, Mike went to a party thrown by his brother, my best friend at the time. Seeing O'Sheely, he got goin' on the comforts of the religious life:

"See, I don't feel pain anymore," he said, while plucking out his own chest hairs, one by one. "Do you feel pain?", he asked the cornered O'Sheely, who responded that yes, yes he did, as Mike now commenced plucking out his chest hairs.

But Mike already felt no pain. I already knew that. His little brother Bear, my best friend for many years, pretty much worshipped the guy, and often pointed out that his brother would be likely to win most physical confrontations, as he could take a punch, which isn't true of many people outside of professional boxing.

And the Girl Scout cookies story is one of many that he regaled us with (after he got out of jail) as if it was just a really funny story about getting drunk and doing things one normally wouldn't do. It's fucking hilarious, actually, but I imagine had I been there, I would've been terrified.
See, Mike also made his living as an arborist. Being a tree doctor, he was legally licensed to carry (he proudly told us) spikes and chainsaws at all times. This led to another one of his funny stories.

See, he also had this pitbull, right? It was named 'King', and was part pitbull, part...Something fast, and it also had been trained toward racism by its former owner (who is also a figure worthy of consideration here; he gave King to Mike after one evening when he was doing that thing I think we've all done to dogs: taunting them with food. Until King, wisely, jumped up and planted either side of his locking jaw structure on the man's face). So here is this mean, fast, 'white' dog, and his deranged, delusional owner who is always in possession of sharp things.
Mike and King are out walking one evening in Portland, and they run afoul of a large group of young black men. How they managed to do this without specifically driving to a particular part of town nowhere near where Mike lived, I'll never know, but in any case, words were exchanged, and violence erupted. Mike, again, not only lived to tell the tale, but wandered out of the damn thing without much in the way of damage to his person.
"I can see the headline now;" he explained to us, by way of denouement, "'Dude kills fourteen jigs'!"

Like all of these stories, his audience was deeply stoned, and I for one began laughing hysterically at the vision of paperboxes all over Portland with the ten-point screaming headlines: DUDE KILLS FOURTEEN JIGS, perhaps with the subheading, Credits heroic dog for takin' a fuckin' stand, or something.

I don't believe that anyone actually got killed that evening, but the combination of three Forces of Nature (Mike, King and an arsenal of Sharp Things) certainly could have made it so.
And the thing is, Mike didn't differ all that strongly from scores of men I've met in my life. He was just a comically/tragically distorted version of ...All of them, rolled up into a terrifying ball.

He, like lots of them, had a practical joker's side both dark (lining his outside window sills with razor blades and broken glass) and light (daring his brother and I, stoned again, for a solid hour to eat a can of dog food. The prize would have been fifty dollars, but we still said no. He then took a long time in the kitchen, magnanimously making us some sandwiches, which we then could not decide about. They had no dog food in them, and in fact were quite delicious). His love of partying sat oddly alongside his nativist hatred of all things not from his background. In this though, he again resembles most men that I've met in most places.
He probably didn't even have an actual opinion concerning Mexicans or blacks that wasn't inherited goods; conventional wisdom among stoner dudes of the late '70's in Oregon. But then again, he wouldn't be the first person I've met who went to prison and came out racist.

As the years went by, his behavior became more and more erratic. This is often the case, I've noted. Eventually all the shit stored in there that makes them that way in the first place poisons the entire system. Before long, his own family had no real love or respect for him, and...Y'know...Mike's still around, but I suspect he isn't holding down a job.

Oddly, I got thinking along the lines of the epic tales of bravery from the past, somewhere in there. Often, they were made up specifically to explain to folks Why We Belong Here, and why it is Sanctioned by the Gods.
Virgil's Aenid to explain to Romans that they are the rightful inheritors of Troy's legacy, the King Arthur legend to convince the British that they are the inheritors of Rome's legacy, etc.

And Mike, and the many, many like him who I have met, who regaled us all with tales of conquest as if Vikings or some shit? Tales that, upon reflection, were just the deeply twisted actions of seriously damaged men with substance abuse issues and not a little organic brain dysfunction?
Maybe they all were that. As far as classical literature goes, Egil's Saga, from Iceland, is pretty much a story about Mike. It's a story about a berzerker, and the path through life that that sort of person is likely to follow.
At first, Egil is a town bully who is described in dimensions highly unlikely for a human of that time (or ever), but soon becomes everybody's hero when the usual conflicts between things (the wonderful Icelandic word for 'tribe', basically) required brutal soldiering.

Eventually Egil travels to what was then known as 'Finn-mark' (and these days known as Suomi to those who live there), and does a bit of mercenary work for the king. The king is pleased, and gives Egil a dog. The dog is described in several paragraphs worth of hyperbole about his many characteristics and amazing, supernatural abilities, and then: "His name is Sam."
Egil and his dog wander further into this world they barely understand. It slips out, in little asides that perhaps Egil wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed, even to the authors, but sometimes people need these types around to achieve certain things. But when you're done with them?

I read that particular saga long enough ago that I don't really remember how it ended. I'm gonna say that he and Sam had a few more adventures, but more and more often found themselves confronted by a world grown a bit older, and more embarrassed by their former employees, the berzerkers.
As both primal dog and primal man moved about, they encountered younger and more clever warriors, and pretty much you have the plot to most western movies beyond here. Like a bad dog, men like Mike/Egil gotta be put down.

There needs to be a Part Two of this epic series, The Faces of Men, with Rich Bachelor. I believe the next installment will be a liveblog of VH1's The Pick Up Artist. Stay tuned.



Blogger carrier said...

The ancients certainly didn't lack for heros. But like your friend Mike they all suffered fundamental flaws.

Even biblical heros...lifted liberally from the ancients...had shortcomings of their own. Of course those shortcomings were generally reflective of feminine influence.

That is until we come to Jesus. Maybe the merry myth makers had finally learned that staying power required perfection.

Jesus the man undoubtedly was as imperfect as any other man. Jesus the divine legend could not afford to be.

Or maybe it was only that those earlier scribes better understood the need for a dash of reality in their heros. After all being the good guy isn't always easy. Not when we all suffer from common human weakness.

Either way Mike sounds like one scary fella.

7:34 PM  
Blogger Erudite Redneck said...

That is a hoot of a tale.

Re, Jesus and perfection. The earliest Christians, bein' Jews, saw Jesus as the bridge to God, as the ultimate sacrifical lamb "without blemish," which means they had to see him as perfecto.

Had God manifested God's self to the Cherokees, the bridge to the Corn Mother mighta mighta been seen as a holy cornstalk, without worm or smut, from which all believers could spiritually partake -- but not necessarily "perfect, I guess. And I ain't gonna say God didn't.

12:11 PM  
Blogger Junk Thief said...

I think only a real man would beat up a Girl Scout. Yes, this demands a sequel.

9:51 AM  
Blogger David Rochester said...

I had a conversation recently in which I proposed my theory that nothing gets done in the world anymore because bipolar/schizophrenic nutcases are no longer respected as world leaders. I'm not sure there's much difference, really, between Saddam Hussein and Julius Caesar.

A lot of stuff was accomplished by people who were totally fucked up and crazy. There's no place for the mentally and emotionally unstable aggressive genius in our society. They become criminals, usually. I can't help thinking it's too bad.

11:26 AM  
Blogger George Popham said...

Father O'sheeley, Screaming laughter at that pseudonym.

The whole thing is an interesting thoughth experiment, and it is definitely a good antidote to romanto-fascist ass hats like Carlyle who wrote, *On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History* which led to all kinda crap we're still shedding.

Speaking of pouring scorn on false heros, did'ja see Hitchens appearance on Hannity a few months back to defend his, fantastic obituary of Jerry Falwell. I just happened to be directed to it, as many of these controverseys slip right by me. I don't know the exact url, but googling Hannity and Hitchens got me there.

The vid is kind of a pissing contest, though Hitchens comes off very very well considering how stacked the deck is onn those shows. But, the obit is definitely worth reading.

I been outta circulation on-line for awhile, but I'm getting back in the swing. Hope yer good, Rich

12:08 PM  

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