Fight Club

Aside from one notable exception, there is little argument that the majority of the males who stepped though the door had abundance, even if not used for best practice, of testosterone. The exception of course is the housemate who admitted in mixed company that he would like to try “heeetero” before “hoooomo” sexual intercourse, had crying and bed wetting problems that were unrelated to each other, had been mugged by a vicious 8 year old who could have passed for 10 by anyone’s standards, and frequently waffled on vegetarianism. This entry is certainly not about him, nor shall he be mentioned again unless additional comedic shock tactics are required to prop up mediocre narrative.

Before anyone gets the wrong idea and has formed an image of a sweaty Tyler Derden promoting bare knuckle battles in our smutty basement, let me be honest and say that rarely ever happened. The closest we ever came to an ass kicking in anger was the pathetic attempt of Pat to pummel Schultz for allegedly slipping it to the missus and destroying our screen door in consolation. I’m also ignoring the most obvious thing in reference to blitzkrieg assault CK managed to inflict at near glacial speeds upon an oblivious Dan. What did often happen was Knaus or Dave would be looked at in some manner not to their liking or a sub par hair band would be maligned and a boisterous wrestling match or deliberate forking would ensue.

From the get go, Dave and Paul were all over each other in a strictly platonic, bellicose, non-homoerotic way. How did these two strikingly similar brutes even know each other? How did any of us really? This provides good opportunity to segue tangentially into a ‘who knew who’ flowchart. I will grant that some characters knew each other before I begin shortly, but I’m writing this entry and could care less to know their dreary pasts before I came into the picture. If you have a fascination of how JP and Dan were childhood chums united by their wooly hairstyles, I’m sure either would be honored to be asked about it.

Freshman year at St Joe’s, luck of the draw and a haphazard seating arrangement would pair me next to Louis in Russ Owen’s fascinating music appreciation class, which we both took an immediate disinterest in. With Ravel’s Bolero drudging on in the background, Louis would regal me with tales of pen guns, a teacher with a dead arm, and some schnook he hung out with during his bad ass days at Franklin middle school. We also found ourselves in most of the same classes and had ample opportunity to talk. Despite my constant harassment of his dietary habits, we managed to conceive and put together a pitch to start a Wargames club. Granted a Wargames club already existed, we somehow felt the need to start a second that would be run our way, or more specifically, Louis’s way as president for life.

The Wargames club acted as a nucleus, drawing in all manner of beasties great and small. Some would play no role in future events like Ken S., or blaze up as momentary stars like Sean O., only to fade away, while a select few would become die hard incumbents like the dread Knaus. So, by the end of freshman year, we have direct links between Louis and me, followed by Knaus, and a secondary link to Aaron, who was the aforementioned schnook from Louis’s Franklin stories. The crystal of our cabal slowly grew, adding in Dan and JP (who I thought were the same person for 3 years), Schultz (who I knew since second grade and cub scouts), Sean B., and finally Aaron in person, who was known as Psycho. Psycho and I mutually mistook each other for Booger during this period; a character whose true name has been best forgotten.

Dave came into the group in sophomore year. I had known him since second grade as well. Although he also enjoyed indulging in the world of GURPS, his busy work schedule precluded him from joining Psycho in non-student club member status. That year both Knaus and I had art class (which is where he picked up his famous rhyming nickname when John Sinatra pointed to a fake rodent being used for O’Donnell’s pumpkin coach and exclaimed for the first time, “Look! It’s a Mouse Knaus”), that culminated in a big year end show. Dave was convinced to attend the show having nothing else to do apparently that day. I introduced him around, and by mid show he and Knaus were grappling each other in the parking lot, seeing who could smash the other’s face into the bricks above the bike stand the fastest. I think Knaus won that round, if only because he had no compunction against fighting dirty.

If Knaus fought dirty, Dave usually held his own by fighting more, and not being afraid to utilize escalation tactics. Where wrestling matches were generally confined to just that, Dave never failed to surprise an opponent with a right hook or kick to the boys. Sophomore year in high school was also the first and only time Dave and I fought in anger. We both worked after school for Jim Herkert’s cleaning company mopping up at old St Paul’s. Dave, although only hired a mere month before me, insisted on calling me ‘rookie’ with the full rights and honors usually afforded someone of that status at fraternities or zany police academies.  We all have limits and I reached mine over the disputed presence of dust bunnies in the kindergarten room. I launched myself at his wiry frame, instigating a drag out battle. Before blood could be spilled, a mistimed lurch sent us both into the side of the gigantic aquarium. Breathless with horror, we watched as it teetered back and forth and finally settled itself. This ended the conflict with nary a splash.

Where most boys tend to lessen their outwardly aggressive tendencies by the time high school is over, primarily due to interventions by the opposite sex, they increased with Dave, Knaus and admittedly I at times. While comparisons to Don Juan, Casanova, or even the good Marquis DeSade were few and far between, this was nearly universal in the environs and did not have so violent an impact on Thirsty, Siuda, Norton, or even Mooney, who resembled the Marquis in both claims and deeds as close as any of us. The predictable result was inconvenient destruction, some injury, and a story or two to fill the gaps while I think of something more interesting to write about.

The first college battle of any note occurred the first day we moved into Goodyear. Knaus had just finished magnum opus in doorway paintings, and we gathered to set a spell in the room while the rainbows and unicorn slowly dried. As our hall mates moved in they likely assumed a seventh grader had been promoted up though the grades due to unparalled genius and had just graduated the ‘Strawberry Shortcake’ phase. The notion was about to be disabused. From the mystery of his desk, Knaus produced a small figurine of Garfield sidekick Odie and seemed completely enraptured with it. Aaron was intrigued enough to ask to see it, and gave Knaus enough opportunity to quickly turn away, hogging the precious to his bosom. Greedy as Gollum and incensed at the unspoken refusal, Aaron advanced, determined to at least get a closer look. Knaus cowered, a transparent feint, and clawed it all the closer. I could not help but become involved.

Moments later a tumbling collusion of flailing limbs emerged from the door of 709 East, and meandered thrashing down the hall as the rest of the good people schlepped up their hot pots and comforters. “Let me see the Odie!” “No! It’s mine! MINE!” Eventually the whole mess of it, rug burned and all, came to a writhing halt before RA Jason’s doorway. A crowd had gathered around, curious as to the nature of the ruckus. Explanations were demanded and there was no way of making the situation sound any less ludicrous than it truly was. For this, and so many other reasons, those on the south end of the hall often chose to take the back stairs rather than risk going by our door to get to the elevators.

Aaron, having suffered the worst in that tête-à-tête, thought he at least understood the nature of the threats in his environment, but this could not be further from the truth. Heretofore, he had not yet been introduced to Dave, though had heard enough about him in passing. Although long since Dave has developed a passion for fine literature, well aged wine, and gravity defying breasts, at the time of this story his one true passion was the tremendous musical talent of Canadian hair bag Getty Lee and Rush. Aaron, a die hard Kraftwerk aficionado, could not abide by this notion and choose to challenge it the first time Dave graced our room with his presence. I explained before that Dave was never one to be afraid to take things up to the next illogical level, and in this case he skipped the first few floors all together. Before he could blink, Aaron found himself thrown back on the bed in a half-nelson, with JPs long unwashed fork drawing tiny beads of blood and perspiration from his neck. A good case of ptomaine poisoning is usually enough to dissuade further comment and this was no exception.

Once we got to Comstock, the battles were no longer so easily confined to a small cinder block cell, and became both more interesting and more dangerous. I don’t remember what set it off, likely nothing whatsoever, but it was the angriest I ever saw Knaus get, which is saying a lot. It was a three way match, and by some luck of the twist, I managed to get his lacquered bulbous head in a firm lock. Dave chose that moment to pounce from behind, a sneaky brute, and sent us both tumbling forward. The position was just so that I slammed into the loveseat by the mantle, and Knaus’s head slammed into the brick fireplace façade beyond it. He exploded in fury, throwing the both of us back, roaring in saurian rage. Hair askew and red faced, he look around. I jumped back to take refuge in the dining room, while Dave, wide eyed in amazement, froze in place. Knaus shoved past him, and with the mighty swinging kick of a punter, unloaded his bare foot on the solid maple coffee table, sending it end over end. He was already up the stairs, limping considerably, as it landed, snapping off a leg.

Hours later, after silently brooding, he came hobbling down the stairs and was able to talk about it. He felt that although he certainly stubbed, broke or jammed all 5 toes on that foot, it was the wiser choice at the moment than his initial instinct. As his head connected to the fireplace, he was filled with the overwhelming urge to throw me directly though the Florida room window. A move innocuous in westerns would have likely meant a long hospital or morgue stay and inevitable arrest and trial. It was my quick leap back, however, that had saved me. As history has a way of repeating itself, Knaus also managed to destroy my coffee table at Princeton, although with me bearing the brunt of injury that time.

Ever one to attempt to learn those life lessons that fall into my lap, I began to extricate myself from the battle royale practices after that incident, except for cases when really drunk or annoyed. For Knaus and Dave, there was no stopping. One day I came home to a terrific din of crashing and banging above me. There was no question as to what it was as Knaus’s car was in the driveway with Dave’s Bronco behind it. Suddenly silence. I had to look. At the top of the stairs I found Dave lying motionless on his back, a large bruise appearing on his forehead. Knaus was crouched over him with look one could almost describe as tender concern. Dave’s breathing was barely audible as Knaus gently coaxed him to speak. Having watched a little too much WWF, Knaus managed to get Dave up over his head, and succeeded in body slamming him to the floor, but not before Dave’s head and neck were caught against the solid steel desk. For about 10 minutes we debated calling 911, convinced Dave’s neck was broken and that paralysis was quickly setting in. He rose, redeemed and in all his glory, soon after and set us all at ease.

The final bit worth telling doesn’t involve a fight at all, though is steeped in asinine male behavior of the same cloth and thus finds a place here. One evening I emerged from my room to find Dave and Knaus in the study area sitting close and looking both pained and determined. They both had a lit cigarette in their hand and was pressing the burning coal at the end to the others extended index finger in a macabre game of chicken. Each held his finger to the fire voluntarily and was in no way bound to keep it there, but for some misguided sense of honor or bravery. The game was to decide who could keep it there the longest. The room smelled both of heavy smoke and a subcutaneous layer of human fat beginning to burn. I can’t even recall who won the contest or if the cigs extinguished themselves first. In any event, I was invited to participate and show my mettle. Announcing that there was far too much testosterone in the room, I took my leave.

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8 Responses

  1. I am curious as to the Dan and JP hair union. Someone please do tell?

    With the talk of Joe’s I am reminded of Doc Breem and the English longbow, not to mention his tremendous amounts of homework including graphs. “I can’t come out tonight, it is a Breem night.”

    I was never a die hard Kraftwerk aficionado, though “I am the operator of my pocket calculator” has a nice ring that sticks in your head.

    The only thing i knew about Dave at the time of our first meeting was he was a fanatic fan of Rush, just enough information to get a fork in my neck.

    The fight started when you three came back from some concert in a bar as i was upstairs plagarizing a paper at the last minute.

    How was the Princeton table destroyed?

  2. The Princeton table was destroyed one hoary New Years Eve – our first year there I think. We were having people over and Knaus was the first to arrive, followed by Jenn Bondzio (with the tongue). Knaus felt the need to pick a fight and ended up slamming me so hard into that round coffee table that the leg broke off. It never was properly fixed.

    I beg to differ on Kraftwerk. Every time you played them, JP left the room, so I could hear it coming though the wall several times a day it seems. The frequency of playing is what designates aficionado status.

  3. I cannot believe you remember the guy with the dead arm. I remember him but cannot remember his name. However, you have the part about Franklin and Aaron wrong. Aaron went to a different middle school – I knew him since 1st grade. There were several guys at Joe’s who came with me from Franklin though – Tom Penichter, Steve Moffatt, Chris Kaderbeck, and maybe some others I can’t recall. (NOTE: If anyone googles those names and finds this comment, none of those people have anything to do with the content of this blog, either through participation or even awareness.)

  4. I went to Franklin for 6th, 7th, and the first two months of 8h, then I wen to Hoover.

    The guy with the dead arm was the science teacher, Mr. Storfer. We would walk around the room and flip his dead arm on the shoulder of students. Then he would proceed to the front of the room to fold his hands in front of him as he read from an open text book. There was always rumor of a student pricking his dead arm with a pin as he walked by, but it seemed a myth. Rumor had it he would not be allowed to teach if he removed the arm, so he injected it with fluid to keep it fresh.

    If I ever see Knaus again I will hide all my tables.

  5. So, you were in the “alternate” homeroom then because I do not remember you having Mr. Noworyta or Mr. Hohl. I had never heard the rumor that he could not teach with 1 arm. Good one. I will have to post the “SCHOOL DAYS II” story some time then.

  6. What is SCHOOL DAYS II? Not the text adventure game with an array of pen guns and shooting a helicopter down with a bazoka?

  7. That’s right, the one that would probably get me locked up as a “threat” if written today. But back then it was good clean fun.

  8. lmfao storfer was my teacher too… he fuckin hated me tho always kicked me out of his class…

    he was a miserable dick

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