Everyone is so confrontational these days. It seems like every time I turn around and subsequently brush against another oblivious citizen it garners an ass whooping.
"Oh, sorry about that."
"Watch where you going, pal!"
"I said sorry."
Right in the nose.
Blood like a river, tears like a fountain.
The last time I got in a fight was well over two years ago. Now, because so much time has elapsed since my latest encounter, I'm beginning to question my defense capabilities. If I were to be swung upon tomorrow would my cat-like reflexes and sharp offensive attacks remain as honed as they were two years ago? Have I gone rusty?
Then I began to think, "Wow. It's been a while. Maybe I've sullied my once Bruce Lee-like striking capacity. I wonder if some high school football player could whip me? It's time I go to the gym."
So I'd go to the gym and hit the punching bags. I'd attack the bench press with psychotic repetitions. I'd show everyone in this goddamn weight room that I am a 180-lb. ball of vigorous quasi-oomph to be reckoned with.
"Who will challenge me now?" my manly-aura would invite of aggressors. "Who wants to try to punch me in the nose now?" I could see the pansies recoil at my improved diesel physique. No one in her right mind would approach me now and instigate a bludgeoning.
Twenty minutes of weight lifting had done me well. I felt like I was ready to take on the world. Or maybe a couple of 10th graders (as long as they weren't brandishing pool sticks or baseball bats).
But why am I so concerned to whether or not I can outdo someone with my fists? Is it that important to my survival that I have the ability and wherewithal to knock someone about the head in a fit of rage and/or self-defense? Have we as a collective humanity not progressed to the point where physical confrontation should be classified as a waste of time and a lack of civility?
One simple word: no.
It is necessary for us to be able to be tougher than the next guy is. Well, necessary is a strong word, but damn, it sure feels important!
What happens if a robber takes my wallet out of my pocket? "Hey, you! Stop there, I say! Halt at once! That's my property!" Nope. It will be me chasing them for what is rightfully mine. As my father used to tell me when I'd mouth off, "There's going to be two hits. Me hitting you and you hitting the floor."
Not that my father used to beat me. He was very intimidating and forceful, which actually resulted in a lesser amount of spankings.
I remember when I was in third grade. There was this girl named Nicki and I had quite the crush on her, pigtails and all. Because I sensed competition from a boy named Dustin, who just happened to be bigger than I was, I felt it necessary to compensate my lack of size with an abundance of manly behaviors. When I would sneeze, I would sneeze with depth and force. When I spoke, I was a 7-year-old baritone. When I walked, my head was held high. These actions would eventually lead Nicki to realize that I was more of man than Dustin was and she would find protection in my arms. Maybe even let me swap saliva.
I ended up getting the girl. Not because I sounded like Barry White, but because I was the only boy her mother would let me play with. "A boy who looks that dumb must be harmless!" she would say. "Nicki, play with McClain all you want."
To gather information, I went to a local gym to talk to people who worked out and get a good feel for why they push weight. Most of them told me it was because they like to stay healthy, but under all that muscle tissue, buried in what pea-sized brains that reside in their thick heads, the true reason is that they just want to be able to kick some serious ass. And thatís what I wanted to get them to tell me.
"Why do you lift weights?" I asked a thick Hispanic man by the name of Jesse.
"It keeps me in good physical condition," said Jesse.
"Iím achieving the pinnacle of complete physical control of my body," he added.
"Complete control? But what if your stomach wants to throw up? Can you hold it back?" I asked.
"I donít know. I havenít thrown up since I started lifting weights."
"Donít the steroids upset your stomach?" I asked.
Suddenly Jesse burst from his bench like a projectile hemorrhoid. "What did you just say you skinny pendejo?" he questioned in a less than polite manner.
"Uh... I mean, what do you think of those androids?"
"Next question," I said. I was ready to move on. "Why do you lift weights?"
"You already asked me that flaco," said the
"Iím going to go over there to get a soda. You want one?" I asked while pointing to a non-existent vending machine. I was bailing out of there. He was ready to roll me in to a burrito and eat me.
"No thanks. Carbonated drinks give you osteoferocious," he replied. Holy god this guy must have dropped one too many Nautilus machines on his head.
After narrowly escaping an ass whooping, I decided it was time to migrate to the other side of the weight room. There I found a man whose arms were about twice the size of my waist.
I approached the man while he was spotting another lifter. By first glance this brute could have been a double for Lou Ferrigno. He was turning green before my very eyes.
I introduced myself as McClain and told him that I was doing a story on weight lifting. Pasitale, former Mr. Bakersfield, told me about why he lifts weights.
"I figure it keeps me in the top physical shape," he said. "I do it for fun, but also because I get to meet a lot of good people," said the Samoa native.
The behemoth said that he works out almost every day. This was the kind of guy who had muscles on his muscles.
"Whatís the worst part about working out? Is it the pain, the time involved, or the strict diet?" I asked.
"Definitely the time."
"Do people ever want to pick fights with you?" I asked. I know the science behind confrontation. The bigger you are the more people want a piece of you. I would know. Even though I have the body structure of a wet noodle, people see me and say, "I want a piece of that!"
Especially the "luscious ladies".
"Some people want to pick fights, but Iím mature enough to tell them no," said
All the while Iím thinking to myself, "You know, if it came down to it, I could whip this guys ass if I have to." Thatís what slim people like me tell ourselves when we see men the size of, say, a dump truck.
I donít think Pasitale was going to tell me that he lifts weights so that he can kick ass. This guy was aware of his stature and was probably huge his entire life.
You see; physical competence starts early on. You can probably trace it back to the days when your parents would punish you for wrongdoing. Were you spanked or forced to sit in the corner? For the most part, children who were told to sit in the corner have lost a nuance of physical defense. Physical punishment isn't an issue with them, so why should having to defend themselves from someone bigger even be an issue?
My father would spank me when I did something wrong. Physical enforcement typically got the job done. I'd be so scared to get spanked that I'd often make grandeur promises of complete reform. I'd immediately make a 180-degree turn and become overly schmoozing. I knew that if I messed up I got whacked. But this also taught me that physicality isn't necessarily a taboo. My father never encouraged fighting, but he told me that I must know how to defend myself.
He started out by lobbing softballs and my head and seeing how fast I could react. When I was no longer a novice at dodging softballs, I graduated to fast-pitch baseball. That was a painful experience. My dad had a good arm, too. I blame my appearance on those incidences.
My first fight (not counting altercations with my brother) was when I was 10 years old. Every year our school would have a carnival and the next morning, my friend and I would collect all the toys and tickets left behind from the night before. While we were filling our red wagon with odds and ends, an older, bigger couple of boys approached us and decided to help themselves to whatever was in our booty.
We had the Styrofoam airplanes, fuzzy dice, those little plastic parachute men, chattering teeth, invisible ink, plastic hand cuffs... All the fun things a child could ask for. It's like we had struck it rich! And there they were those rat bastards, taking whatever they wanted. It was making me furious and brewing inside me was a cauldron of seismic fury.
"That's my Q-Bert yo-yo you big dumb jerk!" I screamed! My hands tightened into a fist and spurts of energy were making my head hot. I was ready to throw down!
"Give it back now!" I demanded in my Barry White voice.
Then the real world was served like icy oatmeal on a battering ram.
POW! "Oh god, my nose! I... I think it's broken! Ohh... It hurts so bad!" I cried.
"Learn to defend yourself you pantywaste!" yelled the provoking assailant.
He stood above me in a ready stance. He was waiting for me to get on my feet so he could hit me again. "I'm no dummy," I thought to myself. "No way I'm getting up. I'll just roll around down here and bleed for a while. Iíll just pretend that he killed me with one punch. Maybe this ogre will go away."
I lay there frozen comatose on the pavement. I was holding my breath so he wouldnít see my chest move. I even had my eyes glazed over like you see of dead people in the movies.
The bullies took our toys, toppled our wagon and walked away chewing the Bazooka Joe bubble gum that we found for ourselves. After about five minutes of kissing the ground, I mustered some composure and got on my feet. From there I heard a "Psssst! Are they gone?" from the bushes.
"Yes! No thanks to you!" What a jerk he was. He ran off like a little girl and didn't even stand up for himself. "Yeah, he knocked the wind right out of me or else I wouldaí punched him in the eye!"
"No way man. I saw you. You were bawling on the pavement when he hit you!" my former friend pointed out.
"Yeah well, you suck!"
Then we got in a fight. Because I was steaming with wrath, I beat his ass like I was his daddy. Then when I walked away from him I threw a coke can at his head as he was sprawled out on the concrete steps. It felt good and I had achieved balance. Karma came back around again and it was sweet!
Eleven years later and I like to think that I've learned a thing or two. It is essential for us as homosapiens to be able to defend ourselves. I'm not saying we should play the role of antagonist, but those who can't hold their own are going to be taken advantage of - unless you sit in room all day every day, in which case you're an austere bag of toenails. And that is why people work out - they want to be in top physical condition, so that if they ever do find themselves in a situation that calls for defense, theyíll be more than ready.
Next time someone bumps in to you and then threatens you, donít get mad. Just punch them in the throat. Then as they're gasping for air throw a pop can at their head.
The best defense is a good offense.
an added bonus, here's some pics of McClain with the ogres he
met at the gym:
Mammoth decides to keep McClain for himself.
can't tell you how handy being able
to bench-press another human being can be.