V-Man was discussing fire, over at his blog, and it got me to thinking. I have had several reputations, here and there, over the years, and most of them were bad, over things that I had done that many people witnessed, and they then went off and wove my reputation for me.
I never sought to develop or obtain a reputation, or 'Rep'. Yet I always seemed to acquire one.
I did find that having a reputation as a bad-ass tended to keep you out of a lot of trouble. I also found out that the trouble you did get offered, tended to be out of proportion, and badder than the ass that you are...or at least the one that people think you are.
You get in a lot of fights? People start thinking you like to fight, and as you win, your opponents start being brought to you by idiots who want to see a fight. And opponents start getting bigger, and more psychotic, because the smart fighters aren't going to fight the guy who tears parts off of people. Or bites them off...
There was this one big guy that used to scare the crap out of me, when I was a bouncer at this one place. You just knew he was death on two legs, to look at him. He was a Viet Nam vet, going to the same university I was, on the GI Bill, and one heck of a pool shot. And he played for money. He looked like the actor Richard Boone, when he was in his prime, only meaner.
We finally became friendly, and one night he took me off to the side and thanked me for keeping guys off his back, and told me that he hung around me so 'nobody'd fuck with him'. Then he said "Bane, I know I look tough, but I'm so fucked up, any of these guys could wipe the floor with me, and I couldn't do anything but cry."
It seems that in Viet Nam, he had had the privilege of being shot down in three different helicopters, in one day. Wounded in a firefight, he was medivac'd, and every chopper they put him in got shot down on the way back to the fire base. After the last one, he was close enough to the base that they sent a jeep out to pick him up. He told me that he'd broken his back, and he had more pins in him that he could count, and that it was a chore merely to wipe his ass or carry his books to class.
But he had the rep.
[Intermission: Life happens, even while you blog! You have gotta love a woman with whom you can have a serious, thoughtful discussion on how many matches it takes to cover up the stench of a proper poo. Nattie is busily decorating paper, and cutting out the shapes, and taping stuff to stuff to have her own Big Music Show, thanks to Blue's Clues today; Johnny is busily driving his 'twucks' all around the living room. If he hits the wall again, I mayhap abuse him. In the meantime, I...]
...used to shoot things out of people's hands, every so often. Hey, I was in High School. And perhaps a bit crazy. Most certainly under the influence of one drug or another, quite often. This is one way I know that argument about dopers being 'peaceful' is so bogus. And it really explains Gangstas, too, huh?
I've told you I finally had to leave my 'home', or at least the place I'd lived the longest and gone to all four years of high school except for that unfortunate boarding school incident. I left my California town because of a realization that my future likely consisted of death or imprisonment, and I got an opportunity for a fresh start in Oklahoma.
My rep began in high school, and I guess I mostly earned it. I had an unfortunate habit of slashing or stabbing people who really needed it. Call it 'poor impulse control', if you will.
I could shoot coins out of the air, and I worshipped the old and the new gunfighters, and devoured every book I could find on gunfighters and gunfighting. I shot almost daily, for a long, long time, sometimes (quite often) shooting up to 500 rounds of center-fire pistol ammo a week. Uncountable .22 ammo.
This concept is difficult for me to express, plus I am working to an understanding of the phenomenon of 'rep', here, for myself, so just let me share a few vignettes, to see how parts can build up to make a whole. Or in my case, an asshole. Allow me to retrospect:
I was sitting on the lawn in a public park, one time, surrounded by girls, we smoking dope. We were all pretty loaded. This was a normal state of affairs for me. I'd rather be with my pussy posse, than with a bunch of fart-ass guys, any day. I like women, and they like me, and I like that just fine.
Well, about 75 feet away, at the far side of the parking lot, lounged a group of motorcycle enthusiasts. Bikers. Real ones. My little mountain town, with only two deputies patrolling the entire county, one at night, was a magnet for outlaw bike gangs of every description. I knew and loved many many biker mamas.
Anyway, this one raggedy turd kept hollering at my girls to come over and join them. The girls finally tired of it, and one of them flipped the bird. 'Oh great' I thought 'now I'm gonna get the shit beat out of me'.
One scruffy dude, who I had pegged as the youngest in a group of about ten guys who looked to be up into their 30's, up-ended the last of a quart bottle of Olympia beer down his throat, then took the bottle by the neck and hukked it at us with a mighty overhand throw.
I watched it whicker lazily through the air, straight at my head. As it approached, I held up my hand, palm out, and it slapped into my palm and my fingers closed around it and just like that, I'd caught it.
The girls looked at me like I was a god, gawping openly. I turned to look at the bikers. They were all just standing there, staring. All eyes were on me.
What they saw was a teenage boy, with long dark hair, and a goatee I kept neatly trimmed. Loose clothing, about as tall as I am now, but whip thin, with very broad shoulders. I had a 32" waist, and wore a 42 regular coat. I stood up, and walked towards them.
As I approached, the other guys pulled nearly imperceptibly away from the bottle-thrower. He looked very uncomfortable. I sensed no threat, but I could smell adrenaline. Maybe theirs, maybe mine, maybe both. I walked up to him and held out the bottle and said "You dropped something..." and he reached out and took it!
I waited for the swing, but it never came, and something broke in the air, and the other guys busted out laughing. His face turned red, and he went off and smashed it down into a trash can. I bought some dope from them, and rode with them off and on for a few weeks, until I started to get involved with some real (and by 'real', I mean you would recognize their club name wherever you live in the world) bikers that scared these guys off.
Then one time I was in this bar, and this dope dealing shithead who is now thankfully dead came in and got a drink, and started shooting pool at a table behind me where I was sitting at the bar. Now, I hated this fucker, just because. He sensed it, and probably thought it was because he was with one of my ex girlfriends, though I could have cared less. He was also one of these weenies that comes in to a bar with a two piece custom made pool cue in a case, and makes a big show of opening it and putting it together. If you're making money in tournaments, I'll forgive you the indulgence, but I took this weenie's money all the time.
I asked my friend the bartender for another drink, and as he set it in front of me, I saw his eyes change and flick up over my shoulder. I spun on the stool and caught that custom cue by the butt, just like I'd caught the bottle. I slid off the stool, and he let go of the skinny end, as I held on to the thick end he'd been swinging at the back of my skull a couple of seconds before.
As with the beer bottle incident, I was calm, but alert. I began to unscrew the cue, and talked to him while I did. I told him that I knew we frequented the same bars, but that would need to stop, because the next time I saw him, and he didn't drop what he was doing and leave immediately, because the next time I saw him for longer than thirty seconds, it would give me a great deal of pleasure to beat him to death with a fierceness.
I never saw him again, and learned later that he had just picked up and left town. He came back after I left the state, and then died of something. OD'd, I think. I love happy endings.
Wanna hear another one? Crap, I've been at this off and on all day. Okay, there was this stocky little punk, who worked some sort of logging job, and was a hell-raising punk. He ran with a group of three or four friends, and they made Friday and Saturday nights a living hell in some bars. They were bullies, and mean drunks, and our paths rarely crossed. They had never messed with me, but then again, folks very rarely did, any more. Bartenders gave me free drinks, just to keep me in their place. Between women, and bartenders, the first time someone asked me to pay for a drink when I moved to Oklahoma came as somewhat of a shock to me.
Now, around this time (early 70's) the Buck Knife made it's way onto our scene. I have no idea when it was invented, but in my mountain town, it became popular as a fashion accessory in a big and sudden way. They were scarce, and they were expensive as heck, and the most popular, of course, was the Buck Folder, worn as a badge of honor, in a snap-covered Buck Pouch, on the left or right side of your belt.
Now, these yahoo's I described above decided that they each wanted a Buck Folder of their own, but that they weren't going to pay for them. They contrived a rather clever way of going about that. The main punk I described above would find some drunk guy wearing one in a bar, get him drunker, challenge him to fight, beat the shit out of him, and strip him of his knife and pouch... then rush with his posse to the sheriff's substation to report that the guy had pulled a knife on him, and that he had subdued him and then thrown the knife off into the woods in his righteous anger.
Yes, it takes a pretty stupid cop to fall for that shit over and over, but that is how it happened that a friend of mine got victimized by the scam one night, and beaten pretty badly. He told me that when he went to report it, the assholes had already been there to make their report. The cop told him that he'd be best to just let it drop so he doesn't risk going to jail for felony assault.
So I decided to go hunting.
I had a Wildcat Skinner that I wore constantly, but I didn't have a Buck, and that was the bait I'd need. My Dad had sprung for one, being rich and all, but none of my rich relatives ever gave me a thing. I've paid off a few loans, but if I wanted a Buck knife, I'd have to get it the old fashioned way, so I stole my Dad's.
I picked the most 'bucket of blood' bar in town, which by no coincidence, happened to be where my friend got his ass whipped and his knife jacked. I never went to this place, because it was truly dangerous, populated by rough women, and rougher men. I had fucked the owner's wife, too, and it pained me to see her with him, and it terrified her to see me when she was around him, for fear he'd sense something, and kill her. He broke a pool cue over somebody's head every Saturday night, whether he needed to or not, and had kicked her in the cunt for her birthday, and put her into the hospital, where we met because I worked there.
She was beautiful, a regular Penthouse model, a dark-skinned beauty Penthouse usually paired up with a Scandinavian type for contrast. I was gentle with her during her recuperation, and snuck her off to wash her long, luxurious hair for her and such, and she fell for me, of course. Hey, he didn't break her jaw...
Anyway, I walked into his club, and he sized me up. He knew who I was, of course. That would be a vital part of his business, such knowledge. The fact of me being there spoke volumes. I walked up to him, and looked into his wolf eyes. "A friend of mine got his dumb ass beat in here last week and his knife stole..." I said.
"Didn't hap'n in here, hapn'd out in the parking lot...I don't give a shit what hap'ns in the parking lot..." he said, and his eyes were the blank eyes of a man freshly dead. He had the wrinkles of a man who snarled a lot, or maybe grinned while he kicked in people's ribs like a kid would bust in a picket fence.
I rested my hand casually on the Buck on my right hip. His eyes flicked down, and then back to mine, and might have narrowed a bit. He knew I carried the Skinner, and had seen me use it.
I had seen his eyes glittering out of a dark corner, a time or two, where he sat, unmoving, there with his trophy wife, surveying some other club...his competition. Taking mental notes.
He had watched me work.
And he knew damn well what I was on about. I was either five seconds away from a messy death, or...
"Don't bust my place up, or make any new stains..." and the eye contact broke and he went and moved behind the bar, and began intently watching the bartender mix drinks. He whispered something to him, and disappeared through a door. A few minutes later, he came out with his leather fedora and coat on, his bride in tow, and they drove away.
I ordered a bottle of Bud, a beer I despise, but in those days, they were the toughest beer bottle made, and did not break easily. I proffered payment, but the bartender just waved it away and went to serve other customers.
I nursed my beer, and waited, and knocked back a couple shots of good Tequila, and waited. I placed a couple of quarters in line at the pool table, and waited.
I didn't know anybody in the place, and that was just fine with me. A pool player at my table shouted "FUCK!" and the eight ball clunked and the other player waved his hand at me and said "Hey buddy, your turn."
I let him con me into playing for five bucks, and then proceeded to give him terrible leaves, while somehow managing to miss most of my shots. Shhhhh...I'm hunting wabbits!
My patience was soon rewarded, as the noisy bunch of bug-fuckers came into the place like they were walking onto a yacht.
To continue reading, please insert fifty cents into the slot in front of you...
Ha! Wouldn't that be cool!
He spotted the Buck immediately. I mean this fucker had a fixation. By now his merry band had gotten at least eight knives, over the weeks, that I knew of.
He came over to my table, digging for quarters in his pocket, and I pointed at the next quarter in line and said "That one's yours..." and, by golly, it was. His brow furrowed a bit, then he brightened, and met my bright innocent smile with his. "Thanks man!" he said, and I told him that it was my pleasure, and it really, truly was.
I quickly dispatched my current opponent, and then began to use the green felt as my veldt, stalking this ignorant-ass country cunt, as one would a wart hog. Make no mistake, these men worked hard jobs, and could break you with their fists, but they were just cattle to me. Mean cows, headed to the slaughter.
I frequently paid my rent via the pool table, and I tormented this poor bastard. I would let him get close, and then take his money, and between me, his alcohol, and his lust for my knife, he was working himself up into a fine froth. Good, that's how I like them.
I would make the Frowny Face when he'd muff a shot, and tut-tut. Perhaps a tsk. His friends began to rag on him. They weren't on my side, but they were pissing him off, too. I bought them drinks. Well, not really 'bought', more like 'summoned' them, and they appeared. Kinda like a tab, without all that gauche 'paying' part.
I suspected someone was going to be happy to be rid of these lice.
I began to play the drunk. He began to bump me. To fuck with my cue during my shot. My heart leapt with joy. "Hey!" I said. Kinda whiny.
"Wanna go outside and make somethin of it?" he asked.
Did I? DID I?! Can somebody give me a DING!!
I lured him around the corner outside into the shadowy part of the parking lot, where my friend's dried blood still likely entered the tire treads of arriving and departing vehicles. As his friends erupted out the door behind us, I dropped the punk like a used rubber, and broke a few things. Then I stepped over to the car and my friend sat up and handed me my long barreled .38, and I relieved all of the nice gentlemen of their Buck Knives.
I tossed the knives into the car to my friend, and then I turned back to my new friends, aimed the pistol again, and ratcheted back the hammer. The smell of urine struck me almost at once. Not all of them piddled, but at least one did. We had what you might call a 'Come To Jesus' moment. One of them actually farted. Nobody laughed.
"I'm sorry..." I told them "but I can't go back to prison, and you've all seen my face..."
[Note: I have never been incarcerated. Well, as an adult.]
I received assurances. I mentioned that whole 'probably not best to be seen by me in any bar in this town' thing. More assurances.
I am basically a coward, and I fear being caught by surprise, like poor Bill Hickok.
Not laughing out loud when I ratcheted the hammer back down under my thumb was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I was thankful I had maneuvered them to where the security light obscured me.
Well, I was going to tell you about the time I set the dog on fire at the party, but I think this has gone on long enough. Hey, that was the story V-Man's post triggered in my memory and got all this started today, too.