The moral of this story is – Don’t react.
I can’t see any other healthy way out of the situation. The trouble is, how do you not react when something works on you so fast that you don’t have time to think, or what if you are having an off day.
I suspect 90 percent of the people in prison right now are there because of that simple problem. They didn’t want to react, but life happens too fast for most of us to realistically count to ten. Maybe we aren’t designed ‘Not to react.’ I am starting to suspect this is the truth. Unless you maybe have time to be a 24/7 Buddhist monk. I sure don’t. I have tried to do my bit; I have spent days and many long weekends meditating in Vipassana retreats supposedly learning this very art. ‘Not reacting.’ but what, for example, if a car is bearing down on you, if you don’t react you will be dead. If you react you will live, that is what it is there for. Works faster than the mind.
That’s a lifesaver and yet one big quandary for some of us.
And here is one of my shit-storm stories to highlight this moment of beautiful intensity we sometimes come across in this journey we call life. One of many, that all seems to have a worryingly similar core running through them and, worse, they definitely all have the same inevitable outcome. Its like bad roulette, and I know all about that too.
I was walking back from the Bondi lookout. I had taken a stroll to see if anyone was up there partying for the full moon weekend. They weren’t and it looked mighty like rain coming in, so I started my walk back. There is a load of stuff I could mention about that walk but for now, it wouldn’t make much sense so I wont but I write this as a reminder to come back to it later. So, strolling down the Bondi promenade and reflecting on a New Year that has been interesting, good, and shown some positive and healing developments in my life. All because of the djembe drum. It draws attention, it gets me to meet people, it bridges the various issues I seem to have with being able to initiate intelligent conversation with strangers, and it’s a damn good chick magnet. It also seems to be a way into some spiritual aspects I have been wanting to address for some long time. On top of all that, I also seem to be ok at playing the thing. It’s funny when you discover a new skill at 43. It’s like some small miracle. I am not exactly new to the drum, but walking the world drumming with it, that one I never thought of. Yet how obvious it seems now. I am only just opening up to the possibilities as I write this today. So, where was I?
My weekend had been quite a bit more communicative and full of the great meeting of strangers than the last two and a half years have been. Result. I am happy. Another result. Could have done with a good drum-off at the lookout but what the hell, this is just the beginning of 2010 and the world appears to be my oyster once again, looks like the old sea dog wont have to hang up his rock and roll wings just yet. Daughters, better lock up your mothers.
‘Hey Mister, play us a tune then’ I hear from my left.
It sounded friendly enough but I had noticed them already, the corner of the eye has a way of picking up shit when it moves, you know instinctively what is bad news and what isn’t. This was.
I had noticed over the weekend that Bondi attracts not only beautiful blondes and surfer dudes but also a fair bunch of pricks. Walking back through the Shore Thing festival carnage on NYE was like dealing with a pack of drunken Lebanese rottweillers, they weren’t quite capable of fighting but they had a lot of rudeness about them. I was in my own world and as long as no one touched the drum, or my ass, I was ok with ignoring it. I was ready for it, the pretend smile was up, the pretend neutrality, the easy gait, all the while a sense of preparedness was upon me, ready for the shit. Ready Not to react. That’s the key. Just take it. And of course it came in buckets. And I smiled and walked on. I don’t blame just the Lebanese, but their youth sure need to learn some manners and respect from what I have seen. Especially towards women. Maybe it is mutual, these things usually are. But I got through. Today though, I didn’t have any guards up. I was enjoying my stroll on Bondi promenade. I was tired after a long weekend and I didn’t feel like playing a tune, but I knew to ignore these 5 large, pumped up, black t-shirted, black baseball-capped wannabe gangsters would just incur a tirade of abuse that I didn’t fancy, so thinking I had things down, I smiled and said politely,
‘Sorry guys, been a long day and it looks like rain’ and on I strolled past the pack.
‘Well go fuck yourself then’ was the response.
And there it was, the magical fucking moment where destiny is decided in the squeeze of an ant’s rectum. I knew these guys were uppity, I could sense the pack mentality and the whole negativity of their presence, what I hadn’t expected was the depth and charge of the negativity. It was violent. I had missed it, I hadn’t prepared enough for it, and before I knew what was going on I had turned on my heel and said
‘What the fuck did you just say’?
I knew it was stupid the second it was out but where the opportunity to control that reaction would have come from I have no notion. I didn’t think about saying it, I didn’t even know I was saying it, I just suddenly noticed I was no longer walking, was no longer feeling like a nice guy, and was instead staring at 5 large angry looking wankers having just asked them to repeat themselves in a tone that wasn’t likely to score me any favors.
‘I said go fuck yourself ’ he repeated.
They shuffled a bit on the bench where they were sat, but they didn’t think I was much, I could see that, they just stared at me. One got up and beefed up. He was big. Hmmm. This was the standoff. This was the moment’s pause, the moment’s grace during which I should have thought through the whole thing, smiled, bitten the bullet and been on my way. But once that snake gets loose in me, it doesn’t like going back in the bag one bit. It wants to bite something. Big is fine, I really don’t care, ankles are ankles. I’ll chomp some fang into a fucking elephant if I have to.
You would think some part of me would learn, but it doesn’t work that way, it just gets worse. I have a litany of moments going back to kindergarten that all began with this same reaction. The one that happens way before the mind is in charge. It’s an interesting moment. It truly has the destined about it because had I not reacted then I would have walked on and all, in theory, would have been well Instead I have potentially unleashed Hell. Again.
We manly men call it the descent of the Red Mist. Women think they understand it but understand it about as much as we understand PMT and childbirth. We don’t. They don’t. Leave it.
Something has changed inside me. Fear. It is all based in Fear. I will try to kill anything that comes near me. I am now shit scared and venomous. I don’t want to be there but if I run now, I am dead, it will unleash the pack. I am struggling to think of ways out but anything that shows weakness at this point will bring about very bad things. Alternatively fighting the cunts is also likely to end the same. My survival instincts come in now, I am backing off slowly so it doesn’t seem like cowardice, which in truth is exactly how I feel right now. But mainly, I feel really fucking angry and disrespected. I mean. Where is the fucking justice? Every moment of abuse in my life is cooked down into that moment like fortified jam. Suddenly the lid is off and its there all at once, some sticky impenetrable, eternally irresolvable shit-goo. I have tried to understand it, to reach in and cure it. I can feel where it lives in me, its in my left side, down just above my waist inside of my hip, in the left of the gut, right in there, a niggling worm of hatred that creates a knife-like feeling. Bitterness. Anger. Frustration. War. I have gone to great lengths to undo it’s effect but the only time it is truly accessible to me, is now. Not the best time for self-therapy methinks. I am feeling like a very moody motherfucker and besides, the cat is out of the bag and the game is on for the dogs. Another sad truth is, that due to some kind of schizophrenic aspect to my nature, the drumming, peace loving hippy that I am normally, is gone. Replaced instead by a maniac hungry for death, vengeance and suicidal Justice. Luckily I am aware this is not a good thing on many levels. This doesn’t stop me backing off until out of reach, then walking back down the promenade, over the top by the pavilions, to the nearest bin where I collect an empty beer bottle and return towards the pack who have now sat down to laugh at the effect they just had on me. Two young guys see me go in the bin and look at me like I am a tramp.
‘It isn’t for food, you muppets, it is for this’ I say brandishing beer bottle weapon from within the bin, and they look even more freaked out.
‘ I am going to kill that fat cunt over there’ I say pointing up the road a way at the gang who have already forgotten all about me. This doesn’t bring about anything less than understandably concerned terror on the faces of these two kids.
‘Jesus!’ I say and walk on. Why did I even think for a moment they would understand.
I am losing it. I know this, but I can’t do anything about it. I am old, life sucks, and it hurts sometimes to hold it all in and just take it like a limp bitch. Ok.
I have already worked out that if I walk up nearer the pavilion, I can come down from the car park and leapfrog over the fence right onto the guy before he knows what is going on. Landing with the bottle and myself on his head, doing some kind of crazy assed roll while shouting ‘FUCK YOU FAT FUCK!’, then launching the bottle at the others, slow them down a bit, I can make my escape back up the promenade towards safety. I have also already worked out that there is little chance these lumps of muscled up lard will be faster than me, despite me being out of shape, plus I have the element of surprise as they think I have chickened out and left the scene. And when I head up into the not-to-distant park they will not be certain to know which direction I take off in afterwards until I am out of reach, at which point I can double back round the back of my house and be inside before they start driving around Bondi for the next 6 hours, days, weeks, months hunting for anyone with a djembe drum. It’s pretty good, not foolproof, but I have achieved much harder acts of wonder in the midst of mass punch-ups. I reckon I can do it. The one holdback on me is my drum. I don’t want to lose it. I don’t want to leave it, and I cant run with it. God, how much like an annoying girlfriend it has suddenly become to me. Then there is CCTV. Much as the boys in blue will be impressed with my stunt work I suspect it wont work out too good for me in the long run. If I kill him, which is always a possibility and actually the fuel behind my thinking when I look into it, things will not go well with the law or the fat fucks.
And that is when I finally catch myself.
Truth be told, if it weren’t for the drum then I probably wouldn’t be writing this right now.
I am weighing up the choices when one of them turns and spots me.
They all turn and stare. The fact they did nothing before and don’t exactly come after me now tells me that I am in with a chance, they are hesitating. Individually these guys are weak. That’s a give away but for some reason I suddenly go into poser mode. I stand lolling the bottle at my side, drum over my shoulder, I am on the incline above them so some psychological sense of superiority must be having its effect on me. We really are life’s puppets aren’t we? I see my shadow, it looks kind of cool. Like something out of a scene from Warriors, I am dressed in just jeans, no t-shirt, it is tucked into the back of my trousers, it being a warm night. I feel. I feel. I feel.
I feel fucking dangerous.
I like it.
We stare at each other a while then the cowardly feeling returns and I move off slowly trying not to show it. Trying to appear tough. The pack goes back to ignoring me. It is like a scene from a David Attenborough documentary. I hover round the lions like some sad demented rogue jackal. Stalking up and over the top of the park, unable quite to let go of the pride lost in not fighting them but unable to leave it alone. Pride lost. There is a thing.
I have run from trouble, I know the song. Coward of the County. I have tried to live by it. I don’t want to die in a hail of bullets or spend the rest of my days in prison for killing someone. I have been in probably 30 fights in my life that have ended in near death. Been hospitalized just once. Twice, come to think of it. I am not proud of all these moments at all. not at all. I am scared, saddened, lost within them. Their mark upon my life has separated me from my fellow man, has given me a violent potential that people sense and fear. It’s an ugly thing. Not healthy. Violence is not like in the movies. There is nothing fucking nice about waking up unconscious and alone on a table with your head being x-rayed by uncaring, bored of seeing it all, strangers in white coats, and your nose broken all over your face with not a soul who cares about you, being around or even available. It is terrifying beyond anything you can imagine, it REALLY isn’t like the movies, you don’t just get up from your hospital bed after the adverts completely healed and step out, to go back to being a tough guy. No, you suffer for a long fucking time. You lose your pride, your self esteem,, your self respect, your job, your girlfriend, your life falls apart and on top of that you have to walk around with a stick and plaster over your face, wheezing like a dying asthmatic, looking like a loser and being treated like the cunt you may well be, for 3 months while people say things like.
‘Well it will teach you for fighting’ and ‘God you are so aggressive’
It gnaws at you for a long time afterwards; in fact it gnaws at you forever you just don’t see it doing so. And then one day when you are finally living in Paradise, escaped the carnage of a life you used to have to fight and war through, and you are minding your own business taking a stroll, it’s a pleasant evening, you feel, happy, relaxed, guard down and some black angel catches up with you, sneaks up on your back and whispers in your ear.
‘Go fuck yourself’
Then in a flash it is all unleashed and I don’t give a shit if you are the Dalai, fucking Lama you will react. YOU WILL REACT. And hell will descend upon you like a pack of hungry hyenas and tear the flesh from your bones.
Make no mistake. Death awaits us all in the shadows and strikes only when we least expect it. What is really annoying is the people who think they are above it all. Above fighting. You just have no idea what is out there. I like Ostriches, I get it. And I hope to God you never find out. Keep watching it on TV instead in the movies and make believe in the dream that you a living in peacetime and you are a good person. I do. I really do still. I fight through this shit to keep my heart open. And that is what comes next.