Slugged a guy

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) is playing at the Elmwood Theater in Berkeley, and I wanted to see it again, and see the theater.

It was a worn-out single-screen neighborhood cinema dating back to the 1910s or ‘20s, and it's out of the way via transit from San Francisco, so I'd never been there, but now it's been refurbished, remodeled — and plexed. 

I hate plexed theaters, but if it's gotta happen I keep hoping some theater somewhere will take the time and expense to get plexed right. Sadly, the Elmwood didn't, and they’ve really gone cheap on the sound systems. Whenever Peter O’Toole wasn’t busy with rousing action in Lawrence of Arabia, I could hear America’s favorite retard, Forrest Gump, talking too loud on one of the screens upstairs.

On my way out I mentioned it to the manager, and she promised they’d fiddle with the volume and fix the problem. She also gave me two free passes for future shows, so I'll be back to the Elmwood.

As for Lawrence of Arabia, it's a frickin' great movie and everyone ought to see it at least once. It's about a guy named Lawrence, as the title suggests. Also, not to tell too much, but the story is set in Arabia.

T E Lawrence was a hero in one of those futile and silly wars our leaders love leading us into — in this case, World War I. Confession of ignorance: Until I first saw this movie four or five years ago, I’d thought WWI was entirely fought in Europe, but nope. WWI is when the West effectively took possession of the Middle East and carved it into nation-states, and with Lawrence of Arabia we’re there for the carving. You're supposed to root for the carvers.

I’m sure the facts have been heavily fictionalized, because that's what movies do when movies do history. That said, the first half is a grand adventure, and a complete and compelling movie all in itself. Then there’s an intermission, and in the second half of the movie Lawrence goes quite insane. That might be true to history, but it isn’t half as much fun as the movie's first half.

Also, my momma says that stupid is as stupid does, and life is like a box of chocolates. Forrest Gump would not shut up during Lawrence of Arabia, which leads me to something I haven’t tried before. Let's review that movie without seeing it, because I am not seeing it:

When I first heard about Forrest Gump, a few months before it opened, I was intrigued — it’s from Robert Zemeckis, who made Back to the Future and Romancing the Stone and some other popcorn movies that are inarguably among the very best popcorn movies of our time. The concept sounded good — history unfolding through an everyman’s perspective, so Forrest Gump was on my gonna-see-it list.

But I misunderstood the pre-publicity; Hanks isn’t playing an everyman, he’s playing a mentally retarded man, who earns great success in life. And that’s too close to American reality — if you’re white and polite and good looking you’re two touchdowns ahead before the kickoff, even if your IQ is 75. I don't need to see a movie celebrating that.

Forrest Gump is now playing at a theater near you, and it's a hit, and the ad in the paper says “America’s gone Gump!” and I believe it. The average American certainly seems more and more a moron to me.

♦ ♦ ♦

Coming back from Berkeley to my home neighborhood, I slugged a guy. I've never done that before, unless someone slugged me first. I am not a violent man. Or I thought I wasn't.

I was walking up Magnin (the street, not the store) when three teenish or 20's guys came rolling down the sidewalk on their skateboards. Happens every day. This time, though, as the skateboarders were rolling and talking to each other, one of them turned his head to yak at his friend, while boarding full speed and coming right at me.

Seeing this, I had maybe two seconds to decide what to do. I could’ve hollered something to get his attention. I could've flattened myself against a building and let the kid ram into someone behind me. Could've, would've, maybe should've, but it’s not my responsibility to protect skateboarders on the sidewalk. I’m not sure it’s legal to skateboard on the sidewalk, and more importantly, it’s stupid and dangerous, especially if you’re not paying attention.

The guy was crouched low on his board, looking the other way, and like I said, there was only a moment to make up my mind what to do. I didn't yell. Didn't jump out of the way. I did a bad thing. I balled my hand into a fist and held it in front of my chest like a bumper, at exactly the level of that guy’s face.

He hit it hard — blam! — and fell on his butt and started taking our lord and savior’s name in vain, while his skateboard careened down the sidewalk without him, and smacked an old man's ankles. 

The kid had blood all over his face, and he apologized to me — “Sorry, man” — as he lifted himself off the ground. That startled me almost as much as my fist had startled him. You don’t often get apologies on the street, especially from teenagers, and I got an apology for slugging someone. I half-smiled and said “No worries,” and kept walking.

Better he runs into my fist, I’m telling myself, than he runs into some old lady or little kid behind me. Which is true, but it’s an after-the-fact justification. In the moment, I simply decided I wanted to deck him, so I decked him. Didn’t know I had that in me, and I’m not sure I like having that in me. 

♦ ♦ ♦

One last movie thought before bedtime. In the paper today, it’s reported that Natural Born Killers has been banned in Ireland, but in Britain the censors will allow the movie to be shown, once “certain violent scenes” have been removed.

It's 1994. Have we not yet figured out that censorship is bad?

From Pathetic Life #5
Saturday, October 29, 1994

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

Addendum, 2021: Sorry about the word 'retard' up there. At the time, it was an insult but not generally considered an awful thing to say, and for authenticity I've decided to leave it as I wrote it.

Pathetic Life 

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  1. Your didn't see it review of Forest Gump is perfect, I love it. Did you ever see it and if so did you change your mind?

    1. I have still never seen Forrest Gump, but so many people have told me how wonderful it is, I *feel* like I've seen it ... and hated it.


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