An Asshole In His Prime
There’s an old Yiddish expression. A “Schlamiel” is the kind of moron who spills his hot borscht soup in someone’s lap. A “Schlamazzle” is the fool who gets that hot borscht spilled on him. And a “Schmendrick” is the sucker who cleans it all up. (Try to remember that.)
More importantly, I'm an asshole in my prime. A serial asshole. I don't like most people and I'm understandably irritated by them. And I can’t help it…I’m a New Yorker living in San Francisco.
You don’t want to be talking loudly on a cell phone in a crowded elevator with me, flossing w/ relish or employing unique tooth picking styles at a restaurant table directly across from mine or pontificating too proudly on subjects you know nothing about while sharing the same whirlpool with me. You probably don’t want to be in a small theater with me and you definitely don’t want to be in an overcrowded airport jail cell with me.
Unfortunately this is a true story.
I work for a company based in Beijing, China. So I fly. A lot. I use my own pharmaceutical cocktail melange of melatonin-tylenol pm-valium chased w/ a nice Chardonnay to get me through the 15-18 hour flights.
On a recent flight, I deplaned at JFK airport in New York. My mind was still fuzzy from the drug cocktail and the fact that I’m magically landing in the US an hour before I left China. (International Dateline stuff). As I always do, I check to see if any ex-Nazis are traveling incognito. Because, goddamn it, somebody has to….
I'm outside the baggage area and spot a guy hopping into a cab, abandoning his rented luggage cart. You know those carts…the ones you don’t usually have to buy, ‘cause somebody’s always abandoning theirs? Well this guy has clearly relinquished his luggage cart and released it into the public domain.
I put my hand on the cart's handle, glad I got it before someone else ran over to grab it, when a hand reaches OUT OF THE CAB WINDOW and grabs ahold of the cart handle. It’s the previous luggage-cart owner’s hand.
A voice says, "Yo buddy, I want $2 for the cart. I paid and you should too."
My first reaction is "funny joke…sort of like a welcome back to NY"…I had traveled throughout a country of 1.4 billion people and couldn't find an asshole, and then w/in 30 minutes of landing at JFK, I find one. But then I realize that – no – I’m about to enter into another episode of my own continuing series…"DUELLING ASSHOLES!"
Now, I may be an asshole, but I’m not a complete fucking idiot. I quickly calculate that my nemesis is NOT a 450 lb Sumo wrestler or a multiply handicapped paraplegic so neither my mortality nor my sense of fair play are at risk.
I try to imagine Lou Reed needing heroin really, really bad as I fix my gaze on the gentleman in the back of this taxicab and wonder “how far AM I willing to take this?” I remember Gandhi and our mutual preference for non-violence. But cut me some slack here…he gave up the cart and I’m clearly in the right.
Ever so subtle, I throw myself onto the luggage cart and grab the handle. A crowd has gathered, by now, to watch this spectacle.
Unfortunately, the previous cart “owner” calls my bluff…leaping OUT of his cab, throwing a VERY well read porno magazine at me… he calls me a "mook and a needledick"& positions himself for a fistfight. Now, to me, it wouldn't matter if he was white, black, brown, Hasidic Jew, Christian, Mormon, Hare Krishnan, Mennonite, etc. (On 2nd thought, I think I would have liked the imagery of fighting w/ a Hare Krishnan and the odds might have been more in my favor). And I am very well aware of how people often speak of groups of people as a collective, and not as individuals.
And that is bad.
But it definitely did not help, in the eyes of some significant others, and for political correctness purposes, that this guy was dressed in full ARAB attire. No judgements here whatsoever, in my mind, you have one asshole Jew and one asshole Arab, sort of like a metaphor for the decades old Israeli/Palestian conflict, but we're outside a New York City airport, and not nearly long enough after 9/11.
He calls me a "Fucking Asshole!"
I bite my lip and say, "Hey, MR. ARTICULATE, if you write like you talk, nobody will read you." And then I mumble, "I'll take a Begin and Sadat, please hold the Arafat."
I duck just in time and he narrowly misses me with his first punch.
I hadn't been in a fight for 20 years. All I could think of doing was grabbing his head in a headlock and giving him noogies. Things take on a life of their own. He’s screaming that he's been in jail… doesn't care about going back to jail… he was going to fuck me up… and if I have CHILDREN… he was going to KILL MY CHILDREN. (This is over a $2.00 rental luggage cart.) From the corner of my eye, I sense lights flashing, multiple police, National Guard….
I let out a nervous chuckle when Bam! A well-executed roundhouse hook hits my head and I enter that warm, gentle, confused zone between the fist and the rapidly approaching sidewalk. It’s an out-of-body experiential playground. The kind of space where epiphanies seem to grow on trees. I’m delirious, I think I am fighting w/ a diapered Gandhi, the cops look like Charleton Heston and aliens at an NRA rally, and, Moses-like, the Charleton Heston cop holds a gun aloft like he did after the Columbine shootings, swearing you could only take his gun when you pried it from his cold dead hands….
Next thing I know, I’m awakened sitting in this cramped, over crowded holding cell. I have a splitting headache and the guy sitting next to me is shaking his leg so violently that it is driving me crazy. Plus I am hungry. (jews are always hungry).
They finally serve us some HOT soup in a paper bowl. Perhaps by accident, my bowl of HOT soup slips out of my hands and into the leg shaker’s lap. He jumps up and simultaneously pukes. The Charleton Heston looking cop comes in with a towel and a mop to clean it up. Instantly I feel vindicated. Though I lost the rental luggage cart, the fight, and, fyi, I lost my luggage…at least I wasn’t the leg shaking hot soup in his lap schlamazzel or the asshole schmendrick who had to clean it up.
Friends bail me out and I fly back to tranquil San Francisco. I stay in bed a lot…dream that Gandhi was his high school's dodge ball champion. I hang out at a Mexican café named Rose's Cantina. I'm thinking of getting involved with a woman down the street who looks like my mother. And, by the way, my mother is a very beautiful woman. Though Jewish, she looks like Italian women on spaghetti sauce jars. And she has big breasts…and I like them….
But that's another story.