Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Free To Be...An A-S-S-H-O-L-E


I spent much of yesterday at the doctor's office, getting a softball-incurred knee injury looked at (Grade 1/borderline 2 MCL sprain), just off Gramercy Park here in NYC. The weather...was glorious, albeit with a sky in that perfect shade of sapphire blue, and eerily cloudless like 9-11's was. But nonetheless, it was simply a remarkable day out—that time of the year...when the sun's angle is just so—blinding and direct at the peak of the day...brightening all its rays touch, and making everybody look that much younger...and more vital.

Everyone who passed my gimpy ass on the street seemed to look young, and fresh, and full of promise.

In fact, they all were young, and fresh, and full of promise. It took a minute to realize (Tylenol with Codeine will do that) that I was standing in the midst of a multitude of young adults making their way to and from Baruch College about a block away.

I used to hang out at Baruch on Thursday afternoons and evenings in my collegiate years for the parties. Off-the-chain jams. Step shows, Black fraternity throw-downs in the “Oak Room”, All-out debauchery-oozing mega-jams in the main lobby—oh my God! We had a ball! Not just at Baruch, but at F.I.T. a few blocks west, in the “D” building on Friday nights, and then Uptown for the jams at Columbia's parties at “Earl” Hall (a noise often heard in the restrooms there after too much drink) and “The Plex” downstairs pub. My school was a horrific party school, with Deejays “spinning” cassette tapes by Bic lighter-light, and no mixer! So we—my gang of friends and me—hit all the schools—up and down the eastern seaboard. Howard. Boston College. Rutgers. Harvard. Fredonia. You name the school, we hung there awhile—soaking up the college ambience that much more, as we went for quantity partying just as hard as we did for “quality”.

College was on my mind big-time yesterday as I watched the kids—and yes, more than a few of the pretty young girls— hustle on by. I thought of my son, who'll be going off to school next year (which kinda chilled my libidinous co-ed thoughts). And then, I saw a clutch of students moving in an angry wave with signs under their arms. The one in the lead was checking his cell phone and barking “Come on! Come on!” to those behind him—and I realized who they were. They were members of the school's Hillel Jewish organization—in my fog, I'd initially missed their yarmulkes and didn't immediately register the words on their picket signs. They were apparently headed uptown to protest the presence of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the Columbiaand moreso in the city proper.

They were movin'.

And you had to get out of their way quick, because they were in a hurry. There was one huge kid, in a dark blue and white striped polo shirt—and stood about six-foot-four, 250 lbs easy. A man-mountain at the edge of the wedge, holding two big signs under a redwood-like arm, and he was not playin'. He was clearing the way with his shoulder. Boomp! Boomp! Boomp!

“What the hell is your problem? Asshole!”, one woman he almost knocked off the curb yelled.

“You see us comin'.”, the burly kid said. “You need to move!”

Boomp! Boomp! Boomp!

I tottered my lamed-up ass out of the way, but barely, as the kid nearly clipped me with one of the big signs he was toting.

The woman he plowed into was still seething as the group swept along.

“Fucking asshole!”, she yelled one more time as she moved across the street.

I laughed to myself because I remember specifically that I never heard that word—“Asshole” used to describe people more than I did in my college years.

The institution was apparently, full of 'em.

Which got me to thinking about college, and collegiate activism, and the whole “dude got tasered at the Kerry speech” thing at the University of Florida that had so many people in an uproar last week. I actually was going to comment on it shortly after it happened, but then...the story deepened as more and more facts came out about it.

It turned out the kid, 21-year old Andrew Meyer was something of an inveterate gadfly. And a proud, nearly professional heckler. He proudly says so in his own words here in an article entitled “I Pissed Off Ken Griffey Jr.”:

I pissed off Ken Griffey, Jr.  Before I explain how, let me repeat that for a second: I pissed off Ken Griffey, Jr.  So here’s what happened:

I went to see the Marlins play the Cincinnati Reds on May 31, 2004, and sat eight rows behind home plate.  My real seat was way up in the upper deck, so I was practically forced to sneak into a better section. Anyway, in the top of the seventh, Sean Casey came up to bat with a man on first and one out.  Before I delve into my tale, let me give some background info.


Now, you have to know this about me: I am huge Marlins fan, and a born heckler. My purpose in life is to badger, jeer, and cajole professional athletes. I have angered two other All-Star baseball players, Bobby Abreu and Odalis Perez, on separate occasions. I have booed singers that mess up the national anthem. Heck, I’ll even heckle other hecklers if I don’t care for their stuff. What happened during this particular game was destined to be, the paths of Griffey and I on a collision course.


“WALK CASEY TO GET TO GRIFFEY!” I shouted at the top of my lungs. “WALK CASEY TO GET TO GRIFFEY!”

I now not only had the attention of my entire section, but Griffey himself turned an eye in my direction, and began to stare. I was on my feet, and he spotted me immediately. I was nowhere near done with this.

“WE WANT GRIFFEY!” I screamed, deliriously. “WE WANT GRIFFEY!” There was no question about it now. Griffey was staring me down, angry.  Instantly I realized what I had done. I had twisted the lion’s tail, awakened a sleeping giant, rousted the dragon from his lair.


Ball one. I began to squirm in my seat. Ball two. When the umpire called that second ball, I knew down in my gut everything that would happen next.  Casey walked on four pitches. Griffey walked to the plate, still glaring in my direction. The pitcher winds, delivers --- Strike one. 
“That’s right Griffey! You’re nothing!” I yell. Griffey knocks the next one out of the park. As he rounds third, he points right into the stands behind home plate, right at me.

Let us all join in with that angry, plowed-through lady crossing the Lexington Avenue. Say it with her, now: “Asshole!”

Then I come to find out that Kerry, in trying to defuse the situation with the kid over-running his question time, actually deferred to Meyer, thinking that just letting him have his say would eventually lessen the tension in the room and cool things out.

As Charlie Murphy said of Rick James learning his lesson, “Wrong! Wrong!”

And then I saw the entire video of the incident, where Meyer clearly was set on a path of being as annoying as possible, pissing off everybody around him, and then, pretty much dicking around with the police when it was clear that they too were out of control.

I ingested these facts, and filtering them through my own experiences at teach-ins, rallies, Q & As, and then, dealing with Five-O, I came to the following conclusions.

One: Part of the greatness of America is its freedoms. Of speech. To dissent. And...the freedom to be an asshole, which Meyer evidently exercises with the zeal of a scrawny kid in the basement mirror with a brand new “Bullworker”. He is undoubtedly an asshole, and has every God-given right to be one. Unfortunately, when you exercise that right, for it to be effective it has to impact someone else—people outside of just you. And a side effect of that impact is that it causes people, like that lady knocked into the gutter, to dislike you, and yes...often look the other way when someone decides to kick your annoying ass. Which is what happened to Andrew Meyer that day at Florida State. I've seen knuckleheads like him engender so much ill-will in an assembled crowd that the crowd itself has been moved to beat down the offender.

I remember being at a Q & A on Blacks in Journalism in the 80's at The Cooper Union art college. The panelists were Black talk radio host Bob Law, a female Black conservative apologist named Applewaite, (who Law kept intentionally malaproping as Applewhite) and a journalistic idol of mine, the great Jimmy Breslin. It was a pretty spirited affair, but it got crazy when one hard-case nut took over the mic. He asked one question. Then two. Then three. Before you know it, it was six or so questions, each one more breathlessly asked than the last, and twice as crazy each time. There was a line of people behind him waiting to speak and they and the crowd began to boo the boor, who would not. Let. Go. Of. The. Mic.

Breslin, sensing the tension, stood up and implored “Let him finish. Let him finish! Fella's got an opinion just like the rest a' you. Let him get it off his chest.” But dear Jimmy clearly didn't realize he was dealing with a professional, inveterate nutbar, who went on for a couple more minutes pontificating, and then invoked in one fell swoop while screaming, black helicopters, the meaning of the all-seeing eye on the dollar bill, and...the Illuminati. As the crowd now wrestled with the gadfly for the mic, Breslin stood up again, thrust his hands into his jacket pockets and said while sighing, “And now buddy...you are on your own”. With that a few people grabbed the mic stand, and a few grabbed ol' Gregor Kookypants, separated the two, and hustled the dude up the aisle, and outta there like the Klan-lovin' pol at the end of “O Brother, Where art Thou?”

Was it uncool to do? Yes, it was. Was he asking important questions? Some were. Some weren't. But he was certainly unmaking friends with every second-hogging, crazyfuck word. Was he being an asshole? Oh, yes. Yes, indeed. And once people tab you as an asshole, you move yourself into dangerous territory in terms of getting the benefit of the doubt from people when the shit goes against you. It ain't fair...but it is human nature.

And speaking of human nature...

Two: Another part of America's—actually the world's— greatness, is the way we are not limited by station in terms of behavior. Anyone... can be an asshole. Including cops. And the cops who tazed Meyer were assholes. Maybe the worst kind—namely authoritarian assholes. Occupations that place people in hierarchal positions over the bulk of the populace tend to attract those types. And because of that, when you get an guy acting like Meyers in a place where you have authoritarian assholes nearby, well...it's a cocktail for taze-saster. Give John Kerry credit—he was the most sane person there, trying to de-fuse things by letting the kid expend his wind. But, like Breslin, he didn't realize he was dealing with a 200,000 BTU blower jacked into a high-tension line.

Asshole met assholes when the cops and Meyer collided—and in that battle, the assholes with tasers almost invariably trumps the “proud, nearly professional heckler“ asshole with a big mouth and bigger attitude. His idiotic, tweaking “Dont taze me bro'!” appeal to the cops was a stupid-ass move—especially in light of how anyone with common sense knows how Five-O plays when you fuck around with 'em like that. And his spastic physical resistance? Well...that's just making the authoritarian with a weapon's job that much easier, isn't it? Jesse and Sara make that point clear in these prescient posts from a month before “bro got tazed”. The initial dudgeon over this “injustice” on both sides of the aisle was tempered as soon as the facts began to get out, but that still leaves us with one undeniable fact to chew over.

The cops were waaaaaaaaaay, waaaaaaaaaaay out of line, and there wasn't a Goddamned thing John Kerry could do about it at the time, beyond what his job is—to be statesmanlike.

Oh yes, and that the “victim” here is now known to get off on fucking with powerful forces he thinks will never call him on his antics. He gleefully cited how he had “twisted the lion's tail”...without noting that to do so, you have to reach into the lion's cage to do it.

Considering that nothing good was gonna come of this divine, and destructive confluence of assholery on campus, he's lucky he didn't draw back a nub.

As for the “Po-Po”, my father used to say, “Give an idiot a hammer, and everything becomes a nail.” These idiots should never be given anything more lethal to carry than squeaky, clown hammers as they've proven themselves to clearly be undisciplined public menaces.

I think back to one of those crazy Baruch parties. Just off the Goddamn chain. It made Delta House keggers look like a DAR tea social. Debauchery? Hell yes. I should know. I had a girl sitting on my shoulders facing me as I balanced her there while...“dancing”. A janitor or someone who didn't get his bottle of Crown Royal as a secondary perk from the party throwers had called Five-O on us. And someone from downstairs relayed the message. “Po-Po” was in the house.

I slipped the girl off my shoulders. My buddy “L” put his shirt back on—and found the shirt for the toplesss girl he was dancing with, tugging it on her quickly. Weed was chucked into punch. Clothes tugged back on. The girls go-go-ing in their lingerie atop the huge marble mantle hopped down, and back into their Calvin Kleins.

Five-O came in to find...nothing. Just people standing around barely moving as the music was turned down low.

And then, just after the lead officer asked “What had been going on here?”, and “We got a complaint that you people were going berserk!”, you could hear a pin drop, save for the music—which was The Sugarhill Gang's “Rapper's Delight”. The officer yelled “So, there was nothing going on here? Nothing at all?”

To which the reply was the line in the song still playing in the background.

“Well there's a time to break, and a time to chill—to act civilized, or act real ill.”

And about thirty people just burst out laughing at once.