The cab pulled over and waited while I loaded up the last of my things from the apartment. It only took a minute to get the air conditioner from the porch to the trunk, but the driver stuck behind the taxi just couldn't bear the delay.
"What the fuck!" he screamed, leaning on the horn. "Pull the fucking car over! Get the fuck out of the way!!"
I closed the trunk, turned and quietly told him to calm down, that we'd be moving in a second.
My God, I thought, this is no way to spend a Sunday morning. I'd just finished painting and was in the middle of a nasty head cold with a friend's bronchitis waiting in the wings. Now an angry little man in a white Mustang was screaming at me. It wasn't even a cool Mustang?no '65 Shelby or a '69 Mach 1. It was a 90s-era suburban muscle car suited to this agitated guido's matching white leather jacket.
I responded in like manner: "Shut the fuck up, you fucking prick."
So it went for five more dense, vulgar seconds. "Fuck you!" Fuck you. "Fuck you." When he called me a faggot, I told him to fuck himself one more time, then got in the cab.
As we pulled up to a red light at the next corner, the Mustang was still behind us. I wondered if this was the type of Angry Little Man who follows through. Would I turn to see a pipe smash through the window? Or the barrel of a Saturday Night Special pointed at my head? I've known angry guidos from Jersey who, come Sunday, have so much coke in their systems that a single cloud in the sky can launch them into an uncontrollable rage. As unhappy as I'd been painting and moving, a trip to the emergency room or morgue would be considerably worse.
Normally I would have just let it go, but lately I've been stumbling upon a lot of burst-of-violence stories. It's not the homicides that have been catching my eye; it's the caninicides.
My favorite man-bites-dog story is almost two years old. On Sunday, Dec. 30, 2001, police in Los Angeles responded to a "shots fired" call. But instead of finding a discharged handgun, they found a dog with its lower jaw missing. Gil Raul Delara had tied the German Shepherd mix to a stake, then strapped an M-80 to its head. My second favorite occurred last May in Thessaloniki, Greece, when the Aris Thessaloniki soccer team was defeated 1-0 by crosstown rival PAOK in the run-up to the Greek Cup. After setting fire to the stadium and smashing up a few cars, rampaging fans spotted a dog with the bad taste to be wearing the PAOK colors of black and white. They covered it with tar and burned it alive.
Closer to home, William Buchert of Plainfield, CT, was arrested this September after shooting his neighbor's basset hound with a "high-powered pellet gun." Why? According to the local NBC station, the dog had urinated in Buchert's yard. He was charged with cruelty to animals, unlawful discharge of a firearm and breach of peace. The hound, Mr. Bojangles, was found dead in the driveway by its owners, 11-year-old twins Nathan and Ashley Carpenter.
It's not just men. Last February, Suzanne Greenhalgh of Oldman, Greater Manchester, England, lost her shit after a 16-hour workday. Her dog and its five puppies were apparently too loud, so she drowned them in the kitchen sink and dumped them in her garbage bin. She was sentenced to 240 hours of community service, fined $1200 and banned from pet ownership for 25 years.
A year earlier came another story of youthful violence in Canada: On Saturday, Feb. 1, 2002, 10-year-old David watched as three young thugs hanged his dog Sheba from a piece of playground equipment. Constable Mike Moulds of the St. Albert police department was quoted as saying he's "never dealt with anything like this before." The story made international headlines and no doubt led to a healthy amount of harassment for the local St. Albert repeat-offending juvenile delinquent crowd.
But a week later, young David changed his tune. What had happened, he said, was that he himself had hanged poor Sheba in the playground. He tied her to a pole as he went up and down the slide. Dogs being dogs?and this is why we like their company so much?the loyal Sheba wanted to follow David. So she launched herself down the slide. And choked to death.
Another true story that speaks to the peculiar relationship between dogs and boys came out of Vietnam last month. According to a Nov. 22 BBC report, a mute teenager in Halong city was kidnapped by two drug addicts and sold to a restaurant as dog meat for 300,000 dong (approximately $20). The restaurant owner released the boy and called police. The caption accompanying the AFP photo informs readers that the "Vietnamese eat dogs for luck and health." Luckily for the kidnapped, they're not yet eating mute teenagers for either.
Cats don't escape unskinned. Gregory E. Credle of Red Bank, NJ, gutted an ex-ladyfriend's pet with a six-inch hunting knife. Reports were vague, but a restraining order was apparently violated in the process of violating the cat. Credle accepted a plea bargain and copped to animal cruelty and two counts of armed burglary; he'll serve nine years for that little love note.
Finally, three local stories of flashpoint violence, the ones I conjured up when faced with that unknown variable last Sunday morning.
Growing up in the New Jersey suburbs, I briefly drew the attention of the local dirtbags?in a bad way. One day, I found my pet turtle to have disappeared from its backyard box. After searching frantically, I found him in the field behind my house, his turtle shell smashed apart by a shovel, his turtle guts spilled upon the green grass.
A couple years later, while crossing town on my hand-me-down 10-speed, I came face to face with another group of young hoodlums. The scrawny, mustachioed leader, Stephen, cut me off with his primer-brown Camaro and threw me off my bike. His friends held me up against a fence while he passed a hunting knife along my neck. They left me there, freaking the fuck out, and drove away laughing.
Finally, several years after that, I was cornered by a dozen skinheads in Allentown, PA, and kicked into the hospital by two dozen Doc Martens. My friend had provoked them, but I'd borne the brunt of the payback for no good reason.
My other violent incidents have been one-on-one affairs: fistfights, screaming matches, the like. I don't have anything against settling matters man-to-man, but I do worry sometimes about the guy with the handgun under his seat. I worry sometimes about the people with knives who will slit and run. I worry most about these unpredictable forces when faced with the possibility of being immortalized on one of the city's many crime blotter pages.
My would-be, Sunday-morning assailant stayed put at the next red light. Sure, he revved his engine and rode our tail for a couple blocks, but he soon pulled over in front of Crunch on Lafayette St. Off to yoga, no doubt.
Last month, See Hear officially went out of business. This 7th St. independent bookstore always seemed to be struggling, especially after a second shop on St. Marks failed, but I always figured that owner Ted Gottfried would soldier on. Guess not.
See Hear was more than just a local zine store. It had a global influence, which is perhaps why Gottfried inspired such passionate supporters and detractors. Back in the mid-90s, being accepted for consignment at See Hear was something of an honor, and at times Gottfried seemed to revel in that power.
I always found Ted to be as reliable a businessman as anyone else in the zine world. When Scott Huffines closed the original Atomic Books in Baltimore three years ago, I relied on See Hear as the sole distributor of the final issue of my zine. Despite having a short run and a $10 price tag, it sold out in no time, and Ted didn't hesitate to pay me when I came calling.
Bitch and moan all you want about See Hear, but its closing is not a good thing. There are other good bookstores in the city, but that's not the point. We don't need another Barnes & Noble, but we can never have enough independent booksellers. I, for one, am thankful for the exposure Ted gave my magazine and those of my friends back in the day.