Monday, November 05, 2007

Return to Halloween

Another longer anecdote that I think is worth your while. During my initial account of the Halloween festivities last week, I basically skimmed past the part of the evening involving fighting. But after telling the story a few times, I've decided it's absurd and entertaining enough to be worth recounting, as long as I change names to protect the embarrassingly drunk.

When my story cut off, I was leaving the dreaded Insomnia for Beijing Club, a member's club in Lan Kwai Fong where I know a couple of members. As I approached the building, I noticed a friend who shall henceforth be known as Bob (named in honor of Bob Ritchie, a.k.a. Kid Rock, the unofficial modern king of drunken fighting). I immediately recognized Bob by his costume and approached to say hello. When I did, he told me in a very serious voice, "We've got a problem here."

At that moment, I looked to my right and saw an unfamiliar Asian girl who was beyond the point of stumbling drunkenly, all the way to "straight-up passed-out." Accompanied by three friends - two girls and a guy who may or may not have been her boyfriend - she was complete deadweight, an inanimate sack of alcohol, flesh, and designer clothes being propped up by her friends.

"Uhh, she's got a problem," I observed. "What's ours?"

"No, I really care about this one, man," insisted Bob. It was only later that I found out that passed-out girl had, in fact, already been out cold at the time that Bob and company arrived, and that he had somehow formed an irrational attachment to her in the brief stretches of consciousness she enjoyed between passing out again and vomiting on his shoes. Anyhow.

As passed-out girl and her comrades stumbled past us toward an adjacent street, where they could call a cab, Bob approached and insisted on helping. He physically maneuvered himself under one of the girl's arms (forcing out the female friend who had been in that spot), as the friends plead with him, "Thank you, we've got it. Thanks. Really, we've got it. Really, thank you, we have this." I stood back and watched this unfold with detached bemusement.

Eventually, though, passed-out girl's (boy)friend grew impatient, and physically pushed Bob away from her. Ironically, in pushing Bob away and shifting himself to execute the push, passed-out girl was left with no support and slumped helplessly to the ground, where her female friends tried desperately to scoop her off the pavement. In the meanwhile, the conflict between Bob and the (boy)friend escalated from one push, to a shoving match, to punches flying (though mercifully, none of them connecting, thank you for that much, alcohol). I threw myself between them and held them apart as best I could, while each continued to hurl insults and occasional swings at the other. Thankfully, they not only missed each other, they also missed me. As I held my outstretched hand to Bob's chest, he insisted, "I'm not drunk! This asshole is drunk! Tell this drunk asshole to stop attacking me!" Meanwhile, both tried to maneuver around me to get back toward each other. As this unfolded, dozens of other people stood in a circle watching the carnage unfold, passed-out girl's female friends made half-hearted entreaties for (boy)friend to calm down, and two policemen stood about 20 feet away with their backs to the scene, looking at nothing at all, apparently adopting a policy of, "If we don't see it, we don't have to do anything about it."

After about 30 seconds of this, another friend of mine appeared out of nowhere, having coincidentally come down the elevator to retrieve me. He bear-hugged Bob from behind, upon which Bob very calmly, very intensely, asked, "Who is hugging me?" Given the tone, I suspect that the complete question would have been, "Who is hugging me, because if I don't know you, I am going to elbow you in the face." With Bob properly restrained, I turned my attention to keeping (boy)friend at bay, as he still wanted to pick a fight with the now-immobilized Bob. This, of course, spurred Bob to struggle against his friend's bear-hug, and threatened to re-escalate things altogether until, finally, (boy)friend turned, helped prop up passed-out girl, and guided her into a cab.

As they drove away, Bob seethed with rage, insisting that when he had been in the elevator with them on the way outside, passed-out girl had lurched in the direction of (boy)friend, as though she was going to throw up again, and he had punched her in the face to prevent it. Then and now, I'm skeptical...why would that be the guy's response? No one can think of a plausible mechanism by which punching someone in the face would stop them from throwing up. I suspect it was more of a light face slap, as in, "Get it together, wake up." Whatever actually happened in the elevator, Bob paced back and forth anxiously, worried that (boy)friend would continue beating passed-out girl in the cab. To calm him, we (falsely) claimed that she had gotten into a cab with her girlfriends and that the guy had followed behind.

A few more friends eventually showed up, and we parted companies. One group, including Bob, headed toward a nearby noodle bar to get some late-night snacks, while the rest of us went back into the club for another round. I'd never been in Beijing Club, and wanted to check it out. The bouncers - who had also watched the skirmish unfold without intervening - recognized me from my peacemaking efforts and waved me in without protest.

25 minutes and a vodka-cranberry later, we decided that we, too, were hungry, and would head to the same noodle bar to which we had sent our compatriots. As soon as we arrived and climbed the stairs, though, we were confronted with the sight of our friends, lightly holding back Bob, who was once again face-to-face with a livid-looking Chinese youth. I assumed my now-familiar place between Bob and the person who wanted to punch him in the face.

"What the hell, man?" the local shouted over my shoulder. "You're coming to my country and making racist slurs?"

What the hell, Bob?, I thought to myself.

As Bob and his antagonist continued to lob vague machismo challenges toward one another, I coaxed the story from the local while our other friends kept Bob back. It seems that, in the men's room, standing at a urinal, penis in hand, Bob had turned to the gentleman as he entered the restroom and declared, "You Chinese people treat women like shit!" This had understandably inflamed the man's passions, and was probably a particularly imprudent thing for Bob to say in a restaurant at which we were the only westerners in the house.

"I'm just trying to have a good night out here, man," insisted the offended party.

"I know," I said, genuinely sympathetic. "And the best way for you to do that is to just ignore him. That's pretty much our strategy."

As the altercation subsided, one of our friends was dispatched to accompany Bob back to the dorms, while the other one that had originally accompanied Bob to the noodle bar, distraught that he never got to eat, stayed behind with us to get that long-delayed meal. That's when I had my delicious French toast, although of course, we were seated at the table next to our offended friend from only moments earlier.

And naturally, when Bob and our other friends stood in front of our dorm complex at the end of the night (I had already retired for the evening), Bob still seething in impotent rage over the perceived injustices of the evening, that same guy from the restaurant got out of a cab, and strolled past the group and into one of the buildings, looking cautiously - and recognizingly - at Bob and company as he entered.

And they all lived happily ever after. The end.

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