I used to work with this guy named Creature. I guess it’s been about twelve or thirteen years ago now. Creature was a large biker (ex-Pagans) and Vietnam vet who walked with a limp and sported a big black moustache and an unruly mop of hair. He ran the kitchen of a fairly high-class restaurant where I was hired to do prep work. Like most bikers I’ve met, he was a good storyteller with a very dark sense of humor. He rarely raised his voice, even when things got crazy – as they did almost every night in that cramped kitchen with a permanently broken dishwasher and an almost comically snooty female maitre-d’.
I remember Creature’s three-minute lecture on self-defense, prompted I think by disgust at my professed pacifism and my ignorance of all things violent and manly.
“First, do not go for the balls. You never know if a guy still has anything down there – a lot of real assholes don’t, they got ’em shot off or blown up in Vietnam and they’ve been trying hard to make up for it ever since. You kick ’em down there and you only piss ’em off.
“No. Here’s what you go for: bridge of nose, throat, knees. The first is the easiest, ’cause you can break a guy’s nose just with a head-butt. Nothing is more painful or debilitating. Just grab him by the shoulders, pull him toward you, and slam down on his nose with your forehead, like this.” He demonstrates with me, except for the actual butting. We were taking a smoke break on the back steps.
“Just remember Quiet Riot – ‘Bang Your Head.’ Might be tricky if you got glasses on, though, ’cause they’ll go flyin’.
“Number two: throat. If you have to strike a blow, make it count. This is what you do if you really want to take someone out. You can kill someone that way, though, so be careful.
“Third, knees – a kick from the side or from behind, straight to the body’s weakest link. Then when they’re down, kick ’em again – anywhere you think it’s gonna hurt.
“If you feel like you shouldn’t kick someone when they’re down, you shouldn’t be fighting at all. There is nothing pleasant or gentlemanly about fighting; it’s a nasty business. There are no fucking rules of war. You know that. You say you don’t believe in violence; I respect that. But if somebody’s raping your mother, you’re not going to just stand there, are you?
“I always tell people: never start a fight. Never put yourself in the position of having to start a fight. And if someone forces it on you, make sure you tell ’em how much this bothers you. After you break the guy’s nose, or whatever, be sure to say as loud as you can, ‘I really, really, really hate to fight.’ If he has any buddies who might be thinking of helping him out, that always makes a real good impression.”
Creature wasn’t shy about discussing his American Indian ancestry or his criminal record. “When I was your age, man, I was in and out of jail for burglary, and when they finally got me for armed robbery, the judge gave me a choice: get a degree in advanced anal engineering at State Penn, or go to Vietnam. There was no Door #3 – I checked.
“So that’s how I ended up going to Vietnam, a grunt with a gun on a mission to kill Indians whose major crime was resisting being rounded up and herded onto reservations. And kill I did. Kill kill kill. Did it make a man out of me? No. It simply made me much more determined never to have anything more to do with assholes in uniforms. I don’t care if you’re a Pennsylvania state trooper or an army sergeant, if you’re wearin’ black pajamas or black robes. Something about a uniform immediately turns whoever wears it into an asshole.”
One of the punks I used to hang with saw me wave to Creature across the street one time and was aghast. “You know that guy?”
“That’s the guy who came to our house when we fell ‘way behind in rent. We had let the phone bill slide, too, so the landlord couldn’t get a hold of us. But rather than stop by to talk things over, he sends a goon. That guy. He just walks in the front door one day, no knock, doesn’t say a word. Just limps in and sits down in the middle of the room, folds his arms across his chest, and sits there.”
“Didn’t you go, like, ‘Yo, who the fuck are you?'”
“No, I guess we were too surprised and scared by the whole thing. And the phone didn’t work, so it’s not like we could’ve called the police. He just sat there for like half an hour —- well, I don’t know how long it was, but it seemed like a real long time — looking at me, looking at my housemates as we walked in and out of the room trying to act all casual and shit. It was like having a bomb in the middle of the room, and you don’t know if or when it’s gonna go off. He finally got up and left. Never said a word.”
“Did you pay the rent?”
“No, but we all moved out a few days later. We didn’t want anything more to do with that landlord.”
I lost touch with Creature after I got fired. (My crime: attempting to make a meatless soup.) One of his nephews by a previous marriage was a good friend of mine, and he kept me informed of Creature’s exploits — which remained fairly tame, at least on the surface. He was just a genial, law-abiding guy who ran a good kitchen and whipped up a mean roux. And no, I don’t know how he got that nickname. I was always afraid to ask.