So I started getting flamed on my blog with really nasty, rather personal comments along the lines of, 'My friend read your book and said it was junk. I played college football for year and I sucked, but I didn't go out and write a book about it.' And 'So what are you, in your mid-40s now [not quite], but still living in Williamsburg banging that 30-year old pussy. Who do you think you are, Che, or Hemingway?' Pretty rude stuff, and somewhat creepy as I realized that I must have met this guy as he kept referencing my height (Hey, I’m short. But fierce).
Then I got this comment.
"btw, sorry about the recent assaults. Had a rather rough time with you some day. No fighting. Just something that ailed my liking of you. I get wild too much so. I'm the first to admit it. Get carried away w. my drinking & writing. And i apologize. I'm sure you're a descent fellow.......Keep those gloves raised high, Rob."
It started me thinking about what the ‘rough time’ had been, and when I combed over the previous few weeks of my life I realized that it could have easily been a half dozen incidents. I’d gotten into a fight on the soccer field; I’d had words with a jerk who almost hit me riding his bike the wrong way up Bedford Avenue; a neighbor had gone crazy and started shrieking at me on the street. The conflicts were due to my obstreperous nature, but also to city living with all its tensions and proximities. The flaming made me feel vulnerable, to know that some brief disagreement'outside' could so easily follow me back home.
I finally decided on the most likely conflict. I was sitting in my café catching up with a friend I hadn’t seen in over a decade when I noticed a guy sitting at the next table eavesdropping. Every time I looked up, he was looking right at me – and I was pretty sure he wasn’t cruising me. He was a burly guy, late 30s, kind of professional looking, very tense. So as we were getting ready to leave, I said something, loudly, about people who listened to other people’s conversations. He took offense, we had a loud exchange then and there, and then and I left.
Obviously, I thought, he had been eavesdropping, since I was filling in my old friend on my life and career and he’d picked up enough details to track me down.
Our exchange on our blog continued. This after I was conciliatory (because I've been a drunken lunatic once or twice myself):
'thanks man. Very noble of you. And, believe me, it's definitely a two way street. I can be an utter nightmare given the time of day (especially when it's drinking time). Truly, no harm meant, although i know i come across as crazy vicious, throwing as many low blows as i can manage. That's just me. I fire off a lot of blanks at a wide array of targets when i'm exploring one of my glamorous 75 beer weekends. You could say i'm a rather self loathing dick head way too much of the time. And, believe it or not, i'm also working on being more respectful. Mr. Hyde on the other hand.....Funny thing is, is that you seem to lead a very cool lifestyle & i admire the boxing you did. Growing up i always wanted to box & play hockey, but given my limited options in the sticks, football was what i had to work with. So, long story short, i'm a pretty easy read; obviously jealousy rears it's head a lot with me. Maybe i'll drop you another line, some day. For now, i gotta' get the fuck back on course. Truly sorry to have tossed some refuse in your direction during my most recent storm. Gotta' a lot more apologizing to do...later dude.’
We had another friendly exchange in the following week.
What made it all interesting, I think, was how it resolved. It was a very old-fashioned masculine sense of disrespect transferred to a new medium. As soon as my enemy felt he’d been acknowledged, he backed off. We had recognized each other has people.