12:15 PM Friday 20 April 2012 Nunhead Heights.
So I turn around at the noise and see the back of a monster in tattoos strangling a little man. This is last night in the King’s Arms on Borough High Street – A proper pub, or what passes for one around the back of London Bridge.
“Strangling” as in extending the dude’s neck with his baseball mitt-sized hands like silver neckbands on a National Geographic woman – the necklaces that make the woman’s neck seem gazelle-like. Burma, Wikipedia tells me.
The Brute was literally “throttling” the dude, and I’m using the word “throttling” correctly and the word “literally” correctly, too. I hope. “Literally” being used incorrectly by the younger generation in southeast London to mean “very”. I felt like Bambi’s mother watching her child about to be eaten alive by a Leopard in a South African game reserve.
Suddenly I was in one of those moral dilemmas of the kind I spoke about yesterday. Should I glass The Brute? Or stay out of it?
I had just met the little man. He seemed like a good guy. He was the editor of a publication on the humanities. I won’t give away the field as it is probably small enough that everyone would know who I was talking about.
I was meeting a lot of people last night at the Resonance FM programming meeting. English people have all kinds of meetings at pubs. I had met the Polish son of a famous Polish poet (in Poland) and was introduced to a woman as “a fellow Iranian” by a mutual friend – jokingly – and for a minute she believed it. It is the day after my hair turns black and I must look Persian. Her face lost some smile when she realized I wasn’t Persian – like when I find out someone is from Telegraph Hill and not from Nunhead.
The Editor also has a radio programme on ResonanceFm – one of the weirder and more wonderful places in the world. Similar to WFMU in New York, I have been told. I spoke to the station director about changing the name of the show from “The Voice of Americans with Lewis Schaffer of Nunhead” to “Nunhead American Radio” and he responded by asking “What title would be the most jarring to the listeners?” He suggested “LEWIS!!!” You get the idea about the station: Fantastic.
The man is about to die and I am thinking about my show title! I was also thinking: What is The Brute’s story? I was, I swear. He must have a story, too. What did The Editor do to provoke him? The Editor was fiercely anti-American – not the people, mind you, but the Country and its aggression and military-industrial complex and all that. Calling Noam Chomsky! No, I will glass The Brute. I am an American!
The very second before I am to break the bottle on the window sill and take it to the The Brute’s throat the Iranian woman walks over to him and starts stroking his arm and talking gently to him – to calm him down. I thought – that is very odd: How would she know this man? I thought she was at Resonance FM and very arty. Was this her boyfriend?
As she is calming The Brute, the bar staff surround him, tranquillize him with warm words and usher him out onto the Dickensian alleyway. It is literally Dickensian as Charles Dicken’s used to hang in these passages and pubs. If you were from anywhere in North America you would find the place utterly charming at any time other then when a man is about to die in front of you.
The thing is she didn’t know The Brute at all and barely knew The Editor. It was just bravery on the woman’s part – to dive right in where men refused to go. What an amazing woman.
With The Brute gone, my bravery was able to expose itself and I rushed to the Editor, nose now bleeding. He explained he was at the bar getting a drink when The Brute provoked him.
Yes, others chimed in: The Brute was looking for a fight all night!
According to The Editor this is what transpired:
The Brute sitting at the bar to The Editor:
“Are you havin’ a go at the staff? The lady’s working. What do you know about work? You’ve neffa worked a day in your life.”
The Editor: “What!? I shall have you know that I edit the Arcane Intellectual Journal.”
“I neffa heard of it.”
“I wouldn’t have expected you to have heard of it; let alone to be able to read it!”
Wham. Oh, that is what happened. I felt for The Brute. How is he supposed to feel when 40 artsy radio programmers descend on his local? And then someone calling him illiterate? And then I felt for The Editor who slowly admitted that while he was sick of taking it his entire life ( as we all are! ) that that wasn’t the time to for him to make a stand against brutalism.
I left happy. I had seen an act of bravery from the Iranian woman, and bravery from the bar staff, too. And I had saved The Editor’s life by not glassing The Brute. He might have twisted The Editor’s neck in falling to the floor – The Editor was already dangling.
I had made the right call to delay getting involved. And they say that Americans only know aggression and violence.
Listen to Lewis Schaffer on the Radio Nunhead American Radio with Lewis Schaffer soon to be called “Lewis!!!” every Monday evening at 10:30PM on www.resonancefm.com and 104.4fm London. Or listen to the show’s podcasts at bit.ly/NunheadAmericanRadio
See Lewis Schaffer live every Tuesday and Wednesday at the Source Below. Free admission. Reserve at bit.ly/londonfreeshow
And see Lewis Schaffer at the Edinburgh Festival in “Lewis Schaffer; No, YOU Shut Up!” at the Seven Sisters and the Hive. Details soon at www.edringe.com.