Damian recently gave us a rundown of his wrestling career through the Brooklyn PS and Queens Summer Camp circuits. I did not have an in-ring wrestling career, but I think I’ve got some interesting off-ring moments from my days in Queens. Here’s a random list of some crazy moments, warts and all, where I yelled, stormed out, threw stuff (Chet Bas California-style), did nothing, or who-knows-what while living in New York:
- In 5th grade, we had Donkey Kong II tournaments during lunch. There were two or three of us who had the handheld game, so we’d play at the same time and see who ended up with the higher score (a precursor to wireless shared gameplay, I suppose). It got real competitive, to the point where this one kid named Belayet Kahn (what a name; from Bangledesh) who defeated me made a construction paper championship wrestling belt to symbolize his victory. That really frosted me. I challenged him to a rematch.
I was really good at this game, and I went into Andy Pettitte mode for this particular match. My focus was at an all-time high. I crushed him; I think I may have cleared 2,000 points for the first time that day. As I approached 2,000 points, Belayet slammed my game close (he had already lost)! Anyway, I still managed to clear it. My friend Aazim wanted a chance to play at such a high level, so I handed it off at that point, having secured victory.
Anyway, I took the construction paper belt from Belayet, held it up, and ripped it to shreds. I then pulled out my bookbag a real belt made of aluminum foil and cardboard. There was a lot of wrestling smack talk.
- 3rd grade. Two kids were fighting as we stood in line to go back into the classroom. They were right in front of me. The teacher pulled the two kids and I out of the line! I’m not sure what possessed me, probably some burgeoning sense of truth and justice, but I immediately went into a rant about how I had nothing to do with the fight. I think the teacher was so shocked that I spoke up, as I was usually pretty quiet in class, that she believed me, and put me back in line.
- 4th or 5th grade. We used to play ball outside PS 86 after school. There was this slanted brick section of wall where you’d throw the handball against it, and it would bounce high in the air,and everyone would try to catch it. Today, you’d have an after-care program while you waited for the parents. Back then, the kids were on there own. Safety in numbers, I guess.
Anyway, one day I let my on-air wrestling persona get the best of me, talking smack to a big 6th grader. I don’t remember his name, but I recall he was a bigger African-American kid whose younger brother was in my class. He taller, wider, and more muscular than me. I’d never had issues with him before, but he had little patience for my “Mouth of the South.” He approached me. I did a Jimmy Hart, retreating and putting my hands out in front, shaking my head. He grabbed me, threw me on the ground, and sat on me. Game, set, and match.
- 7th grade. JHS 226 was where I truly felt like Peter Parker before he was bitten by the radioactive spider. In one instance, I’m walking down the hall after school. Next thing I know, I hit the floor, face-first. My glasses slide across the floor. I never even saw who shoved me. The hallway was crowded; kids just walked around me like I was a fixture.
- 7th grade. The final straw for JHS 226 was around Halloween, 1986. I’m walking home one day and I get jumped from behind. Some dude wraps his arm around my neck, putting me in a choke hold. Next thing I know, my hair is getting spray-painted. Then I get shoved to the ground. By the time I get back up, the kids have scattered. What was up with cheap sneak-attacks at that school? I guess in South Ozone Park, people used the hit-and-run approach.
My MOM ended up transferring me to a small private school, where I skipped to 8th grade.
- 10th grade. I’m playing stickball in a school yard with my friend Mitra Jaikaran. A tall African-American dude walks up to my bicycle and gets on it. I say, “Hey! What are you doing?” He whipped out a knife. I walked over to Mitra and said, “Okay. You can have it.”
Later on, I told the story to my best friend Calvin Seeram. He said, “You had a bat in your hand! Why didn’t you beat him up with it?!” The thought had not even occurred to me. I mean, the guy had a knife, and he was clearly bigger and more athletic, but my home run swing was probably deadly, and I had quick reflexes. It just didn’t occur to me to risk my life over a bike.
- 10th grade. I’m walking through the halls of John Adams High School. This one African-American kid who was shorter and thinner than me walked up, with a gang member next to him, and said, “Hey, man. Let me beat you up so I can part of this gang!” I knew the kid. I think we had spoken a couple of times on the Q7 bus to school, or in class. Now he’s asking me to lose a match on purpose?
“What are you, crazy?” I said. “No way!”
I walked off, and he just stood there.
- Summer, 1989. I’m sitting in some summer school class (my MOM didn’t believe in camps, for whatever reason). The teacher left and this kid started verbally bullying me. I sat there quiet, taking the onslaught. Finally, I yelled something, got up, knocked over my desk, and stormed out. As I walked out, the guy looked astonished. My face was red with anger.
I stood outside for awhile. Not sure if this was the same day, but I remember standing on that street corner in Queens once and seeing one guy walk up to another man and just knock him out with one punch for no apparent reason. No wonder my parents were nervous about me riding the trains by myself. “It’s not that we don’t trust you. We just don’t trust other people,” they had said to me. I loved it, though. The 7 train rode by Shea Stadium, so I was able to catch a glimpse of some games at the platform. That was a good summer. I had a girlfriend (sort of), I had that really cool black Batman shirt with the yellow symbol, and I was listening to Guns ‘n Roses, Def Leppard, and INXS on my tape deck.
Anyway, the bully ended up coming outside and saying, “The teacher wants to talk to you.” I went inside. I don’t remember what the teacher said, but I was never bullied again.
- 1989 or 1990. Summer. I was at home. A neighborhood kid named Craig was there with me. We’d known each other our whole lives, practically. He and I played stickball during the summers, and touch football during the winters with other kids, including his brother James (nicknamed Head). We used to play Atari 2600 together.
Anyway, I showed Craig that I had managed to save $86 of my allowance money to buy something. I must have really trusted Craig to do such a thing, and he totally betrayed that trust. I mean, we’re talking over 10 years of friendship and trust, gone in an instant.
He snatched the money out of my hand. He started giggling maniacally as I asked him to give it back. He backed away. I approached. He bolted out the door. I think I may have picked up a bat and thrown it at him as he ran off. I think the bat went through our front window.
As I recall, he ended up returning half the money to me. I pretty much avoided him after that, feeling totally betrayed by someone who was practically family. I didn’t even tell him we were moving to Florida. One day, we were gone, and that was that.
- MOM. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the many, many, many times we argued. Did you ever watch Eddie Murphy’s Delirious? Remember the part where he described how his mom could whip off her sandal and hit him with deadly accuracy from any distance? Yeah, that was my MOM, too. Unfortunately, I was usually punished because we disagreed about something, not because I deserved it.
Yeah, you shouldn’t back-talk your mom, but my MOM and I just did not get along. If there’s an exception to that rule, it my MOM and I. Sometimes, a lot of times, it felt like she was trying to pick a fight with me, only to deny this intention when I blew my stack, and then using my loss of temper as a reason to inflict YHWH-style justice on my behind.
She’s an Enneagram Type 8, which means she genuinely did not see that she was picking a fight with me. And I, as a Type 6, genuinely did not believe her. Talk about immovable object versus irresistible force!
Rarely did my dad enforce my MOM’s brand of justice. Usually, he was trying to defend me and calm her down by talking sense to her. Either that, or he would cleverly change the subject, redirecting my MOM’s rage.
If he did enforce her justice, it was because I crossed the line and did something really bad, like break a window or something. I crossed the line, maybe, three or four times in my childhood? He’d pull out the belt, hit me once, and I’d run for the bathroom. And that was usually the end of it.
It’s amazing how I respected my dad, who rarely spanked me, but I completely had zero respect for my MOM, who hit me all the time.
Heck, I remember one time, when I was a teenager, I actually used the F-word on my MOM in the house! I was so tired of her accusations. She basically took anything she saw on the news, like illegal drug stories, and accused me of doing it. I took it very personally. I felt like she couldn’t trust me. Perhaps it was her sick way of trying to protect me. Anyway, after I cursed her out, she ran up the stairs and tried to kill me, but I managed to get in my room and keep the door shut.
My dad was not thrilled, but he let it go.