Failing Out of Love with Hate, Part 1
From the prologue:
There are a handful of pundits whom I avoid reading.
I avoid reading them because I find them so reliably infuriating that I end up saying regrettable things; or at the very least, with my blood pressure elevated beyond all possible benefit to the exposure to ideas I find objectionable.
There is no particular thread connecting these pundits. They are liberal, conservative, male, female, religious, atheist. The only common theme is that when I read them I want to punch them in the face; or at least call the out publicly as fools and frauds…
…I have a persistent daydream, and that daydream find me and the afore mentioned fools and frauds on my boat. We are in the middle of a passage, an easy one, like California to Hawaii. We have time on our hands. There’s no hurry.
There’s also no one there watching us. We are face to face, stuck with each other, with only ourselves and each other to impress. No reblogging, no commentary, no page views; at least not until we arrive at our destination and each of us (undoubtably) recounts our passage.
Last Thursday morning my wife I were down at the shipyard. The forecast was for strong westerly winds over the next couple of days, and I wanted to quickly check on, and tighten the rigging before catching a 9:30 jitney to attend to some business in the city.
Just as I got one leg of the bridle unlashed, a small shepherd mix crossed the shipyard. While friendly looking at first, we knew from previous encounters that this dog has the rather unpleasant habit of turning scared/mean when it gets about four feet away, and just like last time, he responded to our softly cooed “Hey there good boy” by closing to just out of kicking distance, striking an aggressive posture, and barking ferociously.
So there I was, hanging on to the bitter end of one leg of the bridle lashing, which I couldn’t let go of because if I did, the foremast would fall, damaging it, my boat, and the other nearby boats it would hit before coming to rest on the ground ruined. I’d put a ballpark estimate of the potential for mayhem at about $50,000.
As I said, this was not our first encounter with this dog, the last time ending with my being cornered in the boat shed by the animal, where his owner discovered us: the dog barking and snapping, and me with a pipe clenched in one hand, resigned to braining the beast if he got one foot closer…
The previous encounter ended with angry words; the dog’s owner informing that “He don’t like it when you raise your hand over your head at him” and me yelling at him “you’re an asshole who doesn’t have control of your animal”; and that’s right about were we picked up this time; me with my hands raised over my head (keeping MON TIKI’s foremast from coming down!), the dog barking, snapping and angling to flank me, his owner assuring (angrily and unconvincingly) that “He won’t bite you.” and other things that suggested the whole predicament was our fault, and me yelling at him that he needed to get his dog under control.
Now normally my wife is hyper-conflict averse and very nearly cripplingly shy. She won’t read half of what I post online and never reads the comments threads because as much as she loves me, she hates discord that much more.
But she also has wonderful circle the wagon instinct, which over-rode her normally shy and retiring nature, and now she’s lacing into him, telling him what a crappy dog owner he is, and he’s turned towards her, and I can’t really have that, so I, still hanging onto the bridle lashing (lest the mast come down), turn up both the volume and the viciousness of my critique of his qualities as a dog owner, and some where in the string of vituperative vitriol I let loose I must have hit a sore spot, because he turned to me, got up with his face about a foot away from mine, and then he snarled in a low, shaky voice, “I could just pop you in the face. Bitch.”
Well this is a fine fix. A very angry man is standing face to face with me, threatening to punch me in the face, and I am stuck where I am, not even able to drop my hands to defend myself.
Not. Very. Smart.
And of course at this point I’m pretty goddamned angry myself.
“Well aren’t you a piece of work!? Threatening to hit a guy with his hands full!” I sneer right back in his face, and as he turns to walk away I add, “You’re a fucking coward. A coward!”
At this point I’m ready to fight, bloody noses, broken jaws, and assault charges be damned, I am ready to fight.
But I also realize that this whole nonsense with the dog and its owner has cost me so much time that I’m nearly going to miss my bus.
So I cinch up the bridle, make off the lashings with frapping turns and hitches, climb the ladder onto the deck and check the tension on the backstays, and come back down the ladder.
And then do something stupid.
I cross the yard, find the dog owner and yell at him, “I’ve got more important things to do right now than beat your ass, but if you want a piece of me, I’ll be here this weekend. You can count on it!”
Then I turn and walk back to my car, making a point of walking slowly. I can feel him following behind me, but he’s timing his pace so he won’t quite make to me before I get to the car door, and as the car door is closing he issues a last invitation to dance. Like good mammals, we are conducting this whole charade with maximum bluster, while minimizing the chances of it coming to actual blows.
On the way to the bus I realize how stupid and rude I’ve been, if for no other reason than the fact that the shipyard is the only place in Montauk that has a travel-lift wide enough for MON TIKI, that I need the shipyard more than they need my business.
And then there’s the whole duty of citizenship to de-escalate, to walk away. Hard to do when you’re holding up a mast, but still, I could have handled it better. And going across the yard to find him was just wrong. It felt good, but it was wrong.
So I get on the phone, call the owner of the shipyard, tell him that I had a confrontation with a fellow in his yard — a friend, an employee, a hanger around I don’t know — and things got heated and I said some regrettable things.
And then I caught a bus into the city and take care of what I need to take care of.
For more context read the Gawker story, but in a nutshell, under the guise of Violentacrez, Michael Brutsch posted a lot of things on the internet that he would have preferred not be linked back to him in real life, and in this case there a sort of frission between the vulgarity, licentiousness and meanness of what Violentacrez posted and the meekness and vulnerability of Brutsch’s real life circumstances. Having been “doxed”, Brutsch fears for his job, his reputation, etc.
Both my friend Bob and my friend Loraine encouraged me to watch Deadwood, but I wouldn’t listen. I thought Deadwood was another one of those shows that trades on and titillates with the word “fuck”, showing titties and bush, and very occasional use of desexualized full frontal male nudity. It’s not television, it’s HBO. No thanks.
I was wrong.
I started watching DEADWOOD in the Spring of 2010, shortly I got back from the winter I spent sitting on my boat, in the Caribbean, thinking about how the internet had changed between 1996, when I met my wife on Mindvox, and 2009, when it seemed the culture and practices that had once seemed so hospitable to my work had turned overtly hostile.
In DEADWOOD, I found a nearly perfect allegory for the taming of the internet, which is to say normal, law abiding citizens don’t want to live in a town like DEADWOOD, at least not the DEADWOOD of 1876. Too dirty. Too dangerous. Too lawless. Virtually everything I’ve written since then about sexuality, cinema, algorithms, internet culture and commerce, here, at The Atlantic, and elsewhere has been informed by DEADWOOD.
I had to go down to the shipyard today, to settle my account and make arrangements for MON TIKI’s launch. Winter storage season is coming and in the next few weeks space in the yard will be a premium.
Of course my pride and stupidity had backed me into a corner, or at least threatened to.
I resolved that if the dog owner was there I’d ask him, matter-of-factly, if he was still so angry that he wanted to hit me, and if he was, I’d take the punch and then get up off the deck and walk away. But when I got there I didn’t see his truck.
I went into the owner’s office, apologized for the alteration, “You don’t need to assholes raising a ruckus when you’re trying to run a business here.”
“He’s a jerk and that dog of his is nothing but trouble,” he replied.
Then we tallied my charges and made arrangements to launch MON TIKI later this week.
One last thing.
Recounting the whole thing to a friend this morning, I realized the dog-owner had made one very bad miscalculation.
My wife looks like she’s from some super civilized socialist hyper conformist northern European country. But she’s not.
She’s from Brooklyn, and not today’s Brooklyn. The Brooklyn she grew up in had crack vials on the street and gunfire more nights than not. She might look like Amelia Ellen Ryan, but the truth is she is really Amy from around the block, and she will cut you, bitch. This isn’t a side of her most people would even guess at, and most of the time I forget it’s even there. By all appearances, my wife is the perfect gentile suburban housewife.
But what I realized when I was telling my friend about my stupid misadventure was that if the guy had punched me, if we had gotten into it, my wife would have gone after him. None of this standing on the sideline and screeching “Stop it! Stop it!” She would have found something to hit him with.
I got back home and related this to my wife and she sort of blushed an embarrassed, adorable shade of red, and then said, “Yeah, the step ladder. I figured that would be light enough I could get it over my head and really smash him with it.”
And one more last thing. In searching for a photo to illustrate this post, I remembered that when my wife and I took the Which DEADWOOD character test, I came back as the drug addicted, ruled by her womb heiress turned banker Alma Garret. My wife came back as Swearengen.