Wednesday, October 15, 2008

i went out into the night

There was no question as to the presence of ants in my pants last Friday as I watched the clock tick away the minutes of the afternoon. Guys night does not exactly come every week, or every month for that matter. Usually when it does, it's on a Thursday, which requires a certain degree of clenching the reigns to have some semblance of game for work the next day. In this case, we owned the night. The District would be our oyster.

As it happened, for better or worse, our oyster turned out to be the upper Northwest quadrant of the District and consisted of three stops, in descending order of quality: Buck's Fishing & Camping, Chevy Chase Lounge, and my basement.

I know, off the chain, right? Allow me to explain - when you're happily married with kids, the concept of grazing sceney clubs, bothering with velvet ropes, and scouting ass is not a paramount objective. "It's not like I'm trying to get laid," was a direct line I dispensed to Rebecca, my friend and amazing bartender at Buck's who was rightfully giving me shit when I told her the next venue would be Chevy Chase Lounge. So after strong drinks and warm conversation at Buck's we headed further uptown to the aforementioned Lounge.

Locals might know that the scene at Chevy Chase Lounge is extremely inconsistent with any coolness the name might imply. The typical patron brings to mind that dusty, old, hide-a-bed sofa relegated to a forgotten spare bedroom in your grandparents' home. You've never seen so many sets of crows feet in your life. In fact, the sole reason for going was that one of the guys wanted to see game one of the ALCS. The Lounge was a stone's throw away and has televisions, so it worked out.

After the game, for some reason my friend Ethan and I decided it would be a good idea to roll over to my place, mere blocks away from the Lounge, to continue with the drinking and smoking. Extending the night always sounds like a great call in the vacuum. The next morning, of course, regret finds you.

However, in this instance, our irresponsible behavior paid off. At 2AM, after a couple of vodkas, we decided to call it a night. I told Ethan I would walk him over to Connecticut Avenue where he could catch a cab. The walk, I figured, would do me some good. When we tiptoed out the front door so as not to alert my wife of our stupidity, I immediately noticed that the driver side door of my car was wide open. A few eye squints confirmed that some large person was in the car rifling through the console. Ethan said something like, "Does that guy think he-"

In a blurr, I was at the car door with a grip on this guy's collar, very impolitely asking, "WTF?" As you might imagine, he was completely shocked, and for that I don't blame him. I mean, in my neighborhood, hilariously referred to recently by the Washington City Paper as Upper Caucasia, what grown-up homeowner would be on the street at 2AM? Well, this one apparently. Naturally he flailed his arms in an attempt to break loose, which prompted me to do what I have done less than a handful of times in my life - I fed him a knuckle sandwich. This caused him to stumble out of the car, at which point I realized he dwarfed me in stature. It didn't matter, according to my fueled brain, so I literally high-jumped to get my arms around his neck and we both hit the street hard. Fortunately I ended up in a better position and managed to head-lock him on the ground where he hollered and begged to be released.

Immediately, based on his voice, I deduced he was a teenager, which quelled concerns that this could get uglier. No longer was I inclined to do damage. Why bother when a verbal assault would suffice. The dialogue from there was of this flavor:

Ethan: Wrong. Car. Mother. Fucker.

Me: Empty your pockets now.

Thief: I'm so sorry, please, please, please!

Ethan: Let's call the cops.

Thief: Please don't!

Me: Empty your fucking pockets!

From his pockets came my iPod, blackberry, iPod adapter, and at least $10 in quarters along with his phone and wallet. I scooped it all up with one hand while I held his neck in the cradle of my other arm. Soon I realized he was going nowhere, so I plucked the driver's license and tossed the wallet onto the ground next to him.

Thief: Please let me explain.

Me: It's pretty clear.

Thief: I just wanted your Arcade Fire!

Ethan: You can get lost or we can call the cops. Or...we can beat you down.

Eventually he got the picture and receded into the shadows, still muttering about Arcade Fire. I suppose a normal person would have called the cops. And by normal I mean not drunk on the Chevy Chase streets in the early hours of the morning. The last thing I wanted was to interface with police, and I suspect the last thing this kid's parents wanted was a cop on their front porch at that hour.

Instead they got me on their porch at 9AM after I'd slept and showered. The Jackal was coming with me on errands, so we dropped by the house, only half a block away from mine. As I conveyed to the dad that his 19 year-old son was caught with a pocket full of my electronic devices at 2AM, I experienced very mixed emotions. I couldn't really make eye contact with the guy, as if I was guilty of something.

Looking back, I think it was internal wrestling match with hypocrisy on my part. My wife and I often laugh about what it will be like to punish our kids for the same dirty deeds that litter our very own records. I guess this was my first confrontation with that sort of thing. I mean, I've done worse than what this kid tried and did not get caught, so naturally it felt strange ratting him out to his dad. When on occasion I did get caught, I faced the music. These days I guess the music they want to face is Arcade Fire, which reminds me of a rather appropriate lyric from "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)":

I went out into the night.
I went out to pick a fight with anyone.
Light a candle for the kids,
Jesus Christ don't keep it hid!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

eff. Driving home one evening some neighborhood kids threw a rock at my car. I jammed on the brakes and spun the tires in reverse to chase them down the alley. All I could see was red, literally, and I was ready to break some 8 year old in half. As luck would have it, there was a cop car right behind me and they got to me before I could do anything other than yell at them for a second. When I was out of the car and starting to regain my senses, those kids were ghosts. And what use is it trying to tell the cop which kid did it. Hell if I knew. All I can think now is I used to be that kid, and how stupid it was to behave like that. Maybe your music fan will learn his lesson and be done with it. Maybe my nephew will figure it out long before any of us did...