Saturday, November 14, 2009

Friday night, Shannon and I went to Nolan's, our neighborhood Irish pub, to welcome in the weekend. Nolan's is a great watering hole, as we know the owners, have gotten to know some of the patrons and always enjoy the eclectic group of people that come in there, both local and not. A lot of the people from the studios come in, and you'll be talking with someone and learn they're the stunt coordinator for "Flash Point," or that a provocatively-dressed cougar prowling the joint with her friends is Kristin Dunst's mother. Other times, you're talking to a traveling businessman who's just passing through and enjoying being a party to the local Los Angeles flavor. That is, in between times when his gaze softens and focuses far off, and you wonder if he's shifted to missing home and his family. It's a place where for the most part, people let their guards down and don't have to wear the front of their professions. Industry big shots mingle with coffee baristas, musicians laugh it up with accountants, writers like me and photographers like Shannon have used complete strangers to play jokes on one another. The latest, Shannon told a woman to approach me and gush over my writing. She did a damn good job, because I was totally confused and convinced that she had read something I wrote somewhere. I only find out about most people's work because it comes up after we've been talking a while. There's normally a really good vibe and people don't come there to puff out their chests like peacocks, looking for trouble.

Last night wasn't one of those nights.

It was around midnight and I had just started sipping my second lemon drop, the drink I order on Friday nights because the bartender who works that night makes them particularly well. I'd just put P.I.L.'s "Rise" on the juke, and while talking to Shannon, saw a flurry movement over his left shoulder near the kitchen bar. It took me a couple seconds to realize that it was a scuffle, and that the two men grappling weren't joking. "Oh my God, a fight!" I said to Shannon, who turned to see it just as all hell broke loose. Fists flew, beer was thrown, people ran toward the melee, and shouted. Then, it was two on one.

Shannon had run toward them, thinking that it was Dennis, one of the owners being attacked and went over to help. Dennis is a big guy who can handle his own, but he was recently injured when taking down a drug-addled man who had entered the bar during the day a few months back and began throwing things. His injuries consisted of a torn pectoral muscle and required surgery from which he's still recovering.

Because I'd seen it start, I knew that it wasn't Dennis and screamed his name along with the bartenders. Nolan's is two floors, and Dennis had gone up to the second floor. Hearing us, he ran down and broke it up. Several men grabbed the aggressor, who had crazy eyes brimming with rage, and blocked him as he tried to go at the guy again. The group shoved him backwards through the hallway and out the back door as a woman screamed at him all the way out, repeatedly calling him an asshole just for good measure.

And yeah, he was an asshole. In an act of supreme maturity and impulse control, he decided to throw wadded up napkins at a woman he didn't know. Another man, a regular, asked him what he was doing, and was answered with a flying fist. He fought him off until the douche nozzle's friend decided to help his compensating-for-his-micro-penis buddy, making it two on one. Brave souls, those two jerk-offs. I'm sure they're still feeling the echoes of pride from that night.

For about fifteen minutes after, I was nervous that someone was going to return with a gun. I can't help it. My mind just goes there. I looked at where I was in the room and scoped out places to hide were the person to return and start firing off shots. With this economy, people are high strung. And, this person already had proven himself to be a whack. Shannon and a beer-soaked man we were talking to weren't worried. But, I don't put craziness past anyone these days, especially when I'd heard what caused the fight. I'd already found my spot, a tiny place between the bar and jukebox, right behind where I was sitting.

Just in case.

But, like I said, that is rare there. I've seen my share of bar and nightclub fights, having worked in them as a coat check girl while a college student in New York. They are all usually started by some self-esteem challenged asshole who feels they have something to prove.

On Saturday night, I was driving home through Hollywood after dinner and a movie with my friend Jan, and inadvertently drove into a huge club fight that had continued outside. There were over a 100 people running, screaming, shouting at each other and breathing heavy. Several cop cars had just arrived, parked akimbo on the street, sidewalk and anywhere else they could find a spot. I slowly inched forward with traffic through the chaos, when a police woman flashed her light at me and told me to turn right.

"It's not safe here ma'am, turn right."

I did as I was told, leaving the warring humanity behind me. As I drove through the cool night, I rolled down the windows and turned up the heat. I edged up the knob so I could just hear the music above the hiss of the road, breathed in deeply and exhaled.