I almost got into a fight this weekend. I say almost with just a hint of sadness.
To put it more accurately, the fight almost got into me.
On Saturday, Annie and I drove out to Kewanee, Illinois to have dinner and drinks with our friends Brian and Kimi. The town of Kewanee is not more than a blip on the radar, known for a monstrous furniture store that encompasses close to half of the downtown. It also has the only remaining Pabst Blue Ribbon franchised bar in the United States. So when we want something cool to drink, we go to Cerno's.
Walking into Cerno's, there is a frosted filigree with the letters PBR ornately emblazoned on the door of glass and heavy, dark wood. To your left is an old bank tellers booth where, in the early days of its existence, the tavern offered a check cashing service to its thirsty patrons. The floor below is a mosaic of stone squares and fifteen feet above it is a baroque display of tin and dusty chandeliers.
The bar is guarded by massive mahogany pillars, each bearing a carved angel. The cherubim wield trumpets, heralding the cold, refreshing beer that won the blue ribbon at the 1893 Worlds Fair. Back lit logos depicting the Pabst hop leaf remind you of the beer you should be drinking.
Things Were Going So Well
The night was going swimmingly, with vigorous chatter about weddings, school, work, and various other endeavors. Annie and Kimi were on one side of the booth, Brian and I on the other, shouting above the din that enveloped our ears. The bar was not full, but it had a half dozen imbibing patrons.
Brian was recounting a story he'd recently heard of Kurt Cobain's early years when Annie grabbed my arm from across the table.
“Chris. Chris! CHRIS!” Her voice escalated as her eyes widened, looking over my shoulder at some unknown danger. As I turned to see what had riled her, a tornado of women came plowing through the narrow bar, aimed directly at our booth.
The four women were drunkenly attempting to exact vengeance for some undisclosed insult by pulling hair, shoving bodies, and slapping whatever they could make contact with. They bounced through the aisle like a pinball of human destruction, inadvertently dragging others into their fray. By the time the brawl reached our unassuming location, there were four or five other people involved.
As I laid eyes on this mess of arms, hair, and insults, I realized that while these men and women were passionately defending themselves and their loved ones, they were not willing to put down their beverages. This made for a messy component of the quarrel that had found itself to our doorstep. Bottles of domestic beer spewed forth like dark amber volcanoes. Their golden, foamy magma erupted across the tumultuous terrain of the bar, falling to rest on our table, our pizza, and yes, on all of us. Unsure of how to proceed, Brian and I stood there, passively ensuring that no physical presence enter our little corner of the bar.
With the beer bottles emptied on our table, someone decided that the only use left for these glass carafes was for bludgeoning. In a high, overarm swing, we saw a man slam the base of a beer bottle into the back of another man's skull. With such force, I'd imagine that one or the other would have caved, but neither object seemed phased. Another bottle flew through the air, landing at my feet in tiny pieces. Imagining the damage that could be done with the dagger-like shards that remained, I slid the broken pieces under the booth and hoped no one would notice. The storm of drunken emotion seemed stalled in front of our table when the Kewanee police force arrived.
That's Our Cue, Exit Stage Left
Judging by the size of the town, I would argue that the majority of the police officers of the self appointed “Hog Capital of the World” were present. They began breaking up the fight, questioning people, and issuing citations. At that point, we decided to take our leave of our beloved Cerno's.
As we walked out, Brian leaned over and said,
“You always say you want to get into a fight. That was your chance.” A true statement, but I think I made the right choice. There were only a few probable outcomes to me joining that fray, and none looked promising:
- I beat up a girl. I look like a jackass who hits women because he can't take on a real man. Some beefcake seeks retribution and I end up dying in the hog capital of the world.
- I get my cranium crushed by a bottle of crappy, St. Louis brewed beer. At least if I am going to die at the hands of a beer, I want it to be a good one.
- I survive the fray, only to be arrested for disturbing the peace, assault, or improper use of beer bottles. I spend a night in the Kewanee clink, next to a man charged with defacing a giant swine statue.
No matter how you cut it, this was not the fight I wanted to partake in. Not that I can really determine what an ideal fight would look like. I'd probably have ten of my biggest and closest friends with me, and I'd be hiding behind them yelling things like,
“Yeah, kick his ass!”
“Take that, punk!”
“That'll teach you!”
Until that day, I'll continue standing strong, ready to defend my family and friends from assault, but none-to-eager to dive into fisticuffs.