Tempora mutantur et homines deteriorantur
I was prepared to write an obituary. Roberto Duran, erstwhile mango thief, was about to step into the ring against a stronger, faster, younger champion. I was not alone in hoping that Roberto would not be serously injured.
("Times change and men deteriorate")
-- Deeds of the Romans
"I'm gonna beat up the whole damn world! Hallelujah!"
-- Sammy Davis, Jr., in Golden Boy
Nevertheless, that summer night 15 years ago, Roberto Duran beat up Davey Moore, then dumped him to the canvas with a left hook-right hand combination. It didn't matter that the left missed -- the right made the back page of the next day's Daily News.
I left Madison Square Garden absolutely delighted and amazed, and spoke of nothing the next day but the events surrounding the fight.
That night, Tom, Carlos, and I wound up in the Wall Street area in a club that by day was a delicatessen, the dance floor accessible only after you stepped around a refrigerator stocked with cheese.
The booze kicked in quickly -- Knockando neat. I began to wander as Tom took to the floor with a thin hyper, hairdresser type. Carlos was already at the bar, nodding in syncopation as he listened to a girl complain about a sticky keyboard. I moved closer to listen; Carlos saw me and switched to Spanish. I thought I heard him tell her "amor es un tumor."
I started another circuit of the club. I bought a back-up Scotch, then walked to the edge of the dance floor to check out the crowd. The booze had definitely kicked in. I felt in love with everybody.
. . . .
Her large butt accentuated her small waist, flat stomach, and flatter tits. We were standing and she was yapping but I could not hear a word over the music, so I smiled. I sat down and grabbed her hand. She sat on my lap and wrapped her right arm behind my head. It shocked me a little that she didn't feel heavy at all. She apologized because she couldn't stay out all night as her mother was watching her son. I don't know why but I asked her how old he was and when she blurted out "12" I laughed in her face -- earlier she had said she was 23. She suddenly looked so sad that I kissed her on the neck.
As we got up to leave, Tom appeared in front of me, sweaty, agitated, and drunk.
"You gotta talk to this guy."
"What guy?" Instead of answering Tom grabbed me by the wrist and pulled me toward the bar where a fat and skinny pair, both wearing $1,500 Nino Cerruti suits, stood waiting for us.
Tom faced the fat guy and insisted that he tell me what had gone down -- as if I cared. Apparently Tom had looked at a girl that the fat guy wanted to dance with . The skinny guy had glossy, tanning-salon skin and a junior wiseguy smirk that said "I'm packing." He stood in front of me with his arms folded making Brooklyn faces.
Suddenly the fatty lunged at Tom; he went stumbling by me from left to right. The skinny guy through a looping punch at my head. I saw what he was attempting -- his fist had multiple studded rings. He wanted to bust me up.
I slipped the punch easily and took a short step forward and to the right. I tossed a left hook, hoping to end this skirmish quickly. I missed with the left but was in good position to get off a straight right. Thank you Roberto! The right landed flush on his mouth and chin; I felt the impact from my elbow to my ass. He stiffened and staggered backwards onto the dance floor, windmilling his arms for balance. His legs were gone though, so he wound up flat on his back.
I followed to make sure he was done. Incredibly, he had rolled over and started to rise by the time I reached him. As he got to his hands and knees I drove another right hand to his head, which landed just behind his ear at the juncture of his jaw. He skidded back toward the bar, out cold.
The buzz of the booze dissapated as a coppery taste filled my mouth. In that odd, thick moment that comes with the first sizzle of adrenalin I heard what was either a safety being released or a swithchblade snapping open.
A lack of harmony ensued. Several of the guys at the bar without girls lurched toward the spot where the skinny guy was lying; a few began to bitch-slap each other in a comically besotted way. Even the DJ vaulted over his equipment, kicking over a speaker in his exuberance.
The bouncer rushed in, looking wild-eyed and eager to swing, always a bad sign in a bar fight.But he was big, so I went at him head down as if for a hug, grabbed him behind each tricep, buried my nose between two pectoral salbs, and backed myself into a corner. He kept saying "I got you" and I kept repeating "You're right! You're right!"
A group of disco warriors now tried to get at me. Numerous punches and kicks and drinks were aimed my way, but the bouncer took more whacks than I did. Each time somebody kicked him in the ass he snorted throughhis nose; one particular shot caused him to expel a gob of snot onto the wall behind me.
Then he carried me to the front and tossed me out of the club. Fat and Skinny followed. Tom too, along with the girl and a group of gawkers looking to catch the end of the pathetic show.
Out on the street the skinny guy pulled down his lower lip to reveal the damage; it looked as if he had a quarter pound of chopped beef tucked between his cheek and gum like some bloody tobacco chaw. I winced, then told him I didn't want to fight.
The girl was leaning against a LeSaber eating chocolates out of a box. Where the hell did she get a Whitman sampler at two in the morning?
Tom and I jumped into my rusted El Dorado and bolted out of the city; we sailed over the dimpled roadway of the Williamsburgh Bridge onto the BQE, then eastbound to the Island. Tom was blabbering about "The Punch," but I was focussing on the road and getting to Huntington in time to meet some girls. Tom was in full snore by the time we hit Nassau County and I was hungry so I drove to my mother's house, dumped Tom on my father's recliner, reheated some pasta fagiole and ate it right from the pan while standing at the sink.
Oh yeah, last night, 15 years later, Roberto Duran lost to William Joppy, Jr. at 2:54 of the third round. I don't eat pasta fagiole anymore because now that I'm in my forties the beans give me gas.