Saturday, February 7, 2009

How I Became The Badger

Badgers are common to pretty much this entire planet, sans the New England area for some reason. They are members of the mustelid or weasel family, and are characterized as such by the fact that they have a musk gland, which is used to produce strong smelling secretions. All members of the mustelid family have this gland, except for the sea otter. Other members of the mustelid family include skunks, ferrets, weasels , martens, wolverines, fisher cats and otters.

Like their cousin the wolverine, badgers are known to be relatively small in size but extremely vicious. They live in underground burrows and are excellent diggers. They are also avid nocturnal hunters and the North American variety is a common farmyard pest. The diet of the Eurasian badger consists mainly of earthworms, insects and grubs, while the honey badger consumes honey, porcupines and even venomous snakes.

I had first heard of badgers when I was 16. I was working landscaping at the time, and the guys I was working for were both from Iowa. One of them had just returned from the midwest and was complaining about a "badger problem" at one of the new construction sites he was working at out there. Since we don't have them here in New England, I had never heard of a badger before. When I asked them what they were like he replied "They're a real pain in the ass." When I asked him to describe the physical characteristics of one, he paused for a minute and said "You know, they kind of look like you, if you were small and furry." This prompted me to go to my local library and look up badgers in a nature encyclopedia. Sure enough, I could see the resemblance between these fine hunters and myself. At the time I'd had a mohawk, a bullet belt and a leather jacket with about 30 pounds of studs, spikes and other punk rock goodness on it, so the shoe seemed to fit!

Fast forward some 13 years later and I was at a really BAD hardcore show here in Providence. A friend of mine named Martha (not her real name, as I'm not sure she wants this story revealed to the public) was there. Martha stood about 5' 3 and was kind of well... nuts. She was also kind of hot, but in a real prickly, porcupine-y kind of way. In reality I took her to be a big softy deep down, but her tattooed, tough girl exterior served as a bit of a "stay away" billboard for most people (except for me of course, since those are the kind of girls I like!) Anyway, despite her rough and tumble exterior, Martha was a total sweetheart and always greeted me with a big hug.

Tonight though, things were different. I immediately approached her when I saw her standing at the edge of the pit and she gave me her usual hug. She wasn't smiling though, and seemed to be in a bit of a foul mood. She was continually eyeing the moshers and putting her hands up like she was ready to punch somebody. I'd seen her randomly kick and punch moshers before, and had heard that she was a bit of a scrapper, but I had still yet to see actually throw down with anybody.

Let me clarify for a bit as to which type of "hardcore" show this was exactly. You see, by the mid 1990's, the term "hardcore" had come to mean two different things. There were hardcore bands who followed the early 1980's definition of the term, essentially playing a sped up, more aggressive punk rock style, and there were "other" bands who used the same moniker to describe their music. They played an almost entirely different style of music which was characterized by slow, chugging, downtuned metal riffs. They also had a really ridiculous image centered around some kind of quasi- ghetto street gang mentality. Most of the adherents of this image were, of course, middle class suburban white boys, but they'd like you to believe they had just relocated to the means streets of Cumberland RI from the meaner streets of Brooklyn or something.

In a nutshell, I was a HUGE fan of 1980's hardcore and a huge detractor of 90's hardcore. By the mid 90's any and every intellectual or political component of original hardcore punk had been leeched out in favor of stupid macho attitudes, bad tattoos, baggy clothes, and ridiculous gang mentalities. Gone was skateboarding, mohawks, or anything else even remotely "punk" related, only to be replaced by a bunch of knuckle dragging illiterates playing bad metal and singing about how they'd kill you for "talkin' shit." The original circle pit slamming (which, with all its mildly violent tendencies was actually quite fun) had been replaced by this stupid ritual where these idiot gangster wanna- bees would all just throw flurries of punches and spin kicks at each other. They had taken the violent aspects of hardcore punk to a cartoonish and sometimes frightening level, while any intelligence found in the original hardcore scene quickly went the way of the dinosaurs.

Anyway, back to the gig. By this time "new school" hardcore had become a thriving institution here in New England. I think I was only there for lack of anything better to do, or to see perhaps the ONE band on the bill that interested me, I can't remember.... Anyway, Martha was there and she clearly has a reason to be there. I had attempted to make small talk with her, but she seemed distracted. Of course, you had to be on guard in case one of the spin- kickers, windmillers or change- picker- uppers in the moshpit decided to try and attack the innocent bystanders, but Martha was clearly focusing on one individual in particular. I only had a vague idea of what was going on when she said, "Hold my bag for a second." Then it happened.

Martha proceeded to step into the pit and grab some guy by the front of his shirt. This guy stood about six foot four and had to have tipped the scales at at least 250 pounds. His entire neck and hands were covered in tattoos, and he just looked, well..... scary. He was big, he was mean, he was dancing violently, and I had a really bad feeling that in a couple seconds I might have to intervene. In less than a blink of an eye though, Martha proved just how wrong I was.

To say that she beat this guy up would be an understatement. Martha straight up brutalized him. The term "opened up a can o whoopass" isn't even apropo here, "opened up several five gallon drums of furious vengeance" is more like it. She didn't really have any technique or strategy to speak of, just unbridled, homicidal fury. She was throwing so many punches and kicks at this guy, it was really hard to keep track of them all. The crowd immediately stopped dancing, the band stopped playing, and everyone in the place looked on in complete awe. We were witnessing some of the most uncaged estrogen fueled fury ever to be unleashed on this planet. It was savage, it was brutal, it was epic and it was primal.

And I'm not going to lie, I got extremely turned on watching my 5' 3, 105 pound friend fuck this loser up. The fact that this woman was such a power packed little pipsqueak was arousing to me beyond words. Martha and I never did end up hooking up or dating, as has always preferred far more docile men than myself, but this moment will forever be cemented in my mind as one the hottest spectacles I have ever witnessed. Call me crazy, but there's just something incredibly arousing about a woman that small in size who could kick the ass of someone almost twice as large as her.

Eventually some folks felt bad for this poor fellow, whose dignity, facial piercings and neatly gelled hairdo were being decimated beyond repair. So a couple brave souls grabbed her and pulled her off of him, while she was screaming "Motherfucker!!! I'll fuckin KILL you!!!" and spitting at him. I waded into the brawl to make sure she was ok, and to make sure any of the horribly defeated Mr. Testosterone's friends didn't jump in to try and salvage the micro fraction left of his dignity. When I said "Martha, holy shit, what was THAT about!?" she replied "Goddammit, I'm so fuckin' PISSED I didn't kill that guy!" Did I mention I was turned on? Being in the presence of a true Valkyrie like Martha was an honor not to be taken lightly.

Some days later I was talking to Martha via AIM. When I inquired as to what the previous weekend's fracas was about, she replied that this guy had been harassing one of her female friends and needed to be taught a lesson. She then proceeded to explain that he would get more of the same if she ever saw him again (rumor has it that Mr. Testosterone later apologized to Martha's friend AND Martha, and actually turned out to be a semi- decent individual). I said to her "Martha I had no idea you were so tough, you're like a wolverine. In fact, that's going to be your new nickname, 'Wolfie!'" She replied "Well, you're small and tough too, so you must be a badger!"

So viola, from there on out, the moniker has stuck. It's my alter ego, or spirit totem so to speak, and since I hate my real name (it was given to me when my mother was going through a bible phase, ewwww....) I prefer to be called Badger.

And just to set the record straight, I'm not nearly as "tough" as Martha would think I am. I am just.... well.... very thorough in violent situations. I've trained in martial arts for many many years, but truth be told, violence scares the shit out of me. When I say violence too, I don't mean controlled, "let's get on the mat and spar" violence, I mean real life altercations which are NOT controlled, where anything can happen. Over the years I've crossed paths with many skinheads, bikers, gang bangers, drug dealers and psycho ex- military types, not to mention all manner of drunks, jocks and assorted other "tough" guys. I have always made sure to avoid fighting and have done well with that. I don't see walking away from a fight as a sign of cowardice, in fact I see it as a sign of intelligence.

But the few times I HAVE gotten into fights have been epic. I've been known to hit people with blunt objects, suckerpunch people, kick people in the balls and (my favorite) bite people. The way I look at it there's no such thing as a "fair" fight, especially if you didn't start it. If someone attacks you, I say anything goes, especially if you're me and you only stand 5' 4. Ironically the few times I've been attacked I managed to walk away in much better shape than the morons who attacked me, but the fewer times I was the attacker I got my lily ass handed to me. One thing that I noticed was that any time I got cocky I ended up losing, but in the situations where I didn't throw the first punch (or when someone attacked one of my friends, that's when I get REALLY nasty) I was so terrified I ended up pulling every dirty trick I knew, and that managed to save me from any serious harm.

Again though, to me REAL violence is downright terrifying. You never knew who might jump in, who is friends with who, or who is armed with what. Any "tough guy" posturing I've ever done, or actual tough guy actions I've ever shown were done more out of fear than actual confidence. Preventative measures so to speak. After being on the receiving end of violent attacks from people I was convinced were trying to kill me, I don't have any desire to re live those experiences, much less hear about or witness anyone I care about having to experience anything even remotely similar.

So yes, I'm still the Badger, but these days I'm a badger who'd rather burrow into his badger hole than pick a fight with some random stranger.

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