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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Haight Street Stories

I was walking down Oak Street one Saturday afternoon and took a right on Ashbury. This was at the peak of Summer-of-Love. The last few blocks of Haight Street were closed to traffic and jammed with people, tourists and posers—residents trying to sell them something. As I came around the corner a big brute of a guy, my age—30 something, was beating the shit out of a scrawny Asian kid years younger. The kid was down and still getting punched, offering no resistance. A crowd had gathered to watch the beating. No one made a move to stop it and I felt like I should, but I didn’t. Feeling guilty I walked slowly on, then stopped to watch the scene. A woman in the crowd of voyeurs yelled to the guy doing the ass kicking.
            “I’ve got your picture! I’m going to show it to the police!”
            The crowd parted for the bully to approach her and he grabbed the camera.
            “Now you don’t have a camera, bitch.” He started walking up the sidewalk and passed by me with the hand that held the camera out in front of him. I snatched it from him. It was like a reflex. I don’t think I thought about it. Then I threw it into the crowd to where I though the woman who took the photo was.
            Bruto went nuts. I figured he would now beat the shit out of me, but that I would probably survive. He took a couple swings and missed. He was incredibly clumsy.  I thought, what the hell, maybe I can take this guy though he outweighed me by a good 50 pounds, and was in inch or two taller. But he was slow and awkward. We spared around for a few moments, neither of us connecting. Then I saw two guys come running down the sidewalk towards us. I thought, wow! I’m going to be saved. They’re going to stop this — Wrong.
            The first one threw a body block that sent me sprawling and when I was down all three began kicking me in the legs and back and ribs. I folded up into a fetal position, protecting  myself as best I could. A crowd of onlookers circled us and I kept thinking someone would stop them, or say something. No one did. They looked like clowns, dressed up in crazy tie outfits . . . watching with fascination. The three guys finally got tired of kicking me. As they left one said, “Nobody fucks with the Major!” The Major was a Hell’s Angel I found out later.
            They walked away and I got up, then went the same direction. It was still to soon to feel much pain. That would come later. There was some blood, but I’d not taken any shots to the head. I suddenly realized I had caught up with my attackers on the sidewalk, walking just a yard or so behind, but I was not afraid. The trio were done with me, and strangely enough I didn’t feel that much anger towards them. My anger was focused on those who had watched in silence. I felt good about who I was, and what I’d done, however useless it had proved. I later learned the Asian kid had cheated on some kind of drug deal with the Angels.
I’ve always wondered if the woman got her camera back.

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