The International Writers Magazine: Our Former New York Correspondent
I am not that loveable of a person. Hell, you think I don’t know about it, with suckers reminding me about it on a daily basis? Of course, people can only judge you through the prism of their own experiences, so maybe I remind them of things about themselves that they don’t like.
We live in an age of instant self-gratification. Anything that’s nice requires effort, and since people are too exhausted from jerking off all the time, life is shabby. I try not to let it get me down and focus on myself, so people don’t like that about me either, calling me vain and self-absorbed, but at least I’m trying to get at least one thing right.
I’ve had a lot of careers, you name it: fashion designer, legal services, translations, industrial relations. Anything to make myself useful, pitch in and help the management class fulfill its irrational exuberance. Most of those guys have fallen by the wayside, sunk like the rich guy in the parable who was drowned because he was weighted down trying to swim with a bulging money belt filled with gold around his waist. Most of the companies I have worked for having gone under and the bosses having found themselves in bankruptcy court or worse, I just apply for benefits and then hit the gym.
Lemme give you an example, this Spanish guy I used to work for, Sterling Gonzalez. Most people can’t relate to a Latin guy having a given name like Sterling, but that’s because they can’t relate to Spanish people. Latin people think giving a kid an English name like Nelson or Sterling denotes a bit of distinction, like people who call their kids Cheyenne or Dakota, even though they reside in the English midlands. It’s that stupid. In the meantime, you got kids born in the Dominican Republic with atypical Anglicized names like Jonny, and pronounced “Yonni”, which makes it all the more ridiculous. Anyway, Sterling was a hard worker, but, not having a penchant for philosophical reflection, he regarded work as a fast track to chiseling and stealing, and now he spends his weekends in jail.
Even though New Yorkers disdain me, most of them are at least clever enough to let me know how they feel about me from a respectful distance, longer than arm’s length. This is because I have a judicial record for assault, from a chance meeting I had with a guy on the subway, who got in my face and called me an asshole. I whomped the shit out of him before the cops hauled me away.
My own attorney, New York’s radical lawyer Ron Kuby, horrified at the pictures of the guy’s face that the prosecution had faxed over to him and for whom animal aggression (of the verbal sort) is a fundamental element of his professional profile, cursed me out and sent me to hell in as the lowest form of barbaric miscreant, and he was supposed to be representing me. “You’re gonna get sued”, he spat at me in the corridor of the criminal court building. “It’s a miracle they haven’t locked you up before!”
Indeed! I’m nobody’s idea of a solid citizen. In a city of liars, bastards and thieves, where for decades Bernard Madoff was considered to be the ne plus ultra of bourgeois respectability, I couldn’t get elected dog catcher. I’m too transparent. Anything you want to know about me, you can find it on the Internet, mainly because I have got a big mouth. And that’s anathema to New Yorkers, who have all got something awful to hide. But what really irked Kuby was the way I turned out for a court appearance all dolled up like I was going to a cocktail reception at Cipriani’s. At that time I was traveling to Paris a couple of times a year, on business and tax-deductible, and I had a wardrobe to show for it. As far as I was concerned, a court appearance was a fashion event. Kuby, on the other hand, was used to representing crack dealers with their jeans falling down around their knees and showing the crack in their butts. He himself favored shabby, worn tweed 3-piece suits with a vest to hide his fat midsection. In his more jovial moments, he would regale me with tales of the Atkins Diet, which he said allowed him to trim down by eating a pound of steak every day. Go figure…
I never signed up for Ron Kuby. At the time, he was the junior partner of Kunstler and Kuby, and I had made the check out to William Kunstler, whom I had always admired for his role as the defense attorney for the radical Chicago Seven in their 1969 federal trial on conspiracy charges. I figured, as long as I needed to engage an attorney anyway, let it at least be the occasion for me to meet one of the icons of my younger life. As it turned out, I was Kunstler’s last client, because he died in hospital one day after I wrote the check, and I ended up inheriting Kuby.
I can’t overstate the damage I did myself by showing up in court all dressed up. New Yorkers disdain exterior expressions of vanity, and the lawyers are a particularly shabby class, adhering to the notion that people who make a fuss over their appearance are superficial and inconsequential. According to this school of thought, you’re supposed to look like a bum and have the intellect of Socrates. Good looks are for bartenders who are hoping to break into off-Broadway. I felt that if you don’t have even the ability to make a decent representation in public, how much could you possibly know?
The publicity campaign for K-Mart Stores says that “Money can’t buy style”, which I have been saying for my entire career. A corollary of that axiom might be framed to opine that expensive law schools can’t grow brains in the heads of knuckleheaded lower middle class strivers, particularly if you factor in the rabid grade inflation that is endemic in the modern educational system, which is producing assembly line processed cheese slices with advanced jurisprudence degrees. The U.S. Supreme Court is the sterling example of this axiomatic reality, but it naturally pervades the legal profession from top to bottom. And it is laced up tightly. Back on the old days, any clever person could walk in and take the bar exam. Two notable examples come to mind: Abraham Lincoln and demagogic Louisiana Senator Huey Long never bothered to attend law school, passed the bar, set up legal practices, went into politics and became history. The legal profession, flummoxed by its genetic composition of morbid inertia being contaminated by instances of real talent, tightened the rules to mandate a law degree from a stultifying law faculty as a prerequisite for eligibility to take the bar exam, thereby eliminating any sources of original talent from the profession. Nothing breeds contempt for lawyers like close proximity to their presence and no less of an authority on human psychology than William Shakespeare repeatedly expressed unconditional loathing for their breed. In Anthony Burgess’ fine biography of Shakespeare, he speculates that early in his career Shakespeare was obliged to accept employment as a clerk on law offices, and thereafter came to forever detest them.
From Ron Kuby’s point of view, my being all dressed up for a court appearance over a vicious assault beating demonstrated me to be a particularly odious criminal element who was getting away with way too much in life. The judges, who were invariably female and distinctly moralistic, felt the same way. They wanted to see my case go to trial as soon as possible, and when Kuby would half-heartedly request an extension on some spurious grounds, they would give him a furious tongue-lashing about the judicial doctrine of justice delayed being justice denied.
At the time, I didn’t give a fuck. I was in the fashion industry, which didn’t require any kind of morality certification. Everybody I knew was hiding worse secrets than I. Hell, my own boss, I’ll call him “Pops”, had once in his career been indicted on, get this, counterfeiting charges, and had sweated out a two-year federal trial before receiving an acquittal. I took the philosophical attitude that if you live in New York long enough, something is bound to happen to you. At least it wasn’t a construction crane falling on me and severing my legs, which is what happened to one woman who ventured out for a little stroll on Third Avenue and never walked again. In my case it was just an incontinent idiot bastard who happened to be standing too close to me when he decided to give me a piece of his mind.
Eventually, Kuby managed to work it out for me to cop guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge, and no jail time. Fuck it! Actually, he did me a favor. Now that I have got an assault conviction, idiots are not so inclined to get in my face with their negative opinions of me.
I am notably referring to my girlfriend's circle of friends which includes some drunken anti-Semitic bastards. Since my dust-up on the train and resultant assault conviction, they give me a wide berth. She was a witness to the whole incident, although she adamantly refused to testify in my defense. In fact, she told everybody who would listen what a savage I was (nevertheless, I never could get rid of her).
Apparently, the worst of it from her perspective was that I didn’t first warn the guy. I think that’s what shook up her Nazi friends worse than anything else, the idea that they could the shit smacked out of them by a renegade Jew with no advance warning, like the Seven Days War.
Well, excuuuuse meeeee! If I decide to bludgeon a guy, I’m not going to send him an engraved invitation to his own funeral on a silver platter. How do I know whether or not he’s packing a knife, a gun or a razor? Better to strike first and ask questions later. My girlfriend's brother, Peckerwood, in particular, was as vile of a threatening, insulting loudmouth drunken bastard as ever existed in a stinking, piss-smelling saloon barroom. This moron was a particularly vile, insulting friend of Adolph Hitler if there ever was one. He hated me from the word “go”. Fortunately for him, after I got arrested for the fight on the train, he never came near me again. He died a few years later of natural causes after being impaled on the steering column of his automobile after he crashed it into a tree in a drunken stupor, sparing me the effort of killing him with my bare hands.
Some civilized readers are certainly going to be repelled by this narrative, which they may consider to have been written by a pre-evolutionary Neanderthal troglodyte who had somehow benefitted from a stem cell brain transplant, and I don’t blame them except to say that I’m not the only one.
On a recent live debate televised by Russian TV, one oligarchical feudal mafia billionaire, Alexander Lebedev, a former KGB secret policeman who has parlayed his political connections into a manufacturing empire, decided he had taken enough personal abuse from property developer Sergei Polonski, leaned forward and smacked Polonski in the face hard enough to send him flying across the studio.
Lebedev is no kid, but he is a large, monolithic bodybuilder, no expensive suit can hide that. It goes without saying that, like his supreme leader, Putin, he is also a martial artist. If you are going to insult a guy like this, it’s smarter to do it from a distance greater than arm’s length.
After the show was over somebody asked Lebedev why he didn’t at least advise Polonski that he was cruising for a bruising. “Why should I give him advance notice?” responded Lebedev. Why indeed? You think that would have shut the guy up? Not bloody likely! The average loudmouth prick these days thinks his abusive behavior is a constitutionally protected domain, like a flamingo preserve, and when he is called to account for it, it comes as a big shock, a Pearl Harbor sneak attack, even though it results from a circumstance of his own creation, involving insults; threats (what finally set Lebedev off was when Polonski exclaimed “I feel like hitting somebody”); vile, coarse eruptions of sputum and bad breath. A lot of people put up with that kind of conduct as the price for living in a densely populated urban environment, but eventually you are going to run into somebody who feels that his own sense of inviolable personal dignity is more important than your physical integrity.
You sow what you reap. During a prize fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Victor Ortiz at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Ortiz, who was losing badly, intentionally head-butted Mayweather in the face. The ref took a point away from Ortiz and made them touch gloves to continue the fight. As far as Ortiz was concerned, protected by the rules, he felt, the head butt was ancient history. The general guiding principle for these times is to put the past behind us and move on. Mayweather, however, was old school. If he hadn’t been wearing a mouthpiece, he would have lost all his front teeth. Basically, he was pissed off. Instead of squaring off and continuing the fight according to Marquess of Queensbury rules, immediately after touching gloves with Ortiz, he landed the guy two haymaker head shots, just like on the street, which sent Ortiz into dreamland, ending the fight with a knockout.
Remember the famous head butt by French soccer champion Zinedine Zidane against the Italian player, Marco Materazzi, during the final match of the 2006 World Cup, after enduring 90 minutes of the most vile insults against all the women in his family? Zidane, finally deciding that he had absorbed too much abuse, headbutted Materazzi in the chest. He didn’t try to destroy the guy’s face. Ortiz, who is an animal, displayed an abominable lack of concern for his opponent.
Nevertheless, boxing is a blood sport. I remember a fighter named Bobby Czez, whom I first saw at the Garden in 1985. There are different kinds of intelligence. Czez couldn’t predict the laws of physics like Einstein or write a sonnet of poetry like Shakespeare, but he was capable of figuring out an opponent and taking him apart, round after round, until the guy came to resemble a slab of hanging beef that you could use as a substitute for a heavy bag, like in the “Rocky” movie. For Bobby Czyz, a boxing match was like chess game requiring tactical mobility and physical conditioning. Unlike chess, boxing requires peak physical conditioning. Instead of moving plastic toys around a board, you have to depend on the power and conditioning of your body. Believe me, unlike other sports writers, I try my own feeble attempts to duplicate what I see boxers do, and I am a pathetic spectacle. But it has at least left me with a dim appreciation of the effort involved.
Anyway, Bobby was endowed with the heart of a wild animal on the African veldt. He could take a punch and score knockouts in full-tilt brawls. He once got into a car accident that broke his neck and was back in the ring, fighting, less than a year later. What does that tell you?
Years after the Garden match, I had occasion to see Czyz on TV, fighting a guy named Tim Broady. Broady had talent, and he could fight, but instead of being a pugilistic thug, he was more the intellectual type, telling the press that he preferred to stay home with a good book to going out to clubs populated by gangsters and infected females. All through the fight, Broady dominated Czyz in terms of conditioning and punches landed. It even reached the point where he was openly clowning around and mocking Czyz. Finally, he landed a right to Czyz’s head, which sent Czyz down to one knee for the count.
As Broady proceeded to a neutral corner for the count, Czyz immediately jumped up and landed him a terrible right hand to the back of his neck that completely destroyed him. Not only was Broady unable to finish the fight, but that punch permanently ruined him for boxing forever after, and he was never heard from again. In fact, he had ignored a dictum of boxing that was long ago enunciated to me by one of my boxing mentors, David Galindez, who long ago instructed me, “Never turn your back on your opponent”. After the fight, Czyz told the reporters “I just gave this guy a college education”.
Too much emphasis is being placed on the physical responses to provocation and not enough to the incitement that provoked them. The assistant district attorney who pressed charges against me in my assault case freely admitted that I had been provoked and lamely advised me that I should have “walked away”. Everybody saw Ortiz’s head butt against Mayweather, but Mayweather ended up as the patsy in the press accounts. Recently, Mayor Bloomberg had to fire one of his assistant mayors for charges brought against him by his wife in a domestic violence case, despite the fact that the guy’s wife told him, “I should have put a bullet in you years ago”.
My role as a writer is not to change society. Forget that! It’s only to document what’s happening now, and let the future decide. But if I didn’t write it, the future world would never know it. As opposed to previous generations, at least we are living in a period of hope.
© Dean Borok Oct 2011
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*Dean passed away in 2017 after a short illness