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Saturday, March 16, 2002

Things I Didn't Put in the Emails

I was in Chihuahua, Mexico on my last visit. This was an episode I didn’t write about in my e-mails. In honor of celebrity boxing I thought I would fill in the full story.

El Sinaloense (named after the province of Sinaloa) is this crazy saloon and dance club. As you walk past, the loud ranchero music crashes out of the place like a drunk thrown through a plate glass window. You push through a pair of swinging doors and strut up to the bar which runs all along one wall. The prices are painted on the wall above: Tecate $8, tequila $12 (they use the dollar sign to signify pesos). The place is full of cowboys. A two-piece band cranks out ranchero music. The vaqueros, or cowboys, are here for the dance girls. For something like 20 pesos you can take your pick of about 20 girls and do the two-step, or whatever they call it down here. The gals aren't hookers, at least not all of them., The dancing is all very chaste--no bumping, no grinding. You'd let your daughter dance with these fellows although you might want to disinfect her afterwards.

The only thing this place was missing was a shootout. I'm sure that happens from time to time. El Sinaloense is without a doubt the biggest dive I have ever visited. I think that is saying a lot.

I asked one of the dance girls if I could have a couple of minutes of her time, to talk about her job and El Sinaloense. She led me to a table in a big back room. We had been talking for a couple of minutes when a big cowboy-type asshole came up to the table and started yelling at her. I assumed that these two were some sort of item. I fully understand the Latin man’s jealousy issue so I immediately introduced myself to him and explained that I was a writer, and I was only interested in finding out more about Chihuahua . He didn’t direct any of his anger towards me but he was a major prick. Usually when a guy nuts up on me my first reaction is to tell him to go fuck himself, but I behaved myself, and worked desperately to defuse the situation. I told him I’d buy him a beer, and I walked over to the bar leaving the two alone. He came over a couple minutes later and took me up on my offer. I thought everything was cool.

About two sips into the beer the guy starts raving about how I’m after his gal. He wasn’t really making much sense and he didn’t want to hear anything I had to say. This is when I should have got the hell out of there, but I was drunk, and besides dealing with this psycho I was having a good time. Just then a guy walked by, noticed that I was a gringo, and asked me where I was from. I walked away talking to him. We sat down at a table and he started to explain the bar. He had obviously spent some time here because he knew everyone. He told me the big cowboy was sort of dating the dancer. He said he was a bit deranged. He was interested to know that I was actually writing about this dump. I had my notebook with me, as always, so I showed him what I had written thus far. I left my notebook with him and I went to the bathroom.

The bathroom was disgusting, as you can imagine. It was a tiled room about twenty feet by twenty feet with a trough that went around the walls that served as a urinal. The floor was oozing with whatever fluids inhabit the floor of a filthy Mexican public toilet; use your imagination. I had just finished doing what I had come in there to do and as I turned around to leave my nose hit the fist of the big cowboy. He got me pretty good. He broke my nose and there was plenty of blood.

I've studied martial arts for several years: karate and jiu-jitsu. Something that was drilled into my head when I studied Niseido jiu-jitsu under Professor Rick Riccardi is that most people can take a pretty good punch, and it doesn’t affect your ability to defend yourself. There aren’t many people capable of throwing a knock-out blow. Most people get sucker-punched like this and they freak out, a little bit. They freeze up. I had been hit harder than this plenty of times during training. This nose-breaking blow didn’t hurt a bit. No kidding, I didn’t even feel it. I immediately went at the guy and clinched up so he couldn’t hit me again . I didn’t want to go toe-to-toe with a guy who had several inches and many pounds on me. I dropped him to the filthy floor with a hip throw. The the fall stunned him and I could feel the fight oozing out of him.

Jiu-jitsu is mostly about taking someone to the ground and finishing things up there. As I was trying to wrap this thing up I had two thoughts going through my alcohol-impaired brain. The first thought was how disgusting this was, fighting on the floor of a squalid bathroom. My other thought was that I needed to get the hell out of here, and fast, before a couple of the cowboy’s buddies showed up and beat me to a pulp. I put him in a hold called kesa gatame which is like a headlock but you only use one arm and it's much more effective. Usually from this hold I progress to another move to choke out the opponent or inflict some very serious pain with an arm lock. I think that because I was drunk my normal killer/survival instinct was in not working properly, but I had complete control over him. He was bucking like a rodeo bull but resistance is pretty futile if the hold is applied properly. He went limp from exhaustion very soon.

I kept telling him that I didn’t want to fight, that I wasn’t interested in his girl, but he kept raving something--I wasn’t really following his psycho logic. He got tired out ande went totally limp. I let him go and stood up. All I wanted was to get the hell out of there. He came at me again and we were going at it again. He grazed my chin with a punch before I hooked his leg and tripped him backwards right into the urinal. He hit his back pretty hard, I would imagine, on the urinal wall and now he was lying right in the thing. I drilled him with three punches on his left cheek and left him in the pisser.

I thought I could get out the back door, but it was locked which meant I would have to walk past the bathroom to get out. Fortunately, the bouncers were escorting señor asshole out. Evidently this wasn’t the first time this dude had been rowdy here. I went back into the bathroom and washed the blood off my face and set my nose as best I could.

My next move was to make a quick exit from this charming watering hole. Just as I hit the street through the swinging doors the other guy I had been talking to grabbed me and gave me back my notebook. He seemed embarrassed that a decent gringo had been assaulted for no good reason. I told him that I just wanted to go home. My hotel was right around the block. Just as I walked around the corner Mr. Cowboy was standing there in the street, bleeding like hell. He started up with his rants about me and the girl. He started to walk towards me and I screamed at him that this time around I would kill him. That seemed to dampen his resolve and he walked away.

Once inside my hotel room I threw everything I was wearing except my shoes into the trash and took a shower. The next morning I packed my bag, took a look at myself in the mirror, and grabbed a cab for the bus station. I really looked like hell but it didn’t hurt a bit. I am more ashamed of this incident than anything, and I didn’t write about this initially. Upon reflection I felt that I should put this in here because it really happened and even if it is embarrassing I should write the truth.

The truth is I should have avoided the whole situation and I’m lucky all I got for my drunken mistake was a broken nose and a scrape on the chin. I should have never been in such a rough place when I was tipsy, at least not alone. I thank Professor Riccardi for teaching me to defend myself and ask his forgiveness for using my skill in such a stupid situation. I know that I didn’t do anything to deserve getting punched but I should have read the situation better and avoided the conflict. That said, I have to say that I was in a potentially life-threatening fight. The guy was certainly crazy; he hit me as hard as he could without warning. God knows what he would have done had he had the upper hand. I could have messed him up a lot worse than the broken cheek I gave him but that could have turned out badly, too, had the cops got involved. I had every right to totally destroy the asshole but I’m probably better off that I didn’t.

I have this feeling of being invulnerable. I know that I can fight better than most guys and I have no fear of fighting. I never back down and most of the time that is enough to scare the hell out of guys. Martial arts saved me but at the same time had I not studied jiu-jitsu I would have been extremely reluctant to even walk into a dive like that in a foreign country. I learned a lesson.

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