Tag Archives: violence

Why so aggressive?

Sometimes you just have to fight that feeling that sprouts up inside, that emotional response to an external stimuli, something that completely hijacks your consciousness, that focuses and redirects all of your energy and awareness into something primal, something base, something outside of who you are and who you want to be.

The other day I was riding my bike home from work. I was heading east in between Third and Second Avenue. The light ahead was red and there were maybe three or four cars lined up at the stop. I’m pedaling along and all of the sudden this car behind me honks the horn. It’s a loud and sustained honk. By the intensity of the sound, by the way my body reacted, how the hairs on my body all stood up, how I felt my heart skip a beat, I could tell the car was directly behind me, way too close for a car to be trailing a bike.

And I was in a bike lane. There are tons of bike lanes in New York. Not every street has a clearly marked bike lane, but this one did, and it’s one of the reasons I take this particular route every single day. So I’m minding my own, riding up to a red light, in the bike lane, and out of nowhere this car come right on my tail and honks the horn and holds it.

My body immediately goes into red alert. I’m not a road rage kind of guy, but I’m instantly scared, but only for a second, because as soon as that instant passes and I realize that I’m not in any immediate danger, the fear is gone but the adrenaline remains, and the overall state of being that I’m left with is anger, rage, something that wasn’t there just thirty seconds before.

So I turn around, it’s a taxi, and he’s really close, way too close to me, but close enough that, as I instantly turn around to him, as I show him my middle finger, even though his windows are closed, I know that we’re close enough that he can hear me as I look the driver right in the eye and shout, “Fuck you asshole!” And as I say it, I’m sort of caught off guard by my own reaction, by the force behind the words, behind the volume in the words. My heart’s pounding, my lungs are taking in all sorts of deep breaths, preparing my muscles and blood for whatever’s going to come next.

All I need is a second to cool off here, to assess the situation. Unfortunately, I don’t get a second to think, because no sooner do I curse this guy out that he decides to show me who’s in charge on this road. He swerves further into the bike lane and accelerates, as if he’s going to plow into me. The reasonable part of my brain would have told me to run, to get out of there, but everything happened in like a minute, so there is no reasonable part, I’m just a reaction, pure animal. I stick out my leg as if to say, if you come and try to run me down, I’m at least going to kick your cab as hard as I can. Somehow that works and he slows down.

But we’re still going to the same place, right behind that line of cars waiting at a red light. We pull up behind traffic and we’re side to side. This has been a pretty aggressive minute already, and neither one of us is ready to let go of the moment. He pulls his window down to say something, but I don’t let him get a word in. “Go ahead asshole!” I shout to him, “Let’s race! Go ahead and race me to that red light!” And he makes a face at me, a real snarl.

And part of me was overcome with the urge to make a huge fist and pound down on this guy’s side mirror. Maybe I could have taken it off right there and then riden away. And I really, really considered it, if only for a second, but it was a whole second where I was thinking to myself, just do it Rob, just smash the shit out of this asshole’s car with your bare hands.

But I didn’t even get that second to really consider anything. Because as soon as he opened his window, I opened my mouth. As soon as I started talking, he opened his door and got out of the car and stood up right next to me. And that’s what jolted me out of the moment. That’s when the better part of my judgment kicked in, and I started pedaling, fast.

What the hell just happened? That was a situation that escalated fast, real fast, faster than any situation I’ve been involved in a long time. Was that guy ready to fight me? Was he going to beat me up? And what about me, was I equally ready to engage? I got a good distance ahead, turned around, saw that guy just standing by his open driver’s side door, and, still juiced up on emotion, I screamed back at him, “You’re a real asshole! A real stupid asshole!” The light turned green and I pushed myself out of there, past that street, past Second Avenue, past First, all the way to the Queensboro Bridge.

And as I pedaled up and over the bridge, I had time to think, about what happened, about how I reacted. What the hell was that? Where did that come from? I was shaken. I played over and over again in my mind what had happened, what could have happened if things had played out differently, if that guy hadn’t stopped when I kicked out my leg, if I hadn’t stopped myself when I got that urge to slam down on his mirror. So many alternate possibilities. So many different opportunities for one or both of us to get hurt, for police to have to get involved. So much unnecessary aggression and violence. Just two guys getting in each other’s faces at just that right moment where we both sent each other into instant equal but opposing rages.

I always think to myself, stay in the moment. It’s cliché advice, but it usually puts my life into perspective. In this case however, I was stuck in the moment, locked in some weird byproduct of evolution, my animal nature. Why get so angry? Why the sudden impulse towards violence? I’m reminded that it’s in all of us, that we all come from a crazy, violent world.

And I did get out. The whole thing is burned in my memory, but in reality the event only occupied no more than two minutes of actual time. I got heated, I got pissed, but I got out of it, I snapped out of it. I knew that this wasn’t a battle worth choosing. And so, yeah, I’m not exactly proud of how things went down, but I definitely learned something, about impulse, about emotion, about being reminded that you never know when reality is going to turn sour, when instinct is going to hijack the reasonable part of your brain. But it happened, and it was nuts, man, it was just fucking nuts.

TV Review: Breaking Bad Season Four

I just finished watching Breaking Bad season four. I really hate to do this, but spoiler alert from here on out. For anybody who doesn’t watch the show, you really should. So stop reading this, watch the show, all of it, and then as soon as you’re done with the season four finale, come back and read this. Seriously, get to it, it’s going to take you a couple of weeks, dedicated only to watching Breaking Bad, back to back to back, just so you can catch up to where I’m at. I’m not even caught up fully. I think season five is on the air right now. Whatever, I hate watching TV shows as they air, because I always forget what happened the week before. And then things will be getting really interesting and the episode will end and you’ll want so much more, so you stick around past the credits hoping they’ll do one of those, “next time, on Breaking Bad,” type teasers, but every once in a while it’ll be like, “In two weeks, on Breaking Bad,” and you’re like, goddamn it, two weeks? What the hell? And you go online to find out what’s the deal with the holdup, and it’s Labor Day or Arbor Day and AMC doesn’t want to risk losing any viewers who might be out celebrating whatever minor holiday might be getting in the way. But I’m not going anywhere. Just play it!

OK, wow, I’ve gotten myself way off course here. I really wanted to talk about the season four finale. I’m going to try to do this with as little in the way of explaining as possible, but there’s a lot, so bear with me while I completely butcher four year’s of great storytelling into about three or four mediocre sentences. The main character, Walt, is a high school chemistry teacher who starts making crystal meth in order to pay for his lung cancer treatment bills. Over the course of the series, he winds up working for this big time drug distributer. But by season four, the boss wants Walt dead. Walt wins, by hiding a pipe bomb under a wheelchair at a senior center where the boss has come to visit/euthanize one of his old elderly rivals. The bomb goes off, and you see the explosion from outside the old guy’s room. And then the drug boss just walks out.

And you’re like, what the? How could he have survived that? But then the camera pans around and you realize that he didn’t, not really, because you were at first only looking at the boss from one side. As the camera rotates around, you’re shown that the other side of this guy’s face has been completely blown off, like much, much worse than Harvey Dent’s was in Dark Knight. He straightens his tie, and then drops dead.

My point is, the whole season was so good, so carefully written, without a single hole in the plot. Why did they feel the need to add such a gruesome little twist to an already great show? It didn’t need to be done. All it did was freak me the hell out. Just go to Google images and type in “Breaking Bad Gus face” and you’ll immediately see what I’m talking about. It’s the stuff that my nightmares are scared of. And why? It didn’t really add anything. Just the fact that Walt got this guy was good enough. They might as well have had him walking out of the room holding his own intestines falling out of his stomach. And you know what the title of the episode was? “Face Off.” Get it? Because it’s the final confrontation between Walt and Gus. And also, because his face gets blown off.

It’s a pretty lame critique, but I love good stories, and I hate how they are often peppered with unnecessary scenes of overly gratuitous violence. Jesus, I sound like an enraged PTA member here. I’m not trying to make any broad points about society or violence or anything other than, from a purely personal point of view, I get these gross images in my head and they’re hard to shake. It’s why I stopped watching Boardwalk Empire. It’s like, OK, we need to make a show. Period piece, cool. Interesting characters, awesome. Compelling stories, fantastic. OK and let’s throw in a really long scene of some guy getting his throat sliced open, but he won’t die instantly, he’ll hold his hands to his throat to try to stop all of the blood from falling out immediately, and so it’ll be this long, protracted struggle, and he’ll keep gurgling and making all these terrible I-just-got-my-throat-cut-open sounds, and then he’ll falls to his knees, but just before he dies, he’ll take out a knife and stab some other guy right through the knee, not the leg, but specifically the knee, and you’ll hear the other guy’s kneecap crack in half, and all of the fluids underneath the kneecap will just pop, and now this guy will be bleeding too, and everyone’s bleeding, and I don’t even remember what this episode was about in the first place, because I’m too busy trying not to throw up.

I’m not saying don’t have the violence, but maybe just don’t get so graphic in how you show it. With violent scenes in great movies, there’s ways of doing them without zooming in on bones popping through flesh. Isn’t it an old trick to pan away from the violence, and so you only see the shadow of the violent act on the wall? That’s not so bad. It’s like sex scenes. Movies can do sex scenes without getting past a certain level of being too graphic. In fact, I think they have to, because if it is too graphic, it’s porn, and they won’t let you show it in a regular movie theater. And it takes away from the movie anyway. The Dark Knight Rises had a sex scene, but it was like two seconds long. It would’ve been ridiculous to see Bruce Wayne getting it on with Talia al-Guhl for any longer than we already did. What? I told you there were spoilers. So yeah, I guess violence has a similar threshold. Anything too graphic, and to me, it’s like violence-porn. I’m imagining somebody making movies of just crazy gross gruesome nonsense, like a slow motion shot of somebody’s hand going through a meat grinder or something. Maybe somebody would like that, I don’t know. But don’t put that stuff on regular TV shows, especially not the last episode of a really great season.