Tonight, on the way home from a frustrating day at work (and a Saturday, no less), I saw a kid on a bike that reminded me of someone from my old neighborhood. My house was in a good mid-size-city neighborhood that looked just like Archie Bunker’s – only the houses weren’t so close together. There was a diverse mix of people all around, and all us kids would wander the neighborhood to find things to do. Atari was still a few years from being invented.

One day when I was maybe 9 years old, my friend Steve and I were playing basketball in the driveway, and a couple kids came walking by in the alley behind the garage. The joined our game, and everything was going fine until one of the kids started talking smack (that term hadn’t been invented yet, but that’s what it was). I had no idea what he was talking about or what I did to upset him, but he kept saying he was gonna kick my ass.

In my house, we didn’t talk like that. I had heard the word ‘ass’ before but wasn’t sure where it was. If it was what I thought, then there was no way I wanted to be kicked in it. So I kept my butt turned toward him for the rest of the game, just to be safe.

Another time, I was doing my paper route, minding my own business, and a kid named Punky (I shat you not) came up to me. I said hi, and he said “I’m gonna hit you, kid!”

So he did. After spilling the papers and developing an impressively bloody nose, my fight-or-flight instinct kicked in. I ran home.

My dad heard the story and just shook his head. I found out a decade later that he was that kid in his neighborhood, apparently ready and willing to fight anything for any reason.

Determined not to get beat up again, I walked around with my fists all balled up. Wrong, of course – I found out in high school that you’re not supposed to have your thumb inside.

I can count on one hand all the fights I’ve been in throughout my life, and none have happened in the last 23 years. My neighbor, however, likes talking about all the asses he kicks and how bad a summbitch he is.

They say the best way to win a fight is not to start one. So far, so good.

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