Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Men Who Explode

This entry was written with a generous amount of "Knock On Wood"-ing. I don't want to jinx my extraordinary good luck. I don't want to find myself getting pummelled in an alley while thinking "jeez, I should have knocked on wood when I said that stuff!"

At least once a year I manage to make a man explode into vicious, incoherent rage. Where does this terrible power come from, and how can it be used for the common good?

Last night I had a typical encounter outside of the Pizza Pizza. A man took great offense to my standing there, and he exploded. Fortunately I was with good pal El Diablo Loki, who -- with all the powers of the metal gods behind him -- challenged the guy to an old fashioned Canadian duel. With Loki's calm, peaceful friend on one side, the guy's horrified girlfriend on the other, and me in the middle trying to mediate, we made a bizarre quartet of clashing ideologies that really wasn't going anywhere.

The exploding man's girlfriend dragged him into the Pizza Pizza, where he apparently spouted potent vitriol about me. And this is where my "exploding man" power becomes a force for good: the people who left the Pizza Pizza -- stereotypical, drunken, post-bar toughs -- apologized to ME for the guy's behaviour and said that somebody should go in there and beat the hell out of him. Which wasn't going to happen because, as we all acknowledged, the exploding man was really big.

But the point is, these young 20-something people were on MY SIDE. Maybe they would always have been on my side, or maybe seeing the repulsive bigotry of another person opened their minds a little bit. As awful as the whole situation was, the fact that fifteen football jocks were prepared to come to my aid was pretty heart-warming.

I made another man explode last year...he stood on my neighbour's balcony for about fifteen minutes, hoarsely yelling strange slurs and accusations at me while his girlfriend sat crying, and all of his 18-year-old buddies came over to apologize and share a drink with me. You see what I mean about the good and bad sides of these situations.

I think I understand the exploding men a little better now. When two or more men decide to get aggressive toward me, they tend to do it in a more smug, low-key way. But when only ONE man gets aggressive, he has to deal with not only his incohate, overpowering rage, but ALSO with the realization that nobody around him approves of his behaviour, not even his girlfriend, not even his best friends. This must drive him crazy, it makes him REALLY explode...he's screaming at me AND at the sudden realization that he has become a pariah. Must be awful, though pardon me if I don't feel bad about it.

So the silver lining? People get a good glimpse of bigotry, they see that I'm far more rational and sensible than the exploding man, and maybe they'll teach their kids some good lessons.

But I can't help wondering...what happens to the exploding men afterwards? Do they go home and feel bad? I doubt it, I bet they grow even more extreme in their beliefs. On one side I might be doing my own small part to make our world a better place, but on the other side I might be making a small number of little Nazis.


VanillaJ said...

I made a man explode recently - his name is Jon. Afterwards, he just fell asleep.

Muffy St. Bernard said...

That jerk!

Eric said...

Thoughtful and interesting to read--as always. You didn't make the nazis--I would like to say their parents did, but that's not entirely true either.

I'm gonna listen to "Rednecks" and mull this over.

Muffy St. Bernard said...

I haven't thought about it enough myself, but it seems to me that nasty bigotry comes about in one of two ways: either they grow up in a like-minded environment, and spend all their time in that environment, becoming entrenched bigots who are relatively relaxed about it all...or they find their bigotry being challenged, they cultivate a feeling of unfair repression, and this sets them on a bitter and angry crusade.

For deeper wisdom, however, The Fall have a song called "Who Makes the Nazis?" at:

I can't agree that "buffalo lips on toast, smiling" makes the Nazis...but maybe that means something in Britainese.

Anonymous said...

Your first reason is undoubtedly true. When I moved from teaching at a large urban university to a small college on the Great Plains, I noticed that the bigotry my students often unconsciously and always unashamedly displayed changed according to the ethnic groups they were familiar with--from blacks to Native Americans. The rural students also were much more homophobic, which I can only attribute to the culture they are a part of. (Randy Newman does not sing "I"m a redneck" but "We're rednecks--don't know our ass from a hole in the ground.") It is the environnment, the culture. And it's infinitely sad.

Muffy St. Bernard said...

Strangely enough, I grew up in a rural area myself, and our highschool was extremely liberal...the only kid who ever got beaten up was the one who dressed like Vanilla Ice.

The area was predominantly German...only about four Asian kids, and one black kid. And they were the most popular kids in school, probably because they were set apart from all us blue-eyed, blonde, slightly inbred Mennonites.

I wonder what makes one rural community liberal, and another one (like you mentioned) bigoted. History, probably, and maybe poverty or low levels of education.

I'm just happy that Randy Newman likes Electric Light Orchestra.

Anonymous said...


Hello. This is El Diablo Loki (ha ha!, I mean Derek). I'd forgotten about that nick-name!

I was Googling your name to see if I could find an email address. I wanted to apologize for being a goon on Saturday, even if it was for the right reasons. Jumping to someone's defence isn't always paying them a compliment.

And you will recall that at some point I mused "Oh wait, I recently dislocated my shoulder! I can't fight this guy! Let's get outta here!" or something similar. That memory is a bit blurry. (I imagine the Benny Hill theme music playing while we all ran around in fast-motion, bonking that big goof on the head with pizza trays.)

Oh, also sorry for being such a flirt.

Later, Unintentional Instigator (that rhymes, eventually).


Anonymous said...


Loki here again- I thought I'd add a couple of more thoughts about Saturday night:

Muffy wrote:

"But I can't help wondering...what happens to the exploding men afterwards? Do they go home and feel bad? I doubt it, I bet they grow even more extreme in their beliefs."

I don't think that this is always the case. As someone who often speaks before thinking (although never in nasty ways, I hope), I've spent more than a few Sunday mornings mulling over what I might have done differently the night before.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Exploding Man who hassled you at Pizza-2 got an earfull from his girlfriend, scorn from his buddies, and a bit of a scolding from his own conscience as well.

My "calm, peaceful friend" Johnny and I discussed this the next day. It's just not generally accepted anymore (at least in these here parts) to confront strangers simply because they're different than you. If Exploding Man really wanted to start something, he would have made an excuse, however flimsy. "What are you lookin' at?!" is a classic. If someone like that wants to fight you, he will find a way.

I really think Exploding Man knew he was wrong. His mouth just jumped ahead of his brain. But after my own mouth jumped ahead of my own brain, we had a situation that he found difficult to back out of.

The fact that he didn't push aside his girlfriend (and Johnny), and then knock my block off meant that he probably wasn't intending to. He could have, for sure.

Either he recognized that he was in the wrong, or else the approval of his friends meant more to him than saving face.

I'm betting on the approval of his friends being a strong influence here too. People who behave that way generally do it seeking approval. Remove the cheers and backslaps from peers, and he'll quickly revise his opinions and behaviour to suit those he's surrounded by.

It's neat that the approval on the street that night was firmly with you, Muffy.

Calm-Peaceful-Johnny thinks that society in general is changing, and we both agreed it may changing so fast that approval-seekers don't quite know how to act yet. They have to look for cues, from those around them.

"Hey Danny, is it still cool to threaten drag queens?"

"No, that just makes you look like a jerk, Bob."

"Oh. Ok." (Scratches head. Rubs back against tree.)

If this message is consistant, a year later Bob might not have to ask.

Wow. That got kinda long and rambling.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you and C-P-Johnny have definitely come up with something here. It hadn't ocurred to me that the Exploding Man instantly regretted is initial comments. His apparently loud and extended tirade in the Pizza Pizza afterwards might indicate that he cared more about venting than he did about getting approval, though maybe he was being egged on by some sympathetic listeners, or maybe it was adrenaline.

Either way, though, I'm sure you're right that his mortified girlfriend gave him a much-deserved chewing out.

I'm glad you said something to him, you beat me to it. I consider drive-by slurs to be cowardly and will always (smart or no) respond if I get the chance. I'm sure the fact that you so quickly came to my defence -- before he'd gotten through the door -- made an impression on the lunkhead.

It's funny how, in these aggressive situations, I only remember bits and pieces of what actually happened. Sounds like you've got the same patchy memory of the event. I remember him saying something about a "man voice" and me being fucked up or something, and then you saying something in response that zinged him. His girlfriend was trying to drag him into the Pizza Pizza, you were saying "how would you feel if I insulted your girlfriend like that?" and I was in the middle someplace, quite close to the guy in the vestibule, saying something I don't remember, to which he lucidly replied "you're not helping," which is sort of funny.

Most funny, however, was C-P-Johnny, who I recall being sort of goofy and cracking small jokes in the midst of it all, despite obviously wishing he were anywhere else but there.


minako said...

I think it's a combo of the repulsive bigotry and (some) people who are coming up with more tolerant attitudes.

Either way, I'm glad you didn't come to harm. I hope you never do. :)