Bar fights I have known

I wholeheartedly reject pacifism as a moral principle. Having said that, I tend to shy away from violence in all its forms. My reasons are simple: A. I stand roughly 5 feet, 7 inches tall and weigh 140 pounds; B. I've never been in a situation where my opening a fanny pack of whupass on someone is warranted.

There are those certain few who choose the way of the fist. For them aggression is something to embrace, not compartmentalize. Toughness is valued above patience and compassion. They are the bar brawlers, beer-soaked gladiators whose pride swells with each swallow of Seagram's, sparking a dive bar apocalypse of swingin' and cussin'.

I've never participated in a bar fight, but I've witnessed my fare share. As Jonathan Miles so eloquently stated in his article "Punch Drunk Love" reprinted in "The Best American Crime Writing 2005" most bar fights are brief affairs, where boozy catharsis collides with unintentional black humor.

The closest I've ever been to striking someone — I mean really burying my bony little first in a moron's mouth and liking every violent second of it — happened at a bar near hour three of a Chicago Cubs suck vs. St. Louis Cardinals suck debate with a pack of rednecks from Missouri. I'm not proud to admit this, but I can certainly understand how ridiculous talking points can suddenly get out of hand in a smokey room representing the confluence of Budweiser and testosterone.

Like I said, the art of fighting is lost on me, but I retain a gram of respect for those who cast off all sense of decency and self respect to settle it once and for all in that most modern of gladiator rings.

The following are some memorable bar brawls I witnessed and will never forget. Sadly.

Old ClassmateThe Uptowner, Charleston, Ill.

I had just finished work for the day and had met my friend for a round of pool at The Uptowner when a scuffle broke out in the back of the place near the foosball tables.

The Uptowner was famous for it brutal foosball tournaments. Fights were a common occurrence, though the champion foosballers were usually so bent of victory that they stayed sober. At least until after the last ball dropped and then all bets were off.

Apparently, a warm-up game was in progress when a scoring dispute erupted and the fists started flying. This moose in a purple polo shirt wrangled a tall skinny kid with glasses and an Ed Grimly cowlick into a headlock and proceeded to smash his head into one of the foosball tables before the bouncers intervened.

The fight lasted all of 10 seconds, as most bar fights are short and sweet. I snickered with my friend as they hauled the warring parties out the door, though my laughs were cut short when I suddenly realized I recognized the skinny punk with the bad hair. He was Mike G., and I had attended grade school with him in my small farm town before he moved away.

I hadn't seen Mike for roughly 12 years until that day. I had considered him a reliable friend in fifth grade. As the bouncer dragged him kicking and screaming out the door, our eyes met for a second and he grew quiet.

"Hey, man," he said, fighting against the chokehold turning his face red.

"Mike, hey what's up," I replied, lamely.

And then they were gone out the door, where a police car waited. I never saw him again. Had I known it was Mike, I probably would have rooted for him to win.

The moral: Never laugh at drunken gladiators, as one may hold a sentimental place in your past.

Collateral damageO'Ryan's Irish Pub, Ashland,Ore.

It was the battle we'd all been waiting for. The bum in the smelly jacket and backpack and the goth freak with all the safety pins stuck through his pants were finally going to settle whatever idiotic dispute they'd carried with them into the I-Pub that evening.

Smack was talked. Not-so-veiled threats were made. Some barefoot hippy girl tried to intervene and was promptly ignored. It was showtime.

The two went hockey style, standing upright, trading head shots, for about 20 seconds before the goth freak relented. The bum, probably inured to pain from scratching out a living in Dumpsters while the goth freak cried himself to sleep listening to Nine Inch Nails, had won the day. The goth made his way to the back door, yelling obscenities on his way out.

I laughed my way through the entire show and had turned back to the 2006 World Series when I saw something glint in my peripheral vision. The ashtray bounced off my friend's head and shattered in two pieces, the largest of which ricocheted off my forehead, drawing a thin line of blood.

Apparently, the goth kid decided to heave an heavy plastic ashtray at the bum in a last ditch effort to salvage what was left of his masculinity — which honestly wasn't much to speak off even prior to the match. The bum ducked, as bum's will and my friend and I became civilian casualties.

The moral: Stay out of O'Ryan's Irish Pub. Otherwise, you get what you deserve.

The good old days...are over

The last bar fight I saw was a few weeks ago at the Beau Club. I don't go out that much anymore, but that night was laundry night in downtown Ashland and I wanted to catch SportsCenter on the Beau's television across the street.

Ten minutes after entering the place two scruffy fellows hit the floor. Probably over a girl. Or a bicycle. Or baseball. Or the color of the other one's sleeping bag. Or pots and pans. Does it really matter?

I grabbed my jacket before the fight was over and left.

The moral: Laundromats are good places to go to avoid bar fights.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail

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