Before I could make my way to the tussle, the cauguama had already been thrown. Cauguama is Mexican for forty ounce — technically it’s eight ounces shy but who cares. When a bottle of this size flies across the room and thumps you in the head, it will split it wide open no matter if it can hold forty ounces or thirty-two.
The scent of his blood must have enraged the man — maybe even given him superpowers. People tried to calm him down and restrain him, but he just slung them off of him like they were rats. I could tell he was not going to be easy to get out of the bar. Typically, I could grab somebody by the throat or put them in a wrist lock an old Army Captain I used to work with once showed me, but not this guy.
He was tall and athletic, not your typical build for a Mexican, at least not the ones I usually tossed out into the street. I think I heard that he was some sort of basketball player.
Although he had to be drunk or high out of his mind, he still seemed to have his reflexes about him. His athletic prowess was quite apparent. Some people play guitar better when they are drunk some fight better. This guy looked like he was one of the ones that could fight better. I, however, don’t do anything better drunk except maybe offend people.
In a situation like this, it’s sometimes easier to throw out the victim. It de-escalates the situation fast and puts the bouncer of the side of the aggressor. Then you can tell them something like the cops are coming, and that maybe they should get out of there. With the blood running down his face as if it were the sweat of a hard-working man, one would think that the basketball player was the victim, but he wasn’t.
Based on the size and aggressiveness of this guy, I could tell the someone threw the cauguama in defense — out of fear. I needed to get whoever threw the beer bottle out of the bar as soon as possible. Luckily for me, identifying him would be easy. He would be the one scared shitless.
When I spotted the cauguama thrower, he was yelling profanities and acting tough, but I could see in his eyes that he was afraid. The first thought that came to mind when I saw him was, aww shit.
Diego was a green-eyed Mexican with light brown dreadlocks that hid the sides of his shaved head. He stood at an average height and was slight though muscular. You could tell he was one of those people that would never have to worry about getting fat.
He seemed to be the unofficial leader of the group of guys that ran the Rasta bar down the road from where I worked. They were a ragtag bunch with a similar look to Diego: dreads, tattered clothes that either sported the colors of Ethiopia or Mexico and the appearance that they haven’t bathed in days. They came in all different shades of brown from cafe con leche to a straight Nescafe. If they weren’t sleeping off their hangover or playing soccer, they worked the Rasta bar.
That’s where I first met Diego three years prior on my first trip to Guanajuato. When I came back two years later with my dreadlocked little brother, we hung out at the Rasta bar nearly every night we were there. When the Rasta bar closed, we followed the crowd to a club that remained open for another hour or two.
This club that I sometimes call a bar because it was no bigger than a bar or cantina played EDM. Not my cup of tea, but it was where everyone in the Rasta bar went after it closed, including most of the staff.
People packed this club so much that it took a while to get to the bathroom even though it was just a few steps away. There was no air conditioning and no windows. And if there was ever a fire, forget it, the body count would be enormous.
On my next visit to Guanajuato, I would land the job of working the door there. I didn’t care for the music, but they paid me in all the Sol I could drink, so that was well worth it. In 2009, I was part of the crowd who came over after the Rasta bar closed. In 2010, I stood at the door, anticipating their arrival. First, it was the wave of patrons, and then a few minutes later, the employees followed including Diego.
When Diego came walking down the street, his white terrier named Pulga always preceded by him. Pulga walked as if he was Diego’s personal security guard and tended to overcompensate for his stature with aggressiveness. Whenever you saw Pulga, you knew Diego was not far behind. Neither was Diego’s girlfriend whose name I don’t recall. She, like Pulga, was fair as could be. A beautiful blonde woman from Denmark or Switzerland or wherever beautiful white women come from. I have yet to ever see someone wear bangs more perfectly than her.
When Diego walked through my door, we exchanged a slap of the hands accompanied with a fist bump — the standard gesture for locals except Diego was too cool for standard. Instead of knuckles, Diego met your fist with the side of his open palm. When his girl walked through, she got a kiss on the cheek. And when Pulga walked in, well, he just walked in. He couldn’t be bothered with salutations.
I guess Diego and I bonded out of mutual admiration. I admired him for being cool, having the coolest dog, and the coolest girlfriend. He admired me for being larger than life and for doing things like bouncing a trouble maker out of the Rasta bar for him one night when I was hanging out there on a date.
So on the night with the enraged basketball player (whom I’ll refer to as Mr. Basketball), when I decided I was going to toss the cauguama thrower out and I saw that it was Diego, I knew I had to turn my attention back to the aggressor. The one who bled profusely, was full of anger and slung people off of him left and right.
There were a couple of reasons why I’d rather have thrown, out Diego. He was smaller, not bleeding, and not getting more and more angry by the second. But he was my friend, and he wouldn’t have thrown the bottle unless severely provoked. I assumed it had to do with his beautiful blonde girlfriend with the perfect bangs.
I also felt obligated to protect him. Though lean and athletic, he wouldn’t stand a chance against the tall fit of rage that plowed through people to get to him.
It turned out, all I needed to do to protect my friend from Mr. Basketball was place myself in between the two of them. Everything that I have described of that night so far happened in a matter of seconds. So maybe there was some confusion, or perhaps Mr. Basketball was too drunk or too high, but when he saw me, he forgot all about Diego. Now, it was me we wanted to fight.
He screamed at me and called me every name in the book. I assumed anyway; he didn’t bother to slow his speech down so that I could understand his Spanish.
“Afuera,” (Outside) I yelled at him.
Luckily the commotion was enough for the DJ to stop the music and the manager to turn on the lights signaling the closing of the bar. The general movement of the packed crowed aided me in getting Mr. Basketball outside.
With the club closed, the trouble maker outside, and Diego, his girlfriend, and Pulga safe inside we tried to close the giant wooden doors but Mr. Basketball wasn’t having it. He was animate about kicking my ass. His friends tried to hold him back, but they were no match for his strength. He broke free and came charging at me. Right as he approached the door, the club manager popped him right in the nose with his fist. The punch in the face stunned him and caused him to take a step back. His friends again tried to hold him back, but now he was even angrier.
Just like the cauguama to the head, I got blamed for the punch in the nose. Mr. Basketball focused so intently on me that I was all he could see. Even when the short red-headed Jesus look-alike manager decked him, he thought it was me who had done him harm. He probably saw my face on the guy he laid out in the street too. That guy was a coworker named Ruben.
Ruben was a young man who slung coffees by day and drinks by night. I’m not sure what his hidden talent was. Everyone in Guanajuato had a hidden talent. Diego’s was photography. The red-headed manager was a classically trained guitarist. I guess mine was writing. What was Ruben’s? I don’t recall. Was he a sketch artist or something? It doesn’t matter.
Ruben looked up to me for no justified reason other than my size. During spare moments in his shift, he’d riddle me with questions like a little kid. “How tall are you?” “Did you ever go to war?” “Do you know martial arts?” I loved the attention and played into it as best I could. “I am two meters tall” (if I round up). “I spent a year in Iraq” (I never left the base). “I know Krav Maga” (by know I mean I watched some YouTube videos). Ruben ate up my half-truths, and my ego got a boost as a result.
Ruben had a rare night off that night, but like people often do on their day off, he came to work. He didn’t tie on his apron though. This night was a night of drinking and dancing, but when all yelling and fighting started, he felt obligated to help because he somehow knew Mr. Basketball.
“I’ll go talk to him,” Ruben said in a tone that suggested that for once he’d be the one to handle a situation in the bar instead of me.
Mr. Basketball continued to raise hell out in the street. He yelled for me to come out. He charged the door to the club. His friends tried to restrain him, but he was big and strong, and they weren’t having much success. He made such a scene that the crowd from the bar stuck around to see what was going to happen.
When innocent and cheerful Ruben approached him, Mr. Basketball broke free from his friends and threw a punch hitting Ruben square on the jaw, dropping him instantly to the cobblestone street.
With the crowd that had formed, the backed up traffic on the one-way city street, and a bloodied asshole yelling threats at the top of his lungs, I think it is safe to say we were all expecting the police to show up any second.
I recall one of the bartenders told me, “No, David,” (Of course they pronounced my name in Spanish, Dah-veed) discouraging me from going out to confront Mr. Basketball because the cops would be there soon enough.
I eagerly complied.
I admit I didn’t want to fight this guy. Yes I was bigger, and yes, my size worked to my advantage in most cases, but this would not be one of them. He was in better shape, more athletic, angrier, and although he was drunk out of his mind, it seemed his ability to fight might have sharpened as the night progressed while mine got duller with every swig of beer I took. Not to mention, I’m not a fighter.
My size alone had usually been enough to get me through situations like these. In most cases, people behaved or backed down for fear of having to tangle with me. In the rare occasion that I had to get physical, being big and strong was enough to restrain someone or overpower them till help arrived.
This is how it worked when I bounced back in St. Louis. I didn’t have to ever fight someone. I’d just take them to the ground and hold them there long enough for the rest of my buddies to come and help me escort them out. It usually never took more than a few seconds as bouncers are always eager to get physical and have a sixth sense about when an opportunity is about to arise.
Another big difference between bouncing in the States compared to Mexico is the advantage you have over people simply because you are sober. Or at least more sober than they are. In St. Louis, I’d wait till the band’s last set before I started drinking. But in Mexico, I got paid in beer.
I didn’t wait until the third set either; there was no band. I started my shift with a 24 ounce Sol, and when that was empty, I gave it to the bartender who replaced it with another. This went on until four a.m. It was nearly four a.m. on the night that Mr. Basketball started acting a fool and I was shit-faced.
There was a point in my life where my size attracted violence. People loved to pick on the big dufus that I was especially because I let them down with my lack of athleticism. After getting bullied as a freshman and half of my sophomore year of high school in California, I vowed when we moved to Missouri to never let anyone bully me again. I knew my size could be intimidating, so I used that to my advantage. I threw in “I’m a badass from the streets of Los Angeles” attitude for support. (I always thought it would be funny to say I grew up on the streets of LA and then recant a bit and say, well the sidewalks at least.) It was all a front. To back it all up though, I broke up a lot of fights at parties and stuff. Of course, they were of people who were a lot smaller than me — my manhandling of them was a display of my power.
It worked, for the most part. Throughout the years, someone would occasionally call my bluff, and I’d have to talk my way out of a tricky situation or maybe get punched in the jaw, but I never had to actually fight anyone.
The only time I ever really squared off with a guy was with a big muscle-bound dude in the parking lot of a bowling alley in Yuba City, California. We each put up our dukes and threw a couple of punches as we encircled each other. This dance seemed to go on forever. When no one broke up our “fight,” we both decided that the mere mentioning of the cops was enough for us to part ways. It turned out this big dude was also a fake tough-guy.
Regardless of all of this, when Mr. Basketball decked sweet Ruben for no reason, I decided to step out into the street and confront this pain in the ass. He wanted to fight me so bad then fine, let’s fight.
Guanajuato is a majestic historic mining town. Because of its significance to the revolution, it is a huge tourist attraction for Mexicans. The university draws in droves of international students every semester. Many US-Americans, Canadians, Australians, and Europeans come to visit and never leave. Also, with no beach within hundreds of miles, there is a particular type of demographic that does not visit this lovely city — yet another attractive feature.
With the amount of money that comes into the city and the mountainous landscape, real estate is limited. Much like San Fransisco, buildings are butted up to each other. In some cases, the only way to tell where one building ends and another begins is the change in paint color.
Most of the streets downtown are one way and cobblestone. I can hear the rumble of the taxis’ tires over the road like a baseball card hitting the spokes of a bicycle wheel. The rattle speeds up and slows down with the acceleration and braking of the vehicle.
The stone sidewalks, which are the only thing separating the front of the buildings from oncoming traffic, are only wide enough for one person. When you meet someone coming from the opposite direction, one of you has to step off into the street. Hopefully, a bus isn’t coming when this happens.
When I walked out into the street that night, it was if I had stepped down into a small canyon or a wash in the Arizona desert — walls so high on each side that if you looked up, all you could see was the night sky. Both two-story buildings and people lined the narrow street shoulder to shoulder, ready to watch somebody get their ass kicked.
It must have looked like a scene from a movie. These giant eight-foot wooden doors open up and out walks the protagonist — a giant of a man who doesn’t want to fight but has relented to after seeing the antagonist bring harm to his friend.
It felt like a gladiator who just stepped out into the arena, ready to meet his challenger. The crowd cheered in response and began to chant. “De-ja-lo, De-ja-lo!” (Let him go, let him go)
Usually, taxis would be zooming down the street at this time, taking home drunks and charging them too much for it but as if to add to the drama, this whole commotion had stopped traffic dead. Leaving a line of backed-up cars shinning their headlights down the street — onto me.
After I stepped out, Mr. Basketball’s friends must have gotten stronger because he could no longer break free from their grip. He struggled with them as I’m sure they told him stuff like, “Let’s go, man. It’s not worth it” or “The cops are coming” or “You don’t want to do this.” But Mr. Basketball persisted. Though he couldn’t break free, he continued to let me and everyone else know how badly he wanted to fight me.
Meanwhile, I was drunk out of my gourd and had a hard time focusing. I managed to look up the street and could see the silhouette of Mr. Basketball and his friends backlit by the headlights of the halted taxi cabs.
As the crowd continued to chant “De-ja-lo,” I thought to myself, Well, I guess you have to fight this guy. Don’t get your ass kicked.
“De-ja-lo,” the crowd ordered. “De-ja-lo.”
I closed my fists and got into a fighting stance and waited for them to let-him-go.
I wasn’t sure how this was going to turn out, but I was ready to get it over with.
With the pressure of the crowd looming and Mr. Basketball’s insistence on wanting to fight me, I can imagine his friends saying, “You want to fight this guy then fine,” as they loosened their grip and pushed him away.
In my drunken state, I could barely make out my opponent, but I could see that his friends no longer restrained him.
Here we go, I thought.
Mr. Basketball paced back and forth and continued to yell, continued to bleed, and continued to threaten me. And then he turned and walked away.
The crowd was quite disappointed. I, however, was relieved. I walked back into that bar a hero — reputation intact — and I didn’t have to throw one punch or take any.
The next day the thought of Mr. Basketball coming back concerned me a little, but then I realized he was long gone. People tend to some of the dumbest shit when they are drunk. I know I have. If I were to ever wake up in an unfamiliar city after a drunken night where I assaulted a local’s girlfriend, punked-out in front of a crowd of people in the street, and had my head split open from a thrown cauguama, getting the hell out of Dodge would be my first thought — not exacting revenge.
After this incident, I started questioning my tough-guy persona. What good was putting up this front doing me? About a month later, I gave up bouncing and my front. A decision I realized was long overdue after I got intimidated and out bluffed by another fake tough guy, a cholo who claimed to be a kickboxing champion. But that is another story.