A reprint of an Arts DEVO classic
Arts DEVO is on vacation. Enjoy this classic column from July 10, 2014.
Roll coal, kill Arts DEVO I know how I’m going to die. It’s not going to be heart disease, cancer or a rollover on Highway 99; it turns out that my greatest risk factor for being pushed off this mortal coil is Prius repellant. You know, those enormous plumes of soot that gush from the exhaust pipes of snickering truck-nutters who point their enhanced pipes at anything smaller than their giant four-wheelers—motorcycles, bikes, pedestrians and especially hybrid cars—and “Roll Coal!!!”
This is a real thing. Thousands of dollars are spent just to modify diesel engines to leave a monster-truck-size carbon footprint in poisonous protest to, supposedly, [former] President Obama’s environmental policies. And being a caveman myself, this is just the sort of mindless grunting and banging that sets my amygdala all atwitter, giving me the overwhelming urge to whip my own club out and start swinging it around the circle.
Bully up! I hate bullies (and despite whatever claims of political protest are made in explanation of coal rolling, those assholes are merely bullies), but I have never actually been in a real fight. I’ve been beaten up several times—all before the age of 18—but I’ve never even thrown a real punch at anyone. However, as a kid growing up in Redding, I was pretty good at mouthing off and instigating fights, and from grade school through high school I always had a bully or three at the ready, more than happy to oblige.
One of the more memorable of my nemeses was a barrel-chested bear I ran into during the ninth grade. We had P.E. together, and one Friday morning before class he was entertaining the gathered with a game of keep-away. He’d snatched the hat off the head of a particularly self-conscious and rail-thin classmate we called Billy Idol and was daring him to retrieve it. (We called the guy Billy Idol because his bleached-blond hair was gelled stiff and standing on end in badass Idol fashion, and he wore the hat because some members of our class relentlessly mocked his daring sense of style.)
When the chance presented itself, I swatted the hat out of the bully’s hand and handed it back to Billy Idol. I was immediately “called out,” as was the custom of the day, and for some reason the call-out was scheduled for the following Monday morning before school on the track around the football field.
Having a weekend to stew about my fate and get increasingly freaked out by my cousin Mike telling me how much of a notorious beast this guy apparently was, I desperately devised a plan for survival. My cousin and I decided I had to strike first and strike cheap.
So, standing on the dirt track that cool, fateful morning—watching a giddy crowd streaming toward the track site in anticipation—I suggested to my bully that we move the fight to the grass. After taking a couple steps toward the field, I turned and, before he could react, kicked him square in the Li’l Bully.
He barely flinched.
After the first punch fattened my lip, I retreated to a face-down position and let him tire himself out on my ribs and the back of my skull.
Despite the humbling ordeal, I still continued to poke at the angry bear—by making grunting noises at him in the hallways, even slow dancing with his girlfriend at a party—prompting more pain and a decent amount of spilled blood. I was an idiot for sure. I wonder if still am?