Gooning / n. / the random beating of an unsuspecting victim, usually by a goon gang
Usually when I cross the Williamsburg Bridge this late at night I’m thinking, “This would be the perfect place for a random act of violence.”
But this particular time the thought didn’t occur because I was engrossed in a cell phone conversation—that is, an argument—with my girlfriend. We were at that stage in the proceedings when you are technically still arguing yet have started to exchange backhanded apologies and you know that the end of the argument is near.
At this point I noticed a slender, remarkably tall figure approaching me. It is true that Sonny Rollins used to practice on this very bridge, but this man was not the Grammy Award-winning tenor saxophonist. Rather, he wore an oversized baseball cap and a shirt down to his knees and it seemed that he had just one arm. I thought, “How strange that this slender man is armless… and that he isn’t giving me much space to walk in.” And then the man drew back his hidden arm and suddenly there was a fist jamming my leftmost eyeball into the bones that hold the eyeball in place so that you can see.
I was struck in a most brutal and surprising fashion by this fellow pedestrian. A good old-fashioned blow to the cranium. I was clocked as I walked. I was punched and my eyeball scrunched. A balled up hand made life not so grand.
I got gooned under the moon.
I think the man said something at this point. One guesses that it was something highly exclamatory—after all he had just schooled a man and if the recruitment ads on the subway have it right, teaching is an extremely rewarding profession—but I must admit that my recollection of these events is cloudy.
I do remember saying “What the hell?” as if asking, “Why did you just splash water on my pant cuffs with your Vespa?” Meanwhile the back of my head was tingling like I had just mainlined Selson Blue.
I was drawing my hands to my eyeball, and to ascertain that my crucial ocular device had not fallen to the pavement and rolled into traffic; and of course to indicate to this gentleman that his figurative club stroke had landed just shy of the Acceptable hole on the proverbial golf course of social comportment.
In fact, if you will humor the image of this man on the fairway—and indeed his baseball cap identified him as a lover of sport—it would be safe to say that he hit the ball right into the Ass hole. Or I’ll tell you what, let’s skip all the hole imagery and just say that it was like instead of hitting the ball from the tee he had unexpectedly put his club down and punched his caddie in the face before a crowd of spectators.
And it is true there were spectators— appreciative ones, even—because as soon as this man juked me with his dukes, a couple of his friends on bikes called out, “Oh shit!!” like saying “Oh shit!! I’m definitely writing home about this!!” or “Oh shit, check it out! Saddam Hussein is in this foxhole.”
At this point I realized it was three on one and more to the point, it was three guys who had not been suddenly violated in the facial region against one guy who had indeed been unexpectedly facially violated.
This is when I started running like Ralph Nader for president.
I ran like blood down the legs of Carrie in the movie of the same name. I ran Lola ran. I ran like Johnny Depp’s nose in the later scenes of Blow. I ran like the guy in the Flock of Seagulls song “I ran,” or ran like a guy from a flock of seagulls in Alfred Hitchcock’sThe Birds,or rather I ran like a guy who is running from a video store clerk who’s like, “Hey you owe $3.50 for returning Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds late, plus there’s a rewind fee.”
There was less hope of catching my breath than there is hope of catching Osama bin Laden.
I told my girlfriend, “I’m going to have to call you back.” I was running so fast that I caught up to a Chinese delivery guy on a bike who I think said something like “Are you okay?” or “What’s going down chuckles,” I’m not sure which because I don’t speak Cantonese, and I sometimes don’t understand Cantonese people when they speak English. I didn’t know what to say to him. I knew he would understand the words “won ton” so I thought about telling him that I had been a victim of wanton aggression. He also knew the words dim sum—and my vision had definitely dimmed some. But then he was speeding away as if he was late for a Sonny Rollins concert.
Finally I was across the bridge and there in front of me was the po-po. La poli. The cops. I made a mad dash down the bike ramp and chased them around the corner and up the block until they stopped.
The cops took me to other side of the bridge. They asked me was this guy light-skinned or dark-skinned. I said I don’t know, because that’s kind of relative-compared to Steve Martin, Ricky Martin is pretty dark-skinned, but compared to Martin Lawrence, Ricky Martin is pretty light-skinned.
The white cop said, “Was he dark skinned or was he light skinned like us?” but meanwhile his partner was a dark-skinned black man, so what’s that about? Oh, you mean light-skinned like us—like us to two white guys? I told him the guy was dark-skinned and was wearing a big baseball cap and had his shirt down to his knees and he punched me unexpectedly, and apparently this is enough to get a guy arrested in Manhattan (or Brooklyn, I’m not sure which side of the bridge we were technically on), which is what they did when some cop on the bridge found the guy. It turns out he had just gotten out of prison that day. The report said they found “marihuana” on him, which is how they spelled it in this sentence:
Deponent is further informed by the informant that the informant has had professional training as a police officer in the identification of marihuana, has previously made arrests for the criminal possession of marihuana, has previously seized marihuana, which was determined to be such by a chemical analysis in a police department laboratory, and the substance in this case possesses the same physical characteristics as such previously chemically identified substance and by professional training and experiences as a police officer is familiar with the common methods of packaging marihuana and the glassine envelope used to package the substance in this case is a commonly used method of packaging such substance. Based on the foregoing, in informant’s opinion, the substance in this case is marihuana.”
They shined a light on him and imagine how discombobulating it was to discover that he was wearing a Yankees cap. Just a few days ago I had been booed at Shea Stadium by Mets fans for being a Yankees fan, and now this fellow Yanks fan had launched a rocket into my eye socket without even asking me about the game last night. There is no way to win in this town unless you root for the Coney Island Cyclones who as far as I know don’t breed this sort of random violence.
They took me to a station house where I shared a bench with a prostitute and her bag of platform shoes. They took a Polaroid shot of the hot air balloon that used to be my eyebrow, first once then twice because the cop couldn’t work the Polaroid. The prostitute said, “You got to get it closer on him.”
The ambulance medics arrived and discussed how cute the arresting officer was. Then they argued about how exactly my injury should be listed.
“It’s a concussion. I mean a contusion.”
“Nah, it’s a sarcoma.”
“It’s a contusion because it’s not colored.”
“It is colored.”
“It ain’t colored. It’s a concussion. I mean a contusion.”
“It’s a gathering of blood, that’s what a sarcoma is.”
“Keep it simple, stupid.”
Then they put me in an ambulance and we drove to the hospital. They asked me “On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad is your pain?”
I thought, 1 being an orgasm with a porn star and 10 being a punch in the face, I’m about a 10.
Then we got to the hospital. The size of the lump that was enthusiastically inflating on my face was unexpectedly bested by the tremendous size of the nurse at reception. They took me into the delousing unit were various homeless guys were lying in bed smelling not so good. A nurse emerged from behind a curtain holding a gigantic pitcher of urine.
There was a cop standing next to me asking a big lanky man, “Did they stab you with a knife or a pen?”
They told me to go wait by the TV and someone from Trauma would call me in. I sat down in the waiting room, where a bunch of people where watching Blind Date. One guy was cackling gleefully. Sadly I couldn’t read the speech bubbles because I had an ice pack over my leftmost eye and even when I took the ice pack off I found that my swollen eyelid was unceremoniously dry-humping my precious, tender vision membrane.
After an hour I still hadn’t been called. I wasn’t about to watch an entire episode of The Drew Carey Show, so I wandered into the trauma unit. A Pakistani doctor was saying, “He got shot but it didn’t puncture the bone.”
A big stocky Irish mustachioed detective put it this way: “Easy in, easy out.”
Finally, I decided to leave. I never did get looked at, but with the money I blew on the 3-minute ambulance ride, I could’ve bought a top-of-the-line iPod and downloaded “What a Wonderful World.” Or bought a one-way plane ticket to the City of Brotherly Love. Lots of things. When I think about it, I want to punch myself in the eye.