Digressions of J. Charles
You Talking to Me, Punk!
© July 27, 2009
J. Charles Cheek
A recent horoscope for me read, “If you’re not getting what you want today, whether it is ice cream flavors or respect, don’t put up with it. Your cheeky assertiveness will be attractive and compelling today, so don’t be afraid to get tough in negotiations.” It reminded me of my last fist fight.
The fight occurred on my birthday in a back alley of downtown Yakima, Washington. I was between my Sophomore and Junior year in high school. A school buddy and I were “cruising the gut” when a punk on the sidewalk called to us as we drove by. My buddy stopped his car and I yelled out, “What did you say?” He said, “You look like a f…ing monkey!” I replied, “Meet me in the alley and we’ll see who the monkey is?”
We drove around to the alley and waited for the punk to arrive. He came swaggering in with three or four smaller punks following him. He took off his jacket and handed it to one of his assistant punks. He turned toward me with one of those combination smug and confident looks. He took the typical boxer stance, crouched with closed fists in the defensive position, then started sniffing through his nose as he shuffled his feet. He came sniffing and dancing toward me. As he jabbed the air with is left hand I quickly stepped forward and launched a left handed haymaker that caught him flush in the mouth and knocked him to the pavement. As he shook his head, wiped his bloody lip and slowly got to his feet one of his little punk admirers said. “Guess you don’t know Al is a Golden Glove Champion. You’re in trouble now.”
Figuring I had got in a lucky punch I decided to wrestle rather than box. I grabbed him by the neck and threw him to the pavement. He hung on to me and I went down too. We rolled around on the pavement alternating with him on top then me on top until we were both completely exhausted. He gasped, “Let’s call it a draw.” I I nodded in agreement. We let go of each other, struggled to our feet, shook hands and went our separate ways, perhaps to meet again sometime in another alley. The clothes I was wearing for the firs time were a birthday present from my folks. My new dress slacks and dress shirt were a dirty, bloody, and tattered mess.
I remember a much bigger fight that I was involved in four years later. On July 27, 1953, I was in a bunker on the fighting line when the Korean War armistice became effective. Today as I write this piece it is the 56th anniversary of the armistice. That war was sometimes referred to as a ‘police action’ by the United Nations. It was also referred to as the ‘Korean Conflict.’ Many call it the ‘Forgotten War.’ In reality that war was a “draw.” A draw! After 22 countries of United Nations had 95,000 deaths and 555,000 wounded – a draw. The U.S. alone had almost 54,246 deaths and nearly 103,284 wounded. The Chinese had some 900,000 casualties and North Korean around 600,000. For what? A draw? North Korea still defiantly stands erect in a fighting position. Have you seen the photos of the North Korean soldiers guarding their side of the armistice site at Panmunjom? Poker faced, standing rigid, fists clenched as they project the image of being ready to fight. Perhaps the image they are portraying is appropriate because, technically, the Korean War is just in a lull. Hopefully, in a permanent lull but nevertheless it is a temporary cessation of fighting – an armistice. Will North Korea launch the first jab? Will the U.S. respond, “You talking to us, punk!”
After Korea came the Vietnam War. The U.S. lost that one. Yes, lost. Lost! After seven years of fighting the U.S. count was 58,209 killed, 303,635 plus 1,948 missing in action. Finally, the U.S. simply withdrew and allowed the North Vietnamese to take over the entire country.
Now there is Iraq. Is it another draw? Or is it a loss? We’re pulling our troops out of Iraq and sending many of them to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban. The U.S. invaded Afghanistan to hunt down the radical group, Al-Qaeda, who brought down the twin towers in New York City. The Taliban ruled the country and were allowing Al-Qaeda to train there. Now we’re fighting the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. How will it end? Draw? Loss? Win?
My father was very upset that I had ruined my new birthday clothes in a street fight and chewed me out. He was not impressed with my explanation of ‘defending my honor.’ My stepmother closed the discussion with a final comment, “Why don’t you young folks just find a way to get along.” Indeed, why don’t we?
E – N – D