Team Nihilism vs. Team Marxism
The ropes were loose dirty pieces of twine. I pulled them apart and went through. The crowd cheered as I stepped into the soiled ring. Dirt, sludge, and human slime slicked the canvass, making it slippery while wearing shoes. The “referee”, a motorcycle jacket–attired member of the East Bay Rats, asked me if I'd fought before. I nodded. The referee had us remove our shoes. My opponent, a stocky bald bro, looked silly in his socks. He took them off and put on his gloves. The referee brought us together and the fight began.
The East Bay Anarchist book fair, a small and sordid affair, took place at the Humanist Hall in Oakland earlier this month. This year, the book fair sponsored a Fight Night at the local motorcycle club house and dubbed the event “Team Nihilism vs. Team Marxism”. The East Bay Rats’ outhouse is a two-room dump on San Pablo avenue, a well-known thoroughfare for ladies of the night and, more recently, riots. The Club was lined outside with motorcycles and a bearded mormon-looking man took my money at the door. He assured me that the majority of the money would go to the local anti-repression committee. (The organizer later told me that over $1000 went to support those recently arrested in the Ferguson riots.)
As I entered the dimly lit front room, "Deathdrive,” a local punk band, railed against Oakland's mayor Jean Quan, famous for her blubbering mishaps with Occupy Oakland just a few years ago. The throbbing of the band's bass and guitar shoved the crowd into the other room and towards the ring.
I pushed to the front of the black-clad mass (the event was more nihilist than Marxist by the look and smell of things), dodging cheap beer cans and maneuvering around garbage bins full of rubbish, to the ring. Two women were fighting, one from the local jiujitsu dojo, Suigetsukan, and another from a nearby Muay Thai gym. The two women fought with unconfined venom with the Muay Thai woman biting into the dojo attendant with kicks, punches, elbows and knees. The latter's face lumped and swelled as the fight went on. The bruising blossomed into a supernova of black, blue, and yellow. The lead singer of Death Drive screamed out “How does a magnolia bloom in the shade of its own leaves” with a violence that lent a harmonic brutality to the events in the ring. The battle ended not after the woman from the dojo had physically had enough – she wanted to go on – but at the decision of the referee. Both of the women's chests heaved as the referee held up the unbruised Muay Thai practitioner's hand in the air. The crowd cheered for blood spilled, getting exactly what they wished for.
The next contestants were brought to the ring.The bouts were set up randomly with participants matched up by going into the ring, followed by a call for volunteers, or participants finding opponents themselves. The second contest was a more evenly matched fight between a hipster with long hair and a tattooed tough guy. They pawed at each other like kittens still too young to realize they have claws. They pounced on each other with their 14 oz mitts (far bigger than the 10 oz gloves professional boxers wear) until they tired.
I found my opponent in the crowd. He was standing with friends and wore a green shirt. I was pretty sure he wasn’t a nihilist, I was pretty sure he wasn’t a Marxist, I was certain he wasn’t a nihilist communist (as in, he’d probably never heard of Monsieur Dupont) but I did know he wanted to fight. He outweighed me by twenty pounds of muscle. He looked beefcaked with the testosterone of a man who’s been fed a steady diet of corn, sports, and Tom Clancy novels. We were called up.
The fight began. He came out brawling, swinging his fists to and fro like he was cutting down a field of hay. I blocked, stretching out my lead left arm to find him, while my right covered the top of my head. His blows hit my arms. They thudded against the hard part of my head. We slipped and tangled. The ring was wet. I moved forward, pushing, probing, stalking him down. He kept beating at my shell. I picked my shots waiting.
“Establish your jab! Establish your jab,” my corner cried. Her voice cut through the din of the crowd but I only half-listened. There were only punches and the desire to punch.
The crowd counted down. “10, 9, 8…” The referee broke us up and I went back to my corner. Three minutes had passed.
“You’re doing fine. He’s getting tired. Try to hit him in the body more and look for his punches,” my corner told me. She gave me a sip of water. She had experience from The Golden Gloves.
The referee brought us back together into the marriage of ring violence. My bro opponent was tired. He’d punched himself out. My march forward was gaining steam and he was losing his. I threw a cross. His head snapped back. I punched him to the body, a woosh of air expelled out. Broken petals of a red magnolia flower fluttered down his face. The round ended. I raised my hands. I walked to the ropes. The crowd chanted.
“Do you want to keep fighting?” the referee asked me.
“Sure, if he does.” It wasn’t my first time at the rodeo. I was there for fun.
“Yes or no?”
“Always say yes,” my corner said.
The bro was slumped in his corner. More red petals had budded out of his nose. He was beat. The referee raised my hand. The crowd cheered.
I got out of the ring and put on my shoes. I felt emotional. Adrenal was spreading like lava throughout my body turning it red and making me hot. People congratulated me. I walked by the bathroom.
“Hey thanks for beating up that guy. He was saying before how he wanted to punch a black dude. That was great,” some vaguely familiar white guy said to me. “He was a fucking racist.”
I nodded. I said nothing about all the times I’d been racist.
I walked out. I said goodbye to friends. My opponent walked out.
“How are you?”
“Tired. So fucking tired,” he replied. He stumbled away, his friends trying to hold him steady.
I shrugged and went home.