Posts Tagged ‘preppy’

Bullies at a Catholic school? You betcha! And while they were nothing more than a rag-tag group of two-bit tough guys and shit-talkers, they managed to make my last two years of high school a living hell.

Sometime near the end of my sophomore year at Hamady High School, I had the brilliant idea to transfer to Powers Catholic High School for my junior and senior years. For those of you who read my four-part series Fat Boys are Back (And J.P. is Under Attack), you’ll know that a big part of why I decided to change schools was because I felt that I didn’t fit in at Hamady, and it was a school in which I had no friends. I was wrong, of course, but I didn’t realize that then. I foolishly thought that at Powers – which had about four times the amount of students as Hamady – I could surely find at least one or two people to call a friend. (Such things were important to me then.) I also didn’t think it was a big deal because I had attended a Catholic junior high school in Flint, Michigan (Donovan Mayotte), so transferring from a public to a Catholic school wasn’t exactly uncharted waters for me.

I was right about one thing – Powers had about four times as many students … and easily as many bullies.

To be honest, I was warned that transferring in my junior year was probably not a brilliant idea. Many people told me that by eleventh grade, most people’s friendships and social cliques were well established, and breaking into a circle of friends as a complete stranger would prove a Augean task. I was undaunted in my desire to switch schools, however, due in large part to the effects of the ill-fated attempt to see the Fat Boys perform at the Capitol Theatre and the unfortunate social falling out that ensued. And so, following the tumultuous summer of 1986, I marched into Powers Catholic with the intention of linking up with like-minded students and finally finding what I’d been searching for all along – a place where I belonged. Instead, I learned some valuable lessons about the weakness of human character, both mine and those who tried to torment me.

In their infinite wisdom, the administrations at Powers Catholic set me on a course to be shamed by my fellow students before I ever set foot in a classroom. Being a mere peasant from a small public school, I was stuck in several classes a year below my academic level. Being surrounded by sophomores was rather embarrassing, to be honest, and I’m still convinced that I was one of many victims of Powers’ caste system. After all, while my family had one of the biggest houses in Mayfair (my old neighborhood, aka “the hood”), it was a shack compared to the homes those rich Powers kids lived in. I didn’t even have my own car in those days, yet many of these kids were rolling into the parking lot in Mercedes Benzs or BMWs! The biggest drawback to being placed in these remedial classes was that it gave these rich little shits plenty of ammunition to use against me, and it was usually along the lines of me being “dumb,” “stupid,” etc. Having a bit of a mouth on me myself, I always fired back, which is how I often ran afoul of Powers resident bullies.

The bullies at Powers, for the most part, fell into two distinct cliques – The Preppy Gang and The Stoners. To call either of these this rag-tag collections momma’s boys and second-rate juvenile delinquents “bullies” might be giving them too much credit, however. The Preppy Gang had a “fight-one, fight-us-all” mentality, which more or less made them a gang, albeit one that wore heavy corduroy pants with huge grooves, penny loafers, and the latest Polo/Brooks Brothers/L.L. Bean ensembles. This group also liked to engage in something I call “bullying-by-proxy,” in that they would enlist older guys in my class to try to fuck with me because the members of The Preppy Gang were a far too effeminate bunch to actually step up and go toe-to-toe.

As for The Stoners, they were pretty much your garden variety 80s burnout crew – puffy mullets, cheap corduroys, ill-fitting collared shirts, and untied high-top sneakers. This group was more likely to throw a wild haymaker, since that’s what they occasionally did at their drink- and drug-fueled weekend parties that became part of lunchroom lore. They really should’ve been called “The Boners” because each one of them acted like the gigantic, vein-laden cock they likely wished they had between their legs.

Whether it was The Preppy Gang or The Stoners, both groups seemed as though they were always looking for a fight. Me being a thin, small-statured, socially awkward loner who didn’t have any backup to call upon made me the ideal target. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s move on to the bullies themselves.
The Little King
My trouble with The Preppy Gang began the day I crossed paths with a girlish, limp-wristed dandy whom I call Little King. Like all members of this little sewing circle, Little King had a nasty little mouth on him, along with the complete inability to back it up. This would’ve proven a lethal combination had his royal majesty spent one semester at Hamady; but since this was Powers, such behavior was not only tolerated, it was considered the norm for these privileged pansies. Sometime early in Felix Lehmkuhle’s science class, the Little King decided to pop off at the mouth, calling me “stupid” or “retarded” or something like that, whereupon I promptly informed him that I would snatch the perceived crown from his head and shove it up his ass so far he wouldn’t be able to breathe. Little King indulged himself in the obligatory ruffling of feathers and mumbling under his breath, but he did so whilst steadily backing away from me. Foolishly, I thought that would be the end of things; but later that week, I was confronted once more by the Little King and he had brought his royal court with him … all of whom claiming they would jump me and kick my ass.
The Pinoy Powerhouse
Old grudges die hard, which is why it’s no surprise that the Pinoy Powerhouse was willing to step up and fight me on behalf of the Little King. Short yet rather stocky and with a hot temper to match, this Filipino fighter and I had gone at it many years earlier at Donovan South, one of the many Catholic junior high schools that feed into Powers. I don’t quite remember what the argument was about back then, but the fight consisted of us hurling insults whilst circling each other, and the highlight being both of us landing hooks at precisely the same time, causing each of us to stumble backwards and begin our circling and taunting once more. Much like my run-in with the Little King – and our earlier fight at Donovan – the Pinoy Powerhouse and I traded insults back and forth in the lunchroom, both of us swearing to destroy the other. In other words, nothing more than the rattling to sabers was to be seen that day.
Ol’ Buckethead
If you have a mother like mine, do yourself a favor and DO NOT take social advice from her. If you do, you might end up in a fight with an asshole like Ol’ Buckethead. A tangential member of The Preppy Gang, Ol’ Buckethead’s appearance really lived up to that moniker. Although a year younger than me, this unfortunate lad was already losing his hair by his sophomore year. In fact, his hairline was receding so much that it made his head look like the head of a man in his 60s, which is not a good look for a tenth-grader … and even worse if one’s head is shaped like a bucket flipped on its side and slammed atop a skinny, pencil-like neck. Anyway, in her ongoing efforts to increase my shame and humiliation, Mommy Dearest suggested I be more personable, perhaps say “hello” to my fellow students, and maybe I might make a friend.

Against my better judgment, I walked into Lehmkuhle’s science class (in retrospect, most of my troubles seemed to originate there), and made my way to my seat. Since Buckethead sat next to me, I decided to say, “Hey man. What’s up?” as I sat down. Suddenly, that elongated, head snapped ’round in my direction and he said, “You don’t know me, motherfucker! I’ll kick your fuckin’ ass!” Like my encounters with the rest of The Preppy Gang, I was able to keep Ol’ Buckethead from jumping up out of his Sperry Topsiders and swinging wildly upon me by uttering a few choice words of my own.

Suffice to say, Mom’s advice did not work and Buckethead and I never became friends nor mended fences. Instead, he soon threw his lot in with The Preppy Gang to present a united front against the odd stranger who dared enter their midst. (Update: after a bit of cyber-sleuthing, I was able to locate Ol’ Buckethead’s Faceboook profile. True to my suspicions, he’s as bald as a buzzard these days and his head is as gigantic and bulbous as ever. I mean, it’s shaped like a fucking light bulb!)
Little Italy
I don’t have anything against Italians; in fact, some of my best friends trace their ancestry to “The Boot.” But the bully I’m about to describe was not only a proud Italian, he was also a rather stereotypical one, right down to the dark, slicked-back hair and golden horn pendant he wore around his neck on a gold chain. To put it bluntly, this guy was Jersey Shore LONG before the world ever heard of the likes of Vinnie and Paulie D. And mama mia! did he have a temper! I say’a, Mistah Italy! What’s a’matta wit you?

At the height of my feud with The Preppy Gang, I was heading down the hall on my way to class, when I turned the corner and was walking right through Preppy Rowe. From both sides of me, I became taunted by the likes of Little King and the rest of those effeminate momma’s boys that that made up that clique. Naturally, I fired back with some insults and threats of my own, and the next thing I know, all four-feet, two inches of Little Italy was suddenly in my face, screaming about how he’ll tear my head off for “talkin’ shit” to his friends. To this, his so-called “friends” giggled and squealed like a bunch of cheerleaders on prom night, no doubt relieved that someone was willing to carry their tattered banner into battle on their behalf. In the end, it boiled down to me – the Slovak Warrior – and Little Italy both daring the other to “take the first swing,” and this macho charade ended the moment the bell for class began to ring.
The Anabolic Israeli Commando
One of the toughest (self-proclaimed) members of The Stoners was The Anabolic Israeli Commando. Tall and with a dark brown mullet, The A.I.C. was proud of his Jewish heritage and was often seen reading Soldier of Fortune magazine during class and no doubt dreaming of engaging in heated battles in the Gaza strip. He also had arguably the most well-developed musculature in all of the school, the result of his near-fanatical weightlifting regimen. It was long rumored that this was boosted by a steady regimen of steroids. No one dared say this to him, though, for to do so would mean certain death at his hands … which coincidentally, makes the rumor that much more believable. (It also didn’t help that his father – a physician – was convicted with unlawful distribution of prescription drugs, possession of machine guns, and other charges.)

Long story short, The A.I.C. and I had a class together, one rowdy remedial math class that was so out of control, that fights, near-fights, and shit-talking were a daily occurrence. Similar to my aborted bout with Little Italy, I initially ran afoul of The A.I.C. when another student – Froggy – got in over his head with some shit-talking to me. It was a classic case of battleship mouth/rowboat ass, but Froggy had an ace up his sleeve. He walked up to me with The A.I.C. in tow and said, “If you try to do anything to me, you’ll have to go through him.” From that day forward, I became The A.I.C.’s sworn enemy, and he became mine. And so began a school year-long dance of shit-talking, threats, and near battles that all boiled to a head one balmy day near the end of my junior year.

I remember walking into class and heading toward my desk, which meant passing by The A.I.C.’s desk in the next row. As I was preparing to sit down, A.I.C. socked me rather hard in the shoulder. Without thinking, I spun and drilled him in his chest, just above his heart … a move that sealed my fate. “I’m gonna kick your ass after class,” he said. And he meant it! Like all bullies – Stoners, in particular – there is “the rule”: they can do whatever they want to you, but you don’t dare do the same to them. If you do, you better be able to back it up. Well, true to his word, he followed me out into the hall and handed his books to one of his sycophants. I handed my books to an acquaintance and prepared for what I had convinced myself would be the ultimate ass-whipping.

The A.I.C. began swinging on me, connecting with my face with a couple of hooks. Admittedly, he got a few good shots in before I grabbed both of his wrists to immobilize him. I still remember the look of shock in his eyes when his overdeveloped biceps were unable to pull loose of my grasp. (Apparently, adrenaline strength trumps steroids.) To his credit, A.I.C. improvised by pushing my head down into his oncoming knee – it might have been once, it might have been twice – causing a hairline fracture in my nose. I pushed him off of me, knocking him back against the lockers and jumped back out of range, quickly assessing the damage to my face – bloody nose. Then, he and I locked eyes – Guilt? Fear? Remorse? Apathy? – that caused him to freeze. I did too … for a moment. Then the thought of charging forward and slamming my fist into his face bubbled up from my primordial subconscious just as the teachers swarmed the scene to separate us and usher us to the office.

To this day, my biggest regret was allowing my fear of The A.I.C. to overwhelm me. This fear, not his punches or even his bone-crunching Muay Thai kneestrikes – allowed him to win that fight. Did my nose feel broken? Yes. Did it bleed? Yes. But did it hurt? Not really. Adrenaline is a powerful chemical and it’s one that has flowed quite freely through my veins for as long as I can remember. The following year, my relationship with The A.I.C. lacked all the two-way animosity that marked our interactions from the year before; but still, it always itched in the back of my brain that what he did to me should not go unpunished. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any time to rekindle my battle with this muscle-bound human bulldozer – losing the fight to him practically painted a bullseye on my chest that drew every wannabe bully and two-bit tough guy out of the woodwork to fight me during my senior year.
Two-Ton Tony
The second Stoner to set me square in his sights was Two-Ton Tony. He was a mountain of a man; a full 300+ pounds of beer-drinkin’, pot-smokin’, potato-chip eatin’ blubber. And a man that size could still be formidable and even dangerous if he were to get a hold of my 5’10”, 160-lb. ass. A member of the Stoner crew, he had all the stoner accoutrement: the requisite mullet, untied high-top sneakers, earring in the left ear only, and a Bondo-covered van that blasted out Guns ‘n Roses and Metallica in the parking lot after school. He also had a grudge against me that lasted the entire school year.

I don’t know how or why Two-Ton Tony had it out for me. We didn’t have any classes together and I never took the time to talk to him or his best friend and sidekick, Little Joe, who was a near carbon copy of Two-Ton Tony, save for being shorter and less of girth. The only way I can figure it was that my fight with The Anabolic Israeli Commando happened practically in front of Two-Ton Tony’s locker, and perhaps his fat, sadistic ass got a kick (no pun intended) out seeing his friend, The A.I.C., dish some punishment out to me. From everything I’ve since been told about Two-Ton Tony, he was an angry, miserable person whose only way to feel better about himself was to tear other people down. Perhaps seeing me on the losing end of the scuffle with The A.I.C. made me an easy target in his mind. So let the games begin!

My senior year was one of constant torment from Two-Ton Tony. Whenever he would see me in the hallway, he made sure to tell me that I was a “faggot” and a “pussy” and that he was going to kick my ass. Since my loss to The A.I.C. the year before had shaken what little confidence and belief in myself I might have had, I did my best to ignore him. This kept his antagonism strictly on the verbal level. As my misfortune would have it, Two-Ton Tony’s asshole older brother, some bargain-basement Jason Bateman wannabe, happened to work at the grocery store in my neighborhood, and he always made a point to remind me how Two-Ton Tony would pound my dick into the dirt every time I was sent up there by Mommy Dearest to pick up groceries.

The closest Two-Ton Tony and I came to exchanging blows was in the upper level of the bleachers during a pep rally. Why I decided to stand near The Stoners I have no idea, but there I was, standing against the railing, with Two-Ton Tony on the top bleacher just below me. A casual turn of his head caused him to notice I was standing behind him, which was followed by a “What the fuck you lookin’ at?” comment. (Of course. Because my whole goal in life is to look at assholes with chips on their shoulders.) He fired a hard, straight right toward my stomach, which I quickly deflected with a “wax-off” block, knocking his pudgy hand – with its fat, Polish sausage fingers – into the metal railing. “That’s it!” he shouted, before slipping through the gap in the railing with incredible grace for a fatass.

Next thing I know, Two-Ton Tony is in my face, telling me he’s gonna kick my ass, as all the Stoner asshole crowd around us in a circle, shouting encouragements for him to do just that. I’ll never forget one of my so-called friends, Sir Kerry of the Blue Camaro, shoving his face practically into mine and saying, “Do it, Tony! Kick his ass, man. Kick his fuckin’ ass!” To my credit, I didn’t back down, and my stand-off with Two-Ton Tony ended much like many of my near-skirmishes at Powers, with both side daring the other to “take the first shot, man.” And like that, my feud with Two-Ton Tony ended as quickly – and as strangely – as it began.
What Does it all Mean?
So, if writing this blog is to be some type of therapy, the question of “What does it all mean?” inevitably must be asked … and answered. If I have to say anything, it feels good to unburden myself of all of this. I’ve been carrying around far too much trauma for more than 25 years, and I’ve come to a point in life where I believe my own health and mental stability requires me to purge these demons, one story at a time. As to my former bullies, some might read this yet many will not, as social media has connected me with but a scant few of these lads. For those who do, perhaps they’ll recognize themselves and use this opportunity to reach out to me to apologize … or at least just discuss the issue. Then again, they might not take too kindly to my unflattering portrayals of their high school selves, thus urging them to want to avenge their tarnished honors. I wouldn’t be bothered if that were the case. While I may have “lost” one fight at Powers, and walked away from many others, there were some I won and in rather violent and dramatic fashion. As to those tales … well … that’s a whole ’nother story!

J.P. Ribner’s experiences with bullies and the violence they cause has led to his creation of three novels: Legacy of the Bear, Prophecy of the Bear, and World So Dark.

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