It's very difficult, I am finding right now, to write about a melee. A proper melee, that is. The rare and tentative and insidious calm of 2am on Tenderloin streets was shattered a few minutes ago. The first thing I could hear from my position behind this desk was a woman, screaming plaintively at someone not to get involved in something. As her cries grew more urgent, it became clear to me that whatever was going on wasn't minor, and it wasn't cooling off. I decided to take a step outside and see what all the commotion was about.
Across the intersection, some kind of disagreement had reached the point of one man frantically pulling his shirt off. With the spectators on the sidewalk and the normal drift of human detritus through the neighborhood, exactly who was in disagreement was unclear. But as the ranks of the shirtless grew it was obvious that it was no small problem. Or rather, it was no problem that a whole lot of people weren't willing to tear off their shirts about and brawl in the streets. I am generally under the impression that this requires little provocation for a lot of people, so there is no telling.
In any case, clothing peppered the ground and the two sides lunged. They took to the intersection like dogs, howling at eachother in unintelligible screams of rage, communicating the basest kind of intent. As they clashed, more than ten people in total, the mad scramble dissolved into confusion. Bodies sprawled on asphalt, fists and legs gangled through the crowd occasionally striking some manner of target. In the most artless and amateur display of violence I've ever seen in my life (which is saying quite a bit) these two groups flailed and stumbled and rolled across the road. As it reached fever pitch, in this context meaning the most number of people falling over simultaneously during their ill-attempted attacks, I noticed several bizarre things about the fracas. Two people standing side by side, kicking a man kneeling on the ground suddenly realizing who they are standing next to begin to strike futilely at eachother, faces twisted in sudden twin rictus of furious realization. Another combatant somehow produced a crude cudgel; some bend and uneven lump of softwood. I can only assume that the hoary and ancient god of miserably poor fighters grants this to his chosen champion in any given brawl of this nature. In any case, his attempts to bludgeon anything with it besides the unsuspecting air around him and at one point his own knee met with failure, and he quickly limped away. At points, portions of the violence would relent into a brief yelling match and quickly rekindle again and the sad display of attempted battery would continue. As the fray shifted down the road toward me, standing in the doorway to the hostel, several of these men ran toward the entry, maybe hoping to get inside and away from the shameful lack of brutality they'd brought on themselves. I fixed myself to the spot, dropped my arms and prepared to repel the ineptly invading force, but at the last minute they decided against whatever bizarre course of action they had set on. Another small faction within the larger debacle seemed to be at odds with itself, with members asking eachother such questions as, "What am I supposed to say?!" and "How are you going to handle that?!?" in response to some events I assume were unknowable to the outside observer. It was a confusing time on the streets of San Francisco, clearly.
The degree of furiously violent intent was matched only by the gross and catastrophic inability of the combatants involved. As the maelstrom of ineptitude churned around the street I found myself actually becoming frustrated. When a group of people descend on one another with such unshielded aggression, you'd expect at least someone to reap that whirlwind. But as I watched this, it appeared as the proverbial sound and fury, signifying nothing. None of these bastards was any worse for the wear, and as the festivities wound to an impotent close all I could do was laugh. My laughter attracted the attention of a crackhead on the sidewalk next to me, who responded with a jovial stream of gibberish and a resonant chortle of approval. I think I made out the words "wild" and "geeyone" but I'm not sure what that last one meant. I suppose every tragic cataclysm is incomplete without a touch of the gnostic.
This began around 2:10 am. The entire humiliating attempt at violence lasted for maybe 10 minutes. As the sirens wailed in the distance and the last holdouts of hopeful fighters stopped trying to injure eachother and scattered back into the woodwork, I went back inside. Five patrol cars screeched to a halt in the intersection and the officers emerged ready for action, shotguns in hand, but there was none to be had. At the end of the day, more damage was caused to hands and elbows hitting concrete than anything else. The stick wielding gladiator will probably have a sore knee tomorrow. I honestly hope everyone involved is ashamed of themselves, because that shit was just plain pathetic.
ps- the title to this post is a reference to a movie. Anyone guessing which movie this is gets accolades.