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March 21, 2013 8:04 am

MY LOUSY WORLD: The fight that wasn’t

Written by Doug Blough

Maybe it’s a sad statement about my formative years, but some of my most valuable life lessons were learned in Pennsylvania bars in my early 20s.

I was reminded of an important one recently when Pennsylvania Facebook friend Nan Temyer mentioned a blast-from-the-past name, Jack Boring. I related a Jack story she had never heard, and I’d be remiss not to share with you this vital lesson learned.

I was drinking alone at Diehl’s Tavern in tiny Hyasota one afternoon. Since I demolished most of my cars in those days, Diehl’s being only three miles from my parents’ rural home was my handiest pub when between vehicles. A guy named Bobby Paul, whom I knew from illegal poker games in the Polish Falcons basement (where I played badly and lost nearly every weekend), came in and took a stool near me.

I didn’t know Bob well — only that he drove a pretty, blue Corvette and was a good poker player. But you don’t have to know someone well for a great conversation in a nearly-empty bar when he’s buying. We discussed the Steelers, poker, and then the conversation turned to legendary fistfights around that brawling, blue-collar area.

Bobby, maybe six years older than me, began lecturing me in the art of street pugilism. Even though he resembled Woody Allen much more than Charles Bronson, I guzzled the free beer and listened intently, fully aware of his obvious ego boost from educating a young upstart.

“One thing to always remember, Doug,” he said while gesticulating with closed fists, “is always throw that first punch. It’s the most important punch of any fight, so while the other guy is running his mouth, don’t say a word. Just throw that first punch and make it a hard one.”

Now, that’s a sentiment I had heard before and even witnessed from much-tougher men than he. Heck, my brother-in-law Skip was one of the most feared barroom brawlers in the area and was famous for first-punch knockouts. But I listened and nodded approvingly to Bobby’s fighting instructions, and when he asked, “Hey, ya wanna ride down to LaPorta’s with me?” I eagerly accepted. It was my favorite bar, and I had no wheels.

He was growing even fuller of himself and talkin’ cocky the entire four-mile drive to Hollsopple. Just before reaching LaPorta’s, he said, “Hey, there’s my good ol’ buddy Jack Boring’s truck at Mosca’s. Let’s go in there for a few.” Fine with me.

I remembered Jack Boring from high school. A few grades above me, he was one of the studs: muscular without lifting weights and a good wrestler. Bobby enthusiastically greeted Jack and started chatting it up with his bosom buddy. Soon they were in a friendly debate about what was the most powerful handgun. Bobby said it was a .357; Jack said a .44. I had no dog in the fight and got bored, so I turned and began talking to the guy on my left.

I had noticed the volume of the debate gradually ratcheting up, when suddenly something hit me full-force in the back and knocked me into the guy beside me. It was Bobby Paul’s body, after Jack Boring first-punched him so hard he flew off his stool, into me and then onto the floor. His glasses flew over the bar and landed on the cash register.

An enraged Jack was now yelling and kicking at Bobby, whose eyes were as big as free beer tokens as he desperately tried to crab-crawl out of harm’s way. The bartender hustled over to me and said, “Here, take his glasses and get him outta here before he gets killed.”

After sitting in his ’Vette panting and collecting himself for a while, Bobby asked, with not even a hint of confidence in his voice, “Ya think I should go back in there after him?” I said, “Nah, I’d just let it go for now if I was you. Let’s get over to Laporta’s.”

We did, and I heard him telling others a slightly inaccurate version of the fight — one that probably bandaged his battered, bloodied ego, at least slightly. I didn’t correct him. He had been through enough, and he was still buying all my beers.

“Always throw the first punch,” is not the moral of this story. The moral is, “If you’re talking to a guy you couldn’t whip even if he gave you the first five punches, agree with every single word he says!”

4 comments

  • Comment Link March 21, 2013 11:21 am posted by Nan Temyer

    Good story, Doug, keep them coming.

  • Comment Link March 21, 2013 2:00 pm posted by Denny Marone

    Great one!!!

  • Comment Link March 22, 2013 6:17 am posted by Jason Boring

    Thats my dad!!! Ha Ha. ol Jack.

  • Comment Link March 24, 2013 7:58 am posted by Frank Rozek

    I can never get enough of your columns. I wish The Tribune printed a daily paper just so I could read a new "My Lousy World" column everyday of the week.

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