For as long as I’ve been of legal age to drink (that’s over a decade…holy hell), I think my parents’ greatest fear is that, at some point on a big night out, I’m going to end up on the wrong end of a punch.
Truthfully, it probably should have happened at some point. People say I’m pretty quick with a comeback, and I’m a wise-ass at the best of times, even though I’ll wear an “I’m obviously kidding” grin while I’m joking around. I even wrote, very early in this blog, that I had a niggling concern in the back of my mind that one of these days someone’s going to take umbrage to my Australian schtick and let me know what’s what.
But despite being 6’2″ and 210lb with a shaved head and an unshaven face – or perhaps because of that? – I’ve thankfully never found myself in that position.
However, this makes the story of how exactly I woke up Saturday morning with a black eye and a split cheek even more embarrassing. But it’s a story that includes elements that basically perfectly encapsulate the small-town Maine experience.
On Friday I had a vacation day, one that I’d organized months ago with the intention of getting together with some friends who’d studied abroad Down Under in 2011. Those plans fell through, but I decided I’d keep the vacation day scheduled anyway and enjoy a rare Friday night off at home. Well, kinda.
I headed to Boothbay Harbor in the afternoon to meet a friend for oysters and a beer at Mine Oyster. It was my first time visiting Boothbay Harbor, and when I got there I found a cute, touristy town that reminded me quite a bit of how Belfast looked, albeit with more sun than the last time I visited the coast.
I got back home around 10 p.m., which was essentially the same time I would have knocked off work, so I decided I’d head down to the Liberal Cup for a beer. I mean, it’s Friday, right? I didn’t intend to stay all night, given the next morning was Old Hallowell Day and the action started sometime before 10 a.m.
The Cup was jam-packed, given the festivities that Hallowell was hosting that weekend, but I managed to squeeze myself into a seat at the bar. As usual. Over the course of random conversation with my cohorts on either side of the bar, one in particular – who shall remain nameless – caught a strain of my stupid drawl and asked, “Is that an Augusta accent?”
Now, I’ve written a couple of times both in the blog and the column that that’s become my go-to bullshit line whenever someone asks me where my accent is from, so I couldn’t help but laugh and respond with, “That’s my line!” But before I could even begin to arrogantly assume she’d read that particular dumb joke in one of my columns, recognition dawned on her face and she said, “Oh, it’s you! I read your blog!”
I figured I’d misunderstood, thinking she meant the column. Especially seeing as though, ever since I began writing (and promoting) this blog, I’ve tried to operate under the expectation that no one actually reads it, so as not to get myself into situations where I’m having a conversation with someone and assume that they’re hanging on every word I’m writing.
But sure enough, my fellow patron had been pointed to good ol’ CrawfinUSA.com by her boss’s wife, who’d discovered the URL at the tail-end of one of my columns and recommended it as a funny read. I’m guessing I need to start sending monetary thank-yous to some folks out there, eh? The check is in the mail*.
We got to chatting, and it was even more surreal than times when people have complimented me on my newspaper efforts. I mean, that’s my job, whereas the blog is equal parts brain-dump, therapy session and medium for family and friends at home and abroad to stay abreast of my adventures. To have a total stranger compliment me on it in person was flat-out trippy.
At some stage the clock struck last call, and Dan the innkeeper shooed us all out into the street. “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” Me and my new-found reader/buddy opted for a slice of pizza before calling it a night, because that’s definitely a thing that my healthy body needed. Although, with hindsight, I wonder what would’ve happened had I not had something to eat before the unfortunate part of the night unfolded.
After finishing up at the pizza joint, we were standing on Water Street, and my intent was to start walking home, but I saw a bunch of people climbing into a cab with a sign on its roof denoting a company that hit the news here recently because police had busted a drug deal going down in one of its cars. I thought this was mighty funny, and stopped on the curb to explain – totally unsolicited – to its soon-to-be-occupants that apparently you could get up to all sorts of mischief in that company’s cabs. This is totally untrue, I’m sure, but at the time I figured it was both funny and topical. In related news, I’m an idiot.
As I finished up my humorous observational comedy routine, I turned on my heels to begin the mile-long walk home, possibly sobering up somewhat along the journey. Instead of walking, though, I ended up having the smile wiped firmly from my dial.
Now like I said earlier, I’ve never been punched in the face, or really anywhere else (in anger) for that matter. But anyone who’s ever played any form of sports probably knows that feeling of copping a stray elbow, or a bouncing ball, or a misplaced pass, to the head. It’s tough to describe, but for me there’s a sensation that falls somewhere between taste and smell, but it’s distinctly coppery for just a second. Then the throbbing starts.
Shit. Something’s gone wrong.
I hadn’t noticed, but I was somehow standing mere inches from the side of a No Parking sign, the corner of which was right at the height of my cheekbone. I had pivoted straight into the corner and edge of it. My new pal saw the whole thing go down, and said something to the effect of, “dude, your HEAD!” My hand shot to my forehead, and was immediately filled with egg. Not even the good, protein-y type of egg, either. The type that was the size of half a tennis ball trying to push its way through my skin. SHIT.
But it was worse than that, as was quickly pointed out to me by way of, “Oh God, your cheek…” I touched my palm to my left cheek, where I could vaguely feel a sting, and when I took it away I saw a small crescent-shaped smudge of blood on my hand. “Well,” I reasoned, “that’s not SO bad…” but that thought was swiftly pushed to the wayside as I started dripping claret out of my face. SHIT.
Another guy I knew casually from the bar, Shawn, had been outside a few feet away and had seen the whole thing unfold. He told me to hang tight, and ran off to his apartment to get some sort of first aid supplies.
In the meantime, I didn’t want to wait and lose any more blood, so we wandered back to the bar. Dan graciously let me in, assuming I’d been punched, and fixed me up with ice, paper towels and the world’s oldest first aid kit. I was in pain but lucid, so I didn’t think I’d concussed myself or anything. Both Dan and my anonymous reader-friend told me I could probably do with some stitches in my cheek, but due to being squeamish about needles and gun-shy about the cost of medical attention here, I opted to just press some paper towel against it. I’M A REAL DOCTOR.
The team effort continued as Dan and the Good Samaritan got me into Dan’s car and drove me home, where my new pal made sure I wasn’t going to bleed out on my couch, made me take some Tylenol and tossed a blanket over my near-sleep form before making her own way home. There’s that Mainer hospitality again.
I awoke from my slumber around 8:30 a.m. Saturday, immediately remembering what had transpired just a few hours before. I checked in my mirror and was surprised to also find I had the makings of a black eye, or at least a bunch of nice eyeshadow, in a ring around my left eye. Awesome.
I knew the parade in Hallowell started at 10, and as much as I wanted to see it and enjoy the day, I really just wanted to curl up under the blankets and feel extremely sorry for myself. I opted for the former, and I’m glad I did, but it wasn’t fun sporting a very obvious cut on the face and a shiner to boot.
I obviously managed to enjoy my Saturday, even when I was forced to recount the story to the bartenders at the Liberal Cup later that day, as well as Shawn and a handful of coworkers. But there’s nothing quite like a misleading injury to turn the drinker’s remorse all the way up to 11. Even a couple of strangers in the beer tent at Old Hallowell Day asked me whether they “should see how the other guy looks.”
For the record, I also had a fantastic time at my first Old Hallowell Day. Nothing can be wrong with 10 a.m. mimosas, breakfast pizza, duck confit poutine (!) for lunch, tunes from some great bands, $4 Goose Island IPAs in the riverside beer tent, fireworks and after-hours darts and cocktails with my favorite bartenders. Expensive and exhausting, but a great day all around.
It’s now three days since it happened, and I think somehow the embarrassment is increasing. I know how it looks – big guy, shaved head, black eye, cut face – and I was so self-conscious every time I caught sight of my reflection at the gym, or when people caught my eye at the grocery store and then looked away just as quickly. I can’t blame them for assuming I got myself into a brawl – that’s what I would think, too – but I cringe at the idea that that could’ve happened. I’m absolutely not the fighting type – I’m a teddy bear, really – so I’m overly sensitive to the fact that that’s what my current image is.
But I’ve got one thing on my side: the truth is stranger than fiction. Who would actually invent a story about belting their face on a No Parking sign?