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Published: Mongrel Magazine, November 2007

THE MONGREL GUIDE TO BEING A BAD ASS

genghis khan
They behave exactly as they please without any fear of censure. They are found in every occupation and are drawn from every strata of society. But they answer only to themselves. They respect authority the way a baby respects a nappy. Yet, men applaud them and women desire them. Their number includes such luminaries as Theodore Roosevelt, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, film maker Werner Herzog and that mountaineering guy who hacked off his own arm with a penknife.

So what makes a bad ass? Why do we revere them? And how do I become one? I decided to investigate.The prototypical bad ass was Genghis Khan – the 12th century Mongol warlord who boiled his enemies alive, stole their horses and ravished their women. So successful was he on that last score, in fact, that today some 16 million men (or 8% of the population in the territories he once ruled) are his direct descendents.

The bad ass thrived throughout the Middle Ages, his march only briefly checked by the onset of the Renaissance. Across Europe, men donned effeminate tights, wrote heavy philosophical tracts and composed tedious love sonnets. It was not a good time for the traditional hard case. But things soon changed. And it was all thanks to a man named Christopher Columbus.

Discovered in 1492, the New World was to prove a perfect stomping ground for the modern bad ass. Tobacco, soon and forevermore synonymous with miscreancy, was discovered here for starters. But more even than tobacco, the brutality of life on the frontier, coupled with the individualism inherent in the American dream, created a climate ideally suited to bad-assery.

From the gunmen of the Wild West, through to Hells Angels, and even on to the Bush Whitehouse of today – America has always been a place where you can shoot shit up without a second’s thought, and ride off into the sunset with a hearty Yee-haw!

Today, that devil-may-care mentality is thriving the world over. Here, for the first time then, Mongrel presents its long Definitive-ish Guide to Being a Bad Ass.

1. BE AN OUTLAW

Twenty Major is an award-winning Irish blogger whose bad ass credentials are spelled out for all to see in his provocative tagline: ‘Still Smoking in Dublin Bars’. Under the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2004, smoking is strictly prohibited in Dublin bars. Twenty knows this, but refuses to conform. For Twenty is a renegade, unrestrained by the shackles that bind the rest of us.

Neither is he afraid to attack such sacred cows as incompetent call centre operators, or shops that charge a surcharge on mobile phone call credit. I caught up with Twenty to find out how he has the balls to take on such powerful adversaries from behind the mask of an anonymous online persona.

You just don’t give a fuck, do you Twenty?
I think people respond better to a strong opinion, whether they agree with it or not. Nobody likes a fence sitter.

Who’s your role model?
Just in terms of someone who doesn’t give a fuck – Begbie from Trainspotting.

What’s your beef with the 20c mobile phone surcharge?
Well, it’s a rip off, isn’t it?

What about the plastic bag levy?
I think it should be €5 per bag. Not that I care about the environment. It’d just be funny.

What about the recent five-axle ban on heavy goods vehicles in Dublin city centre? Where’d you stand on that?
Well, I don’t drive a lorry. So I have no strong feelings about that I’m afraid.

Okay. What’s your position on beggars?
Fuck them. If the height of your ambition is to sit under an ATM and ask people for money then you can go fuck yourself.

Do you think the world would be a better place if people really had Begbie for a role model?
No, it would be a much, much worse place – people getting glassed for the smallest reason, the whole concept of beauty becoming a thing of the past…

So you’re just stingy then, and kind of a pussy… Rather than a bad ass.
If I was like Twenty in real life I’d either be dead or in jail.

2. RIDE A MOTORBIKE

What have we learned so far? Maybe that genuine hard nuts don’t record their innermost thoughts on girly online blogs. That’s what. Anyway, with the possible exception of a filterless Woodbine slung nonchalantly from the lower lip, there is absolutely nothing more bad ass than riding a motorcycle. Jeff is an American biker living in the Ireland. He gave me the low-down on this most (genuinely) hardcore of pursuits.

What is it about a motorcycle that’s so intrinsically bad ass?
It’s just a great feeling to be on the road and to have that much freakin’ power between your legs. Taking off, accelerating, going around corners – it’s an exciting way to get around. A lot of it is just machismo, I guess. But also, in Ireland, you can sneak through all of the traffic and basically break all the laws. Even right in front of the Gardai.

Are women impressed by motorbikes?
Of course. Some of ‘em will admit it straight off the bat. Others will act like they could care less. But you offer them a ride on one; all of a sudden you’re their new best friend.

So could you give us a few pointers on being a bad ass then?
Ah, you know what? There is that element there of guys who think they’re bad ass, calling other bikers their brothers and shit. But you soon grow out of that mentality. That’s kids stuff, man… Hello? Hello?

3. BE STRONG…

A jaunty stride, and a cock-of-the-walk attitude, will get you so far in this game. But, at some point, you’ll need to be able to bring the pain. It’s a lesson Manc muppet Liam Gallagher learned the hard way, when he ran afoul of some estate agents (and not Mafiosi, as was originally reported) in a German hotel in 2002. On that occasion, the Oasis singer lost his two front teeth and whatever shred of credibility he still possessed.

With this in mind, I contacted Cathal Bird, the PRO of the Irish Amateur Weightlifting Association, and possibly (who knows?) Ireland’s strongest man. We talked about strength and its role in contemporary society.

How strong are you exactly, Cathal?
Well, the two competition lifts in weightlifting are the snatch and the clean-and-jerk. So my snatch is 102 kilos.

Your snatch is 102 kilos.
Yeah, and my clean-and-jerk is 130.

Would that be considered heavy for a snatch?
The snatch is when the bar comes from the floor to over your head in one movement. The clean-and-jerk is two movements. Up to the shoulders first, then over the head. So, am, yeah.

Why is strength important in today’s society? What are the practical benefits?
Well, there are the health benefits first of all. Weight training is something that will cross over into any other sport.

Say you were locked in a prison cell, for example, would you be able to escape by bending the bars apart?
No, probably not… I’m a PE teacher. If I had to move some gym equipment for the class, I’d probably get through that more quickly than another teacher. Stuff like that.

Thank you for your time.
No problem.

4. …AND SILENT

Strength and silence – the two go together like a horse and carriage. I really have no idea why this should be. The strength part is no mystery. But what does silence bring to the table? If someone attacks you with a crowbar, I don’t see that it matters much whether you’re Penn or Teller. Still, these rules were set a long time ago by men wiser than me.

Which brings me, by a circuitous route, to Margaret, a nun with the Poor Clares order in the west of Ireland. The Poor Clares are an enclosed order, whose members take a solemn vow not to speak to anyone, ever. However, it would appear that exceptions can be made. Say, for example, if someone rings with questions about convent life, and you happen to be passing the telephone.

What, other than silence, do you sign up to when you become a Poor Clare?
Poverty, chastity, obedience and enclosure.

What’s enclosure?
It means never leaving the precincts of the monastery without sufficiently serious reason – a funeral or a serious illness for example. It’s a means of surrendering your life totally to God.

Re: the vow of silence… What if you think of something really, really funny to say?
You can speak in a low voice if necessary.

5. OH, AND FIGHT CRIME TOO IF YOU GET THE CHANCE

The Two-Wheeled Avenger pedalled his way to fame this summer on Joe Duffy’s Liveline. RTE’s Colm Murray was on the show discussing the theft of his car, which had been stolen from outside McDonalds in Artane the previous day. Guest host Damien O’Reilly, making the best of a poor hand perhaps, wondered if the theft was perhaps symptomatic of some irrevocable breakdown in society. But the affable sports presenter was being annoyingly sanguine about the whole affair. No one was hurt, he reasoned. It wasn’t the end of the world. The segment, its fair to say, was dying on its feet.

Then a chap named Nicholas French called in and explained, in his very middle class way, that he’d following the hunt for Murray’s car on a legally held Garda scanner. Below is an edited transcript. What’s annoying is that the presenter never asks such obvious questions as “Why do you do this?” and “Are you insane?” For the record, I did try to contact Mr French for this piece. But my Bat Signal went unanswered. I like to think that he’s taken his one-man War on Gougers underground for now. But he’ll be back to fight another day.

Presenter: Do you use this scanner often?
NF: I do. It’s been of great use to me. If you turn the clock back to 2004, there was an armed raid at Morton’s supermarket, which is only a minute away from me. I jumped on my bicycle and went to see what I could do to help the guards. I found one of the gougers hiding in a shed up in Windsor Road and a minute later I found the money.

You were the original Garda reserve so.
(laughs politely) Without a neighbourhood watch it can be very handy. It gives me a bit of [an insight], you know, into what’s happening in the area.

Are these scanners legal, by the way?
They are. The guards use their discretion. They can confiscate it if they think you’re using it for illegal purposes. If a crowd of gougers are caught with one it would be confiscated.

So is this a hobby, is it, Nicholas?
It is a hobby, yes.

I mean, is it busy at night, listening in?
Well, I listen in to either the Papa or the Echo [frequencies]. The Echo is the Donneybrook area. Unfortunately, you have to listen in to either one side or the other. It’s very hard to listen in to the Northside.

Do you think the fellas that are committing crimes have these things as well?
Oh, of course they have. Just two hours ago, outside the Gresham Hotel, there was a raid on a security van. One culprit tried grabbing the money and he ran off towards Summerhill. So many things happen that the papers don’t even know about.

And listening into it. Do you find the crimes are getting worse?
They are, I think. Its getting worse. The guards just can’t cope with the amount of gougers that are out there.

So what have we learned then to finish? Well, we’ve learned that amateur weightlifting jargon is a fertile source of juvenile innuendo. We’ve learned that the Poor Clares are not necessarily averse to the occasional chitchat. And we’ve learned the name of the Garda radio frequency in Donneybrook.

Pertaining specifically to becoming a bad ass, I suppose, we haven’t learned all that much. But then, the very concept is kind of nebulous when you think about it. One man’s Steve McQueen is another man’s Jonathan Rhys Meyers. So fuck it, let’s get tacos!

[As requested by Rob, this feature was hastily conceived and written at such speed that the last line, “Now fuck it, let’s get tacos!”, was literally the very next thing I was about to do when I got to the end of the sentence. (We were up to deadline and our editor, Michael Freeman, had forbidden us from going to lunch until I’d finished the damn thing.)

Re-reading it two years later, it’s not quite as bad as I remember. In fact, it’s pretty funny in places. I’d completely forgotten all about doing that interview with Twenty Major. Clearly, this was the first in an ongoing series of unsuccessful attempts to start a beef with the blogging superstar. What I gotta do, Twenty… shoot up your house?]

[P.S. I’ve just thought of the ideal candidate to succeed Nicholas French should the latter ever decide to hang up his cape… Jim Corr!]

October 8th, 2009.

3 Responses to “THE MONGREL GUIDE TO BEING A BAD ASS”

  1. El Kid Says:

    Was weightlifting interview in person or over the phone??

  2. Eoin Says:

    Sorry only saw this now… Over the phone, EK. I probably wouldn’t have made quite so many snatch jokes if it had been in person!

  3. The Mongrel Guide to Being a Bad Ass | Tripping Along The Ledge Says:

    [...] and, even though I thought it was kinda stupid, other people have always seemed to like it. Read the rest of this article. November 3rd, [...]

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