The day after I got my driver’s license I put a baseball bat in the trunk of the family car. Not because I thought I lived in a dangerous neighborhood (I didn’t), but because I sensed it was a dangerous planet. As a 17-year-old, I had recently been awakened to a set of destructive urges. After school sometimes my friends and I would drive around and shout profanity and deface lawns. It was a very You-lookin-at-me? period in my life.
I had no awareness whatsoever that it was the result of late-puberty hormones. If you had told me that at the time, I would have said, “Absolutely not.” It did not feel like a phase. It felt like the opposite of a phase. It felt like I had come to see the world as it really was: a place that was described accurately in the lyrics of Pantera. I had no doubt that adults were also going through the same thing I was going through on a daily basis. It explained war. It explained everything. This is why, when I heard the call for vandalism, I had a sensation akin to a young Siddhartha seeing clearly for the first time.
All this is basically to explain why a happy kid from Leonia, NJ was compelled to keep a baseball bat in the trunk. I didn’t expect to use it. I didn’t want to use it. But I knew that NJ Road Rage was no joke; NJ Road Rage was a force to be reckoned with. It gave rise to “kill or be killed”–type thoughts in people’s minds. It was ready to eat you alive. And since I insisted on staring that in the face, I kept a baseball bat in the car. Having it there was not really different from keeping a dream catcher on the door of your bedroom. It does its job just by being put there.
I took it seriously all the same. I borrowed a baseball glove to put in the trunk, just in case cops ever asked about the bat. Sometimes one of my parents would have to remove everything in the trunk before a trip to the grocery store—but as soon as the trunk was empty again I would return the bat. It was becoming the leather jacket of my car.
This is how I know my parents saw the baseball bat, even though they never said anything to me about it. I’m not sure why they never did. When I was younger I thought it was because my parents basically agreed with the premise of the bat. I imagined their thought process to be something like, “Yes, a baseball bat. A baseball bat is warranted by the cruelty of the world.” Looking back, I’m not sure if that’s really what it was.
By now, I am sure some readers are wondering whether I ever came close to using the bat. The answer is almost once. I was driving on the Henry Hudson Parkway, and I must have cut some guy off, because he swerved in front of me as I was getting on an exit ramp and forced me to stop. He got out of the car. I was with my girlfriend, and as soon as I saw his door swing open I immediately thought: baseball bat.
But the urge to grab the bat was immediately beset by a shit ton of logistical issues. To get to the bat, I would have to run to the trunk and LEAVE THE CAR UNLOCKED, and then get my hands on the bat before the guy got to the car and took my girlfriend hostage. Did I really have enough time to go for it? Also, this was at a point in my life when I had gotten better at boxing than I ever was at baseball. Did that mean I would be better off sticking to what I know and using my fists? Probably not, but if the guy had a gun, then brandishing a baseball bat would absolutely be the worst thing to do. I realized at that moment that using the baseball bat was prohibitively complicated. So instead, I stayed in my car with the doors locked, and when the guy came over I just said, “What the fuck, get back in your car.” The guy punched my window and got back in his car. That was the end of it.