{How I Learned to Live With Tyler In the Shadows} “Fight Club 2” by Chuck Palahniuk and Cameron Stewart (2015)

I. {Fight Clubs Sprouting All Over America Like Skin Ulcers}

“How much can you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?” is the twenty-first century’s answer to the ancient Hellenic Delphic maxim, “Know Thyself.”

October 30, 2000. C____ Street & M____ Avenue. People told me Detroit was a ghost town, but it seemed even the ghosts had relocated by the time I got there. I had got the address from a trusted online friend. We had been trading fighter’s tips for years in chat forums. Word was there were underground fight clubs sprouting all over America like skin ulcers. I drove over the border in my ’85 cobalt impala to check the gut rot myself.

Homes were boarded up like civilization was a natural resource that had been all used up. Oil barrels lit up with fire
 illuminated backyards with the primitive theatre of shadowplay. When I slowed the impala to check on the address my friend had given me, I half expected an indigenous tribe of bruisers to come running up to the curb. The dilapidated houses were straight out of Paper Street, facades weathered like the ancient stone heads of Mexico.

I eased down the pedal and drifted down the street. Slowed again to
 check for a number off the porch and as I stopped an older African-American came to the car and rapped on the passenger window with his knuckles. I rolled the glass down hardly at all and he asked me, “What you want, man?” I could hear his dry bark echo down the street.

“You know this address?” I had a hard time forming words with my
 pestled upper lip that was healing from fights incurred back home in Montreal, the City of Saints. I unfolded the paper with the scrawled
 address and tilted it methodically under the dome light so that the light shone at just the right reading angle.

The man squinted his eyes and leaned a little lower. “Yeah, man, just down the street. C____ Market. At the intersection. It’s closed this time of night.”

What market closed its doors at 9 p.m.? “Is there anywhere else I can get some compost for my garden?”

I had a sneaking suspicion he knew what I was shopping for before I had even asked. “You know what, they’re probably still open, man. Why don’t ya go have a look,” he said, brushing the dust off his tenor now like we were old friends.

“I will, thanks.” He took his hand off the glass and I softened my grip on the steering wheel. Weaponless in Detroit. Sounds like an old Alice Cooper song. I couldn’t risk getting stopped at the border or maybe it was just a suicidal game of chicken. The border officials didn’t even ask for a passport, which is lucky because I didn’t have one. I’m sure I could have snuck some brass knuckles somewhere in the impala. Maybe if I hadn’t read all that DIY Hemingway smack before I had started to shave.

The C____ Market was a white-washed canvas of cement tattooed with graffiti all over like the stomach contents of a psychiatric inpatient with pica. There was something that looked like an awning held up by rust-swarmed metal beams. There were no discernible entry ways and no lights
 clearing any kind of path. The receiver-less shell of a red telephone was affixed to a grey discolouration on the wall that looked to be spreading over the cement. Every street block had one curled-up lamp pitched on alternate sides.The streets between were dark pits of charcoal.

On the right was an untended piece of land with grass and weeds growing waist high. At the end of the block was a busted up shack that looked like it had just lifted its legs and crawled over from the forest to the edge of the curb. There was a cleaved tree in front of the shack that may have held it from falling and depreciating in value any further.

I drove around the market twice to see it from all sides. The street intersecting C____ on the left appeared a little more cultivated with telephone wires and street signs and a few of parked cars strewn about, which kept it from blending in with the casual desolation of the rest of the neighbourhood. There were even a couple of homes on the block that were unevenly positioned, but huddled together like a baby’s first teeth, or grandpa’s last two, I couldn’t decide.

I parked the impala uneasily in what looked to be parking spot in the throes of entanglement from garbage, debris, and stray patches of wild grass sprouting from the cement. I walked across the rear of the market. The lane was completely overrun by bushes and weeds and negligent branches that hung too low for comfort. The market was on the other side of the brick fence that barricaded the alley, it may have been the remnants of a wall that collapsed or was broken down, so I hopped over the notched and lopsided stop.

Approaching the market there were no windows to be seen, not even boarded apertures. Stencilled in red over the chalk in one of the rare uncrowded parts of the wall, and standing apart by virtue of the letter’s firm and close-grained outlines, were the words “Beer” and “Cigarettes” and “Groceries”, meaning to say they were sold inside, or I don’t know what.

Beneath the awning and the camouflage of the graffiti was an embossed rectangular shape that looked like a painted over door. I edged closer and examined the texture of this sunken patch in the wall and, like I suspected, it was glass that was frosted over, and I could see from the cracks and fissures there was another steel door underneath. This might have been the place. I wasn’t prepared to leave Detroit without finding out. It took balls to come thus far unattended, and I wouldn’t be entertaining any yellow-tailed talk of quitting.

I knocked politely on the glass door in fear of shattering it and waited.
 Ten seconds passed, and then twenty, and then thirty, and I knocked again, this time harder and more insistently, the sound of my knuckles against the door drowned out by the clink and jangle of the crashing pane. Behind the door came the sound of unlatching and unbolting, and of locks turning, and then the door swayed open at a fifteen-degree angle before a dim silhouetted face appeared: “Beat it, we’re closed.”

“Sold out of compost today?” The steel door slammed closed, wafting something that smelled like a cross between freshly-unwrapped bologna and a jar of pennies. I heard some hollering traded from behind the entry,
 and then the door swung open midway and a short hispanic man, wearing an oil-stained wife-beater, eyeballed me from head to toe.

“Get inside, chico,” he said unlatching the storm door with the broken glass, and I stepped past the threshold, past the sweaty hispanic man who made no effort to move his pecan-colored shoulders for me to enter.

“Where you from, man?” he asked, as he shut the metal doors behind us and snapped each safety back into place.

“Montreal,” I said. “That’s Canada.”

“I know Montreal, chico. Smoked meat sandwiches at Chenoy’s, am I right?” I nodded my head without turning to look at him, my eyes searching the room how a fly feels the carbonated surface of a ginger ale with its antennae, drunk on the details of its deliberate capture. “We’ve got a club on F——, you know it?”

I nodded my head a second time, but I didn’t know what he was talking about, except that he was breaking the first rule of Fight Club. I was filled with disappointment to hear that I had come all the way to Detroit to learn about a fight club in Montreal that should have been known to me already from my friends in the fighting circuit or at least from a wild fever dream. I took a guess, roughly knowing the Mont Royal area, “By M——-?”

“Yeah, close to D—-, what do you call it?”

“D———.”

“You know Reg?”

“No. You know Manny?”

“Black guy?”

“No, he’s white.”

“I don’t know no white Manny from Montreal, chico.”

“You know Bennet Miller from Kentucky? Tall white guy with a military haircut. He gave me the address to this place.”

“Yeah, I know Bennet. I hope you a better fighter than that hillbilly, pendejo.”

The Market was abandoned and gutted. The windows were boarded up and painted-over in white, which is why I couldn’t see them from the outside. There were trays of forgotten bread-racks on wheelies that coughed out dust when I swivelled them aside. Plugged in floor lights flooded the way. The shelf-runs were mostly intact but they had been stripped of dry grocery goods. There were untidied candy wrappers and empty potato-chip bags and used cigarette-packs laying destitute on the floor.

“Name’s Jose, man, but my friends call me Jesus,” he said, articulating the words as much with his hands as with his mouth.

“Why’s that?”

“Because I’m the motherfucking Savior, chico.” He guided me toward a lane that led the back of the market.

“You see these tattoos on my arms?” Even in the silhouetted space of the shop floor, I could make out the imprint of two swords printed along the length of his arms coloured in silver. “This is how I judge the sinners who approach my throne.” He made two fists.

Just ahead there were two filthy swinging doors and I could hear other people through the square aperture where there probably used to be glass. “Welcome to the casa of the king.”

There were howls and cheers emanating from the other room, and when Jesus swung back the doors, they nearly swung off their hinges, and I saw my first fight club in action in what looked to be the former market’s storeroom, now a tenement for squatters and illegitimate prize fighters. There weren’t more than half a dozen guys including the two that were squaring off in the middle. There was plenty of room to do whatever, now that market had been closed, and whatever is what these scrappers did with this poor dollar- store exhibition of fighting.

One of the bruisers must have been in his fifties. Tanned red and silver haired down to his shoulders. Leaner than a turkey with alopecia, his neck was craned like one too. He would have been more at home with a cigarette in his mouth, judging by the crackle of his cough every time he tried to bob and weave like a boxer around the hamfisted hooks of his opponent, a big- bellied black guy, who was probably in late-twenties by the looks, who by the looks had probably never thrown a sophisticated punch in his life, let alone skipped rope long enough to percolate some of that fat-accumulating fat, which may explain the many powdered donnettes wrappers parked on the shop floor.

The remainder of the stout consisted of misfits and ragtags and ordinary Joes: one guy was still wearing his fast food uniform, another with his oversized suit could have been a car salesman or a David Byrne impersonator, there was a jar head thrown into the mix who may have been military, he had the cut and build, but was not wearing his fatigues, and a few other nondescript guys that rounded out the bill like a bunch of ones and zeroes.

There were no Tyler’s in the room. Joe Blow had the run of this martial pit. I’d driven over nine-hundred klicks for something I could have built myself in my own backyard with a couple of spare tires and some 
rope. There was a ladder with a first aid kit sitting on the third step from the ground. A stack of blue skids with a large drum fan circulating the penny and bologna ambiance. The silver haired dude tapped out quickly after the big-belied guy had gained his back and applied a choke, bowing out more from the sheer pressure of the sandwich maneuver, than anything approximating a hold from the Black Truffle (Butter Bean was taken).

“Okay, new guy. Like the Man says, if it’s your first time at fight club you have to fight,” Jesus said, in what could have been a revelation right from the scriptures, had I not seen the film over twenty times, and had my own personal revelation from Tyler. I pulled off my sweatshirt and cracked my knuckles. Thumbs were the worst to break.

II. {Project Golden Arch}

“To know an enemy you must know yourself” is what America was
building up to the entire time to but we didn’t know until after the detonation in heart of the Apple.

A fight and a narrow win in Detroit over some dad with two kids, who told me afterwards he visited the club every other week when his kids were with their mother. He had jabbed my ribs with his thumb so violently when I had him in a headlock, that an MRI back home in Ste Jeanne d’Arc revealed he had fractured the seventh and eighth ribs on my right side. His name was Watt. First or last I did not learn.

Next came an unsolicited trip out to Chicago without an address in hand. I’d went to the spot on F—— in Montreal looking for the fight club Jesus had mentioned, but there was nothing there except a few packing and shipping plants. I name-dropped Jesus and the Detroit address but nobody on F—— bit the line and I was left crossing over the border again to America in search of dispensation from the Church of Bruises.

January 2001, The Windy City. A week in Chicago sniffing around the likes of Englewood and Riverdale like a bloodhound yielded nada. Here I was imagining an underground empire being established in America in the rubble of my imagination. Pathetic forlorn objects from my first fight club visit, like the first aid kit on a ladder or the bed of candy wrappers, danced around my sleepless eyes like the rattle of snake, forever out of reach, or so I told myself over a cup of coffee at Jeri’s Grill at Lincoln Square, with my back to the glass trying to recreate Ed Hopper’s Nighthawks.

April 2001, The Gateway City. Having landed in St. Louis via a tiny plane that nearly tore itself to shreds rising to the clouds, I was in no mood for anything brutish the first couple of days. Smoked ribs and craft beer and smoky Jazz clubs on Broadway were salve to my nerves. By the third night I was aching for some action. Without the benefit of Bennet’s addresses (he was busted for battery I heard a ways back (I needed different friends, I was aware) and was doing a term in Lexington), leaving me stranded for a guide in these parts.

What I met was a group of lummoxes in a bar who drank too much and were far too loose lipped for their own good. After a couple of turns on the Ultimate Big Punch arcade machine, these good St. Louis boys were overeager to drape me in their state flag. We drove out to the docks of the Municipal River Terminal, smuggling a couple of beers out of the Bar and Grill, and then they unloaded their guarded manifesto on me, something that sort of echoed the words of Tyler Durden and resembled Project Mayhem in spirit.

They spoke of painting the Gateway Arch yellow as a symbol of some anti-consumerist stance. They talked of releasing the animals from the zoo in protest of prisons and other institutitutes of correction. Beheading the statue of King Louis IX in Forest Park just for the heck of it, in good hooligan sport. I told them there were probably supermarkets around the block with tanks full of imprisoned lobsters we could practice on. My jesting comment on the lobster extermination camps sped the night’s events to a prejudiced conclusion. They packed it up shortly after, smashing their beer bottles against the base of a crane (was it something I said?). We spoke our goodbyes in muted tones and they drove off in a gorgeous yellow-jacket Ford Maverick Coupe (lucky we arrived in separate cars), which I envied them for afterwards, when I had to climb back into the cab of my beat-up impala.

At the crack of dawn, I drove back to Montreal hurriedly like an arrow, only making infrequent but necessary pit stops during the seventeen-hour drive on Interstate 55. Having plenty of time to myself to think, with only a carton of Lucky Strike, a 22 oz can of bbq Virginia peanuts, some loose spring water bottles, and Springsteen’s Nebraska on loop on the tape deck I had installed.

With the heartland of Missouri and Illinois drifting past the passenger side, all kinds of stories barrelled through my mind: what would I when I got back home, no wiser than when I left, no real scars to show, the tires on the impala having done most of the legwork, looking for Tyler in the mean streets of Detroit, Chicago, and St. Louis, looking for myself in the heartland, and tired of coming out on the losing end (“Atlantic City” on the radio; no further than Wilmington on the map). I looked at myself in the rearview and said, “You’re full of shit,” and drove the rest of the way in silence. When I had arrived in Montreal, I kneeled and kissed the cobblestones on Rue St. Paul like Raskolnikov, having decided on the road that I would find myself a job and get myself a girl and put behind these childish things.

III. {9/11 or The William Tell Trick Gone Wrong}

“Basically, I’m for anything that gets you through the night – be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniels” was Sinatra’s advice and it sounded like the right prescription.

September, 2001. I was in Schwartz’s Deli having a bacon-and-tomato bagel with a coleslaw side when they pulled the plug at the navel of the world and all the old bathwater was sucked out. The William Tell trick had gone wrong. That was the first thing that crossed my mind as I turned my neck and looked at the television screen. I don’t know why. Maybe it was a non sequitur. Maybe it wasn’t.

“Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no!” A man kept repeating in mantra, while holding his beet-red face like a squid holding a whale, escalating in volume as the damage in New York escalated in loudness.

Others joined the lament and a chorus of woe blanketed the room in no time at all. After a while, the wailing began to sound like nervous laughter. Maybe somebody should of took control and moderated the situation. As I stood before the image of the tower smouldering like a Roman candle, a set of cutlery fell to the ground from a nearby table and made an awful noise that rattled into my throat.

I waited for the government to step into the driver’s seat and do some serious damage control. The sky was falling but the joke wasn’t funny anymore. I left the deli to see what was happening outside. People in cars were honking their horns on Boul St-Laurent as to draw attention to some apparition of the World Trade Center erected over Montreal. It was too near the bone. I had to look away. I headed for the St. Laurent metro and skipped down the steps as others ran up to the meet the calamity. The cries and whispers skimming along the walls of the underground corridor drove me crazy. “Merde! Terroristes!” Somebody shouted.

“Etaient sous attaque,” a hysterical middle aged woman said to me as I brushed past her in a moment of empathy. My mind raced across the landmarks of the city without a point of emphasis. The Notre Dame Basilica and the Olympic Stadium were not exactly high profile terrorist targets.

I sat on a bench away from the crowd and waited for the train to pull up. And then I thought of Tyler. And Project Mayhem. And then the entire ball of yarn unravelled in my hands. In some strange way I felt culpable and I had to run to get away. But there’s only so far you can run to get away from yourself. I was about to test the compass of the metro. Was this the culmination of our thoughts? A silver ballon stuffed with incendiary messages floating off and then crashing against the side of a building like
a combustible zeppelin? I took the green line all the away to Honore Beaugrand, hoping to fall to off the end, all the way to the bottom.

IV. {Rize or Die}

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me,” is something St. Paul said, I think, but I hadn’t read my bible in over a decade, only remembering the words because my father repeated them to me, often, as I was growing up in Montreal, so they might as well have been attributed to my father as far as I was concerned.

May 2015, Toronto. I moved to the Big Carrot in 2002. I had a steady job, near on twelve years now. I worked for a big corporation. Married the girl. Picked up a slick Challenger along the way. Dare I say I was content. There was a baby on the way and I began to worry about the longevity of the Dodge. I sometimes photocopied demented things and left notes laying around the office to get my ya’ya’s out. But nothing extreme. Nothing Tyler would approve of.

On my way home from work I stopped at Silver Snail to look at some comic books for old time’s sake. The shop was a venerable cornucopia of nostalgias, great and small (a vitrine of sculptures and figurines, ranging in price from $1000 to $10). In a few years time (“And may their first child be a masculine child.”), I’d have reason to invest in some Transformers once again.

Browsing the rack, a cold chill ran up my spine. I spied someone I thought I’d never encounter again, staring back at me from the painted cover under his roughened brow. Tyler was back (I would have gouged his eyes out had he been real). I lifted the comic from its trench and flicked through the pages maniacally, reading what I could. Palahniuk was writing. Cameron Stewart on pencils. Such a high profile team meant it had to be a legitimate project of succession.

Fight Club 2 is supergood!” Said the girl with the pixie haircut from behind the counter, hopping to the electronic dance music piping out of the speakers from the rafters. “Seen the original?” She asked.

I ignored her and returned to the comic. The leaf trembling between my fingers. I saw sheepish “Jack” driving some family friendly car: “He calls himself Sebastian these days.” He’s had a widow’s peak now. “He traded his army…for what?” He’s older and looking more worried.

I walked the comic to the counter and I debited nearly five dollars to my account for this curiosity. “Can’t wait to read it, huh? Rize or die, buddy.” I kept it in the bag until I reached the Dodge in the underground garage. The car remained in park while I turned the pages of the comic, oblivious to my surroundings.

“Sebastian” and Marla were married…with kids. I could see that. The children a little bit touched by Tyler. “Dog poo mixed with wood ashes and straw and moistened pee.” Junior was a space monkey in the making.

Marla attended group meetings still. She complained about getting older: “My wrinkles…they’re all on the inside.” We learn from Marla that “Sebastian” takes medication to control his psychotic outbreaks, aka, Tyler Durden.

And then, on page 10, Palahniuk and Co., had to go and do it, sticking an image of a burning tower in the comic, an obvious reference to 9/11, under the caption: “Everything that was going wrong in the world, he insisted it was all his doing.” And here I thought that the people responsible for the Trade Center attacks had been brought to justice (Osama Bin Laden had been executed in 2011).

It was an exercise in graphic bad taste. And honestly, what was much much worse was that Palahniuk and Co. seemed oblivious to the gestalt of the Fight Club legacy, numb to the intervening nineteen years (sixteen from the Fincher directed film) that had sobered his audience. I continued reading.

The marriage was on the rocks. Marla replaced Sebastian’s psychotropic medication with aspirin (off panel). All for the sake of some excitement and a better orgasm: “He gave me orgasms that shave years off your lifespan.” How glib. How adult. How very unconvincing for a woman to say. I can’t believe I once fell for this lifeless drivel.

News balloons were next. The laziest of writerly tactics: “International turmoil…masterpieces vandalized…genocide.” Palahniuk was really dumbing this down. Wait a second? Had I just read the word genocide? When was Tyler Durden, the man who had cared so much about the education of America’s convenience store clerks, ever genocidal?

We get a Genesis quote (from the scriptures, not the prog-rock band) tattooed over a barman’s neck, who obviously is part of project whatever-it-is-called-now: “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their
ways. So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.”

So now we’re aligning Tyler with Old Testament justice? Talk about the connecting the last two missing dots on the map. Palahniuk was all over the place. And then on page thirteen, another shot to the ribs, bringing back memories of yesterdays’ painkillers and razor sharp breaths: “Young people. They’re so hungry to anchor themselves in the vast world.” Well played, Chuck. So condescending but so apt. The writing was on the wall. He had put me in my place. Measured me up correctly.

I reminded myself, pinched myself to my senses, Fight Club was only a comic. Even so, once upon a time Fight Club was only a movie, and before that only a novel. So why did I answer the call and make the wide journey to the underground? There was time for navel gazing later; ghosts don’t usually speak without a blood sacrifice.

On page 16 there was a glimpse into “Sebastian’s” domestic life and it wasn’t so bad. I knew the cliches of suburban living. He mowed the lawn while his son played with his chemistry set in his bedroom. The… horror. There
 was some interesting narration about marriage, sensitivity, and fatherhood, but the artist, Cameron Stewart, scribbled over the text boxes (he does that throughout the comic) so that “Sebastian’s” thoughts remained incomplete and we were unable to read them. I understood the visual experiment. In this instance, it was a sound effect graphic of a dog barking superimposed over the text. Previously, there were rose petals and pills accomplishing a similar task. The simple truth is that the 3-D effect got in the way of the storytelling, which I’m sure Palahniuk didn’t have a problem with because there was no real story to tell. Just a trail exposing where the slug had been. Constant references or winks to the original Fight Club. Or just noise from where I sat.

Tyler started popping up around the midpoint of the comic and completely undermined the tone of the story (tone too subtle a thing for Palahniuk). How a clown would make rubber animals out of people’s tears at a funeral to get a laugh, so it is with Tyler, who romped around the comic like a cartoon character (the truth hurts; the joke on me), appearing in a video game, and over “Sebastian’s” bed like chimera out of his imagination. It was a psychologist who finally set Tyler free: “For fifteen minutes, three times each week over the past ten years I’ve been emerging to run the world.”

That was the last straw. Tyler causing bombings and revolutions around the world with the stroke of a key on a laptop? I’d seen enough. I closed the comic. Put it back in the plastic bag and dumped in the trash as I stopped to pay the parking fee. When I got home, I greeted my girl with a huge hug and asked her how her day had been. I popped open a cool beer from the fridge, got the lawnmower out of the garage, and did my thing in the tangled green ring at the front of the house. Dogs were barking. Kids hollering and playing in the street. I said hello to my neighbour. And none of these things interrupted the placidity of my thoughts because I had no thoughts. I was just mowing grass.

V. {Last Club Standing}

The Clash said “You start wearing the blue and brown, you’re working for the Clampdown.” I only wore blue and brown on Thursdays. On Thursdays I worked for the Clampdown. On Fridays I wore jeans because I supported a children’s charity and those 2-dollars-per-pay-cycle gave me the right. On Friday’s I rocked the Casbah.

June 2015, East York. I was driving down Donlands Ave to pick up some Greek desserts for a social we were having and nearly got into an accident. A few shops before the bakery I rubbernecked to my right and saw a store banner in bold red-and-black letters: “Fight Club.” I parked the Dodge straightaways and headed towards the shop, feeling like I’d seen a mid-day mirage (it was a humid 32 degrees celsius), but it was real, incarnate like a spoiled deli sandwich in your stomach. Below the banner it read: “Martial Arts and Fitness Training Center.” My knees buckled. My mind unable to apprehend the meaning of the message. Four bright posters covered the windows of the storefront so you couldn’t peer inside: “Fitness Classes. Personal Training. Youth Program. Adult Martial Arts.” Each poster was a different colour bright you think they’d were advertising the iPhone 5C series.

I was not hesitant this time around. I opened the front door and walked 
right in. A little bell sounded out when I entered, similar to the ones heard in convenience stores. There were blue sport mats lining the floor as far as the eye could see. Canadian flags draped the pallid walls between large black stencilled words like “Courage” and “Strength.” At the far end was an emblazoned Fight Club logo: a crooked and flexed arm positioned within a sphere, with a spike running through the circumference.

Along the wall on the left side hung various athletic instruments like chains and ropes and hoops and elastics. Gym standard stationary bicycles and bench presses and kettles bells furnished the room and gave it that sought after “lived in” look. The familiar uninviting locker room smell of pasty armpits, ripe socks, and sour breath, made the air feel jungle-humid despite the best efforts of the HVAC to maintain an ambiance of sanitation. There were about eight people messing around on the mats, loosely sparring, and applying various holds to one another. In one such cluster, two men and a woman were laying on their backs kicking each other and attempting to parry or deflect blows. Two other guys were mock boxing on their knees, grunting or hissing between digs for effect.

The instructor, who was behind his desk on his computer, noticed me at the lip of the entranceway, and unmoored himself and headed in my direction. He stuck his hand out and I shook it.

“Hi, I’m Emmanuel. Welcome to Fight Club.”

I remembered from my Sunday school days that the name Emmanuel was Hebrew for “God is with us.” It was also an Old Testament name for the Messiah. This Emmanuel looked to be Balkan in origin. He was clean cut and physically fit by all appearances, round faced and square jawed, too handsome to be a scrapper, but you never know about these things.

“The first rule of Fight Club is that you don’t talk about Fight Club,” I said. “You don’t know how many times I’ve heard that,” he replied.