The Brain's Molotov Cocktail | Fate & Biology | 1

Episode Summary

You ever get in a fight? I did. Once. Wearing my Red Sox hat at Yankee Stadium. Me (and two Yankees fans) were basically high on an aggressive cocktail of brain chemicals that forced our collective hand. Stupid, pointless violence with strangers that almost cost me an eye. This episode’s fugue will describe the experience, followed by Inner Voice and I doing a post-fugue analysis. Together we’ll review the ingredients of a lethal cocktail that drove me into a dangerous, seemingly unavoidable situation. This is Part 1 of a three-part series about fate and biology, sharing the experience of situations that find us “stuck in time,” unable to avoid fate.

Episode Notes

You ever get in a fight?  I did. Once. Wearing my Red Sox hat at Yankee Stadium. Me (and two Yankees fans) were basically high on an aggressive cocktail of brain chemicals that forced our collective hand. Stupid, pointless violence with strangers that almost cost me an eye.  

This episode’s fugue will describe the experience, followed by Inner Voice and I doing a post-fugue analysis. Together we’ll review the ingredients of a lethal cocktail that drove me into a dangerous, seemingly unavoidable situation.  

This is Part 1 of a three-part series about fate and biology, sharing the experience of situations that find us “stuck in time,” unable to avoid fate.



Written and produced by Gabriel Berezin.

Original music and sound design by Grant Zubritsky

Opening and closing music by Monuments (featuring Grant Zubritsky (bass), Robby Sinclair (drums) and Bryan Murray (saxophone), Gabriel Berezin (guitar)) 

Editorial insight by Melissa "Monty" Montan 

Logo design by Justin Montan

Follow Fugues on Twitter and Instagram.


Episode Transcription

Hello, it’s Gabe again, welcome to episode 2 of Fugues.

Just a heads up, in case you’re in the car with smaller humans, this episode contains references to violence and I should also mention, I’m pretty comfortable using swear words so...now you know.

I want to kick this one off to say that I hate not having control over my behavior, I just hate it.  Like puking or crying, they’re physiological reactions...that while happening, I’d prefer to have the ability to stop.

I saw this nature documentary once where a male deer, following his biological orders, was attempting a bit of... procreation with a doe.

She seemed interested, but he couldn’t quite seal the deal...so to speak

Which was a bummer 

Bc he quickly ran out of time to do this safely 

Just then a male competitor showed up with the same goal. 

Now the biological programming shifted on a dime 

from sex to violence. They had no other choice but to fight it out. 

So these two idiots proceeded to tear each other to pieces, and this is the brutal part:  

After they ran out of gas, laying there, wheezing, bleeding, teeth gnarled, basically almost killing each other.

a third male deer, who’d clocked the whole thing, strolled out, and had deer sex with the same doe, 

right there in front of the other two.  

Modern humans are supposed to be above this, but let’s face it, we haven’t gotten there yet. Keyword though...yet…

We’ll be covering one fugue for this episode, and it will illustrate the internal experience of being in a fight, and why certain outcomes are so hard to avoid.  

Then me and my inner voice will do some post-fugue analysis together.   

In case this is your first go round, the word fugue in this podcast refers to a story, or a retelling of a former state of mind.  If you need more explanation just check the trailer or read the description.

This first fugee is called “Okay, Who do I punch first?”


I’m a masshole. I grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts, and 2004 was a big year for Boston sports.  

And before you non sportsballs fans roll your eyes, 

this will require no prior sportsballs knowledge, think of it like a neurosciencey Ted Lasso episode...

Anyway, The Red Sox were on a year 86-year drought of championships, known as the Curse of the Bambino, fated by the trade of Babe Ruth in 1918.  

I had been living in NYC about 5 years, and my friend Alex and I routinely went to Sox/Yankeess games - him in his Yankees Cap and me in my classic capital B Sox hat.  

I loved those games, the stands were filled with trash talk bw yanks and Sox fans, but it was mostly harmless and fun...

Except...on this day.

It’s almost as if Yankees fans sensed a change coming.  

I was getting harassed the whole game, people screaming insults, booing me every time the Sox got a hit - one guy, unprovoked, tossed a beer at my head.

Alex and I were about six or seven 22-ounce beers in, and it was starting to get under my skin.

By the 9th inning of a close game, I was in a hurry to get the hell out of there.

Alex, desperate for the bathroom, peeled off to excrete about three gallons of Miller Lite, and I was making a beeline for the exit.

As I hit daylight, I heard two guys behind me screaming F-bombs and very clever homophobic slurs.  I wasn’t sure if it was directed at me, but as they got closer it became obvious.  

So I turned to face them...abruptly, and told them to knock it off.  

Before I got a word out, one of them got so close to my face, I could smell the nachos on his breath…

An aside about men fighting -  stripped of context and sound, it looks more like a ritual sex dance than a fight. They’re so attracted to each other.

Anyway, back to the fugue, this guy practically kissed me he was so close, 

so I instinctively pushed him back, maybe more than i meant to, cuz bear in mind, i’m pretty drunk at this point,

and he fell back into his friend 

and they both lost their footing for a second. 

Then time basically stopped.  

My shove was all the impetus they needed. I looked right in their glazed eyes and it was pretty obvious they were in attack mode

And I remember as everything was paused, thinking that maybe I could still defuse the situation or run.

But that logic was very quickly overruled by an inner voice that gave one, simple, directive:

“Take these mother fuckers”

IV: Can I interrupt here for a minute?

Gabe: Can’t you wait until postgame?

IV: No, I have a question.

Gabe: Make it quick

IV: Was that voice me? Cuz I don’t remember telling you to do that

Gabe: It wasn’t you, it was something else.

IV: What tho?  

Gabe: I’m not sure, honestly it probably wasn’t a voice, it was just...an instinct...

I’ve never been in a fight before or after this event, but it really is so bizarrely intimate -  here I am eagerly ready to share all this extreme physical contact with frothing strangers. 

And it sounds weird to say it now, but giving into the instinct was not only a relief, it was a desire.  

And I wasn’t about to wait to get punched, or kissed 

so I made the first move,

And I’m as shocked to say it now as I was when i did it…

I straight up clocked the guy closest to me, right in the mouth,

and then wrapped my arm around his neck, 

and then with my other free hand, 

I punched the other guy and put HIM in a choke hold.

So now I had two guys in headlocks.

IV: okay, i remember this

Gabe: beat it! I’m mid-fugue!

IV: c’mon!

Gabe: what is it?

IV: it was right here you asked yourself  “am i winning right now?”

Gabe: hahah, oh yeah

IV: and i gave you an honest answer 

Gabe: what was that

IV: not for much longer

I had not really planned any other moves after these two opening salvos. 

Eventually they picked me up and pile-drived me into the concrete on my back. So I was in darkness on the bottom of a big pile of guys, completely pinned down, while one guy, 

and this is graphic, so if you need to skip ahead 5 seconds, now’s the time

tried to gouge my eye, digging his thumb deep into my eye socket.

My only focus in that moment was not letting him get leverage by moving the one part of my body I could move - my neck - and it worked just enough. 

And just as i thought maybe i’d lose an eye, 

there was daylight again, everyone was off me, someone seemed to stand me up like a puppet.

this time face to face with another animal - a horse (who actually had better breath than the dude that wanted to fight-slash-kiss me).  

On the horse was an angry cop screaming at me to get the hell out of there before he arrested me.

And I said yeah, you’re right, i’ll leave, and in my post fight-fugue shock, i noticed i lost my Red Sox hat and I asked him he’d seen it...he was not keen to help me.



IV: Welcome to Fugues post-game, I’m your ho-

Gabe: da, noooo.   the host, you’re the co-host, I”m Gabriel Berezin

IV: I’m Gabe’s inner voice, like the original, but funnier

Gabe: well this wasn’t funny, i almost lost an eye.

IV: sure did.

Gabe: so how did I temporarily turn into a chimp?

IV: temporarily?

Gabe: for a second it felt like i had a choice?

IV: yeah, that was an illusion, free will is already pretty uncommon, but I promise you, there was none in that moment. Once you pushed those guys, you were on a path there was no deviating from.

Gabe: so what’s in the fight of flight cocktail?

IV: First, big surge of adrenaline, raises your heart rate,

 and sends bloodflow away from the organs you don’t need in a fight, 

Gabe: What don’t I need in a fight?

IV: like your stomach and kidneys, your body doesn’t care about digesting four hot dogs while you’re fighting for your life.

Gabe: so what do I need?

IV: you need bloodflow to your lungs (to maximize oxygen),

and your muscles,

to help with the stupid stupid violence.

Gabe: And this is all within seconds, right?

IV:  Yup, it’s pretty fast-acting, all while another hormone called cortisol is released, which increases the glucose in your blood…

Gabe: my bloodsugar...

IV: yeah, it’s like nature’s gatorade

Gabe: oh, does it taste like glacier...arctic watermelon

IV: i doubt it…

anyway, that’s only part of the cocktail.  

You’ve also got the dopamine and serotonin flowing too.

Gabe: okay, what are those?

IV: they’re neurotransmitters... 

Gabe: ugh, try a different word

IV: they’re like mood chemicals, they add the...color to a feeling of an experience.

Gabe: cool, so it’s like my brain’s own drug supply, okay. What does the dopamine do?

IV: dopamine is associated with feelings of reward

Gabe: reward, like if i won a scratch ticket?

IV: sure, that’s...kind of an obvious example, but yeah, a surge of dopamine is familiar if you’ve ever done cocaine, had sex, or eaten choclate, or eaten chocolate while having sex 

Gabe: (scandalized) inner voice, you minx...so, things that feel good, i get it, what’s the serotonin do?

IV: serotonin is associated with feelings of happiness - for instance most antidepressants ensure serotonin stays active in your brain longer. 

Gabe: okay so during my...altercation, the dopamine and serotonin made me kinda...high, is that right?

IV: yeah, that’s right, 

but we’re missing one last ingredient...can you guess what it is?

Gabe: ...the booze?

IV: yeah...the endless beers

Gabe: (laugh) whoops

IV: we’ll be right back to hear about…

Gabe: no, i’ll say the next part…

IV: okay

Gabe:...wait what are we saying?

IV: we’re gonna talk about a lesser known neurotransmitter related to alcohol.

Gabe: okay, well we’ll be right back to...talk about that.


IV: Is this podcast make you think about your thinking?  I hope so, because that’s the goal.  Leave us a little blurb on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts.  

First one to post gets a personalized inspirational voice memo from me, Gabe’s a-hole inner voice. It will probably sound like this message Gabe’s band Monuments got from Hulk Hogan that one time…”

“Heyo, this is Hulk Hogan…”

Gabe: Welcome back to the Fugues Post-Game. So I V, 

what’s this deep cut brain chemical you were talking about?

IV: If dopamine and serotonin are the Beyonce and Radiohead of neurotransmitters, GABA is Little Dragon - very cool stuff, but not mega-famous.

Gabe: So what’s this one?

IV: (trying to remember it) Gamma-amino-butyric acid {CUT OFF}

Gabe: No, i don’t care about the chemical name, what does it do…

IV: oh, it’s like a brain activity regulator - if there’s too much activity,  

GABA is released to...slow things down.

Gabe: when does your brain have….too much activity 

IV: think seizures, epilepsy, GABA keeps that in check. In a less extreme way, it’s released to quell feelings of anxiety. 

Gabe: oh, well, thank you GABA, but what’s that got to do with booze though

IV: alcohol increases it

Gabe: ooooooh...and that’s why we drink. 

IV: Pretty much. 

Gabe: and if we drink a lot, that feeling of drunkness comes from GABA slowing things down.

IV: yeeeeeeessss

Gabe: so how does GABA factor into my dumb fight?

IV: that’s more complicated, and a bit counter intuitive, like any cocktail when you add more ingredients, it changes the flavor profile.  

Gabe: look at you with the metaphors!

IV: GABA and serotonin are like mixing spirits, it can get fiery. 

Gabe: so don’t mix your neurotransmitters.

IV: It’s a powderkeg 

Gabe: of beer, a powerkeg of…

IV: there are a number of studies, 

that say the presence of GABA, 

increases the amount of serotonin

in the decision making part of your brain.

Gabe: the pre-frontal cortex?

IV: what?

Gabe: that’s the decision making part of the brain

IV: oh, yeah. Very good. 

Gabe: see, I like it when we get along. 

IV:  it’s an interesting idea,

all the alcohol in the beer, 

increased the GABA, 

and that increase…

Gabe: sent all that serotonin to the decision-making part of our brain.

IV: yeah

Gabe: I’m not sure i get this, are people gonna get this?

IV: not necessarily, but there’s one big point...

Remember how serotonin is such a feel-good chemical? Well now it’s all up in your decision making center 

Gabe: uh huh…

IV: so when Mr Tough Guy felt that instinct to swing first, that rush of serotonin made the idea of violence feel reeeeeeal good.

Gabe: I hate to admit it, but it sure did...Damn...that’s a stiff brain drink. I wonder how our Brain’s Brooklyn bartender would make it…

Craft yourself a Molotov cocktail using 8 domestic light beers to thoroughly rinse your glass. 

Then grab your shaker and add 3 parts free-range adrenaline and cortisol. 

Those self-infuse, so you barely need to mix them.

Now add the artisanal serotonin and dopamine, and 4 ounces of organic GABA, then shake. 

Skewer your ballpark frank and garnish the glass.

Take a sip, and enjoy the warming glow of bloodlust.

And with this afternoon’s three-for-one special, this only comes to thirty seven hundred dollars in ophthalmologist bills.

That really was a Brooklyn bartender and his name is Zach. 

Him and his partner Liz run  The Sneaky Spirit Social Club, which is a boozy little members-  only project based in Brooklyn that specializes in virtual cocktail classes and speakeasy-style events.  I have a few of their flavor tinctures, and despite not having any brain chemicals in them, they definitely take your cocktails to new heights. There are a few links in the show notes to learn more...


At least those poor deer in the nature episode I saw were fighting for a cause - to pass on their genes.  

What the hell was I doing?  

The biological violence chemically programmed into my body served exactly zero purpose - I wish we could mute that stuff - 

or apply some kind of logic that would override the physical response.  

But is it that even possible? It’s not like you can out-think a sneeze...it just happens…

This is where the sci-fi nerd in me comes out.

I’ve read the book, SH5 by KV six times now.

If you haven’t read it, the basic idea is that the main character, Billy Pilgrim, becomes unstuck in time when he is abducted by well meaning aliens called Tralfamadorians that are not bound by linear time.  

So throughout the book, he bounces around his life - 

sometimes he’s 8 years old in he car with his mother, other times he’s in a basement during the fire bombing of Dresden in WW2.

I think of it every time I’m reminded of that stupid fight - I want to go back in time to a minute before the fight began.


And tap myself on the shoulder before those guys started stalking me, 

before I became a chimp drooling for violence.  

Warning me that it will be very hard to ignore the violent impulses about to take over my behavior.

And since it’s me talking to me, I’d embellish it a little,

 and show up in a retro futuristic space suit of silver nylon and say “yeah, this how we dress in 2021.”

And future me and younger me would have a laugh, we’d just ignore the idiot Yankees fans, and we wouldn’t have risked losing an eye in a pointless fight.

Because in the absence of time travel, with those same circumstances, that same outcome probably happens 999 times out of a thousand.  

And I just don’t like those odds for me, or for anyone.  

Speaking of fate, after my mother heard this story, she unleashed the full weight of her witchy superpowers and single-handedly jinxed the end of curse of the bambino and the Red Sox became World Series champions that season for the first time since 1918

And she may have overshot a bit b/c they actually won three more titles after 2004. All while the Yankees signed Arod.  

Thanks mom.



Thanks for listening to episode 2. I wanted to share some quick things you’ll find in the show notes.

There are a few research articles that go into great detail about the fight or flight cocktail, in particular our new favorite brain chemical, GABA, which has a lot of implications for why drunk people always get in fights.

There’s also a picture of young, cleanly shaven me with a gnarly post-fight fugue eye injury sitting next to my Yankees fan friend, who looks...amused.

There are two more episodes about fate and biology to go. 

In Parts 2 and 3, I’m going to share some fugues that illustrate how being on a team makes us feel the high of war, and another chemical we haven’t talked about yet.  

Then we’ll talk to a law enforcement officer about how he’s changing the way police work is done with people in crisis - using de-escalation techniques to prevent dark outcomes.

Fugues is written and produced by me, Gabriel Berezin…

The music and sounds you hear are their own other characters in this podcast and that is all done by Grant Zubrisky.

Logo design is by Justin Montan

And these don’t get done without the editorial help of Monty Montan.

Probably most importantly, thanks to Hulk Hogan and Kevin Plessner for getting him to shout us out.

Part 2 is coming soon.  

Until then, see you in the next Fugue.