|time-lapse photos of Z, |
from Afghanistan to Portland
I’ve known Z for almost two years. He works as a night club bouncer in the Old Port of Portland, ME. While DJ Tubbz runs the sound on the weekends, mixing Top 40 chart toppers with throwback jams from our era of 90’s R&B. Despite their unique backgrounds, these two are buddies. They hit the gym together every day, and give each other feedback and support, in and out of weight training.
A bit of an odd couple, Z came here from Afghanistan in late-2001, while Tubbz is an East coast native (originally from New York). When standing next to the two of them, Z stands just under six feet tall, and is all brawn. While Tubbz is slightly shorter, average male height, with a sportsman's build.
So, when it came up that they had extra tickets to catch the latest WWE tour, and that I was actually interested in going along with them, they were quite literally surprised.
I’d never been, I confessed. But I had attended similar events in the past, such as NASCAR a few years ago, when the President of Goodyear Racing offered me press tickets to Pit Row. I couldn’t refuse such an offer and opportunity, since my grandfather had once worked as an original pit crew mechanic when the tracks were still laid in dirt. And somewhere I have a photo of me, sunglasses on top of my head, standing on the finish line, after the crowds had dissipated. And I had blinked because my ears were still ringing from the roar of the engines, and I hadn’t heard my host say he was snapping my picture.
|DJ Tubbz in action|
photo credit: Damon H. Loucks Photography
Having new experiences like this, for me, is one of the most valuable pieces to enjoying the many facets and niches of life. From the diverse to the simplistic, from the most abstract to the most concrete—I crave the visceral moments that will linger on long after I have been through them. For it is this type of fodder that keeps me inspired. Stockpiling memories, even when I know I can’t possibly run out.
I don’t know if any of you have been to Augusta, ME—the far east capital of the United States. But it’s something, to say the least. Similar to many mill towns that sit like dirty pock marks— reminders of what were once industrial hubs. Where money was once a ‘flowing, like the river that now divides the town in half.
The Victorian estates are still fairly maintained, and have been turned into state offices and residences for congressional representatives. The lawns manicured with high-end sprinkler systems, and the driveways protected with gates and pass codes.
This is an outsider’s first impression of Augusta, in which one thinks, Oh, this is nice.
Then as you travel further down Main Street, reality sets in. As does, the evidence of economic disparity, and the state of Maine (and arguably the United States) as a whole. In the smaller towns the gap is much more apparent; the middle class has become all but extinct. Local businesses struggle to stay open, and every other storefront is empty. A grimy build up collecting on the windows. Profanities finger-painted into that filth. Mattresses and plastic toys decorating the porches and lawns of the apartments in town. Structures on stilts, just in case the river swells from heavy rain or snow melt. These buildings are reminiscent of coal miners’ quarters that run door to door like motels, or brothels.
These were the best places to sell meat, Tubbz tells me off-handedly. A job he had done one summer as a supplemental income.
On the outskirts of town, the houses are ranch-style kit models, probably picked out of a catalogue and delivered on truck beds. Not to mention, a nightmare for anyone who gets raging drunk, and tries to find their way back home.
This is the Augusta that some will never leave. This is the Augusta, where some will know nothing else.
The Civic Center where this World Wrestling event was scheduled to take place is a cement octagon that occupies a far corner of a strip mall. It’s not much bigger than a university gymnasium filled with bleachers and aluminum chairs.
Our seats were ring side, V.I.P. since they, the guys I was in attendance with, “knew a guy”. And in the world of arena sports, we scored on some pretty sweet viewing.
The first match was what they referred to as a scrub match. Where two no-name or lowly slotted wrestlers, were paired off to warm up the audience. Ultimately, it didn’t matter who they were, the crowd was ready to go from the start. When the lights shone across the auditorium, fans screamed and cheered, as their neon tee-shirts expressed loudly their different loyalties .
As a writer, I naturally asked too many questions, but observed quickly how each wrestler had an angle. A back story. A script they followed to stay in character. And I was impressed, not only with the theatrics that were so well-rehearsed and choreographed, but the nimbleness and athleticism that each of these 300 lb. plus men exhibited. Having once been a gymnast myself, I could easily appreciate the acrobatics these men performed.
Some characters gave me the creeps. Like Wyatt, from the bayou, who wore a butcher’s apron.
While others, reminded me of circus clowns—participatory and surprisingly attentive with the audience members, in between major acts.
There was Fandango, who danced flamenco between punches and throws. And Wade Barrett, a kind of Paul Bunyan-figure with a British accent. Then of course, there was Ryback who mocked the crowd and their feebleness and laziness, just to get everyone all riled up to support the All-American Boston boy, John Cena.
And I can’t forget, Sheamus aka Great White, with blazing red hair and Celtic emblems incorporated with his image. Whose biggest fan that night, was a four old little girl who gasped and threw her face into her grandfather’s chest, every time her hero was down for the count.
For a sport that should have given me that aversive feeling, I usually get when I witness anything violent. Instead, drew me in, and I couldn't help but get caught up in the energy of the crowd. I was simply in awe of the performance, and the passion of the fans themselves that I couldn’t look away. Engrossed in the moment, and dazzled by each and every one of those specimens.
At the end of the show, the guys asked me if I had fun, and I’m sure I lit up like a tree on Christmas morning.
So fun, was all I could say, as I watched young and old, husbands, wives and children, friends and foe, filter into the rainy parking lot in their torn t-shirts and beat up shoes, radiating nothing short of satisfaction. And many of them, holding each other’s hands, as the summer showers gently pelted down on their smiling faces.