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#348 :: Juego de Lucha Libre

January 23, 2005

Announcing a CONTEST. It’s been quite a while since I last offered a prize to those of you who visit HEAVY LITTLE OBJECTS on a regular basis, but with post 350 approaching (and the end of the one-year commitment I promised myself I’d give to this project) it seemed an appropriate time to do it again. (My family members are exempt from winning, but most welcome to play).

So: Tell me what you can about the career of this Mexican wrestler: Why did he get into this line of work? Who are the identities he puts on with his snap-on masks? And late at night, while he’s nursing his bruises and trying to imagine a better line of work, what life does he yearn for the most?

The best entry between now and #365 (just over 2 weeks from now) gets el Juego de Lucha Libre, plus one considerably-more-extraordinary HLO of my choosing. Post a comment or three. Don’t hold back. Have fun.

Filed under: General | Comments (7)

7 Comments

  1. Brian W. January 27, 2005 @ 12:40 pm

    I kind of went overboard. I got to thinking and this came out. It’s around 2,700 words.
    *****************
    Alejandro had come a long way in the business. He’d started young because he wanted to get away from the small town he grew up in. The town was on the Gulf of Baja and it was the sort of place tourists came when they wanted a beach vacation but couldn’t afford one of the bigger, better known resorts. His father worked as a fishing guide and his mother ran a small restaurant on the beach and everything seemed set for him in his life. His father talked about opening a larger fishing business when Alejandro was old enough to run his own boat and the dreams were in his father’s eyes. Dreams for his father, shackles for Alejandro. He didn’t like the idea of his whole life being planned for him. He felt trapped. Then one day a traveling wrestling exhibition came to town. Alejandro went with a few friends and it slowly dawned on him as he watched the wrestlers strut that no one told them that they were going to sit on a boat and show drunk tourists where to throw a line to catch a fish. They got money and they got to travel. A year went by after the show and when he was old enough he left home amid shouts from his father and tears from his mother.

    “I’ll be back in a year or so,” Alejandro said. “I just need to try this. I need to DO this so I don’t sit around for the rest of my life wondering.”

    “You’ll waste your life! Don’t expect me to help you when you’re face down in a gutter somewhere!” his father had yelled back as Alejandro rode off with a friend.

    His mother hadn’t said anything. She’d just cried. He remembered those tears as he worked his way through the crummy regional circuits. A year passed and he thought about going home. He knew that his father would have hard words but Alejandro knew that he’d have a place to stay. The wrestling wasn’t paying off and he was always on the move. He slept in cars, he slept in crummy hotel rooms and one horrible night he had to sleep in an alley because his ride to the next gig left without him. He thought about home and the restaurant and good food as he ate another package of soup. He couldn’t give up just yet.

    “Just a few more months,” he thought. “Just a few months and I’ll go home. I’m almost there. I can feel it.”

    Alejandro worked out and got bigger. He wrote home every once in a while but he could never get letters. He was on the move too much. He tried to call home once but his father answered and the stone cold silence that came down the line when he said his name was enough to make him slam the phone down. Then one night it happened. A scout came up to him in the makeshift locker room as he was changing into his street clothes and handed him a card. The scout told him that he thought Alejandro could make it in the big time.

    “Come by in the next week or so if you can,” the scout said. “I’ll introduce you around and see if we can’t fit you into the story.”

    He’d said come by like it was just down the street. The address was in Mexico City and it was over a hundred miles away. Alejandro took what money he had left and started off the next morning. He hitched part of the way there because he couldn’t afford the fare on a bus for the whole way. He arrived in Mexico City five days later, exhausted. When he walked into the scout’s office it all became worth it. The scout was named Emilo and he showed him around the large gym and introduced him to some of the other wrestlers. Emilo put him up for the night at his apartment and the next day Alejandro showed off his moves in front of a group of five silent well dressed men. They never spoke and Alejandro never did learn there names. They were simply known as the Investors. That afternoon he signed a five year contract and he started building his persona.

    The Wrestler of Many Faces became known far and wide on the circuit. Fans never knew what mask he’d come out wearing but they knew him by his moves. They’d chant and yell and scream while he strutted and postured and beat opponent after opponent. He was unstoppable. The script said he was and that’s what he became. Every once in a while someone would beat him but he’d always change masks and come back for the win. The announcers always said that no one knew what to expect because they never quite knew who they were facing because of the changes. No one ever seemed to notice he only had four masks. No one seemed to care. They cheered him on all the same and acted surprised when it turned out to be him under the new mask.

    The money was coming in and Alejandro was happy. He wrote a letter to his parents telling him how he had made it and he finally got one back at his new apartment. His mother wrote him back a short letter telling him she was proud he’d lived his dream but asking him to come home. It had been over two years since he’d left and she wanted the family whole again. He tore the letter up in anger. He didn’t send another letter.

    Several years went by and Alejandro worked hard. He endorsed products, he strutted for the screaming fans and he was on top of the world. Money and fame was his. The “many” masks were known and people loved him. Then one day the script called for him to get beat. It was an unfair fight. Several wrestlers ganged up on him and he was to be carried out of the ring to boos from the audience for the “cheaters.”

    No big deal. He’d done this before. But next time he came out to fight one of the wrestlers it happened again. They even got a name. They were The Gang of Four and he heard gossip that they were going to be the big thing for a while. They were going to dominate the ring with their gang. People didn’t care about the Wrestler of Many Faces as much anymore. Sitting in the locker room one night as he held an ice pack to his thigh, Alejandro found himself thinking about his dad’s fishing boat for the first time since he tore the letter up two years before.

    This time it wasn’t with anger, it was with a touch of longing. He didn’t think about the drunken tourists. He didn’t think about the fish. He thought about sitting on the bow as the boat rocked slowly in the swell. He shook it off. That wasn’t the life he wanted. He wanted this life. The year slowly passed. His character soon found himself as a lackey to the Gang of Four. They used him to trick other wrestlers. His many masks were used as a gimmick and a trick. Alejandro tried to ignore the boos where once he had heard cheers. He found himself thinking about the boat and home more and more. He fought those thoughts down.

    Then one night after he had got home from traveling he found himself sitting in his apartment all alone. Alejandro looked around at his apartment and decided he had to get out. He took to the streets. He walked past a graveyard and was taken aback by the people sitting in the graveyard with candles and talking. Then it dawned on him. It was the Day of the Dead. He had completely forgotten.

    The day had always been a big one for his family. They’d visit the family plot in the graveyard and have a huge dinner. They’d talk to their neighbors and friends and laugh and tell stories about their dead neighbors and friends. One of his earliest memories was of the Day of the Dead.

    That night he called home. The phone rang and rang and rang but no one answered. He sat down to write a letter. Alejandro had it addressed and ready to go in the mail. He tore it up at the last minute. He went and bought a six pack of beer and spent the evening drinking and thinking.

    The next morning he called his promoter and told him that he was going to take two weeks off. The promoter was furious. “Why are you doing this? We’ve got a big show coming up!”

    “I have to. I’m going home to see my parents,” Alejandro said. The promoter grumbled some more but finally gave him the time.

    Alejandro boarded a bus that afternoon and rode for two days before he was dropped off in his town. Everything looked a little smaller since he had last been in town. Everything looked a little dustier. He tossed his bag over his shoulder and walked down the street.

    Alejandro went to a roadside stand that rented scooters. Scooters sat lined up along the road and behind the counter sat a young man.

    “You need a scooter?” the man said.

    “Well, yeah,” Alejandro said in confusion. “I used to come through here all the time. What happened to Old Juan that used to run this place?”

    “Well you haven’t been through in a while. I bought it from him when he retired about two years ago. If you came to visit him, it’s a little late. He died about six months after that. Seems retirement didn’t suit him,” the man said.

    Alejandro thought for a moment and said, “Well, it would have been nice to say hello.” He shrugged and said, “I’ll take a scooter.”

    The man had him fill out some paperwork and took his money and sent him on his way. Alejandro drove with the ocean breeze in his face and it wasn’t long before he was pulling up outside his family’s restaurant.

    Walking up the front steps he noticed that it seemed a little newer. When he went inside he was bracing to see his mother. She’d always been the hostess. Instead he was greeted by a girl he’d never seen before. She looked like she was all of 18 and she had a big smile as she greeted him.

    He was seated out on the patio overlooking the ocean. He ordered the food and wondered where his mother was. He couldn’t bring himself to ask the waitress or the hostess and he felt out of place. He watched the waves roll into the beach as he finished off his lunch.

    As he paid for his lunch he decided this had been a big mistake. He stood up to leave and was almost to the rented scooter when he heard a voice cry out, “Alejandro!”

    Alejandro turned around to see his mother running out of the restaurant. Her hair had gone completely gray since he’d left and she seemed a little more slumped but she ran across the gravel and flung herself around him. She was crying and talking a mile a minute.

    She half dragged him back inside where he was introduced to the entire staff, hugged on and kissed and he sat down in a chair on the patio. He was expecting her to order the slaughter of a fatted calf when she finally asked, “Why didn’t you come and see me? You ate, you sat and then you tried to leave!”

    “I’m sorry. I just… who ARE all these people?” Alejandro said.

    “Don’t dodge my question! These are all the people we’ve hired. Now why were you leaving?” she said.

    “Because I didn’t feel right being here,” Alejandro said.

    “It’s your place. Of course you’re right to be here,” she said. “Now give me a kiss and tell me what you’ve been up to.”

    Alejandro told stories about his life and career. She laughed at the right spots and clucked at some of the spots. He left out the stories of sleeping in cars and worrying about food. She showed him the picture she carried of him as he posed on the ropes in one of his masks. He took it carefully out of her hands and looked at it.

    “How did you know which one was me?” he said.

    “I know my own son. Even behind a mask, I know my own son. Your father doesn’t like me to carry this. He gets upset if I watch you on the television. But you’re my son,” his mom said. There was a pause as they both were quiet. Then she burst out, “And what’s with you joining this nasty Gang of Four?”

    Alejandro laughed for several minutes as she glared at him. He finally got his laughing under control and said, “It’s scripted mom. I don’t know what they’re planning for in the future but it’s a story. The guys in that group are actually a good bunch of guys. I’ll have to bring them out sometime.”

    “So you’re not here to stay,” she said.

    Alejandro thought about it. When he first started out he thought he was coming back to stay. He had planned on going back to his apartment to clean it out then break his contract and move back to help his father with the business. But as he looked around he realized that he liked his work. He saw that they weren’t hurting without him.

    “No, I’m not. But I promise I’ll be here for several days and I won’t stay away so long between visits this time. I’m sorry for what I did,” he said as he hugged her close. She dried her eyes a little and then looked at him.

    “I can’t ask for much more. But you need to find yourself a nice girl to settle down with,” she said as she dabbed at her eyes.

    Alejandro broke into laughter again. “Nope, that’s not asking much is it?”

    Later Alejandro was standing on the dock as his father’s boat came in with a load of tourists in the evening twilight. They got off with their fish, laughter and stories and went off into the evening. Alejandro and his father stood on the dock staring at each other.

    Finally his father broke the silence, “Finally came home did you? Are you out of money?”

    Alejandro almost snapped out just how much money he had but he reigned in his temper. “No father, I’m not out of money. I’ve come to apologize and set things right.”

    “Apologize? For what? All you did was leave us when we needed you. No big deal. We seemed to have managed,” his father said.

    The boat hands looked nervously back as they tidied up the boat. They were new and had never seen Alejandro before. All they saw was a large muscle bound man looking at their whip thin boss.

    “I should have stayed in touch but I’ve found something I like. I make a good living. Maybe one day I’ll come home for good but for now I’m staying with what I do. I’m a man and I’m not here for your approval. I’m here to see my family, who’ve I’ve missed for all these years,” Alejandro said.

    “Have you at least gone to your mother?” his father said.

    “Yes. Now I’m here to make my peace with you,” Alejandro said.

    “I don’t take back what I feel. You should have stayed,” his father said. “But you didn’t. So you’re back. Don’t expect me to treat you like the prodigal son.”

    “You can’t. The prodigal son left with inheritance. I left with what I had and didn’t ask anything from you. Now I’m back to tell you I’ve made my way in the world. So you can either welcome me back as just a son or treat me like a stranger,” Alejandro said as he shoved his hands into his pockets.

    They both watched each other for a few minutes. Alejandro kept his hands in his pockets in tight little fists waiting to see what would happen. Finally his father stepped forward to him and held out his hand.

    “I’ll welcome you as a son,” he said as they shook hands.

  2. mack January 27, 2005 @ 12:48 pm

    (Gulp) WOW.

  3. Brian W. January 28, 2005 @ 12:12 pm

    You’ve entertained me through many days at work. I figured I could take my shot at paying it back a little.

  4. xoxoxo bruce January 29, 2005 @ 2:10 pm

    Uh..well…Yeah, what he said. heh heh heh

  5. mark_w February 3, 2005 @ 1:42 pm

    His true name is Luis Cordero — once he was the best tenor sax for a hundred miles in any direction, with chops to make Sonny Rollins smile and nod. He would play for the sheer hell of playing, late into the night, jamming with the heppest cats Alamogordo had to offer (which really weren’t very hep at all, but when they were on the stand with him, man, they’d *shine*) After one such night, too late and too much whiskey into things, he got caught in a last-call scuffle, and met the business end of a fist the size of a size of a softball.

    He woke up in the hospital. The litany was really something to hear — one eye swollen shut, two broken ribs, dislocated knee, a concussion and, most terrifyingly, a deep, ugly gash running all the way down the inside of his left arm (you can still see the scar if you look closely, in the picture). Insult to injury, the bastards had run off with his sax like some kind of trophy — the police had found it on the side of the road, delicate valves hopelessly smashed by a hundred passing cars or more. The mouthpiece was salvageable, though, and he would lay there in his hospital bed, turning it over and over in his hands, while his meager savings gave way in the face of modern medicine.

    After that, he moved down to Las Cruces, took up with his brother in the construction business. It was difficult work, at first, but young as he was, he built up for it quickly. It didn’t hurt that his brother ran with a serious bunch of muscle-heads and weight-lifters, always happy to help him “rehabilitate” himself. They’d run down to El Paso on the weekends to catch the crazy-ass luchadores throwing each other around. His brother always wanted to try it — it was only a matter of time.

    When he finally got his start, it was as a stand-in for an injured wrestler — the ersatz mask, painted in garish blue, had originally been intended for hockey, and smelled faintly of feet. He put it on apprehensively, while his brother and the others clapped him on the back like it was graduation day. He came out of it with a couple bruises over his ribs and a roll of spending money that would last a week. It was ludicrously easy.

    After that, it was Los Hermanos Cordero — Luis in a bright yellow outfit painted in stylized flames, his brother Ramon in a similar kit, done up in red. They hit circuit events all over the southwest, making long weekends of it and coming back with fat stacks of money for Ramon’s wife and cheap souvenirs for his little boy. Days ran together, evenings marked only by shifts in the weightlifting routine. They lived for the weekends and the screaming crowds.

    At night, in dank hotels with mattresses dating back to the Carter administration, while Ramon slept, he would sit on the edge of the bed and turn the mouthpiece of his old sax over and over in his hands. Even in the dark, his fingers knew every ding and scratch it had gotten out on that highway. He would remind himself that times and people change — that in this life, “back” isn’t an option.

    –Last night, after the match, Ramon had quietly folded his fire-engine red outfit and slid it down the bench to Luis. He was out. Done. His wife was too scared, his son too big to be without his father around. Luis had felt it coming for a long time and really, it made sense.
    –This morning Luis wandered the streets of Albequerque in a funk, not even noticing the way people shied away from his massive frame.
    –This afternoon he found a Selmer tenor in a pawnshop. Not the best Selmer, and certainly not in the best condition, but his hand flew to his pocket for his wad of luchador-money, almost of its own volition.
    –Tonight he will play his first match in a new mask — a bright red thing with a daoist yin and yang over the head and the heart. The manager will explain that daoists are about balance, a swirling dynamic exchange between positive and negative forces — “so this new character will be, like, a good guy somedays, and a bad guy others.”
    –Tomorrow he will cradle the Selmer in his enormous, calloused hands like some kind of fragile, exotic bird. Balance, he’ll think. Then he’ll lick his lips, and he’ll play.
    —————-
    So, is #365 the last HLO? If so, I’ve got to say, it’s been a fun ride, and thanks for letting us in on it…

  6. mack February 3, 2005 @ 1:55 pm

    EXCELLENT, Mark. You’re definitely giving Brian W. a run for his money.

    Yes, sadly (well, for you, anyway) I’m plodding towards the end of a year of this weird obsession. I can’t say it’ll never come back – because the site isn’t going anywhere. But I need a rest from the nightly (and sometimes not-so-nightly) ritual of squinting into my camera and dragging meaningful words out of the sludge in my cranium and slapping them up on the site and hoping no one thinks me a dweeb.

    Watch this space folks – maybe YOU’d like to tell us a bit more about this multi-masked man. There’s a few more days left …

  7. mack February 14, 2005 @ 9:03 pm

    Thanks to mark_w, who really did do a lovely job – I particularly liked the jazz in his words and images, and he’ll get an appropriately nifty (and musical) runner-up prize just as soon as he emails me.

    But I have to award the Luchador to Brian W. (ditto on the email, Brian) for going entirely above and beyond the call of duty and weaving a rich tale that doubtless scared off more than a few other entrants. Thanks to you both, for all your support over these past 12 months.

    And thanks again to everyone who discovered this blog – I hope you’ll feel compelled to pass on the URL to someone you know who might get a kick out of it.

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