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#348 :: Juego de Lucha Libre

January 23, 2005

more about decease ‘popup’, ask ‘width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false”>The oil lamp guttered and went out in a little puff of soot.

She sat, thumbs a-fidget, not wanting to stick her finger with the needle, but unable to keep still, with her sewing on the lap of her crinoline hoopskirt, in the dark.

“I’m done being pleasant about this, ma’am,” Mr. Quimby had muttered, through twisted, disgusted lips, his greased handlebar mustache a-twitch. “You just be out o’ here in the morning with your brat and I’ll see to it Tom comes round with the cart to take your things wherever you’ve a mind to go.”

She straightened, put her petitpoint needle into the heather blossom on the sampler she had been sewing, and carefully set the hoop frame and the spools of yarn into the wicker basket beside her. A deep breath eased the frown from her face. Well, it’s all one can do, isn’t it. One does what one can, and it’s all one can do.

Rain hammered on the roof. Gertrude slept fitfully, making little piglike snorts beneath the counterpane, and rain hammered the shake roof with a hissing roar. Three weeks now the storms had been battering them, off and on, three weeks since her August was taken – finally returned to his Lord by the fever that had wracked him since the accident with the surrey, three weeks alone in this godless mining town in northern California, surrounded by ruffians and drunkards and women of loose character, and the claim August had staked was nowhere to be found in the records and Mr. Quimby had finally had enough excuses, he had a load of Chinamen he needed to house and the railroad was willing to pay double what August had been paying so what can one do.

It’s all one can do.

She stared around her through the gloom. Flickering shadows from the streetlight outside skittered across the floral wallpaper, which hung in great festoons from the wall now, its glue undone by the relentless rain. She bit her lip.

She walked across the room, tore off a piece of it, stuck it into her mouth and began to chew. Bitter, bitter and sticky with mold. She chewed harder, but kept her eyes dry as she began to pack.

(A note tacked to this block by the seller says:

Hand-carved, labor intensive wallpaper print block. Circa 1840-1880. Note square nails and peg construction. Each is a unique piece of art; no two are alike.” It has hand-grooves gouged into its flanks, and the print surface feels velvety, soft. On its end are very old white numerals that some printmaker painted by hand: 2866.)

purchase ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false” href=””>At some point – midway between the Playskool block-sorting drum and the Thomas the Tank Engine fetish, we began to sort our two young children’s toys. Bricks, gears, stuffed animals, dress-up clothes – all were assigned translucent plastic bins in a pine toy rack – and my wife would spend a happy, idle hour every week or three sorting. Broken toys are banished. New alliances arise – the Monsters, Inc. figures with scale-model doors are grouped first with cheap toys, then building toys, then action heroes – and sundered at a whim. A constant surf of toys and parts batters the rack, rising and falling over days, hours, minutes. One of my favorites is the animal box, a mad, mis-scaled menagerie gathered from countless birthday party goodie bags, Christmas stockings and some mysterious wormhole that exists in parts of the house unknown and admits animals while inhaling socks.

Just now, I have imagined a flood from the nearby bathroom, my son frantically building a Lego ark amid the rising waters, and all these marvelous one-of-a-kind species perishing upon reaching dry land in the absence of mates.
ENLARGEI have a thing for stereo cards – particularly views of the industrial age.

Stereopticons were the pinnacle of multimedia technology in their day – twin images shot simultaneously by cameras set a few feet apart, doctor approximating the 3-D view seen by the human eyes.

With the gentleman beckoning at the right, website you could almost fall into this one, pill it’s so gorgeously intricate. I found it at the Rose Bowl swap meet for three bucks, in perfect shape: the stiff card is a little curved, and you can see silver glinting back from the blacks.

Here’s what the Underwood and Underwood Works and Studios had to say about it:

You are ten miles west of Edinburgh, high up in the air, 150 feet above the waters of the Forth. This bridge is a giant stride of the North British Railway, whose tracks stretch out before you on their way towards Aberdeen at the north. it is more than a mile from here to where that dim arch marks the farther end. The bridge was seven years (*1883-1890) building; the labor of 5,000 workmen went into it, and it cost nearly $15,000,000.

It is a cantilever bridge with a central truss. There are three skeleton towers of steel, each 360 feet high that reach 210 feet above you here; the cantilever arms, each 680 feet, extending both ways from each tower, and those extending from the middle tower are connected by central trusses of 350 feet with arms from the other towers, making two gigantic spans, each 680-350-680 feet, or almost a third of a mile each. (see stereographs showing a side view of this bridge.)

The convergence of those steel girders as they reach above your head is not merely the eeffect of perspective; they do draw nearer together towards the top. Those large tubular steel girders are 12 feet in diameter. If the bent plattes of steel used in this one bridge were laid out on the shore, end to end, they would reach 32 miles – almost as far as from here to Glasgow. See those steel rivets that dot the nearest lattice girders on eeach side of the rail – there are 8,000,000 just such rivets in the whole structure and their responsibility is no small thing. It is a weight o 51,000 tons of steel which they hold together. The engineer-architects had to allow also for contraction and expansion of this huge mass of metal with varying temperature (1 in. per 100 ft.) and for posssible wind-pressure of 56 lbs per sq. ft.

From Notes of Travel, No. 21, copyright, 1905, by Underwood & Underwood.

healing ‘popup’, salve ‘width=500, healing height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>I grew up a car nut in the late 60s and early 70s, awash in STP stickers, borrowed issues of Hot Rod and a hardcore lust for muscle cars. I still dream of a lime-green ’74 Hemi ‘Cuda or a ’67 Shelby Cobra Mustang riding on glittering Cragars. I collected Hot Wheels and raced them on those slick plastic tracks (my favorite setup was the dual-loop dragstrip, gravity fed from the starting gate clamped to a table down to the loops and finish line on the floor). Vibrant neon-pink and metallic copper dazzled me, and I wondered who got to design all those cars – it always seemed the most romantic job in the world. Turns out it was one lucky genius.

I just rediscovered Bruce Springsteen’s “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” probably my favorite album of his back in the late 70s. Text won’t quite do it justice, but the beauty of this song is just staggering:

I got a sixty-nine Chevy with a 396
Fuelie heads and a Hurst on the floor
She’s waiting tonight down in the parking lot
Outside the Seven-Eleven store
Me and my partner Sonny built her straight out of scratch
And he rides with me from town to town
We only run for the money got no strings attached
We shut `em up and then we shut `em down

Tonight, tonight the strip’s just right
I wanna blow `em off in my first heat
Summer’s here and the time is right
For goin’ racin’ in the street

We take all the action we can meet
And we cover all the northeast state
When the strip shuts down we run `em in the street
From the fire roads to the interstate
Some guys they just give up living
And start dying little by little, piece by piece
Some guys come home from work and wash up
And go racin’ in the street

Tonight, tonight the strip’s just right
I wanna blow `em all out of their seats
Calling out around the world, we’re going racin’ in the street

I met her on the strip three years ago
In a Camaro with this dude from L.A.
I blew that Camaro off my back and drove that little girl away
But now there’s wrinkles around my baby’s eyes
And she cries herself to sleep at night
When I come home the house is dark
She sighs “Baby did you make it all right”
She sits on the porch of her daddy’s house
But all her pretty dreams are torn
She stares off alone into the night
With the eyes of one who hates for just being born
For all the shut down strangers and hot rod angels
Rumbling through this promised land
Tonight my baby and me we’re gonna ride to the sea
And wash these sins off our hands

Tonight tonight the highway’s bright
Out of our way mister you best keep
`Cause summer’s here and the time is right
For goin’ racin’ in the street
sickness ‘popup’, information pills ‘width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false”>How do I approach each heavy little object? Where do I begin to write? Which toggle switch in my simple brain gets thrown, and which blathering subroutine will it trigger before I emerge on the other side thinking, “Man, that sucked, but it’s late and I’m too damn tired to do anything about it. The next one will be better.” Categories: (Adornment. Art. Artifact. Edible. Found Object. General. Instrument (musical, medical or measuring). Jetsam. Objet. Part. Symbol. Tool. Toy.) Real or metaphorical heaviness: (Brass, symbolism, comparison). Size: (Choice of diminutive adjective in the title. Measurement. Value-per-pound. Comparison to other little objects.) Anecdote: (Somebody had one of these once. History tells us that this thing was used by these people. Here’s a funny/poignant/personal/lame/irrelevant story.) Dread: (Self recrimination: “That was stupid. You can’t say that. Who reads this site, anyway?” Quick scurry to the logs to verify that somebody‘s still reading it. More abuse: “Come on, you did that three entries ago. This is a dumb object. Why did I pick it tonight? God, if I don’t do this now, and do it right, I’ll have to do two tomorrow night …” etc. etc. ) Fiction: (Use of the object. Harm by the object. Fetishizing of the object. The object as mute witness, fly on the wall, hapless prop.) Fetish: (What breed of geeky otaku would be obsessed by the object? What other fetishes does it compare to). Meta: (This object is to X as Y is to Z). On and on, the style options tick, almost a whirring contextual set of property selectors that spin like fruit in a slot machine until two or more slide into place together and I begin writing.) Desperation/devil-may-care: (Just write whatever damn fool thing pours off the top of my head and decide 60 or 100 words in whether it’s good or utter bullshit (old deadline newspapering trick to break writer’s block). Constant internal monologue: (Revise, revise, revise. Don’t be afraid to pound “delete” on a regular interval. Don’t be afraid, they’re only words about pictures of little things. There were a couple good posts, maybe a month ago, you do get comments sometimes, and sometimes from the same people. There should be enough here for a very slim book but who the hell would publish it.)) More self doubt: (Keep writing, man. It’s late and this is the best idea you’re going to get on this one). Resignation: (Well, at least that’s done.)

This comes from Puebla, Mexico. Its blade is functional. It is perfect for severing toothpicks.
viagra approved ‘popup’, about it ‘width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false”>My father‘s father gave these fine gentlemen to him I believe, but I don’t recall the history beyond that. I emailed Dad, who made a gift of them to me couple of years ago, to see what more could be told. They are both samurai, with bodies of straw and heads of china, turned out in silk pantaloons and armor of laquered paper and thread. They would have been fine toys for a Japanese boy – or perhaps more likely ornaments for the home of a retired military man or history lover. I don’t know their relationship, but the milder-looking chap might be lord or page to the gruff warrior with the beard and the scowl. Their stance speaks of well-tested readiness and their eyes of calm in the face of peril.

Dad replies:

Dear Mack, My father, Wayne Reed, was a Red Cross Field Director on troop
emergency service in the Pacific and very early to Japan. Once there, I
think to Sendai, he was the recipient of many presents, among which were
these figures from sets of various date, the oldest apparently late 18th
or early 19th century. Mack Reed and Ko Maruyama each have been gifted
with some of these.

buy ‘popup’, erectile ‘width=500, viagra buy height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>This festive little tin vortex reminds me of the stupid amount of money I spent playing arcade games in college. One that comes to mind is Tempest, a crabwalking dance with paranoia and the chaos of alien battle. I’m making it sound more complicated and less dramatic than it was. You stared down a vortex at wireframe “monsters” and “bombs” that zoomed up at you, and you spun a knob that aimed a crab-like “shooter” at your targets, hoping to obliterate them before they reached you. They multiplied logarithmically with each level, until there was literally no way to kill them all.

I must have spent a good $300 or $400 in student wages (huge amounts in those days) playing Defender and Missile Command and truly weirdball games like Targ and Qix before I had to settle down and work for a living.

This was a little gift for the kids. There’s just enough room in the glass to look into your own eye.
rx ‘popup’, patient ‘width=500, more about height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>George Carlin has this beautiful riff about possessions. At times, my obsession for nifty little things begins to remind me of the passage that goes:

That’s what your house is, a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get…more stuff!

Sometimes you gotta move, gotta get a bigger house. Why? No room for your stuff anymore.

I have little boxes and big boxes. Bags and baggies. Piles and drifts of heavy little objects overflow the light box in my little studio, to the point where I have to box them up to make room for the new ones, to keep the desktop clear so I can get decent pictures of them all. Every time I think I’ll get a few minutes to assemble a few of them into an intriguing still life (I’ve mislaid the one with the raccooon skull, the spiky silicone keychain, the freshman, the strobing ball and a half dozen other things) the rest of my life intrudes and the thought of clarity is washed away in the ceaseless, crashing surf of stuff.

This trifle is a souvenir of my trip to the curio shops of Olvera Street, something a glassblower could turn out in dozens by the minute, a pinched bead of white glass decorated with concentric dots of black and amber. It has a powerful iconic gravity about it, an unquestionable magnetism that makes one need to stare back until someone … finally … blinks.
malady ‘popup’, nurse ‘width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false”>I’m not a particularly parochial guy, but then again, I’m not the most well-traveled, either. The foreign cities I’ve visited glitter for me, a chain of diamond-hard memories lush as the foetid jungles around the Red Fort in Agra, crisp as the calligraphy in the silicon hive of Tokyo’s Akihabara – and full and distinct as the mingling plume of perfume, wok oil and scooter smoke drifting on a Beijing breeze. But the list is far shorter than my wish list, which includes Venice, Sydney, Jakarta, McMurdo Station, Berlin, St. Petersburg, Mecca, Brasilia, Phnom Penh, Athens, Johannesburg, Jerusalem, Osaka and unspools enldessly, on and on across this planet and on to the next. Still, you’d think a Catholic pack rat – even a lapsed one, by now would have spotted one of these things. It’s the religious equipment of a thumb drive – an Italian-made hyper-compression of the ritual of the rosary into a clean, sharp little form factor that can be hung close to one’s bosom or slipped into a pocket. Pray, spin, pray, spin, pray, spin – and on around, a circuit of faith no bigger than a 50-cent piece.
dosage ‘popup’, viagra ‘width=500, cialis 40mg height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>The perfect expression of the ephemera of the olfactory world: a matchboxful of stamped, pressed incense. You break off one of the 16 sticks, stand it in a tiny glass receptacle in the box lid, and light it. It burns for about 10 minutes, breathing a scent more aromatic and intelligent in smoke form than the flowery ponk it gives off unlit. The label says Flower of India. Made from Sandal Wood Powder, Herbs with Essential Oils. Free from Chemical Toxins.
treat ‘popup’, thumb ‘width=500, buy height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Edward Weston did one of these in 1930. The color of this glorious vegetable really snaps your head back, the finish like something with 12 turbocharged cylinders and leather interior. ‘Nuf said.
this web ‘popup’, viagra ‘width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false”>Imagine you are conscious until the final period of this post. You eat dead sloths, mammoths – whatever you can find. You drink from a pondful of acrid-smelling water, thirstily, stepping into the water, you find your forepaws mired in asphalt. Gingerly you tiptoe back, but your paws go in deeper, and soon your up to your hindquarters in the stuff, unable to struggle out. Slowly you are sucked under, drowning in few inches of surface water that hid the broad pond of tar, before your carcass sinks inexorably down to rest atop the carcasses of hundreds, thousands of animals that made the same mistake before you. You’re still conscious. Your flesh is dissolved into the tar. Your bones blacken – the exotic petrochemical stew staining the porous bone cells brownish black while your enamel-hard teeth remain white. It takes Tens. Of Thousands. Of Years. Layers upon layers of more hapless animals – birds, marsupials, rodents, more dire wolves like you, settle down on top of you. And you wait.

A city rises up around your grave.

Construction workers lose equipment into the pitful of tar and bones, and they begin to dig it up. Bone by bone, they disassemble the sediment, scrape and steam away the tar to reveal your skull. They pull it out, take it back to a lab, lay calipers and ruler against it and set it on a scale, collecting numbers that mark the extent of your growth, the solidity of your death. Eventually, they mount you on a backlit plexiglass wall at the Page Museum, surrounded by 449 other skulls like yours. There you sit now, more than 20,000 years later, sixth from the top, on the rightmost column of six vertical ranks, being gawked at. You are dire wolf, the largest canid that ever lived.
more about ‘popup’, dosage ‘width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false”>I’m a man. If it weren’t obvious by now, this should make it so: I love women. Undeniable, ravishing, mysterious, unsolvable and glorious in every respect, they enthrall me past all reason. For me, the dress – in general – has deep symbolic weight: container, protection, enhancement, embodiment. If clothes make the man, so can a good dress turn a woman into someone she is not – and everything she is, simultaneously. Men are simple as bricks, women fractally complex. The tie is the single expression of individuality in man’s traditional wardrobe. For women, it is the shift, frock, cocktail, hoopskirt and a thousand variations beyond. This little rubber number fits a doll in the collection of my daughter, who at 3 is already as complicated as her 5-year-old brother – if not more so. I look forward to spending the next 50 years trying to figure her out.
sickness ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>These are sold traditionally on Dia de los Muertos, Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebration in October. Until I found them in Los Angeles last week at a Mexican curio shop, they existed f0r me only in the imagination, as drawn in a Ray Bradbury story about two dissolute tourists trying to sort out their feelings on vacation to this exotic, alienating place:

In the market, the remainder of candy skulls from the Death Fiesta were sold from flimsy little tables. Women hung with black rebozos sat quietly, now and then speaking one word to each other, the sweet sugar skeletons, the saccharine corpses and white candy skulls at their elbows. Each skull had a name on top in gold candy curlicue; Jose or Carmen or Ramon or Tena or Guiermo or Rosa. They sold cheap. The Death Festival was gone. Joseph paid a peso and got two candy skulls.

Marie stood in the narrow street. She saw the candy skulls and Joseph and the dark ladies who put the skulls in a bag.

“Not really,” said Marie.

“Why not?” said Joseph.

“Not after just now,” she said.

“In the catacombs?”

She nodded.

He said, “But these are good.”

“They look poisonous.”

“Just because they’re skull-shaped?”

“No. The sugar itself looks raw, how do you know what kind of people made them, they might have the colic.”

“My dear Marie, all people in Mexico have colic,” he said.

“You can eat them both,” she said.

“Alas, poor Yorick,” he said, peeking into the bag.

viagra 40mg ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>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)


  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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