Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Here, There, and Back Again Again (Part 2- Electric Waterloo)

So arriving in Waterloo was, in a Hallmarkian way, a sort of homecoming for me.  Totally a full circle type of moment.  It was practically identical to that scene in The Sandlot when the kid who looked like Skeletor hit the home run.

I still have nightmares.

Very few people know this but I was actually in Waterloo seven years ago.  That was the town that changed my life forever.  The town that set me on the path towards global jet setting, beach drinking, a lazziez faire attitude towards pants, and a keen interest in generator maintenance.

Seven years ago, in Waterloo, I signed a contract for my first international teaching job.  That night I went out with a bunch of folks and ended up on the wrong side of 2 am singing  karaoke at a Serbian Heavy Metal bar with two local women who had taken me under their wing because they thought my briefcase was hot.  A few months later I was off to Myanmar, home of awesome fried rice dishes and decidedly less awesome policies regarding free speech.

I have had some amazing times over the years.  I have lived in Myanmar, Taiwan, and Congo, and have been lucky enough to travel to, and drink beer in, dozens of places in between.  I have met some wonderful people, some less than wonderful people, and the kind of people who make you wish you could take a hot shower forever just to forget.  I have seen the kind of sunsets that Dr. Seuss would write a poem about, probably involving "Ponderfree Gatt, the daytime bat, or something almost, but not quite, like that".

Okay, the last one might have been a bit of a stretch.

It was in Waterloo that it all started for me.  At the time I was burned out from teaching in the Santa Fe public school district, felt like I was slipping into a terrible rut involving many unpleasant people, things, and home furnishings, and worried that the rest of my life would be like the first twenty minutes of Mr. Holland's Opus, but without the heartwarming bits.

What started off at Waterloo changed all that, for me.  Going overseas has made me a better person (I hope), has shown me the beauty and wonder inherent in the world, and has allowed me to try like 45 different kinds of mosquito repellent.

So it was with a nostalgic fervor that I rolled up into Waterloo eight days ago for their annual Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame Induction Weekend.  It's a great few days for wrestling fans with live wrestling, an entire day of fanfest activities, and culminating in the HOF induction ceremony and dinner.  What's funny is, seven years ago, I had no idea that the HOF was located in Waterloo and it wasn't until I was literally on my way to the airport to leave that someone told me.  If I had the lung capacity I would have done one of those action movie styled "Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!" screams at the heavens, but instead I let it fester inside of me for years until I found this chance to let it burst forth into a weekend of madness, knife edged chops, and far too many cans of Miller Light.

So anyway, as most weeks tend to end, I found myself Friday night in a hotel room of one of the stars of the show, singing "The Time of My Life" with two other people as a woman tried to bargain her way into being able to wear the championship belt by flashing everybody.

Wait, how did that happen?  Okay, lemme back up.

Thursday I was sitting at the hotel bar in Waterloo, which is normally a wretched hive of villainy and all of that, when a large , loud, happy man came up and said he was buying a drink for everyone at the bar.  Upon hearing this I knew he had to be a wrestler, because that has been the only time a large man has bought a round of drinks for strangers in front of me.  I introduced myself, we got to talking, and I told him where I was from.  The where, of course, being Congo.

His reaction was priceless, and anyone who hangs out with wrestlers knows where this is going.  He put his arm around me and yelled out:  "Congo?!  Fucking Congo?  Holy shit!  Congo?"  He then turned to the group of men and women he had left in the corner.  "Hey, guys!  Come over and meet this motherfucker!  He flew in from the fuckin' Congo to be here man!"

I was quickly surrounded by a dozen people who all wanted to meet me, shake my hand and, most importantly, buy me a drink.  One rather large man with interesting tattoos came up and said "For the rest of the night, Congo, you don't pay for shit."

So not only did I get free drinks, I got a sweet wrestling nickname which carried me through the whole weekend.  The night was a wonderful blur as drinks came and went.  They ended up taking me with them bar crawling and we hopped around.  Waterloo only has like five bars so it didn't take too long to hit the high spots.  At each location I was introduced to the locals as "Congo- he don't pay for shit" and I never did.  In one funny moment we went to a club that had a cover charge, of like 4 dollars or so, and the same big dude from before walked up to the bouncer and said "I'm covering everybody, and don't let Congo pay."

Other wrestling people would join us and we were carried forth like a frothy, drunken, suplexing wave.  I think the highlight for me was when I was sitting next to one of the female wrestlers who joined up with us later.  After seeing four separate people come up, shake my hand, and ask if I needed a drink she leaned forward and said, "who the FUCK are you?".  Trying to summon up my best Brad Pitt I replied "Nobody.  Just some guy here for a good time."  If I had sunglasses I would have removed them to reveal another pair of sunglasses underneath.

This happened all night, with the side effect of the locals figuring I was an important wrestler type, so I had a few make out offers which I rejected, and many offers to buy drinks which I happily acquiesced too.  This all ended at 5 am with the scene mentioned towards the top.

The next day was more of the same.  Between the constant "Hey, Congo!"s and eating at Subway at the same time as Edge, I was having a great time.  I felt loved, sweaty, and filled with testosterone.  It was like getting married in the summer on the set of Roadhouse.

So, thank you, Waterloo.  The first time I was there you showed me the pleasures of Serbian Heavy Metal Karaoke and led me down the path that I walk now, and will walk right on into Cairo on a few weeks.  This time, you set me up to be loved, paid for, and sung to, all by large groups of large men and attractive and somewhat attractive women.  So, kind of like the first time I was there, actually.  Well done, you bastard.

I hope you enjoyed story time, sweet readers.  I am off for Mallorca in a few days and will have some great times in the sun and sand.  I will post some photos if I can manage to keep the topless women out of the frame, but you all know how the Spaniards are . . .

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Here, There, and Back Again Again (Part I)

  It has been so long, dear readers.  By now, I might not even remember what most of you look like, beyond the tawdriest of generalities: the Latvians covered in track suits and off colored gold chains, the legions of Polish rage-a-holics running helter skelter through the streets of . . . um . . . Warsaw, I guess, the Brazilians lying half naked on the beach, abs glistening in the sun while casting forbidden looks at forbidden people during forbidden times, and those loyal fans from Rhode Island doing . . . well, I'm sure whatever it is, it's pretty sweet.

  My summer is winding down and it has truly been one for the books.  For the first time in almost four years I actually had my summer totally free because I finished my Admin courses last year and was able to indulge myself a little.  Being the first open Summer in a while and the last before I dip my cute little toes into the large, forbidding pool that is administration with a capital A, I thought I would work on things that would probably be called a "bucket list" if that movie hadn't come out and I could pretend I invented the term.

  So what did I do with my time, you ask?  Well, curious readers, I ate lots of great food and rode on far too many planes.  I flew from Congo to Vancouver, then journeyed onwards to Santa Fe, drove to Las Vegas for a weekend, followed that up by flying into New Jersey, out to lovely Waterloo, Iowa (more on that later), back to Jersey and now, in one week, I will once again be drinking beers on the sun drenched shores of Mallorca.  After that, I go to Scotland for a week where I will hopefully have a head butt free time before finally landing in Cairo to start my new gig.

  Wait, lemme catch my breath.

  So, what was the impetus behind much of these travels?

  Simple- much like last year, when I rocked Wacken harder than a really hard thing, this year my summer involved loud music, pyro, and tight pants.  Also lots and lots of shirtless men and scantily clad women (and, sadly enough, men).

  That's right, kids- I'm talking about wrestling.  In addition to hopping all over our great northern continent, I managed to sneak in some wrestling shows.

  First, I drove to Vegas with some old, good, only reasonably greasy friends to catch a taping of TNA Wrestling from the Orleans Arena.  As middle school ish as the name sounds, they are the number two wrestling company in the world and put on a great live show.  The owner, Dixie Carter, endeared herself to me (and to all geography fans) forever when, upon finding out I came out from the Congo, immediately said, "Congo?  Which one?"  Which means she knows more about the countries of the world than 90% of Americans, myself included.

Good seats.

I had a fantastic time there, and in Vegas in general.  I gambled exactly 5 dollars, spread out over three days of nickle slots, drank cheap Vegas beer (hoppy, with a taste of sin) had the biggest lunch of all time at a place called Chicken and Waffles, went to the Pinball Hall of Fame, and got to see Hulk Hogan do his thing again.

 Did we eat lunch, or did lunch eat us?

Bliss.  And neon.  Mostly bliss.

  Now, anyone who knows me knows that Hulk Hogan has always been a big part of my life growing up (if not read here- oh God summer plugging!) and, while people get older and a bit slower on the draw, some things don't change.  One of which is that intangible glow, that positive energy, that need to stand up and exult to the heavens, that Hogan brings to live events (sort of like when the first bars of "Pour Some Sugar On Me" kick off at a low end strip club), and it was awesome seeing it one more time.

Spiritual shirt tearing abounded.

   Then, to Jersey, where I got a chance to meet my niece for the first time.  She immediately tried to eat my face.  I have spent the better part of two weeks trying to get her to perfect her "thumb to the eye" maneuver, and I think we are seeing some progress on that front.  I have already started to work on "crazy uncle from overseas" routine, so we'll see if that has any legs.

Yeah, the thumb goes there . . . no one ever expects that move.

   Then what did I do?  Flew to Iowa.

  Wait, Iowa, you ask?  What does Iowa have except for Slipknot and Bruce Springsteen songs that might be about Iowa if you mumble them enough?  Why was I in the scenic town of Waterloo?  Who was in that hot tub with me?  What cool nickname did I get?

  Suffice to say, when I went to Iowa, that's when things went from being awesome to being awesome enough to warrant their own blog post.  Oh God, what a tease am I.

This was the only image that came up when Googling the word "tease" that didn't involve naked women.

Tune in Thursday for part 2, dear segmented readers, where I will tell you all about what happens when an innocent young man from the Congo attends an indy wrestling show.