The Intermittent Volunteer’s Weblog

Befriending People in Dallas Who Are Homeless

Wrestling and Other Conversations May 31, 2008

Saturday, 5/31/08

Last night after the evening meal at the Bridge, I left the dining hall and was wandering around the campus when a couple of guys said hi, and I stopped to talk, sitting down beside them on a low concrete wall by the pavilion.

One man, Cullen, who seems very well-educated, has entered a work-to-housing program at the Bridge.  His friend, Joe, had spent the day putting advertising flyers on houses for $7 an hour.  Joe grew up in a carnival family and said he has worked at the State Fair of Texas since he was a child.  He had seen the football stadium at SMU for the first time that day and couldn’t get over how big and impressive it was.

We sat there talking, with the heat of the day dissipating and a nice breeze cooling things off.  Behind us, the large garage doors of the pavilion were open and the mega ceiling fans whirling.  Though it was still daylight at 8 PM, people were already settling into their cots inside the building for the night, because many of them start off for work at 6 AM or so.  

We were trying to identify a bird that flew onto the roof of the Bridge, and Joe began to talk about how much he liked Blue Jays and how they are sign of good luck.  He said he knows he’s in a quiet, peaceful neighborhood when he sees a Blue Jay, and he’d seen one that day while he was passing out flyers.  

I found out Joe is a celebrity buff.  He once asked a Channel 11 reporter for her autograph, and, of all movie stars, would most like to meet Bruce Willis.  Cullen and I talked about how we couldn’t believe that, at his age, Sly Stallone still did his own stunts in the last Rambo.  “Arthritis, and still running through the woods!” he said.

But Joe was most excited when he was telling us how, years ago, he had met several members of a prominent, high-profile wrestling family and what a thrill this was for him.  He was recounting the various things that had happened to that family in the interim.  Joe’s enthusiasm for everything, from Blue Jays to football stadiums to wrestlers, is contagious, and I found myself mesmerized listening to him, because of the joy which illuminates him when he talks.

Suddenly a woman appeared, standing before us.  “Remember a certain child who was always at those wrestling matches on TV and was wearing a shirt with a flower on it?  That child was me!  I am the cousin [of that wrestling family]!”  “What???  NO WAY!!!” Joe said, and jumped to his feet to hug her.

The woman’s sister came to stand beside her, adding, “And I was usually up in the stands, ‘cause I was too young for a long time to be in the ring.”  One thing led to another and pretty soon they were waxing nostalgic about the glory days of the Sportatorium on Industrial Boulevard, where these women had spent much of their youth — how it had been a significant historical landmark until it burned down, and whether that was arson — and the importance of being able to ‘whup people’s asses.’

On a personal note, as a child, I only ever got ‘whupped’ for cussing.  A foul mouth was pretty much second nature to me, and, since my parents weren’t fond of cursing, they sometimes got fed up with mine and expressed their disapproval through generally mild forms of corporal punishment (and allow me to inform you, it did no good.)  Other than feeling a natural affinity for ‘bad words’, however, I was a sickening sort of Buddhist-leaning, Sunday-school-attending, Presbyterian goody-goody who pontificated to my friends with statements like, “Don’t smush that ant!  Ants are our friends!”

But these women had grown up doing a considerable amount of ass-whupping themselves — from about the age of eleven, in the wrestling ring with their cousins, the pro wrestlers.  They demonstrated to us how they’d stand in the ring gesturing and shouting, “Bring it on!!!”

When Joe found out who they were, it was as though the actresses from the new Sex and the City movie (yes, we’d discussed them, too) had walked onto the Bridge campus.  There was a lot of ‘You’re kidding!’, more congratulatory hugging and a celebration right there on the sidewalk that was somewhere between a family reunion and a red-carpet event.

I ventured that I had been to the Sportatorium only once, for a wrestling match in the ‘70’s with a boyfriend from overseas who idolized American wrestlers.  When I expressed the opinion that night to my boyfriend that some of the ring action looked like it might be fake, he got so upset that he threw a full cup of Coke straight up in the air and showered us and everyone around us with ice and soda, which got stickier and sticker as it dried and as the night wore on.  

So it was with hesitation that, after ten minutes or so of listening to my new friends at the Bridge reminisce about this or that particular wrestling match from the glory days and not wanting to offend anybody’s sensibilities, I gingerly asked them if they thought any of the drama in the ring was planned, after someone gave me the opening, “Boy, wrestling has sure changed a lot since then.”  But the question didn’t offend anyone, and they said, sure, a lot of it was rehearsed, but still unexpected things often happened.  So there you have it, folks…the truth from the source.



3 Responses to “Wrestling and Other Conversations”

  1. Nancy Says:

    It wasn’t just for wrestling, they held the Big D Jamboree there as well.
    In the 70’s when all the live music jobs were lost to canned music and disco, Dad played there as backup for several country music bands. Maybe some of your friends saw Willie Nelson there back in the days before the Austin phenomenon hit.
    We used to watch the Von Erichs and ask Dad if he thought any of it could be real. He always said he thought those guys had to be in pretty good shape if they were going to sling each other around without getting hurt too badly. It was American Kabuki theatre if you ask me.

  2. Karen Shafer Says:

    I had forgotten that there was a music side to the Sportatorium (the aging brain.) That’s really neat that your dad played there, and I didn’t know Willie did!

    I think you’re right about the theatre and about their fitness. I’m going to have to google ‘Kabuki theatre’, so thanks for the nudge!


  3. Karen Shafer Says:

    After reading a little about it, the ‘Kabuki theatre’ analogy seems to be a perfect one.


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