The floors were concrete, painted with gray that was now peeling off in spots. I got a pat down on the way in. The women were getting patdowns from the women, the men from the men. My guard felt in my upper brastrap. I guess that’s where you could keep a weapon.
From about two or three blocks away, the selling began. Two- or three-sided tents of canvas with bright masks like those of the wrestlers hanging on the walls. Toys and action figures laid out on mats on the ground. Bright blue, shiny silver and gold, bright red, yellow, lightning bolt, a patchwork of colors. I didn’t want a mask but I already saw the colors of Mexico.
I hated the waiting, I hated the lines. Up the steps of whatever gigantic indoor stadium building this was. We had walked for what seemed like miles, Clay and his four new Mexican co-workers, whom he comes here to train. Inside the stadium there were lines for beer and snacks. A very pink-and-white-skinned female wrestler in pink shorts and bra top, a mask with silver trim, was posing for pictures with kids on a dias. Both Clay and I were surprised by this bright sight.
We got in the regular beer line, and Clay’s friends got in the special beer line. I don’t know what other kinds they had, but the special beer included a large cup with drooly oozy red stuff over the top and the same in the beer. It looked like a combination of sweet and hot. Later, I found out you could get that on top of a fruit cup, too. The servers at the counter took bottled water and bottled beer and poured it in these plastic cups. All you could get was a cup, whether the original beverage bottle was plastic or glass.
When we got there, the entire row had been taken up by seat squatters and people had to be kicked out by the usher. It took some time, but we eventually sat down in our little bright blue wooden seats that folded up like those in a very old school auditorium.
Once seated, we realized you could order almost everything there. Beer–disgustingly reminiscent of Budweiser–chips, other food. Vendors paced the aisles, hawking their wares amid the general din. I didn’t order anything. Someone bought a bag of chips and kept passing it over me to Clay and people further down in our row.
A family was seated in front of us, with four kids. I’d guess two friends and two biological children. Boys. They all had masks. The smallest ones had two identical masks, florescent orange with silver tape. It looked almost like they had made them, or that those masks had been purchased for less than the usual masks. The other two boys had masks too, the kind I had seen on the way in. One insisted on keeping his off. The fourth boy had it off and on. But the first two were wrestlers, I’m sure, in their minds. They never took their masks off. They jumped up in their seats and pumped their fists. They ooohed and ahhhed at all the moves. They laughed and screamed in triumph. And when they stood, they were only as tall as the top of my head anyway, so my view was hardly blocked.
The bathroom. Unfortunately, at some point I had to use it. One of Clay’s friends said he would escort me. He had perpetuated an unnecessary machismo all evening, conspicuously walking to the outside of the two of us, on the traffic side, halting me with an arm before we crossed an intersection. I knew this was Mexico City. I had seen how people drove since I first got into the cab at the airport. However, the bathroom escort was convenient. I didn’t have to ask where it was amid so much hubbub while my Spanish was worn out.
In the tiny concrete bunker, there were four stalls, metal painted pink. I got in one, sat down on the toilet with no tank, just pipes that went into the wall and a lid that had to be flipped back down to flush, and–no toilet paper. To my right on the floor was a basket containing what looked like used paper towels.
So, I’ve peed in the woods before. I figured I’d just consider this a similar occasion, but I felt disgusting. Upon walking out of the bathroom, I saw there was a roll of brown toilet paper on the wall near the door. You walk in, you take toilet paper, you take it with you, and then instead of putting it in the toilet, you put it in the basket. What? I later learned that free toilet paper was a bit of a luxury, and Mexico is ahead of many other countries in this department. But at the time, I didn’t have the mental bandwidth for this.
I told this story of discovery to Clay’s chivalrous friend and he asked me if I was “able to go.” Ha! I am not so refined a woman (reference peeing in woods). Perhaps he was expecting a woman as old fashioned as he was.
I told Clay about this behavior later and he was so flattered his friend was taking good care of me. He said nothing about the measure of annoyance.
The show started with women. The booming announcements went out, various women marching, tramping, or dancing down the ramp to the ring. (This ramp was black-painted wood as was the entrance to the dressing room area from which all players emerged. It reminded me of clubs where everything is really dirty but it’s painted black and the light is low so nobody sees it.) The female wrestlers tended toward short but solid. The outfit was basically underwear and a bra, wrestling-style. One woman, part Asian, the only one hanging around the ring since we arrived, had green baggy shorts like a Celtics basketball player, a refreshing change. Other outfits: a gold heart on red bikini bottom–you-know-where. Pink bottoms so sculpted they must have been designed for wedgies. You know how you sometimes see someone with short shorts try to subtly pull down the edges? I did notice one woman trying to get these things out of her butt, but it was her uniform and they were made to go up the butt. If it was me I just would have given up. In fact, I did not see that move again.
A total of six women had accumulated in the ring. They had the six women fight and did not break it down into individual fights of the winners. That’s what they did for the men. I kept laughing at the moves. Picture stopping just short of hurting somebody. The way one of Clay’s friends explained it to me, they admired the wrestlers because they are gymnasts and it does take physical prowess–but they just look like they are bouncing off of each other to me. Every time somebody did a drop kick, or jumped from the corner of the ring ropes onto another person (landing on hands and knees so that the middle body did not come into contact with the other person’s body), or pretended to punch somebody in the face and opened the hand at the last minute, making a slapping sound, I was incredulous and laughed. I had never seen anything like it.
That didn’t mean I liked it.
Some guy or maybe I was disoriented and it was part of the show audio–kept tooting a horn, two longer blasts and three short ones together. “Duh Duh duh-duh-duh!” It was right next to my ear. It was loud. I’m sure I’ve already damaged my hearing from some concerts. I didn’t want to continue but had little choice.
After the Brazilian, the Princessa, etc. left the ring, other, taller, more conventionally sexy girls came down the runway to the ring, lining themselves up in two neat rows of three. Loud American music was blared over the speakers: “We Will Rock You,” “Jump,” and other hits of the seventies and eighties. The ladies’ outfits changed for every in-place dance they did before a new round started, except for the final few rounds where winners were fighting out their fate.
Outfit number one was black shorts with a bikini top–each woman with a different color–bright yellow, lime green, orange, pink. All dances involved swaying. With “We Will Rock You” the ladies would slap one thigh, the other thigh, and then clap. The final outfit of the evening was black bottoms and a fake tuxedo vest with tails–again varied in color. The tux “tails” were not copious although they existed, so they split over the bottom. They continued to dance and clap as the male wrestlers walked, skipped, and postured down the ramp one by one, for each round. Clay and I stared for perhaps two rounds, but everything gets old. The event was being broadcast on TV and after their bit was done, they would stand in a line, the videographer would run his camera across them, and they would make kissy faces and blow kisses to the broadcast audience.
The guys got to experience the gamut of women: heading through them as they clapped and danced and the announcer boomed out their names. The guys would run down in a cape, mask, and below-the-knee bullfighter pants or a bikini, depending on style. The capes came off quickly. Sometimes they had a shirt like one would wear under a diving suit. One huge man with long, curly brown hair got huge cheers too when, sitting on top of his opponent, he pulled the shirt off over his head. Just as with one of the women, one man of the men wasn’t afraid of wearing bottoms that marked the important places. Red bikini with a golden eagle on the front?
A large video screen up and to my left showed whatever was being shown to the TV audience. This helped us watch one funny move. This was when one wrestler would somehow kick or throw another out of the ring (read–willing wrestler jumps down while making it look like the other guy’s skin contact caused it). The one that received the brunt of the other’s wrath would then be down on outside the ring near the front row of people. The vengeful champion would jump down from the ropes onto the guy outside. This was a big crowd-pleaser. The decibel level surged every time. If it was on the other side of the ring, my row couldn’t see it, but Clay and I could see the whole thing on the big screen.
Whenever a wrestler “kicks” somebody, “stomps” somebody, or body slams somebody, they have to fist pump and pose. No other wrestlers decide to get right up and attack during this vulnerable moment. Kids and others roar when the wrestlers lord it over the defeated.
At first I thought the wrestlers were all different because they were wearing different outfits each round. Then I began to recognize certain ones. One favored gold in his outfits–white and gold–and bullfighter pants. Others were older. Others, more loaded with musculature. By the end, I think they ran out of pieces and were swapping outfits.
Another great move: two guys coordinate for one to be on top of the other’s shoulders while he sits on the corner of the ring ropes. They’re fighting, but guy 1 is helping guy 2 up. One holds the other guy on top of his shoulders, and then they both dive onto the ring. If the audience is lucky, the “winner” starts holding the loser’s leg so he’s upside down in a pinwheel with his head on the floor. We also saw a fake fight with the referee about his call. I was certain one of these fights happened each time there was a show. Near the end, with only two wrestlers in the ring, one would be holding the other down, and on the count of “three” suddenly the defeated would spring up and shake his opponent off–over and over and over.
I knew I’d have to pee again. I held it as long as I could, which really wasn’t very long. So, without assistance this time, I walked up the concrete aisle and into the concrete thoroughfare which circumnambulated the place. I was close to the left side wall, heading toward the bathroom, when I heard “permiso, Permiso, PERMISO, PERMISO!” This means excuse me. I just wasn’t paying attention at first. It was in another language. Suddenly right behind me a troop of four people (some women, some men, although I don’t recall the ratio) in orange jumpsuits with blue belts and shoulder straps, came running, each holding a small woman with brown hair in a chair carry–in another orange jumpsuit. She was pretty limp.
I barked, “Sorry, sorry!” and jumped to the wall. The four stopped very close to but in front of me, in a place where a ramp led down to double doors that led outside. They just stood there. They slowly lowered their cargo’s legs to the ground while keeping their arms around her back. What was the point of this? Individuals hanging around ready to take sides started to stare at me. I stared at them for a second. Then this gringo headed to the bathroom, the safest place.
As if to follow up on the wonder of the evening, as I was in the pink-painted metal stall with the tankless toilet, now supplied with my share of brown toilet paper, I heard an entry, I heard a stall door creak, and I heard the sound of vomiting. It was the sound of vomiting when you’re so poisoned that all you have left is bile. Not much is coming up but your system still tries to expel. The sound made me want to throw up myself. I so truly wished to get out of there at this moment. And that is when I also thought of writing this all down.
One would think some things are worth getting really drunk for. In my estimation, this wasn’t it.
It was 10, then 10:30, then heading towards eleven. Clay normally falls asleep between eight and nine p.m. Any wrestler I liked had been eliminated. We saw a man come out to the rink as “the barbarian” with his hair all messed up, some makeup on, and a leopard-print bikini bottom. He had laced up suede knee-high boots. Clay liked the barbarian. He also told me that as soon as it ended, we were out of there. Clay never went to the bathroom there. Not even once. We said goodbye to his co-workers and told them we knew the way home.
We stepped out onto the dirty street and wound between small cars. The taxis are white with purple-pink doors. There were many waiting. We kept walking. Someone parked on the sidewalk all the way up to a building so we had to walk in the street. Clay consulted Google Maps.
On a section of wide sidewalk away from the lucha mania, a young man was out with three friends. He was tall, skinny and dark, with a beard. Reminded me of a philosophy student. He was trying to follow the others and tell them something. He had just raised himself from a triangle shape he made when he almost fell, by putting down his right hand. A spider with a plastic cup of beer in his left hand and his right shakily pushing him upright. He staggered towards the three deserting him. He was arguing, trying to get them to drink. It seemed to get staggeringly drunk in this place. This guy was going to regret it tomorrow.
We walked through a triangular corner park where four or five homeless people sat on a concrete square amidst triangles of grass. Bordering it, a food stand where people stood chatting. Against the wall of the next building, windowless, walked a little chihuahua. It had a collar on, and it had a blue blanket on but only the front buckle of two buckles on the blanket was buckled. The blanket was slightly askew. I could see the dog’s rear and bones jutted up on his backside. Was this an abandoned dog? One that had run off and been lost with all its stuff on? It snapped up a couple things at the side of the building where the building met the wall, like it was starving. What was that? What was it eating? I looked at the group on the concrete square. They seemed blithely ignorant. The food stall owners and chatting customers also seemed unattached to the dog. But who was I to question? It had a collar. It had a blanket. But, that butt! I felt pain in my chest. I started talking to Clay about the dog. But we still walked, now by storefronts.
Clay said something loudly in English just as the storefronts faded into gray faceless walls. A man waited at a bus stop. He turned to us and narrowed his eyes. Clay was about to check his map again. I hustled him along with my arm in his. Clay doesn’t have great sensitivity to these things, but he told me he knew something was up when I wouldn’t answer his map question.
It came to a point where we were in between blank buildings about four stories high on either side of what would have been a highway here, only it was in the middle of the city–four lanes each way, mainly deserted now, with a strip in the middle with a vent for the metro. The absence of people and windows creeped me out to no end. I kept waiting for the mugger to jump out of an invisible nook between buildings. I told Clay. Clay announced, “this area is safe!”
We turned the corner to a street I recognized, coming into Zona Rosa near our hotel. Clay stopped suddenly, mesmerized by the fact that all the electrical wires there were attached to trees. They were very low and we almost had to duck to keep our heads out of them, five, six, seven strings, looped and hanging on a short crown. “Wow, are there really no electrical poles here? They are putting electrical wires on the trees! Huh…” He kept staring up at the wires attached to a crabapple and some other trees.
“Do you think this is up to code?” I joked, hoping he’d move on. He kept staring.
Anyway, we made it back to the small hotel. The night was warm, the air was clotted with particulate matter. All I could say is that I was somewhere new.