By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
It's Saturday night, and the place is called Gargoyles. It's a rock club in a strip mall between the Lucky Star Chinese restaurant and Allied Forces hiring office ("Jobs Available").
The walls in Gargoyles are painted black. There are pool tables and an alcohol-free bar, but in the middle of the floor is where the action will go down, the ring. Well, they call it a ring, but it's really a small, square blue mat with four walls of Cyclone fencing around it, roughly five feet high.
A dressing room to the side has a sign reading "Mental Ward" on it; this is the hideaway for the talent. The wrestlers. The Drifter is in there, but I can't get in. Unless you are part of the brethren, you're out of luck.
Then I see him, the Drifter, clad in sweat shirt, jeans and work boots. And the mandatory face mask, the obligatory shroud of mystery that reveals only a wrestler's eyes, the windows to the soul. In the case of the Drifter, those windows are shut tight; they give away nothing.
"I'm ready! I'm ready to rock 'n' roll, buddy! The Drifter, buddy!" he yells, invoking himself. We make plans to meet up after the match. "That's cool!"
The crowd of literally dozens of rabid fans--from toddlers to bikers--is milling about, anticipating the fireworks. But first the Commissioner gets into the ring, holding a huge baseball bat for some reason. He looks tough, looks like a pit boss or a cop. Just who is the Commissioner? Here are some necessary tidbits from his own New Generation Promotions newsletter:
Harless P. Oskilowski. "Responsibilities: contract negotiation, match maker, must uphold quality & reputation of league, enforce league mandates and fines, former California Arm Wrestling Champ."
He gets ahold of the microphone. "I'll be here to enforce the rules of this league ..." Then he says more stuff that I can't make out until this sentence comes along, which he says while lightly slapping the bat against his leg:
"I just want to be ready when the shit gets flying around here. Thank you."
There is no national anthem.
The first match begins. It's the California Kid, who has long hair and sports a grunge look, versus the hometown favorite: Section8. As he emerges from the Mental Ward and makes his way toward the ring (a distance of about 15feet), the place erupts. Section8 gets into the ring, pushes the Commissioner. The Commissioner returns to the bar where the remains of a hamburger, an O'Doul's fake beer and a package of Marlboro Lights await him.
And there's the bell.
While the match is in full swing, I try to find the bathroom and head down the wrong hallway. I encounter some people who direct me to the men's room. While standing there doing my business, this is what I said into my tape recorder:
"Down this hall, there's some guy with flames licking up his butt printed on his leggings; he's got a big Klan hat on, and there's another guy who's dressed up in a black death robe with a hood. He's talking to some skinny hippie girl with glasses. Asked Klan guy where bathroom was, he pointed up like Sieg heil in the basic direction. Bouncer appeared with flashlight, said, 'It's down here, dude.'"
The second match. It's the hooded guy, the Time Traveler, against my man, the Drifter. The hippie girl turns out to be Rainbow, the Traveler's woman, assistant, whatever. She gets into the ring and speaks: "It is so good to be here in Tucson. I feel so much better when I see all you fat, lazy imbeciles out in the audience, and if you people don't know what that word means, I suggest you look it up in the dictionary, if you know what one is!"
Then the Traveler takes over.
"You wonder why I appeared, it's because I don't like you people. I don't like anybody here."
"I am the Time Traveler and I am eternal!" The Traveler snarls out some more nonsense, and the guy next to me says, "What a total asshole."
Then the Traveler: "I happen to live forever, and not once ever did anything important happen in Tucson, Arizona!!"
At this point, Rainbow, who is wearing a kind of white peasant dress with little yarn flowers woven in it, climbs back into the ring, clutching a big yellow plastic shopping bag. She pulls off the black tent Traveler wore into the ring, and he's this saggy, overweight, hairy-bellied man in his 40s, wearing black, diaperesque shorts baggy enough in the rear to carry a sack lunch. And he's balding, too. Rainbow circles the ring, pointing, gesturing, yelling things that are impossible to make out over the crowd noise.
Enter the Drifter.
But almost before the crowd can respond, the Time Traveler jumps all over him. The Drifter is on the floor; TT picks him up by the back of his mask. The Drifter ain't doing too good.
But what's happening now?
TT walks over to the fence and Rainbow surreptitiously hands him something. Looks like a white pen. TT aproaches the Drifter and begins to stab him repeatedly in the back! Later, someone tells me the "pen" is a syringe filled with magical Time Traveler serum. TT brings it back to the fence, hands it to Rainbow with ridiculously dramatic movements. He's making facial expressions--frowning, eyes darting back and forth--like a villain in a silent film.