Monday, March 26, 2007

My mother is going to hate this post.

I think I’m beginning to love professional wrestling.

A month ago, on a Saturday night, my brother Daniel and I went to a Ring of Honor wrestling match. Other people went, too, like our friend JB (who calls me “daughter-of-Murphy-sister-of-dumb-boys”) and Daniel’s girlfriend, Meena.

It was held in a local gym. A section was cordoned off with those heavy floor-to-ceiling vinyl curtains with chains sewn into the hems and netting across the top so we wouldn’t suffocate. On the other side of the curtain, the usual league basketball games continued, complete with referees’ whistles and squeaky shoes. Cheers for a hockey game drifted over from the hockey game in another adjoining section. Daniel said that this caused the atmosphere to be a little less reverent in the opening bouts than it had been in previous events.

Where have I been for these previous events!?! I feel like someone who has just been fed chocolate for the first time in her late 20s. Imagine what I’ve missed!

So, the event started off with a stardard-looking wrestling guy (big muscles, smooth skin, largish spandex panties) and a taller guy with a Roman nose in a grey suit and greasy ponytail. This second wrestler worked the crowd on his way in, holding his hand up with the palm facing inward and the fingers pointing up, shouting "Hey!" in a New York Italian salute. Many in the crowd saluted him back, obviously enjoying the interplay.

Have I talked at all about the crowd yet? Many of my regular readers are aware of my affinity for nerds, geeks and dorks of all varieties. This is an unlooked-for consequence of my own nerdy tendencies that have caused me to seek out the chess club in junior high, Star Trek TNG online groups at the same age on the newly-minted Prodigy system, Thespians in high school, the Renaissance Faire in college and role-playing games in adulthood. How could one not learn to delight in the other participants of these activities that require imagination and intelligence, qualifications that seem to eliminate The Beautiful People from being interested, leaving the field wide open to misfits, loners and eccentrics galore? Who doesn't love an underdog?

Let me tell you, indie professional wrestling pulls them out of the woodworks.

Seated in front of my group were two 14 year old boys, one pudgy, the other skinny. At 14, they hadn't yet developed any personalized identity markers like black duster coats, distinctively bad hair styles, or sub-culture indentifying T-shirts. They were just boys, a little shy and a little funny-looking. Their moms were probably across the street at the Target waiting for them, nervously.

They were putty in my hands.

We needed them to throw caution to the wind, defy authority and fold up the empty folding chairs in front of them so that we could all have a little more room. They seemed hesitant, but since I'm not a teacher anymore AND I was the most attractive of the 8 women there, I gently laid a hand on one's arm and the back of the other's shoulder close to his neck and asked nicely. Done.

Also in front of us was a solidly built hispanic guy in his mid-twenties with a skater haircut from the mid-nineties. You know, sort of a bowl cut, a little longer than the ears, straight and parted in the center. He was pretty cool. He also had his 12-month-old baby with him. This little black-eyed munchkin was sitting on his dad's lap with a sippy cup of juice in his hands. His dad is in the front row, enjoying the match. He's got a baby carrier strapped to himself and he demonstrates later that he knows how to use it when he gets up to go change the kid's diaper. Before that, I watched one wrestler throw another wrestler head-first into the sheet metal barrier that creates the sacred space of the ring in the midst of the cheering crowds. The dent his head left was 5 feet from the baby and a good 5 inches in diameter because he hit so hard. At this point, the kid was actually asleep on his father's chest. He woke up later and was taken away to be changed and they both came back with a DVD of classic matches for him to chew on the case for the rest of the time. At another point, he was given a french fry that made him very content. He never cried and never needed anything except to be on his father's lap. It was fairly sweet in juxtaposition to all of the fantastic violence surrounding them. At the intermission around 9:30, I asked what his father what his name was. Joshua was holding himself up on the temporarily vacated chairs in front of me and charming the hell out of me. His father smiled widely as he answered and then went on to explain in halting English that the child's mother got home from work at 10:00 and so he had to go. The implication was definitely that she did not know he was a)at a wrestling match and b)had Joshua with him. He let me take Joshua's picture before they left.

That is a true fan, folks.

Other true fans included the guy on the far side of my brother, who had a white bandana tied on his forehead over his ponytail and a full beard. He was a tubby guy with some hipster identity tags that indicated he had chosen geek for a lifestyle rather than being stuck in it. He spoke with a lisp and made several jokes that honestly made Daniel laugh. He and Daniel shared this hispter excessive knowledge of pop culture history and so Daniel made him laugh when he identified one move as "the deadly double chest push," which is simply one guy putting both hands on the other guy's chest and . . . well . . . pushing. Not very tough. The serious word choice was funny because it reflected the history of wrestling when the announcers had to play up the danger of the holds for the home audience and because these giant men did not used to be all that athletic. Daniel's neighbor also called out for a "pile driver!" repeatedly over the evening, like a fan calling for "Freebird!" at a Lynard Skynard show. The pile driver is a move from the golden age of wrestling in the mid-80s that involves holding your opponent upside down while standing and then dropping one or both knees to a kneeling position, which brings his head down into the mat, giving the appearance that his neck has been snapped. This is a good finisher because it takes a long time to act out recovering from a pile-driver and the opponent can easily be pinned at this time. It takes a ton of strength to do it in a way that looks good but doesn't actually hurt the guy. I'm not sure why it has gone out of style, but it has. However, towards the end of the evening, Daniel's neighbor got his hipster wish for 80s nostalgia and was ecstatic.

Another move that I saw fairly frequently throughout the evening was a big open-handed slap to the opponent's chest. I don't see this move as much on TV wrestling but saw it again and again up close and live. My theory is that because the venue is so small, the sound of that slap can actually be heard and is therefore more impressive. I learned that every time someone is slapped back this, the proper response from the crowd is to shout, "Wooo!" in a pitch tossed high out of the throat. Daniel tells me this is an homage to Ric Flair. He told me this when we were watching Wrestling Society X on MTV and mocking the production values, especially the studio audience that they had created full of buxom women and stylish guys: The Beautiful People. We were surprised to hear some of them actually "Woo!" indicating a knowledge of what they were watching, which had previously seemed unlikely, given how demographically different they were to the usual crowds at wrestling matches. Yes, Mom, I watch it on TV in addition to going to see it live. Sorry.

However, seeing it live is muchmuch better. We got to watch the Briscoes become the new tag team champions. However, this was not before one of the brothers was mocked by Matt Sydal (who looks like every trouble-making Irish suburban kid I ever hated/had a crush on in childhood), who said, "Hey! This guy's got no teeth!" like he had just realized it and was a little puzzled, right before he punched him into the turnbuckle. Another benefit of the small venue is that jokes like that can be heard and appreciated by everyone in the room, a dynamic that is missing in arenas. Being up close also allowed me to see one of the Brisco brothers lose his gum upon hitting the mat with his chest. I saw him catch it mid-air and stick it back into his mouth, faster than a TV camera would have caught it.

Other higlights of the evening include Samoa Joe's penultimate match before having to go exclusive to the TNA league, which was technically the main event.

However, the real main event for me happened sooner. The match between Colt Cabana, a hometown Chicago boy and Jimmy Jacobs, a Byronic heel who wrote his theme song for his girlfriend and entered the ring by first indicating his status as a tortured artist by hanging from the ropes like Christ on the cross. This event converted me from an amused by-stander who observed detachedly the humor of the obviously stoned suburban-looking guy in a Ring of Honor sweatshirt AND hat. Daniel and I agreed that more than one piece of merchandising makes one a dork. Then I saw the wedding ring and it completed the picture of a guy having his night away from the old ball and chain, so toked out that he continued standing in a daze well after everyone else had sat down and were waiting for the next exciting move. So, the Windy City Death Match took me from journalist mode into true fan status. Colt Cabana came in carrying a Chicago flag to the cheers of the crowd. He was also carrying a pair of scissors in his elbow pad, which, when revealed, also provoked the cheers of the crowd. They don't call it a death match for nothing. I love that heroes in wrestling don't have to be Disney princes to be the good guys. A certain amount of deviousness on the part of the face, especially when we dislike the villain, is cause for celebration. The characterizations reflect real life a little better with its complexity. So, while normally using scissors on your opponent might be considered cheating, in the Windy City Death Match, scissors hidden in the elbow pad are considered virtuous.

Head wounds bleed a lot.

This is a time-honored fact in the wrestling world. In the old days, men would hide a razor blade and nick their forehead to make taking a hit look more dramatic. Blondes like Classy Freddie Blassie were particularly good "bleeders." The technique has changed a little. I noticed that both Colt Cabana and Jimmy Jacobs were careful to cut their partners above the hair line, where the accumulation of scars won't be as noticable, at least until they start losing their hair. Of course, there wasn't just scissors involved; a gutter nail and hammer were also produced over the course of the match. However, these cuts did not simply create small rivulets of blood, like movie action stars get to accent the soot marks on their chiseled cheek bones. No, these men had masks of blood on their faces. When they were held horizontally, rivers of blood poured off their faces and onto the mat and the floor surrounding it. The key moment came when Jimmy Jacobs took the Chicago flag and used its blue stripes and red stars to wipe the blood out of his eyes before landing another move on the prone Colt Cabana. What symbolism to get a crowd going. And I went with them.

On TV, the crowd always goes wild whenever folding tables are used in a move. I've never understood it. It seems like such a contrived move. Since he is too stunned from a previous move to get up and defend himself, you have the time to pull a table out from under the ring, set up the legs (which can be a tricky task when covered in sweat and blood) and place it exactly right next to the ring. You then lay your opponent out on a folding table. Still, he cannot even make the effort to roll himself off the table during all that time that it takes you to get back up into the ring and up standing on one of the turnbuckles. Still, with the crowd cheering, he waits for the inevitable and you can jump off of the turnbuckle (or maybe perform an athletic flip from the mat over the ropes) and land with bodies perpendicular, your opponent breaking your fall but the table breaking underneath both of you. It takes so much time!

But to be 10 feet away from it while it happened was another issue altogether. Because Jimmy Jacobs didn't just get up on the turnbuckle; he used a ladder that Colt Cabana had earlier pulled out from under the ring. (As an aside, when the dust-ruffle was flipped up so that the ladder could be removed, Daniel leaned into me as he peered in and said in wonder, "What magical things are under there? What is a ring made of?") So, towering 30-40 feet above me, Jimmy Jacobs stood on top of a ladder with his arms flung out, the dream of every little kid who's ever been told not go higher than the step below the this-is-not-a-step.

And he launched himself toward me! He fell just short of me and landed on Colt Cabana with a terribly satisfying crunch and I was on my feet without thinking about it, screaming my head off in excitement. I had become a fan. When Colt later set up a second table in the ring, leaning it against the turnbuckle because one set of legs had collapsed, I wanted him to pay Jimmy Jacobs back for that insult to my home town and cheered again on my feet when Jimmy was laid out into that second table.

We're going back on April 28th. Please feel free to join us. We might have a couple extra tickets or you can get your own and join us there. However, we'll be in the third row again and, at this point, you'll probably be back in rows 7 or 8. Still, you'll be among true fans, that applaud wrestlers politely to acknowledge their athleticism, whether they like them or not. You'll also be among true fans like me, who love wincing at how hard they hit each other. It'll blow your mind.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


I love working in Christian non-profits!

Someone just donated a whole catered lunch to our staff from MacArthur's, the best soul food on the west side, maybe in the entire city of Chicago. So, I am currently stuffed with green beans, macaroni and cheese, corn muffins and fried chicken and fighting off sleep.

I ate half the peach cobbler and am saving the other half for later. We're in the business of creating hope around here. Half a serving of peach cobbler is as much hope as I need to get through this day.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Holy and Dearly Loved

Arloa posted today on a subject that has been dominant in my passions lately: how to raise funds ethically. In her post, she writes:

So there is temptation, temptation to say what we know people want to hear for the sake of funding the ministry, temptation to tell the stories with a bit of exageration, temptation to portray our community as desperate for outside help, temptation to settle for emotional appeals rather than to do the hard work of bringing people along on the justice journey.

Anyone else feel this angst? Any suggestions?

This is the response that I left:

Anyone else feel this angst?

Daily. My responsibilities are a little different because I work within the bureaucracy of a giant para-church organization and immediate need to make payroll is not as pressing. Instead, we're all working on the fund-raising effort for a central pot.

However, as someone who manages programs that work with the under-resourced, the various marketing departments (I told you it was giant) are constantly asking me for stories of the children and families who benefit to be used in various direct mail appeals.

I am so uncomfortable with this.

I feel it exploits the poverty of children of God and in doing so, further mars their self-identity, which is one of the root causes for their poverty. However, like you, I recognize the efficiency of affecting the emotions of potential donors. It is a constant internal struggle and a constant conversation (that's a nice word) with the various marketing departments.

There are two consolations that I would share with you.

1. Fund-raising can be used as a tool to transform the lives of donors. You might be the only link that some suburban folks have to be incarnational in any way. We in the city know what a blessing it is to be surrounded by the poor, just like Jesus was. Use your fundraising as an opportunity to help your donors experience what we have. This might mean being a little more honest about the actual journeys. It might mean talking a little more about your own journeys as staff. This might mean giving mini-lessons on the systems that cause poverty once you've got the donor hooked with an emotional appeal. You know best that when we are faithful to God's command to love one another, miracles happen. Maybe turning marketing research on its head will be one of those miracles.

2. People achieve healing by telling their stories. This one may be more for me and my situation right now, but I want to share it. A marketing staff member from headquarters came all the way across the country to "harvest" stories for a direct mail appeal. I was so busy protecting my people that I forgot my own personal experience of healing through telling my story to as many people as I could possibly get to listen to me. But my colleague came back from her interviews with moving stories not only of her own transformation but also of how once these women began talking to her, she had trouble getting them to stop. She (and I) realized that she was showing Christ's love through listening. What I worried would be exploitation turned out to be just what they needed. Story is a powerful element in this world. Don't underestimate the truth's ability to transform you, the donor, and the folks you work with.

This knowledge and perspective is a work in progress. I struggle with living in the tension between the need to be good stewards of the overhead involved in fundraising campaigns and the need to be transformational. But living in the tension is where life is most vibrant, so I try to relish it. I would love for this conversation to continue. Every time I talk about it with someone, I learn something new. I loved seeing that it was an issue for someone I like as much as I like you, Arloa. Thanks.

I really was kind of blown away by the realization that some people might actually want to tell their stories for a magazine that goes out to donors. I'm not sure why I hadn't thought of that before. I'm grateful for my colleague for insisting that I set up some interviews for her trip out. I'm also grateful to her for listening to me as I talked and talked about the trying to allow our people some dignity by not asking them to change out of their best clothes or to all crowd into the room in the house with holes in the wall just for the sake of a picture that will elicity pity in a potential donor. She told me about a major realization she had while talking to one of the women, who was extremely overweight. As this woman told her story about being sexually abused as a child, my colleague had an epiphany moment realizing that this woman's self-image had been annihilated by the abuse and that her weight problems and other problems all stemmed from her inability to see herself as a child of God, holy and dearly loved. I'm so pleased to have even a small part of that transformation.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Private anatomy

OK, seriously. I found this article on eyetracking, which seems to be recording where people's eyes rest the longest on website pages for the sake of creating better design. This part of it cracked me up.

Although both men and women look at the image of George Brett when directed to find out information about his sport and position, men tend to focus on private anatomy as well as the face. For the women, the face is the only place they viewed.

This image of George Brett was part of a larger page with his biographical information. All users tested looked the image, but there was a distinct difference in focus between men and women.
Coyne adds that this difference doesn’t just occur with images of people. Men tend to fixate more on areas of private anatomy on animals as well, as evidenced when users were directed to browse the American Kennel Club site.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Mos Eisley

Last night I went to a fiction reading with my friend, Jess, her boyfriend, Bobby, and her roommate, Leah: all people that I'm very comfortable with. It was the release party for a student anthology in which Jess had a story published and she read a little bit of that story, as did 9 other authors from the book.

I've been to several of these functions that are hosted by Jess's grad school before. There's a mix of faculty and students and very few outsiders. Someone almost always speaks to me since no one recognizes me as being part of the department. It's kind of neat. Like church should be, right? The students are a mix of mature people, who all look like themselves, and undergrad and MFA grad students in their early twenties, who like each other. Almost every one of this younger set make themselves ugly in some way, as if they're looking for a lowest common denominator so that the fractions that are their identities can be added together to make whole numbers. Scary-looking piercings. Terrible hair cuts with unevenly cuts bangs, odd pointy bits and an obvious lack of washing. Outfits in which not one article of clothing is similar in style, color, formality or pattern with any other aspect of the outfit. I take that back, one girl wore a sequined red tam that matched her sequined red tube top. Let's pause for a moment to consider that one. They do all of this with a completely straight face.

The fiction is, for the most part, very good. I wouldn't keep attending these functions if it weren't, no matter how much I love Jess. It's not a high-prestige school but they seem to be doing something right. During two of the readings, I was struck with the experience enough to write them moments down as vignettes in my journal. I'd like to share them with you here.

Donnel is reading his story full of slave dialogue that comes straight out of Roots. He is a Fiction I student so this can, in part, be forgiven. He is nervous and standing at the podium in a stance that looks for all the world like he is going to screw it doggy-style. Or, at least, like men in hip-hop videos stand when they are posturing themselves to look like they are about to screw the scantily-dressed young women who are bent forward in half in front of them. However, he is not dressed in any sort of hip-hop style. He wears generic jeans that are so square they are almost royal blue and a long-sleeved red jersey shirt. But his left arm is flexed out straight and crossed over half of his torso to hold open the book that rests on the podium at exactly the same height that the finely-rounded buttocks would be. His legs were spread wide, extending outside of the podium by a good 6-8 inches on either side, creating an almost equilateral triangle with the floor. They are also flexed straight and both of his feet are pointed forward, as if to give his pelvis the most possible leverage to bump back and forth onto the text.

Later, Donnel stood against the wall listening to the other readers in his group and his stance belied past military service. I also noticed that although his facial expression showed utter but silent disbelief that he was going to be the first in his group to read, once he reached the podium and assumed his particular posture, he did not stammer an excuse about being nervous but simply began reading his piece with as much poise as he had at any time during the presentation. All in all, an interesting combination of traits and therefore, thoroughly entertaining.

The second vignette involves a tubby nerd named Chris whom I have heard read at several events. Because of time constraints, he always reads just a few pages from larger pieces. I'm not really impressed by the stories he tells or they way he writes, although they demonstrate competence. However, he is very good at choosing the scene of a story that culminates in a Star Wars reference. As part of a larger piece, these would simply be allusions, but because he pauses with finality, nods his head and says, "Thank you," after them, they sound like the punchlines of jokes and he gets good responses from his audience. The first time I heard him read, he wore a red button-down shirt tucked into black jeans and an Episode 1 novelty tie. The red shirt accented Darth Maul's face well. Last night, it was some sort of old-school death metal t-shirt. Maybe Metallica.

So, the scene that he read last night involved a 12-year-old boy attending a Def Leppard concert in 1986 with his Uncle Eddie at Alpine Valley, which is a gigantic outdoor amphitheater within driving distance of Chicagoland. As the boy and his uncle stood at the top of the hill that looked down first at the expanse of lawn seats, past the pavilion seating and to the stage, the uncle says with pomp and gravity, "Alpine Valley." The boy narrates, "The tone of my uncle's voice reminded me of another voice and I thought to myself, You will never . . . "

At this point, I was startled into laughter. I had been misdirected into thinking that this would be a post-modern ironic commentary on the pop sub-culture of heavy metal in the 80s. But Chris was faithful and brought it back around to Star Wars. I recognized the quote he was about to recite after only three words and my laughter was like a strand of brightly-colored mohair yarn, with an intense core of color and crackling tendrils of fuzz around that core, snaking its way between the heads and shoulders of the two rows in front of me like a message to the podium. A lone voice communicating, "You are not alone. I'm out here, too." The quote continued and I was still the only one laughing. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. At this point a few more Kevin Smith wannabes had caught on to the origin of the quote and joined my laughter, wanting to show the room that they, too, understood Gen-X pop culture references. My friends, of course, had begun laughing at ME, recognizing my early participation in the nerd joke.

Seriously, I have a vivid memory of playing and rewinding Star Wars repeatedly when I was 13 or so in order to write down that quote because I loved it so much. I loved it because the language was fantastic but I also loved it because as Obi Wan Kenobi is standing on a cliff looking down at Mos Eisley with the young Luke Skywalker at his side, he follows up the description with one of the most "duh" statements one could utter at that moment. We must be cautious. A hive of scum and villainy? Of course we must be cautious! It sounded like a punchline to my 13-year-old self, who was only just becoming aware of how to analyze comedic timing.

I love that Jess is a fiction grad student because I get these experiences in which I can use my English Literature degree, as well as experience fun little moments like these.

Monday, March 12, 2007


I have just spent a very enjoyable evening with a man, drinking tea and explaining our spiritual beliefs to one another. They are very different. I think a continuing friendship with him would be interesting and helpful.

He has just left and I have sent him this email for him to read when he gets home:

So, now you have a choice to make.

You have to choose whether or not you'll continue seeing me as one of the flock.

You have to choose whether or not you think my doctrine is inferior.

You have to choose whether or not you want to change me.

You have to choose whether or not you'll treat me as an equal child of God, holy and dearly loved.

You have to choose whether my brokenness that causes my defensiveness is something to be admired or pitied.

And act accordingly.

I certainly have hopes for what you'll choose but I've been through this too many times before to stick around if your behavior shows that you've chosen otherwise. I don't need more of that hurt. I do need friends that will take my vulnerability and match it with their own, leaving behind patronizing smugness and replacing it with the simple and open love of people who understand deeply that they are probably wrong about most of it anyway. Without that, I will make God in my own image, instead of recognizing the image that I can see reflected in the people that surround me.

I know it may seem harsh but it's done out of the quiet of my heart. I have no interest in the self-denial of those whose rigorous faith is simply an extension of their low self-esteem. Women are often accused of simply expecting a man to know what she wants and then punishing him when she doesn't get it. This is a way to help him know where my boundaries are.

Eventually we begin to wonder what's wrong with the woman when she keeps dating men that beat her. I don't want to be that woman in my spiritual relationships. I've been beaten up enough by Christians that need to be right about God. If that's where this is going to go, I want to bail out early.

But there is a good chance he'll be a fantastic friend.

And I don't want to miss that.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Nice ass

As of today, I was able to drag myself off the couch and go to work.

This evening, I should be studying for my mid-term exam that is tomorrow night, since I didn't go to class yesterday and didn't study at all while I was sick.

However, as I was slipping into something a little more comfortable in order to achieve the ideal studying mindset, I remembered a conversation that I had this afternoon that I had with a friend and blog reader. He reminded me that in this post I had defiantly stated that anyone who didn't believe that I had a nice ass could just ask and I would send them a picture. Well, he called my bluff on that one AND told me that I couldn't just send a picture in my jeans. Since he is married, however, I'm not sending it in an email for his wife to find but rather, I'm putting the pictures on the internet so she knows that he's not anyone special to me in THAT WAY. You're all special to me!

So, here is a picture of my ass clad only in my underwear.

My long underwear.

Which is full of holes.

It is, very literally, a raggedy-ass.

I think it's hilarious but I have an odd sense of humor.

Especially because I just recently learned that one of my father's closest friends, who is also a man I go to for spiritual and workplace advice, reads my blog regularly. Hi RS!

I don't really think this will change his opinion of me.

I hope.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Fuck it.

I'm sick again.

And the netflix didn't come yesterday so I'm on the couch with tender skin and my eyeballs feeling bruised and my chest heavy watching Bread, Dave Mason and Andy Gibb sing on the Midnight Spcial.

What is out of alignment in my life that I'm getting sick so much? I didn't get this sick when I was married to a man who didn't care about me and surrounded by germy high school kids every day. How could my immune system be suffering now worse tan it was then?