Achievement Unlocked: Indy Wrestling in an Amish Flea Market (and other reflections on the State of Maryland)

I knew instantly, the day, if nothing else, would be interesting.

A couple weekends ago Adriana and I, buoyed only by the desire to see Colt Cabana wrestle before he is sued into oblivion, headed to Joppa, MD to see Maryland Championship Wrestling. Prior to this, I had no idea Maryland even had a wrestling promotion, and neither of us had ever heard of Joppa, which gave the day an overall vibe of what the fuck are we doing. We pretty much banked everything on the faith that if the sound stages for House of Cards were located there, as Wikipedia suggested, the town was probably large enough that we would not get murdered.

The afternoon started with rain, my phone getting stuck in a boot loop, and Adriana’s GPS not being able to pick up a signal because of the cloud cover. Then we were near Baltimore. Dave Chappelle has a joke about how going to the ghetto is fine, as long as you’re expecting to go there. This pretty much encapsulates my feelings toward Baltimore. I realized later I had mapped the address of MCW’s home “arena,” not the building we were actually going to.

Realization #1: Maryland is wonky

There is never a subtle transition into Baltimore, even when you are expecting to go there. You don’t drive into Baltimore, you drive and Baltimore just appears. Like Beetlejuice, or a shitty Platform 9 3/4. And it is weird. This is the spookiness of Maryland. I’ve heard the term “fruit salad” used to refer to something that is heterogeneous but lacking the integration of a melting pot. Maryland lacks the cohesion of a fruit salad, which at least can gather all it’s constituent parts under the umbrella of fruit. It’s more like if you combined everything deemed a “salad” together, fruit salad, ham salad, egg salad, word salad, etc. then spread it out like a crooked hat on Virginia.

I kept trying to cram down my sense of unease as we passed through Baltimore, by reassuring myself we would be back in the suburbs soon. The older I get the more comforted I am by their freakish consistency. All being comprised of equal parts McDonalds and parking lots.

We kept driving and I kept anticipating a return to normalcy, a return to new condo developments and Kia dealerships. Instead we got a steady stream of liquor stores and autobody shops and one dinosaur sculpture made out of fork lifts. We were in Buffalo. Except we weren’t in Buffalo, we were edging up to Joppa, MD, and we had no way to turn around because we were fenced in by about a hundred miles of unbroken Jersey barrier.

When we saw Pete Holmes in February, he told a joke about being booked to stay at a hotel that turned out to be in an unsavory part of town. After some internal debate of whether to stay or flee, he got into his car and set his destination point to Barnes & Noble. I have never wanted to follow this advice more than after we passed the fourth motel with a homemade sign, but something about a town housing a sex industry office park told me we wouldn’t be in Barnes & Noble territory for a long time.

And then yonder, on the horizon,

Panera

A FUCKING PANERA.

I’d like to say this didn’t go down the way it did, but my dedication to truth in storytelling forbids it. This was genuinely one of the happiest moments of my life. I was screaming in the car from sheer excitement. We had made the hot tag and Panera Jesus had beat the fuck out of our enemies. I was going to live to eat another Bacon Turkey Bravo. So what did we do? We went into that Panera. There is nothing to write about it, because you cannot have a unique experience in a Panera. My brief experience in Joppa had already taught me that’s why Panera is awesome.

Renewed, we set our sights towards finding Joppa Center. All expectations for how the day would play out had now exploded, and I was high on the feeling of escaping death, though I was never really in danger.

And then, the second greatest moment of my life arrived: we found a Sonic. In high school, I heard stories of people making a 4 hour pilgrimage to Delaware to pay tribute to Sonic. There are at least 3 in Maryland now, but we’ve never successfully found any of them. We finally got close when we went to go see Calabrese in Baltimore, but it was closed. So to come so close to an open, functioning Sonic right after a time of immense struggle felt like a cosmic sign. We were warriors, and the Sonic was our Valhalla.

Realization #2: the Mason-Dixon line is a bitch

Sonic is a quintessentially Southern establishment, and Maryland, officially a Southern state. Does Maryland possess any Southern qualities like decent barbecue, Piggly Wiggly, or Sonic? No. Are we constantly tempted with commercials for things we have no access to? Yes. The Mason-Dixon line is a motherfucking liar.

It was a moot point because there was no time for Sonic, for it was Colt Cabana day.

Joppa Center is actually a flea market. It turns out in addition to motels and liquor stores, Joppa also has a thriving Amish community. It is a very confusing set up, both physically and morally. We found an open door on the front of the building next to an unattended metal crate full of cotton candy and walked into an antique store with no merchandise. We were politely informed by the owners that you could not reach the show this way, even though you could see people streaming through due to a complete lack of wall. We followed a line of chain link fences down the side of the building, to a backdoor. Inside, it looked like maybe an old gym or cheap banquet hall, with a truly horrible overhead lighting situation.

I’ve heard fabled stories of flea market wrestling. Now here we were in an Amish flea market / antique store in a town with a fucked up ratio of liquor stores to Paneras. We had arrived. Now all I had to do was watch a few dudes beat the shit out of each other in a light tube log cabin death match and Brock Lesnar Guy could go fuck himself.

We sat down on our zip tied together line of folding chairs (just like in my dreams) next to a bunch of hefty but pleasant white people (of course) and across from a child dressed as Sting (oh Jesus, this is too beautiful.)

In terms of actual wrestling,

It was some sort of tag team battle night. The first tag team that came out were called the Appalachian Outlaws, which temporarily caused my brain to double-back from all that Sonic-fueled social progress, and respond with “oh shit, you have fucked up.” If there’s any segment of Maryland I’m uncomfortable with it’s the hick side. I don’t care about The Wire, but once you get into this group that purchases dip and loves the rodeo, I am weirded the fuck out. I couldn’t even watch Teen Mom 3 because of that girl whose boyfriend worked in a coal mine. The Appalachian Outlaws wrestled these Joker-looking types called… The Punk Rock All-Stars (frowny face) in a contract match. What the contract was for I don’t know, but where it was, was on a pole zip tied to the side of the ring. The zip ties really added to the ambiance. When the match was over somebody had to come with a pair of scissors and liberate the pole. I’d like to note that although I do not have an extensive history as a wrestling fan, it is my understanding a contract match is usually the centerpiece of the night. In Joppa the contract match happens first. Probably because the zip ties weren’t going to hold.

Tie for best match of the night was Black Wall Street vs. Sudden Impact. There were so many times I was convinced I just saw somebody fucking die. I don’t know what wizardry/carny bullshit these guys were up to, or if they were just actually beating the shit out of each other, but every hit seemed SO FUCKING HARD. Their precision on land was balanced out by about 20 of the most sketchy suicide dives I’ve ever seen, all done in rapid succession. It was glorious. I think out of 20, there was 1 that seemed successfully executed, although to be fair, that one looked really good. So kudos to that guy (I think it was Drolix?). The rest I was just sitting on the edge of my seat going ‘ohshitohshitohshitohshit is he going to get up? ohshitohshitohshitohshit’ One dude got carried out, and we never did figure out if he was okay.

Torrie Wilson was by far the low point of the night, not because of Torrie herself, who is still the beacon of unattainable womanliness she was during my childhood, but because an “evening gown” match was brought back in her “honor.” It wasn’t even so much as an evening gown match so much as it was a handful of valets trotted out in Bebe dresses. The crowd then cheered for who they thought was the hottest. No stripping, no wrestling, no good vibes. It was depressing.

I really liked these other punky little motherfuckers, The Hell Cats, who just went balls to the walls the entire time. They seemed like they could be Sami Callihan’s younger brothers. What they lacked in precision they made up for with an apparent complete disregard for their physical safety. One guy suicide dove onto the barricade, snapped his finger, then cut a promo trying to hold his jacked up hand off to the side.

Colt Cabana and Lanny “the Genius” Poffo formed the oddest tag team of all time. First of all, Colt Cabana entered to the Art of Wrestling intro (“live from the studio apartment…”) which was incredibly satisfying. I thought we were going to break Lanny Poffo, I just had this image of him crumbling like dry plaster. But instead he did some flippy shit off the second rope, and my mind is still trying to process it.

My other favorite match of the night was Shane Strickland vs. The Bruiser. First of all, Google bills Shane Strickland at 5’10”, which is fucking mind boggling, because he comes off like he is 7 feet tall. If Shane Strickland can’t put Vince McMahon’s rumored obsession with height to rest, there is literally no hope. I’m also pretty sure Shane Strickland could have done his entire match with an egg baby. He just seemed that utterly in control of his movements. The Bruiser seemed to be the hometown hero. They wrestled forever, There were so many near falls I lost count, which I usually find infuriating to watch, but they were just so damn mesmerizing I became invested. The Bruiser won, but the crowd still gave Strickland a lengthy standing ovation. No hurt feelings. I didn’t even know that was possible. Every time I watch RAW I want to punch at least one of them in the face.

Afterwards, we hung around to meet Colt Cabana, which became a deep source of social anxiety as we got closer and I realized HOLY FUCK SINCE WHEN HAS COLT CABANA BEEN SO HOT? I always thought he was cute, but dude is like Adonis-level tall and jacked. He signed my dreidel and then I ran away before I could say something horribly awkward to him.

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We tried to leave but somewhere along the way (possibly while fleeing from Colt Cabana) I lost my earring, which Adriana found after much effort. And then we rewarded ourselves for our courage and went to Sonic. And I played my horrible collection of WWE entrance music. A cherry limeade pairs well with Sami Zayn’s “World’s Apart.”

I also subjected us to my horrible early 2000s playlist because when people give me iPod control I become intimidated and freaked out and my first thought was “play some Lumidee” because I am a fucking genius with incredible taste.

And it was great.

Warped Tour 2006 Recap, 8 Years Late

Warped Tour June 15 2006 at the Merriweather Post Pavillion?

I went with somekindofold and suburbancurse. I think our collective age was 16.5 years. We spent the night before having a sleepover and watching Drive Thru Records DVDs and eating snacks. We tried marshmallows sandwiched between Pringles because we were crazy. The next morning her Dad made everyone breakfast and cut our toast into little tiny triangles which to this day I think was a lovely touch. I remember on the way out, we’re making sure we have everything (sharpies, back up sharpies, album liners) and we notice there is a disclaimer on the tickets that says you can’t bring in water bottles. Naive young things that we were, our explanation was that security wouldn’t want anything to be brought in that could be a possible projectile.

suburbancurse‘s Dad laughs and says “they just want to separate you from your money as quickly as possible.”

Water was like $8 that day.

Solid takeaway that day.

Punk is dead. lol no, but seriously we had a great time and it’s a great memory. We had a zine at the time, and managed to get press passes. I think we were pretty enterprising kids, but none of us were prodigy-level photographers or journalists. Whether they gave us them by mistake, or just threw us a bone, I’ve always been thankful they let us run around like big people that day. I do vividly remember sitting on the floor in suburbancurse‘s office when she got the email from Warped the night before, and losing our minds. It was a huge life lesson for me that sometimes putting yourself out there does pay off, and sometimes people that matter do recognize you for what you do (or are trying to do.) Might have even made up for the $8 water.

1 & 2

Geoff Rickly of Thursday. Geoff Rickly gets two photos because they came out good, in no small part due to the fact this man flails like Animal from the Muppets. Dude was having convulsions far before he was ever diagnosed with epilepsy. Thank God it was like high noon, because no exposure settings could have captured this man’s movements after dusk. I know this is the old fogey-est comment possible, and even I don’t think I’m bitter and old enough for this kind of shit, but my brain keeps going back to ‘they don’t make bands like this anymore.’ I think it’s really trendy right now to be holier-than-thou, this whole artist-as-brand BS that is making people think it’s cool to give off the vibe you should be grateful to be in their presence. These dudes are a band. Even playing in a field to a few hundred kids, they delivered an incredible level of energy and intimacy. They made it feel like you were brothers.

3

Sign for Meg & Dia and Paramore… at the Myspace tent, back when Paramore was playing the Shira girl stage and The Voice didn’t exist. I collected so much Myspace swag that day, Tom is really generous with the buttons.

4

Audrey Kitching and the singer from Aiden, there is probably nothing more 2006 than this. I think Aiden were doing a signing, and Audrey was just hanging out. I pretty much just took the photo to document she really exists, because it was a very jarring, existential experience. I’m sure teenage me would have had something bitchy to say, but whatever, I don’t know anything about her besides she was impressively doll-like in person, and I didn’t, and continue to not know anything about Aiden so there you go.

5.

The Academy Is… I like The Academy Is…, but if we’re gonna be real they were not super-memorable. I know at the time, this band was all about William Beckett, and I did take photos of William Beckett but William Beckett is very stick-like and prone to pulling some Mr. Roboto motions, which did not make for good photos. He basically has his chin pressed against his chest and is derping it out, that beautiful girlish mane flopping in the breeze. Mike Carden, the guitarist was best for full range of motion.

6.

Schedule. We just took this picture so we could refer back to it later on and not have to walk all the way back to the sign. Kind of resourceful in a pre-camera phone era? Spitalfield is missing the “L” in their name. BUT OMG THE GUY ON THE RIGHT IS WEARING A SUN HAT WITH A HOLE FOR HIS MOHAWK CUT OUT OF IT. Of all the times I’ve seen that photo, I’ve never noticed him. Writing this was worth it just for this discovery.

7.

The Bouncing Souls. I don’t really know shit about The Bouncing Souls to be honest. I know that everyone loves them, especially amplionreaders and seemingly her entire family, and I liked them enough that day to buy their shirt on the impression I was going to get super-into them, but as of this moment “Kids & Heroes” is the only song I can remember, and I had to Google the lyrics to remember what it was called. I do know Greg Anttonito holding a fan’s “I wanna have your babies” sign is the most Warped Tour-iest thing that’s ever happened though.

8.

Chris Conley of Saves The Day. I distinctly remember trying to eyefuck Chris Conley of Saves The Day throughout their entire set. In hindsight, this is very questionable because 1. of all the musicians at Warped Tour that Summer, Chris Conley definitely gave off the most wholesome Mormon vibe 2. I was sixteen 3. I wasn’t even an attractive sixteen and 4. he appears to be wearing a wedding ring. But eyefucking Chris Conley was incredibly important at the time. I have to sadly admit when I look through these photos I’m still struck with a feeling of disappointment that he didn’t recognize my radiant beauty and take me as his Priscilla Presley.

9.

suburbancurse walking on the magical path to the buses. There was a clearing in the woods set up as a backstage area, which was where the press tents were and where they did catering and whatnot. I took a can of water (they had canned water, you would want one too) from one of the coolers and still have it, unopened, almost a decade later.

10.

Roger Lima of Less Than Jake. I have no way to describe this than ‘ska as fuck.’ They started playing and all of a sudden I felt dirty, and like everyone was dirty, and I was in a dirty ska-fest. They were really entertaining though. I feel like the mark of a good live band is if they can entertain people who don’t know their songs, which I don’t and they did. I mean no disrespect but this dude has the worst dreads in music. They remind me of when you’re in fourth grade and you go to Six Flags and pay $16 for some old woman/bored teenager to do that thing where they wrap embroidery floss around a strand of your hair and in two weeks it rips out and leaves you with a little hair stump. I look at him and all I can feel is a thousand theme park gypsies pulling my hair. I’m worried about your scalp health, Roger.