back to the Black Table

This is all a ruse. This whole hey-I’m-Will-I-write-columns-look-at-me-I’m-all-literary ... I’m so full of shit. Try as I might in the past few years to wash away the remnants of my upbringing, to be born again as a man about town, a quirky hipster down with, I dunno, whatever’s down these days, the truth is out, the jig is up, the game is over.

I, Will Leitch, am white trash. I’m straight out of the trailer park, Kid Rock’s and Gennifer Flowers’ illegitimate love child, a hick tried and true. My family tree is a straight line. My pickup truck sits on two cinder blocks in my front yard. I open my beer with my Ford belt buckle. All the old jokes, they’re all true. I accept it.

Since I arrived in New York, I’ve done my best to mask it. I’ve read books (well, OK, I’ve carried them around with me and pretended to) that are really thick and, get this, don’t have a single picture, not one. I’ve worn nice pressed khakis with shirts that button all the way to the top. I’ve even done my best to speak in complete sentences that don’t contain the words “wersh” or “reckon.” If you saw me from afar, not looking too closely, you might even think that I fit in.

Sucker. You can take me out of Mattoon, but Mattoon has little desire to free me from its clutches anytime soon. I have tried to hide all this, but Sunday, I finally decided it’s time to stop pretending. I’m a hick, a rube, and I’ll always be one.

Clues have been filing in from all directions. A commercial came on for The Olive Garden the other day, and my fellow viewers all mocked it relentlessly. Sheepishly, I explained that The Olive Garden was the fanciest restaurant within 50 miles of Mattoon and that it was where I took all my Homecoming dates. Both true. In fact, it wasn’t until I arrived in New York that I learned that there was a certain stigma attached to The Olive Garden. Supposedly, according to this stigma, get this, The Olive Garden sucks. Yeah, tell me that now. I still like the breadsticks.

On my trip for IssuePaper, Eric and I stayed in various hotels across this great land, most memorably the Renaissance in Detroit, which had a large wooden board impersonating a fifth floor. Every hotel stop along the way, it seemed perfectly natural to me to steal the glasses left for us. Yes, I steal from hotels. Eric found this odd. Why? They’re better than the Dixie cups I have at home. I grabbed a coupla towels too. They’re nice, man. Good fabric. Cheap.

But Sunday, oh, Sunday, the die was cast. After a long day of work and baseball watching, I came home to kick back. Cracked open a Miller High Life and propped the feet up. Relaxation. The phone rings. It’s Eric. “Hey, Will ... SummerSlam is on tonight. I ordered it. Want to come over?”

For those of you who enjoy a quiet evening by the fire with the new Philip Roth book and a Cognac by your side, allow me to explain SummerSlam to you. It is wrestling. Professional wrestling. Men in tights pretending to fight one another. It is a Pay-Per-View special, where millions of adolescents pay $30 of their likely not-so-hard-earned cash to scream at the television. When I questioned Eric about the importance of this particular Pay-Per-View, he explained vigorously, “It’s the Wrestlemania of the summer!” Fair enough.

Now, to be honest with you, until Sunday, I had spent as much time having sex with goats as I had watching wrestling (um, you see, ahem, I’ve never watched wrestling). I always think of the dead-on breakdown my friend MDS, actually a wrestling fan, gave me: “All right, Will, let’s imagine this. Aliens come to our planet. We tell them about this spectacle, where two men in bright tights will hop in a square together, behave like lunatics and act like they’re fighting each other. But they won’t really be. And people will pay thousands of dollars to watch it, and scream for one to win. I figure it’ll take the aliens five minutes to decide to destroy us, and five more to actually do it.” Personally, I’ve never understood why wrestling doesn’t have more of a gay following. Just seems logical, no?

That said, Eric and I have become pretty good friends in the last few months, and when he enticed me with beer and “seriously, like you have anything better to do,” I acquiesced, begrudgingly. But quietly. My roommate asked what I had planned that evening. “Um, going over to Eric’s ... we have, uh, a lot of work to do. Ironminds. IssuePaper. That sort of thing.”

Eric was wearing the goofiest, most sincerely happy grin when I arrived. “The pregame’s on. You gotta get caught up on the subplots.” From what I could gather, one big guy was mad at another big guy, so he started beating him. In another plot thread, one enormous guy was really mad at another gigantic guy, so he starting throwing him around and punching him. But, oh, my favorite, by far, was when the huge guy in pink tights smacked the massive dude in the blue tights with a ladder, and then started hitting him.

We were about halfway through the two-and-a-half hour (two-and-a-half hours!) program when I stepped out to the roof for a cigarette. Haw, haw, that Eric, loving wrestling, wow, smart guy, why does he like something so dumb? What a character. What a maroon. Gee whiz ... though, I must say, it was pretty cool when that one guy with the mullet was thrown through those tables. That must have hurt, even if it was fake. Man, I bet I could throw a guy through a table, if I tried really hard. That Coach Jackley guy, the one who never let me play on the high school baseball team, I bet he’d go through those tables all smooth, particularly when his head hit the concrete and split open, spilling his brains all over the pavement. That would rule! Screw that guy! And how about that next-door neighbor I had when I was a kid, the one who always yelled at me when my parents weren’t around? To hell with him! Through the tables with you!


An hour later, a man fell off a 75-foot platform and landed on the concrete - back first. We didn’t find out what happened to him. Eric was apoplectic. “Sweet God! Holy fuck! Did you see that? Jesus!” I had seen it, and, I noticed with considerable horror, I had cheered. Lustily. That little jerk deserved it. Hit him again!

SummerSlam ended. Eric, attempting to win a convert, asked what I thought. “Uh, sure, Eric, it was, uh, fascinating, sure. Um, thanks.” He must be thrown off track. I am Will Leitch, fan of Woody Allen, Philip Roth, Cognac. Wrestling? Enjoyment? Please.

I have no urge to watch wrestling again. I waste enough breath as is. Spending any more time following the “sport” would be the equivalent of sucking on a tank of nitrous oxide for three days. But, goddammit, for two-and-a-half hours of my life, I watched it, and, gulp, I didn’t vomit afterwards. I even (hoo boy, here goes) found it moderately ... entertaining?

Tomorrow, I’ll be ordering my Ford pickup, growing out the mullet and fostering a nifty mustache. And I’ll be drinking beer out of one of those hats with the two straws. I am white trash. Mattoon wins again.



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