The American Dream

ziggy rhodes

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Dusty “The American Dream” Rhodes. Today we also lost the great Ornette Coleman, and legendary actor, Christopher Lee.

When I was a kid growing up in the south, my family lived in the same apartment complex as Dusty. Professional wrestling was huge in the south. Many of the wrestlers were larger than life, and some of these characters left marks on me. Dusty was one of those. He made an appearance in “Where Will I Wear It?” from my book “Brutally Frank”.  All hail The Dream.

Where Will I Wear It?

I want to buy
a Mr. Wrestling II mask
I saw one
on some website
or other for 49.95

But where will I wear it?
Watching television
with the wife?
Raking the yard
jumping into piles of leaves?

Standing over sink
dishwater up to my elbows?
Wrestling with the neighborhood children?
There must be laws against that

And if there aren’t laws against a grown man
in a wrestling mask wrestling
with neighborhood children
maybe there should be

Where do masked men go
once they’ve worn themselves
out in wrestling ring
Razor scars covering foreheads
Knees and wrists shots of cortisone
Blood clots in lungs punch drunk
Too many body slams clotheslines
Boston crabs and figure four leg locks

I was raised
down south
Wrestling territory
Atlanta, Anderson, South Carolina,
Tallahassee, where I once saw Dusty Rhodes
The American Dream
and his wrestling nemesis Ric Flair
shopping for furniture together
Memphis, Tennessee where Andy Kaufman
may or may not have fucked with Jerry Lawler

When I grow up
I want to be 6 feet tall
and weigh 250 pounds
“No you don’t”
my mother snapped
finger digging into my chest

Not exactly the reaction I was
expecting at least
I wasn’t riding my bike
in my Mick Jagger cape
or attempting to seduce neighborhood
girls as the Lilac Boy
No, I wanted to wear a mask
of white and black

I met the closest thing
to a superhero
at Stevens County
High School Basketball Arena
On the same card as Mountain Man Magoo,
Greg “the Hammer” Valentine,
and the McCrary Brothers,
the world’s heaviest twins, whom I had seen
in the Guinness Book of World Records
on their mini bikes
was Mr. Wrestling II

The action poured out
of the ring as wrestlers hit
the floor
Mr. Wrestling II was taking
a beating as a crowd
of youngsters formed a circle
around the southern style warriors

I defied my mother and raced
to the floor, my younger
brother’s hand in mine
We worked our way
into the innards of the circle
as sweat flew off the bodies
before us
“Come on II”, I cried
and for a split second
I thought he heard me
as our eyes met and he caught a hard
right to the neck as the Hammer
went for the mask
They always went for the mask

I want to buy
a Mr. Wrestling II mask
I saw one
on some website
or other for 49.95
But where will I wear it
in this day and age when masks
are a dime a dozen as
people hide their eyes behind
black glasses
like witches shielding themselves
from cameras
Protecting their souls
Smiles as masks as your best friend
runs away with your spouse
or your mate drowns your five
children in the tub upstairs
Molesters of young boys
hide behind priestly robes
Telemarketers hide in phone lines
and computer hackers hide
behind names like Diarrhea
Punk and Stroker Ace

Where do masked wrestlers go?
Where have you gone Mr. Wrestling?
Where have you gone Black Atlas?
Where have you gone Masked Superstar?

Where have you gone Mr. Wrestling II?
I have heard you sailed
to Hawaii, toes in sand
your girth on a towel
Sunlight booming off your mask
blinding passersby

And what of those before you?
As you point your black and white mask
toward the heavens what of
those who have passed through the ropes
The Great Santo is looking down
The Mexican masked wrestler
spun his wrestling persona off
into the picture business chasing heels
in a black and white sportscar
on a black and white screen
77 or was it 78
Atlanta child murders were gripping
the south around the time
Berkowitz was performing
his son of sam act for five boroughs
Sixty miles from Atlanta
I curled up close to my father
while watching the news
picturing my father’s red hair hidden
beneath a white and black mask

Six feet seemed like a lot
back then as I spoke
with Mr. Wrestling II beneath
the Stevens County Indianhead mural
250 pounds didn’t seem like much
as we stood beside
the McCrary twins

I remember being struck
by his blonde eyelashes
and his soft leather voice
Soothing, quite different
from his television interviews
talking tough into red spit guard
He told me to pay attention
in school and always listen
to my parents (advice I ignored of course)
He signed my wrestling program
Mr. Wrestling II
which dwarfed Mountain Man
Magoo’s simple X

I want to buy
a Mr. Wrestling II mask
I saw one
on some website
or other for 49.95
But where will I
wear it?

–From “Brutally Frank” 2012