Prologue: I Don’t Belong Here

I cried.

It feels silly now, but as I slumped onto my bed in my bare-bones room (extra on the bare, light on the bones) I cried. I cried because I felt completely ignorant and inexperienced about everything. I cried because I didn’t know what else to do. I cried because I was six hours away from hope and I felt alone and on my own. Most importantly though, I cried because in the end I should’ve known better, been better prepared for the realities of the environment I was stepping into.

The evening of October 9/Morning of October 10, who actually knows time frame my car had been gotten into and robbed as I stayed in Atlantic City for GCW’s weekend. Not much was taken as the options in my car were slim. My GPS system which I thought I had hidden well enough, my Trans Pride Hoodie, and an irreplaceable beer mug for a local brewery (that one hurts). In return, they left me a fully stocked medical kit (thanks?) and one hell of a mess left in my car. I learned the hard way one of my locking mechanisms didn’t work properly unless you manually locked it. Even at this very moment I could’ve sworn I checked every door, but it turns out if I had I was somehow wrong, dead wrong, and now I paid the price by experiencing the first time I’ve ever been stolen from. It was a violating feeling. As someone who is outspoken about her general anxiety disorder, this was a nightmare. I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know how to act, so I did the only thing I could think of, I went and got breakfast. Cause when the world puts me through shit, staying on routine is the only thing I know, the only thing I can depend on, so that’s what I did. I walked toward the Tropicana, went into Casa Taco sat down, and told the waitress what happen. “It happens” she replies. Thanks.

I got mixed advice. Some people told me to call the police, some told me the police were worthless and not even to bother. I was told to go home, I was told to stay because I’d regret leaving. I was told a lot of things, but as I tried to enjoy my Huevoros Rancheros at Casa Taco, none of it resonated, none of it clicked. In the end, the only thing I did was eat my breakfast (it was good) and walked back to my Air BnB room, shut the door, and cried. Of all the solutions offered, that is the one I took. It would be several hours before I left my room again that day. What was I doing here? What made me think this was a good idea? I panicked on Twitter, I panicked on Facebook, I panicked in the VOW Slack. People gave me comfort, advice, words of encouragement, in the end, though they were people behind computers. There was nothing to be done. I was stolen from, and I was dealing with it in a very poor fashion. My anxiety was taking over me, and I was losing.

This is not an article about me being robbed though.

This is an article about me going to Atlantic City for pro wrestling and other scenarios, and there was still a second pro wrestling show to be had that weekend. I tell you this story because in order to fully explain this weekend I got to give you all the details, wrestling, non-wrestling, the good, and the bad, and some ugly. This weekend was an experience, and the experience must be discussed and must be laid down. A Trans Woman traveling completely on her own, six hours from home, fighting through her anxieties, insecurities, and the reality she had no clue what she was going, to fight through it all, and have an exhausting but incredible time. To experience a city she’ll probably not go back to. This is the story of a Fangirl being out of her element.

Chapter 1: FUCK YOU, AND FUCK EVERYONE ELSE

That title is rather blunt and crude but that was the second thing I heard anyone say when I arrived on Pacific Avenue at 1:13 P.M at my destination. The moment I parked my car and saw a man on the stoop, his body shaking, giving me a weak smile, I knew I was in an element I was not equipped, experienced, or suited for. But I was here, and for fifty dollars a night I had without a doubt one of the cheapest places to stay in Atlantic City. While I made the short walk to my car I also saw a woman go to pick up a twenty-dollar bill only to stop as she bent down and just stayed in that position, staring at the sidewalk with a blank expression on her face. All I could do was walk. I didn’t know what else I could do, should do. I knew nothing. I was a Trans Woman hours away from my nearest friend. I was going to handle my own shit or break down trying.

As I walked the very short distance to my Air BnB, I turned the corner and was faced with the first thing I heard, a street preacher with a stereo system going hard with Jesus’ praise. I give him all the credit in the world. He was charismatic and clearly felt whatever spirit he thought existed. I admired his positivity as he stood on the sidewalk in an area of the city that was clearly not on the list of priorities for the powers to be. He preached and preached as people walked by, some gave him a nod of respect, some even came took the microphone, and said their piece about Jesus this, Jesus that. I will not knock what brings people comfort but I will admit after listening to him preach for FOUR HOURS I was ready for him to shut up.

That’s when it happens. A man falls down as he approaches the convenience store that was across the street. Except it doesn’t take long to realize he hadn’t fallen down, The assailant comes into view and starts to kick him repeatedly while yelling the title of this chapter. No one goes to help this man, not me, not the street preacher, not the man singing to himself as he stood on the edge of the sidewalk, leaning in a way that made you think he’d fall at any moment. No one. It occurred to me immediately, they’ve all seen it before. Then the man, the victim, gets up, dusts himself off, shrugs, and walks away like this was nothing out of the ordinary for him. I hate to think that’s true. As I slowly turned to look at my door telling myself mentally “Well you wanted the cheapest Air BnB you could get”. I could already feel my anxieties about my decisions rise but I forced them down. “No you don’t,” I said to myself as I punched in my door code and walked into where I’d be staying for the weekend. What greeted me was pure wholesomeness.

“Thanks for renting a room,” said the most positive, calm, sweet lady I have ever come across. I can say without hesitation she might have been the most comforting person I have ever met. It was incredible how my anxiety just died the moment she handed me a parking pass and told me she hoped I had a good time. She showed me the coffee maker and mini-fridge filled with bottled water. She told me she hoped my room was to my liking, it was, and that I was comfortable and if anything was wrong it would be taken care of. What an absolute angel. She felt like a mother, someone letting us weary travelers into her home to find shelter, peace, and quiet(?!) as we rested and recharged from our various activities. I think about her quite a bit now, she ruled. I made sure she got an excellent review. I only interacted with her three times but each time made me realize, every little thing was going to be alright. As I sat in my room, the street preacher blaring about Jesus at the same time a loud profane argument broke out and gave out a deep sigh. I laid on my bed and looked up at the ceiling. I had done it. Six hours and a half away from home, I had traveled to Atlantic City on my own.

I had traveled this distance because Jon Moxley vs. Nick Gage was a match I needed to see. The moment they confronted each other for the first time I knew I wanted the match. When I watched them confront each other at Wargames I knew I needed this match. When the tickets were available on sale I did the best I could (fifth row). I was amped as hell for Moxley/Gage. I had traveled this distance to finally get a chance to witness Minoru Suzuki wrestle in a non-battle royal match. I had seen him at Madison Square Garden, but now I got to see him actually perform one on one. Joey Janela wasn’t my choice of opponent, but I had confidence that if Suzuki was in full work mode if Janela brought his A-game, there could be potential magic. I had come for pro-wrestling, but there were other things. Restaurants to visit, friends to revisit, and moments to be had. I closed my eyes to rest for the evening as “JESUS” was said over and over again. As annoying as it was, I respected his charisma and dedication.

Chapter 2: Sensory Overloads

I said goodbye to my Lyft driver as I took in the massive casino resort that was before me. I walked into Bogota and my senses were assaulted immediately. The number of people, the sight, the sounds, the reality you could figuratively smell money, smell desperation, smell who was winning and who was losing (you could hear it also). I was feet away from a casino floor. I had never stepped into a casino in my life. After leaving my area of Pacific Avenue and arriving here, it was like a badly edited scene in a movie where you are jarred by the jump from one locale to the next. This was only seven minutes away from where I’m at. People dressed their best, a man with several women in his arms, valet parking, filled up bars with people chatting each other up, and probably taking each other home. This was a different world, and as weird as this may sound, I realized instantly I was way more comfortable in the previous one. This had glamour, youth, age, a few homeless people walking around all the pageantry dazed. Security walking around glancing around constantly talking into their communication devices. It was swanky as hell, and I had no connection to swanky whatsoever.

So I did the dumbest thing I could think of as a woman who is autistic and deals with General Anxiety Disorder. I stepped onto the casino floor. I wanted to experience what it felt like being on that floor at least once. This is what we call an avoidable mistake that I refused to avoid. Never again. Never will I do that again. I blinked once, maybe twice, and the next thing I knew, stepping in five feet turned into being in the middle of the casino and I had no idea how to get out of it. I heard a multitude of voices. I saw middle-aged/elderly people sitting at the electronic slots. Their eyes gazed in a way that made you think that the rest of the world didn’t matter to them. Do you know those scenes in romance movies? When one lover looks into their other lover’s eyes as if they are the only thing in the world for them and all that matters? As I walked by machine after a machine that’s the look I saw, except it wasn’t love, it was an obsession.

Bad makeup, bad suits, people without a second thought or glance pushing the button to play again in a routine and manner that made me think and realize my own compulsions and put them into perspective. Money won, money lost, some of the people in this room could afford the losses, some could not, but they were all here to gamble. Some gamble for fun, some gamble for desperation, some gamble because that’s all they had left in life, and some gamble because they knew the money lost wouldn’t hurt them so why not? Various walks of life, various groups of people all playing, all making noise, I couldn’t handle it and I stepped out of the casino took in several deep breaths. I must of look really out of place as I stood still and tried to center myself back into being calm, not have an attack right there outside of a casino floor. I settled, I calmed myself, and made haste toward my restaurant Izakaya.

I felt calm the moment I sat at my table. The lighting was dark, the music was loud, and the water was cold. The moment I looked at the menu and saw what waited for me I knew I was in for a treat. Izakaya is without a doubt one of the major highlights of the weekend. The food was delicious, I had my first taste of sake (cold) and I loved it.

I loved it to a very dangerous point as I sipped down every bit of my 80z carafe. My waiter was kind, helpful, and cute. Yes, I got to mention cute, love myself a cute guy giving me food after all. On my own, and living it up temporarily beyond my usual means, I dug into my meal of Karaage Fried Chicken, Wagyu Fried Rice, and Robatayaki. Every bite is an experience and worth the price. The Wagyu Fried Rice in particular might have been the best fried rice I’ve ever had. As I sipped my Sake and looked around, I still felt as if I didn’t belong. I was a visitor in a land I would probably not come back to ever. So I did my best to enjoy it.

As the sake ran low, my spirits felt good, and my food was depleted, I paid my bill, tipped my waiter,  got up, put on my tongue and cheek “Don’t tell anyone I’m Trans’ mask, and walked out of the restaurant to once again be assaulted by the sights, the sounds, the bustling activity. All I wanted to do at this point was get out of there, get away from it all. That’s when I notice people occasionally staring at me. Reading my mask and then making various faces of both acceptance and annoyance. Some of it was probably in my head, anxiety after all, but it was in that moment of feeling judged, gawked over, and questioned I felt like my time here was done. I ordered my Lyft and waited outside. As I did my best to keep my dress down in the bustling wind I looked around and realized as much as I enjoyed the restaurant, this was not for me. I could never gamble, being diagnosed with OCD I definitely shouldn’t. The noise, the flashing, and colorful lights, the bustling activity, and the thousand-yard stares people gave at their beloved machines, I could never do it, never take part. Bogota for all intents and purposes the best looking of the casino resorts, and I knew the moment I left it if that was how I felt about it, I can only imagine how I’d feel about the others. It wasn’t positive. Never mind that though, I knew where my destination now lied. GCW finally awaited. It was Moxley versus Gage time.

Chapter 3: Moxley Versus Gage

At last, familiarity!

Now this, this is where I belonged. At least close enough. I walked into the Showboat and immediately saw a long line of denim pants, cut off shorts, black shirts, beaded gentlemen, goth women, people you can tell we’re going to be drunk before the main event even happened, and a few people dressed up to the nines who were potentially wondering what they had gotten into. Oh, I was pretty dressed up myself. I was in a cute red and white number. Nothing but the best for Moxley and Gage obviously. As I walked in, got me some water, and got me the next to last large size of the event t-shirt, I went to find my fifth-row seat which gave me a reasonably good view of the ring and prepared for a night of violent pro wrestling.

It was an entertaining night. A violent night. It was a joyous night. As this article by now is obvious long, I will spare you the complete details of a match-by-match analysis. Just know I had more hits than misses when it came to my enjoyment of the show. I lost my mind when Thunder Rosa made her surprise appearance. I sang my heart out to “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” when Effy, who is one of two people in the world I’ll willingly call Daddy. Not even my actual Dads get that. (Oh, the second person is “redacted”). Shane Mercer absolutely destroys Yoya with a springboard moonsault slam which popped me out of my seat. If there was anything I didn’t enjoy it was the disappointing six-man tag.

Then Nick Gage’s entrance was happening as I watched it from a distance. Part of me wished I was part of it, part of me was glad I wasn’t, it was insane to witness, you could feel the rush, the energy, the love they had for this man. A living, breathing folk hero to these people. He was their hero, their messiah, he was why they were here. They moshed with him, hugged him, and chanted for him. It is a sight to behold and must be experienced once. You can debate Nick Gage’s abilities all you want, but he CONNECTS, he CLICKS, he is the fucking man in GCW and no debate or dispute can go against that. I love me some Nick Gage. I love that he clearly respects and loves his fans back, I love that he’s willing to shout out Trans Rights, Nick Gage rules . . .but I’m a Jon Moxley girl. I rooted so hard when he came out. I yelled for him to hit Gage with light tubes, to put him through the glass. I know he couldn’t hear me, but he obliged all the same.

I was one of the few people in my section rooting for Jon Moxley. Hell, I might have been on an island to myself, compared to the time I rooted for him against Kojima at ALL OUT in the VOW suite. It did not matter. I was here to watch these two beat the living shit out of each other, and they totally did. From the moment Gage attacked Moxley during the ring introductions it was on. It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t pretty, but it was exactly what I drove six and a half hours for. Two badasses who did all they could to make each other bloodied badasses. I watched this match unfold. It didn’t hit every note, but god damn, did it hit enough for them to make me satisfied, then I cheered my damn head off when Moxley had his hand raised.

Moxley’s back was a sight to behold. A sight to remember, a sight that’ll bore into my mind forever. I tried to get a photo of it, but I failed. I don’t regret that, probably for the best. It was one hell of an imperfect night. There was a meet and greet with Mick Foley at the end, and while I wanted to meet the hardcore legend, right there in Atlantic City, I was too tired, I was too exhausted. I only want to meet one thing and one thing only, my bed. So I went back to my room and crashed face-first on my bed. Then at approximately 1:30 A.M, I fell asleep, with the air condition singing its best lullaby. The last thing I could hear was a man on the street freestyle rapping for his own amusement, he was quite good.


Chapter 4: Break-ins, Boardwalks, and Best Friends

And now we come back to where we started this article off. My car had been robbed, I was crying in my bed staring at the ceiling as I did so. My anxiety screaming “leave, leave now, never look back, and never come back” over and over again like a broken record. I could even hear the static of the vinyl as it repeated those words in my mind. To say I can’t handle these situations well is a light and polite way to put it.

“What do I do?” I kept saying to myself. I look back and cringe at how potentially over-dramatic I was being after the break-in. The truth is though it felt traumatizing. I was inexperienced, alone, I felt violated. I didn’t know what to do, how to act, what I was supposed to do. I felt like a child, a feeling I always hate as it always makes me feel like every bit of progress I have made mentally had been wasted and in the end, meant nothing. It sucks knowing that when my anxiety is at its worst I revert to a helpless child who needs her handheld. So I laid in my bed paralyzed, doing all I could to convince myself to not run, to not flee. Tried not to let my anxiety win out on this day. Then it entered my mind what I should do.

“Go for a walk” finally crept into my head. What a ridiculously simple notion, but it made sense. A walk, clear my head, get some outdoor time. The boardwalk was literally 90 seconds away from me. It was one of the main reasons I got this Air BnB. So with a deep breath I forced myself out of bed, forced my shoes on, and I walked to the boardwalk. I was there for two hours walking back and forth, taking in everything. You could tell various buildings, various shops hadn’t been updated or worked on in years.  They were fun to look at and go into, but you also got a sense that there have been better times looking at them. All that said, I went into one shop and got amazing maple walnut fudge. It was delicious to bite down on it and just chew, and chew, and savor. I also walked by a massage parlor and as I did a woman’s voice screamed out.

“YOU LOOK STRESSED, MASSAGE?”

No doubt she threw that pitch to hundreds of people that day, but at that moment she was spot on. I was stressed as hell, and I’ve never had a full-body before. So I paid for thirty minutes and it was awesome. The man who did my massage was cute as hell and really good and thorough at his job. I must have completely betrayed my enjoyment of it cause he couldn’t help but giggle at some of my reactions. Until he worked on my back I had no idea how tense I was. I assumed that’s how you were supposed to fill. Damn. It was incredible, and I felt completely different after I walked out… damn, right I tipped him well.

Then a few hours later it happened “JERI!” she yelled as she dashed out of her car and ran to me. A best friend, at one point I was close to her, at one point I had a major crush on her. We never lost touch but we literally hadn’t seen each other face to face for over a decade. We rant toward each other, surrounded by garbage, graffiti, and probably at least one drunkard shaking his head at us acting’ the fool we embraced and cried right off of pacific avenue. Despite not seeing each other in over a decade we picked back right where we left off. I met her fiance and got to really cherish and enjoy her company as well. They took me out to dinner and any thoughts of the break-in immediately faded away as she kept poking my arm because “YOU’RE REAL AND NOT THE INTERNET!” and as silly as that may be, it freaking ruled. I had a hangover burger with truffle fries and it was all amazing.

We hugged, we laughed, we constantly smiled at each other. It was a wonderful time, perhaps the non-wrestling highlight of my trip. The moment that the six-and-a-half-hour trip was worth every bit of the drive. Things must end though, and she drove me back to the Showboat so she could head home, and I could attend the final event of my weekend, GCW Aftermath with Joey Janela versus Suzuki. As I hugged her with an awkward side hug I made a promise to myself, it would not be over a decade until the next time we meet. I keep my promises.


Chapter 5: The King

I arrived as I heard Emil Jay go “7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 1 . . .” and then I was in the doors just as the crowd went off. It was a smaller attendance, which was to be expected, but still a happy and fun crowd ready for some GCW action. As with Fight Club, I will not bore you with a match-by-match analysis of GCW Aftermath. I’ll focus on one thing only, the king, murder grandpa, the reason I purchased a ticket for this show. Minoru Suzuki. I have long been a Suzuki fan. I have always been impressed, excited, and respectful of his abilities and I never thought I would get to see him live. While Janela was not my preferred opponent for him to be with at first, it mattered not. Despite my anxieties, despite my exhaustion, despite everything I made damn sure I was standing right in front of the camera, you can see my damn back through various points of the show and I stood the entire night just to see one man, and one many only, Minoru Suzuki. Everything else was a bonus.

He would not disappoint. That magical moment when he came out and we all got to scream at the top of our lungs KAZE NI NARE was awesome and something I’ve now gotten to do twice (the first being ALL OUT of course). Then the match happened and I was more into it than I ever expected. Suzuki is having the time of his life during this American run and he was clearly having fun with Joey Janela. They brawled outside of the ring and brawled right past me screaming and cheering and enjoying my fangirl head off. Suzuki/Janela was a true highlight. A fun fight. Janela clearly realized he needed his A-game for this match and brought it and Suzuki had fun, was brutal, and scared, and amused the hell out of me with some of the best facial expressions and reactions in the game. I enjoyed the match so much I ALMOST forgot there was the main event of Alex Colon versus Jimmy Lloyd afterward and left. I’m glad I didn’t leave, not because of Colon versus Lloyd, which was violent enough, but because there was a meet and greet with Suzuki.

I have never paid for photos with wrestlers. I ONCE paid for an autograph from CM Punk. An autograph I didn’t even get because I was limited to one item and I wanted to make sure a friend of mine got her shirt signed. So I did, and her smile was worth it. But since then no autographs, no photos, nothing. This was different, this was the king. This was Minoru Suzuki. Who knew when/if this opportunity would ever come again. So I stood in line hoping I had the right dollar amount (in cash) still on hand. It turns out I had EXACTLY what I needed no more, no less. So with my best Trans shirt and mask on I stood and raised fists with the King himself and got my photo taken.

What a joy, what a thrill, what a highlight. Perhaps one of my favorite wrestling moments of the year. Then he extended his hand and said: “thank you”. So I thanked him right back, I was too anxious to say anything else and I didn’t want to hold anyone else wanting to meet him up. So I grabbed my phone, and with a smile under my mask left the Showboat feeling great about myself. Uplifted even. A treasured pro-wrestling memory I would’ve missed out on if I hadn’t gone to that event if my anxiety I won. But NO! I HAD WON! As a result, I was rewarded. Yes!  I got into my life and dealt with a very chatty driver, they were all chatty that weekend, and leaned against the door of the left exhausted and tired, but despite everything happy and a heart fluttering. I got to see my friend again, I got to get my photo with Suzuki. My car got robbed, screw it, I had a wonderful night and the weekend was saved.

Epilogue: Leaving Atlantic City Behind

At 6:30 A.M almost on the dot, I arrive at Hot Bagels and More. This was recommended to me by John Carroll of Wrestling Omasake. They were right in recommending it to me. I got myself a bacon and cream cheese bagel that filled me with delight was extremely delicious and gave me the fuel I needed for the long drive. By 6:52 A.M I was on my way. With no GPS, I relied on my phone and an offline map. In the end, I navigated well and I made myself home at 1:13 P.M… the exact time I had arrived at my destination in Atlantic City. My obsessive compulsion was thrilled with that result.

I went into my apartment, gave my cat affection, crashed into my bed, and napped for nearly three hours. That’s how much it had been taken out of me. What a full weekend. There was bad, there was good, there was ugly, but it was an experience and in the end, I was most proud of myself. Despite the misfortune, despite being a fish out of the water, I had done it. I had to travel six and a half hours and for the most part, handled myself on my own. I can’t begin to explain what a good feeling that was to this disabled fangirl. I had to battle a lot, I had to come down from much, but in the end, I experienced a weekend filled with fun and violent wrestling, old friends, and delicious food. I can’t trade any of that for the world. I met a sweet hostess who kept me stocked with water and snacks and gave me a comfortable and safe room. I got to see Moxley versus Gage go down, throw down, and break shit. I got to watch Suzuki performed in a fun match and got my photo taken with him. Memories that cannot be tarnished.

I WAS robbed though, I felt massive sensory overload in a casino. I felt dazed and confused and out of my element… and that period of feeling like a helpless child haunts me like every moment that happens. Hell, my breakdown in a Chicago airport still shames me.  I hate reminders that no matter how much I improve, no matter how better I get, my anxieties will always be there and be a struggle. Maybe I should be positive I did it, didn’t I? I stayed the entire weekend and despite some ill comings I made it work, and I had a good time. I saw some really fun wrestling shows, I got to see Gage and Moxley throw down, and I got a photo with Minoru Suzuki. Perhaps I should simply accept that for the victory it was. Take the win as they say.

Yeah, I won.

Atlantic City CAN be fun, there is a lot more fun to be had than I went out and explored, but ultimately I realized this was not a place for the writer of this article. That’s not to say Atlantic City is not a worthwhile trip. For many, it’s a wonderful, exciting, and fun time. This is me saying Atlantic City is NOT FOR ME. Maybe that’ll change. Maybe the next major dream match of mine will pop up and I’ll get the chills, get the itch, and I’ll find myself in Atlantic City again, maybe a bit wiser, and a bit more prepared and experienced o confront my anxieties and fears. I don’t know if that’ll happen though. I’ve been once and I feel that will possibly prove to be enough. I think the best I can say is ultimately I had a very good time in Atlantic City. I had a great time at Game Changer Wrestling. Overall I overcame my anxieties and mishaps and had a positive experience. I think it’s best to leave it at that, happy endings are rare, so when they come, just let them be that. Happy.