Atlanta: Where the wrestling nerds went in Spring 2011

Person: "What are you doing on vacation?"
Me: "Going to Atlanta."
Person: "Why Atlanta?"
Me: "Every year a bunch of people I know get together. We hang out, check out the city, and go to wrestling."
Person: "Oh. Well that's nice."

I usually get some variation on the above conversation when I get asked "What are doing on vacation?" Mostly I want to say "mind your damn business because this conversation will lead no place", but instead I answer honestly.

This year the WWE held Wrestlemania in Atlanta, GA. Along with 'Mania comes smaller wrestling promotions holding events and thousands of people flocking to the city. I have went to five of the past six Mania weekends, though not always to Wrestlemania. That part seems even more strange to many.

These weekends have turned into something far more than wrestling. It originated when this hot, independent promotion Ring of Honor decided to piggyback Wrestlemania while it was in Chicago. Every year since, they've done the same thing. I've been following RoH since June 2004 and over the course of traveling to many events and meeting people, I have met many people from all corners of the globe that I know call friends. I love wrestling. I love traveling and exploring places never been. Mostly I attend these weekends for these people. Some of which I only see during this time.

Fast-forward to Atlanta.

I rented a car from Hertz and drove the 10.5 hours down from Fort Wayne, IN to Atlanta, GA. Alone. The back story here is a friend of mine were going to drive together in his vehicle. He had to drop out. I could have rode with other people I know from the Midwest but I already had money put in for hotel rooms. I was going longer this time and making it a true vacation. The cheapest route was renting a car and driving solo. No big deal as I got a couple of friends to split cost while they were in Atlanta.

Got the rental, a Dodge Caliber, and headed out of around 9am on Wednesday. A long drive later, about half occupied by the outstanding podcast The Art of Pro Wrestling by Colt Cabana, I was near Atlanta. About 8pm I picked my friend Chris up from the airport. He flew in from Malta. It's a country in the Mediterranean. Look it up. It's real. I've flown into the Atlanta Airport many times. It's always a madhouse. But picking someone up is a whole different experience. Crazy traffic.

With success, we got to the hotel every one was staying at for the weekend and found out we were upgraded to a two bedroom suite instead of a studio. Bonus points for the Marriott Residence Inn! We met up with Blake and Aaron, a new guy coming in for the trip for England. We went to TacoMac for some much needed food and drinks. What a great beer selection. Decent bar food. Terrible waitress. It wanted to drink longer but it had been a long day. Time to be smart.

Awoke the next day ready for more friends to arrive. Chris and I hit the hotel breakfast. I was extremely disappointed. Not so much in the food selection but the availability. The entire time there was never any food around. They'd bring out a small portion and the dozen or more people waiting would ravage it up. Then the process began all over. Not smart. Then we went to the grocery store so Chris could stock up on American junk food to take home.

It makes my stomach ache just looking at the picture. Also got some interesting looks at the cashier line while we we're self scanning the items. Back at the hotel saw our old buddy Greg and Ring of Honor owner Carey Silkin. Carey has always been great to talk with when you seem him during these times or at show after parties. Greg is the person who organizes these trips. Without him doing so, many of us would not know each other. He is one of my favorite people on the planet because he is just an incredible person. We talked a bit and helped Greg get the room situation under control. Other arrived including two roomies, Scott and Jim. Scott immediately crashed. He was wiped out from driving.

Blake called and had a load of people he picked up from the airport. So Chris, Jim, and myself went to meet them at FlipBurger. We ran into a big of a navigation problem on the way. Making left turns in Atlanta is an experience. It's can be hard to make and on occasions people do it without any warning. Tom, Ryan, Anthony, Josh, Eric, and Blake already were seated when we finally arrived. There were a few others but I cant recall. I ate a lamb burger. It was delicious.

Stopped by a liquor store on the way back to buy some local crafts. Purchased a sampler by Sweetwater Brewery and a couple of bombers by Jailhouse Brewing Company. We all sort of took it easy, catching up with one another until dinner time. The we all ventured down to Mojito for some authentic Cuban food. Many appetizers floated around. My meal was braised pork with black beans and rice. Then it was back to the hotel to meet up with the others arriving. The Irish crew of Steven, Robbie, and Will; Jon from the UK, Clay for Australia; Frank, Johnny, and his friend Matt.

Then things get interesting.

Around 8pm, I start feeling queasy to my stomach and a tad dizzy. I run Greg and Tom to the grocery store. On the ten minute drive my stomach is churning. I am getting cold and sweaty. We enter the grocery and I immediately find a bathroom. Believe me, you never want to hunch over a Kroger toilet heaving your guts out. On occasions it must be done. So I'm thinking it's over. Something just not agreeing with me. I rejoin Tom. We find Greg and pay for items. We are loading up the car when the feeling hits me again. I run over to storm sewer drain and proceed to chuck up, rather violently, once again. It's only been about 15 minutes since episode one. I regain composure.

The pieces of the puzzle start to fit together as this is very similar experience I had in Tampa earlier this year. Then I ate a Thai dish which contained seafood medley. I work up about 1am with gurgling belly and "things" shooting out of both ends. That night I was the only person to eat seafood, so I assumed it was a bad pieces causing me the problems. Tonight everyone ate the same apps. The only 2 things I consumed both times were mussels and squid.

I manage to get back to the hotel. Give the keys to valet and let Tom & Greg unload because I can feel "the rush" coming again. There's no way I can make it to my room on the 7th floor, so I sprint to lobby bathroom. Damage is done once again. Feeling like hell at this point with a cold sweat pouring from my face, I make it back to my room. Then the attack happens from below. Badness is firing at both ends. I am losing this battle. At this point, I have thrown up three times and had the screaming shits twice all within an hour. I am not in good shape.

I get a call from Paul saying he and Larry are about to board their plane in Boston and they would be in around 1am. I fill him in on what it happening to my body and tell him that somebody will pick them up but I don't think it can be me as promised. I slowly make the journey down to Greg's room to see if anyone can pick up my slack. I feel bad for not being able to fulfill my end of the agreement, since we split a rental car while in town. Thankfully they called Robby, who was running late and he agreed to pick them up. My savior.

I lay on a bed, shivering cold. My stomach is empty but each time I put a swallow of liquid in it, I throw it right back up. I deal with running to the bathroom every few minutes for the next couple of hours. Dry heaving air and dealing with acid stomach. I finally fall asleep around 2:30am and go dead to the world until around 8am. Thankfully my roomies tolerated my sick ass.

Friday woke feeling better. I wasn't 100% and still had a sour, gurgling stomach but the worst was behind me. I ate some fruit and yogurt at breakfast and kept it down. I had survived the war of attrition. Hell of a way to find out you suddenly have an allergic reaction to mussels or squid. Don't think I'll try either any time soon.

Josh, Tom, Larry, Paul, Robby, his friend Todd, and myself travel down to the Little Five Points part of town. I desperately wanted to check out The Porter Beer Bar.
The Porter Beer Bar

We checked out the neighborhood and stopped in. Amazing beer list. If you are a lover of fine beers and in Atlanta then check this place out. It's world renowned for a reason. And if you see a guy playing guitar singing a song that goes "I'm your master. As I stick it inside you.", don't shy away. He's a lyrical genius. We could have stayed here all afternoon. But told Greg we'd meet him for a late lunch. So it was off to the Mu Lan for some Chinese. A great meal but I only pieced at it since I was recovering. Luckily Eric, the human vacuum scarfed in what I could not. Try the Peking Duck.

Getting close to wrestling time. The last of the group finally arrived. Center Stage Theater was only about two blocks from the hotel. A nice walk over just before bell time.
Center Stage Theater

The theater set up was very cool. Nice seating too. Paul and I sat together in the GA. I've been to at least fifty RoH shows in the last few years. I've sat crowded. What we experienced this night was horrible. Two the right of us were a couple. The man had to be push 300lbs and the girl was at least 230lbs. Big people. Two my left side was a extremely obese woman who had to be close to 400lbs. And unfortunately didn't smell the best. We were scrunched in on both sides with no escape. To top that off a woman directly behind felt the need to shriek at the top of her lungs at everything. If you were at the venue, you heard this chick. It was ear piercing and annoying. She eventually walked down to stand by the guard rail. These things nearly ruined an amazing show for me. The wrestling was off the charts. The experience was not. By the end of the show, I was exhausted. The previous nights heaving left me drained. I needed sleep. Went to the hotel room and had to be the bad guy. Kicked everyone out who wasn't staying the room. Sleep soon followed.

It's Saturday. I am awake and feeling great. Back in the saddle again!!!
Early RoH show. Sitting 1st row. Good times are always had in row one. I had plenty room to breathe and move. Again I enjoyed the entire show. It flowed well. I got most wrapped up in Briscoes vs All Night Express, a violent and bloody spectacle. RoH nailed it this weekend. It's been awhile since I've liked a double shot that much.

A car load immediately headed out to the Dragon Gate USA show. We found a strip mall and stopped in a pizza joint which I cant recall. Off to the preshow since we had VIP passes. Scott, Jon, and me sat together in not so glorious 3rd Row Stage VIP seats. I was a little angry about the seats. Paid $35 for what turned out to be at the back of the house and the farthest seats from the ring in the building. What made it worse was after the preshow, ushers stopped checking tickets and let people you bought GA put seats on the stage, thus crowding us and having better view than me. Not happy about it but tried not to let it ruin the night. Scott was very pissed. "Never again!", he said. The show was good. I really liked Tozawa and Pac. And the 6 man main event delivered.

We got back to the hotel. Every one hung out in Greg's room till about 4:30am. We all shared how we got into Ring of Honor and what our first show was. Similar tales yet slightly different. As Greg pointed out, wrestling used to be a very lonely experience with not a lot of people around share it with, but now we've formed bonds and friendships that last a lifetime. People from across the world. It's an incredible thing.

I had no obligations to any wrestling on Sunday. Josh, Paul, Larry, and myself decided to find a place for brunch. We found a good place with a New Orleans vibe, Cresent City Grill. Larry decided to keep on walking around, but the rest of filled up on bloody marys and breakfast and cake. I got the badly sunburned after 2 hours. Bright red. Enjoyed myself greatly. To me, this is what the trips are about. On the way back we stopped at Tap, a gastropub/beer bar for another drink.

We chilled out for a bit. Most of the group headed out to Wrestlemania. A few of us who did not got watch the event via streaming in my room. Couldn't hook it up to the TV so we had to watch it on my laptop. At some southern cooking for a food truck down the street, drank beers, and watched an average event. The rest of the group got back around midnight. We hung out for about an hour then people started saying goodbyes.

A fairly relaxing Monday. I woke up at 6:15am to take Paul, Tom, and Ryan to the airport. Easy getting there. Not getting back. Hit deadlock traffic and it took nearly an hour to get back to the hotel, which is only about 12 miles away. Got back and waited to change rooms since half of our roomies had left. Chris and myself talked with the lovely desk receptionist Dankea for awhile. She gave us a free upgrade. Originally we were moving to a studio, then we got upgraded to a 1 bedroom suite, then we got to stay in our same room which was a 2 bedroom suite. Big props to the lady, who apparently enjoyed the buffoonery of myself and Chris. Sometimes you got it. Sometimes you don't.

We goodbye to Larry and others, then watch Greg make his departure. I told Chris that I'd take him to the mall for a couple hours. Jamie, Eric, and Clay came along to Lennox Square. It is a very swanky mall in the Buckhead part of town. We went, walked around, and looked at the lovely ladies while Chris shopped.

We got back to the hotel and I called Johnny. He and Matt was at a bar with another friend of his from high school. Chris and I went to met them. We sat on the patio and drank for awhile. Had a good time. As we were getting ready to leave, Johnny said something about it being a gay bar. Then I looked around at the clientele. Lots of guys. All the wait staff was young guys. The music was crappy pop. I would have never noticed if Johnny didn't say anything. And not that it mattered. Good times with friends is what counts.

We eent back to the hotel. Watched WWE RAW for the 'Mania aftermath and watched the Butler Bulldogs get slammed by UConn. I said goodbyes to those remaining. Drifted off to sleep in the middle of a tremendous thunderstorm and strong winds.

Awoke at 6:30am. Time to start the drive home.

Eleven hours later I arrived. The trip now just another great memory in my brain.

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Horrorr Movies Watch & Books Read (March 2011)


The Chaser (2008) ****1/2
A horror/thriller from Korea. A former cop turned pimp keeps having his worker disappear. He concludes it could be possibly be the work of a serial killer. When one of prostitutes goes on a call with a shady individual, he decides to track her down. By pure chance he runs into the killer and both men are arrested. While the killer is being interrogated, the pimp tries to locate the missing prostitute. From there things really get interesting. This gut wrencher is one of the better flicks I've seen in awhile. One scene had me squirming and another nearly brought me to tears. Also a good commentary on the South Korean law enforcement.

Twins of Evil (1971) **1/2
I'm really glad for the amount of old Hammer Studio movies which stream on Netflix. This is another one I found. Starts out about a group of Puritans burning witches but turns quickly to vampires.

Meadowoods (2010) **
Three teens plan a murder of a random classmate because they have nothing better to do. The concept is truly frightening. The execution in the movie lacks a tad. Too much of teens talking about how empty the feel inside.

Devil's Diary (2007) **1/2
Two teens find a book which grants wishes to whomever writes in it. Evil wishes. This Lifetime Network movie has some decent,yet familiar plot, but also contains huge amount of bad dialog and stereotypical characters.

The Rig (2010) *
An mysterious, underwater creature attacks an oil rig which crosses its path. It gets on board and starts killing the crew. The plot holes are huge in this suck fest of a movie.

House {Hausu} (1977) **1/2
What a trippy film. I cant even properly describe the insanity of the Japanese cult film about a group of girls in a haunted house. Watch it for the complete nuttiness, like a floating severed head biting a womans butt. Yeah, it's that's type of good.

Creatures of Darkness (2009) *
Kids are camping near a military base when they find out an alien wants them as trophies. Yep, as this is Predator style rip off and it's just horrible.

Psycho Ward (2007) 1/2*
A group of kids want to film a movie in an abandoned psycho ward. There's a serial killer on the loose. I made it through about 25 minutes of this uninteresting crap fest before shutting it off. Perhaps it got better, but I doubt it.

Buried (2010) ****1/2
I was skeptical about a 90 minute movie with Ryan Reynolds in a coffin, but this movie passed my expectations and ended up being one of the better movies I've watch this year. The camera work is outstanding making the coffin seem bigger than it is at times yet extremely claustrophobic. The creative use of lighting is amazing as most of the time it's only from flashlight, cell phone, or a lighter. And kudos to Reynolds who pulls off the role to perfection. This is a must see movie.

# Face Off (2011) ***
This is a reality show/contest on SyFy which gives an inside look to make up artist effects in movies. I've always enjoy knowing about the process of special effects make up. The show focuses more on the craft and less on the drama between contests, which I like. Nothing great but for movie nerds who like to see how more of the process it's an enjoyable show.

Let Me In
Let Me In (2010) ****1/2
I enjoyed this movie far more than I anticipated. It kept the tone and feel of the original, yet made itself feel authentic. The kid actors is this are simply awesome. A very enjoyable flick with some truly moving moments. And it's beautifully shot.


Swan Song
Swan Song by Robert McCammon ****
A post apocalyptic saga with survivors of a nuclear war trying to survive against themselves and an ancient evil force. I've been a fan of McCammon's work since the first novel I read by him. This was one I've looked forward to reading for a long time. It's an epic novel which often draws comparison's to Stephen King's The Stand. While similiar in scope, the stories are different and I feel well worth the read.

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