A Mexican wrestler was pictured on the invitation to a party I went to a month ago. The card was for John’s 40th birthday “smackdown,” and I had to be “ready to rumble.”
The thought of walking into a party and getting body-slammed did seem odd, but then I saw that it was at the Lucha Libre taco shop on Washington Street. I figured the only thing pile-drivin’ would be me with the rolled tacos down my throat.
I showed up at 10:30 p.m., even though the surprise party started at 8:00. I had been at a concert earlier and was glad to see the party was still going on.
Bar Dynamite is right next door to Lucha Libre, and the bar had its usual bouncers and velvet rope. But Lucha Libre did, too. When the door to Bar Dynamite would open, you’d hear music thumping at about 200 decibels, drowning out our patio conversations and the person who had a guitar, strumming a song with his Mexican wrestler’s mask on.
Many in attendance had on masks, which fit the theme of the restaurant. I’m guessing it was harder to eat the chips and salsa, though.
We were told that anything we ordered off the menu was paid for, including alcohol. Pitchers of margaritas were set up near the chips-and-salsa bar. It wasn’t long until I had a pretty good buzz on.
I asked Veronica how long they had rented the place for, and she said, “Until around 1:00 a.m.” When I mentioned that her husband looks like John Travolta, she said, “Oh, he hears that a lot.” She then showed me a mask of John that she had placed on all the tables.
I found out the couple has been married for 14 years, but they knew each other since junior high school in El Centro. She said, “We both liked each other then, but we were too shy to do anything about it.”
As we were talking, a drunk guy came over and asked us if we wanted to do shots. We said no, although I was ready for another margarita. I was eating a burrito that felt as if it weighed five pounds.
One of the owners of the restaurant was leaving. He had to cater a big wedding the following day. I asked him if he liked the Jack Black movie Nacho Libre. He didn’t care for it but said, “The guy who played his wrestling partner actually came in here. I didn’t notice at first, but the guy with him was asking us if we knew who it was. He signed a picture for us.”
I overheard two women sitting at the table behind me, eating cake. They were talking about the roast that was done earlier. My girlfriend said, “I’m bummed we missed that.” I said, “Well…at least we didn’t miss the cake.”
I saw there were about 15 pieces of cake left. The drunk guy grabbed one, looked over at us, and asked if we wanted to do shots. I replied, “No, but I’ll down a piece of cake with you. I’ll even flip the small plate over and slam it down when I’m done.” He made a weird face and stumbled out to the patio.
A few guys nearby were talking about the history of luchadores. One guy said they made bets that involved the loser being unmasked by the winner. He added, “Sometimes, it also involved shaving heads as an additional sign of humiliation. Even though this form of wrestling only dates back to the ’40s, wearing those types of masks goes back even to the Aztecs.” His friend replied, “San Diego State?”
I was confused by the pin-on buttons everywhere that read “49.” Veronica smiled sheepishly and said, “Well, yeah. Those don’t really make sense. He went from being 39 to 40. So, the 4 represents the 40. And the 9, from 39. Well…okay. The truth is…these were laying around at work. And I figured, hey, they’re buttons.”
As I took pictures, everyone seemed to be handing me their cameras to photograph them. But I’d had six margaritas, and my hand was shaky. It was easier to make people laugh. I told one guy who was kneeling down below a wrestler painted on the wall that his head was right beneath his balls.
With another group, half the crowd had masks on. I told one guy who had his sunglasses on that I’d need to retake the photo because he was blinking.
As I sipped my seventh margarita, I noticed guacamole and salsa stains all over my notes.
I looked over and noticed that the guy who had been asking everyone if they wanted to do shots had moved on to a can of Budweiser. He missed most of his mouth when I saw him take a sip.
As it got later in the evening, the DJ turned up the volume and many people started to dance. It was a good variety of current stuff, hip-hop, and old-school dance tunes. At one point I heard De La Soul followed by Cypress Hill.
With the variety of songs and interesting people, I had no doubt this crowd was having more fun than the folks next door.
I was done with margaritas and rolled tacos. I glanced up at the two clocks on the wall: one said, “San Diego Time,” the other “Tijuana Time.” According to both clocks, it was 12:38 a.m.
We got up to leave and talked with John briefly on the front patio. He seemed to be having a blast. His handshake almost broke a few fingers. Right behind him, I heard a bunch of women say they couldn’t find someone. My girlfriend leaned in and said, “I think it’s the guy who kept doing shots.”
As we started to walk away I heard someone yell, “We found him! He was sleeping.”