The First Festivus, Part II

The rest of the legend..

A parting gift from Allen Salkin.  See full inscription below.

A parting gift from Allen Salkin. See full inscription below.

***This a sequel post so if you haven’t read Part I you should probably do that***

Downstairs in the basement shit was getting mildly crazy. People were high, drunk and busting at the seams with end-of-year feelings. I encouraged people to play Twister to get them limbered up for the wrestling. I had already written everyone’s name down and put the slips of paper in a bowl; I would begin random pairings soon but not yet. People needed to be drunker, much drunker.

The ecstasy began hitting me in a mild way, the biggest effect being I no longer had any appetite. My whole plan about the eating contest was to stack the deck so I would win — Kraft Macaroni & Cheese was my favorite thing to eat, but with no appetite my chances of winning were not good. I decided to push that event till last to give my body time to recover some hunger.

A few games of Twister and many intoxicants later, it was time to wrestle. This being my first Festivus party, I didn’t really have any idea what to expect or much concern for safety or “boundaries” so I set the most basic of game rules:

  1. Pairings would be done by me and via the magic randomness of pulling names out of a hat

  2. A match ended when someone had both shoulders pinned for 3 seconds

  3. No kicking, punching or hair-pulling

I honestly can’t remember the first match but I do remember my own. Kind of. I know I lost and that I wrestled a guy but I don’t know who it was or how long it lasted or really any useful details other than I bit my opponent. I know, I know, very unsportsmanlike behavior but it was a reflex! Anyway it led to an important amendment to rule 3: no biting.

And then there was the last match.... Most of my friends and the collection of strangers were fairly balanced in their heights and body types, except for two: I’ll call them L and D. L was a very large Puerto Rican guy, maybe 5’10”, heavy and broad; D on the other hand, was a short Chinese guy, maybe 5’4”, not heavy and not broad. L was the last to arrive and so the last to wrestle, and D was the only remaining name in the hat, and so it was that they were paired.

It was a shit show and everything you would expect from a big guy vs. little guy match except for the duration. When the battle began, everyone expected L would just pick D up, body slam him and bing bang boom victory would be his. But D was nothing if not tenacious and he wasn’t giving up for anything. The match went on and on, D managing to wriggle out of holds and pins, L losing steam fast. Of course in the end L won, but it certainly wasn’t the quickie victory we all expected — it was epic.

Realizing such a climax could only lead to the party ending, I decided it was now or never for the eating contest. I fetched the now totally-congealed mass of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and brought it downstairs. Spent from wrestling and generally inebriated, few guests were interested in speed-eating masses of food so there were only a small handful of participants. D happily joined in, eager for a chance at redemption. He was the only guest who’s appetite (in normal circumstances) matched my own so I knew he would be a fierce competitor.

We began the contest and I couldn’t have been less interested in eating. The second I put the first handful of food into my mouth I knew I was going to lose. It was slow-going for everyone given the nature of what we were eating, but D tore through it like a champ and easily closed out the event with a decisive victory.

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Pleasantly spent from physical exertion and general hoopla, the party was closed with the airing of grievances. One of my better friends had the idea that we should hold onto the pole when complaining and thus another tradition began. We each took our turns ranting, getting all the remaining frustrations and disappointments out of our system.

As my guests began leaving, Mr. Salkin pulled out a copy of his Festivus book and signed it with a personal message thanking me for the event. I never saw any of the footage he recorded or saw him or the New Jersey strangers again, but the details of their existence and subsequent disappearance only add to the lore of the event.

I had over-hyped and under-delivered on a lot of promises, but in many ways the party exceeded my own expectations and certainly that of my guests. I’m sure they all expected most of the activities were just fantasy, but boy did they get schooled. Everyone left knowing the full-body satisfaction and cathartic release of battle, and I found my party calling.

While that infamous episode of Seinfeld largely inspired me to celebrate Festivus, the wrestling was inspired by something else entirely. When I was in high school, my closest friend’s youngest brother was a state wrestling champ, and it was he who sparked the love of grappling deep in my heart. He used to provoke me until we wound up tussling on the living room carpet, winning easily despite being smaller in size. And even though I lost every time, my body held onto that feeling of battle and the relief it brought to my mental state. As an adult, Festivus provided all the opportunity and excuse I needed to recreate the experience, and so it all began. A Festivus miracle indeed!

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