Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Great American Road Trip

So, earlier this year after a few events that shook me up I pledged to be more proactive in keeping up with my friends from away. Email is cool but impersonal and I loathe phone calls so the best way to get it done was to hit the road so I formulated the Great American Road Trip. As it stands right now I'll be on the road about 10 days and making 5 stops and still working on a 6th still. It's kind of a crazy idea but everyone I talk to about it seems to think a great idea. I'm excited but nervous not only because of the scope of the trip but because I'm usually an away for 3 or 4 days at a time at most. This will be far and away the longest I been away since I bought my place 5 plus years ago. It also plays to some of my weaknesses such as night driving and not sleeping well away from home. So, those who see me at the beginning will be far luckier then those who see me at the end haha.

As of today the itinery is Levittown, PA, Richmond, VA, Leesberg, VA (D.C. area), Holland, OH (Toledo), and Cincinnati, OH. I'm hoping to make one last stop on my way but have been having trouble with communication and/or commitment. Either way, it's going to be too much of a drive from Cinci back home after 9 days on the road so either way I'll be stopping somewhere. I'm hoping for some of this to be relaxing time to see parts of the country I've only skimmed of went directly to a destination without really getting to see. Most times when traveling I'm a get up and go and drive straight thru guy so I'll be going against instinct. I'm hoping to stop at some great off the wall local eateries as well kind of my own Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. The logistics haven't been easy as trying to work around so many peoples schedules and I'll be hitting some people mid-week but should be interesting to say the least.

The trip comes at both the best and worst time as I SOOOOOO need time off but at the same time my mind weighs heavily with a run of piss poor luck of late. Maybe I'll talk about some of it as I go along as I'm tired of whining about stuff like all the time lately. I plan to blog as I go and add pictures so check back if you want to see what your man is up to.

Let the Great American Road Trip begin!!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Death of a Killer

Note: This was copied from my wrestling blog. It's a personal story but feel free to skip it-Rich O

On Saturday August 31 Walter "Killer" Kowalski left us for that great Squared Circle in the sky. Often times a wrestling name and persona is merely an extension or magnification of the person playing the part. While he was the "Killer" in the ring, outside the ring a kinder, nicer man you would have been hard pressed to find. I was lucky enough to have met the man on maybe a dozen occasions but won't claim we were friends or he could pick me out of a crowd but he always treated me with kindness and respect. I would run into him around Greater Boston in my days back on the periphery of the local wrestling scene between attending or doing security for many local shows. I was fascinated that the tall, slender, well spoken gentleman was the legendary heel "Killer" Kowalski. My friend had briefly attended his school of wrestling so we almost always spent a little time talking to him. Here are some of my personal memories of Walter (it was always Walter outside ring...if you knew him even a little, calling him Killer seemed foolish) as opposed to repeating the oft told Yukon Eric and Haystacks Calhoun stories

-While I had seen Walter in ring without knowing it (as one of the Masked Executioners along with student John "Big John Studd" Minton) in my early wrestling fan days it was really a locally produced and broadcast wrestling program called Bedlam From Boston that I really got a good taste of the Killer. Basically retired from wrestling he operated as the top heel and champion of this group that were mostly his students and was a way to get them television exposure. The show was in many ways laughable versus many other regional shows but once a week Walter would cut a promo that would make you see why he was such a heat magnet in his day. I also remember, almost laughably, that he would do his promo's maskless then wear a hood in the ring, loading it up with a foreign object for the tainted win. As I understood pro wrestling more and more I was told it was because the mask allowed him to not worry about losing his hairpiece. I never found out if that was true and honestly wouldn't ever have asked

-When I got to college and met my friend and wrestling buddy for decades to come he opened my eyes to how stuff really was. He kept me around the whole scene without ever becoming part of it. He only briefly attend the Killer Kowalski Institute of Pro Wrestling but when ever we went somewhere he could pick out a student of Walter's just by watching them work. He say "Walter would make you do this 1,000 times, Walter stressed this, Walter wouldn't let you do that". He taught his students how to wrestle the way he learned through strong basics, in-ring psychology, and high spots where they were appropriate, not all over the place. If you read all those attributes and don't see Triple H you're not paying attention.

-When we did security for ECW in Revere and Waltham Walter was almost always on hand with some of his students whether to simply watch or hopefully to get one of his guys on the under card ( I remember Walter's name being dropped in getting Erich "Mass Transit" Kulas onto the card but Walter was not there and as far as I know, Kulas was not associated with him). He would always be there watching, critiquing, and offering advice. Most of the boys had respect for Walter and eventually they had a night where former students Perry Saturn and John Kronus honored him before the local crowd as the father of extreme wrestling

-I was at a show at a local armory with maybe 50 people in attendance by the time I got there. We stood near the back and watched as a friend of ours was working the show. A guy by the name of Rick Fuller who had a job with WCW at the time was headlining (a talented and damn nice guy btw). In the course of his match he threw a guy over the ropes and through the table where Walter's audio equipment was. This was NOT a planned spot and Walter let him have it giving him a tongue lashing all the way from the ring to the dressing room about carelessness, respect for the industry, and why he'll never be big time. It was a little excessive, a little uncalled for but that was Walter.

-My most personal story. My friend and I had flown to Philadelphia for a big NWA anniversary show. The show was actually about 30 minutes away in Cherry Hills, NJ. All sorts of big names were scheduled to be there including Lou Thesz, Harley Race, Abdullah the Butcher, "Dr Death" Steve Williams, Dory Funk Jr (there with "before they were famous students" Kurt Angle, Randy Orton and many others)and many others. As we puller out of the airport in our rental, there's Walter standing in the pick up/drop off area looking perturbed. My friend rolls down his window and asks if everything is OK and Walter tells him one of his students was supposed to pick him up an hour ago. So we give him a ride. It was great as this fearsome man in his clipped Midwestern totally unique accent, traveling with no more then a small duffel bag and his camera bag, regaled us with story after story. It was a ride I will never forget.

As I said, I won't claim to have been a friend of Walter "Killer" Kowalski but did know him a little. He wouldn't know my name if asked but was always ready with a "thank you young man". He was a simple, kind, respectful man. I don't think he died a wealthy man as his best days in ring ended well before there was big money to be made but from everything I know, have heard or read he was rich with friends, stories, and experiences. Not a bad life.

Rest well Walter