She was tough, one of the toughest women I know. Still is. She was a tough old German farm broad, as ornery as any wrestler. More so. She could have made Stone Cold Steve Austin cry like a baby with a glance.
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She also smoked like a chimney. I went to Dort Elementary School, the same school rap star Eminem went to, quite a number of years later. It was a tough school in a tough neighborhood. There was really nothing good about it. I hated most of my classes, with the exception of geography and history. I loved to think about faraway places like China, India, Japan, and Europe, and often daydreamed about going to those places we were supposed to be learning about—generally during class, when the teacher wanted me to pay attention to something else.
Even the games we played were rough. One game we would play was army.
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We copied them when we played. All of the kids from the neighborhood would choose teams, much like the way kids choose baseball teams.
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One team would be the Germans, and one would be the Americans. Instead, we would literally have rock fights. We would chase each other through the neighborhood, throwing rocks and clumps of dirt at each other.
The nurses in the emergency room at Saratoga Hospital on Gratiot Avenue knew me on a first-name basis. My father used to work Saturday mornings. We had the house to ourselves! My brother and I would practice the moves we saw on the living room floor. We got so we would script our fight scenes out and go through them in slow motion. In those days, pro wrestling was divided into territories around the country. Every region had a different set of wrestlers, with their own world champion.
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There were several large regional promotions with their own stars. Each had its own world champion. Nor did they know anything about what happened behind the scenes. Even though matches were now being televised, wrestling was still very close to its original roots as a carnival sideshow. Kayfabe, the private language used by those in the business, ruled the industry.
I got my first job when I was six or seven, or maybe eight. I used to hang around there a lot, and one day the owners asked me to pick up the litter in the parking lot and around the store. When I was done, I got to reach into the cash register; whatever coins I could get in my hands in one try was what I was paid. Soon I graduated to sorting and stacking their returned bottles. School got tougher and tougher. From fifth grade or so, I was in at least one fight a day. I rarely came out on top.
The older kids were always picking on the younger kids, bigger kids always beating on smaller. Violence was a way to entertain yourself in Detroit, and it escalated as I got older. Kids brought weapons like lead pipes and knives to school. It was a small-time arms race. The very last day I spent in Detroit, I purposely brought seven dollars to school. This was a time when thirty-five cents bought lunch, and having even that in your pocket was like walking with a sign around your neck volunteering for an ass-kicking.
I let everybody know I had seven dollars. The thing about shop class was that the teacher always left early. As soon as the teacher left, a kid came in to confront me. I pulled a metal handle from one of the vises sitting in the shop area and creased the top of his head with it. Then the bell rang, and it was time to go home. For about twelve hours, I was a legend in the school. We were off to Pittsburgh. In , when I was in eighth grade, my dad got a job opportunity in Pittsburgh.
We packed up and moved to suburban Penn Hills, Pennsylvania. The development we lived in was more middle class, a definite step up from Detroit. Our house was twice as big as our old one. It had a finished basement where Mark, Lori and I could play. There were woods in the backyard where we could build tree forts and camp out at night, and a creek where we could catch crawfish.
It was just amazing to see hills and mountains all around instead of city streets. Saturday-morning wrestling was replaced with Saturday-night wrestling, but my brother Mark and I were still big fans. This was the first time I realized there were different world champions in every part of the country. Bruno Sammartino was the champion in Pittsburgh. Sammartino began wrestling in He was the shit at the time. Besides his ability as a wrestler, Sammartino was a real and believable character. He was the workingman. Pittsburgh was a blue-collar town, with the steel mills and other industries.
Sammartino really represented that, which was one of the reasons I think he was so popular. He was also a local guy, and as it happened, he lived not too far away from our home. My friends and I used to cruise by his house on our bikes, hoping to maybe catch a glimpse of him. We never did, but we felt privileged just to live close by. I believe I started out in the pound weight class in junior high. I was an average wrestler, real average—not horrible, just real average. But I enjoyed it. I also continued to work.
My neighbor, a guy named Bob Racioppi, hired me to do odd jobs and light construction around his home. He became kind of a big brother to me, doing things with me that my dad could no longer do, like hunting. He introduced me to martial arts, showing me some moves and whetting my appetite for karate. Then he got me my first job with a roofing company when I was fourteen.
Part of it for me, a big part, was the work ethic my father instilled in me.
It lent itself to success. I give my father credit for that, and my mother credit for developing a desire to grow and not to settle for less. In , when I was in tenth grade, my father got a new job in Minneapolis. I had great friends there and really felt at home. It happened that the son of the real estate agent who sold us our home was the captain of the high school wrestling team and about my age.
He introduced me to the coach and some of his teammates, and helped me fit in. Wrestling quickly became one of the few things I really liked about school.knowledgebrief.vvinners.com/nytiv-madrid-secreto-speed.php
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I lettered when I was a junior, though I was never really a standout when it came to tournaments. I enjoyed it, and it was really where I made most of my friends. Besides wrestling on the school team, I joined a club that competed with others throughout the region. This was the late sixties and early seventies, when legend has it that everyone did drugs. But the facts are different. I was never into drugs myself, and neither were most of my friends. One time I was tempted to try speed, the nickname for a particular kind of amphetamine.
There was a girl I knew, a pretty popular girl, who experimented with Black Beauties in school. I saw her in the morning, and she could hardly stand still. Later on I saw her in the hallway, and blood was coming out of her mouth.