Editor's note: We originally published Wendy C. Ortiz in 2013 in Issue 3. Her essay, "Mudhoney," opened with this sentence: "Mudwrestling was one of the closets I hid myself in when I was trying to figure out just what or who I was." It's a great pleasure to have here here again. --NK
I had talked Myriam Gurba into going on a long drive with me because after one road trip with her (to Fresno) it was easily and immediately established that we have Things to Talk About and those Things could easily eat up the hours spent on the road. So when I had a reading in San Bernardino, I invited her so we could catch up on the Things.
In the middle of telling her about my flirtation with absolutely non-professional/hoping to get a girl to make out with me mudwrestling when I lived in Olympia, Washington, she asked if I’d read The Wrestling Party by Bett Williams. When I dropped her off on my way home she made sure I borrowed her copy which is a totally different looking copy than the one you see on Goodreads. The cover of this one is like a weird vulvic pinkish purple background with an illustration of a woman wearing a hat, lipstick, eye shadow. The cover at Goodreads is of four women, mostly nude, their bodies formed into an amoeba, grasping, feet in the air, hair and tattoos. On my borrowed copy, the AUTOGRAPHED COPY sticker covers up the title so it appears to say THE WREST PARTY. Inside, the author had signed her name with a little stick figurish drawing of two arms outstretched, boobs with nipples, a torso, and legs with shoes. Headless.
This would be a one-sitting reading kind of book which I figured out from the first chapter about Trash Disco in New Mexico, and from the first sentence of the second paragraph of chapter two: “Of all the self-help books on the shelves, I never found the one I really needed: Overcome Fear: Just Reach for Her Pussy.” It was very easy falling in love with Annika as the narrator fell in love with Annika, pervert with the German-Swiss accent, of the black slips, wigs, and motorcyles, and I also fell in love with Life Before Annika, particularly the chapter in which the narrator books a motel room in Olympia & outfits it with Red Bull, Vicodin, “gas-station ephedra and a bottle of Patron Tequila—these substances being my fairy dust of need, my ornery little backward prayers for love, sex, love, sex.” What is she in town for? Ladyfest, a feminist art and music festival that I actually happened to attend and perform in that August of 2000. “Geesh! Riot grrrls can be so overly sensitive, just like goths and bluegrass purists,” she writes. Of Nomy Lamm she says, “She was the sex bomb, the crazy monster of punk rock love….She is a goddess. Perhaps if the little butch dykes took a moment away from studying themselves and turned to Nomy Lamm and obeyed her every command and whim, things could get interesting.” AGREED, in 2000 or 2016, it works.
This book, published in 2003, made me laugh out loud several times (few writers do that for me), and ultimately, feel an easy kinship with the author and her singular, hilarious perspectives sprinkled between descriptions of go go dancing gone bad, sex with a seventeen-year-old girl in New Mexico (where age of consent is thirteen, the author notes, and the author does grapple with this, in the most humorous of ways), being the stalker chick and being the “stalkee,” and “small person stories” about the author’s childhood as a boy. And, of course, there’s the wrestling. An entire chapter on the bouts fought among various opponents, full of thighs, ass, lactating breasts, adrenaline, and bush. “The next morning, because of me, a dozen people were so sore they could barely move…I took a perverse satisfaction in the injuries of my friends.” I’m omitting the actual excerpt I wanted to put here, that makes me salivate, that is full of muscle, blood, black eyes, bruises, and doom, because that excerpt to me gives so much away. As I noted in my one-sentence review of the book on Goodreads, “I am simply crushed out.” And aching to get in a mud pit again.
Wendy C. Ortiz is the author of Excavation: A Memoir (Future Tense Books, 2014), Hollywood Notebook (Writ Large Press, 2015) and the forthcoming Bruja (CCM, October 2016). Her work has been profiled or featured in the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Rumpus, and the National Book Critics Circle Small Press Spotlight blog. Her writing has appeared in such places as The New York Times,Hazlitt, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, The Nervous Breakdown, and a year-long series appeared at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Wendy lives in Los Angeles.