This Saturday, we sent resident nightlife photographer Nikola Tamindzic and our in-house Expert on Physical Activity, Gabriel Delahaye, to the 29th Annual Empire State Golden Arm Tournament of Champions, in Flushing, Queens. Why? Fuck you, that's why. Here's the photographic proof. After the jump, Gabriel gets all Lincoln Hawk on us, and Nikola steals people's souls with his magic picture machine.
Later from now, about halfway through the day, a girl from the New School who's walking around with a video camera on her shoulder purportedly making a documentary — the theme of which seems to be "People Who Didn't Go to College Is Crazy!" — will ask me why Gawker is covering this event. The question of course implies that sometimes there's actually a reason for the stupid shit that Gawker does, but I just shrug because the answer is...
Seriously, why is Gawker covering this event? Moby isn't here, and I don't think he's coming. Chris Mohney thought it would be hilarious because I arm-wrestled Jonathan Ames at that Moth party last month, but when the cab pulls up in front of the Galloping Green Tavern, a squat Irish pub on a busy Queens street at 11:45 in the morning, it feels like a horrible joke. A few people are milling around inside, and by a few people I mean the owner of the bar, and the MC for today's events. Otherwise not much seems to be happening. It could be worse; we could have shown up at 10:30 a.m., when the event was supposedly starting. I'm given a press release that reads "This event is usually held at a high profile venue but it's the last event before our 30th Anniversary season so, we decided to go back to 'grassroots' and combine the Empire State Championship in an old fashioned barroom setting." True. Last year's event was in the "high profile location" of the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
I look at my watch the first time Nikola asks me if I want my Jack Daniels on the rocks. It is 12:37 p.m. On our table, there is a postcard flyer with a picture of a bare-breasted woman in a leather vest and studded leather panties straddling a motorcycle. It's an advertisement for a party tonight at the bar thrown by the Latin Riderz: Cruiser Division. We totally picked the wrong event. And you can make fun all you want, but both the 29th Annual Empire State Golden Arm Tournament of Champions and the Latin Riderz: Cruiser Division Christmas Party are organizing Toys for Tots charity drives. So, you know, fuck you, Misshapes, what have you done for anybody? Ever?
A few more people show up, most of them with arms the size of adult thighs. At the very least, I don't feel over- or underdressed. I mean, my shirt doesn't have a flaming skull on it or commemorate some previous arm wrestling championship, but I'm wearing my plain gray "Rocky" sweatshirt, which feels unassuming and athletic, even if it was given to me by my former gay roommate, and smells heavily of Michael Kors for Men, my fall/winter scent.
When the actual wrestling starts, it's clear that neither I, nor Jonathan Ames, have any idea what the fuck we're talking about. Professional arm wrestling is Chinatown, Jake. It takes the announcer five minutes just to get through all the rules. You have to keep one foot on the floor, but you can brace the other foot against the table leg? If your hands slip out of each others' grip the referees — there are referees — will use a velcro strap to bind your hands together? A competitive arm wrestling match takes about two seconds, and seems to have a lot to do with twisting quickly and using the momentum of your thrown body weight. There is yelling.
Then something interesting happens: Nikola comes over and tells me that he's kind of getting into it, and I realize that I am too. I'm not into sports, but I do like to watch boxing and kickboxing, and this is kind of similar, just, you know, without any of the boxing or kickboxing. Everyone here seems to know everyone else from previous tournaments, which gives the room a warm feeling of camaraderie. The arm wrestlers are either New York born, or from Russia. The Russians kiss each other on the cheek after difficult wins, and the New Yorkers make fun of them for kissing. It is battle. It is triumph. It is failure.
It is boring. I got into it, which was true at the time that I said it, but I only had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before we got here, and the Jack Daniels is starting to give my stomach a scraped-out feeling, and my eyes are getting hot and itchy. Not only that, but there aren't enough competitors, so the same bunch of guys are competing against each other in multiple weight classes, and the elimination process is arcane and indecipherable. Just because you lose a match doesn't mean you won't be up there ten minutes later, losing again. I'm confused and I need a nap.
By 3:30 p.m., the narrative arc has completely fallen apart. I think someone has actually won, or something, but guys are just challenging each other over and over again, and the awards haven't been handed out. Even the MC picks up the microphone and says "Uh, what is going on now?" Nikola and I step out into the sunlight, a little drunk, still mildly unclear on what has just happened to us. Somehow the day feels unresolved, with too many loose ends. But soon we are pulling up to the curb in another cab, back in Manhattan, in the comfortable embrace of the cultural elite, where shit like this is not done because how else then could we prove that we're better than the people who do shit like this?