It has been a while since we heard from contestant #4 for our contest “High Heeled Sneakers.” Jim Babwe, who inhabits Southern California occasionally surfaces by moonlight as a stand-up comic and writer. He captures the spirit of our current contest perfectly. We ask you to tell us the story behind an article of clothing that has special significance to you. (So far, not one has chosen their birthday suit to write about, but the contest is still in the dressing room). We would love to hear from you! Join the conversation, and dig through your wardrobe for those sweats that gave you such a good time getting smelly that you just can’t take it upon yourself to wash them, or dump them off at Goodwill, even if now you are two sizes to big for them.
Here is what was on Jim’s head when he entered our contest:
by Jim Babwe
Ernie and I did not know what to expect when Dad took us to the Plaza de Toros. Five or ten minutes after finding our seats, Dad left for a beer.
Five or ten minutes after Dad left in search of a beer, three guys wearing New York Yankee caps sat in front of us, and as they were settling in, I said, “Hey, we’re Dodger fans, but we love baseball. I know you. I mean, I know who you are.”
I was speaking to one specific guy.
Talking was a distraction from the coughing and wheezing and blood spurting from the bull’s mouth and nostrils. I did not understand why the crowd cheered at this sight.
One of the Yankees explained to the other two, “Look. The matador gets too much credit. He’s the pretty boy. The whole thing’s staged. And it’s a mismatch because of the picadors. Today, there are two. See? There’s one, and there’s the other one. They take turns riding past the bull and they use those spears to stab the bull right in the neck. Not in the head, but close. See where the blood is? Not the blood coming out of his mouth and nose. I mean the blood running from that spot where you see all the ribbons. Those ribbons are attached to these little darts. I forget what they’re called, but they’re sharp and they use those to weaken the bull. See how he’s holding his head? He can hardly even lift it up to see the matador. But that’s when the bull can be the most dangerous, though. He’s a wounded animal. Really dangerous. Once in a while, a bull manages to catch a matador off guard. It’s not a pretty picture.”
The guy who did all the talking kept on talking, and even though I listened, I didn’t really want to hear these details. I definitely didn’t want to see any more, but Ernie and I couldn’t leave because Dad wasn’t back yet.
One of the Yankees turned around and said, “Hey, am I in your way?”
I didn’t say anything. I nodded to let him know he wasn’t.
He said, “I don’t blame you one bit. I don’t much like this thing either. Here. Have a couple of hats.”
He handed me his own hat and he snatched the hat from the guy sitting next to him. He handed that one to Ernie. I used mine to cover my face. I remember the scratchy wool and the strong scent of weird perfume—nothing like what the barber uses after you get a haircut.
The guy who handed us the cap told his two friends he needed to go.
The third guy, who hadn’t said anything yet (and didn’t protest the loss of his hat) uttered a string of words in Spanish. (I think it was Spanish). Then, in English, he said he didn’t care. He said it was time to go.
He told me and Ernie he didn’t like any of this, and he told the guy who gave me the cap that if he was leaving, he would leave too.
I turned around to watch the three of them ascend the stairs. Dad stopped to talk to the three guys.
Their conversation lasted about the same length of time it took for the matador to stab the bull just above the bull’s forehead. The matador pushed the sword into the bull until nothing of the blade was visible, and when the matador released the sword’s handle, he stood next to the bull and pranced around the animal as the animal shuddered and lurched, collapsed to its knees, and continued to shake with its head splashing in a pool of blood on the ground until, (after about five minutes) the bull stopped moving.
The crowd cheered.
I looked back to where Dad was talking to the Yankees, but the Yankees were gone. Dad made his way down the stairs, then stepped past other spectators to his seat.
Dad said, “Did you get that hat from one of the guys I was talking to up there?”
I said, “Yeah. Mickey Mantle.”
Dad said, “Yep. Mickey Mantle.”
I said, “I know.”
Dad said, “What did he say to you? What did he say?”
I said, “He said he didn’t like this bullfight stuff.
Dad said, “He told me the same thing. Mickey Mantle. He gave you his hat.”
I said, “He did. Can we go now?”
Dad said, “Ernie, whose hat is that?”
Ernie said he didn’t know.
At the time, I didn’t know, either. But he was a Yankee, too.
(Thanks Jim! Good to see you again! Sweet story of a great memory.)