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[DarK_RaideR] wrestles with his inner demons


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The episode opens with wide shots of the audience stands, where the Crew are excited to get the show going. Dane O’Hara and Duke Hazzard are in position, welcoming viewers.

 

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O’Hara: “Welcome to the most exciting hour of professional wrestling, welcome to Lucha Exotic! My name is Dane O’Hara, with me as always is Duke Hazzard and what a show we’ve got for you tonight, featuring the debut of The Wild Cats, one of Mexico’s hottest high flying duos!”

Hazzard: “Any night that has someone from the great state of Texas in the main event is a winner in my book and tonight it’s the hometown girl, Houston Handley, in action.”

O’Hara: “We don’t know who she’ll be up against though, so let’s take it to our Captain, Johanna de la Plata, for more!”

 

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Johanna de la Plata comes out of her office door, followed by a muscular 6’7” woman, tall to the point where she needs to mind her head walking out the door. The two women make their way to the ring as the owner and promoter of Lucha Exotic is handed a microphone.

 

JdlP: “During the first ever Lucha Exotic show, I said the reason I’ve created all this was because of the violence. Today, I give you a woman who can bring the violence. I’ve noticed my Crew here enjoy seeing Houston Handley and I’ll admit, she’s a capable luchadora. So tonight, she will be in the main event against my newest signing, Tameka Sky!”

 

Towering above Johanna de la Plata, Tameka Sky cracks her knuckles menacingly as Dane O’Hara confirms this is indeed the former power forward of Atlanta Dream in the WNBA, infamous for her physicality under the basket.

 

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The following lucha is a three way match, set for one fall! Introducing first, from Mexico City, Mexico, she is the latest of her immortal bloodline, La Hija de Phoenix!

 

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La Hija de Phoenix comes out in a bright, over the top outfit with a cape that can be stretched out by raising her hands to resemble wings. She even waves her arms around to make the fabric move, its glimmering red and orange tones catching the lights as she does so.

 

Next up, from the gardens of Taj Mahal, it’s the Wildflower, Sinda Sarai!

 

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With a mask that barely covers her face and a large flower above her left ear, Sinda Sarai enters the Cove and simply refuses to walk to the ring, doing all sorts of flips, rolls and cartwheels instead to showcase her athleticism, which gets a loud cheer from the Crew.

 

And their opponent, she is “The Dangerous Woman”, Piper Hale!

 

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La Hija de Phoenix vs Sinda Sarai vs Piper Hale

The match begins with a standoff, neither woman sure of who to attack and who to turn their back to. This ends as Sarai hits both her opponents with a dropkick, hitting each with a single foot. Hija de Phoenix immediately kips up and responds by slapping her opponent across the face, only for Hale to floor them both as she comes crashing with a double clothesline lariat. Hale then dumps Sarai out of the ring and proceeds to beat Hija de Phoenix with stiff forearms, chops and elbow strikes, backing her to a corner where she finishes her offensive flurry with a headbutt.

 

“Hale is focused on Hija de Phoenix only, as if she wants to prove a point” Dane O’Hara mentions, with Duke Hazzard responding that “She’s probably trying to avenge her debut loss from two weeks ago.”

 

Meanwhile, a recovered Sarai climbs back to the apron and slingshots herself back in over the top rope, catching Hale’s head for a neckbreaker cutter. She follows that up with a standing backflip that sends her bodyweight crashing onto Hale and goes for the pin, but Hija de Phoenix breaks it up at two. The two luchadoras trade holds for a bit as they chain wrestle around each other with counters and reversals, Hija de Phoenix getting the best out of the exchange as she ends it with a deep lucha armdrag to send her opponent flying. She then notices that Hale has recovered and switches her focus, bouncing off the ropes for a low-aimed dropkick, right on Hale’s knee guard.

 

“Deja vu! Can she capitalize again?!” an excited O’Hara yells into his headset.

 

This time Piper Hale plays it smart and rolls out of the ring to recuperate while avoiding a pin, which in turn sees Hija de Phoenix switch targets again, only to get caught by Sarai with a DDT. The Wildflower had recovered and was lying in ambush! Sarai uses her agility to hop onto the top rope and jump off for a splashing attack, but Hija de Phoenix rolled to the side just in time, nobody home! This opens up a chance for her to go up high, perhaps finish this match off with a huge leg drop? No, someone rushes up to the ring and shoves her off balance while the referee was checking on Hale, still down outside the ring!

 

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“It’s that stitched-up freak again!”

 

The woman makes a quick retreat and seeing Hija de Phoenix down, Sarai tries again for a high risk move. This time the Wildflower Splash connects and the referee starts the count. One… Hale just realized what’s happening! Two… she slides into the ring to break it up… Three, missed it by a split second! Sinda Sarai wins!

 

Quote

In a bout that had terrible wrestling and non-existent crowd heat, Sinda Sarai defeated La Hija de Phoenix and Piper Hale in 9:37 when Sinda Sarai pinned La Hija de Phoenix with a Wildflower Splash after a distraction. 24

 

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A video plays next, shot in a snowy arctic location. A large, muscular man in leather pants, furry boots and a similar waistcloth is seen, running through the snow. Despite being bare chested, he does not seem to be struggling with the cold. His hair is blonde, shaved at the sides and braided in a knot, while he also sports a beard. The shot is distant and his face isn’t clear to see in the snow and mist.

 

In the following scene, the same man is shown chopping down a tree, in the same outfit, in the same snowy landscape. The camera angle is from behind, so his face is still not visible. The focus is on the bulging muscles of his back with each chop and careful viewers might notice that he’s not wielding a lumberjack axe but what seems to be more like an ancient battleaxe.

 

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The following lucha is a tag team match and it is set for one fall! Introducing first, from the open road, Biker Bill!

 

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Biker Bill is greeted with some boos, but the big man is powerful and intimidating enough that the average fan does not want to mess with him. Some members of the Crew even cheer for him, perhaps appreciating his badass aura.

 

His teammate, from Mobile, Alabama, Al “Cockroach” Carter!

 

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Fat, greasy, slobbish, unkempt and sporting a trucker cap with the Confederate flag on it, Cockroach Carter is the opposite of a pleasant sight. Duke Hazzard even takes a jab at this guy, joking that Biker Bill probably found him at a gas station and bought him a sixpack of beers in exchange for teaming up with him tonight.

 

Their opponents, from the Aztec jungles, the team of El Jaguar and Tigre Savaje Jr, they are The Wild Cats!

 

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The colourful luchadors in their feline masks and matching leopard/tiger capes respectively, get a big cheer from the audience.

 

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Biker Bill & Cockroach Carter vs The Wild Cats

Cockroach Carter starts the match for his team and it’s immediately obvious from the opening sequence that he is nowhere near either of his opponents, who use quick tags to completely overwhelm him with creative high flying moves from all angles. A hasty retreat and a tag later, Biker Bill comes into the match. The big man is able to take his opponent’s offense and barely stumble, which allows him to block a flying crossbody from El Jaguar with a big boot to the face. Bill keeps the pressure by throwing all his weight onto Tigre Salvaje who was waiting on the apron and send him flying to the outside, where the dastardly Carter rushes to attack him, then pulls out a chair from underneath the ring to continue the onslaught.

 

“I can tell why they call him cockroach” Hazzard comments, disgusted.

 

Biker Bill tosses El Jaguar to the outside as well, showcasing his strength and dominance while his teammate does the dirty work at ringside. Tigre Salvaje however explodes into a desperate dropkick, hitting the chair right into Carter’s face and knocking him back against the guardrail, a spot that sends the audience into a “Lucha! Lucha!” chant. The tecnicos now turn things around with a 2 on 1 advantage outside and Carter takes a beating, before Biker Bill realizes what’s going on and leaves the ring as well to even the odds. The Wild Cats see him coming though and retreat to the ring, a sign of their experience and tactics as they avoid what could have been a dangerous situation. Bill lifts up Carter by the collar and slaps him round to consciousness, then places him on the apron and barks an order for him to take care of business. Carter gets between the ropes as Bill goes round the ring and up the stairs to his team’s corner. El Jaguar surprises his attacker with a drop toe hold that sends Carter stumbling right into the arms of Tigre Salvaje Jr. The tiger masked luchador rolls with the momentum into a Salvaje Suplex and floats over for the cover, while his teammate throws himself through the ropes with a suicide plancha onto Biker Bill, ensuring he can’t interfere. One.. two.. three, the Wild Cats win!

 

Quote

In a bout that had sub-par wrestling and non-existent crowd heat, The Wild Cats defeated Biker Bill and Cockroach Carter in 10:17 when Tigre Salvaje Jr pinned Cockroach Carter with a Salvaje Suplex. 36

 

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The scene for this video is a starry night in the Texan desert. The camera pans around the scenery for a bit, before settling on three figures around a campfire, the flames illuminating their faces: Ace Youngblood, Wild Red Stallion and a woman. Unlike the two men, who are seen wearing their Native American style ring gear, the woman is wearing jeans, work boots and a bomber jacket, the only indication of her ancestry being her hair and jewelry.

 

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Woman: “We may belong to different tribes, but to me it’s pretty obvious the spirits are trying to bring us all together. It doesn’t end with you, Ace, saving Stallion from a beating. It doesn’t end with Stallion returning the favor. It begins with that. I’m just trying to make you see there’s more in it for both of you, for all of us, if you join forces. And to prove my point, I took the liberty to jockey for a match next week. A tag team match. Just do me a favor and roll with it. I’m sure you’ll see things my way once all is said and done.”

 

The two men raise an eyebrow as the woman mentions having booked them in a match without them knowing in advance, but they then turn their gaze towards each other and nod in agreement.

 

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A young couple in tracksuits and carrying gym bags is shown walking out of a gym. They are discussing today's workout and how it got them all tired and hungry, when the man spots a nearby pizza stall. Excited, they get in line to grab something, when a hand appears from off camera to tap on their shoulders.

 

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"Quadzilla!? What are you doing here?" the woman exclaims.

 

"Just my civic duty: protecting you from a supervillain ever so insidious... CARBS! Do you know how many calories are in a slice of pizza? About the sugary tomato sauce? The low quality cheese, full of fat and cholesterol? You're about to undo all your hard-earned gainz today!" the masked superhero says, his muscles bulging with every phrase.

 

"He's right" the man agrees. "We should probably get a more balanced meal and not just rely on post-workout protein shakes. I know a good steakhouse just round the corner."

 

"Mmm, I hope they serve chicken too. Thanks Quadzilla!" adds the woman, before the couple walk away from the line of the pizza stall. Quadzilla strikes a a heroic pose and nods condesendingly in satisfaction as the two civilians walk away.

 

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The following lucha is set for one fall! Introducing first, from Orlando, Florida, Tameka Sky!

 

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The menacing Tameka Sky makes her way to the ring, her brightly coloured hair not doing much in terms of putting a cute blanket over her intimidating presence. Sky even uses her entrance to showcase her alpha predator spot, draping her long legs over the top rope, as if the ring itself is sized for children, not adults.

 

And her opponent, from Houston, Texas… Houston Handley!

 

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Once again, Handley gets the heroic hometown girl reception, the Crew’s pressure of seeing Tameka Sky turning into relief and cheers for the tecnico.

 

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Tameka Sky vs Houston Handley

The match begins and Tameka Sky's power is on full display as she bullies her smaller opponent around with strikes to the ropes, forcing a clean break. Handley tries to go for a running move but Sky just shoves her aside mid-air to send her crashing to the mat with characteristic ease. The big ex pro basketball player asserts her dominance with more strikes, backing Handley to a corner where she rains down the punches. Handley collapses and Sky continues the onslaught by stomping her until the ref jumps in to get her to back off.

 

"Our Captain wasn't exaggerating, this woman can bring the violence indeed" O'Hara puts Sky over on commentary.

 

Handley rushes in for another attempt at a charging move, this time surprising Sky as she dodges under a lariat to hit her left knee. The blow has Sky staggering and Handley sees her opportunity, delivering more kicks to the back of the knee until Sky is chopped down to a single leg. This has her head in just about the right height for Handley to come off the ropes and drive it to the mat with a bulldog. Her confidence returning as fans cheer her on, Houston Handley attempts to grab her opponent's leg to try some sort of submission hold and further damage the leg, but that's not her strong point and Sky is able to use the power in her long legs to kick Handley away and create some distance. Once again, though now staggering, Skye stands up and delivers more punishment on Handley with a few strikes and a big powerslam. Skye drops an elbow for good measure and goes for the pin. One... Two... Handley kicks out!

 

"This girl's still got some fight left in her" Hazzard remarks.

 

Handley rolls out of the ring to regroup and Tameka Sky gives no chase, instead clutching her left leg and using this time to recover herself. When the fan favourite tecnico slides back into the ring, the two women circle each other, gauging what their next moves might be. Sky turns out to be the impatient one and launches herself for a clothesline but again Handley ducks under, following that up with a dropkick to Sky's back that sends her reeling to the ropes. Here comes Houston...

 

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619!

 

The follow up cover is broken up at two, Sky almost bench pressing her opponent away. Frustrated, Handley signals it's time to finish this and stomps her foot on the mat waiting for Sky to get back up, fans hyped to see her hit the Houston's Problem. When Sky finally gets up, she instinctively closes the distance before Handley can jump for her pump kick finisher, wrapping her big arm around her throat. The referee jumps in to warn Sky about using a forbidden choke hold, but Tameka lifts Handley way above her head and slams her down to the mat, her own considerable strength added to the force of a 7' drop from that scary looking chokeslam. Cover, One... Two... Three, she got her!

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In a bout that had a decent reaction from the crowd but sub-par wrestling, Tameka Sky defeated Houston Handley in 9:43 by pinfall with a Sky High Chokeslam. 40

 

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The closing segment takes place in the same location that opened last week's episode, what appears to be some sort of interrogation room. Piper Hale is not around, but the big man with the deep voice that was talking to her last time is.

 

Man: "I've heard nothing but praise regarding your skills. And I must say, your price tag certainly reflects that. Sadly, my troops have let me down and I cannot let this lead to mission failure. I need to take matters into my own hands, but that will keep me occupied so I need you to have our backs in the meantime. I hope it doesn't come down to it, but if it does, I want to know you'll deliver."

 

The man stretches out a hand into the light, carrying an aluminum briefcase that reflects it. A second man, smaller and wearing a mask, walks up to the light to take it.

 

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Masked Man: "Rest assured, I am a professional. I will be watching at all times and interfere, when and as needed. After all... I never miss!"

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56 minutes ago, DarK_RaideR said:

a muscular 6’7” woman, tall to the point where she needs to mind her head walking out the door

I think we finally found a believable opponent for Vivian Jacobs

 

57 minutes ago, DarK_RaideR said:

Fat, greasy, slobbish, unkempt and sporting a trucker cap with the Confederate flag on it

And there's the heel that I can fully bring the hate on

 

58 minutes ago, DarK_RaideR said:

I will be watching at all times and interfere

Please tell me he doesn't keep a vodka bottle stashed under the apron :P 

  • Like 4
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2 hours ago, WhiteGhost said:

I think we finally found a believable opponent for Vivian Jacobs

I'll be glad to have carry that torch, tho admittedly the roster features a ton of big muscle(wo)men, maybe a bit too many for a self-titled lucha promotion. It's still the early stages.

 

2 hours ago, WhiteGhost said:

And there's the heel that I can fully bring the hate on

I was hoping that'd be the reaction he'd ellicit. Glad to see this is the case.

 

2 hours ago, WhiteGhost said:

Please tell me he doesn't keep a vodka bottle stashed under the apron :P 

More like a sniper rifle in a suitcase. This being a Lucha Underground inspired show, expect to see folks written off in a much more grim way than just Loser Leaves Town matches ;)

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3 hours ago, WhiteGhost said:

I think we finally found a believable opponent for Vivian Jacobs

Hell, she could take on Marat.

4 hours ago, DarK_RaideR said:

The scene for this video is a starry night in the Texan desert. The camera pans around the scenery for a bit, before settling on three figures around a campfire, the flames illuminating their faces: Ace Youngblood, Wild Red Stallion and a woman. Unlike the two men, who are seen wearing their Native American style ring gear, the woman is wearing jeans, work boots and a bomber jacket, the only indication of her ancestry being her hair and jewelry.

 

fQBpypB.jpgWVcK7oD.jpgNgSbNai.png

 

Woman: “We may belong to different tribes, but to me it’s pretty obvious the spirits are trying to bring us all together. It doesn’t end with you, Ace, saving Stallion from a beating. It doesn’t end with Stallion returning the favor. It begins with that. I’m just trying to make you see there’s more in it for both of you, for all of us, if you join forces. And to prove my point, I took the liberty to jockey for a match next week. A tag team match. Just do me a favor and roll with it. I’m sure you’ll see things my way once all is said and done.”

 

The two men raise an eyebrow as the woman mentions having booked them in a match without them knowing in advance, but they then turn their gaze towards each other and nod in agreement.

FWIW, the Texas Desert is pretty far from Houston, about 400 miles (643 km) till you get to the beginnings of "Desert" Houston is very green with high humidity and a lot of tall trees. Doesn't detract from the story, just means they went a long way for that meeting.

 

I'm excited for Ragnarok. Loved the technico cats beating down the redneck heels.

 

 

 

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6 hours ago, DarK_RaideR said:

The focus is on the bulging muscles of his back with each chop and careful viewers might notice that he’s not wielding a lumberjack axe but what seems to be more like an ancient battleaxe.

 

I'm in!

 

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6 hours ago, Tanktimus the Encourager said:

Hell, she could take on Marat.

FWIW, the Texas Desert is pretty far from Houston, about 400 miles (643 km) till you get to the beginnings of "Desert" Houston is very green with high humidity and a lot of tall trees. Doesn't detract from the story, just means they went a long way for that meeting.

Exactly

 

Or, they come a long way every time for the wrestling.

 

In a promotion that has guys from Mexico, dudes with the Union Jack painted on their face and vikings.

  • Like 4
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13 minutes ago, Endor said:

How you going there mate? Hope ur ok. 

Funny, I caught news of a mice plague down under and was about to ask you the same thing.

 

I'm doing alright, given the circumstances. Can't say I've made any great progress in terms of all the professional turmoil, but I'm not beating myself over it; the world is still a mess, the economy is still in ruins (and we have yet to experience the full extent of the pandemic's financial consequences) and despite the best efforts to pretend everything is well so that tourists can come visit, the threat of the virus is still very much real.

 

However, I do have some good news regarding self care, which should hopefully help with my mood, confidence and self esteem. I'm being much more mindful in terms of my looks, whether that's keeping my beard trimmed or paying attention to the clothes I wear instead of just randomly putting on whatever's available and comfortable. This hasn't yet translated to more basic themes such as nutrition and weight loss, but... baby steps.

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35 minutes ago, DarK_RaideR said:

However, I do have some good news regarding self care, which should hopefully help with my mood, confidence and self esteem. I'm being much more mindful in terms of my looks, whether that's keeping my beard trimmed or paying attention to the clothes I wear instead of just randomly putting on whatever's available and comfortable. This hasn't yet translated to more basic themes such as nutrition and weight loss, but... baby steps.

 

Glad to hear that man. That sounds like good news as an indication that you're moving to a better mental place, and hopefully as an impetus to keep moving forward.

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36 minutes ago, DarK_RaideR said:

 I caught news of a mice plague down under

We've had bush fires, floods, plague and pestilence... maybe it is the end of days! It's actually a very serious and devastating situation for rural farmers,  an unimaginable situation. Even when you see the photos I'm sure it's nothing like reality.  I live a reasonably long way from the areas that are infested thankfully. 

 

Glad you're taking care of yourself, @Heidi taught me the value of tapering and experience has taught me the value of momentum and how quickly it can build once you get started.  

 

I have a pvp request in mind for you when i think you're ready, I'm going to pick my moment....

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2 hours ago, Endor said:

@Heidi taught me the value of tapering

I did? How cool is that?!

It *is* helpful.

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8 hours ago, DarK_RaideR said:

. I'm being much more mindful in terms of my looks

I like this for you.  This is good.

8 hours ago, DarK_RaideR said:

but... baby steps.

Baby steps are the real ones, the ones that stick. Nicely done, Ranger.

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6 hours ago, Endor said:

We've had bush fires, floods, plague and pestilence... maybe it is the end of days!

As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.

Sorry, but apparently it gets worse.

 
 
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6 hours ago, Jarric said:

Glad to hear that man. That sounds like good news as an indication that you're moving to a better mental place, and hopefully as an impetus to keep moving forward.

It's actually the other way round, I'm pushing myself to do it in hopes of generating momentum and moving towards a better mental place.

 

6 hours ago, Endor said:

I have a pvp request in mind for you when i think you're ready, I'm going to pick my moment....

First @Buff Brogan (a.k.a. the artist formerly known as kzacher) returns and now this? I have a PvP streak to protect and you're really pushing my buttons...

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7 hours ago, Endor said:

 

I have a pvp request in mind for you when i think you're ready, I'm going to pick my moment....

Ooh! Can it involve moving boxes of books and furniture?

PLEASE SAY YES!

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12 hours ago, DarK_RaideR said:

It's actually the other way round, I'm pushing myself to do it in hopes of generating momentum and moving towards a better mental place.

 

I get that, but I would also argue that being able to push yourself to do it means that you're already in a better place. It may only be a first step, but is a good one.

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On 5/30/2021 at 4:30 PM, DarK_RaideR said:

It's actually the other way round, I'm pushing myself to do it in hopes of generating momentum and moving towards a better mental place.

i feel like this is relevant. i always remember this line whenever i'm trying to get going and can't seem to find my footing. 

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I've been silent, but busy.

 

My father and his motorcycling friends have been planning a trip now that lockdown measures are lifted and people can move around. I'd originally said no because it clashed with my first vaccine jab, but I rescheduled (different vaccine, later 1st date but also the 2nd jab moved from mid-August to mid-July so I'll be fully vaccinated much earlier) so I can join them.  This meant that I had to get my bike checked (it'd gone through scheduled service a few weeks back but the public certification was running out these days anyway) and also change the tires, which were those the previous owner had on. They weren't worn out, since he hadn't ridden it much, but they were old and dry. Fortunately, my father volunteer to cover the cost, but all that meant a lot of sudden, last minute prep.

 

Monday was a bit of hell, but I pushed through (and managed to not get scammed out of 40E) and the Universe decided to balance things out on Tuesday with some work-related news, including a potential interview. No more details for now, might get more specific as things become more real. #jinx

 

Really looking forward to a few days off and some long bike rides to hopefully put my mind at ease. Maybe some quality dad-son time as well.

 

 

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I did not post that video by accident. Whether you're riding real fast on the highway or tackling U-turns on incline dirt roads with debris, potholes and wild animals, the brain functions the same. Your well being depends on not messing it up, so your survival instincts kick in and everything focuses on this one task, the here and now. All the other thoughts, all the noise in your head, they're shut out and after a while, you enter a sort of meditative state. That was pretty much my experience, at least until the middle of the tour.

 

Friday

346 km

I woke up before dawn, got dressed and drove to our meeting point, 5-10' before our scheduled meeting time of 07:00. I knew the rest of the crew would be riding straight out the ferry, which hits the port around 06:00, so I wanted to be on time and make sure we knocked some mileage out early, before the sun rose to make things too hot. My dad and his two friends were about 30' late, plus they wanted to have coffee and a snack. Nothing terrible, but it did make me feel like an idiot for putting in the effort to get up so early and not be late. Let's get the technical stuff out of the way first, who was who and what they were riding: I had my 2011 BMW F800 GS. My dad brought the 1995 BMW R100 GSW he restored himself a few winters back, vintage charming but lacking ABS so he had to tackle turns with extra caution. One of his friends, who I shall henceforth be referring to as "The Stoic" due to his easy going nature, was riding the new Honda Africa Twin. Final member of the crew brought one of the 5 or 7 motorcycles he's got lying on his mini-mansion next to the expensive sound system and LP collection, a BMW K1600GT. He was also decked out in a top notch Klimt bike suit, but for some reason hadn't changed his worn out tires before embarking this trip, so he too was cautious in his riding much like my dad. For obvious reasons, I shall refer to him as "Doughboy" for the rest of this post.

 

Instead of the highway, we took the twisting, turning, scenic country roads up the mountains towards Delphi. I was still running in my new tires, but quickly hit the 100km mark (I'd already done like half of that already prior to the ride) so I could be more carefree onwards. Since Doughboy and The Stoic were the only ones equipped with on-board GPS, one of them would always ride ahead. It didn't take long for Doughboy to resume an old habit of his I've witnessed in past rides: hard braking out of nowhere when near some intersection to check the signs, or at random points to ask locals passing by which route to take, which in turn had me nearly crashing into him regardless of the safety distance I was keeping, so I decided to let someone else ride ahead of me if Doughboy was in the lead from now on.

 

After our first rest stop and coffee break, we rode up the paths to Mt. Parnassus, down to Thermopylae for a second rest stop and from there to the seaside city of Volos in Thessaly, also known as the port the Argonauts sailed out from to go get the Golden Fleece. I should point out that for the entire day, I was singing or saying out loud puns and dad jokes inside my helmet, likely a symptom of decompression as the holiday began. We settled in at the hotel and I was tasked with finding a good place to have dinner. With some searching around on FourSquare and TripAdvisor, I picked a great spot just two blocks from our hotel. Somehow Doughboy decided he could do better and called a local to ask for recommendations. He was told to go to the exact same place I'd dug up, which of course turned out to be great. Much seafood was consumed and we were off to bed after a long day and facing an early rise the next day. Hadn't thought of taking any photos up to that point, but @Mr_Willes wanted shots of the bikes so the next morning, I took some sloppy shots for him. The only decent one I'm adding to this post is a shot of the Honda near the waterfront.

 

K6aFNmr.jpg

 

Saturday

376 km

Woke up with a pain in my left knee (the one I tweaked years ago during Crossfit) and my lower back. I knew the knee was because of my bike seat which forces me to keep my legs in a less than 90 degree angle at all times, thus I'm effectively keeping tension on it all day. Not sure about the back, might be posture but it might have been the mattress. Had breakfast and left Volos riding North by Northwest up towards Mt. Olympus. Wasn't talking to myself inside the helmet this day, all the silliness was gone and I was in the zone. The roads were perfect for a bike ride, twisting and turning as we climbed in altitude and the cooler temperature ensured we weren't all sweaty inside the cycle suits. This was also when the scenery started to get seriously green, something that impressed me as I've grown up in a hot, dry, rocky place.

 

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We also had to dodge local wildlife, from turtles to cattle, for a large part of the entire trip

 

This is a good point in the narrative to bring up two things about how my dad and his friends handle stuff in these trips. One, when riding internationally, they've planned routes and hotels months ago, but when riding nationally, they just have a general idea of where they'll head towards and each night over dinner, they check the weather forecast, decide on a ride and around lunch, they call up a hotel at their destination to book rooms. Two, they all chip in to a common financial pool, handled by a single person who pays tolls, hotels, cafes and restaurants. For this trip, The Stoic had taken up financial duties and I did chip in, although my dad wanted to cover up that cost when we were out of the limelight. He did stiff me out of 100E in the end, saying he'd pay for my food and accommodation while I'd be putting in my part for gas expenses, but I'm not being petty about it. Besides, he also got me my new set of tires as a gift, let's not look at the tree and miss the forest here. Anyway, back to point one, during our first break it seemed like we'd be spending the night in the city of Grevena and I hit up one of the SRLF's co-workers who hails from there for suggestions. While she did come through with several, by the time we were having lunch and looking up hotels, there was none available in Grevena (which isn't really touristy to begin with) so we decided to push through and spend the night in the lakeside city of Kastoria.

 

Once again, I found a nice place within walking distance for dinner and once again Doughboy thought he knew better, insisting we'd do a 20' ride to a nearby hill where he'd been told there's a scenic restaurant, of course by a local he knows. Since I was the rookie here, I stayed silent, plus I didn't want them to think I'm insisting on them following my every pick to the exclusion of others' suggestions. So despite our exhaustion, we rode the bikes and went there. As soon as we arrived, I pointed out that the road was unlit, snaking around full of U-turns and in incline, so I was unsure of how I'd tackle it in the dark after a meal. The spot was also extremely windy and with inside being unavailable due to covid restrictions, there was no way we could sit there and have dinner. That was when my dad lost it and had a minor argument with Doughboy, though The Stoic told me to ride back down with him and they'd sort it out to catch up. I realized this must be a common occurrence given their personalities, their several trips together, plus this was probably the initial excitement of the ride fading out and penned up frustrations surfacing. Long story short, we couldn't ride directly back because part of the route was one-way only, so we had to take the lakeside road around a peninsula, riding super slow with all the pedestrians, cyclists etc and an hour after we'd left the hotel, we ended up at the place I had originally suggested. Once back at the hotel, my dad told me he ended up apologizing to Doughboy for his tone in order to wrap it up and not mess up the good atmosphere of the trip, saying he won't speak up again. I told him he absolutely should, the difference is he should phrase it correctly and get angry for the right reason. The problem, in this case, wasn't that we'd set off with no clear direction of where to go and where to have dinner, like he'd told Doughboy. The problem, I told him, is that when you set off for dinner after a day of riding, you want to be seated and ordering within the next 10', not to do another 30-60' of riding to get to your table.

 

Sunday

216 km

Woke up with pain in my left knee and lower back again, despite being mindful the day prior to often readjust my posture on the bike. We left Kastoria to climb up the Pindos mountain range, arguably one of the best parts of the trip.

 

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Lunch was had at the village of Samarina, the settlement built at the highest altitude in the country (1.450m above sea level). Afterwards, everyone else was busy trying to find a way to livestream the MotoGP race on their phone. I paid more attention to feeding the local stray dogs and taking pretty pictures of them.

 

MMqwJMo.jpg

 

The rest of the ride was also stunning and I even paused to take a photo of the mountaintops. Sometimes I wonder why people don't arrange a daily excursion to locations like these, complete with a picnic and D&d session.

 

3f3UF7Z.jpg

 

We stopped for the night at the town of Konitsa. Good thing we had a solid lunch, because other than cafeterias and one or two shady fast food takeouts, there was nothing around. We ended up on the central square where some local store owner managed to talk everyone into taking a seat at his establishment and we proceeded to stuff our bellies with beer and crisps. The store owner was in a chatty mood (as were/are most locals living in remote isolated mountainous locations) and among other things, he told us of the town's lament: couple of decades ago it had around 12k permanent residents. After a recent highway detour and years of austerity measures, the population had dropped down to about 6,5k ten years ago and if this year there were less than 5k, they'd lose the municipality and revert to being classified as a village under another, greater settlement. Hold that thought for later.

 

Monday

211 km

This time I woke up with no pain. Either I was doing something right with the posture thing or I just needed to get used to all this. We rode some of the way back and then took a different route, headed towards the village of Vovousa for lunch.

 

RytMtMN.jpg

I came here wanting to take a swim in the river. I left wanting to jump off that bridge

 

Again, the routes were great and so was the food. Unfortunately, the store owner's words from the night prior had apparently stuck with the rest of the crew, alongside the fact that we weren't seeing any other vehicles on the roads or people in the settlements we rode through. Doughboy decided to strike up a conversation about this and it didn't take long before it spiraled into typical boomer crap: why would kids these days want to give up and try their luck abroad, if I had to start my career again today I'd have trust in myself and somehow make it, the whole nine yards. Yep, they even turned to me as a representative of "the youth". The Stoic challenged these ideas saying things aren't like the golden 80s and 90s they experienced or that the education system gives kids specific techniques to pass tests, not real education to cultivate themselves and think. It was nice, but it had its limitations. Sadly, my dad sided with Doughboy on this and I had to hold myself from flipping the table and screaming at him. Frankly, given his first-hand experience with this thing and myself, I expected him to do better. You know what, I didn't expect, he had to do better. Still, it was me against them and trying to sway them would be a lost cause. I decided to not fight a battle lost in advance and be the bad guy to mess up the nice atmosphere of the trip. As I told The Stoic on our way out "it's a generational gap thing and everyone judges according to their own perception, memories and experiences. You just can't make older people get it. It'd be like your dads calling you out on wanting to study through University and live a protected life in the city, never knowing how to build stuff and plow fields. You just can't sit and explain to them that the entire economy and models of production have shifted away from what they've lived through."

 

All that zen state I'd achieved was gone from that point on and all the stuff I'd shut out came flooding back into my head. I was riding and thinking about my work situation. My financial situation. What I'd do, how I'd get by. How I was only part of this excursion thanks to my dad's sponsorship, from buying my bike and its new tires to paying for my meals, gas and accommodation. I realized I'd probably never be able to do such trips on my own. A potent cocktail of anxiety, depression and imposter syndrome.

 

tEOBW3l.jpg

Cue the gloomy music

 

We spent the night at another lakeside town, this time it was Ioannina in the Northwest, near the border with Albania. I'm pretty acquainted with this one: one of my best friends attended University here, I used to have a long distance relationship with someone here and I also have a younger friend who studied here and was very active on the radio, leading to me becoming a fan of the entire station and meeting all the producers. I've done several overnight bus trips to and from this place, from 2004 till roughly 2016. I have plenty of memories, more good than bad, but I wasn't in a good frame of mind upon arrival. I just walked them to the restaurant (complete with a vitriolic comment on how, again, they didn't want to take the direct route but take the scenic lakeside walk around a peninsula), to a nearby pastry shop for dessert and back to the hotel. I had started the day feeling like I had enough already and wanted to go back; I was missing my gf and my cat, even getting a little stressed out about stuff being left behind while I was away. By the end of the day, I wanted to go back and no longer drag myself through this. The Stoic was riding back on Wednesday, while the other two had their return ticket booked for Sunday. My initial thought, even at the start of the trip, to ride back with The Stoic, was finalized by this point and I made my announcement to the rest of the crew.

 

Tuesday

228 km

We left Ioannina and headed East back towards Thessaly via Mparos, the highest mountain passage in the country (1.904m above sea level). The ascent was beautiful, as was the ride around the valley.

 

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Depression is being in places like these and wanting to just get it over with so you can go home, crawl under a blanket so you can try (and fail) to cry

 

I'd ran out of patience by this point. I'm pretty sure I was rude at times and people picked up on me avoiding or ignoring Doughboy. Rainfall finally caught up with us while we were having lunch, but it was a quick shower and we carried on through to our destination for the night, the city of Trikala.

 

2GJ5Bqx.jpg

 

SRLF has three different friends and colleagues hailing from this town somehow, so I reached out to them for suggestions. I was told of a great pastry shop I visited and grabbed some stuff for the SRLF, as well as the person who had told me about the shop in the first place. We went out for a drink first, waiting for the rain to die down. Doughboy decided to go full retard at that point and struck up a philosophical debate out of nowhere (oh you're gonna love this @Heidi ). Specifically, he asked us whether we believe in the existence of "a higher power" saying that he does and it often causes differences between him and his only son, who's studying computer science and doesn't. The Stoic once again delivered, saying the way this is phrased essentially implies "do you believe in God, I just don't want to call it God and put religion on the table". I let them have their say, then they asked me. I planted my flag somewhere in the middle, saying I don't believe in metaphysics, but believing in absolute logic, reason and being in control of one's self/life/destiny is not only a Western way of thinking that ignores Eastern philosophies, it's also extremely selfish to begin with. Doughboy then decided to push his luck and rephrase the question, pondering whether there is such a thing as "free will". That's when I decided to troll him and wrap this up. First off, I shot down everyone's stuff on "freedom" being about "commitment to a choice" at the "exclusion of other choices". Freedom is having options to begin with, it's got nothing to do with the stage that comes after, where you've made a choice and thus excluded others. Second, we're completely overlooking the existential aspect of "is there such a thing as". How do you define and prove the existence of free will, or anything for that matter. Is it some Platonic ideal? Is it what your senses tell you? What your mind/reason/logic can grasp? Because we all know the criticism to the first two approaches and the last one essentially tries to use one's mind to understand one's mind; if the human brain would be simple enough to be understood, we would be so simple we wouldn't be able to understand it. Finally, I can give you arguments for and against free will in any occasion. You had options, you thought this through and freely made a choice? Cool, then free will exists. But what if your entire decision-making process is not completely neutral, but functions based on the information you have, your instincts, your needs, your desires, your opinions and so on? In that case, no decision you make is absolutely free, because consciously or unconsciously you are bound by your preconceptions, wants, feelings etc. And with all that said, I finished up my beer and literally declared that I am too sober for this conversation.

 

Barack Obama Reaction GIF

 

Wednesday

328 km

Yeah I glossed over the dinner part, but there was nothing spectacular about it. Wednesday was all about getting up early, saying goodbye and riding back with The Stoic via the highway. Not much to see, just mileage to get over with at pretty high speed. I was happy to be back, but apparently the SRLF wasn't. She said she told me she'd wanted more time alone and that a longer vacation would have done me good (wait, so you aren't happy to see me?). That I'd turned down a pro bono court hearing that coincided with the tour dates and now I'd cut the tour short (it's a minimum pay case and you only go to the bottom of the priority list after you have accepted to take up a case, so I didn't lose my chance). That I got a call from the courthouse for her mom's case while I was riding my bike and hadn't bothered to look up what it was about (I had, but no one answered any phones and their website was down. Besides, if it was something of critical importance, they'd at least have tried to call me a second time or shot me an email). I think those are all excuses and she's stressed with our situation and her boss being an absolute dick these last few days before actually firing her. But still, it wasn't the welcome I expected and it compounded with my previous stuff. I spent much of the night on the sofa, browsing places I could maybe afford on AirBnb and planning to leave the day after until the end of the weekend so she'd get her way and shut up. She woke up in the middle of the night and asked what was going on. I said I was restless and couldn't sleep. She said I was avoiding her, which I denied but was true to a certain extent so I decided to not be a spoiled brat about this and twist the knife further. I put down the phone and went to sleep on the bed. I wasn't going to go anywhere. This was just a passing storm and the last thing I needed was to stand on a mountaintop shouting profanities at the gods.

 

Thursday

I'd come back full of ideas, energy and a willingness to do things in a more analog way, spend less time in front of screens. Unfortunately, the events of the night prior crippled all that and I spent the day going about in the house. It wasn't a complete waste as I did some dishes, cooking and ironing, but it wasn't that all-out doing things kind of situation either. My dad also called, said the rainfall was getting worse and they had ran out of non-rainy places to visit, so they'd be coming back and changing their tickets to leave on Friday night.  The SRLF had arranged to go out with her colleagues after work since Thursdays are the days I get to play my best friend's custom RPG, but I was so deflated I opted out with no further explanation. I knew I'd be dragging myself along as if it was a chore, not a pleasure, and I did not want that. On the bright side though, my bestie told me he was back in town after spending the last... 7 months away in our hometown and we should meet.

 

Friday

I did some work related email stuff in the morning and arranged to have both mine and my dad's motorcycles washed in a specialized motorcycle washing joint, planning to spend some time over coffee in the meantime before he'd leave to catch the ferry. Sadly, as soon as he got there first, there was torrential rain and we called it off. The store owner gave him the simple wash instead of the fancy one I'd booked since he'd be going out in the rain and cancelled my appointment. That said, we didn't get to say goodbye in person. Not that I terribly mind it, I was excited for the first post-covid live gig that night. A collective of people had organized a two day festival at the Kesariani Rifle Range (notorious for nazi executions of locals and communists during WW2, now a public park) with free entrance. The lineup was hip hop artists for Friday and punk rockers for Saturday. I was excited for both, plus there were some I really wanted to see and haven't seen before. On top of that, our next door neighbors (the ones whose cat visits ours via the shared balcony) are friends with one of the groups that would be performing.

 

That's one of our next door neighbors riding his turqoise Kawasaki KLE in the first seconds of the clip. Also, around 3:25 where a guy is rapping mid-meal on some ladder... that's our rooftop

 

I figured these guys were pretty underground, but they played second to last and had by far the most energy, both on stage and in the crowd. We had a great time, a few beers, met some friends and for a little while, pretended like things were going to be alright.

 

Saturday

I was off to the supermarket and farmers' market while the SRLF was off with her work friends to have their nails done and then have one of them make lunch for everyone. The idea was to meet later and go to the gig together, but the organizers cancelled it as they got arrested by the police on charges of public disturbance and violating the measures for the prevention of covid due to the gathered crowds. Which is bullshit, because they wouldn't have minded if the gathering was in a church, or at the airport to greet a popular player of a reality show who came back and hadn't even won the damn game in the first place. Anyway, police being who they are, I put out the call on the Facebook event and immediately rode my bike to the precinct where the organizers were being held. Slowly but surely, a crowd of about 20 people (50 total all evening, but folks were coming and going) gathered, while the police had blocked off access to the station with a riot police van and spread out forces around. Not that we caused any trouble, we didn't even make any noise, we just wanted to make sure this wouldn't go down without any apparent sort of reaction, as well as that those arrested would be treated fairly. The news also got on some media and we were joined by professional photographers alongside those of us ready to shoot videos of any misconduct. Eventually, they were all carried to another precinct to spend the night and they'd be presented to the DA the morning after (unusual, as this usually gets dragged on to the next workday, meaning folks often spend weekends in custody) to be released until their court date, which wouldn't be anytime soon due to covid measures. With that said and done, the crowd dispersed and I was back home by 21:00. The immediate reaction had been carried out, ensuring there wouldn't be any shady business in these first few stages where folks were still a bit numb. There was time to organize now for the following days, for whoever wanted to do that.

 

Sunday

We slept in late, then headed out to meet friends over brunch. We hit a new place with a distinctly rockabilly vibe and it turned out amazing. The coffee was great, the food was great, the beers were great, the staff were polite and I gotta give them bonus points for the "Goys/Birls" signs in the bathroom doors. My bestie even joined us for the evening and we ended up extending our time out to wrap up the week.

 

Challenge wrap up coming up.

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I’m glad to see you got some down time, as frustrating as parts of it was. Looks like a beautiful ride, if nothing else. 

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Level 78 Wood Elf Druid

Druid: || 59 | 60 | 61 | 61.5 | 62 | 63 | 64 | 65 | 66 | 67 | 68 | 69 | 70 | 71 | 72 | 73 | 74 | 75 | 76 | 77 | 78 ||

Ranger: || 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50 | 51 | 52 | 53 | 54 | 55 | 56 | 57 | 58 ||

||Char/RPG||
STR: 57 || DEX: 59 || STA: 52 || CON: 47 || WIS: 59 || CHA: 59

 

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