In the industrial district, on the outskirts of Jack London Square, where streetlights flicker and imagined creepers lurk amongst the shrubbery; on the first Friday of every month, while the rest of Oakland parades through the over-crowded streets at Art Murmer – a line of people, pierced faces, tattooed necks, black zip up hoodies and all, shuffle forward, ID’s extended.

Heavy (heeeeavy) metal music blasts through the tin walls and I ask my friends if we’ve been duped.

An hour earlier, I was lured from the warmth of my home and the comfort of my sweat pants with promise of a “variety show.” I figured, heck, it’s Friday night. Might as well try something new.

As we moved, slowly, forward – I glared at my husband. Sure that he and another friend had tricked us into a Friday night at a metal show. Deep down inside I was moderately impressed. It had been years, maybe 10 or so, since I’d last been to a metal show. Back when my brother was in Skelator….

Steeling myself for the hours to come, I paid my $10 cover and plunged into neon darkness. A crowd of black hoodies pressed forward circling, of all things, a wrestling ring. A wrestling ring!?! What?

We had entered “Hood Slam,” a monthly event that pits spandex-wearing, mother’s-basement-living men, and at least two women, against one another in a choreographed all out smack down. Think WWF without the steroids or production value.

drugsbunny.jpgPeople, it was amazing. Jonny Cage vs Scorpion (Mortal Combat come to life). Drugs Bunny (as in Bugs B…) vs. Russian Maffiosos…. The Pink Panther vs Chung-backflip off the ropes-Lee and more.

What began as an urge to run screaming back to my sweatpants became an exercise in acceptance. It became a moment to sit in discomfort and see what became of it. By the third match I was cheering. By the fourth match, I was trying to start chants. By the fifth match, I was high-fiveing wrestlers. By the sixth match, well… By the sixth, I was ready to go.

I learned that awesome experiences can come in unsavory packages and I learned to be less resistant to the unfamiliar. I learned that this phenomenon, which I had judged harshly could actually bring a fat smile to my face. I learned that going with the flow reaps big rewards.

I don’t know when I’ll go to my next “Hood Slam” but I do know I’d add it to my list among the top ten coolest Oakland phenomena.

Make the effort to get up and get out. Let yourself sit with discomfort and move forward when your fear says “go back.”

Share your “Hood Slam” moment below!

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