The Matador who Cooked me Mickey Mouse Shaped Pancakes

I rode in the back of the car all the way out of this country and into the next, anticipating the glory and dizzy romance of the sport.

Story by Vico LaCava- vicolacava@gmail.com Photos by Icarus Blake

Fiesta Photo ©Icarus Blake

“Bring your Daughter to Work Day” is severely impractical for those with sword slinging matador fathers. I know this because I have one: a black haired, taller than god Syrian man, lover of Felix the Cat, sushi hand rolls, and to-the-death bull goring.

I was raised, like anyone with such a cold blooded killing machine for a father, leaning against the living room wall and listening to the Counting Crows on my Walkman as my dad practiced the dance between our saggy pinstriped couch and Ikea coffee table. He swooped and he twirled in quintessential torero fashion, our teacup poodle darting out from under my little sister’s pink baby blanket and only narrowly escaping, every time, the fate of the invisible blade. I saw some variation of this tango throughout my entire childhood; when my sister got older he used a dishrag, and when my dog died, he used absolutely nothing, just the thin air in our rented suburban tract home. I thought it was so incredible and cool; I talked about his fights at show and tell, and then everyone else thought it was so incredible and cool, and I begged him for years to let me watch. And finally, when I was old enough to understand, my dad asked if I’d like to join him for an afternoon in the ring.

“The Sun Also Rises” Photo ©Icarus Blake

I rode in the back of the car all the way out of this country and into the next, anticipating the glory and dizzy romance of the sport. Though he had retired from fighting years before, my dad was still respected in the ring and had earned front row seating and behind the scenes privileges for life. We got there pretty quickly -a few hours, maybe- and ditched our car in some lot and hailed a taxi and it took us to a little restaurant with lots of flies where the carnitas did not sit well in my gut. We took another cab to the ring and I barely understood what was going on, but realized as soon as a bull came barreling through the rotting wooden doors and began charging into a blindfolded horse as a man stabbed him with some sort of glorified luau party skewers while it peed on itself that I’d grown into some sort of hippie and was not, in any way, prepared for what was about to happen.

Ernest Hemingway Photo ©Icarus Blake

Once the matador and the bull were alone in the ring, there was some sort of two-step and then more skewers, and the crowd roared and yelled and ate sun raped cantaloupes. Then the matador said to the animal, “my life holds more value than yours” with his sword as he thrust it between the shoulder blades and into the bull’s beating heart, and the bull fell to his knees and yelled, his heavy head upwards, nose to the sky, and thousands of people cheered with excitement. And then the bull died and they dragged its body out through the door it had just come out of and it trailed pools of steaming black-red blood in the dirt.

There comes a point where you have to really dig these memories up, because you’re just about to forget. You have to dig under spaghetti dinners in cable cars with your dad, and playing mousetrap with him in a blanket fort, and the leaf you’d taped to a lava rock in 1988 that he still has on his desk, and hunting for sand crabs at the beach, in the wind, and always letting them go free, every single time, and how hard he’d cried when your teacup poodle died, and how he still can’t get rid of its tired, worn blue collar.

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