Posted by mrhorrible on:
Imagine the most intense men’s cocktail in existence; a heady mixture of testosterone, adrenalin, and blood. Mix in a liberal amount of noise, money, and sweat and you may be getting close to the experience of a Balinese cockfight.
I had been to a little village cockfight, but I had to leave due to the presence of my friend, who is American (As the inhabitants of the United States somewhat erroneously call themselves) and female. Women, at least all the women I know, do not do well at cockfights. They do not understand the religious reason for a cockfight, which is that in Bali, just like everywhere else in the world, the Gods demand blood. Oh, you think 'western' religions are immune to this? You obviously don’t know history very well, or perhaps you simply choose to ignore it, as most Americans do.
So, I was staying for a couple of days in Lovina, which is in the North of Bali, and is a beautiful beach resort. The sunsets there are some of the most spectacular in the world, the sea is peaceful, the scenery is beautiful, the people (Just like the rest of Bali) are incredibly friendly, and the hotel we like, Baruna Beach, is comfortable and incredibly affordable. (About $15 a night for a double, breakfast included), and best of all, there’s NO YELLOW ALERTS! In fact, about the only alert is “Sunset is getting close, you better hurry out or you’ll miss it!”
On the second day the men of the group were offered a chance to go to a cockfight in the nearby town of Singaraja. Since it was the end of Galungan, one of the most important Balinese festivals, there was, of course, a cockfight. (religious ceremony, blood, remember?) The men piled into a minivan with our two Balinese drivers and we proceeded to Singaraja, and then into a neighborhood where Americans rarely ventured. We parked and walked to the ’arena’, which was a building of about 2000 square feet, with metal chairs in four tiers around four sides of a dirt floor marked with a square about twelve feet on a side.
We were told that the front row was for ‘bosses’; since we were not ‘bosses’ except to our Balinese drivers, we took seats in the second row. I went out to have a ‘Kopi Bali’, which is the best coffee in the world, finely ground, with boiling water poured directly on it and a liberal amount of sugar (No Stevia or other health-food sissy-isms here) and which gets drunk slowly after the grounds have settled; it’s not the kind of thing that you throw down like antiseptic, sterilized, no-trace-of-grounds Starbucks designer latte, but real honest-to-goodness wakey-wakey, what they call in Italy ‘liquid nap‘, meth-don’t-hold-a-candle-to-this-hi-octane-jet-fuel.
I walked, or rather buzzed back in the arena, where they were starting to bring the contestants out of the baskets where they had been meditating, or whatever roosters do when they are transported from their home to a roaring box filled with obsessed men yelling incomprehensible (to me) things to each other relating to the fighting abilities of poultry. I sat down among closely packed men, and more kept coming in until there must have been about eight hundred in a space that, in the USA would have been labeled “Maximum occupancy 65, NO roosters, no smoking, no wagering, and no yelling” and then the first card was presented.
Four roosters were held, each by one man ,while another man tied a knife blade the size of the biggest blade on a Swiss army knife very securely on the left leg of the rooster where the big backwards-facing spur usually is. The blades were double edged and very pointed and sharp. Then the first two roosters were brought to make each other’s acquaintance in the middle of the ring. They were teased, fluffed, allowed to peck each other in the head, their handlers being very careful to protect the eyes, and generally maltreated into thinking that the other rooster was doing the pecking; then the noise, already loud, jumped up about three notches as men started calling out bets and odds to each other. When that phase had continued for about five minutes and the roosters had had anger therapy two more times, (I’m talking about the kind of anger therapy that INCREASES anger, rather than learning to transform it) they were released at opposite sides of the ring, to the accompaniment of a roar that would put the sound of an airliner taking off to shame, and immediately raced towards each other. Meeting in the middle of the ring, they jumped up in the air and flailed at each other. The action was so fast that it was impossible to see what really happened, but whenever one of them passed above the other, the roar got louder. The third time that happened, one of the roosters came out of the clinch staggering and bleeding. I hadn’t seen what actually happened because it happened too fast, but one of the blades had obviously scored a hit, because within a few seconds he keeled over and a few moments later was meeting the great rooster in the sky, going to rooster Valhalla where snow-white chickens pour him chicken feed and sing his praises.
After that there was more shouting and a LOT of money changed hands; I couldn’t help but notice that the rooster that I had bet on against my friend Forest had won, and I had won fifty thousand Rupiah off of him. Don’t get your hopes up; That’s about five dollars US.
The second pair was brought forward and pretty much the same thing happened as before; the frenetic shouting, the aversion therapy, the channeling of the inner rooster, the three minutes of hate, the fight itself that was too fast to follow, this fight ending with one of the roosters trying to escape under the stands and losing a lot of money for those who had backed that obvious loser, another fifty thou for me, and a break in the action as men crowded onto the floor to inspect the next batch of death commandos and exchange information on the respective strengths of each feathered fighter.
It was at this moment that the only women allowed in the sacred precincts were to make an appearance, selling manly refreshments such as cigarettes and Coca-Cola; having made their sales, they quickly retreated from this bastion of virile ecstasy, and the whole process began again. At that point I couldn’t help but notice that about four hundred more men had crowded into the ‘stadium’, which by that time was overflowing with male energy.
We sat through the next card, remarkable because in one fight, the first jump ended with one rooster’s blade stuck deep in the heart of the other, about three seconds after the start of the conflict; death must have been instantaneous.
At the end of the second card of three fights we Americans had gotten the message, and we left our seats, which were immediately taken by eager men behind us. I was given to understand that the whole process would continue for some hours, or until the Gods were satisfied, whichever came first; but knowing the nature of Gods I was sure that they would run out of roosters well before the Gods’ appetite for blood was satisfied.