Garret Fahey is an ex-merchant marine living in Schenectady, NY. As you would imagine, he has stories to tell from all over world, but it’s his recent venture at home that has vaulted him into the limelight.
“We bought an old warehouse,” said Fahey, “Put some soil on the floor, grew a small bamboo forest. Installed a choice climate control system. And then we started fighting pandas.” In fact, Fahey is credited with inventing the sport. “I thought, if people pay to watch pandas hang out at the San Diego Zoo, there must be a lot of money in watching them fuck shit up. I made some calls and that was that.”
Of course, that was not that. There are only one thousand pandas in the wild, living exclusively in the province of Sichuan, China. Organizing an illegal panda fight in upstate New York requires an incredible amount of money and resources. When asked about this, Fahey grinned demurely. “Three words, man: Thai… Transgender…Mafia.” He refused to elaborate.
Getting a panda to do much of anything other than eat bamboo and respire is a difficult task, and so the first few panda fights were ones of frustrating trial-and-error.Â “We figured we’d pump them full of speed,” said Fahey. “But they just sort of ran around each other for an hour and passed out. One of them tried to eat the wall and then passed out.”
In nature, a panda will fight another panda only if it feels its personal territory is being threatened. Fahey needed to recreate the panda’s natural habitat and acclimate it for a period of three to six months. Then the second panda could be introduced, and the fight would begin.
But it doesn’t stop there. Pandas will quickly scatter when they sense presence of a human, so the audience has to remain completely silent, lest they disturb the proceedings. This doesn’t make for the most exciting sport for spectators.
“It’s a lot of work, sure,” said Fahey, “But think about the payoff. I mean… You think they’re all cute and then they tear ass. It’s going to be like watching Winnie the Pooh beat the shit out of a Berenstein Bear. Probably Brother Bear, the punk one.”
After a twenty-minute presentation outside the warehouse about code of conduct, patrons are allowed to enter the habitat. Searching among the bamboo thickets for any sign of the pandas yields nothing as the trees are too thick to discern shapes. Finally there is a clearing with a dozen or so men gesticulating wildly (but silently) around a pair of panda bears “fighting.”
The bears’ movements are lumbering and slow. It is not so much a fight as a plodding, clumsy wrestling match. It doesn’t take long for one of the pandas to pin the other to the ground, at which point the crowd erupts in an audible cheer. The pandas run off with more speed than they exhibit the entire evening, and the fight is over.
Winnings are distributed and refreshments are tossed into trash bins. “I know you aren’t going to leave that Snickers on the floor!” shouted Fahey to a careless patron. “Sheng-Sheng’s going to eat that and get sick! Leave only footprints, motherfucker!”
Admission to see the panda fights cost upwards of $37,000 to cover Fahey’s cost of building and maintaining the habitat, and his current legal fees. ♦