The Donnybrook Interview: El Caballero
Thanks to Maximillian Stoneburner, Alistair got to talk to her Favorite Luchador for Justice!
Seattle: The often forgotten Mecca at the corner of the county. We like it that way. We like people to think that it rains here all the time. We like that we are still just considered the home of Nirvana and Pearl Jam. We love the fact that the first thought in many people’s mind when they think of us is mongers tossing fish.
Seattle is our little secret. But a secret needs protecting.
Gotham has Batman. Metropolis has Superman. We have The Rain City Superhero Movement. Many have seen our prodigal son Phoenix Jones on the news or YouTube, but walking along side him on the dark, damp Seattle streets is the regally purple-draped, El Caballero.
A precious few know his true identity, and because I am one of them, I was able to call in a favor and arrange for our Managing Editor Extraordinaire, Vanessa Berben (aka Alistair Blake Arabella), to chat with El Caballero and get inside the mind of a protector of a city.
VB: I know you’ve gotten this question a lot, but for readers who are meeting you for the first time, what inspired you to become a Real Life Superhero, or RLSH?
EC: In 2011 I began patrolling with Phoenix Jones, No Name, Pitch Black and Ghost. I was living in my art studio above El Corazon nite club and had been seeing more homeless, including youth which troubled me greatly, more reports of strong arm robberies and theft as well as a general sense of despair and powerlessness. I’ve always been aware of my surroundings, having grown up in Europe during the Cold War. [That meant] Being from a nation that many respect and few have extreme jealousy of in a region that, at that time, had not only Communists, Socialists and Anarchists, but Islamic fundamentalists/jihadists as well.
In my years of training in martial arts, yoga, fencing and more recently care giving, crisis intervention, dementia, autism and managing violent people, I wanted to utilize my skills and experience directly in my community. I don’t believe myself to be ‘super’ in any way, I just care about my city, state and country, much like a firefighter, EMT, military, or other law enforcement. Due to the nature of our team’s work, we are usually the first to respond, notifying 911 what’s happening, securing the scene, gathering information on what is going on and who is involved in the ‘crime’. I didn’t want to sit back and think that someone else was going to make sure my neighbors, family and myself are safe. So I put on a luchador mask and decided to be proactive. My vows of knighthood also propelled me forward to protect the innocent.
That’s what I was going to ask you about next: El Caballero is Spanish for “The Knight” or “The Gentleman” – and as you said, this is more than just a nickname for you as you are actually a real knight! You were knighted with the Knights of Malta in 2000 and the Knights Templar in 2001, what were those experiences like?
Very true! I was, and am, honored to have been knighted by such illustrious Orders of Christian Knighthood. The ceremonies of the Order of Malta, or Knight of St. John, and the Order of the Temple, or Knight Templar, were wonderful experiences inculcating the virtues of faith, hope and charity.
For the Order of the Temple, nine knights must be present in a regularly constituted commandery of Knights Templar. Nine knights from all over the country showed up to put on a magnificent four hour drama and dubbing after I got back from Egypt. My commander at that time, Sir Knight Frank Welter, used his great grandfather’s sword. Again, I was, and am, honored and currently hold the rank of Past Commander. I also have affiliate degrees and Orders in Jerusalem, Rhodes, Cyprus, York England, Hungary and the United States of America. Every Knight takes a solemn vow to protect women, children, and pilgrims to the Holy Land.
Most RLSH’s have had some kind of formal or informal physical training that allows them to do this – what do you do to stay in crime-fighting shape?
I have a nice regiment. Walking, jogging, weightlifting, yoga, eating right, fencing and tennis (anytime I can find a partner), shooting range (handguns and rifles), Krav Maga, various kung fu and urban ninja/parkour are generally daily routines. I work with folks who have developmental disabilities and mental illnesses for my ‘day’ job so I feel that this aids in my responses on the street to folks who may have these, alcohol or other substance abuse problems.
[It allows me to] Diffuse dangerous situations with a clear and compassionate mind, as well as non-threatening gestures and swift action to insure the safety of all involved. I am proud that my utility belt contains only non-lethal weapons and though I have been bullied, attacked, stabbed, shot at, [and dealt with] cursing and death threats, I have no desire to harm anyone, we are all God’s children. Practice regularly and build up your exercises. Start slow and work up the momentum.
In researching for our interview I noticed that there is a bit of antagonism between some of the super heroes in Seattle – something I want to make clear you have never been a part of – as a gentleman, how do you feel about this infighting?
There is some drama, it is true. I myself, maintain a neutrality as most is speculation and at worst slander by folks who need to pay more attention to themselves than other people whom they are secretly jealous of.
Without getting into specifics that might give your identity away, can you talk about how your actions as El Caballero have impacted your personal life?
I got a little high strung for a time. Coming face to face (sometimes hand to hand) with violent criminals, crack, heroin or meth dealers, pimps and other scum buckets made relaxing a bit difficult at that time. Years ago I was on an anti-Nazi/anti-hate crime task force battling racist skinheads and redneck, anti-government militia bad guys. It can be stressful work, putting oneself in harm’s way, yet very rewarding and fulfilling to help.
How do you respond to critics who label you and your associates “vigilantes” who should be leaving what you do up to the police?
Vigilante is incorrect, not only as a description of our team, but in general when applied to myself. My team and I do not take the law into our own hands, dishing out our own version of punishment, no. We follow the laws, rules and regulations of Washington State and the United States of America. We always designate someone on our team to be ‘911’ and call when an incident occurs (we have a medical officer now too), we practice standard de-escalation techniques and partner with law enforcement, who know who we are and have our civilian identities on file. We film our patrols with Go Pro, Contour and live U-Stream so there is no question what happened, and [we] submit video footage as evidence.
What would you say to your adult fans that may want to become part of the RLSH community?
That is an important question. What skills and training do you have to bring? Everyone can and should do a Neighborhood Watch/safety patrol walking around, not as a busy body, but to say hello to the neighbors, get to know your community. Participate!
As for RCSM, we do an extensive background check, prior law enforcement, military, security, intelligence, MMA/martial arts, etc. We have EMT training, tactical experience and wear bulletproof gear! Be an expert witness. Call 911. What is your location? What is going on? Who is involved, what do they look like and what time is it? What we do is dangerous, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Are there other ways to help you guys for those of us too chicken shit to suit up?
There are many good intentioned and kind hearted folks who can participate in other ways. Community activism such as the Purple Reign Campaign, which helps those who have suffered from domestic violence, deals mostly on-line and makes public appearances at charity events. Very important, similar work, different venue, and a lot safer. I wouldn’t think anyone was ‘chicken,’ again there are many ways to help. Good teachers are heroes! Again, we have martial arts training and Kevlar.
You’ve been interviewed several times, what is something you wish a journalist would ask you? What have I not brought up that you’d like to make clear?
This isn’t a game. We are trained and what we are doing is not for everyone. Comics, movies and television shows glamorize the masked hero. Yet the reality is long nights, stressful situations and violence can be exhausting. One moment you are taking a group picture with college-age fans, the next a gangster is running up with his hand in his pocket saying he’s going to shoot you in the face.
We wear the ‘superhero’ outfits and masks to protect our identities, and have nothing to hide, yet when you bust a criminal who operates in your neighborhood, where you walk, play and shop with your family, it’s best to have them safe as well. We are not delusional (no one on our team believes they have ‘super’ powers), we have day jobs, operating currently on a shoestring budget (we do not work for any government, state or Federal agency) but love our communities, diversity and country.All images courtesy of El Caballero Featured Image Photo Credit: Ryan McNamee