If you never felt the joy of waking up and tasting dried face paint mixed in with your own vomit, you've never truly hung out with the Norwalk boys.
Like scattered jaggies in a 3D world, my mind can barely render the mental image of my arrival at last night's Halloween party. I remember I made my way through the backdoor and walked onto a concrete patio and Alex "Alex19" Ruvalcaba, dressed like the Bear Jew from Inglorious Basterds, squeezed me and nearly broke me like a twig.
Mang0, Lauren, and HugS were there, and I remember how welcome I felt as we drank seasonal pumpkin stouts, played beer pong, and vibed to the steady groove of g-funk bangers in the background. And the Ruvalcabas, Alex's family, were there drinking with us too.
"I don't remember you guys being there." - Alex19
In a way, I felt honored because Alex let me meet his family. Alex's ground rules were clear: anyone could come over to his cousin's as long as they were respectful. His rules and his family are so important to him that he sent one his best friends, Lucky, home earlier on in the evening because he didn't follow the rules.
"It's my family, man. It was a Halloween party and he just came in with sandals and no costume!" Alex chuckled. "Joey understood, and it was all good. Family is very important to me. Nothing is more important than family."
The Norwalk Boys
The Smashers from Norwalk, CA - Alex19, Lucky, Mang0
It was a cool, summer Tuesday night in a liquor store near Norwalk, California, and I could not make the most important decision of the night. I could not pick a beer. Mang0 noticed my daydreaming—somehow he always notices everything—and recited the plan to help focus my attention.
"We'll get some beer, bring it back and then Alex and Joey will show up and we'll play. Gonna get toasty, maybe play beer pong or something." Damn. College was so many years ago...
After heading back to Mang0's place with bags of alcohol in our arms, I popped open a bottle in his streaming room and I got my first taste of what a Funday Tuesday was like. Usually, Mang0 plays Smash Bros. Melee on a CRT, and then streams all the action to his legion of fans online. Most of the time, Dunk, S2J, Lucky, and Alex19 show up—and maybe sometimes a rare cameo from another prominent Smasher—and the night drifts into shooting the shit, sharing stories of life in Norwalk, and playing hype-ass sets—or drunk-ass sets depending on how many empty Budlight Platties are on the floor. It's a damn fun time for everyone.
Respect Norwalk. We put Norwalk on the map.
Once Alex arrived, the energy picked up. He was relentless. "Oh shit Marco's here? Is he gonna knock out in 10 minutes?" He made his usual run of HugS' mom jokes, and then he argued with Mang0 over who really won between him and Joey "Lucky" Aldama in an intense set of friendlies over the weekend.
"Alex and Joey are always beefin'." Mang0 once explained to me. "Norwalk secretly does not get along. We hate each other, but we love each other. We're like one big family. It's funny cuz Alex wasn't always like this. Joey and I broke him."
Their origin as a crew is a classic Norwalk story that tells you all you need to know about these guys. Alex found out that he lived near some guys that played Smash Bros. really well, and he tried his best to appeal to them with kindness and be their friend so he can get better at the game. Eventually, he felt like his kindness was taken for granted, and he just broke and started being mean and rude to the guys. It's like a supervillain origin story.
How Mang0 and Lucky Broke Alex19
But even with the falling out, Alex stuck around. His relationship with other guys would evolve from merely being video game training partners to feeling like family. They chilled and listened to their favorite music ("Norwalk loves anyone that can make a banger", Mang0 once told me), they knew each others' families very well, and they made videos together. The Smashers from Norwalk became a family because of a video game.
"Respect Norwalk." Mang0 would remind me, in case I said anything out of line. "We put Norwalk on the map."
And it really does feel like Mang0's accomplishments made this relatively unknown southern California city into a Smash Bros. cultural beacon. It was Mang0 that was the best in the world for a number of years and wouldn't let anyone forget where he was from. It was Mang0's name that was added to the Norwalk wikipedia page under "Notable Individuals". It was Mang0's fame and streaming that would introduce his fans to the atmosphere of Funday Tuesday and a highly technical, yet relatively unknown player named "Alex19".
You can follow Alex19 on Twitter here: @mach1alex19
You can catch his Twitch stream here: twitch.tv/mach1alex19