Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Go Team!

Soccer is actually getting big in America. The World Cup made the front page of some newspapers, and USA games are being broadcast on network tv. Before I came over, I worried about where I'd be able to see the games in Vermont. I thought I'd have to drive miles to some smoky den of anglophiles for two a.m. broadcasts. Turns out least two bars in the next big town are showing the games, and that includes the old school "sports bar" which only, I thought, showed baseball and gridiron.

But the weird thing is, when I got here I suddenly had zero desire to watch the World Cup. I really like soccer - I used to play it and I like watching it. Back in the UK, where people are gaily festooning their cars, homes and dogs with England flags and tattooing players' names on their unmentionables for luck, I was getting totally swept up in the frenzy of anticipation. I've seen the pictures on the net of what's going on over there... the drunken brawling in Manchester's Exchange Square, the outbreak of those embarassingly gauche England fan hats... and I know that there's no getting away from it over there, whether you like it or not.

Maybe that's why it's nice to be here, where Team USA has turned out to be kind of sucky, and - perhaps by coincidence - national interest in soccer is dwindling. We don't like to lose to other countries, and there are so many other sports we're the best at. Like baseball. We hold the "World Series" every year, and don't even have to ask any other countries to play. We're that good. (The Brits think the World Series is a perfect example of American arrogance. I think they're just mad they don't play baseball real good like us.)

So the only sport I've been watching is ice hockey, the sport I was raised playing and watching, and the only sport my entire family cares about. It's the Stanley Cup right now, and I've actually seen most of the games on Canadian TV. Sure, there are some silly hats on display, but, compared to soccer, hockey seems so fast moving and exciting. And Don Cherry makes me laugh. In the World Cup, the US team got hammered by the Czechs and we're about to be embarassed by the Italians. England looked shaky in their first match. Wayne Rooney's foot hangs in the balance. But it's nothing to me.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Movie night

It happens every time I come home to the states, without fail. I go into a restaurant with my folks, try to order a drink, and get negged because I've forgotten to bring my ID with me. The fact that I'm 32 and (I think) look it, and am actually in the joint with my parents, who were there at my birth, doesn't make any difference. Yeah, and I know the whole thing about how they could lose their license if they didn't ask anyone who appears to be under the age of 73 to produce a driver's license, but it doesn't make it any less of a drag. I've got to remember to carry the damn thing.

It happened again at Julio's in Montpelier last night. Julio's has changed under new ownership, and not for the better. The food was even more mediocre than it used to be. They played cheesy music, screwed up most of our orders, and our waiter had this oddly ponderous affect. He kept calling everyone "friend." "Could I have a side of guacamole with that?" "Yes, you can, friend."

Before dinner, we saw the Prairie Home Companion movie at the Savoy. (The show started at 6:30 and it was sold out, of course, by ten after six. It's hard to imagine a place more perfectly representative of the film's target demographic than the Savoy's customer base.) I thought the movie was pretty good, but not amazing, and it was obvious a lot of the intervening dialogue had been improvised. There were some interesting characters there but a lot of them never seemed to fulfil their promise, apart from Meryl Streep as a blowsy radio singer and the cowboy duo of Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly, who were great. And I have to admit I was totally distracted by how weird looking Garrison Keillor is. Man, what a mug. He looks like one of those freaky fish that lives on the bottom of a really deep ocean trench.