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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Franck Ribéry

No man w­­­ith such scars on his face deserves to suffer ever again, but Franck Ribéry fell in the 12th minute of the game and was carted off on a stretcher. After that, I watched in silence. I ate a bag of potato chips on my own, and at each Italian goal some of it came back up into my mouth as a cheesy soup. It is not because I am part French on my mother’s side. It is not because – as Julien says – there are only two truly European countries, England and France, and because England did not even qualify and France is now out, this is no longer a European cup. No, it is much simpler than all of that. Simply, I cannot stand – repeat – CANNOT STAND the Italian team. I loathe them, I detest, hate, despise... I…I… give me synonyms…language cannot translate the iron ball in my gut and the soup of chips in my mouth. It is a dangerous thought. It is with such thoughts that the Serbs and Bosnians fell out, put knifes to each others throats and called NATO bombers upon themselves. It is irrational… I accept that. And I accept that I have been harsh on Italians before, maybe unduly – I accept that they have made some worthy contributions: the tortellini has an interesting shape and indeed feels funny on the tongue; and the Olivetti typewriter was once a useful and widely used machine. All of this I accept, but in international football they are rodents, and they have now reached round two of Euro 2008, not gloriously like the Dutch lions, not courageously like the great checkered Croats, but through the cracks, with their front teeth, and their bellies to the ground where they play victim and plead for penalties. I hate, detest, loathe despise…. oh, and to make matters worse, I’ve got a live one in my house now. Brendan has suddenly come out as an Italian – his great great great grandfather, he claims – and he has been wearing his Matterazzi shirt at almost every game. You are just stupeed littul provocateur, Julian said to him the other night. His response: Bite me! What do you do? And what do you do when a guy who has seen no more football matches than there are fingers on his hands, who can’t tell the Czechs from the Swedes, when this guy fancies himself the expert and insists that the offside rule doesn’t count in extra time. What do you do? I said to him, when I need to know how to work out my triceps I’ll come to you, IN THE MEANTIME, do not volunteer any information. EVER! He threatened a head-butt and laughed like a fool. I nearly punched him because I am in a state of heightened alert. I watch every game. My phone is switched off – Goni hasn’t heard from me in over a week – and I am beginning to resort to rituals: I dumped two bags of macaroni, yesterday, and flushed a pot of pesto down the toilet, perfectly good pesto. And for the first time in a long long time, I prayed. I said, dear God, please dear God give SPAIN the strength to eradicate from this tournament, and possibly for good, the metrosexual, penalty-craving crawlers that have befouled the beautiful game.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Crystal Verstraeten

Ask me where I went, it’s Saturday, ask me, you’ll never guess. I went to Luik. You heard of it? Probably not. If you’re into child-molesters and micro-breweries it’s really cool, otherwise... Just kidding. Kind of. Remember Marc Dutroux. He’s from there – or was it Charlesroy? Anyway, whatever, this whole place’s a ratnest. And when the locals catch one guess what happens – you didn’t hear about that? The biggest police botch-up in the history of Belgian criminal justice. Steve McQueen escapes. James Caan escapes, these sorts of people escape, even Serbian war criminals , but Pdfs they don’t escape. They’re too dumb. Only in Luik they escape. You know what luik means, the word luik, it means trap-door or escape hatch. I’m serious. So ask me why came here on a Saturday morning, why after a week of hard work, taking shit from Branson for the Turkishbath thing, why I got up at 6 to take the train to go to Luik, why I didn’t stay in bed with Goni. I’ll tell you. My sister lives in Glendale, that’s in LA; she hooked up with a vibraphonist on tour in Belgrade back before the bombing. I hear nothing from her for months, for months, and then two days ago she calls and she says I need this favor, Lui. Can you pick up something for me in Belgium. Her name is Bee – my sis – she’s in a bowling league called Glendale S-pin. I said, no way. She said, I need this ball, Lui, the county finals are coming up. I need it. I said, Forget it. She said, darn it little brother! I said, it’s just a ball Bee. Don’t you have balls in LA? She said, It’s not just a ball. It’s THE ball. It’s a Crystal Verstraeten. So it turns out that beside brewers and felons they have special craftsmen down in Luik. You can’t mail order from De Gebroeders Verstraeten, you have to pick up in person. So I walk up to the counter to this old dude. The name tag reads Coen Verstraeten, but think John McCain, think shoulder pads and this kind of man-corset thing. I say to him, the Crystal Verstraeten for Labas, Bee Labas. He says Kryst’lverstraet’n, like a single word, almost Hebrew, which kind of freaked me out and he hands me a box and I hand him a small fortune and I’m thinking show me this friggin’ ball, show me, so I look in the box, and I can’t believe my eyeballs: it’s big like a bowling ball, it glistens, it’s round, but it’s golden, it’s all gold colored, so I say, sir, I asked for the CRYSTAL Verstraeten, this one’s gold. And then I got funny, I said, look under Bee, sir, Bee Labas, not R-Kelly. Hahahaha and I had to laugh thinking of R knocking down pins with his crew. But then Coen kept calling me Mr.Kelly – Mr.Kelly this, Mr.Kelly that, and I figured out that his daughter’s called Christel - so it’s Christel not crystal - and I got the whole deal, but I could barely understand him, and he freak me out ‘cause he spoke a strange tongue, like ancient Luik, the tongue of child molesters and micro-brewers, and I thought, get me the fuck out of here, so I just took off and left the box on the counter. I schlepped this golden cannon ball all the way across Luik to the station and when I got home Goni was gone. So Bee, you better kick some county butt next month.