A Quiet World Cup

July 13, 2010

Once upon a time I lived in Santa Barbara, California. People tell me it was wonderful – I certainly gained a lot of life friends out there, but I can’t really say because most of the best moments are gone to me now – not forever, just in my sober self – and unless I get reminiscent-drunk I can never pull out the best stories. Also, they’re incriminating as fuck, and I like my friends. All of this makes it very difficult to tell anyone about our wild adventures unless I don’t know you at all, and this being the Internet, I know you all too well to expect anything to stay secret.

Still, this is a fun story because it doesn’t have to be secret – nothing too bad happened, nobody stole any street signs, nothing too heinous was ingested or baked into a turkey dinner. No, it’s just a little snippet of our old lives, played out by older (and not much wiser) selves in the old stomping grounds. There is drama, men dancing in high heels, wine, a carousel, and some British folk in this tale – here’s what I remember of the World Cup weekend.

Nobody cares about Soccer here.  Example – I sat in a little restaurant in town for the Germany-Spain game, desperate to not simply watch the game alone like usual, and instead of camaraderie I listened to two old men debating American Football teams past and present. Nobody else even glanced at the TV except my brother and I and the Russian owner’s daughter. No, if you’re in the USA any time a World Cup is going down, I feel sorry for you – there’s nothing even close to the parties that the rest of civilization throws for this sport. I remember being in a bar in Honduras packed 400 deep, men drinking themselves to sleep, people shouting repeats of the announcer’s cries to keep the unseeing back of the crowd satisfied – that was just a qualifying game! Another qualifier I watched with 50 or so others on an old TV, rabbit ears fine-tuned by the silent artist-owner, in rapt silence or screaming ridiculousness depending on the on-screen action. One night as we sat above Tegucigalpa and watched the fireworks as the parties raged, I realized how much Futbol is the world’s religion, and perhaps the biggest shared human experience around. No other sporting event I’ve ever seen can compare with the love, anger, happiness, lust that come out of kicking a goddamn ball around a field for 90 minutes – what a fantastic thing! Still, in the USA, nobody cares about the World Cup… except my crazy friends.

They’re way bigger fans than I am – they got up for the 4am games after working late, kept me updated via Twitter on the games I missed, yelled a lot more, made brackets, learned the players’ names – all the crazy fanatic stuff that I miss out on since I’m satisfied to simply turn the TV on and watch the best futbol matches I’ll see for 4 years without any of the background. When the girls decided to throw a Cup party at their house, I knew I had to come – too many years gone, too many parties and birthdays and holidays missed – and in case I didn’t know it the girls basically did their sad puppy eyes and reminded me that I’d soon be off again and wasn’t I a bad person if I didn’t show up? Yes, but that’s not the point – I never had a choice about going up to this game, in this town, with these people. It’s like destiny, if destiny used social media to plan a World Cup party.

“It’s going to be mellow.” I distinctly remember those words, and even more remember Chad’s protests as the weekend progressed. “I thought you said it would be mellow!” he yelled more than a few times – “it was supposed to be” the only response necessary. Our gatherings have this amazing way of turning into parties, and our parties take on a life of their own. In this case, however, we really outdid ourselves, which is why I’m writing in the first place.

I joined the festivities Friday after carpooling up with Chad and Muey – we pulled into the house late, expecting greetings and maybe a drink or three before bed. Instead we went straight for tequila and before anyone could get going the girls were asleep at midnight on the couches and Jen, Chad, and I were nursing cigarettes and unconscionably strong Margaritas. I think everyone was in bed by 1 or 1:30, which brings me to another fun aspect of our little tribe – we’re barely kids any longer, our old bones get tired, and some nights we just strike out. Friday was pretty weak, but don’t worry, we make up for it later.

By later I mean Saturday – we’re all up early-ish for the Germany-Uruguay game, Chad and I make breakfast because that’s the proper place for a man (in the kitchen cooking) and besides, who lets girls around fire? We solve the riddle of “do you think it’s possible to make blueberry pancakes with too many blueberries?” – it absolutely is by the way; they won’t even be pancakes any longer, just mushy blueberries in a light batter-sauce. Somehow we fix that dilemma and then it’s time to watch the game. It’s a great one, nobody diving too hard, none of the poor sportsmanship of the entire rest of the cup, back-and-forth with plenty of action. Really, that’s because it was for third place, and “who gives a fuck, they’re playing for third loser.” Jenn is our best sports fan – her twitter @hoorayjenn was pretty much my lifeline the entire time I was bouncing around and needed to know game scores and how Wayne Rooney is sexy. (I don’t know either!) She’ll probably end up with some Indian guy and have 6 daughters.

Game over, we get around to showers, cleaning up, and shaking out the old bones. In the olden days this would be the point where we all started binge drinking in preparation of the 5 o’clock nap collapse, but we’re responsible and socially active now, so we spend 3.5 years and a decent amount of whiskey getting ready, smuggling beers into purses, coordinating our small tribe for battle. The goal is Pride, a big concert, BBQ, gathering, excuse to drink socially celebrating how awesome it is to be LGBT(q?) – from what I’ve heard, it’s pretty great. Cars packed, teeth brushed, Devon prank called, we’re off to downtown and adventure.

After dead-heading the cars at Devon’s Dr. Seuss house – named for the fantastic floors sloping whichever way they choose to – it’s time for a taxi and a ride cross town. After a few minutes we’re at the beach, which I never actually see because right now we cross the street and head into Chase Palm Park. If I recall, our conversation at this point consists of a lot of yelling “Chase Palm Park!” over and over and pointing out the amenities of the kiddie playground because we never really grow up, and we’re embracing that now.

Pride is pretty awesome, aside from some ex-girlfriend sightings and horrendously expensive beers – we get around to the side of the stage right as the musical acts start, and so we’re in prime position to watch this hilarious procession of scantily clad lip-syncing beauties of sometimes-ambiguous gender. The Aussie pop diva who keeps yelling “Woooo San Diego!” is pretty fabulous, as are the men dancing in bootheels and stilettos – they’re seriously talented, those things are huge! Jenn and I wait forever for a man in jeans, blazer, checkered hat to do something with his umbrella, but once he sings “I’m only happy when it rains” there really isn’t anything left to do – free haircuts booth was closed, photo booth on the fritz, it’s time to mosey. We gather our growing herd, now 9, and make our way out of the park after a short detour to the carousel.

That’s right, carousel. According to some plaque on the wall, the guy who invented the carousel built this one, which sounds pretty cool but basically it was just a carousel – nobody rides them except little kids and well… us. We pile on, get our horses, and proceed to yell like idiots and pose for our cameraman. The poor kid there with her mother and grandmother must have thought we were all mental cases. Anyway, $2 well-spend, and we’re off again for the next stop, which is of course wine-tasting, a word that doesn’t really describe the activity very well, because after 17 samples of wine you’re really not tasting anything. Oh yeah, and we are just shooting these because half of them taste weird and the lady with her dog have lost their novelty, and it’s now we’re just slugging back wine, the employee is drinking with us, the dog is passed around hot-potato, and we’re done suddenly, standing up, thanking everyone, piling back out into the streets.

Another short walk brings us to Sharkeez, a personal nemesis where people who should know better serve huge buckets of sugar water heaped full of booze and plastic sharks to other people who should also know better than to get involved in this sort of nonsense. I vaguely remember once throwing up ALL OVER the hallway in front of the bathrooms here, just zero to proj.vom in nothing flat. Still, if you’re looking to get drunk(er) cheaply and eat a ton of chips and salsa, this is the place to be, especially since it’s still barely 7pm and we’ve been going strong for hours. A bucket of blue goes down pretty smoothly, and we’re smoking on the porch when a few local homeless/drifters roll up and start chatting with us. One of them, a dread-locked guy named Adam tells a few off-color jokes, someone gives him a cigarette, and since he seems alright I drunkly start talking with his companions, Luz, or Luce or something, Derek, and I-don’t-know-because-he-didn’t-talk. They’re bumming around, coming north from San Diego, and since hitching and bumming around are things I’m pretty into we start up a nice conversation.

Now, off to my left there’s a storm brewing – Adam’s joke train has taken a turn into gay-bashing misogyny, and that doesn’t go well with Lauren, who starts into him. He goes off, gets offended, they’re bickering, and meanwhile I’m telling the others about how Craigslist is a brilliant asset for any would-be hitchhiker in the US and they’re telling me how you can apparently catch freight trains south of Santa Barbara if you’re careful. It’s a really fascinating talk, but now we’re leaving and people are angry, and there’s the “WTF are you doing?!” split for an instant – I keep forgetting that the part of me who thinks bums are awesome doesn’t exist in pretty much anyone else at all. I shake a few hands, give Luce a buck and Derek my cigarette, then head in for some more salsa, grease, and salt – it’s like building a crash pad for future alcohol.

Anyway, another bar, another situation – this time with giant syringes full of vodka and Jello. Being upstanding citizens we all just slam these into our mouths and go on with our business, which gets the attention of a couple sitting nearby, and as luck would have it they’re Brits! All of a sudden I’m giving them shit for coming to America during the Cup finals, and they’re introducing us to the other 2 travelers with them and we’re talking futbol and I’m spilling gin out of nowhere and now it’s vodka redbulls and the dance party heats up, and oh look, there’s Nick finally showed up, and everyone is friends and it’s fantastic.

Thinking about it, I’m at my absolute drunkest right here – the colors blur, I spoke Spanish with someone, the music blares and I’m just glowing with good energy and friends all around. It’s perfect, and it probably would have led to me slumped in a corner somewhere if not for one thing – Chad scared the shit out of me.

I’m standing, focusing deeply on not looking like I’m focusing deeply on just standing, when BAM hand on the shoulder! I jump, spin, gin on my shoe, and it’s Chad looking as bad as I imagine myself to. “We’re getting out of here man, call a cab.” Fuck, I’m in charge of something. I hate being in charge of somethings. It’s ok though, because I prepared for this moment sometime after Jello shots by writing the taxi driver’s number in pen all up my arm. It worked great for remembering, but I realize belatedly that everyone assumed some drunk girl or guy had claimed me with the huge phone number tag. Ah well. I call the taxi, slur something close to “9 of us at Sandbar” and hang up. “Dude, we’re 13 now!” Devon yells at me from a foot and a half away.


“We’re 13 now – someone invited the Brits!”

The night got underway after that. On the way out the door, giggling at our good fortune, I run straight into my partner in crime – Jake! “Jakeeeee!” I yell into some poor girl’s face, and then we’re hugging past these random strangers whose only misfortune was to be between us. “We’re coming in man!” “We’re leaving! Party at the girls! British people!” We’re off again.

I end up in the car with Jake and his sister and his sister’s friend and also Devon, so we go to drop Devon off at home for work in 4 hours and go about our merry way. That’s all that happened at Devon’s house. Hugs and we’re off – last ones to the girls’ house, we walk into what might be best described as our natural element – beer pong, dancing people, a lot of yelling – a real Santa Barbara house party, I might just cry.

No tears – instead it’s cigarettes and margaritas on the porch – someone told me that for best results you just have to mix every type of hard booze, beer, and a ton of wines together, so I guess we were trying that. I don’t know, except that Jake and I kicked ass at beer pong, and Micah was there – holy shit, haven’t seen him in years Micah! More yelling and jumping, I cut in on Jake and Aurora dancing, we do a fantastic drunken two-step or something. Point is it was fun. People coming and going, Beer pong, beer pong, beer pong, beer pong – oh shit, we lost… Girls talking shit, people are passing out, but there are least Chris and Eloise still awake and so we fight on – no way are some dirty foreigners going to out-party us! They’re hilarious too, getting us too say “wankers” and “bollocks” then putting on their best American accents to say “fucking a man,” and toss out some surfer slang. We keep going, the sun comes up, Jake and I finally prevail at the beer pong table, and then it’s Jake and Lauren with a beautiful sing-a-long, and I’m on the couch humming to myself and nodding off. Hell of a party.

Sunday starts rough, being as the day doesn’t start until after you’ve slept and we went to bed at 5:30 or 6 – hangovers all over the place, Lauren and I debate the merits of her driving the Brits back downtown to check out of their hostel, and just before I’ve convinced her that they’re well and truly passed out and we’re going to invite them to our World Cup party, Chris is at the door and Lauren drives them downtown. I meander outside, drink a lot of water, stretch. It’s like 9:30am, and I’m still heinously drunk. Everyone is though, so we’re alright. World Cup is considerably more low key than Germany-Spain, partly because the teams are playing rough and mean, but also because we’re all tuckered out. Food, showers, nap time, and it’s like 6 before we’ve done anything more meaningful than go to In-n-Out. Except Devon – he worked all morning then came back to hang out. We say our fond goodbyes, smooches and hugs are given, and then it’s back on the road to our masked identities, the people we play on TV when we’re not being a bunch of lunatics.

I promised Jake a ride home so after a stop in Orange we’re off to Pasadena and I’m spending another night on another couch in another home that isn’t mine but feels right anyway. I love that feeling – utter exhaustion and inner peace. 7:30 Monday I set out for home, and everything is just as it was when I left it – what a strange world. Next World Cup, let’s all go to Brasil! Honduras! Antarctica! Anywhere that actually parties for the biggest game on Earth!

We're awesome

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