Archive for March, 2011
(This is gonna be an exercise in quickly re-writing a blog post that I wrote and then, for some idiotic reason, closed the text doc without saving. Here goes.)
I went to see a live band last night. Apart from seeing a cumbia mexicana band called Los Ángeles Azules in a club in February, this was the first band I’ve seen live since I saw My Bloody Valentine in April 2009. Last night I saw a band I’d never heard of before: Empire of the Sun. A friend of mine managed to get a bunch of tickets, so some friends and I went along. I’d probably not have bothered going ordinarily, but they were playing at Six Flags. So it was the thought of an amusement park that sold me more than the music.
I took the subway to my mate’s place, so we could drive to Six Flags in the southwest of the city. To get there, you drive on an elevated road, many, many metres above the ground. You get a good view, but the pessimist in me couldn’t help but think how big a drop it was were there to be a crash. Oh, and when I was at the subway station, I saw a bland man. Stick, dark glasses. And headphones. Headphones!? If one of my senses was missing, I’m not sure I’d be wanting to lose another on purpose. But, if he’s happy, fair play to him. Plus it did make me think that maybe in the future, GPS technology will have advanced to a point where a blind person could get a real time talk-through of the route he or she is taking.
We arrived at Six Flags around 5pm. And, err, the rides and stuff closed at 6pm. Thanks for that. When a concert is at an amusement park, I don’t think it’s wilful self-delusion to assume that the rides will be open. It seems that that is part of the selling point of a show there. We had time to go on one ride: Superman – El Último Escape. Apart from a few pictures and logos, there wasn’t much Superman-ness about it. The queue snaked around for about an hour. An hour that I spent without glasses. I didn’t want to wear them on the ride, so left them with a non-rollering friend. The world shrinks when I’m not wearing my specs. I can’t see very far at all. Plus, I feel self-conscious. My friends don’t normally see me without them. Eventually, we get to the ride, get in the cars, and up up up. Up 66 metres to the highest point then plunge-y, roller-y, coaster-y for 90 seconds. And an aftermath of weak legs.
The sectioned-off area where the concert would be was closed until 8pm. The rides closed at 6pm. And, err, pretty much everything else was closed too. The only place to eat or drink was a Johnny Rockets burger place. Understandably, it was very busy. We queued and got the only food they had on offer, a combo meal that they called Johnny Rockets Single. But, as you can see in the photo below, they couldn’t even spell the name of their restuarant correctly on the menu. And the burger was disgusting. Even the outside of the bun was greasy. I was pretty hungry, though, so I ate it. But afterwards, and for the first time in my life, I seriously thought about going to the bathroom to puke it out of my belly. The grease made me queasy. And left me a bit queasy all night, and for a portion of this morning, too.
Time for some booze. But, all they had was not-cold Corona. Inside the concert area, there was other stuff, but we weren’t in there. So we went to the car to get at the bottle of whiskey someone brought. After a couple of aborted attempts to decant the booze into plastic bags so it could be smuggled in, my friend Louis had a simple idea. We put it all in a paper Coke cup that someone had brought out from the amusement park, and when we approached the gate, he went off to the side and left the cup in a place next to some railings. Through security, and he went and grabbed the cup. A couple of Cokes bought, and we all had some drinks for a while.
The support band came on around 10pm. They were called Holger. A Mexican band. They reminded me of Vince Noir’s band in The Mighty Boosh. Not in a good way. So, onto the headliners. I’d seen posters around town with a picture of a dude dressed up all funny, and kind of assumed it was just a picture, not a picture of the singer. When they came on stage in stupid robes and silly headgear, with dancers all looking like a 1970s cheap TV show about space-y nightclub dancers… well, I very literally laughed out loud. You people are ridiculous!
And the music. I dunno. It’s tough to judge this kind of music live. It just seemed that there were no songs. Just a bunch of sparkly clothes distracting me from the lack of melodies. Maybe their record is great, but live, they absolutely didn’t win me over. Still, everyone there seemed to have a fantastic time. And aside from a grease-filled tummy, I had a great day out with my friends. Something that shouldn’t be forgotten because of some forgettable music.
If you like the baseball stuff, you may care to know I’ve redesigned the Flip Flop Fly Ball site. More details over there: http://www.flipflopflyball.com
The sky, about 20 minutes ago.
The streets of this city have become more colourful over the last month. The jacaranda trees have come out in full bloom. It’s lovely to see splodges of violet above the head as I wander around. And now that the flowers are falling there are purple patches of pavement. And it reminds you how many trillions of feet have slowly worn down and dirtied the pavements of the city. And in contrast to the muddy grey-brown colour of the paving slabs, it’s such a pleasant thing for the eyes, the eyes that are bombarded in a city, to see a calm, pretty colour. It’s easy to forget city trees. They, as far as I can tell, are the most under-appreciated trees we have. We love the trees in our own gardens, in the local parks, in the countryside when we’re out for a drive. But seeing the jacarandas had made me notice the other trees, too. Here’s some photos.
I had a wee spider on my shoulder yesterday. Teeny one. I was stood at a pedestrian crossing, so I assume he just fancied a lift across the street.
Later today, I’m moving to a new apartment. I’ll still be sharing, but this time with just one person instead of three. And my bedroom has its own bathroom, which is incredibly exciting. It’s one of the things that’s worst about living with other people: having to share the bathroom. And really, the only reason it’s the worst thing is because at least a couple of times a week, you’ll sit down, ready to take a nice, relaxing dump, and you’ll hear someone try to open the door. And then you feel all hurried, and can’t really enjoy the ten minutes or so you’d been looking forward to.
I’m going to be living with my friend Sam’s girlfriend. There really is no way to say that without it sounding a bit creepy. But it’s not creepy. Both Sam and Lina are lovely people, and I get on well with them. And Sam reads this blog, so I pretty much have to say they are nice. Right, Sam? Lina lives in a fancier area of town called Polanco. It’s only about a 20 minute walk from where I am now in Roma Norte, but it has several advantages. It’s very close to a big park; like two minutes away. There’s a Starbucks about the same distance in the other direction, too. And aside from the aforementioned en suite bathroom, there’s a roof terrace. And a communal gym in the building, too. I, of course, have grand plans to use that. Fast forward six months: never used it.
I’ve enjoyed living here. I liked my flatmates. Well, I liked my gay flatmates. I’m quite sure I will still see them again. The girl that was living here was a bit… I dunno. A bit aloof. Were it not for the terrible water situation in the building (at least six or seven times a month, you’ll turn the tap on and nothing will come out, and it’ll stay like that for several hours), and the cilindrero who plays for around five or six hours every day outside my window, which has slowly been driving me nuts; were it not for those two things, I doubt I’d be moving. But I am happy to be moving. It’ll be nice to have another perspective of the city. Get to know another neighbourhood.
Last night the lightbulb in my room stopped working. Moving out today, though, so couldn’t be arsed to go and buy one. Not my pwoblem, guv. So I endured—yes, endured—a whole evening of darkness. So I just got into bed, watched baseball documentaries on my laptop, and ate toast. Toast and Marmite. I’m coming to the end of my highly rationed jar of Marmite, sadly, so the toast I make for it, I try to make it perfectly. Which is difficult here. No toaster. And the oven is full of pans and stuff, which I can never be bothered to get out just to make a couple of slices of toast. So, I toast the bread in a frying pan. Fuck you, Gordon Ramsay, this is how you cook. I wasn’t really hungry, but there were two slices left in the packet, and I don’t really wanna take two slices of bread to my new place. And I didn’t want to chuck them in the bin either. So I sat in bed, eating toast, watching baseball documentaries, in the dark, with the window open, as it’s kinda warm here right now. Crumbs, obviously.
I had an amusing thought—amusing for me, anyway—of falling asleep with the plate on my belly, and then waking up several hours later and seeing a crow had flown in, and was stood on my chest, eating the crumbs off the place. Waking up, and staring deep into the abyss of a crow’s anus. That thought, and the slight paranoia I always have about sleeping with an open window (burglars! burglars! burglars coming to burgle my burgleables!), made me close the window. And it was hot. And I tried to sleep. But it was one of those nights where, just as you drift off, your stupid brain does that dizzy shudder and wakes you up. And each time, you feel more tired, and more awake every time you are jolted up.
Tired, tired, tired, I got out of bed to get a glass of water and urinate, and true to form, the water wasn’t working. No flushing. Water from the big bottle in the kitchen. And for some reason, my flatmate was defrosting the fridge. The top freezer bit had its door open, and on a chair in front of the open door was a ventilator fan thing blowing air into the fridge. You could put that shit in a gallery and call yourself an artist, but there’s no way I’m eating the turkey slices that were sat in the fridge at room temperature all night. That could be the title: “There’s No Way I’m Eating The Turkey Slices,” 2011.
Woke up this morning and found the words “roger cops” written down in my bedside notebook. Obviously, it’s a Sienfeld-ian kind of observation, but I have no idea what that means. It will bug me all day. Right: time to move to a new apartment.
In less that two weeks, something will begin that I never ever imagined I’d care about. In less that two weeks, I’ll begin my seventh season caring about that thing. That thing is baseball. Specifically Major League Baseball; played by all but one of its 30 teams in the United States. In 2005, I went to a game with friends at Yankee Stadium. And since then, my interest and love of the game has grown and grown. I did some drawings, some charts and graphs, made a Web site about the game, and last year, wrote/drew/infographicised a book about the game. That book, fine and distinguished credit card owners that you are, will be published on July 5th. The game, though, isn’t solely played within the borders of the United States and in Toronto. It’s played in Japan, and more pertinently for me, in Latin America.
Before we go on. Seeing as though the readership of this blog is shrinking and shrinking I imagine those who are bored of reading about baseball will have stopped paying attention by now, so I’m going to stop doing that thing I occasionally do: apologising for writing about baseball. If you’ve stuck around this long and are still reading, I’m gonna guess that you either a) like baseball and like reading about it, or b) just skip the baseball stuff without deleting the RSS subscription in your news reader thingy.
As I said, the Major League Baseball season begins in less that two weeks. But the Liga Mexicana de Béisbol season began on Saturday. Mexican baseball is what I will mostly be watching this season. It is Triple-A calibre baseball. That, in football (soccer) terms is like the second division. But more than that, it’s baseball in a different country. A different culture. And while it would be stupid to pretend I wouldn’t rather be watching the New York Yankees playing the Boston Red Sox in Yankee Stadium, I now have the opportunity to do something I’ve never really done before: support a local team.
I grew up a Liverpool F.C. fan living in Lincoln, so that was television fandom on the whole. There was one season (1987-88) when, as a newly solvent teenager with a job in the warehouse of my local Asda supermarket, I went to a fair few Lincoln City F.C. games. But apart from that, I’ve always supported from afar. I tried to get into Hertha B.S.C. in Berlin, but it never really became more than a passing interest. Since then, having started enjoying baseball, I’ve been a fan of a team in a city that I’ve visited more than any other, and after that initial exposure in 2005, have returned to New York on trips timed around series of Yankees home game in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009. (For reasons I always seems to be mentioning, I didn’t see go to Yankee Stadium in 2010, and I doubt I’ll go again this season either.) I spent last summer in Toronto watching the aforementioned only non-U.S.-based MLB team, the Toronto Blue Jays. I went to 32 Blue Jays games, and I enjoyed getting to know their team better, but I could never really be a fan, because they are division rivals of the Yankees.
But this season could be different. I’m in a different country, there’s a baseball league, and I live in a city with a team in that league. So it’s time for me to become a Diablos Rojos del México fan. (The irony is not lost on me that my new local baseball team is called the Red Devils, and, as a Liverpool fan, I fucking loathe the English football team with that nickname.) And on Saturday, I went to the game, the inauguración temporada. Not only was it season opener, it was the guerra civil, the civil war. Diablos Rojos were playing Tigres de Quintana Roo, a team that until 2001 played in Mexico City. I guess it’s the Yankees-Red Sox of Mexican baseball.
My mate Scott was here visiting for the weekend. He’s also a baseball fan, so we went along early to soak things up. The Metro journey wasn’t so full of fans, but the close we got, the more noticeable they were. And there were fans of both teams. On the pedestrian overpass approaching Foro Sol, the Diablos’ ballpark, I saw what I assume were a father and son. The son had a pinstripe Yankees jersey with GEHRIG 4 written on the back in faded black marker pen. The father, again in a Yankees home jersey, had JOHONSON 51 on the back. This sent my mind darting around, like old documentary film of room-sized computers with lights flashing and tape reels spinning around. If, as I suspect, this was meant to be a Randy Johnson jersey, it was a) spelled wrong, and b) has the wrong number. Randy did wear number 51 for the vast majority of his major league career. Apart from his first few games with both the Expos in 1988 and the Mariners in 1993, the only time he didn’t wear number 51 was for his two seasons with the Yankees, where he wore 41. This was because tip-top coming-to-the-end-of-his-career-Yankee-player Bernie Williams already wore 51.
From the overpass, the outside of the stadium looked pretty busy. Lots of people milling around. Scott and I began taking note of the MLB teams represented with caps and jerseys of fans. In the end we saw merchandise of all but four of the major league teams (no Mariners, Marlines, Rockies, or Royals). But, of course, most people there were Diablos fans. The place, though, did have what I’d estimate was about 10-20% Tigres fans. I’d bought tickets in advance, and my crappy Spanish had thought I’d bought tickets in a decent, shaded section behind the infield. Not so. I’d bought tickets for the concrete bleachers that extended along the first base line in the outfield. Can’t grumble, though, considering the price: 30 pesos (2.50 US dollars/1.52 British pounds/1.76 euros/0.00175 gold ounces).
We were there early enough to sneak into the better section, though. Flashing the tickets at an usher, talking in English, he let us through to go and look in the Diablos store, which was fairly sparingly stocked. Even though a lot a Diablos fans had a lot of different era jerseys and caps, the store only seemed to sell the most recent items, sadly. I could really go for one of these 1980s era caps.
Having gotten ourselves into the area of the park where we could access the better seats, we sat down, got a beer and I did something that one doesn’t get to do very often at a sports venue these days: had a cigarette. No smoking ban here. Joy. Because it was the first day of the season, the players of both teams were all announced one by one.
They lined up along the base paths, and then la popular actriz mexicana Carmen Salinas wobbled onto the field to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. In the outfield, a brass band stood erect waiting their moment. The loud voice through the PA system announced that we should stand for the anthem. And… it was really quiet. The band were quite far away and not mic-ed up. As the anthem progressed, the spectators picked up the slack and started singing along. There a few fireworks, too. And they looked as good as fireworks always tend to look in daylight: rubbish.
After the anthem, and as the players warmed up, my Mexican pal Samuel called me. Running late, where are you? I went down to meet them, but the usher wasn’t letting them sneak through. So we went to join them in the section we’d actually paid to watch from. There was a bit more space there, too, considering that a few members of Sam’s family were joining us. We sat on the not-as-uncomfortable-as-I’d-imagined concrete bleachers, drank Coronas, ate esquites, smoked cigarettes, chatted, and enjoyed baseball. Lovely, lovely baseball.
The Diablos got off to a good start with a three-run home run in the first. Tigres came back with four runs in the third, Diablos getting another in the bottom of the third, tying it up.
A couple here, a couple there, afternoon gave way to evening, and it was tied 6-6 at the end of the ninth, so we got some free baseball. An extra inning. Tigres got two runs, which the Diablos couldn’t match. So my first game of the season, my first proper game as a fan was a defeat. The smattering of Tigres fans amongst the 28,700 crowd (a new LMB attendance record) made some noise. ¡Ti-gue-res! ¡Ti-gue-res! Turning a two syllable word into a three syllable word for better chanting opportunities. Time for some tacos.
My new team will be playing on the road until next Tuesday. But they’ve won the three games they’ve played since that first game against the Tigres. But I’ll be there again on Tuesday evening, hoping to see the Diablos beat Vaqueros Laguna (Laguna Cowboys). I think I’m going to enjoy baseball here.
Last week, there was a good day. Started off with an unexpected delight: the new Starbucks cups have finally hit Mexico. I like the new, simpler design. It’s nice. Plus it meant I had something to briefly talk about with the pretty, young girl who works there who’s waaaaaaaaay out of my league. What I mean, really, is that I am, gulp, actually old enough to be her father. Depressing thought, that.
But mostly it was a good day because tickets for the Opening Day of the Liga Mexicana Béisbol season went on sale. For reasons I’ve gone into before, going and seeing American baseball isn’t really an option right now, so apart from visiting Toronto, the best I can see is Triple-A class baseball in Mexico. (Triple-A is the second tier of quality behind the major leagues.)
I could’ve just bought them on a website that sells tickets, but I wanted to take the Metro just so I could know the route for when the season starts. The only previous time I’ve been to Foro Sol, (the home stadium of the city’s baseball team, Diablos Rojos del México) I went in a taxi because I was here on vacation, but this season I’ll be going regularly, so figured it’s better to take the subway. And it’s about 30 minutes from my place to the ballpark.
I’d prepared, translated, and knew what I wanted to say. But still, my English mouth could not be understood by the woman in the ticket booth. A kindly gentleman behind me helped me be understood. It’s one of the weird things about foreign languages. I often wonder if in native English speaking countries, we are spoiled. We get to hear so many people speaking bad English when they are tourists in London, that our understanding is exercised and we can hear what they say, even if they say it badly. I’ve found that here, and in Berlin, sometimes people would not understand my Spanish or German even if I knew the words were correct. Or maybe I’m just very, very bad at talking.
Tickets bought from the box office. For advance tickets, I had to go to the sports centre next door to buy them, as the ballpark seems not to have one when there’s no game on. So I had a wander down to the park. It is the first baseball stadium I’ve been to where I’ve walked by a pile of dead chickens in an open manhole. But dead fowl aside, I’m idiotically excited that I’ll be at a live baseball game this Saturday afternoon.
I’ve finally started Spanish lessons. All this time I’d given my trust over to the Michel Thomas’ eight-hour course on my iPod. I was getting somewhere, but not very quickly at all. At a party a couple of weeks back, I was introduced to a friend of a friend who is a language teacher, so I asked, she said yes, we organised, and I’ve been getting a couple of two-hour lessons a week. Feels good to be learning all that tedious yo estoy, ella esta, el esta, blah de blah stuff. Feels good to be exercising my brain a little bit. I never really got to grips completely with German. I could make myself understood, but I couldn’t, for example, tell a joke. Hopefully, that will be different with Spanish, because I really do want to live in a country that has live baseball for the rest of my life, and if it’s gonna continue to be difficult to get into the United States, then my best option really is a Latin American country.
It’s been a year since I was at the US Embassy in Berlin being denied a travel visa to visit the United States. That day is one of the clearest days in my memory. I can remember so many details about it. I remember having to give up my lighter to go through security, and after being denied the visa, reaching into my pocket for cigarettes, searching for the lighter and it not being there. I remember that my stomach was churning, that my head churned too. No real thoughts, just fuck, fuck, fuck over and over again. Since then, I have obviously accepted the situation. I guess I’ll be able to visit again one day—it’s not like I’m a heroin dealer—but the joy of the United States has soured a bit for me. That I can spend time in the countries either side of the U.S., yet not cross an imaginary line that birds can fly over, a line across which tree roots spread, and a boundary which I could’ve easily stayed within if I’d actually have wanted to live there illegally. I’m still annoyed that I probably got bad legal advice when I left the States. But that doesn’t help anyone, being annoyed at the past. And I know nobody apart from me cares, but the thing that makes me saddest of all (apart from stuff I’m not gonna write about) is the thought of not seeing Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera playing in Yankee Stadium again before they retire.
I get to and from my Spanish lessons on the Metro. It’s super cheap here, just three pesos per journey. My local station smelled of butter the other day. A couple of nights ago I had a dream that I was on the Metro, squeezing a pimple on a school friend’s face. A school friend that I’ve lost touch with. It was just to the side of his eye; between the eye and sideburn. He was angry that I’d done it. After waking, I went out to get coffee, and walked past a shoe store. In the entrance to the shoe store, and this is the absolute truth, I saw two young men in their twenties. One of them was squeezing a pimple on the side of the other guy’s face.
On my way back, I saw a guy sitting in one of those coin-operated massage chairs in a mall. I wish I had that amount of comfort in myself, that I could do something so personal in a public place. It’s just such an alien concept to me, to sit there, eyes closed, totally exposed, as people walk by. There’s something ridiculous in being alive only once, but knowing that I will never, ever, ever sit in a massage chair in a mall. It’s not something I particularly want to do, but for my brain to close off the option. I dunno. I just wish I could relax. Smile more often. I’m a fucking idiot. A fucking idiot that, today, got shat on by a bird for the second time in three weeks.
More finger painting here.
This is a drawing I did towards the end of last year. It’s former L.A. Dodgers pitcher Fernando Valenzuela, and poet Robert Frost. I did this drawing for the mostly-about-baseball website Pitchers and Poets. In the end, they just used the figures without the background, but I still like it, so here ’tis.
More finger painting here. Should you care: it’s the top of the fourth, Reds down 4-2. Bob Gibson is pitching, Tim McCarver catching, Dave Concepción at bat, and Dan Driessen is on second. Concepción goes on to ground out, Driessen moving over to third. Up next, Ken Griffey doubles, and Driessen scores. The Reds tie the game in the sixth, and finally, in the twelfth George Foster doubles, knocking in two runs, giving the Reds a 6-4 win.
Listgeeks is a pretty nice idea. It’s a website where you can make lists. Who doesn’t like that? And the best thing, really, is if someone else makes a list you can make your version of that list. Just yesterday, someone had made a list of their favourite R.E.M. songs for example. Of course, they were wrong, so I made my own, and the world’s axis returned to normal.
Anyway, it’s a nice wee site, and worth a play. And, for some bizarre reason, they wrote a little thing about me which massages the knots out of my ego quite nicely. It’s still beta at the moment, and you need an invite code to get listing, but the good people at Listgeeks gave me ten codes to give out to youse peoples. If you want one, either leave a comment or email me at craig AT flipflopflyin DOT com.
A friend of mine called Steve started up a web site a while ago. It’s a very simple, nice idea. It’s called No Movement for Goalposts. He takes photographs of football (soccer) goalposts. And he invites others to do the same and submit them. It’s lovely stuff. I submitted a few photos taken on my recent vacation in Belize, including the couple above. If you like football, you’ll probably like his site. And if you’re like me, you’ll probably end up taking photos of goalposts and submitting them, too. Either that or seeing some posts and wishing your camera wasn’t sat on your desk back home.
More finger painting here.