Archive for April, 2011
So I called up the captain, “Please bring me my wine”
He said, “We haven’t had that spirit here since nineteen sixty nine”
Most of you, I presume, will recognise those lyrics from the Eagles’ most famous song, Hotel California. I like the song. I like it quite a lot actually. I’ve often imagined how satisfied they must’ve been when they first listened back to it in the studio. Must’ve been a good moment. I’m not really a lyrics kind of person. I don’t pay attention. I just sing along without really taking in the words that are coming out of my mouth. And only a couple of years back did I realise that my perception of the above words is totally skewed because of when I am listening to it. I’m listening to it in the first decade or so of the 21st century; 1969 is forty-one years ago. Why would anyone be order a wine that a hotel served forty-one years ago. Oh, err, the song was recorded in 1976, just seven years after 1969. So, not such a big deal. Although, Messrs Frey and Henley, wine is not a spirit, you buffoons.
And while we’re on the topic of years in songs, in Somethin’ Else by Eddie Cochran, he mentions that his “car’s out front and it’s all mine, just a ’41 Ford not a ’59.” Putting this in a 2011 context would mean Eddie owns a 1993 Ford. Probably a Fiesta, I’d imagine.
There are probably more examples. (That’s your cue to leave a comment if you think of any.)
Like the up-to-the-minute fella I am, I’ve recently been enjoying the Arctic Monkeys’ debut album. Quite good. And I’m especially enjoying hearing an accent similar to my own. Well, it’s not the accent, it’s the words, and some of the pronunciation. Phrases like “got a face on” totally remind me of being back home. And the song title “Mardy Bum” makes me smile no end. And hearing the word “doesn’t” pronounced like “dunt” and, in the same vein, “couldn’t” becomes a word that most people find rather rude.
Long weekend here, like most Easter-celebrating countries (although, interestingly, the weekend here was Thursday-Sunday, not Friday-Monday) so I got out of the city for a couple of days. Went to a town called Puebla which is a couple of hours away, east-southeast of here. I went with my pal Sam and his parents. We went because we wanted to see some baseball. One of the things I’m hoping to do while I’m here is see as many ballparks as possible. With the well-documented issues in the north of Mexico, there are some ballparks that I won’t be visiting; it’s just not safe enough. But nine teams of the fourteen teams are in the south. Sam and his dad are Tigres de Quintana Roo fans, and they were the visiting team, in town to play the Pericos (Parrots) de Puebla.
Up at 6.30 am on Friday to meet Sam, get the Metro to a bus station, then bounced along the road in the fairly filthy bus seats (felt dirty and damp like when you’ve worn the same pair of jeans for way too long) to his folks’ place north of here in a tiny village called Oro del Agua. Uchepos (in the same family as tamales) for breakfast, and we were off on the fairly new road that skirts the city. And considering it was a holiday, the road was pretty darn empty. A nice trip through the yellow-ochre countryside, past Popocatapetl and Iztaccihuatl, a pair of big volcanoes, and into the Puebla metropolitan area.
Puebla is the fourth largest city in Mexico, but as a weekend visitor, one didn’t really get that feeling. All I saw was the cute downtown area and the view from a taxi window as we went back and forth to the ballpark. We dumped our stuff at the hotel, and went straight out to walk around and get some food. The downtown area is old and pretty. Apparently, Puebla is famous for it’s crafts and tiled buildings. Lots of very beautiful pottery and stuff. And the tiled buildings were lovely. In fact, lots of pretty buildings.
We went to eat at a place called Mesones Sacristía. And I ate my favourite Mexican dish, mole poblano, which originated in Puebla. Fa fa fa fucking delicious it was, too. That big lump under the brown sauce is a chicken breast. That some big ol’ chicken titty right there.
I was stuffed after that. But, one must solider on, and soldier on I did. To the ballpark for some baseball watchin’. The Pericos ballpark, Estadio de Béisbol Harmanos Serdán, stands in the shadows of the way larger soccer stadium, and it’s a nice wee park. Baseball here quite clearly isn’t awash with the money that the major leagues have, and you can see it in the ballparks. The two I’ve been to so far are old, rough around the edges, functional. But this one is way nicer than the capital city’s park. It’s smaller, so seven or eight thousand people seems like a lot, and the atmosphere is better. Part of that, I assume, is down to the friendliness one experiences when one leaves a huge city.
For the first game, we sat around the third base line. It was baking hot, and we found four seats that were just about in the shade. But that had us sat right behind the dudes with the drums, sirens, and big flags. Not as bad as one would imagine. They made a lot of noise and kept the crowd pumped up. And rather that that incessant blaring of music of the PA, (although that did happen, too). It’s one of the things I find strange about baseball in the majors, especially coming from a European background of watching soccer: as the crowd gets going with organic chanting, singing, cheering, the dude in control of the PA will completely destroy it by pressing the We Will Rock You button.
Anyway, the Pericos got off to a great start, Mauricio Lara throw four no-hit innings. In the fifth, he loaded the bases, but got out of it without coughing up any runs. By that time, they were 3-0 up, and tacked on a couple more in the bottom of the seventh as the sky darkened, and the rain came lashing down. Absolutely pissing it down. The tarp came out and, oh, it kinda only reached over half of the infield. They didn’t even bother covering the mound. I assumed there was no way the game would be finished, yet no announcement came, which seemed odd as the third base and home plate areas became big puddles.
All the while, the crowd, though, kept themselves entertained. Most of the people in our section were chatting away to each other, and a gregarious fella kept inviting ladies to dance in the aisles. An old timer was dancing on his own, too. Over an hour after the players left the field, the grounds crew came out, removed the tarp, put more dirt down, repainted the lines, and the game resumed. One final out in the bottom of the seventh, six straight outs in the eighth, and a fly ball, single, and double play ended the game. After a ninety minute delay, the game was over in fifteen minutes.
Feeling not that great after a belly full of mole and cervezas, bought some Tums, and we had another wee walk around. Lots of tourists. A fair amount of Americans and Europeans in town, too. Still, it was Easter, and it was around 9 pm and a lot of restaurants were closed, so we sat down on plastic seats next to a woman making chalupas on the street. I have a bit of a thing about having dirty or sticky hands. And watching this woman make chalupa after chalupa with greasy hands made me cringe, just thinking about what it would be like. Pretty tasty stuff, mind.
An early night, which was a good thing, seeing as though around eight in the morning, a loud van kept driving down the street. It was selling gas and blaring music and shouting that gas was for sale. Huevos mexicano for breakfast, and then we went on a tour bus around the city. Look! A church! And an old building! And another! All pretty, and it’s a nice quick way to see the city, but my mind tends to turn off and focus on other things. Tthat handmade sign, the table in the room, that guy’s jeans, and—who am I kidding?—the view of that woman’s cleavage from the top of this open-top bus.
Time for more baseball. My Tigres-supporting pals were hoping for a better showing than the four hits they got on Friday. Back on the third base side of things. Another thing that is different in Puebla is how the beer is served. In Mexico City, it’s in paper Corona-branded cups. Here, there’s no mucking about: they give you the can.
As with fans in Mexico City, there are plenty of MLB teams represented in merchandise. Some of the merchandise, though, isn’t spelled as well as one would hope.
The guy above wearing the Cleeveland Indians t-shirt, I asked him if I could take his photograph. I spluttered in crappy Spanish that a good friend of mine is an Indians fan (true), and that I hadn’t seen many Indians fans in Mexico (exaggeration) and it’d be great if I could show him there were fans here (lie, I just wanted to take a pic of his badly-spelled shirt). He said no, so I spent a not-insignificant amount of my camera’s memory card taking high-speed burst photos surrupticiously, eventually getting a pic as he left to get some food.
That same Indians-supporting friend and I share an interest: baseball caps which feature a character wearing a different cap. The Pericos have such a cap, so I went to the store to buy one on Friday. At the time I was wearing a Montreal Expos cap. A shop assistant excitedly pointed out that they had an Expos jersey. I got the distinct feeling that it had been hung up in the racks for a while. They didn’t take credit cards, so on Saturday, I went back, bought the Expos jersey, and a rather excellent book, “Enciclopedia del Béisbol Mexicano.” Full of statistics of about every LMB season up to 1992. Bedtime reading for quite some time to come, and hopefully, I’ll get a graphic about Mexican baseball out of it, too.
I’m quite sure I’m not alone in this, but whenever I go to a new ballpark, I like to walk around, watch the game from various parts of the park, so my pal Sam and I went for a wander to the outfield bleachers. The batter’s eye has a walkway connecting the left- and right-field bleachers, which was, rather understandably, fairly intriguing. (Just in case: the batter’s eye is a dark area behind the outfield fence so that when the pitcher throws the ball, the batter has a better view of it; kinda like the white screen they use in cricket.) When I got dead center, I crouched down, rested my camera on the wall and started snapping away.
And then came an announcement: “A las personas que están en la zona negra, las invitamos a pasar a sus lugares.” A couple of the players turned around, and my mate said, “They’re talking to us, we have to move.” Obviously, we shouldn’t really have been there in the middle of the batter’s eye while the game was in progress, but, y’know, you put a walkway there, you’re essentially inviting gringos to take pictures. I did feel a little guilty, though.
The game itself was kinda similar to Friday’s. Except the Puebla pitching was even better this time, Andres Meza throwing a complete game shutout, allowing 3 hits, a walk, and striking out nine. Taxi back to the hotel, Sam and I bid farewell to his folks who were staying another night, and we hoped in a taxi to the bus station to come back to the big city. On the bus they showed the film Are We Done Yet? starring Ice Cube and John C. McGinley. Even dubbed into Spanish, it was fairly easy to see it was a shit film.
(One thing that is interesting for me about this blog post is that I wrote it after doing the purely baseball post, parts of which are incorporated here, that I posted on Flip Flop Fly Ball. I find this blah-de-blah non-baseball writing so much easier to do.)
Published July 5th, and pre-order-able of course. More info here.
Drawing of former baseball manager, Lou Piniella. More finger painting here.
The other night, on the way home from a baseball game, the smells were overwhelming. In the subway car, some kids were smoking weed. It smelled quite nice, and even in a moderately full carriage, nobody seemed to care too much. Not too far away from the subway station is a big Grupo Modelo brewery, the place where they make, amongst other things, Corona. And the whole neighbourhood smelled all malty. It was such a lovely smell. And as I got a bit further away, there was the smell of rain on dry earth, which is top ten favourite smells for me.
I tried iced tea for the first time in my life. It was quite nice.
I went to buy some jeans on Thursday. There aren’t many brands that I’m loyal to, but I tend to be loyal to Levi’s. This, though, is becoming increasingly difficult. God damn it, Levi’s: stop with all the distressed stuff. I’m of the opinion that jeans should look worn-in because YOU HAVE WORN THEM. And if you must sell them like that, at least have the decency to also stock “normal” jeans, too.
The good thing about buying jeans and a couple of shirts, though, was when I left the stores with the bags in my hands, it made Mexico City feel a bit like home. Apart from my brief stay in Bellingham and my second (briefer) stay in Berlin, I’ve not been settled in one place for very long since I originally left Berlin at the end of 2007. And because of that, I’m always conscious of luggage space, so I’ve only bought clothes to replace others. These items are additions to my meagre wardrobe. Which made me feel a bit more permanently Mexico-based, even though I’m still technically a tourist.
While I was at one of the shopping centres—actually, it was kind of an open air mall—looking for clothes, I had lunch. Fancied something non-Mexican, so at the food court, I went for to the cryptically-named China Bistro. Ordered my chicken-in-brown-stuff, vegetable rice, and water, and handed over a hundred for the $96 meal. Counter guy gave me $104 back. Bin. Go. There is such a thing as a free lunch.
There’s been a bit of rain here recently. It’s rained every day for the past three days. Friday, I was at a baseball game and they played all the way through the pouring rain. Saturday, though, the game was suspended because it was shitting it down. And I got utterly soaked. (More about going to those baseball games over at Flip Flop Fly Ball.) I was cold and wet all the way home on the Metro, and when I got off the train, the streets in my neighbourhood were like rivers. Getting home was difficult. Finding parts of each street where the puddles were leap-able went okay for a while, but on the big street that I had to cross, there was no chance. The kerbs were submerged, so even if I could jump over the puddles, I had no idea where I would be landing. So I bit the bullet. I waded through. Two days later, my shoes are still damp.
It’s funny when you get out of the habit of blogging, it feels so difficult to get it back again. Just like bowling. I used to go bowling multiple times a week back in 2003, 2004, and 2005. I still think of myself as a moderately good bowler. Back then I was averaging around 170-180. I went again last night. Played two games: 109, 115. Pathetic.
I’ve been living in a new neighbourhood for two weeks now. And it’s pretty darn nice. The only real gripes I had about my old place—the rather-too-often lack of water, and the consistent organ grinder outside the window—are obviously gone, and in their place… well, I live on a fairly quiet street now. And the water works. Not only does it work, but it’s en suite. Yep, I have an en suite bathroom. And because it’s a pretty new building, my room very much feels like a hotel room. Small balcony where I can smoke. Wardrobe with sliding doors and some shelves for my caps and books. It is an utter joy having an en suite bathroom, though. To be able to stumble out of bed and know that nobody is going to be taking a dump when I want to shower is awesome.
Aside from the stuff indoors, there’s goodness outside, too. My new local Starbucks is only a couple of minutes walk away. This is something that makes me happy. Although the people who work at this one get things wrong a lot. At least twice they’ve announced a drink that I didn’t ask for, and when I told them that I ordered something different, they’ll quizzically look at the cup, and say that, yep, this is your drink. And they get my name wrong pretty darn often:
The neighbourhood has a lot of streets named after writers. It does kinda make stuff easy for me to remember, I must say. And I also get to feel a little bit of Lincolnshire pride when I walk around. Two streets are named after fellow Yellow Bellies: Tennyson and Isaac Newton.
It’s a weird thing, pride. I don’t often feel pride for places. When people I meet talk glowingly about the UK, I point out its flaws. When people ask about Lincoln, I usually use the words “small” and “boring” somewhere in the sentence. I try my hardest to not care about the England national football team. National pride seems like a ridiculous concept to me. I am proud that I come from a country that produced the Beatles, David Hockney, and “Fawlty Towers”; but why should that be more important than being proud of a continent that produced Kraftwerk, Yves Klein and “À bout de souffle”? And if I’m proud of being European, why stop there? Why not just be proud of being part of a pretty darn creative human race? Having said all of that, I do feel a bit of pride knowing that two streets in my neighbourhood are named after people from my county.
And while I’m on the subject of street names. My new street is a side street off a bigger street, Campos Eliseos. Those of you who are more cultured than I will immediately recognise that name as being the Spanish language version of Champs Élysées. Me, though, I am just stupidly happy to live near a street called Elysian Fields because that was the name of the place where organised baseball was first played in Hoboken, New Jersey on June 19, 1846.
And while we are talking about based balls, I’ve done a few things lately on Flip Flop Fly Ball: a chart about the 2010 Seattle Mariners pitching rotation; another about Manny Ramirez’s brief career with the Tampa Bay Rays; and tying all things up neatly (baseball and Lincolnshire), I noticed a similarity between a photo of Boston Red Sox player Kevin Youkilis and an old promotional poster for the glorious seaside resort of Skegness: Side by side and animated. And, from a couple of weeks ago, but I forgot to mention it here; and tying different things together again (baseball and the name of my nearby street), an iPad drawing called 1846: A Hoboken Odyssey. Fairly simple, really; a drawing based on the Elyisan Fields mixed up with the monolith from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Because, y’know, it’s the dawn of baseball, innit?
Two baseball games in one day. Heaven. Wee write up here.
There have been three new posts about my recent visits to Diablos Rojos baseball games over on the front page of Flip Flop Fly Ball. There’s a new drawing and a chart, too. I dunno, I get the distinct feeling no-one reading this cares about baseball, so I’m less inclined to put it up here and listen to the tumbleweed. It’s all over there at FFFB now.
Seems to me that using the radio mast as the letter “I” in the logo is kinda wrong. It looks too much like an “A”. If only there was an “A” in the word “radio” that they could’ve used…