Thursday, June 29, 2006

Top Ten Reasons I Wish I Had Attended Germany 2006

by Ryland Walker Knight

10. I've never been there.
9. Luiz Felipe Scolari.
8. Firebombing the Nuremburg stadium--how can anybody get excited in that bitch? (Yeah, firebombing is uncouth, but I said it.)
7. German pints of beer.
6. Hopping over to the Czech Republic in July for a month of dirt cheap and excessivly ginormous Czech pints.
5. Wayne Rooney is the man; forget Peter Crouch.
4. The fights I'm sure the beautiful game can't stop.
3. Those hot girls all painted proud and bouncing up and down.
2. The US-Italy red card colored draw.
1. Sex huts.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Berkeley keeps getting more appealing (vs NYC)

by Ryland Walker Knight

Anybody in the bay who loves movies should go to PFA all summer long. Forget Pirates of the Carribean, forget Superman, go see some good movies.

Like Seven Mizoguchi Classics. Only one is available on Region 1 (Ugetsu, Criterion) so go and tell me all about Sansho the Bailiff.

Or, check out the double bill on July 1st: PERFECT. I don't know anything about this director's cut but man, Woman in the Dunes deserves more props outside the hardcore film junkies. And paired with the Malick movie that keeps getting ignored--I'll say it again: perfect.

And I know you love Isabelle Huppert. Tomorrow they're showing a rare early entry in her filmography that is completely unavailable in any format except maybe some rare VHS copies that are sure to be in poor quality.

Also, you don't have to take showers twice a day to keep cool in the Bay--only after you play frisbee on campus. Can't wait. Gonna make it work for all the right reasons this time. Yeah, outside as well as in the dark of a movie theatre.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

I'd rather eat an avocado.

by Ryland Walker Knight

I can count the number of fist fights I've found myself a part of on one open hand. I don't like pain and try to avoid it; yet I can deal if it slaps me, pins me, kicks me. I am meek and I imagine strangers can read my introversion when I squint and bite my lips as I zig zag across the sidewalk. I have love to give and offer more forgiveness than I should, probably: its just my optimistic philosophy of humanity's capability for greatness, for compassion, for peace.

With all that I took my seat in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium next to Nathan, a friend from high school, ready to cheer our hometown Oakland Athletics. I expected to be yelled at when we stood up to clap but I never expected the violence of that Sunday. We had attended the finale of the A's previous visit to the Bronx and were called "Homos!" and "Fags!" and "Cock Suckers!" but that was all. It was less crowded in May on Mother's Day--it was overcast & windy--and there were five or six large Mexican A's fans sitting in our section, which I will admit made me feel safer.

Yet in June, a week from Father's Day, the sky was blue, the temperature was comfy and the Bleacher Creatures were boiling over after two losses to open the series. Their venom was immediate and palpable. If they still served alcohol out in the cheap seats we would have been tormented even more, I am positive. But their policy is lenient, apparently, and some drunken guests are let through the turnstiles despite slurred speech and bowed legs. So after two carefree innings with a few expected taunts, things turned ugly.

He came up the stairs with a friend in tow. His shirt was black with red-orange letters telling everybody, "I KNOW JACK". At first I thought it was a cheeky reference to that computer game we all knew and loved in middle school but when he turned to ask his friend a question I saw the back was silk screened with the infamous Jack Daniels label. Oh. They entered the row behind us and asked a fat man what row J was. The fat man said, "That row, with the A's fans." Great. I could feel the evil smile before I saw it.

The A's were up to bat in the top of the third. After an infield pop up and a lazy fly to right, Nick Swisher stepped to the plate with the Yankees ahead 2-1. Swisher is a Super Sophomore, far outplaying any pundit's predictions: as of this writing he ranks in the top ten of Runs, Home Runs, Slugging Percentage and OPS (On Base Percentage Plus Slugging Percentage). He is a fan favorite not only because of his on-field skills but his place in Oakland Athletics history as a key player in the "Moneyball" draft, as profiled in Michael Lewis' bestseller of the same name. He is the future of the Athletics franchise. And in his second at bat of this game, he hit an inside the park home run. The whole stadium was standing, mostly sighing, shoulders slumped, groaning. Except me and Nathan, all four of our arms raised, exchanging high fives, yelling "Oh Yeah!"

From behind: "Sit down, faggots!" I smiled over my shoulder.

Then from my left: "You root for the fucking A's?" It was him, He Who Knows Jack. Now I could smell his familiarity with Mr Daniels as he stepped closer.

"Yeah, so? I was born there."

"Well you can go the fuck back there, kid." He was at the least three inches taller and carried thirty to forty pounds of gym-toned or jobsite-strong muscle more than me. He held an empty Gatorade bottle.

"Whatever, dude."

He hit me with the plastic bottle not once but twice, three, four times in rapid succession on the arm. "Go back, go back, go back, fucking faggot."

"What the fuck is your problem?"

"You, gay boy. You're in my bleachers rooting for the wrong team." He had maybe a year or two (three tops) on me. His face was flushing fast, the red spreading from his nose across his cheeks and forehead, now brighter than his carrot colored hair. His buddy, decked out in grey jersey and blue NY hat was laughing, "HaHA-tell him, boy."

"Are you serious?"

"I will seriously fuck you up."

I turned away. I remembered Nathan was there next to me when he asked me, "You alright? You want to move?" Then to make me smile, "These guys sure have a fascination with homosexuality." I shook my head, thinking it couldn't last much longer. I told him if it got too horrible I'd move with him.

"You hear me?" He was talking at me again, then to his friend. "This fag wont even respond." He hit me on the arm again. I turned to face him, face twisted in confusion, anger, futility. He continued: "You don't understand, asshole. I'll put my elbow through your glasses." My face showed disgust. "You dont get it, dick licker. I am so willing to get thrown out just to fuck you up."

"Okay. Clearly you could." I lifted my hands, almost inviting, and his face blanched. His eyes focused, somehow, and then the anger came again, the red flushing across his face with a fierce speed. His buddy asked him what I said and he replied with gibberish; he couldnt comprehend my retort. For about ten seconds I felt empowered and turned to the field again. At this point the A's had ended the inning after Swisher's amazing feat, the Yankees had come up and gone down three in a row and now the A's had a man on first (Eric Chavez, the $66million third base star). Jay Payton hit the next pitch into deep center and we all stood up again. It flew over Johnny Damon's head and Payton made it to second with a double, Chavez on third. They would go on to score, but first:

"I fucking dare you to talk shit."

I decided I wouldnt respond to anything. I may be called a pussy but I wasn't going to let him feed off my anger, I wasn't going to afford him an opportunity to put his elbow through my glasses--I can't afford new ones right now, I need to save my money. Then the peanuts started hitting my back.

It continued. The A's took the lead that inning, 4-2, and more crap hit us from behind. My neighbor rushed over to lean down in front of us and punch the air; two blows landed without much pain on my upper lip; I tasted a little blood briefly but it didn't hurt, it was more shocking; and after, while I put pressure on my face, he kept assuring me he would fuck me up outside. He started throwing cardboard cup holders. Innings passed, the Yankees took the lead again for half an inning and our biggest fan thought he should show me he could eat nachos by standing on the bench in front of us, kneeling down to chew in our faces. I had the idea to shove him back on his ass into the people below but knew that meant I'd have to throw down for real and probably buy new glasses, so I bit my tongue and lips some more, kept my hands up as a brace and shook my head. When the A's tied it during the next half inning he hit me some more, this time with his fists, but kept it to my left bicep. Nathan asked me if I wanted to move but my pride made me say, No, not really, I'd rather leave the stadium than give him the pleasure of moving seats. It was a test of wills at this point and I was determined to outlast him, regardless how nervous and degraded I felt. During the tied innings he went to get more snacks and I had tomatoes thrown at me (Im pretty sure the stain will come out) on top of the peanuts. But in the bottom of the 6th, during a counsel on the mound after one of Barry Zito's 7 walks, we were rescued.

I sat with both feet up, hugging my knees, rocking a bit and tearing away my dead dry lip skin with my teeth. I did my best to ignore my bladder begging to be voided. A young guy, our age, sat down next to me and said, "Hey guys. I just wanted to apologize for that asshole." I turned in disbelief. Who would do this? Who is this guy? "I want you guys to know not all Yankee fans are like him. He's just sloshed." I had a hard time believing this but I appreciated the gesture. Nathan seemed to appreciate it more and immediately asked a question about the Yankees' pitching staff. The three of us talked baseball with ease and pleasure through the next uneventful inning before I felt comfortable enough to go relieve myself. We were yet more comfortable when A-1 Irish Asshole decided to leave and gave us the thumbs up crossing in front of us. But we kept our composure and didn't yell for joy when Dan Johnson hit his second home run of the game to put the A's up for good in the top of the 8th.

Our new buddy Kevin (I caught his friend calling him by name) was a little more reserved for the rest of the game but he lit up when the Yankees' closer, Mariano Rivera, came in to Metallica's "Enter Sandman"--his favorite thing ever at a Yankee game. The game fell into its expected rhythm of bullpen dominance after Robinson Cano stole second base the next inning and neither team had another baserunner. Huston Street retired the side in the bottom of the ninth and the A's won. I shook Kevin's hand as he left and we smiled. I said, "Thank you," and he nodded with a slow blink. Nathan shook Kevin's hand. Kevin's friends said, "Good game, boys, take it easy," and I felt reassured that there is good in the world. But my body was still knotted nerves.

We filed out with the rest of the crowd and I scanned for the Jack Daniels t-shirt against my will. My eyes flitted everywhere and I gravitated towards an Indian 20-something wearing a brilliant green and gold Eric Chavez jersey with Nathan in tow. Nathan told me about the tomato stains and picked one off my collar.

Somebody yelled "Terrorist Faggots!" The Chavez fan laughed and shook his head. I noticed he and his friend were walking with two stunning young white ladies and thought, Good for them.

Of course the train was packed and smelly, yet subdued--whipped, I thought. Nathan said, "Weird day." I nodded and smiled and shook my head to say, "What can you do?" before I said out loud, "Well, they won. Now I can go drink a cold beer in a hot shower and curl in a cocoon." I think he only heard the words shower and cocoon. He laughed, "Well I'm glad you came." We were silent for a stop and then Nathan said again, "That's the last time you have to endure that this season."

"Thank God." We shook hands awkwardly in the cramped space of the train before he departed at 125th Street. I thought about the beer & shower idea and decided against it. I would get off at 86th Street and go see my girlfriend at work. She might help me loosen the knots in my chest.

The station was packed with the Puerto Rican Day Parade crowd. I saw the friend of the Chavez fan and he saw my tomato stains. "They can be rough. But I guess you got it worse." We talked about the Bay Area. We laughed at the ignorance of the Bleacher Creatures. We parted on Lexington: he went south as I turned north.

My girlfriend listened to me complain while I drank bottled water. She hugged me once, out of view of her coworkers. She let me vent most of the ride home. She vented about a co-worker, a Staten Island native, who has never left New York and poses far too often behind claims like, "I'm never going to watch Requiem for a Dream because so many people like it." I said that's the shit that annoys me--that typical New Yorker pride. After a block of silence I said, "Fucking deadly sin," and we smirked.

When we stepped inside the stuffy apartment I started to strip and said, "Maybe I'll take a shower to help me calm down." My limbs were still a little shaky.

"You want a cigarette?"

"That never worked for me. Once, in high school, after a fight with my dad--I think--I stole one from Gail and smoked it in the park behind our house. It just tasted gross so I never did it again. Yeah, except for when I'm plastered and dont know any better." I dropped my underwear on the toilet. "But anyways, I'd rather eat an avocado." Then I closed the door and got in the shower.