Diaries of a Texan Traveller – pt. 8

A verbatim record of a diary I wrote while visiting friends (Paul & Rice) in Austin, Texas during the Easter holidays of my second year at University in 1994.  Re-blogged on the anniversary of each entry.  2017 Commentary, where necessary for context, added as footnotes in italics.

Tuesday 29th March 1994,  13:12 (CST)

WATCHING MTV (AGAIN!)

Well, what a whirlwind of activity and excitement today was…   …not exactly!  I had a totally lazy day here today, checking up on a few things such as flight times, how much money I have left and ‘America’s Most Wanted’ top 10 (MTV again).  I wouldn’t have minded a little sunbathing quality time but unfortunately, the weather wasn’t up to it — sunny but a mere 65°!  What is this place coming to ?!?  Anyway, the old forecast says it’s going to warm up more during the week, so there’s still time to make it look like I sunbathed non-stop!

Last night, Paul and I went onto campus for a kick about with the football.  More or less as soon as we ran onto the field, four other lads asked us did we want a match.  Paul had played them before and before you knew it, we were away.  I had originally assumed that they were Americans and was looking forward to skinning them but Paul told me that one of them was from Argentina, which made me think twice.  Obviously, I needn’t have worried, they weren’t outstandingly good, but good enough for us to have an enjoyable match.

Today I got my first real “gee you have a really cute accent — are you English?”.  This is a much stronger form of accent recognition, more than the generic “Are you from England?”, especially in this case where the woman in question asked me to say her name — presumably so she could hear it pronounced properly!  Unfortunately, she was an assistant in ‘Jack in the Box’, a burger bar.  Oh well…

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Yess!!  Beavis & Butt-head!!  Cool!

[There may follow a slight distortion in the logical thread of the narration as I watch this…..]

…Sod this, I’m going go to bed!

Diaries of a Texan Traveller – pt.7

A verbatim record of a diary I wrote while visiting friends (Paul & Rice) in Austin, Texas during the Easter holidays of my second year at University in 1994.  Re-blogged on the anniversary of each entry.  2017 Commentary, where necessary for context, added as footnotes in italics.

Sunday 27th March 1994,  11:47 (CST)  [17:47 GMT]

INSIDE MY RED MAN UTD TOP

I know the Coca-Cola Cup final has already been played; let’s just get that one thing cleared up before I begin.  It’s driving me mad enough as it is!  Of course, I fully intend to ring home within a couple of hours.  As long as somebody taped it – Oh yeah and as long as we won as well – there is no problem.  Anyway… [change the subject, change the subject!]

What happened yesterday?  Well, I have missed out Friday evening as well.

Friday, we walked to the Holiday Inn and had the Mexican buffet (‘Fajita Friday’) — damn hot and only $3 for the pleasure of having one’s internal organs systematically corroded.  We came back and caught a bus into downtown Austin.  It was Friday night and we checked out Emo’s, a live act night spot, one of many on 6th Street, for which Austin is apparently quite famous for <— oops, double prepositioning!

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Anyway, Friday was pretty quiet so we returned fairly early (about 1:30) and resolved to try the Saturday experience.  This we did and (last night), we had a more definitive tour of the city’s entertainment venues.  There is the Bates Motel; a small, mirrored rectangle which, in low lighting, looks like an organised Brooks*.  The chairs are easy chairs (padded, armrests, casters etc.) and flanking the stage are two TV monitors showing ‘Psycho’, on a loop, presumably.  We also went to a ‘shots’ bar and has ‘Sex on the beach’, a cocktail comprised of I know not what**, but Rice recommends it, and hearing him order it, reminded me of Westbrook UCI***: “can I have ‘A Few Good Men’, please?” — use your imagination.  I have to admit, I’d never had (a) sex on the beach before but it’s great and if anyone can remember how to do it, I’ll have it again (I think I got all the comic potential out of that one!)

Verily, we arrived at Emo’s again and it was busier than the night before but not, according to my companions, at its best.  Do I believe them or shall I nod and inwardly smile at such an obvious opportunity for them to tell me that Austin really is quite good, actually.  The thing was, deep down, I agreed and therefore why shouldn’t I believe it?  Besides, I’m not a cynic, am I?

Kicking out time from Emo’s was just after 2.  We walked to a dance club and decided to finish the night off in a state of cramp and breathless exhaustion — this predictably became a reality and at 4 o’clock, we took the now familiar route following the I35 over the river, turn left, left again and into the apartment.  4:30am, completely spent and CRASH, I fell asleep.

And now my mind turns to football again.  Actually, there’s a match on HSC, Channel 39: USA v Bolivia at 6 o’clock.  Hope someone else wants to watch it!

Oh ye; I forgot to mention we went on campus yesterday afternoon and we decided to sample the (get this) Union Bowling Alley!  Now we’re not talking GX or Superbowl 2000 but despite the pencil-scoring system, it was a great time and quite ridiculous that there should be a basement bowling alley beneath the Union building****.  In addition, we played 5 games and I won 3!  Watch out Adam/Catherine/Suddy — I’ve been practicing!

14:15 (CST)

SUPPLEMENTARY: WATCHING MEXICAN FOOTBALL

OK, so United lost, 3-1 apparently.  It’s a bit of a sod but life goes on.  Take this, for example: on Channel 12, Mexican football.  It’s America 3 Veracruz 0.  America have just score their third to the accompaniment of “GOOOOOAAAALLLL!”.  Sunday is sports day here, whatever your heritage is.  I have already watched Orlando Magic v New York Knicks (Shaquille O’Neal v Patrick Ewing).  There’s also been a bit of ice hockey (Channel 3): Detroit Red Wings v Chicago Blackhawks.  Channel 2 is college basketball — Florida Gators v Boston College.  Not forgetting PGA golf on Channel 4 and on Channel 24, preseason baseball — Chicago Cubs versus Oakland A’s.  Tennis on 39 and motor racing on 40.  Does that cover it?  I think so…

“GOOOOAAAALLL!!!”… It’s 4-0.

Bloody hell, not 2 minutes later, Veracruz get a consolation — 4-1

Final score 5-1.

* Brooks was a nightclub in Lancaster, which (and I’d forgotten this) had a lot of mirrors in it.  I say ‘was’ because a Google search today yields no mention in a dated article since 2006 and the only social footprint it has is a Myspace page.  If that’s not a sign of demise, I don’t know what is.

** According to Wikipedia, there are two variants.  I’m pretty sure we had the one with peach schnapps in it (vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice, and cranberry juice).  I’m actually quite tempted to have that again some time…

*** Cinema complex in Warrington, still going, I believe.  We once went to watch the Tom Cruise film ‘A Few Good Men’ there. Being right-on students, we asked for tickets in the obvious ‘comedy’ way.  What larks!

**** So pleased to see this still exists!  Long may it continue.  It was one of the best afternoons of that year.

Diaries of a Texan Traveller – pt. 4

A verbatim record of a diary I wrote while visiting friends (Paul & Rice) in Austin, Texas during the Easter holidays of my second year at University in 1994.  Re-blogged on the anniversary of each entry.  2017 Commentary, where necessary for context, added as footnotes in italics.

Tuesday 22nd March 1994,  11:15 (CST)

LYING ON THE FLOOR IN FRONT OF THE TV, AUSTIN, TX

I didn’t have time to write yesterday because I was up early and went on campus with Rice.  I went to Physics lectures , walked around campus, went with Rice to check his email (nothing from Matt!!).  In the afternoon, I decided to have a look at this stadium of the University’s.  It was no secret that Texas University has a 75,000 seater stadium; I’d seen it on Paul’s prospectus last year.  I’d also heard about it at Christmas from Paul & Rice.  I’d seen it from the plane when we came in to land and it wasn’t exactly anonymous by the time I’d got to campus.  It’s about 5 minutes’ walk from the Physics building (where I’d left Rice to enjoy his fourth lecture).  The main stand is absolutely enormous, towering above campus along with such structures as the main admin building and only one or two others (one’s called ‘Dobie’ and is their equivalent of Bowland Tower, said Rice).  Anyway, I walked up 10 of the 11 levels of the *bottom* part of the main stand and couldn’t get any farther.  Undaunted, I walked around the other side of the stadium and got in.  I sat on the back row, facing the main stand, exactly on the 50-yard line.  The twist is this: the main stand is so huge, it gives a 75,000 capacity…   …and yet it is only 3-sided!  I sat there in awe for about 20 minutes, trying to take in a stadium the size of Wembley, built exclusively for the use of students!

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The West Stand of the Texas Memorial Stadium (now the Darrell K Royal Stadium) dominates the skyline around the University.  In 1994, the stadium had three sides and a capacity of over 75,000.  Today, the capacity is over 100,000.  Photo: Daniel Drier

No matter how often you visit America and think you’re prepared for any excess it can throw at you, you’re never quite immune.  I’ve now seen Cape Canaveral, the World Trade Center, Denver’s doomed Stapleton Airport* and DisneyWorld.  Surely I am beyond such schoolboy wide-eyedness.  I am the last person to be shocked by the American capacity to get something so ridiculously right, and yet, even through all my experiences and knowledge of the American Way, when it’s there in front of you (or if you’re sat in it), its compulsion to amaze is irresistible and the inevitable symptom is that annoying British trait of staring like tramps at the feast; a combination of the innate comparison with home and the knowledge that, try as we might, there can be no way we in Britain will equal this.

Anyway, I’m not going to write any more on that stadium — so it’s impressive but just because I’m British, doesn’t mean I have to look like a dumbstruck tourist!

We went to watch ‘Wayne’s World 2’ again last night but there was an unfortunate side-effect: I wanted my guitar by the end of it and I also realised I left my amp in Lancaster…   …oh well, writing about it isn’t going to bring it all here!

I’m starving now.

[having eaten, later]

Paul & Rice have gone only campus — I decided to stay here because I’ve got a few things to do.

It’s 1:15, 7:15 at home — I’ll ring today.

I’ve just been flicking round the channels: MTV, Prime English Soccer, the evangelical channels and of course, not forgetting the, shall we say, liberated attitude to advertising.  Anyway, I’ll resist the draw of the soap-box for another time…   …but it would suffice to neatly contrast the phenomenal ability of this country to impress with its attitude to exhibit, against its phenomenally sad unimpressive class of inhabitant.

* At a time when arguments and protests about a second runway at Manchester Airport had raged on for years, Denver, having outgrown its own airport, Stapleton International, simply demolished it and built a whole new airport (Denver International Airport) on an entirely different site.

Diaries of a Texan Traveller – pt. 3

A verbatim record of a diary I wrote while visiting friends (Paul & Rice) in Austin, Texas during the Easter holidays of my second year at University in 1994.  Re-blogged on the anniversary of each entry.  2017 Commentary, where necessary for context, added as footnotes in italics.

Sunday 20th March 1994,  11:39 (CST)

PAUL’S FLOOR, AUSTIN, TX

Well, early to bed, early to rise makes Paul a dull boy!  No question of that particular accusation applying.  Yesterday, we did what most people go abroad specifically to do: we swam and sunbathed, played pool rugby, hung out next to a river, ate inordinate amounts of various fast food and sat outside until the early hours, watching the world go by.  I’m sure there’s one missing there…   …I don’t think we did anything else, though.

Well, apart from the fast food reliance, this *is* European too.  Granted the scenery is not up to Italian Alp/Dolomite standard but since when did they have 24-hour supermarkets, eh?  No, I won’t open up that old debate but I will say the two sides did seem fairly well reconciled here last night.  Dan* brought his (American) girlfriend to see us last night (the English one doesn’t know about her yet).  She was born in Greenwich Village in Noo Yawk.

I really wish I’d rang Dad on Friday night — not only because (whoops) I woke him up but also because if I’d rang him yesterday, he would have told me the scores.  Well, I won’t be making *that* mistake again.  We found the channel on the TV that shows English football (remember Keystone**: United v Spurs).  Yesterday was Sheffield Wednesday v Newcastle United.  I knew I was at home for this match and confidently told Rice et al it was 1-1, Cole for Newcastle, Andy Preece sent off, and I can’t remember who scored for Sheff Wed.  Well, Rice was predictably jubilant (again!) when Andy Cole’s goal went in; Paul muttering something obscene and magpie-oriented in the corner***.  Then the final whistle went and he (Paul) looked painfully at him as if I’d denied him the pleasure of seeing Wednesday equalise.  All I could say was “That’s why I couldn’t remember who scored!”.  I was right about the rest, though.

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I’ve cultivated the beginnings of a rather nice tan in one day, which I’m afraid means cream and T-shirts for a couple of days and hopefully, I’ll look like Grandad after a month in California by next week.  To all the detractors reading this, I’d just like to say a quick ‘I’M NOT BURNING’, so there.

Although this is a Sunday, it will not, I know, carry the atmosphere of a Sunday because Sundays are not allowed in the States, at least not Sundays like I or Luke know them (side-swipe)****.  There will probably be a doubling of evangelical TV programmes and that’s all.  Can’t hear any lawnmowers, though.  Sorry, Luke, it had to be said!

* Paul & Rice’s room-mate.

** Keystone was the place we stayed in when we were skiing in Colorado, two months earlier.

*** Rice is a Newcastle fan, Paul is a Sunderland fan.  In football terms, the two are sworn enemies.

**** I think this stems from a late-night, drink-fuelled ‘debate’ Luke, Matt and I had in our student house in Lancaster about the pros and cons of the American lifestyle (freedom from restriction) versus the European model (where some areas had by-laws that could force residents to cut their lawn each Sunday). 

Arriverderci, Allerdici

For once in English football’s long and undignified history of ‘hitting rock bottom’ has come a scandal that I’ve actually welcomed.  Proving that sometimes, two wrongs actually do make a right, Sam Allardyce has come to the rescue of all those who thought him woefully under-qualified and over-rated to lead the national team – by spectacularly talking himself out of the job after barely two months.

181122_3649827757075_1625156621_nTo his supporters, he was always the straight-talking, no-nonsense antidote to the seemingly more cultured, continental-leaning and ultimately fruitless philosophy favoured by the FA in recent years.  ‘Big Sam’ will sort it out, they claimed, with all the sophistication of a 1970s tabloid headline.

But we soon found out that he wasn’t as straight-talking as he seemed.  Aside from the whole argument about the potential for corruption, the flagrant disregard for his employers’ policies on third-party ownership and the fact he even felt the need to associate with anyone not core to his primary objective, it was the duplicity that really did for him.  He was exposed as a charlatan who thought he was clever enough to say one thing publicly and quite another once the mood took him.

You might argue that his opinions on the re-building of Wembley, the conduct of Princes William and Harry and the effectiveness of his predecessors are all matters of opinion, to which he is fully entitled.  You might believe there is an adequate separation of the employee and the private individual to justify this claim.

When faced with this question of personal freedom versus professional integrity, my instinct is that I would agree, with only one condition – would he have been happy to disclose any of those views in the job interview?  If he had, knowing the risks to his ambition of doing so, then yes, the FA would have known what they were employing (at huge expense) and would have had no complaint.  If not, then why not?  Because it might not have gone down well, perhaps?  So why should it be such a huge surprise that being caught in possession of a toxic opinion later on would lead to his removal?  And this from a man who has spent ten years bleating about how he would never be allowed to get near his ‘dream job’.

Perhaps it’s not the most judicious thing to quote Greg Dyke (I’ve always held him in quite high regard but I often feel in the minority by doing so) but he’s the only person who I’ve yet heard echo my very first thoughts about this whole sorry affair: why indeed does someone on £3 million per year need to worry about compromising himself for £400,000 (roughly seven weeks’ wages)?  And if he doesn’t understand that simple concern, what else is he failing to understand?

The England Manager’s job is supposed to be the pinnacle of the game and to me, the vast sums of money involved in this particular job in football are more justified than anywhere else in the game.  People talk about it being a poisoned chalice but it’s only poisonous if you fail to meet to the standards of performance or conduct.  Quite frankly, most England fans half-expect some shortfall in performance so even that is largely tolerated.  How hard can it be, therefore, to just conduct yourself appropriately?  Roy Hodgson was lots of things but even his fiercest critic (and there were a few) would struggle to add ‘impropriety’ to his charge sheet.

our_2d00_culture£3m a year is a lot of money, even in football, but it does buy the FA the right to remove all the unhelpful nuance and feeble excuses from situations like this and act decisively.  Thankfully, they had the backbone to do so, knowing it would result in some wholly embarrassing headlines in the short term.  Thankfully, the FA of today seem a world away from their dusty gentleman’s club of octogenarians and, with initiatives like ‘England DNA‘, give themselves a clear forward when situations like this occur.

Yes, it seems faintly soul-crushing to see everything being boiled down to “a process” but it’s the professional thing to do (and to be seen to do) and such exercises are invaluable in situations like this.  Was Allardyce’s integrity of the highest standard?  No.  Well it says here that ‘nothing less is acceptable’.  Sorry, Sam but that’s all there is to it.  On your bike.

We could have also done without his mealy-mouthed “entrapment won” reaction, appearing to many to prove that this is a man with the hide of a particularly shameless rhino.  Will he return to the game?  If he has a shred of dignity, no or at least not in England.  Sadly, it won’t be long before some club or other is desperate and shallow enough to welcome him as their new messiah.  When that happens, if it happens to be your club, just remember this:

Archived: Heja Sverige Euro 2008!

Originally published as a FB Note, on 8 June 2008 at 13:05

http://en.euro2008.uefa.com/index.html

Back in November last year, England lost to Croatia at Wembley and we failed to qualify for Euro 2008. The hapless Steve MacLaren was duly fired (although that may have been a smarter move much sooner) and we realised we would be facing a summer without the relatively recent tradition of decking anything that doesn’t move with a St. George’s cross.

Now the European Championships have started and last November’s wounds have been re-opened somewhat, I’m in the (hopefully rare) position of choosing which team to support instead. Indeed the whole pre-tournament publicity on the BBC has centred around exactly that question. I suppose it’s the only way to make the best of the situation.

So, as a United fan, I have been tempted to transfer my allegiance to Portugal (as many others have), given the link with Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani. They were finalists in 2004, they play attractive football and they have a reasonably good chance of winning. Who else then? Well, let’s just say that it’s rather difficult to want our traditional rivals such as France or Germany to win!

Back in February, when England’s abject failure to qualify was still raw, I found myself discussing the tournament with my Swedish friend, Joachim and I promised then that I would support Sweden. The fans are passionate, the players are capable and let’s face it, no-one predicted that Denmark would win in 1992 – or Greece in 2004.

That’s why I’m flying the Swedish flag at home for the next few weeks!

Archived: Who Will Support the Supporters?

Originally published as a FB Note, on 28 May 2008 at 00:19

Two weeks ago, I was very close to writing a post on the disgraceful trashing of Manchester by Rangers ‘fans’ during and after their appearance in the UEFA Cup Final.  Exasperated in equal measure as I was by all concerned, I saw no real injustice, so I decided to leave the subject alone – until now.
David Beckham on the bus being greeted by upto 700,000 fans after the Treble win in 1999.
David Beckham on the bus being greeted by upto 700,000 fans after the Treble win in 1999.

To recap, where there are 100,000+ Glasgwegians, copious amounts of alcohol and a high potential for disappointment, it doesn’t take a genius to work out what might happen next.  Given what did happen, it’s easy to paint the Rangers following as the villains of the piece.  Of course, they were the ones charging the police and breaking windows so whatever way you wish to look at it, they are hardly able to complain of victimisation.

Consider though for a second the role played by Manchester City Council here. Despite toeing the sensible line of advising ticketless United fans not to go to Moscow the following week, when it came to their own gig, the Council mysteriously and repeatedly trotted out lines beginning with ‘Despite all the advice, we know that more Rangers fans will want to be here than can be accommodated in the City of Manchester Stadium…’

When it comes to the injection of a few Bank of Scotland notes into the city’s coffers, it seemed the Council ‘bottled’ it – rather ironically.  Hey, what’s a bit of extra police overtime against a potential £50m in extra revenues? At the last minute, the City Council decided to lay on some big screens to make “better provision” for these fans that, had they been similarly following United in Moscow, the same Council would have advised not to travel.

So, as sure as a hangover follows a party, we had the flashpoint, the violence, the clean-up and the recriminations.  Another of the ironies of the situation was that the reported failure of one of the big screens was cited as a spark to the flame.  Like a rowdy regular, the Rangers fans took a certain delight in having their pint spilled and so had their fight to make their night. Like a greedy landlord, the city knew who they were letting in and only did it to sell a few more pints.  Both parties deserved what they got.

What about those caught in the crossfire, though? The real injustice only occurred eight days later when Manchester United’s Champion’s League victory was
denied a civic parade by the same Council, on police advice.  That’s right, the same supporters who voted for and pay their Council taxes to Manchester were asked to accept that the previous week’s maurauding Scots had irrevocably changed the risk levels of such a gathering that had caused no problems only eight years previously.

I was in the crowd at Deansgate on May 27th 1999.  The city’s main thoroughfare was carpeted with scores of thousands of people, all waiting patiently for the five minutes or so that they would have to see the team pass by. Aside from the odd over-enthusiastic building-scaler or lamp-post-climber, I saw nothing that would worry a police officer. The mood was overwhelmingly good-natured.  The atmosphere was almost identical to that at a festival or a major concert before the main act came on, euphoric and full of anticipation.

At the time, I was struck by the uniqueness of the situation that combined a Glastonbury feel with a city centre location.  Now the moment has passed and calls for a parade can only diminish to the extent that even if one happens, it will be a pale imitation.  Damn the brainless Rangers fans for their drunken idiocy.  Damn the spineless City Council for their greed and double standards and damn then feckless Greater Manchester Police for having the nerve to suggest that the two situations are even slightly similar.

Sadly, it seems I was right about the ’99 parade, but not in the way that it turned out to be unique. We may have a football team to be proud of , but
Manchester’s supporters deserved much, much more than they got from the people paid to act as a team supporting them.