Sagat Bridge, Bangkok, Thailand

I had a dream. A vivid waking dream. It wasn’t profound. It was stupid. It happened a few days ago. In the dream, Emma and I were back in San Francisco. Only it wasn’t San Francisco. It was Thailand. Even though all the buildings and people were those of San Francisco, I was convinced we were in Thailand. Everything had a different meaning, a different purpose, a different history…

There was a bridge:

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Sagat Bridge.

It was named for the fictional Muay Thai kickboxer from popular video game series, Street Fighter. It was originally called the Ong Bak Span, in honour of legendary Thai actor-cum-political leader, Tony Jaa. However, his eventual downfall—precipitated by a tawdry affair with a Sailor Moon-type schoolgirl—brought shame upon the entire nation, and the populace sought to quickly shake loose any association with the disgraced leader.

During the fallout from Jaa’s ruination, a small advisory council—charged with preserving Thailand’s unique architectural nomenclature—began canvassing the Bangkok population, seeking suggestions on renaming the bridge. A sizeable minority proposed Sinatra Bridge, given its uncanny resemblance to one found in San Francisco, California (the name of which I’d forgotten) and because Sinatra had been enamoured with San Francisco. His love was such that it manifested lyrically: My Way was written as an ode to road rage following an incident on the outbound lanes of that bridge. The original title was (Get the fuck out of) My Way (you twat!).

In the end Sagat Bridge won out. This was on account of the bridge’s central load-bearing pylon developing a stress fracture in the heatwave of 1967. The fracture reminded Bangkokians of Sagat’s facial scar, famously inflicted by Ryu’s Dragon Punch, or Shoryuken.

Bombastic onomastics aside, it is strange how often my daydreams conclude with a rōmaji (Japanese written in the Latin script) translation.

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Baseball (ft. Dr Pepper)

PRO(B)LOGUE

Music is integral to any road trip. Even a thrifty, no frills, not-worth-the-bitumen-it’s-rollin-on one like ours. So it’s with a grateful nod to the role music has played in road trips throughout motorised history that I name this post. The title is reminiscent of a song and makes special recognition of the fact that road trip playlists tend toward grand songs that embody a zeitgeist. If my time in the US so far could be summarised in song, that song would be called Baseball (ft. Dr Pepper).

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I knew.

Long before I even boarded flight QF93 direct to LAX, I knew.

I knew there would be small slices of Americana that would enchant and enthral me. I made no guesses as to exactly which slices they may be, but had figured three months would be long enough to develop at least a couple of acquired tastes.

I never expected these tastes—far from being incrementally acquired—would cleave to my cultural palate so abruptly and inextricably. Indeed, they hit me like a swinging bat. A swinging bat swung by a clutch hitter batting .349 with a .962 OPS, in the bottom of the ninth, the count at 0 and 2, bases loaded and two-out, looking to break A-Rod’s career Grand Slam record. For those unacquainted with the technical details of baseball, that means hard.

Can you guess one of those slices of Americana recently added to my cultural palette?

It’s baseball.

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The food! Why did no one tell me the food could be so deliciously disgusting? Burgers and garlic fries. No cold pies here.

I saw my first live, full game on September 9. Emma and I bought tickets to see the Colorado Rockies square off against the San Francisco Giants in San Francisco. We arrived late to AT&T Park. By the time we climbed the stadium ramps to section VR326 (i.e. the cheap seats) the game was already in the bottom of the second inning. We sat down and—

HOLY DICKS! BUSTER POSEY HAS CLOCKED A FAT ONE OVER LEFT FIELD! A 359 FOOT HOMER!

That’s right, the very first pitch I witnessed resulted in a home run for the home team. The crowd lost its collective shit. I was hooked. That was the adrenaline kick. The one-time smack injection that points a Come Hither finger at you and whispers, “it’s you and me forever, baby”. The opioid femme fatale who consigns you to a lifetime of suckling at heroin’s barbed teat.

All right, so baseball isn’t heroin. But it’s still pretty great.

(Also, I don’t know if “clocked a fat one” is appropriate sporting jargon, but come on, I’m a novice at sports writing.)

Buster Posey: clocker of fat ones.

Buster Posey: clocker of fat ones.

Detractors criticise baseball for being too slow. It’s partially true. There are steady stretches in the game when little seems to happen. But inevitably these stretches are crescendos, marked by tactical plays and strategic reorganising. Like a spring, meticulously wound so tight it’s impossible to distinguish any space between its outer curves, the game subtly intensifies. And then that spring is released. The game turns in an instant: a blinding pitch, a blurred bat, infielders dive and outfielders scramble, the crowd roars. In a whirlwind of sand, your patience is rewarded tenfold.

To people who know me well this sudden infatuation with a sport (especially one that requires running) could seem suspicious. They may suspect that America has turned me populist, and that I’m writing about sport to generate clicks on this blog. What I would say to those people is, firstly, fuck off.

Secondly, I would forgive them and explain that although America has a way of changing people, it doesn’t necessarily change them for the worse.

Thirdly, I would remind them that about six months ago (i.e. pre-road trip) I resolved to shed certain affectations I developed as an angsty teen in the throes of an identity crisis. For ’twas as a moody—it’s important here to distinguish between moody and broody. I was the former and definitely not the latter, despite the skewed orientation of my hormone-addled self-perception. Occasionally words rhyme, but that doesn’t mean their meanings are interchangeable. Remember that, guys—teen that I decided to shun the wide world of sport. Shun it…forever! :O

As an adolescent I pictured myself (that is, the ultimate adult me) as a brooding, scholarly auteur. The corollary of this aim (or so I thought) was that I would have to eschew sport in all its forms. When it wasn’t possible to avoid it completely—my high school enforced a compulsory sporting program for all students up until year 11—I endeavoured to participate as ironically as possible. And with as little physical exertion as I could muster…or not muster, depending on how you look at it.

Enter lawn bowls.

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Dotty Adams: brooding scholarly, auteur. Described by her mates as “Darebin’s Orson Welles”.

Sport and art? They’re mutually exclusive, so my rationale went. And the tone of my emotional growth was set: I would be an artist. I would not, indeed could not, be an athlete. The trouble was I repeatedly forgot to actually pursue my artistic development, instead focusing on letting everybody around me know just how much contempt I had for sport—often with a touch too much spleen for someone who was supposed to be a disconnected and nonchalant Morrissey type.

I spent inordinate amounts of time defining who I was by loudly describing to people the things I did not do. This behaviour seems counter-intuitive with the benefit of 10 years hindsight. But it made sense at the time, as it does for so many churlish boys; those who masturbate frequently yet condescend to pretty girls at parties by denouncing sport as a pastime for self-obsessed wankers. It was folly. If only someone had told me that sport and music could blend so harmoniously…

Thankfully, that churlish boy is gone.

Now I am a man.

A man who kind of likes sport.

So perhaps baseball is just lucky that it came into my life at the right moment; once I’d finally vanquished the sport-hating demons of my past. It’s possible any number of sports would be capable of capturing my imagination; I simply haven’t viewed them with an open mind before. This is an exciting prospect given that Emma and I plan on seeing each of America’s favourite major sporting codes: football, ice hockey, NASCAR and basketball. Perhaps baseball is just lucky…for now.

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EPI(B)LOGUE

I included the Dr Pepper bit of this blog’s title because I’ve also come to love Dr Pepper. I once drank Dr Pepper as a child, around 12 years old, but found it horrid—the familiar “shit tastes like fuckin’ cough medicine anally decanted!” complaint. That’s an exact quote BTW. I had quite the potty mouth as a tween. It’s odd too that at 12 I would know the verb “decant”. But you get what you pay for in a private school education. Anyway, I swore off the stuff for years.

I had my first taste as an adult about 2 weeks ago outside the front of a Foods Co (FYI it’s cheaper than Aldi) in San Francisco. Upon exiting the store, Emma and I were confronted by a young man missing the lower third of his two front teeth. He asked us to sign a petition regarding a Californian ballot Proposition.    

We told him we were from Australia and didn’t have any kind of voting rights in the US. He said, “that’s round where Tasmania is, urlright?”. Emma said, “Yes”. He said, “D’y’all know about the Tasmanian Tigers?”. I said, “You mean the Tasmanian Devils? It’s pretty sad. They’re all dying from some rare form of cancer”. He said, “Naw, I mean the big ones, those Tasmanian Tigers”. Emma said, “Well yeah, but they all died out a while ago”. He said, “Ohhh, but people still see them, right? I been reading about them in magazines and stuff”. 

Realising that by “magazines and stuff” he was probably referring to the Fortean Times, Emma and I sought to exit the conversation forthwith. We stumbled around a quick response that explained the sightings as misreports by senile farmers confusing large foxes with the extinct “tiger”.     

He looked crushed. I offered a conciliatory smile. Then we walked away.

I needed something (anything!) to wash away the ugly taste of that experience. It so happened that Emma had bought a 20 ounce bottle of diet Dr Pepper in the Foods Co. I ripped off the cap, took a swig and let out one of those “just listen to how refreshed I am” sighs. Delicious.

“Bread is life [except no, it isn’t]”

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I think the radiant heat from his oven has slowly cooked this baker’s brain. At least the part of it responsible for deductive reasoning.

We’ve heard it said that a person’s livelihood is their bread and butter; that the material provider for a household is the breadwinner; that something is innovative and revolutionary when it’s the best thing since sliced bread. But neither Emma nor I have ever heard a phrase that claims “bread is life”, as per the quote from a cartoon baker on this packet (see right) of Trader Joe’s multigrain.

Graciously allowing for phrases that involve, but don’t specifically mention, bread still finds us wanting. Half-baked doesn’t come close. A baker’s dozen simply means 13 (and alludes to the generosity/dyscalculia of bakers). What about as warm as toast? Nope. No matter how you slice it, bread ≠ life.*  

But we’re fair people. So, for argument’s sake, let’s say we accept that there is, in some remote enclave, a popularised saying that asserts “bread is life”. Exactly what population of humans, in what remote enclave, could possibly think 6 grams of sugar per slice promotes bread as being synonymous with life? Life shouldn’t be so sweet. If Emily Creasy is on the money, 6 grams is way above average. This is especially damning given the continued and widespread reporting on the insidious health effects of our high-sugar diets.

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But, again, we’re fair and open-minded people so…

Perhaps the enigmatic group, to whom the “They” in “They say bread is life” refers, is the same They as represented in the film They Live. That is to say:

Alien-Guy

Is it even possible that “bread is life” is a phrase coined by extraterrestrials? Yes, is the short answer.

That the idiom of an alien race has been translated into English and erroneously thrust unto a human public seems the only plausible answer. Specifically an alien race whose biology has evolved an Übermensch pancreas (though they didn’t cover this bit in They Live). For it would take a truly herculean pancreas to generate insulin in quantities sufficient to regulate that amount of sugar. Maybe not even aliens with huge pancreata, but who just are huge pancreata; huge wobbly organ beings, wobbling around, foisting their will and incompatible life lessons on us. It’s the stuff of nightmares. Certainly could’ve been for Bill Hicks (I’m not being a shithead. Bill would’ve liked that joke).

Or maybe it has nothing to do with aliens. Maybe the answer to the riddle lies in the ignorance of a backward cartoon people, contentedly preoccupied with the bread-centric “drama” of their own lives.

Inane. This woman has no idea whatsoever about what's going on in Syria.

Inane. This woman has no idea whatsoever about what’s going on in Syria.

*We’re going to start typing, in bold, phrases that we think you should have tattooed on yourselves. We recommend styling these phrases in Old English, Gothique or Kanji.

Or whatever this font is, if you want…

Born-Bad

Artist: Anonymous
Font: Unknown
Image: Bent crack spoon