Friday, June 30, 2006

“Dear Sexy Knickers…”

A few days ago I sat in front of my computer trying to figure out how to write an e-mail. No not just any old e-mail message, but I was going to write to Venegas with the hope of communicating with her for the first time since George’s despedida several weeks prior. That night was a memorable evening partially not just for the good things like talking with colleagues I hadn’t seen for months or spending a night out. Much like a lot of people that night, I gravitated to the open bar. Unlike most of those people I got plastered. Usually this is not a bad thing since I have the uncanny ability to find other people that are tipsy and we talk and bitch and have a marvelous time. Unfortunately those people were at a loss that night I ended up drunkenly bitching to women like Venegas.

“Hey, hey” I slurred “you know you’re so lucky to be out of school and into the ‘real world,’ whatever the fuck that means”.

“um thanks” said Venegas, who moments earlier was explaining to me the myriad of odd jobs and countless number of times she moved since she graduated a year ago.

“I mean, for someone as smart and CUTE like you it shouldn’t be that hard,” I grumbled except for when I yelped “CUTE.”

“It’s like, it’s like, it’s like a university dean told me mmmmmmmmmany years ago. If you like what you do and you’re good, like okay, at it then it’s the right career move for your job it’s good like that no problem y’know.” For cryin’ out loud even when I had a smart thought it came out of my mouth in the form of grammatical diarrhea.

No wonder she left earlier than anyone had expected.

So as I sat in front of my computer I had no clue what to write.

And then I had a flash of brilliance in which I quickly typed:

Dear Sexy Knickers, I don't half fancy you. Meet me outside at five-thirty and we'll get it together.

It would have been perfect. She never would have expected and may receive a good chuckle from it. Moreover, it would be a funny way for her to understand my intentions with her- to get to know her better beyond a semi-distant friendship. Perhaps she would get the reference and hopefully not rebuff my intentions like Ms. Brahms was wont to do.

Instead I get cold feet and pretty much write the following:

Buenas noches Srta. Venegas. I trust everything has been relatively good so far…mind you I should’ve told you this ages ago, but it was a pleasure to see you at George’s despedida a few weeks ago… it has been very comforting to still have you as such a fabulous friend for the past couple of years…I hope you enjoy the rest of the weekend, week, month, etc. Let me know when you’re up for a film, lunch, concert, museum, whatever your mind fancies…Adieu!

I sent it out after thinking it over for a few minutes. I’ve yet to receive a reply. Maybe I should’ve risked sending the original message.

Besides, Mr. Lucas’ efforts did not always end in vain.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Last thought on the U.S.’s performance at the World Cup

In the aftermath of the USMNT’s elimination from the World Cup, I’ve had more time to think and reflect on the future of the team. The team and US Soccer in general need some sort of change. Hence, while Bruce Arena has had a successful tenure over the past 8 years it is high time for him to go. (I would love for him to be replaced by Klinsmann, but if that cannot be done then I hope he gets replaced by someone smart and willing to make a realtively good team better. Be it a foreigner unfamiliar with soccer in the U.S. or someone domestic). Keep developing youth via MLS and the lower divisions. Ship top MLS players abroad and have them hone their craft in more difficult leagues. (e.g. Landon Donovan). If it’s not too late, have the USMNT play in next year’s Copa America. The future is now, my friends. If we want to have a top squad for 2010 World Cup qualifiers we need to prepare ourselves now.

I don’t want to say any more on this year’s early exit except to defer to the following links via MetroFanatic and OneLouderNYC.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Double Whammy

June 22, 1994

On that day I attended my junior high school graduation. It was a fantastic occasion in that it celebrated the hard work my classmates and I did over the prior three years. I was grateful for the opportunity to speak as valedictorian and discuss how our class was looking forward to high school. We were happy and relieved to finally get another school year done and to receive recognition for our work.

When the ceremony was done, I hung out with my best friends and talked about how the Knicks were going to capture the title that night. They had to. It was destiny. Riley would guide us, Harper, Mason and Starks were going to be clutch, and Patrick Ewing would finally get his championship. In the midst of our dreaming I tried to convince them to watch that evening’s World Cup match between the U.S. and Colombia before the Knick game. “Colombia is going to win big”, said I, fan of the South American squad. I mean, Pelé himself said we were going to win the championship. Maybe the U.S. will be graceful in defeat. My words fell on deaf ears to them while we all were giddy at the prospect of attending the Knicks’ victory parade.

By midnight I was red-faced in tears. How could Escobar knock it into his own net? How come our defense gave Stewart that much space to score? Why did Starks choose the worst game to shoot bricks? Why couldn’t Patrick stop Hakeem? How could we blow it? It was all too cruel to bear.

Fast forward twelve years later: June 22, 2006.

At around 10am I nervously sat in front of the living room television rocking back and forth like Rain Man. We needed a miracle to make it to the next round and I was confident that it would be done. Yes, Ghana was impressive on Saturday, but we got a point against all odds when we played the Italians. We were going to prove all the soccer haters wrong. 2002 was not a fluke nor was this team. Four years of qualifiers, friendlies, endless speculation, and hype were not going to be in vain. I will not be disappointed.

Two hours later I was. Why did coach Arena insist on a 4-5-1 when we HAD to win? Why the hell was Eddie Johnson riding the bench? How could the ref make such a ghastly call on the “penalty”? Where was Landon Donovan? How could it take us 2-and-3/4 games for the offense to finally wake up? Who’s to blame?

As I was watching post-game analysis on ESPN, the news broke out that Larry Brown was fired only to be replaced by Isiah Thomas. What was James Dolan thinking? How could the Knicks hire the man who moved heaven and earth to make the Knicks such a huge laughingstock? How much worse can it get?

So here I sit. Shattered. Surly. Sad. Seeking answers on a silver platter. Tomorrow will be another day. But today was déjà vu all over again.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

T-minus 44 hours, 07 minutes, and whatever seconds

The countdown to the U.S.-Ghana game has been in my mind since yesterday.

Needless to say I want the U.S. to go through to the round of 16 though I would be okay if they were to bow out playing strong and contrary to their first game loss 8 days ago.

In the meantime, I’m preparing for the last Group B matches today. I don’t think England has to beat Sweden convincingly much like the Germans did this morning against Ecuador since it would be wise to prepare their starters for the next round regardless of who England’s opponent will be. With all due respect to the Swedes, I would like to see the “Soca Warriors” qualify for the next round even if it means getting blown out against the Germans.

Mercifully I’m not betting on any of these games or else I would owe some bookie my first-born child. (Yes, I was the idiot the prognosticated a 3-0 shutout of Germany against Costa Rica, a 1-1 tie between Spain and the Ukraine, and a 1-0 Aussie upset over Brazil).

Okay, back to the couch to exercise my thumb on the remote control’s recall button.

Monday, June 12, 2006

History repeats itself


“Lacked urgency.”




These were the comments repeated ad nauseum made by the English and Spanish-language broadcasters to describe the U.S.’ effort in the 3-0 loss today to the Czech Republic. I’ll add one more that I made shortly before the third goal:

“Fucking humiliating.”

From the first minute of play we were outmatched, outplayed, and outclassed by a far superior Czech squad. We played in a manner unworthy of being ranked 5th best in the world. It was a shameful exhibition that did not come close to meeting the immense amount of hype seen on ESPN and advertisements over the past few weeks. Our defense was caught napping several times aside from the three goals scored against us. Our midfield did a terrible job with ball distribution and war far too complacent against the Czechs. Our offense did very little to change the rhythm of the game and were ineffective aside from Reyna’s long distance screamer off the post late in the 1st half. Goalie Kasey Keller’s exempt from criticism since he played solid and was helpless in the three goals that went into the net. The Czechs played exceptionally and I congratulate them for their stellar effort. At the same time, we were absolutely terrible and disappointing. Simply put, it was an effort that was almost as bad as 1990 when Czechoslovakia beat us 5-1 in the group stages.

The aftermath of today’s debacle is clear- regroup and win on Saturday against Italy. A very difficult task, indeed. Italy is not going to bend over and take it just to give us a break. It will be a game where we find out if the U.S. Men’s National Team is made up of unworthy professionals who got lucky four years ago or a team that can live up to its expectations and be considered one of the world’s best.

For my part, I’ll be there every step of the way as should every fan of the U.S. squad. We have the talent and experience to qualify out of such a difficult group and into the next round. We can do it, and hopefully history will not repeat itself when Italy beat us in the group stage in 1990.

I’m nauseous, I’m nauseous, I’m nauseous, I’m nauseous…

I don’t wish to say much at this moment, (not that I’ve said a lot on this blog since its inception), except to mention that I’m a friggin’ nervous wreck. No not because of a job interview or an appointment with my cardiologist or anything remotely important.

My anxiety comes from the World Cup (WC). More specifically the tournament debut by the U.S. in less than two hours against the Czech Republic. More than that would be the hope of the U.S. winning the game.

As a fan of the “Yanks”, I’ve eagerly looked forward to this game since we were knocked out of the 2002 WC by Germany, and even more so since we qualified for this year’s WC in early September by beating our most hated rivals, Mexico, 2-0. The many months of anticipation and countless hype over the past few days have led to today’s game.

It is entirely conceivable that we lose all three group games since our group is so evenly matched. (For that matter, the opposite is true and we could end with a perfect record in group play). Either way, I’m trying not to keep my hopes to high since I don’t wish to have my spirits crushed.

Aside from being a huge fan of the US Men’ Soccer Team, there are two other reasons I really want them to win today:

1- To calm a lot of the anti-soccer sentiment in this country. While soccer is not the greatest game in the whole wide world it is not as bad a sport as some people make it seem. In other words, no more of the “real men play with their hands” or “soccer is for fags” comments please!

2- To calm a lot of anti-American sentiment expressed via the WC. Ladies and gentlemen of the global community, please understand that not all the people of the U.S. adore George W. Bush and the current administration. We are not all illiterate inbred hicks stuffing our faces with cheap, fried crap and weaning off the teat of American Idol or Fox News or the NFL. So enough of the “Americans don’t know shite about football” or “fuck Bush, fuck America” comments please!

With that said I’m off to finish watching the Australia v. Japan game (on Univision since they have better commentators than ESPN and I’m getting too nervous watching the countdown to the US game clock), make some phone calls, and continue to chew my nails to the cuticle as my nerves continue getting the best of me. Off to drink some Pepto; be back in a few fours, hopefully in a better mood.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Faith Moves Mountains

I’m not a very religious person and I at this time I’m in religion limbo trying to figure out where my spiritual beliefs lie. I can’t say I’m Catholic because I don’t exactly believe every word in the Bible and I have qualms over the Church’s interpretation of certain issues like homosexuality and sexual activity. I would never be a protestant because I feel that believing in saints has is not a bad distraction. I could never believe in Islam because I don’t take at face value the entire debate over shi’a vs. Sunni. Buddhism is out of the picture because I believe that greed need not be a bad quality if it is greed to help others or educate oneself, while atheism is not an option since I feel that there is some deity/system of deities that assist in the afterlife.

Yet just because I have yet to find the ideal religion does not mean that I am not spiritual or lack a set of morals. Prayer and meditation can be important in helping understand one’s faith as well as to reinforce one’s beliefs in that anything is possible when we each believe in our talents and use them to our advantage.

I said a brief prayer late last night for Scott and Desiree before going to bed. It was a brief moment where I emptied my mind and concentrated on calming myself down and hoping that they would pull through. I was thinking about their well-being and wishing for them to recover mentally and physically as best as possible. Yes the accident was underserved but it would be a more unjust fate if they were not to pull through.

Junior spoke with my earlier today and updated the situation. Dez is about to be moved to a superior hospital in manhattans that is better equipped to perform skin graft operations. She has recovered enough consciousness to carry brief, yet clear conversations with family. In less than a week she’s’ gone from the brink of death to being awake and aware. That brief set of news brightened my day and calmed my anxiety. Thus far she has recovered much better than the doctors initially diagnosed. I could not be more thrilled.

My mom has a saying that she utters often: “faith moves mountains.” That saying seems to be true based on the constant reflecting of the past few days. In the end faith and hope can allow anything to be accomplished, regardless of religion. With any luck Scott and Desiree will pull through. I know I’ll continue to hope for it.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Dazed and Confused

The past week was filled with many things- good and bad- that have affected me and that I will go over at a later time. At this time there is one item that has consumed my mind since Saturday.

Two distant friends of mine that I got along with very well in high school, Scott and Desiree, were hit by a tractor-trailer Thursday evening as they were crossing the street in Nassau County. Scottie broke a few ribs and may have been saved from a worse fate since he was in his motorized wheelchair. Desiree, on the other hand, did not fare as well and she was pinned under several wheels of the cab. She was able to be rescued with life and taken to the hospital for emergency surgery. Doctors had expected to amputate one or more of her limbs, but I was told today that her recovery has been going better than expected. Nevertheless, she has lost several fingers and she will require various skin graft operations to replace the large amount of skin shred from her back.

I have yet to pray or reflect or send them well-wishes because I’m trying very hard to come to grips with the shock caused by the accident. Scott’s a great guy that’s very competitive and sometimes boorish, but he’s a loyal friend who always protects those that care for him. Desiree’s a very quiet person whose timidity masked an effervescent personality and vast knowledge of the world. Their fate was absolutely undeserved and aside from the shock I am dismayed by the injustice of having those two go through such a gruesome affair. There have been several times over the past sixty hours when I’ve wanted to weep and strike out in anger, but I’ve held back from doing so since that will not change what’s already happened nor will it seriously affect what could happen.

Earlier today I was talking with Junior about the accident and I suggested to him that we go together to the hospital and visit Des. So far the main catch is that she’s only seeing a very limited number of visitors aside from family and only at her request. I’ve learned so much from my father’s passing that I would have no qualms on helping her out, though I cannot guarantee that I won’t break down if I get the chance to be with her. I also would like to talk with Scott, who I’ve been told has been busy blaming himself for the incident though it was clearly just a freak accident.

To be helpless is a very empty feeling. It can drive anyone mad and out of control. What to do? What to say? How to think? Odds are that I’ll keep being in a funk for a few more days with hope and faith that they will both recover mentally and physically in a speedy and complete fashion. Hopefully they will pull through. They don’t deserve anything less.

I’m not a religious man, but I’m spiritual; hence I plan on saying a short prayer before going to bed tonight with the faith that things will get better for them. They both were able to live be it through good luck, divine intervention, the winds of fate, or some unexplainable effect. Here’s hoping that whatever allowed them to avoid death on Thursday night will help them move forward in the time that follows.