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Are you dead or just being lazy?

September 17, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Yeah, I know. I got your posts. “Where are you and what the hell happened to you?”

Sorry. See previous post about being a bazard. We’re apt to disappear on you for no reason, with no warning ’cause, well, the whole bastard thing.

Also, I’ve been busy. And not busy in the sort of carefree, wind-in-your-hair, caution-to-the-wind sort of European adventure everyone wants to hear about. No, I’ve been busy in the sort of dark-teatime-of-the-soul, 3am-wandering-through-Madrid, existential-angst sort of adventures. The kind that finds you alone in the bar of a cabaret at 1am on a Wednesday having smoked a pack and a half of cigarettes, wondering what the hell happened and how you got the way you are.

Sure, it’s melodramatic and weird and dark and brooding and blah blah blah cue The Cure and the buy me a black trenchcoat. It’s the kind of busy that’s interesting only to the person experiencing it, and mind-numbingly boring to everyone else. I may be a bastard, but I’m not forcing y’all to read a journal of self-discovery. I hate those things.

I’m still alive, and still in Europe. I’ve got a few stories, anyway, that may be of mild interest to a few of you, and I’ll continue to post them. Also, I intend to do an after action report on the whole thing soon too. Other than that, y’all can take me out for a beer if you happen to be in NYC and want to hear more.

Also, here’s a funny story from a few weeks ago:

I’ve discovered an entirely new level of pain. I think I’ll call this new level “Gary.” Why Gary? Because my great Aunt Eunice said she always thought it was such a pretty name…
The pain is severe. It’s overwhelming, and almost debilitating. I can hardly move, hardly walk around Madrid. All I want to do is lie in bed with some hot water bottles and hard alcohol. But then, I’ve also always wanted to be one of those badass rockstar physicists the girls seem to love, like Brian Greene. Neither one is going to happen anytime soon. My thighs are screaming. My ass feels like it’s ready to fall off. My lungs are so overcome with exhaustion they want to leap out of my mouth and collapse dead on the sidewalk. My right knee has lost a significant amount of skin and my left knee has lost a chunk of bone.

I have been playing soccer in Madrid.

I’m not sure why I thought this was a good idea. Perhaps I had romantic notions of meeting new friends while learning Spanish in the stimulating environment of the soccer pitch. So when I sublet an apartment from a guy who offers to sign me up for his soccer league, I of course say yes. “Are you athletic?” he asks over the phone. “Or enjoy sports?”

“Of course!” I say with gusto. What I completely fail to mention is my total lack of hand-eye coordination. My inability to make my hands and fingers line up with any of the visual data being transmitted to my brain by my eyeballs has kept me from doing lots of things I think I might have otherwise enjoyed, like playing any team sport. On the golf course, I still land on the green after my tee shot, though it is invariably a green for another hole, or for the nearby put-put course.

I love athletics, but of the kind that require almost no skill. Running, hiking, swimming, weightlifting, rock climbing…these are my sports. They have very little to do with convincing the tips of your fingers to caress an oddly shaped ball in *just* the right way so that it spirals perfectly, rather than flops to the ground in front of you. They have everything to do with endurance, ability to live with pain, and sheer bloody-mindedness. I may never be able to catch a baseball, but I can keep running long after the ligaments have torn and the bones start cracking.

As bad as I am at hand-eye coordination, I seem to be even worse at foot-eye coordination, I guess because the foot is even further from the eye than the hand. My first attempt to attack the goal sends the ball a little to the right. Actually, it sends it perpendicular. For those of you unfamiliar with right angles, perpendicular is about as far wrong as you can get when trying to kick a ball ahead of you without actually kicking it behind you.

I try playing defense for awhile. I’m better at this, since I just have to play positionally and keep the guy in front of me, blocking his shooting lanes. Of course, any attempt to steal the ball from one of these guys has them actually, literally running circles around me. I get smoked on multiple occasions.

While I’m an okay distance runner, my body is completely unused to the freakish intensity that is the sprint-and-stop nature of soccer. I can run ten miles at a nice slow pace. But after fifteen minutes of sprinting up and down a soccer pitch and I’m ready to barf. I’d be quite happy to barf, in fact, since I could probably make a decent excuse for quitting the game at that point. But no, I remain frustratingly un-barfy, and have to man up for the next round.

Finally, they put me in goal. This is a position made for me as there is a) no running involved and b) no foot coordination required. It also appeals to the more nihilistic parts of my personality. Goalies require a very particular type of mentality, I discover. To have good goalie instincts, you have to have a certain appreciation of beauty: that sort of perfect, beautiful pass, the divine alley-oop play that allows the highly skilled player to launch that gorgeous kick that lands in upper right corner of net.

A beautiful goal.

You have to have a feel for it, be able to see it in your mind, understand the exact combination of skills and luck that go into creating such a perfect moment.

You also have to be the kind of sick bastard that enjoys destroying such beautiful things.

Hee hee.

I block with my feet. I block with my hands. Someone tries for a five hole (really? This isn’t hockey buddy, that ball’s not getting through) and I inadvertantly block it with my gonads. I come out to cut the angle. Nothing gets by me. I play the position for only ten minutes, granted, but this is clearly the only place I feel comfortable in a soccer game.

After two hours, the other guys all graciously tell me I did a good job. That’s a trait of Latin culture: they’re nice to the point of lying. They might as well have said I look surprisingly like Brad Pitt or sing like Sinatra. I’m convinced soccer is one of those things that simply isn’t in the American DNA. It’s just one of those things we don’t do in in the US, like two hour lunches, buying a small car, understanding complex moral questions and quitting. I might as well have tried buying a Mini Cooper and determining whether its okay to steal bread to feed a starving child.

It’s important to try things you suck at from time to time. It challenges you, and teaches you humility. But I think I’ll wait to play soccer again until I can go up against some Americans that suck as badly as I do.

What’s the national team doing these days?

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