Are You Ready For Some Football!?
January 10, 2010- the best day in Bangkok yet. Though a 6:30 wake-up on a Sunday seems like the terrible start to a day, it was a divine act of deliverance. After the typically difficult, multi-hour trip into Sukhumvit Bangkok, Cengiz and I were watching the NFL playoffs… live. It was magical. The “Sports Corner” bar on Soi 20 in Sukhumvit is a glorified shanty. The walls are basically ply wood and it’s a whopping 2 rooms, but inside is a collection of bottle beers, pool table, bar, and 6 different sport viewing platforms- it is, in a word, heaven.
From 8:00am-12:00pm, Cengiz and I sat, entirely too close, to two flat screen TVs playing the live Cowboys/Eagles game and a taped replay of the Bengals/Jets battle. Even with the ridiculously lopsided play, we could barely tear our attention from the screen even to participate in analysis and sports banter. Miles Austin never looked so good and I didn’t even dare complain about Chris Collinsworth- I even enjoyed Bob Costas. Derrel Reevis’s glorious interception and dominance of Ochocinco was magical and even the gloating Witten jerseys and Jerry Jones close ups were welcomed.
The morning was a great homage to the not so long ago days of college. Beer for breakfast was delicious and lead to a day long tour of Sukumvit’s various pubs. We started with our favorite haunt, The Bull’s Head. For lunch I feasted on my favorite dish in the world -Eggs Benedict with salmon- and gazed longingly at Cengiz’s massive bowl of REAL chili. We washed the plates down with a fresh, milky Guinness and indulged in vivacious conversation with our new amigo, Mike Panza. The crawl took the better part of the day and left us in a nostalgic state- happily buzzing before sundown, why had this practice been disregarded?
In fact, the whole experience left the long bus ride home with one all consuming question: what, anymore, was normal? Less than 12 months ago, there would have been nothing better/more normal than a Sunday spent drinking beer, watching football, and eating chilli or a cholesterol laden brunch plate; anything else would have been a crazy concept. Yet, Sunday was a day of sublimity and it wasn’t because of Bangkok. The skytrain, the Thai chatter, the beckoning massage girls, the traffic, it was all mundane and expected. I felt at home having a drink in the shade with Mike and Cengiz, practicing Thai with some neighboring women and providing an impromptu English lesson. The familiar smells of skewered meat, cooking round corners, or of stewing fish ball soup were merely the setting, I was devoid of the instant interest I remember having in every smell we encountered just months ago. Hell, I can even recognize the smells at this point, identifying dishes before we come into visual contact with the beckoning vendor. Mike’s comfortable use of ‘mai chai,’ ‘allai na,’ ‘mai by,’ and ‘khap’ within English dialogue was barely noticed and I expected no other taste than the slightly skunky, potent taste of Chang Draught. But the chili; Hollandaise sauce; debate on gun control; the Cowboys, Jets, Bengals, and Eagles; ESPN commercials with sure handed Larry Fitzgerald- all these things seemed insane and out of place?
We have only been here for 3 1/2 months, yet Thailand has already soaked through. Perhaps it’s our specific location, the homogeneously Thai, secluded nook of Lamlukka. Maybe it’s just Thai culture- South East Asia has ensnared many thousands of farang before us. Probably, it’s in the water. I don’t know. I spent 6 months living in Madrid, two living in Florence, yet in neither case did I feel so different, let alone this quickly. How did basic truths of existence, like chili and football on Sunday, become so crazy and improbably. The odd condition now exists where all things American seem sublime and adventurous. We left for Thailand looking for crazy, yet the craziest experience in the last couple of weeks was watching football!? Up is down, down it left, and right is William…
Whatever, it was great. So much so that I’m headed back tonight. The owner of Sports Corner will be replaying the games tonight at 7:00pm and 9:30pm and even have another TV going featuring Lebron James’s beautiful mug and min boggling hops. And, in all probability, I will not resist the sound of simmering chili for dinner. Monday night football? Crazy…