Thursday, June 22, 2006

England 2 Trinidad & Tobago 0

June 15
The battle lines are very clearly drawn: it’s the World Cup versus the Asian-American In-Laws. For the next week, the World Cup venue for me is Hawaii, ancestral home of the In-Laws. We are here to celebrate the 70th birthday of the Asian-American Mother-In-Law, and this is going to be a very tough event to negotiate: as a haole (white) outsider, it is vital to show filial piety and Confucian devotion to family and family events. The alternative is a protracted marital death over endless frosty breakfasts. Time zones are in my favour, but against me at the same time: Hawaii is three hours back from the mainland, so when it’s 5pm in London, it’s 6am for me. That means there is no collision with family gatherings, but there is a slight collision with a sane lifestyle.

There are two ways to go. One is to stay up all night and catch the games early in the morning, which is effectively what the whole of KoreaTown did in Los Angeles for their stunningly inept victory over Togo. I tried this technique during Euro 96 in Hong Kong, and consumed record quantities of Guiness in faux Irish pub. Believe I won a tee-shirt for Guiness consumption, but not sure. Opt for alternative: get in bed early, get up early.

5:25am: Get to bed late due to Asian-American In-Law family event, and two alarms now go off in dim bedroom of Queen Kapiolani Hotel. Confusion of waking up in unfamiliar room compounded by placement of alarms and inability to turn them off. My tongue feels like a thumb. Feel like I have been asleep for 20 minutes. Garbage trucks roaming through alley below our bedroom all night: “Aloha, welcome to Waikiki,” they say, “mahalo, thankyou, leave your money at the desk on the way out.”

5:26-30am: Turn on TV. Find ESPN: no game. Surf through all 40 channels repeatedly looking for the game while muttering magic mantra: shitshitshit. Wife calls front desk and finds bar round corner showing games.

6:03am: Lulu’s Bar, above Starfucks on Waikiki Beach. Panhandlers staggering round outside in early morning light. This is the wreckage and remnant of Hawaiian culture, along with crack-factories on the North Shore, Hawaiian dancing at hotels, corporate-sponsored luaus, and the flower print shirts that you can find in any gift shop in Honolulu ; the same shirts that US GIs wear overseas when they want to look inconspicuous. Hawaiians of course never wore flower print shirts, same as Cherokees and Apaches never drove jeeps. Colonialism seems an appropriate, though slightly oblique theme: we are at this bar to watch England take on Trinidad.

6:04am: Pigeons roam in and out of the open balcony in the bar, taking an occasional shit on floors and tables. View from the balcony: across the rolling breaks of Waikiki, the panhandlers and the sky-rats. England haven’t scored. Undersurprised.

6:05am: Game is on the middle of 3 TVs directly above the bar. The other two TVs show surf documentaries: surf on either side of England. Big waves. Huge waves. Occasional lingering close-ups on cute neon-bikini-clad bums. Conflict of interest therefore develops early and extends throughout game. England still haven’t scored, which adds tension to conflict of interest. As game progresses, and England look as though they couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo, big surf and hot butts win greater and greater portions of my attention. This monopoly is not broken until, late in the game, wife begins asking taxing philosophical questions.

6:09am: Superb breakfast menu. Wife genuinely excited. Pink bikini.

6:10am: England very kindly still haven’t scored, and don’t look like scoring, allowing us to peruse breakfast menu in dignified manner. Very polite team, England. I choose Loco Moco: eggs sunny side up over a burger patty on a bed of rice, with gravy and fried sweet onions. Wife favours eggs sunny side up with 2 scoops rice and Portuguese sausage.

6:12am: Owen misses sitter, thus proving his fitness. Trini sit deep and wait. They seem to know all about England, cow’s arses and banjoes. Green bikini.

6:15am: Waitress arrives and begins taking order just as Trini defender takes ball off the toe of leaden Crouch. Three England fans in front of us who haven’t ordered and look suspiciously like accountants in search of an audit scream “Ohhh” at annoyingly loud volume. Decide to support Trinidad & Tobago.

6:26am: Owen/Lampard combine to miss sitter. Wife laughs at Crouch’s physique. Rolling point break, left to right.

6:30am: Discuss surf culture and Hawaiian social stratification with wife. Theorise that Hawaii must be stratified in some way by who does and does not surf. Presume that haole elite will not surf because too native for them. Wife unable to offer guidance on this important sociological issue, so we discuss beauty of Trinnie supporters and Trinnies we have known.

6:34am: England now so bad, Lampard is forced to shoot from 30 yards. Trinnie break away and almost score at other end: I only catch it on replay, since focus is on dude nailed in monster wave.

6:37am: Magnificent breakfast arrives.

6:41am: Lampard blazes one over bar. Finish eggs. Wife wants to know why coach – Sven Goran Eriksson – not fired. She adds that Crouch moves like an adolescent. Not sure which question to answer first, or where to begin with either question, I answer neither and mutter that coach is leaving after World Cup anyway.

6:43am: Wife fascinated with freakishness of Crouch: what position is he supposed to play? Is he a striker? Multiple bikinis.

6:44am: Wife must see grandma’s grave in next couple of days.

6:45am: Trinidad close again. The three England accountants seated at the bar in front of us still have ordered no food, in fact they are not even nursing a water between them. US hospitality allows them to be cheap bastards.

HALF-TIME: Adidas ad features Lampard missing a volley. Commentators then refer to Crouch as “a stork stuck in mud.” Also inform us that England apparently are 8, 9 and 10 in World Cup games when they are tied at half-time. Whatever that means. A losing record apparently. In a desperate attempt to raise interest in the forthcoming US game, ESPN runs a series of ads that repeat a core message: “One game can change everything.” Bunch of stoners that came up with that one.

Somewhere in the England crowd, a fan is wearing a Crusader outfit. Smart move mate: what exactly are you trying to say to the rest of the world? Are you aware that that particular imperial conquest included, but was not limited to, eating of Arab babies?

Fans sing the only bit of God Save Our Terrific Monarchy they know. Must be nearly time to start second half then, if we are singing about kings and queens and invading foreign countries.

46-56mins: Surf and bums. Mesmerising.

56 mins: Rooney is coming on. England fans make sounds like gorillas on crack. Try to explain Rooney to wife. “You remember that kid at your school who started shaving when he was ten? The one with the berserk pituitary gland?”

60 mins: Wife becomes increasingly interested in the game, to the extent that when I ask her what she thinks I should leave as a tip she says: “You figure it out: I’m watching the game.”

66 mins: Wife asks questions about football. Nothing about technical aspects of the game, but questions that unravel personal history and philosophy. Why don’t you support England? Why don’t you wear an England shirt? If England played Argentina, who would you support? In absence of swift answers, decide to pose her the same question: if the US played South Korea, who would you support?” Answer: A third-generation German-American is just an American, but a third-generation Asian-American is still an Asian to haoles.

83 mins: Crouch, of all people, manages to dwarf his marker and nod one in from six yards. Wife argues it’s a good goal. I say Jan Kohler’s goal was better. Wife asks who Jan Kohler was. England fans hoot like they’ve completed an audit. Barkeep suggests to England fans they should have a shot of something to celebrate. England fans studiously ignore him. This could be why, when I return to this bar next day, they are only showing the golf. The English abroad: even when we’re not spearing Arab babies and establishing dictatorships, we refuse to buy a round.

88 mins: Trini, now 2-0 down, score a great goal but it’s disallowed. Still, the England fans are now utterly silenced; perhaps my screaming in their ears had something to do with it. That and the fact that despite the win, this has been England’s worst performance yet.

Final Words From the Wife, (Playing her Asian Trumpet): Did you notice the breakfast gets better the further East we go?