Monthly Archives: July 2014

On Brazil’s Humiliation and its Relation to an Impulse Purchase

In 1999, I began Peace Corps service in El Salvador. After three months of in-country training in the central city of San Vicente, I received a one-time deposit into my Peace Corps bank account of about $400 USD (for initial purchases as a full-time volunteer) and was ordered to go forth and conquer the peril and poverty doubtless awaiting at my site, which was located deep in the mountains of Morazan department in the country’s extreme northeast. Before leaving capital city San Salvador – where my Peace Corps group spent a few days taking care of administrative hullabaloo and eleventh-hour benders before dispersing to the four corners – I made a final trip to the mall and made one of the stupidest impulse buys of my life: a Brazilian soccer jersey. And not some knock-off cheap shit, either. I snatched the real McCoy, an official issue thing from FIFA and Adidas that shot a third of my site allowance squarely in the ass. Wearing that yellow polyester nightmare, which boiled my jizzos in El Sal’s tropical lowland tropical climate, I set forth to my site chuffed, righteous, and justified in my purchase.

Nay, caveat emptor: the problems that soccer jersey would bring never occurred to me beforehand. Besides the obvious – I had to shirk on furniture and grocery purchases because I’d blown my wad on a non-crucial clothing item – my Brazilian soccer jersey contained a handful of frailties hazardous to both fashion sense and the shirt’s very survivability in an environment as extreme as the Central American mountains. Like the Brazilian selection in yesterday’s game against Germany, a few things simply weren’t right about it. First, the collar tips curled up in the humidity, which was relentless and unabating year-round in El Salvador. So every 10 minutes, I found myself pressing them down against my clavicle. And second, I learned firsthand how weak even official apparel is when succumbing to the sharpened fangs of the neighbor’s dog, Muneca, whose general docility was counterbalanced by a penchant for gnawing to shreds, in short order, anything that fell from the clothesline. And fall my Brazilian soccer jersey did, after its very first wash, when a light wind blew it clean off the neighbor’s clothesline and onto the dirt below. The neighbors tried sewing it back together for me, but the Frankensteined jersey was never the same again.

All of these suppressed memories were recalled painfully yesterday, when Germany so brutally humiliated Brazil in the World Cup semi-finals. A stricken Neymar wasn’t playing and the team didn’t seem to be communicating well whilst on the pitch: like the up-curling points of my shitty shirt collar, something just wasn’t right. And Germany gnawed a fallen and dusty Brazil to tatters: not dissimilar from Muneca’s prying incisors on my shirt. Worse yet is the decimated pride Brazilians will feel for years in the aftermath of that train wreck of a match: uncannily similar to the sting my ego felt every time I appeared in public with my sewn-together soccer jersey, which had to look downright pathetic to even the most casual observer who rightly expected more from someone sporting the Brazilian colors.

7-to-1, with 5 goals in 9 minutes, and 3 of them in just 179 seconds? And by the fourth goal, it seemed Muller, Klose, and the rest of the Deutschlanders weren’t even TRYING. Indeed – or was it just me? – the Germans were repeatedly dribbling the ball down to the Brazilian goal, toying around with Hulk and crew via a lil’ magic passing, then patty-caking the ball into the net, dazed Brazilians scattering in every direction EXCEPT the one the ball was actually traveling. Seriously?

My soccer jersey… A glory short-lived, a graceless abdication of a once-mighty throne, just like the Brazilian team itself, defeated “em casa” and in its sulking and silent locker room wake countless dozens of gargantuan stadiums erected at the cost of gazillions of dollars that Brazilians themselves, at least in the finals of the 2014 World Cup, won’t get the luxury of enjoying.

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Mexican Birthday Clowns: I’m Glad They Don’t Have These in Brazil

Mexico is a land of traditions: Day of the Dead festivities, Cinco de Mayo drunken revelry, and conspiracy theories about gringo intervention in the Aztec nation’s internal affairs. These, among multitudinous traditions, are part and parcel of Mexico’s heritage and cultural landscape. A few hours ago, I discovered yet another tradition, one to which I will lamentably be irretrievably adhered in the coming years when Zuli is old enough to demand it: the Mexican birthday clown.

I’ll wade in slowly by stating that I despise, even fear, clowns of all stripes. I’ve never known a clown to make a positive impression. They’re all sinister, addicts, or just plain suck. Pennywise from Stephen King’s “It”; serial killer John Wayne Gacy, also known as the “Killer Clown” since he performed as one (Pogo the Clown) at children’s parties; the Joker from Batman; Sideshow Bob, whose life is devoted to murdering Bart Simpson; and Dr. Rockso, the drug addled and alcoholic clown from the Metalacolypse cartoon. Then there’s the Insane Clown Posse, who cut the most wholly loathsome profile in the music scene, even worse than Fred Durst, which is REALLY saying something. In sum, I want absolutely nothing to do with clowns.

People go, “But dude, clowns are FUN. They’re HARMLESS. What’s your BEEF?” And to that I retort: I’m not alone. According to Wikipedia, “[…] the irrational fear of clowns, known as coulrophobia” is the anchoring concept for the hatred of the so-called evil clown. So there are at least enough of us that a psychological condition has been thus defined. And I take exception to Wikipedia or anyone else categorizing my fear as irrational; indeed, it can be scientifically measured. A study at England’s Sheffield University found that children universally dislike clowns.

That is, of course, unless you’re a Mexican kid, in which case painted faces jeering at you, bulbous red noses, and oversized floppy shoes are the funniest f**king thing you’ve ever witnessed. I got to experience this first-hand tonight at the second birthday party of one of Maria’s friend’s children, Bruno.

I ask very little of life, and this simplicity keeps me satisfied: a large Mountain Dew, some good metal, and to spend as little time as possible at children’s birthday celebrations. It’s nothing against the kids; instead, it’s the parents, who put me to sleep force feeding me their boring diatribes about the merits of diaper genies, which stroller has the best wheels, and their potty training childrens’ bowel movements. So all I wanted was to roll up to Bruno’s party, say hey to everyone, eat some pizza, and bust out, maybe come back to the apartment and “clown around” with Maria, since it’s Friday night and papi chulo needs his m-e-d-i-c-i-n-e. But then there was the clown show, intervening for an hour in the middle of Bruno’s fiesta. This particular troupe of payasos, “Los Amigos Munequitos” (“Little Doll Friends”), treated their clownery with the pomp of an Iron Maiden gig, coming prepared with a lighting truss, smoke machine, and sound system. But like former Seinfeld actor Michael Richards’ last ill-fated stand up performance, they also brought a baker’s dozen tasteless tricks which, I was convinced, would result in a brawl with the fathers and husbands present.

Early on, the clowns riled the kids up by asking a series of questions designed to elicit each child’s competitive participation in hopes of winning a prize. But the result was red-faced parents, given the nature of the questions to which the kids were prompted to screaming responses, thrusting hands into the air and shouting ME, ME, ME: “Who’s got the most alcoholic dad?” “Who’s got the hottest mom?” The kids were SO down with this, some of them even racing amongst the tables to locate and out their alcoholic dads and sex kitten moms to the rest of the audience. Then they held a dance competition, putting a bunch of brats in line and bading them shake their moneymakers. One of the kids was especially adroit, a fleet-footed nine year old boy whose Jagger-like moves cut a sexually suggestive rug under the glare of the payasos’ beer lights, “You Spin Me Right Round” blaring over the speaker system. He finished, folks applauded, and instead of dissipating the bizarre kiddie-eros tension in the room, the lead clown accelerated it by asking the kid if his mom works at a strip club (ironically, the big local one is called Joker’s). Cue nervous snickers all over. Then the clowns called up Bruno’s parents, who went thru a divorce last year and are still sweeping up the shards of their relationship, and began asking invasive questions about their status. This resulted in a lot of shoe-gazing by the parents and rabbit laughter ’round the uneasy room. Finally, the clowns fired up a cow-themed piƱata. Once the kids busted it, some walked off with candy, but others walked off with entire paper mache limbs. I feel like if the limbs, and not the candy, were the objective, then this bodes poorly for PETA’s future in Mexico.