Thursday, May 29, 2008

Why I can't talk bad about the Brits

I made a vow not to talk bad about Britain, the Brits, or most things associated with Britain. David Beckham doesn't count. He thinks he international, so I can say bad things about him.

The reason for doing so lies mostly with my daughter. She was born in the UK, is being raised here, and barring some unforeseen circumstance, will be a Brit throughout her life. Having a British mother and an American father will be enough strain on her, especially considering the situation between her mother and myself. So I made a vow to never be negative about Great Britain.

It wouldn't be appropriate for me, as her father, to talk bad about her country. And while I will do everything I can to make sure she knows she is half-American, having an American father doesn't make you an American, anymore than Obama's father being African makes him an (word that has replaced black to refer to a certain segment of society in America, but that I refuse to use as long as I am referred to as a white person). And I'm not talking about the bad word.

So I have to be very sensitive about saying the wrong thing. Even though I'm sure she'll grow up hearing negative comments about Americans and the US most of her life. Most of it isn't actual insults. Its kind of how we talk about the French, but without the hostility. And not nearly as bad as the Missouri-Kansas border war.

Another reason is because of something stupid I did before she was even born. One day, at the beach in Angola, sitting with a bunch of people I knew, and some others I didn't, I got a little hot under the collar. I'm not sure how the situation came up, but we started talking about September 11, and the attacks on America. A British guy, that I didn't know, made the comment, "that it was all our fault and we got what we deserved". Now, this isn't about politics, but when considering I was in the Army, lived 3/4 of a mile from the Pentagon that day, and have seen the aftermath of it, that's not really a good thing to say to me.

I got a little pissed. So I cussed him. Loudly, and quite well, I might add. I let him know what I thought of him, and his opinion, and what he could do with it, and how we could never be friends. I'm paraphrasing, obviously. I don't regret calling him a piece of shit. Or an SOB. Or anyone of the dozen other names I called him. What I do regret is calling him a British piece of shit. And a British SOB. And British other things. That was completely wrong, and out of line. And I regretted it immediately. I almost got fired for that one. But that wasn't what I regretted.

What I regretted was referring to him as a "British" anything. Because it was said in the context of two people having a discussion, not a UN summit. Add to the fact that my fiance (now my daughter's mother) is British, and my best friends mostly British, and most of the people I associated with were all British. And it was completely unfair of me to say what I said, considering that it wasn't official British policy to say anything like that.

Side note*** I didn't hang around Americans when I worked at embassies, and neither did anyone else. The State Department people are the biggest bunch of snobs you could ever meet in your life. They looked down their noses at me because I was military, and then because I refuse to sit in the ivory tower, and actually went out and had a life. They can't stand it, because it makes them less special.

The next day, and for several days after that, I apologized to my fiance and all of my British friends for what I had said. They all instantly forgave me and told me not to worry about it. They understood the context in which it happened, and weren't angry. In fact, a couple of them were more pissed off than I had been, and I actually had to stop one from going and finding the asshole.

But as soon as my finance got pregnant, I realized I was forever tied to Britain, and had to change the way I think about things. So, no UK bashing. No jokes about the British. Peace and harmony and good will. The problem I have, however, is some of the American-bashing that goes on by Brits. Not the majority, but a few. I've been sitting places (bar, restaurant, train station) and someone will hear my accent, and ask if I'm American. When I say yes, the next phrase is usually, "You know what I think about your country/Americans/your government/etc."

So, while I've made the vow to be the better person, I still have to listen to the flip-side, on more occasions than I care to hear. But that's the price you pay for living in a foreign county. Unless its foreigners living in the US, then we're supposed to sit and be the better people. But this is our life. And I don't regret being here, and if I have to listen to some of that from time to time, so be it. I'll survive. And I can do it without saying negative things about the UK.

The exception to this is any international match involving the US, and then I get to be a flag-waver all I want. Just not be rude. Unless my daughter is in another room. And can't hear me.

We really sucked

I watched the US-England friendly last night at the pub I've been hanging out in, and I was completely embarrassed. Not because we lost. Because of the way we played. I thought it would be a good match, and we could give them a game. I didn't know about winning, but thought a tie might be possible. The English automatically assumed the win, and got it. Isn't that what we used to do in international competition, regardless of the sport.

Side note*** In the United Kingdom (Great Britain), England, Wales, Scotland, and the Republic of Northern Ireland (no, I'm not making that up) play as individual nations in their traditional sports. Such as soccer, cricket, rugby, etc. Sports where they are traditional powerhouses. But in sports where they need a large population base to pull from to compete, such as the Olympics, basketball, track and field, they compete as Great Britain.

The final score was 2-0, and in soccer that's a virtual blowout. Think the Red Sox playing the Royals. The score might seem close, but there was no actual competition. The US was outplayed. And here's why. They weren't aggressive. I'll say that again. The US wasn't aggressive. What will all the foreign newspapers have to say about that. I'm sure the Washington Post will be able to find some secret government conspiracy involved, even if they have to make it up.

The English players pushed us around all night long. The US didn't want to make contact, avoided contact, and I swear, never got close enough to "see the whites of their eyes". Or is that over the top. According to the English (British) media, the victory over the US was "not a major achievement".

Now for reasons I will go into later, I can't talk smack about the UK or the people or anything associated with any of this. I just can't. But England pushed us around and is now talking smack about us. We're letting a European country push us around and talk smack. That's the problem with soccer. American soccer fans are the touch-feely type, and will just accept it as a matter of course. Think about a European basketball team pushing around the Pistons, then talking smack. I want front row seats for that one. I'm glad they're our best buddies and allies, because what would the people who don't like us say. You know, like the Mexicans. If they could actually beat us anymore.

There was another major problem. A lot of us (me) complain about the Europeanization of basketball, and the flopping that goes on, brought on by the influx of European players. Its true, it happens, and I don't like it. But the reverse is going on. Lets call it the Hip-hopizaton of European soccer, and the "one-on-one: I'm better than you; teammates, I doan need no stinkin' teammates" attitude that prevails in the NBA. It now happens in soccer as well. Because the stars don't want to pass to anyone. They want to score themselves. In a game where 3 goals or less is average, you might be able to justify it. Except you can't. And it helped lose the match last night.

Because instead of driving inside to try to score, the US (think Adu) was willing to sit back and take long kicks that had no hope of going in, and no help when it didn't. Think of an NBA game with 5 Kobe Bryant's standing around the 3-point line. They're all going to shoot all game long, and not actually make very many. But because no one is under the basket to rebound, there are no rebounds, and the other team gets the ball after every shot. If you know the game of soccer, you know what I'm talking about. If you don't know the game, you probably don't care, and I'm not going to give a clinic.

England did the maximum substitutions (6) and never was worried about it at all. Think Ortiz, Manny being pinch hit for in the 3rd inning, and Paplebon being told to take the weekend off and go fishing, because he wasn't needed. It was a terrible performance. I don't follow US soccer at all. So I don't know if there are issues with the players or the coaching, or what. But they have got to get tougher and actually attack the goal if they want to win. It just never happened at all.

Another side note*** Wayne Rooney, from England, picked up a yellow card at about the 75', for a hard tackle. Could have gone either way, but it was nice to see the biggest name on England's roster still playing hard and trying in what was essentially a blowout. Kind of like Kobe playing garbage minutes in a blowout loss, but playing defense and rebounding instead of trying to score. If the US would have played with that type of effort, it might have been a completely different game.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Not a good sign

I was supposed to have some temporary work this week, for a couple of days, at a local hospital. But they called me this morning and told me it had been filled internally, and I wouldn't be needed. I don't have any reason not to believe them, but its not a good sign.

I can still give it a couple of weeks of looking for something permanent, but all the agencies I've spoken to think I will have a hard time finding something. They all suggest I work a series of temp jobs until I can get established and better known in the area.

I really want something permanent, because it will help when it comes to renting a place. But I guess I might have to go for the temp stuff if nothing comes up. Problem is, none of it really pays very well. And its expensive over here.

I was hoping for around $4000 a month. Now that might seem like a lot, but consider a decent 2-bedroom, furnished apartment will cost at least $1500 a month. And I'm not talking about the Ritz. Add another $300 a month for utilities. $300 a month for food. I don't know how much insurance is yet. I'm afraid to ask. And eventually buying a car, and insurance for that. And gas at $9 a gallon. And another $600 or so for child support. It all adds up in a hurry. So I don't think I was being unreasonable. And I've seen plenty of jobs listed for that salary.

And I had to sell everything, so I've got to buy all new stuff. Pots, pans, linens, towels, dishes, TV, glassess, everything. And as I said, its expensive, so it won't come cheap.

But according to the agencies, they're having a hard time finding something because of my age (43) and because my experience doesn't translate well from the American military to something useful in the UK.

I'll find something. I know I will. And I'll end up with a second job. I've done that a good portion of my adult life. I was expecting that, regardless. And except for the times I have my daughter, it doesn't really matter to me how I fill the time. I've got my military retirement, so that will help. But I've got bills from the states that have to be paid off. Mostly the credit cards from all the trips over here. And I had to sell my truck at a loss, so I'm still paying on that. If I can make it a year, and get those taken care of, I'll be fine.

I'll be fine, no matter what. And I've only been at this a week. I'm just impatient to get something. The main issue is having enough money for me to find a suitable place for my daughter to come stay with me. I'm fine in a shared house, going cheap. But I won't bring her here, and her mother wouldn't let me, anyhow. But I'm getting to know a few people who live in the neighborhood. Local people always know about places, so I'm listening to anything and everyone.

But its out there. Something will come along. I'm not really a religious person, and the praying thing doesn't seem to work with me. I'm not a big believer in fate, or destiny, or predetermination either. No rolls of the dice for me. But I can't believe that I would get over here and be this close to having what I've worked at for so long, and then fail. Somehow, someway, whatever system works, will provide.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Differences between the US and the UK # 2

I guess I never paid attention before, but people here are a lot more polite than I would have thought. They actually say Thank You to the bus drivers, and conductors on trains, and taxi drivers. Don't get me wrong. I'm not knocking it. Politeness and good manners are always in order.

But I would have never thought of that particular group of people as someone you would thank, as a rule. Its the same thing with flight attendants and the pilots after a plane trip. I know they come and say thank you to all the passengers, but it seems more a forced issue (from the company) than something really genuine. A part of the job. So I never really notice them. I'm usually ready to get off the plane and get to where I'm headed.

I feel that I'm a polite person, myself. I say Please, and Thank You, and all the right stuff. Not because I have to, but because I feel we should. But there are groups of people you just don't seem to think fit in the category of saying Thank You to. Such as drivers, conductors, etc. The Brits, however, make it a point to make sure they say Thank You to these people.

So I'll have to work on it, and get with the program. If I can remember.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Why I think I'll make it here

Moving to a new place is always difficult. A new city, a new job, new friends, etc. Then think about the fact that its an entirely different country. Its not your usual situation. I don't think its quite as hard on me as most other people, but only because this is the 9th country I've lived in. Or 8th, actually.

Here's my list.

United States
United States
Germany (West, at the time. I left the day the wall came down and missed the biggest party in
the history of the world)

United States

Saudi Arabia/Iraq (Desert Storm. I didn't exactly live either place, but 6 months is long enough
qualify for the list. Because its mine.)

United States
United States
United States
United States

17 moves from country to country, in 8 or 9 different countries (depending on how you feel about Saudi Arabia). But the one thing about all of them is, there was always a support system. I was either moving with my parents, or in the Army. There was always someone to meet me at the airport. Always a place to stay lined up. And most importantly, a job.

But this time is different. No support. No place to live. No job. I'm a little bit more concerned this time around. Don't get me wrong. I'm not stressing about it. After last weekend with my daughter, I'm in for the long haul. This is the right place for me to be, and I'll make it. But there is a little anxiety.

I do have a place to live. A shared student house, with an English girl and her South African (Rhodesian) boyfriend, a Gambian, and a Spaniard. The room I have was recently occupied by a girl from the Congo. Truly international, in all aspects. Its not a bad place, but its temporary and I'll be moving into my own place as soon as I start work.

No job yet, but it will come. That's the stressful part right now. But I did get a call this afternoon and I have a temp job lined up for a couple of days next week. I can do that for awhile, until something permanent comes up. I still have some bills left from the US, so I want to get them paid as soon as possible, so a good-paying job is important. But if I can make it for the first year, I'll be fine.

But the reason I know I'll be fine isn't any of that. In just the first week I've been here, I've found two places to go to. One is a sandwich shop I've had lunch at a couple of times. Good home-made stew, year round (Why is it you can't get soup in the summertime in the US. I drink iced tea all year round), and adequate sandwiches. The couple who own the place couldn't have been nicer to me.

And the second is a local pub here. No surprise, to anyone who knows me. I've been three times and everyone has been great. Asked why I was there, been supportive, talked to me, I even had a beer bought for me. As I was walking back from the store today, I passed by and a couple of the guys were outside painting and doing some maintenance work. They recognized me and called me over to talk for a few minutes. Asked how the job search was going, how I was getting by, all the usual questions. Then as I was leaving, they both said, come on up tonight. Live music and we'll save you a stool.

Yeah, I think I'll make it here.

Why soccer will never catch on here

For those few of you who are reading this so far, my apologies for the lack of posts. No Internet and looking for a job have cut into my time. But here we go again.

On Wednesday, the European Champions' League final was held. And what happened is why soccer will never catch on in the US. First, a little about the Champions League. It takes the top 2 teams from each major soccer league in the Europe (by country) and pits them in a tournament for the biggest championship outside of the European Finals. This isn't done by country, its done by team.

As an example, say the top 2 teams in MLB, the top teams in Japan, in the Caribbean League, etc were to get together in a Champions league. Its not played as national teams, but by the individual franchises.

So this year, it was Manchester United and Chelsea, playing in Moscow. Both from the UK. Think Red Sox-Yankees being the final two teams, playing in Madrid. I'm not picking on the Yankees, Jason, just seems the best reference.

And it ended up 1-1, after regulation. Think a 9-inning game, where Manny/A-Rod (the biggest star for either team) hits a solo hr in the 4th to go up. Then in the bottom of the 9th, Drew/Abreu hits a hr to tie it and go into extra innings.

They play 4 extra innings and nothing happens. So, by rule, they have a home run hitting contest to decide the champion, where every player gets one swing, for the first 5 players. If the game hasn't been decided by then, they keep going through the lineup.

And the fence is moved into 120'. Its not really showcasing the best at this point, as everyone is kind of expected to hit a home run. Its a championship based on who fails the most, by hitting a grounder or a popup that doesn't carry. These things always end 5-4, or 6-5, or 7-6. Its not the guy who hits one out who is the hero, its the guy who fails to who becomes the goat.

So, in this particular game, Man U and Chelsea go into penalty kicks. Think Manny/A-Rod being the 3rd guy up and missing. Not supposed to happen. They're supposed to hit the hr, but they miss. That's not an A-Rod joke. Just an analogy.

So the score is 4-4, and there is one last player to swing. They alternate, by the way. So Varitek/Posada (the long-term, really veteran, leadership type guy) steps up and misses. And you keep swinging. And then at 6-5, you get a Lowell/Giambi type guy up, who has the power, and you would think its a gimme. But they hit a line drive right at the pitcher and the game is over and the championship is won by the team that didn't miss the most times.

I'll admit it carries a little bit of excitement in it, about the same way a home run hitting contest, or a free throw shooting contest, or an extra point kicking contest is exciting. Someone wins, someone loses, and we can always conjure up drama out of anything. But this is why, in my semi-humble opinion, that soccer will never catch on with true American sports fans. There's no walk-off home run allowed, no 3-pointer at the buzzer, no Hail Mary with no time left on the clock. As Americans, we want more from our champions than an skills contest at the end.

Soccer's not a bad game, and I'll be watching a lot of it in the future. My daughter will probably play, and I might even try to find some adult league to play in, just because no one plays softball here. But at the end of the day, I still could care less about it. Because champions should be decided on the field, during play. Not after the fact.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A sense of humour

With all the complaints about flopping in basketball because of the influx of European players, and many Americans (including me) not being big soccer fans because of it, its nice to see the Brits can have a sense of humor about the issue, as shown in this commerical.

Still trying to get it figured out Jason.

I get by with a little help from my friends

I'm not an activist by any means. And I promise not to turn this blog into a soap box. But there is one thing I hold near and dear to my heart. And that is helping out in a situation that we can do something about without much effort.

Go to links to the left of the posts and you see one for Nothing But Nets. Please go to it and check it out. For $5, you can buy a mosquito net for a child in Africa. Its important.

I've worked and lived in Africa, and I've been part of humanitarian assistance programs. And I studied this quite a bit in college. AIDS is the big one, and gets all the publicity and all the money. But it shouldn't, because it isn't that big of a problem in Africa. It just gets all the publicity. Now, don't get me wrong. It is a problem and should be addressed with common sense.

But I can tell you from personal experience that most people in Africa don't worry about AIDs and dying of it at the age of 20, or 25, or 30, or even 35. That's because too many kids in Africa die before they hit puberty, from malaria, starvation, or other diseases. So the other causes get overlooked. Over 1,000,000 children a year under the age of 5 die a year in Africa. All for want of a net that costs $5.

I can't save the world, but I can do something to help. This is my thing. If you think you might be interested, check it out. It doesn't make you a bad person for not doing anything. I didn't for years, even after I had left Africa. But the time with my daughter has made me realize how precious it is, and if I can help even one more child, then good on me.

But if you think you might like to help, join my team, "The Black Sables". I give individually, so you won't see my numbers there. I started this as a class project in school, but the professor felt I was wrong to do this when it is an appeal for money, so she nixed it. But just read through things and take a look.

If anyone is interested in the aid fiasco in Africa, e-mail me separately and I'll send the titles of some books to read, and some papers I wrote.

Because there is nothing more important than the children.

Friday, May 16, 2008

How to tell if you're in the wrong place.

The hotel I'm staying at has WiFi, but it doesn't work. So I've spent a lot of time at the Internet Cafe just down the street. They close at 11, so my last couple of posts were a little rushed. You might have been able to tell. So I finished up, and thought, hey, why not have a beer or two before I go back to the hotel and go to bed.

So, being me, I stopped at the first bar I saw, and went in and ordered a beer. So I've developed a 4-point checklist to let you know if you might have accidentally walked into a gay bar.

1. There are 37 men and only 3 women. This isn't a definitive indicator, but it does get you to pay attention to what's going on. You know, the little tickle in the back of your mind.

2. Every song is by Madonna or ABBA. Now, Madonna in her early days wasn't actually bad (think Borderline & Crazy For You), but seems to have become a gay icon. ABBA, for some reason, seems to be the same thing. (for ref: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, which has the greatest single line in movie history). But I like ABBA, and if you've ever seen this video, , you know there's nothing gay about it. I saw it for the first time when I was 14. I won't go farther. Because you know what I mean.

3. The Village People sit down at the next table.

4. Guys start kissing each other. So at this point, being a somewhat-college educated kind of guy, I finally figure it out. So I go to the bouncer and ask, 'Hey, is this a gay bar?'

I've only walked out of a bar 3 times in my life and left a full beer sitting there.

1. Last night. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not homophobic or anything. Or maybe I am. Who knows? I'm kind of a live and let live type guy. You can do pretty much anything you want as long as you don't bother me. Don't knock on the door, don't call, don't hand me phamplets on the street, don't kiss and fondle in front of me. Besides, having just moved to a new country, I don't think I'm going to find many women to date in a gay bar. Just not my thing, so I left. We can all pretend to be the better person, but I wasn't comfortable.

2. One night in Riga, Latvia, a Russian girl sat down next to me and told me her divorce was final that day. And she wanted to have sex with the first man willing to oblige. New land speed records were set that night that had nothing to do with the Bonneville Salt Flats. And you know what I mean. And I don't care. How many of you have bagged a Russian girl that easily. I WAS A STUD!!!!!!!

3. One night in Sierra Vista, Arizona, one of the best friends I've ever had got into a pissing contest at the bar with some guys. On his way by me, he uttered the immortal phrase, 'I'm going to the truck to get my gun!'. Needless to say, I felt it was time to leave. But I did stop him, in the old fashioned, time-honored way that men handle these things. I threatened to call his wife.

So this is my life.

For those of you who read this far and want to know what the greatest line in movie history is, here goes.

'That's all the world needs. Another cock in a frock on a rock'

Watch the movie. Its great.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Difference between the US and the UK #1

I might make this a regular post. Just because. But here's difference #1.

Crossing the street!!

In the US, they teach us to look both ways. First left, then right. Because that's the way we drive. But if you try that here in the UK, you're bug juice on a bus windshield. Trust me. It almost happened.

Here's how you cross the street in the UK if you an American.

1. What until there's no traffic
2. Go up to the street
3. Back up 3 feet
4. Look right, then left
5. Wait
6. Look again
7. Take a step forward, then go back
8. Look again
9. Attempt to cross the street
10. Pray there is no traffic because somehow you still fucked it up

No gratuities necessary, just don't call me from the hospital.

Never, ever, ever, lie to a woman

I haven't had a girlfriend since I moved back to the states from Latvia. Mostly because I was always trying to get to the UK and be a father to my daughter. I just didn't feel the need to get involved with a woman, then have to go through the drama of breaking up to move here, or abandon the dream and stay where I was. I'll be clear about this. I wasn't always 'lonely', but it wasn't the greatest time of my life either.

So, on my last trip to the UK, I went back to London to spend the night before I flew out. For some odd reason, my flight was from London City Airport. An airport on the Thames River. In London. A city that experiences more fog than any other city in the world. From an airport on the river. In London. Wanna guess what happened?

If you've never experienced a 1 1/2 hour taxi ride across the heart of London during rush hour traffic, after drinking 2 cups of coffee because you didn't know when you would be leaving and you had a hangover that would kill a horse, then you just haven't lived. Or you're not an idiot. One or the other.

But I digress. The night before, I stayed in a hotel near the airport. So, while sitting in the bar (this will be recurring them, most of my stories start with 'One time in a bar', or 'One time when I was drinking'), these two women walk in. Nice looking, in their 30's, and friendly. We all sat at the bar, and had a nice conversation. There was definitely flirting between the younger one and myself. Always a good thing. So we're talking, and as usual, I get asked why I'm in London.

As a rule, I don't lie to women. I'm not God's gift to women, and it usually doesn't matter if I lie. Women either like me or they don't. That seems awful simple, but I bet a lot of you understand that. But they asked me why I was there, and I said to visit my daughter. Then they asked me where. For some strange reason, I didn't tell the truth. Maybe because I get asked so much and it didn't really matter. Maybe because I just didn't want to talk about it. I don't know. We were in London and these women could have been from anyone in the UK.

And for some reason I said London, when its actually Bournemouth. I don't know why. I just did. I wasn't going to get laid that night. So it didn't really matter. And there was no reason not to tell tell the truth. But I didn't. I don't know why. I just didn't. And the evening went on. Very pleasant. We all had a good time.

Of course, at the end of the evening, the question came up about where the ladies were from. And it turns out they are from Portsmouth. About 40 miles from my daughter lives. Dumbass. I could have gotten a phone number and an e-mail address and kept in touch. Instead of sitting here writing this, I could have been on a date. Because she was interested. And I blew it. And she was worth the time and effort to get to know. Think Catherine Keener, but 10 years younger and a nicer body.

Hey, I'm 43 and Charlize Theron ain't gonna fuck me. But after the fact, when I found out, I couldn't change my story. That would have been pathetic and stupid. All I know is this. When women are interested, you don't lie to them. You tell them the truth and take your chances. So why did I lie to this woman?

If someone knows, please tell me?

A good play

I'm still not sure how this blog will play out. As I said in the beginning, I'm hoping to do a lot of sports stuff with this, but right now, the posts about my daughter are the most important. Mostly for me. But also to give people an idea of what I'm about. So here is the beginning.

The Premier League is in its playoffs. I still don't care all that much, but while eating dinner in a pub, the match came on and I watched it to the end. Leeds vs Carlisle. Nothing spectacular in my mind. A 2-0 Leeds win. But a couple of things stand out.

At 8 minutes, Howsan from Lees scored the first goal of the game. While I'm not a huge soccer fan, any good play (regardless of sport) deserves the proper attention. Howsan's goal wasn't the greatest of all time. It wasn't even particularly spectacular. But it was impressive. I can only liken it to football in the following scenario.

3rd and goal on the 8 yard line. Half back takes a hand off up the middle, breaks off two tackles, finds a hole, and hits the end zone for a score. Not a game breaker. Not a nail in the coffin. Just a good individual effort (albeit with help from his teammates, if that makes sense) and a score.

Its the kind of play that will go ignored because of events that happen later in the game. Wait on it. (As Radar used to say) Its like playing a 7-6 game, where the TD comes early and everyone talks about the defense and forgets the most important play.

Case in point. With less than 10 minutes to play, Carlisle holds off Leeds on 3 straight shots on goal, to include the third one, which was a header off the post. Still not my favorite sport, but it has it moments. Kind of like knocking down 3 straight passes in the end zone to keep the game close. Then, in extra time, Leeds scores again to make it 2-0. Like scoring on a 30 yard TD with no time left and no one playing defense. The first TD is completely forgotten.

Just my opinion. If there are any soccer fans, let me know how my analogies work out. If I'm way off, I'll find something else. If I'm close, let me know.

One day I'll figure out how to link videos of this stuff so you don't have to take my word for it. Or you can search for it. But still a great effort and a win. And that's what its all about.

So I'm here...

Finally. Talk about the trip from hell. I didn't leave KC until almost 6, but got to the airport at 1. That one was my fault. Everyone I know but my father works, so he was the logical choice to take me. Even though I asked him the week before and he forgot, then scheduled a doctor's appointment that he had to reschedule. So I had him drop me off early. Didn't really matter, I was ready to get away from town and people. There comes a point where you just can't say goodbye one more time.

There really isn't much to KCI. Its small and there isn't anything to do except sit and drink, or get on the Internet. So I did. I'm not knocking KCI. It serves it purpose, and the TSA agents there aren't quite the NAZI's they are in DC. And usually a few corn-fed farm girls walking around that make the scenery nicer than it might otherwise be.

So we finally take off headed for O'Hare, but when we get there, the weather is backing up planes and we end up circling. Then some chickenshit pilot decides he can't land his plane. This one really pisses me off. I'm not advocating violating safety rules, but here's my reasoning why pilots need to quit being pansies and just put the bird on the ground.

When I was in the Army in the early 90's, in eastern Turkey, we were shutting down a site. Because of the nature of things, we had to do this at night. So we flopped our schedule. Got up at 10 pm, did PT, ate breakfast, and convoyed to the airport with our load at 2 in the morning. In 0 degree weather. What makes it interesting was the fuel situation. Seems the local burn (for lack of a better word) sheep shit for heating. This puts a thick haze on the ground. So bad that planes can't see to land and the airport had no ground radar or common navigational aids. So for three nights in a row, we go out, set up, and wait for the planes to land. I was the commo guy, so we could tune into the radio frequencies and listen to the pilots. For three nights in a row, they said they couldn't land, so we packed up and went home.

Finally, on the fourth night, when the Turks told us we couldn't go for some reason, we did anyhow. That's a story for another day. So we get out, and finally get set up again. After I was escorted off the runway by an armored car for driving up and down to see if it was icy or not. Some people just don't appreciate a helping hand. So after being told I would be shot if I got closer than 100 meters to the runway, I listened to the radio conversation between the two pilots coming in that night. One was an older Colonel, and the other a young Captain. The Colonel says its not possible to land, and they'll have to abort. The Captain says he can land, and pretty much as quick as that, he's on the ground. The Colonel, of course, had no choice but to land also.

I remember they had a quiet discussion off to the side in which the Colonel seemed to be quite agitated. Of course, my going to the young Captain and telling him what a fantastic job he did and it was nice to see a pilot with balls probably didn't help the situation any. But we got loaded, they left, and pretty soon we all went home. Love those Air Force pilots. Especially the A-10 guys. If you're an A-10 pilot and you ever meet me, I'm buying the beer. You know why.

So my point is this. If a pilot in a C-130 with no navigational aids, no clearance, and doing it at night, can land his plane in the snow at an airport in eastern Turkey, I have a hard time understanding why some pilot from (fill in the blank) can't land his plane at the busiest airport in the world with every navigational aid known to mankind. It boggles the mind.

So we get diverted to Madison, Wisconsin. Insert your own joke here, because I really don't have one. We sit there, wait for who knows what, and they finally send us back to Chicago. Where we arrive 1 hour after my flight left. Air India. Who would expect them to be punctual. But credit to American Airlines, they met me at the gate with a boarding pass for the last flight to London. No upgrade, but that wasn't really an issue.

So we sit on the new plane for 2 hours after its scheduled departure (picking up all the stragglers), and leave almost 3 hours late for London. Of course, we also get into London almost 3 hours late. That curvature of the earth thing for time works really well. So I spend about 2 minutes waiting for my bags before I just give up and go report them missing. The agent checked and found them sitting in Chicago at Air India, waiting for the next flight. Of course, with almost 2 hours between my arrival in Chicago, and my departure, they didn't have time to get the bags transferred to my new flight. Again, it boggles the mind. And here's why.

I flew to Luanda, Angola. I'll pause a few seconds while you look it up on a map, because you don't know where its at. From KC to Chicago, to New York, to London, to Paris, to Luanda, and my bags arrived when I did. Luanda, Angola. And my bags are there. But Chicago to London and I have to wait 2 days for them. It boggles the mind.

But I arrived. So I went into London to pick up a bag at a friends house I had left on my previous trips, so I didn't always have to carry clothes with me. It was in the basement and they had a flood. 5 months ago. So when I picked up my bag, everything was wet, molded and mildewed. Right now I'm doing laundry (at $7.50 a load, yes its expensive over here), so I've got the time to do this. Hopefully, something is salvageable, or I've just wasted $45 doing laundry.

But here I am in Bournemouth finally, waiting on a phone call about a place to live. But no clothes means no job search yet, so I'll start that on Monday.

If my bags show up.

Maybe I should have went back to Luanda.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sitting at the airport

It looks like I'm having a good time,
But any fool can tell.
That this honky tonk heaven
Really makes you feel like hell!
- Merle Haggard

That's the rest of the verse from what I posted last. So last night i was having all kinds of second thoughts. Don't get on the plane, don't go, run screaming into the night. Actually it was a little chilly for that, but the idea is half the effort.

So I'm sitting at the airport waiting on my flight (duh!) and have a lot clearer view of things. Its not that I'm not still having second thoughts, but the tickets are bought and I'm ready to go. So I guess I'm leaving.

I think I've lined up a place to live. A room, sharing a house with 2 other guys, a shared bathroom and a shared kitchen and lounge (living room) for $600 a month. Wow, I need to find a job right away. A two bedroom flat (apartment) will run around $1200 a month. After paying $300 a month for my two bedroom in my home town, this is going to be a big chunk of change every month.

**Sidenote: I'll try to provide translations from English to American whenever possible. Its not as simple as it seems. I have a good friend from Scotland, and for the first 6 weeks I knew him I couldn't understand a thing he said. Then one day it all suddenly popped in, like learning a new language. I've actually stood between an American and a Brit at the bar in a pub and had to translate.

As Winston Churchill said, "we are two countries separated by a common language".

But anyhow, I decided not to run and try and stick it out. Its too late for me to screw up my life, I just hope I don't permanently ruin my daughters.

Misery and gin

So here I sit again,
Mixing misery and gin,
Sitting with all my friends,
And talkin' to myself.

So here I am at my going away party. It was actually yesterday when my family came down and we had a dinner at my mother's house. Of course, the corn bread got burned, which put a damper on the whole day. Because without cornbread, the beans just don't matter.

But we did have a party, but now on Monday night, not too long before I fly, I'm sitting at the bar in my hometown with about 5 people. Doesn't really matter, because I'm not a big going-away type guy. You leave, you stay, you sneak out of town. It's still leaving, regardless.

The big thing I'm thinking about right now is, "is this all a big mistake". Should I stay, should I go? Its a good thing these are called second thoughts, because the first ones are usually the right ones, and over thinking things usually leads to more problems than just doing it.

I spent the day saying goodbye to people hoping I wouldn't be back in 6 weeks as an abject failure. But one thing I've learned is that Thomas Wolf was wrong. You can go home again. And they'll actually let you back in, even if you don't feel you deserve it. Silly people. Always giving you an out and letting you have a second chance.

Some people think the hardest thing you'll ever do is leave home. But they're wrong. The hardest thing you can do is leave, come back, and leave again. Because saying goodbye once is hard. Saying goodbye a second time is heartbreaking.

This is just me being maudlin and feeling sorry for myself. But I have to tell you, this really sucks. I've had friends and family tell me I'm an idiot for doing this, and some have told me I'm doing a good thing for doing this. But I wish someone could tell me if I'm doing the right thing?

Monday, May 12, 2008

What sport do I choose?

So I have to pick a new sport to follow while I'm in the UK. I'll still always be a baseball fan first and foremost, and I'll get tickets to the NFL game this fall, and I'll watch on TV, but I guess to fit in, I'll have to follow some local sport.

Here are my options:

Soccer (my site, get it over it):

Could care less. I'll watch during the World Cup, but more to follow the countries where I've lived than actually caring who wins.

I lived in Europe as a kid and as an adult, and still don't really care all that much about it. I have played the game, understand it(I even know the off-sides rule), and can watch it on TV. But I could really care less.


Great choice, but the Brits really piss me off on this one. They like to make fun of American football because our players wear pads. Even though a lot of rugby players are going to the basic pads now. I like the game, even if I don't get the positions. Its exciting, fast-paced, full of action and brutality, and a great easy game to pick up. And rugby fans are most definitely not hooligans. Very well behaved, in my experience. But I always have to have these stupid debates about the differences between rugby and football. It won't be much fun going to a pub because of that. And I can watch baseball on the Internet.


A self-imposed lobotomy. Like watching paint dry. More time between pitches than a Cardinals game with Tony LaRussa in a bad mood. Or is that an oxymoron? A lot like baseball in some ways, but too different to be a substitute. Seriously, this is the game that created an empire where the sun never set. Because it never ends.


See rugby above. I'm not a big NASCAR fan, but I've been to races, now the major players, and can reasonably discuss it. Hey, I'm from a farm town of 3000 people near the Ozarks. But just like rugby, the Brits like to put it down, because they only drive in a circle. Unlike Formula One, where the post car leads the entire race and always gets to win. Why else was Michael Schumacker so good?


Just kill me. I would rather watch plays of Shakespeare, because then I can pretend to be pretentious. Thank good for spell check. How can this be a spectator sport?

Topless darts:

Okay, we might have a winner. I don't know if they still show this on TV in the UK, but I'll find out pretty soon.

So, any suggestions? Or will I just give up on British sports and drink beer while reading other peoples blogs?

A brief explanation

Why is this blog called "Don't call me a Yank(ee)"? Well, I'm trying to do double duty.

One reason is that I'm continually called a Yank whenever I'm in the UK. Doesn't really mean anything to me, but the fact is I'm a Missouri boy, and have never been to New England, let alone been associated with the area. The closest is when I did my basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey.

Bravo 2 -3. Early '86. Still haven't seen Wrightstown up close and personal.

The second, but most important, reason for this title is, as I said before, is that I'm a Missouri boy. From Kansas City, and a life-long Royals fan. I hate the Yankees with a passion that borders on psychotic. They are the evil empire. The Red Sox may have Bucky "Bleepin" Dent, but we have Chris "I can't express my disgust enough" Chambliss.

So, since the Brits like to call us Yanks, and I have a pathological loathing of the Yankees, I thought this would be the best possible title.

**Side note** Yankee fans are allowed to comment here, but you should fully expect to be ridiculed and humiliated at every opportunity.

The beginning

So I'm getting ready to get on a plane tomorrow and fly to London. Somehow it sounds like the start of a bad joke. I hope it isn't.

I don't know what the purpose of this blog will be about. But I'll have plenty of time and I thought it might be fun to try.

This will be mostly about what it will be like to be an American living in the UK. I'll also talk about sports here in the UK, the differences, and any American sports (or events) that I can find.

Or pretty much whatever the hell I feel like writing about. As with anybody who does this, I'll always welcome comments and feedback from anyone who reads this. If anyone ever does. But this is more for me than anyone else.

So whats my story, you might want to know? Or not. Well here it is.

I'm a 43 year old American guy, retired from the Army after 20 years of experiences most people could never understand, boring assignments and shithole postings. But all in all, along the way, it was pretty fun.

While living off in the wilds of Africa, I met the woman I thought was the love of my life. (insert joke or rude comment here)

Anyhow, we ended up having a daughter together who is now 4 years old (no pictures, because some of you guys are perverts, and if you're not, what difference does it make). Her mother is British, and decided to move back there. So, after 4 years of flying to the UK to visit, and not getting nearly enough time, I finally got a visa and I'm moving over there.

I sold everything I own, quit my jobs (both of them while going to school full-time, and I can't wait to go back to only working 50 hours a week), packed my bags, and I'm sitting and waiting on my flight in the morning.

No job, no money, no place to live. Could anything be more fun. We'll find out.

Well, that's my start. Lets see how it works?