Suburban Macondo

Thursday, October 28, 2004

One Serie Mundial Note

I am numb and probably won't add anything new to the gazillion words written today about the Series. So, I will instead leave you with my favorite moment(s) of watching the playoffs here in Venezuela.

Whenever a batter went yard, the ESPN Deportes play-by-play guy would scream this hilarious home run call. Practice it, yourself. It takes about 10 seconds to deliver.

"A lo profundooooooooo ... ¡Nononononononononononoooooooooooooooooo! ¡Dígale que no a esa pelota!

Okay, then, I will. Te digo no, pelota.

Sox 2004. Holy shit.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Quick Update

Weird last couple of days. We should be getting Internet in the apartment soon, and then I'll write all about it.

Two things: the weekly features, like Venezuelan Word of the Week and El Buzón (my make-believe mailbag), will start immediately once we get Internet.

Oh, and the Red Sox need to win one more game to clinch the World Series. Not the Wild Card. The World Series. Oh, and there will be a lunar eclipse tonight, too. I guess having Game 7 on Halloween wasn't good enough for Fox.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

D-Lowe or Broke

Can you believe it has come to this? Here I am, a language and many hours away from all that has transpired in Boston and New York the past week, and I can hardly do anything but think about tonight's game. Boil water to drink? Nah. Get something to eat for breakfast? Nope. Hell, the longest e-mail I sent today (titled "oh ... my ... god") said nothing more than: is this really happening? all i can think about is tonight. i have no idea what i'll do to occupy my time. oh my god.

Yep. It's definitely an illness.

Tonight will be a big test for Ian's Foreign Fan Theory, alluded to by Gary in his last post. Essentially, the IFFT states that when I leave the country, my team wins rivalry games. For example, during my four years at Carolina, UNC beat Duke twice -- once while I was studying abroad in Sevilla, the other time while I was on a J-School trip to Havana. Who knows if being in a Spanish-speaking country has anything to do with it. And I have no idea how to explain the first three losses. No clue.

I do know this, though: There would be nothing sweeter than beating the Yanks and Kevin Brown and his broken hand or Javier Vázquez and his weak heart or Orlando Hernández and his dead arm at the Stadium tonight. Well, yes there would be. Seeing Steinbrenner after the game would be one. Walking into The Mag's office tomorrow after the win would be another. Hovey, Horne, Philbrick and I would own the place, if only until we were reminded that the World Series still needs to be played, and The Rocket is waiting to pitch again at Fenway.

I can't take any more of this. Really.

So if you're a Sox fan, think of me tonight. Drink a beer, hug a loved one, and just watch. If we lose, just remember that we could've been swept. No matter what you think afterward, that would've been worse. Imagine following last year by a sweep, or a whimpering loss in five. Not a fun offseason, particularly if you live in within 100 miles of New York.

If you're a Yanks fan, well, good luck. Because if the Yanks lose tonight, you're never, ever going to hear the end of this choke job. Ever. You'll see Papi in your dreams. Keith Foulke will pitch to you in your Wiffle ball games. And we'll laugh all the way to the Series.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Perfect? Not Quite

So we moved into our apartment Saturday night. We did some bathroom shopping, bought a doormat, did the usual moving-in-type things. We even went out to dinner with our friends Luis and Virginia, whom we met at Posada Los Bucares, where we had been staying before finding our new place.

Save for the disgusting Red Sox rout (which thankfully they did something about last night ... c'mon, Pedro, give Schill a chance), the apartment seemed perfect. In Venezuela, though, nothing is ever quite perfect. Nothing is ever what it seems.

Brooke and I went to bed at midnightish. I was in the midst of some really deep sleep, dreaming of how to assassinate George Steinbrenner, when all of a sudden a woke with a start. I looked over and Brooke was wide awake, staring at me. "Did you hear that?" she said. No, I didn't, but it came again 10 seconds later.


Excuse me?

To review: For more than a week, we'd struggled to find an apartment that was merely adequate. Finally, we saw a place in a building across the street from our posada, and it was almost exactly what we wanted. We moved in. And now, at 4 a.m., in the middle of the city center, we were awakened by the sound of a


That's right. A rooster. Un gallo.

Sr. Gallo, however, didn't just do his thing at 4. No, he kept going ... all the way until 7 a.m. Even with earplugs, we could hear him, just like an alarm clock. Are you kidding? We live in an apartment building in the middle of a city with 300,000 fucking people and


Yesterday morning, we woke up and looked down at the ramshackle building behind the apartments. In the middle, in a mini-atrium, were two chickens, three children, and one large, strutting cock. (I only mention the children to point out the danger in trying to shoot the gallo from our room, or at least kill him with a slingshot.)

We talked to the building's administrator, who giggled and said no one had ever complained about it before. Oh, and that there was nothing he could really do about it. We went and had breakfast at the posada's café, and the sweet woman there told us, "Los gallos son así." Roosters are that way. No shit.

Anyway, we weighed our options. We checked our stock of earplugs, which is low, and thought about finding a new place. But you know what? If it isn't a rooster, it'll be roaches. If it isn't roaches, it'll be drunk kids at a downstairs bar. If it isn't drunks, it'll be a nightly cab ride from hell. Whatever the case, something will be wrong. So, we're sticking with Sr. Gallo. Who knows what will become of it. Last night we slept okay. We'll just go to bed and wake up earlier.

And besides, like I told Brooke, you just have to laugh. When you can't afford a gun, you just have to laugh.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

An Apartment!

After struggling through an atrocious apartment search, which included rooms that smelled like pee and refrigerators loaded with dead cockroaches, we have found a wonderful apartment in the center of the city. Best of all, it's right across the street from our posada.

We thought last night that we'd have to settle for living in Urbanización Las Tapias, a suburban neighborhood about 10 minutes by suicide cab from the center of the city. The apartment was nice enough (read: big and not bug-infested, at least from what we saw), but it was far away and was not furnished. Sadly, here in Venezuela, not furnished also means without refrigerator. Now, no fridge is better than a buggy fridge, but still. We really hadn't planned on buying an apartment full of furniture and appliances. To fill this place, we'd need a very successful run on The Price Is Right, including a furniture-filled Showcase Showdown. No trips to Rome. No '04 Corvettes.

Anyway, we should be moving into this new place immediately. It is completely furnished, and they're going to take out the two small beds in the second bedroom so Brooke can have her studio space. There's cable, which means I can suffer watching the Sox for at least two more days. All in all, not bad. Pictures will follow in the near future.


By the way, although I don't want to steal from other Web writers like Peter King and Simmons (and even The 'Bag's Grant Wahl), I will have some sort of mailbag once a week. So, if you post questions, I'll answer them. If you don't, I'll make up questions from people I know (i.e., you) and put them on the blog. Good times. We'll call it something creative and smooth. Something cutting edge. The Inbox. Yeah, that's the ticket. Descriptive, yet spare. Or something.

Friday, October 15, 2004

A Sports Post (For Once)

So here's the thing: I'm here in Venezuela, one of the up-and-coming baseball countries in the world, at least according to some rag called ESPN The Magazine, and I've yet to write about the MLB playoffs, the start of the Venezuelan League season, or any other Red Sox-related nonsense. Finally, it's time.

First of all, Mérida is not a baseball town. Not at all. This is soccer country, as evidenced by last night, when the entire city tuned in to the Venezuela-Ecuador game of the South American World Cup qualifiers. After getting pasted a week ago by Brazil, La Vinotinto came out and whupped up on pobre Ecuador, 3-1. And with the win came, well, something like a riot here in Mérida. I mean, we're talking about a two-plus hour traffic jam in which all the cars are laying on their horns in that doo-doo-do-do-dooo rhythm. People were running around chanting Vennnnnnn-azuela! Hoo! Flags everywhere. It was nuts. Brooke and I were back at our posada, defeated after another empty day of apartment hunting, and all we could hear for two hours were horns and screaming. Good times.

But aside from all of that, the MLB playoffs have been something of a mystery to me. I didn't see the Sox trounce the Angels at all, although I did see national hero Johan Santana pitch twice against the Yanks. But come Game 1 of the ALCS, I was right there with every pitch, blissfully enjoying an ESPN Deportes telecast without Tim McCarver. (By the way, Brandon Arroyo? How does McCarver still have a job? Can we just put him and Keith Jackson and Lee Corso in a room together so they can ramble on incessantly until each keels over?)

But two things struck me in both losses at the Stadium. First, opposing starters had an ERA of like 6.00 against the Sox this year. (By the way, if the stats are wrong, I apologize ... Elias is a long-distance call from Mérida.) Be that as it may, the Sox managed, what, one hit in the first six innings of the first two games. Awesome, guys, awesome. You're supposed to get hammered after the games, not before and during. Secondly, why is it that every time the Sox are in a close game, the manager or the third base coach decides its time to lose his mind. We saw it often with "Wave 'Em Home" Wendell Kim in the past and with Dale Sveum earlier this year, and of course with Jimy and Grady in the playoffs. But why do we have Mike Myers on the roster if he doesn't pitch to Matsui in Game 1? I mean, we got the out, but it doesn't matter. That's the kind of BS that I just have to deal with here in Venezuela, with no one to talk to. Sigh. My time's running out. More on this later.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Settling In (As Much As You Can)

After a little more than a week here in Venezuela, Brooke and I finally are getting used to the country's rhythm, its ebbs and flows, its nooks and its crannies.

We've seen the barrios in the mountains surrounding Caracas, where makeshift fortified brick structures paint the green hills a distinct reddish-brown. You should see the people there, endlessly scaling improbable staircases to reach their shantytown doorsteps.

We've seen the American Embassy compound in the affluent hills opposite the barrios, looking over the rest of Caracas with all the style and presence of a Charlotte banking complex. The people inside are a wash, too.

We've seen the supposedly cosmopolitan but actually quite provincial political capital, and we've now seen the calm yet still Venezuelan (read: loud and frenetic) cultural capital.

But most of all, we've noticed the oddities. We've seen commercials for Natural Bra, a pair of silicon cups that hook in front to give that acceptable level of Venezuelan cleavage. We've been in a cab in Caracas when all of a sudden our driver decided to drive 80 yards backwards up a highway off ramp at about 25 mph, while at the same time cars going about 40 zoomed by on the right, going in the opposite direction. We've been in Plaza Bolívar in Mérida, just strolling through, when our ears were at once assaulted by a song coming from a conversion van's speakers: Carlos León es decente/Carlos León es competente. Carlos León is running for mayor. He has a song that says he's a good guy. Maybe John Kerry needs that kind of tune. (In fact, although my time's running out here, that'll be the next post. A John Kerry song. If you have suggestions for a stanza or two, e-mail them to me or post them in the comments section of the blog.)

Anyway, you get the picture. In Venezuela, at least thus far, not much resembles home.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Now That I've Lost Half My Audience ...

... I'll try not to write about gross things anymore. But honestly, since I won't be sending out mass e-mails, please feel free to post responses to the blog. That way, I'll always have something new to read and to think about.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

A Crappy Situation

First of all, before I start off, let me apologize for the lack of posts this past week. Things here are a bit hectic, and while that's not necessarily an excuse, I didn't really feel like spending all of my first week writing in an internet café. That said, here goes.

Travelling has never been that easy on me, or rather, on my stomach. When I was little I'd pop a ton of Dramamine to avoid inevitable backseat nausea, but even that wouldn't help most times, especially since I'd end up taking the pills right before jumping out of the car and vomiting on the side of the road. Ask my parents, or better yet, my brother, who often avoided all contact as I tilted to and fro on the seat next to him.

In recent years, I've met a new foe, one that has nothing to do with motion sickness: traveler's diarrhea. I first had this strange illness in Cuba, just days after spending time in Mexico. Not a good time for the old gastrointestinal tract. Let's just put it this way: I spent more time hunched over a toilet, feeling like a quivering corpse, then I spent reading socialist propaganda. And in Cuba, that's damn near impossible.

A subsequent trip to Venezuela reinforced my worries that my stomach wasn't cut out for travelling. I became Pobre Ian to my travel companions, and my bowels became an open book. Everyone we were with knew I had a problem, and everyone seemed to have a solution. Don't drink ice. I didn´t. Don't eat vegetables that could've been washed in the water. Didn't do that, either. Wash your hands after you, well, you know. No problem there. Unfortunately, the results remained the same, and the toilet became my most-hated but only refuge.

But things changed upon arriving in Caracas last week. Brooke and I brought the power of science and knowledge and organic treatments. We were ready to stave off Moctezuma's revenge, ready to fight it to the death. And we did, at least initially. (In fact, Brooke still is.) But eventually I succumbed on the fourth day, unable to keep the bacteria or the nerves or whatever out of my tummy. So, despite the absurd amount of money we spent on Pepto and grapefruit seed extract and the rest, I got the runs anyway. Big surprise. I probably should've just bought a specimen of giardia or plague from the CDC and gotten it over with before we left.

Add in a decent fever with the 20-minutes-between-squatting routine and you have a bad couple of days. Thanks to Brooke and her dilligent nurse work, I recovered a bit, moving from a water slide to a sand trap in two days. But I still worry.

(Note: if you never want me to write about my bowels again, please, please give me some suggestions. Otherwise, this is going to be one shitty Web site.)