Wednesday, March 14, 2012

D.C. calling - a gonzo adventure

It was 2:00 a.m. I'd been trying to fall asleep for a few hours now. I had to fall asleep.

I kept running the numbers in my head: 5 minutes to wake up and get out of bed. 15 minutes to gather my things and eat. Finally, 10 minutes to find a 24-hour gas station to fill the tank in my dad's car and skip town. 

That was 30 minutes, meaning I had to be up at 3:30. At best I was looking at an hour and a half of shuteye and I was already too damn tired to focus on much of anything, much less the rhetorical analysis of modern protest in America that had eaten up most of my midterm week, fully turning my "sleep cycle" on its head. 

Still, 6 hours to get to Virginia. Kickoff at 10 a.m. Liverpool at Sunderland with a season on the brink. There was a 7:30 kickoff for DC-KC, too. It all added up to an unnatural departure time of 4:00 a.m. 

I didn't end up sleeping so much as I simply ceased to be awake for just over an hour, yet when the alarm clock on my phone exploded less than a foot from my unconscious face, I felt surprisingly energized. I wasn't. 

After losing half an hour looking for a working gas station - something I hadn't accounted for the night before - I finally hit the highway. Now as veterans of I-81 will tell you, the lighting on the highway is pretty awful. With sunrise a couple hours away, this was a problem, but one I knew about going in. 

Mother nature did, however, hold a pair of surprises in store for me; one bad, one good. 

1) Contrary to the forecast, it was snowing fairly heavily. And that's coming from someone who's lived in upstate NY for nearly 10 years now. 

2) Driving in such conditions at highway speeds with hardly anyone around gave me the life-changing opportunity to feel like Han Solo working the Millennium Falcon in Hyperdrive. It was dangerous, but pretty freakin sweet. 

In my hometown, there's a quasi-proverb often shared with those not yet adjusted to the severity and fickleness of the climate: "If you don't like the weather in Cortland, wait ten minutes." 

I waited - at 75 mph - for well over an hour, I skipped town. I ran away from what I thought was the belly of the beast. Nope, the darkness and the snow lingered until right around the time I crossed into the blessed state of Safety Corridor, err Pennsylvania. It was at this point that my mind and body finished sucking me dry of whatever adrenaline was keeping me reasonably attentive. At the same time, I drove out of range of my local classic rock stations. With those two factors, previously keeping me awake, now vanished, I felt myself fading badly. After all, a man needs his driving tunes. 

So I flipped my old man's stereo over to its CD function and was immediately jolted back to life by Montell Jordan exclaiming "this is how we do it!" Turns out Papa Klinger snagged my 90s mixed disc while I was away at school. Well played Dad, well played. 

The song reminded me of Andre Villas-Boas's late spell at Chelsea, only with Lampard, Terry and the rest of the old guard alternating verses telling their peer and manager just how they do it. It also inspired me - for better or worse - to try and play lowercase g to Greg's gonzo adventures and write this post. 

With Pennsylvania's schizophrenic traffic patterns, sometimes beautiful scenery and air-tight construction zones that haven't moved since I came to New York all out to get me, the music really did its part in keeping me alive and awake. My newfound self-awareness also kept bringing me back to one inevitable conclusion: my obsession with soccer MIGHT be unhealthy. And it Just. Wouldn't. Stop. 

When the DC half of Tag Team announced himself to get "Whoomp! There It Is" rollin, I was kindly reminded why I was driving at such a god forsaken hour; if I left after the Liverpool game, I couldn't have made it down in time to get to RFK for the opener against Kansas City. Besides, I had more confidence in my MLS team than the 18-time English champs. 

Ace of Base's "All That She Wants" (Is A-noth-er Babyyyy, Yeah!) brought me back to Stamford Bridge, where I felt for Roberto Di Matteo and his impending replacement by Abramovich's next shiny new managerial boytoy. I sang along shamelessly as I raced past Subarus and Audis alike. Swedish pop rock don't slow me down! 

Back to the drive, those construction zones where A) nobody's working and B) there's no way in hell two cars can truly fit in the "two" lanes PADOT traced on a narrow slab of pavement between the unforgiving cement walls that made me afraid to look left, repeatedly reminded me why Danny Williams shouldn't play right mid. No matter how hard you try, it's just not a natural fit. My solution, swiftly change speeds and leave the construction zone. I miss Landon Donovan. 

When the momentum from my musical flashbacks petered out and I felt my mad rush to the TV in my girlfriend's living room start to slow, I resorted to a performance enhancing tactic that I'm a little ashamed to confess. Bubblegum. I found the nearest Top 40 station - between the apparently state-mandated radio interference - and drove like I could escape the pain. It blows, but it pops. 

I escaped that torment only to suffer for another two hours watching Liverpool's nonsensical 4-5-1 run itself into the ground. The afternoon that followed was spent hopefully wondering how Ben Olsen's revamped squad would look. Timid was the answer. 

And while the 16,314 fans in attendance showed why DC is still a great franchise, walking around RFK was a somewhat sad and sobering experience. The paint is thinning, the structure is altogether rusting and some of the cement is even crumbling. For a stadium and a team that hosted the first soccer game I ever attended in addition to monumental occasions for both the league and the game in this country as a whole, I was more crushed by the state of RFK than C.J. Sapong's winner. 

Saturday was a trying day. At the end of it though, I got to watch two soccer games, one on TV and one in person. Both my teams lost, but it was just another mini-chapter in the long saga of American fans waking up at bizarre hours and making equally strange efforts just to take in their favorite game. Beats the hell out of the Soccer Made in Germany days. 

And I know I'll do it again.

- Jacob Klinger


UnitedDemon said...

Inspiring stuff.

And man, was I glad not to drive after that game. It was sobering, and all any United fan can do is wait ten minutes.

Phillip Goldman said...

RFK at game time is one of my favorite places in the world. I just moved to Seattle this year and so far the only thing that has made me homesick was watching the barra brava jumping up and down on the TV.

Lampard in the End Zone said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jacob Klinger said...

@UnitedDemon Thanks man. Hopefully we don't have to wait any longer than that.

@Unknown At times it's been subdued in recent years, but it was great feeling the stadium actually shake the other night.

dikranovich said...

im trying to figure out where you are coming from. binghamton, scranton, whats six hours away.

Matt said...

Why did you remove the comment that talked about the way you wrote your kicker?

Matt said...

Ah, nevermind, the author removed it. I thought I smelled censorship and was prepared to get all outraged.

Jacob Klinger said...

@dikranovich Cortland, NY. You been?

@Matt What'd it say? I'm open to criticism. That's kinda the point :)

UnitedDemon said...

Just watched LA lose to a fluid but disheveled Toronto.

That defense is declaring open season. United needs to cash in.

dikranovich said...

ive never been north of harrisburg, pa, but yak, it sounds like your next dc united game we should have an nsc tailgate bloggergate in the RFK parking lot. ill bring the cevapcici and rakia and everyone will have a good time. whose in?

dikranovich said...

april 22 people, put it on the calander.

Jacob Klinger said...

Salihi really should have his way with Meyer, but gotta get our midfield straight for it to matter.

Tailgate sounds solid, but that's primetime exam season for me :/

dikranovich said...

well, if you dont want to see henry, agudelo, and the rest of the red bulls,name the alternative and we can do that.

Jacob Klinger said...

I did last year and it hurt, but will do.