As fate would have it, the stars collided and two pieces of heaven sort of fell in the lap of the beast. A book and a game. The book, “On Booze” by the Great F. Scott Fitzgerald, sent to me by an angel in California. The game, The 2014 World Cup.
History is being made, and while everyone has been distracted by the matches happening right next door in Brazil — passionately glued to their televisions like phantoms, holding their breaths and chanting prayers like shamans, locked indoors until a long overdue “goooooooooooooooool” is shouted over the airwaves provoking the stampede of those same anxious phantoms to flood into the streets whilst banging pots and pans and flying down the alleyways in a rush to replenish their bottles of fernet and liters of coke until the next goal is made — I took it upon myself to seize the opportunity by reading. Yes reading, and consequently drinking, because the two pair together better than a push-up bra on a drag queen. There is nothing more inspiring than a game-hungry ghost-town, combined with a luke-warm book by one of the classics and a few dozen chilled glasses with no one to stare at you as the bubbles make you hysterically hiccup like a lamb lost and found. We chose to educate ourselves a little more about life as we read, and drank, and drank, and cheered Argentina on. The intense energy of The Cup and the twisted black words on the page called for a euphoric experience.
Herds of soccer fanatics joined in a rhythmic pulse, a harmonious crescendo. Soft at first and then — AR…GEN…TINA……….AR…GEN…TINA!!
Fitzgerald chimed in with words of encouragement, just as strong. clear in the beginning and then blurry after a few hours —
On edge, wandering about the anxious city, we ditch the mad crowd and give way to a deserted back street in the heart of San Telmo. The path least taken. We took it, and happened upon an empty bar where we, by fate once again, discovered a little piece of heaven on earth. The land of Oz. Oatmeal Stouts and Honey Beers pouring out of the ceiling, muting the wildfire call-and-response happening outside, just a few feet away. We walked in to find no one there except the barman, the cook, and a wall full of imaginative, unemployed, mouthy beers. Luck or fate? Giving them an ear and a dry tongue seemed like the best thing to do, or at least thats what Fitzgerald began to whisper in our pockets. So we select a lonely table for two by the door, employ those talkative beers, and begin our ascent to the land of milk and honey.
“On Booze” served as the ultimate teaching doctrine in these moments of ascension. You must find a copy and glue it to the backs of your eyelids, if a man is what you aim to be. Fitzgerald painted the picture Messi was at that very instant giving life to as he scored goal after goal after gooooooooooool — the best soccer player in the world indeed. Two of the greats teaching us how to master ourselves, how to outwit our opponents and bring those sneaky yellow-bellied digbats to their knees.
We spent about half a day at “Rosa de los Vientos,” a full afternoon and good part of the evening, drinking at a slow and steady pace, chanting on with the chorus, reading on with the musky soul of Fitzgerald over us.
Finally, after a hearty win thanks to Messi, no voice thanks to Messi, and a new off-balanced walk thanks to the barman, we headed to the bus station to take a 7 hour journey to the next town.
We left that place good and liquored up like any respectable literary soccer fan would have.
Argentina made it to the semi finals, and we in turn make it to another day.
From “On Booze”
We don’t want visitors, we said:
They come and sit for hours and hours,
They come when we have gone to bed;
They are imprisoned here by showers;
They come when they are low and bored –
Drink from the bottle of your heart.
…Long talker, lonely soul and quack -
Found us alone, swarmed to attack,
Thought silence was attention; rage
An echo of their own home`s war -
Glad we had ceased to “be upstage.”
- But the nice people came no more.