That’s Football (c) 2007 HV
Here is a 7-page travel/football literature piece I wrote last season. Entitled: That’s Football (C) 2007 HV, it is the first edge art football experience and quotes Beck, the Pixies, Muddy Waters and the fine people on the dog. If you have trouble reading literature off of the computer screen, I recommend printing because you don’t want to miss this. Enjoy, Han.
Copyright © 2007-8, Hanish “HAN” Vance
Game time has been announced. I was expecting 3:30 on CBS. 8:45 BAMA time instead. 7:45 Eastern Standard Time. At BAMA. Dawgs time. We can and need to win this game. And it is at night. It is on the road in the SEC, and they are off to a great start this year and we have been beaten. We are playing three freshmen on the line, our quarterback is a sophomore and our best runner is a redshirt freshman. We are very young and it will be very loud, and young players make mistakes. But I think we are going to score touchdowns this week, and our defense should be able to keep the score somewhat low, I hope. We have been excellent in scoring defense for several years – minus the Vols scoring fifty plus in Athens and a couple of other bad games, West Virginia anyone. We have been generally pretty staunch in the scoring defense category, which is a great statistic to be good in because it means you are winning games. Keeping scores low gives your offense every chance to step up and win, and most times we have, sometimes we haven’t, but most times we have. Coach Richt is a winning product. Georgia is a winning team product now. We still lose to Florida seemingly every year but overall “We” are a really strong product. I like our program. Georgia football is by far the biggest sports’ scene in this state. Often, every third car I see has a “G.” So, it’s Bear week. A-LA-BAM-A week and we are rivals that rarely play, but when we do it is always a big game. It always feels like we should be playing more. I think we actually respect each other, some. It’s hard not to respect Bama, what they’ve done, and “We” are a similarly old and southern program. A Deep South team and flagship school of a state, that played well most years and traditionally ran the football much of the time. Louisiana was not this same Deep South, and certainly Tennessee was more like Virginia or Arkansas or North Carolina than it was Georgia. Georgia was like Alabama; Alabama was like Georgia. Birmingham could never stack up to The ATL but overall the land and the states were the same. The fan bases had a lot in common too, although we may have fancied ourselves as more cosmopolitan. We were more like them than we were the fans of our so-called sister school, Auburn or our in-state rival Georgia Tech. Besides, neither of them is a flagship school. The University of Georgia vs. The University of Alabama; we should play every year. I’m scared this year. I know we can win, but I’m not so sure we will. If both teams execute, I think we are a better team; I think we have a slight edge in talent. And we have a major edge in program momentum over the past five plus years, but it’s on the road in the Southeastern Conference, which is never easy. College Gameday will be there, ESPN. It will be a night in lights. Bourbon bombs will fly. The crowd will all yell. A charge of electricity will pulse through that first chill of fall air. And the men who love football, who live football will be on hand, on the capstone as they call it in Alabama. As will the wives and families that also care too much and the student section full of drunk fraternity boys and southern belles who know how to yell. We swept them the last time we lined up for a two game series, but now we are so young. It is up to the coaches to make our young guys execute. If we execute, I say we win. It is 11:20 PM on Wednesday night as I write this. I head to Athens in the morning, time to have a little look around Athens. Coach Saban is good. He’ll have them prepared. He is two and one versus Richt, so you have to like his chances against us. The team that wins will be ready to step forward and claim the season. I say we do and both teams leave 3-1 and seemingly ready for big years, nice bowl years. Bama was a .500 team last year. Have they really improved as much as it appears? It is very early in the season still.
“What happened to Alabama last week?” I hear someone ask at the Marietta Greyhound station the next morning as I sit and write. It is game week, and we are taking this show on the road, babies. We are going to ATHENS, GA the week of a big game. The spin on this reporting: The game and the other media members reporting on it are in T-Town, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home to the Alabama Crimson Tide, perhaps the most storied of all college football programs, unquestionably Top Five…OF ALL-TIME! They are Bear MotherF-ing Bryant! And if that does not mean anything huge to you please keep reading, my friends, because this may still be for you, this “literature.” These rants and these words and poems and stories, they may still mean something, may be something positive for you, so please, do read, but understand that you don’t know crap about college football. Say it with me, A-LA-BAMA. Say it in an old southern, manly, reverential voice. Now that sounds like football. We know because GEORGIA, the word “Georgia,” also means football. And I would love to be there, but we are instead going to the home of the DAWGS to engage people and gauge their emotions, their energy and their passion for University of Georgia football. Big game. Big season. Get in now. If you haven’t yet, I need you to NOW. I need you to get on board this train regardless of how bored you are, with your life right now, with me even. Put all that aside and come along for a little ride. Like I have done so many times in the past, today I will take the trip from Marietta to Athens, Georgia, the Classic City. I am taking you with me this time and no one does football like me. To get in on this reeling movie of a real ride, I need your tickets. “Tickets, Tickets,” I say aloud in a train employee’s voice. “Tickets, Tickets,” I think to myself.
That same man at the bus station, the one who asked about BAMA is seated near me now. He and his buddy are near me, and they are small talking, and I like them. They have the air of good southern men, nice men. They ask what I’m writing about. We chat a little. I chime in a little.
That same man speaks to me outside waiting for the bus downtown, his friend having bid a fond farewell. “History of skateboarding. Started in California, but some kids, back in the ‘50s, ‘60s, in Georgia picked it up. That’s what kicked it off, nationally…That’s all I know about that. About the time of the hula hoop.” See babies, I told you it was game week. And he continues chatting to me: “In this day and time,” he says, “World travel…Have you seen Babel?” “No. I want to see that,” I answer. “It’s about traveling and what happens. I am a photo buff, a photographer.” “Professional?” I ask. “Ama-tour.”
He is heading to Dothan, Alabama and is a good sort of chap, so I sit near him on the bus to Atlanta after he tells me a parable about first impressions. A false first impression cost his competitor a sale that he eventually won, back when he did sales to radio stations. These days he is a truck driver. I find out that he is a Florida State Seminoles’ fan, and he says that only Jeff Bowden is happy. Jeff is FSU Head Coach Bobby Bowden’s youngest son, and his contract was bought out as an assistant coach after last season. He is out of there and still getting paid, and it is obvious that he was not the sole problem last year, the past few years.
“I like your jacket,” the sister working the checkpoint at the Atlanta Greyhound station says. “Thank you,” I say. “It is thrift store, $2, Karl Kani.” “I shop in the thrift store all the time…Where are you from?” she asks. “Originally Austin, Texas but I grew up in Marietta…Where are you from?” “Brooklyn, New York.” “That’s great. I have been there many times.” Actually, I quickly think to myself, Brooklyn only twice. I meant NYC a ton of times and Brooklyn twice. I guess I lied. I continue, “In fact, I have a book and the person that is doing my proposed book cover is moving to Brooklyn. He is moving there next week for film school.” “Awesome…well it was nice to meet you…You are gate one, leaving 11:40.” “Nice to meet you,” I say in a voice that I realize sounded like Andy Warhol. I just finished reading his diary, and he has seeped into me apparently.
“Gate one?” I am asked. A tall, pretty security agent broke my concentration as I was sitting and writing directly at the end of the line for gate one. “Yes,” I say. “Thank you.” I stand up and unzip my tightly packed little travel bag for her inspection. “It is packed,” I say. She checks my bag, saying “Thank you,” in a sincere tone. I like courteous people, I think to myself. Being courteous is so appropriate and sadly rarer than it was when I was a child.
They are marching in Jena, Louisiana I notice on an overhead TV monitor. The black Atlanta intelligentsia are there and a slew of thousands of people. The national media are there, also meaning the Atlanta media. The black on white fight that the trial is about was six on one. I certainly do not agree with that, ever. Even a blatant racist cannot receive that type of beating and it be accepted and go unpunished in America. But I also understand the concern for justice; there must be justice for all. And the reverends are there to ensure that happens. Had six whites beaten a black person the story would be the atrocity of group violence against an individual, instead the story is the atrocity of the racist display that prompted the violence and the need for and difficulty in getting a fair trial. They have been charged with murder, which is being seen as disproportionate to the crime. Such is the nature of race relations in America even still. I am sad that we are still so divided.
Now I am writing from the bus. Rural Louisiana, my old home in middle school, was live on CNN. Then the bus began loading, and I had walked past a Greyhound employee with a “T-BONE” name patch on my way to the bus. Her mother was perhaps a huge fan of Delta music. I rather enjoy it too and mentally muse on my time there. “I got my mojo working,” I sing to myself, quietly under my breath.
Cool temperature on the bus on this warming day. Some “interesting” people on board as is usual for transit. The audible cussing has started from a confused middle-aged white lady. “Is this the right bus or not?” she wonders aloud. “What the Hell is going on,” she is saying. “Right,” the college boy voice next to her is saying in a tone that is sympathetic yet apathetic. The bus driver comes to explain to her. He is getting her to Columbia where she will have to change buses. Figures, I think to myself, a South Carolinian. I am still fuming that we lost to them. She keeps talking, loudly bouncing from polite banter to cracking up. College boy drops in a “right” a few more times then he switches his one-word entries into their dialogue to “shit.” She becomes increasingly hysterical and loud, switching subjects, babbling about her husband. She just said the non-word “unfunctionable.” She ended up in Chicago O’Hare this one time. “Shit,” the voice says. The more he cusses and listens, the more she talks and talks and talks and cusses. “Ah…shit,” he says. She rants, “They lost our luggage and eighteen ‘ours later, I get to my final destination…It was just…Hell!” “Ah, that’s jacked up,” he consoles in the longest sentence I have heard from him.
The bus driver announces that, “The bus is heading through Norcross, where we will stop very briefly, to Athens, Augusta, Aiken, Columbia, Charleston, Sumter and Florence. The same bus will continue through to Asheville, North Carolina.” He also states that his “intention is to keep this bus as clean as possible.” I like him. He emanates respect in what he says. We pass the jail, and we are on our way to the Classic City. She talks and talks and cusses and talks and talks and cusses. “Yep,” the college boy says. She cusses and laughs.
We pass through Is-that-a-new-building-ville. Downtown. The Hotel District. Midtown. Then Lindbergh is off to my left, Buckhead visible to the north. There is so much history between this town and me. I am ATL. And we cross over my street; Peachtree is my street. Peachtree is our street, Atlanta. Peachtree is our street, and she may be yapping even still, but Beck is beating on my I-pod now so I don’t know. Beck is beating in my art. Break beats. Dissolving. Robot sounds. Dreamy noises. Transcendental, sweeping noises. And Beck has the voices on this final track talking about, “An illuminated manuscript, hand-done, each time.” I pray that God is my exoskeleton, and that is the name of this track, Exoskeleton, this third of the medley that I just realized is in three parts not two. I space out on the space music, content to be traveling. I burp and am embarrassed and say, “Excuse me” and think fondly of the gaseous, anti-hero Ignatius. I think a myriad of thoughts quietly to myself, just the sweeping music and dogmatic voices on the track and my mind, taking this all in. I am amused and excited yet relaxed. I should re-read my favorite novel again soon, A Confederacy of Dunces; I miss Ignatius J. Reilly.
“This is Norcross,” the driver says as we stop at a suburban bus station. Before we start back up a dude behind me is on his cell phone saying, “My stepmom, back in Texas…” The word Texas catches my attention and sends me off into tangential thought. I once took the Greyhound from Austin to Dallas. Actually, it was San Marcos, Texas to downtown Dallas. Then I transferred and took another bus to the airport, DFW, where my Poppa worked long ago. I lived in his house across from the airport as a small child, on the lake he had drowned in: Lake Worth. We drove all around the Dallas Metroplex before being dropped downtown near American Airlines Arena. Poppa worked for American before he passed. I never met him, my grandfather, but I always admired him and recently took to referring to him as Poppa. We passed through Waco, I remember.
We are moving again. The young folks behind me are discussing star tattoos. We are back on the highway. The loud, cussing lady from before is on her cell phone saying, “I’m on a bus…ha, ha, ha…To say the least. Antsy, yeah, right…ha, ha, ha…Ya know all THAT shit, so…We are crossing Steve Reynolds Boulevard.” Spaghetti Junction is close.
More Beck. From earlier in the album he says, “Fly on the wall.” That was me. That fly was I, but I could not take her anymore so I am glad I have this beat box in my ear hole. I won this thing at a quarterback competition for fans at the Georgia World Congress Center. It was the event they call Fanfare, before the bowl game that I still call Peach but now has a regrettable moniker about chicken sandwiches. You had to throw two-out-of-three footballs through a hole while sitting in a moving chair. I hit the first and missed the second and then quieted myself down and really focused and nailed it. Then my beloved Dawgs nailed the Hokies.
Traffic. We have found some good new-fashioned Atlanta traffic. I remove my headphones and channel Ignatius a little under my breath saying, “All of ye to trains immediately, clear the damn road for me. Here comes The VAN.” Then I sing to myself, “Here comes your may-yan,” in the voice of Kim Deal from the Pixies. Here comes your man, Athens. I am happy to be on this bus with my wild mind yet half-enraged that there is no pedestrian train from Atlanta to Athens. The shortsighted state greed mongers long ago ceased what existed for so many years and was such a good thing. They stopped regional train service and spent all of the transportation money on highways. I could live with it more if there had never been a train. Instead of whizzing by, we get to sit in traffic so a few rich men can get richer.
Beck thinks he’s “…in love but it makes (him) kinda nervous to say so.” I have not been in love in a long, long time. Oh well, at least it is football season and I love my team. I have made it to page thirty-four, of this journal that I am writing this in. And our greatest player ever wore 34. Herschel Walker is by far THE greatest college football player of all time. I love Herschel; not so sure if that is the type of love Beck is talking about.
More traffic. Break beats. I have five dollars to eat. Sean gave it to me last night for the trip. I have had my coffee, of course, but no food yet. And I am “jonesing” so hard. I am jonesing Taco Stand. I want a burrito from my favorite tray service restaurant of all time. Now Beck is either saying: “I am the sun,” or “I love the sun.” I can’t tell which, maybe both.
Gwinnett County. Moving again, finally. I see the yellow JESUS billboard and the county jail: Hotel GwiNazi. Beck is singing New Round. He is saying goodbye to the past…And so am I…The yellow that they used behind the JESUS is so brilliant.
I am a little teary, thinking about my divorce. I pray and feel a bit better. This is a new day. This is a new opportunity. I recently found an old Flagpole Magazine from when I went to a writer’s convention in Athens this past summer. I am looking for a new job and not happy living with a multitude of roommates. I am contemplating change. A classified ad I found in the back said: “Unusual artist home needs helper. Help in exchange for a great place to live. Enjoy privacy, lg. country home. N/S 14 hr. week work.” I called and talked to the proprietor and she seemed nice and was interested in my fledgling writing career. She was going to re-post that very same ad the day after the day I called her. It was serendipitous that I called. The previous helper was moving back to New York to finalize a divorce. They have an indoor pool and bike I could use. They aren’t far from downtown Athens. I could live for free in my own area of the home and write and visit the kids via Greyhound once a week and work downtown. If I can find substantial work, this may work out. Things are looking up.
I feel poetic and decide to journal a little as my inner poet speaks and write a poem about, ”…this music, this writing, this life, this season, this trip…” I finish the poem as Beck is singing, “We dance alone.”
I number pages ahead in the journal while Beck sings about, “…a bus from Little Rock, Arkansas.” My hand hurts from writing. We are in the country, not the suburbs anymore. This is the slowly disappearing country between Atlanta and Athens on Highway 316. We are making good time. I see my first Athens sign, arrow pointing straight ahead. We should be downtown in just under thirty minutes. I am almost all the way through the Beck album. I have almost made it back to Exoskeleton.
Watkinsville, now. More break beats. Athens, soon. A didactic female voice is announcing something; Beck has her talking over the thumping Hip-Hop beat. I think to myself, this is a concept album. This trip is a trip.
ATHENS, now. The county line is the city line, and we have crossed over into Athens-Clarke County. Good to be home, again; Athens feels like home. I will get that burrito soon. I get my bag from under the bus, thank the driver cordially, tell the music merchandise dude I just met to give me a call if he wants and walk up the hill invigorated, thinking out loud, “That’s Football.”