Soccer, The Blowholes, geekery, and breweries

United States 2005

‘So’, I hear you asking yourselves, ‘what’s Matt being doing these last few days?’

You last saw me in the midst of a sugar rush on Wednesday night. On Thursday I had a leisurely morning reading Dave Gorman’s Googlewhack Adventure (I’d already finished Are You Dave Gorman? — both great books by the way) and in the afternoon I went to St Louis Bread Company for a spot of lunch. They have free wi-fi internet access there so I caught up with the world while I ate my vegetarian sandwich (which in the US seems to be the same as a meat sandwich with the meat taken out).

When I grow up I want to be a footballer

Around five o’clock Brian and I went to the Gateway Arch and took some arty photos (they’ll be in my photo archive soon) and then met up with Jeff (aka Jones aka Jarred), Kerry, another Brian, Buffalo (real name unknown), Kyle, and Sarah, and we played an indoor ‘soccer’ tournament match. Indoor soccer is a professional sport in the US; the St Louis Steamers are the local side. As we were playing co-ed (boys and girls together) the rules are amended so that no more than three passes can be made without a girl being involved, and the ball has to be touched in the final third of the pitch by a girl before anyone can score. I hope that doesn’t sound patronising because I don’t mean it to; those are the rules. It adds an extra tactical edge to the game since you can’t necessarily just pass to the best positioned player.

Unfortunately for Kerry and Sarah, they were the only two girls on our team. Two is the minimum number of girls needed in the six-man person team so they had to play the whole game, while us blokes were wheezing, huffing, and puffing like a bunch of saps and subbing off continually. Meanwhile Kerry and Sarah where running from end-to-end attack–defend–attack–defend; they did us proud. Some quirky rule allowed the other side to have an extra player (a third girl) so we played the whole forty-minute game a player down, and thus lost 3–1. There are usually more girls available to play for our team, but a badly-timed term paper kept them away at their desks. Apparently we usually stuff the side we lost to. I like to think our loss had nothing to do with my inaugural appearance.

The after-game party

We headed over to Kerry’s house after the game for a barbecue. Dennis, Kevin, and Jack arrived for the food (which was great), and Kerry turned out to be a dab-hand at cocktails, so the masses quickly got drunk. I’m not going to write about the drunken goings-on — that should stay between the drunkards — but suffice to say we had fun.

The one thing I will mention is The Blowholes. Someone (Kevin? Jack?) had an idea to start a thirty-man musical band that would stand on stage in dinner jackets with their backs turned to the audience. Each man would have a blindfold on, their noses stuffed with tissue, their ears blocked, and their hands clasped behind their backs. All this would help remove all the unnecessary senses, leaving just the mouth at a heightened sensitivity. Why? Because this band is a thirty-piece whistling band. It got out-of-hand quickly, and I was thrilled to see the first Blowholes gig: Brian, Dennis, Kevin, Kyle, Buffalo, and Jack whistling along to Marvin Gaye and others. There were whistling solos and dances; they all took it very seriously. And so they should because I remember them being brilliant through my whisky-induced haze. Jeff has promised to book them for a charity gig at the city’s zoo in June. You heard it here first.

Jeff gave Brian and me a lift home. On that journey I found out that Jeff is, among other things, a huge Mogwai and Super Furry Animals fan. We had a great music chat and while Brian focussed on not passing out Jeff took us past some of the venues that Radiohead, Mogwai, and others have played at. It turns out St Louis is something of a highlight for big bands on US tours. When we got home Brian stayed awake long enough to kick a full glass of water over before he passed out.

Geeks of the world, unite!

Brian and I have barely done anything worthy of the geek label since I got here. But Friday saw us hit by inspiration, and we now have a super-top-secret project to work on. As with all our other ideas it will revolutionise the world. I can’t say anymore or I’d have to kill you. Slowly. The real world went out the window of our geek haven until Family Guy came on TV at two in the morning and brought us back to reality. I went to bed at three, listening to a local public radio station that broadcasts the BBC World Service during the night. This confused me because he kept telling me it was nine in the morning: my parents would be getting up on Saturday morning while I was just getting to sleep. Times zones confuse me.

Oh, we also did some war driving, but more on that in a later post. (Al, you’d be proud of me.)

The world of Budweiser

The judges from the Guinness Book of Records are hovering, waiting to give me the award for longest entry ever, so I’ll keep it as brief as my rambling mind can manage. On Saturday Brian and I wandered through Soulard, the traditionally French part of town, stopped in at the farmers’ market, and along to the Anheuser-Busch brewery. This is the home of American Budweiser beer, among others, and is, I think, the biggest brewery in the whole universe, covering 100 acres (40 hectares) and producing 10,000,000 gallons (80,000,000 pints or 38,000,000 litres) a day. It’s just too big to contemplate.

A lot of the tour was Budweiser propaganda, but it was interesting nonetheless. There are a lot of architecturally fascinating buildings on the site, stretching back around 120 years, and the history of the brewery is interesting too. The way the brewery kept itself going through prohibition was really quite ingenious.

We went from one extreme to the next. After leaving the Anheuser-Busch brewery we walked to the Schlafly Brewery (which is a tiny brewery with a restaurant and a bar attached) and had some dinner. Then, much to my chagrin, we walked to the Edward Jones Dome to see a monster truck rally, only to find that it was sold out. We shall have to be quicker next time.