Thursday, June 10, 2010

Small Hudson Valley Town Rocked by Pre-World Cup Violence! Dozens Flee!

There are lots of British expatriates here in Beacon, and obviously a lot of native Americans too, though the kind who were simply born here, rather than descendants of aboriginal peoples with feather headdresses and whooping. In advance of England and the USA squaring off against each other on Saturday in each country’s first World Cup game, you might have expected at least a few punchups, as the Brits would have referred to them, but so far there hasn’t been a single reported case of Anglo-American violence. Even at our most popular pub, the Queen's Legs ("We're always open" (thanks, TLD)), there hasn't been a single incident of head-butting.

If only that were true our other ethnic communities were getting along as well.

Last night on Main Street, a group of Honduran thugs stood out in front of our most popular Swiss restaurant chanting, “Federer [the famous Swiss tennis champion] sucks,” and challenging members of the wait staff to refute that Switzerland’s alleged neutrality during World War II was morally indefensible, their argument being that there was noting morally ambiguous about Nazism, to which the only reasonable response was outrage. My understanding is that none of the Swiss servers was born fewer than 30 years after Adolf Hitler’s suicide, but the Hondurans reportedly weren’t accepting that as an excuse.

Over on South Chestnut Street, an unlikely coalition of snarling Nigerian and South Korean students cornered Bob Papadakis, the owner of one of the city’s most popular Italian restaurants (not a single one of which, as in most places in America, has even one Italian employee), and berated him for the dismal fiscal health of the country of his Greek grandparents jeopardizing the European economy as a whole, and thus the global economy. Neighbors report that he tried to placate his tormentors by inviting them in for a glass of ouzo, but that none accepted it. If there’s some small solace in this, it’s that Nigerians and South Koreans were able to put their own traditional animus aside for a moment in pursuit of a common persecution of a third nationality.

I hear now as I write this that a group of North Koreans has assembled outside our sole Ivorian delicatessen waving placards that on one side depict their so-called Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il, looking both younger and more attractive than in real life, and, on the other, Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba, looking sort of like Willie Horton in those TV ads designed to lead voters in the 1988 presidential election fearful that Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis would fill America’s streets with capriciously paroled rapists and murderers.

Many experts believe that Spain will emerge the winner of this year’s competition. Far better Spain, I think, than North Korea. I have long regarded Spanish cuisine as western Europe’s most delicious, and think it infinitely endearing that Spaniards lisp as a matter of course, pronouncing Ibiza, for instance, as Daffy Duck would. It fascinates me that the Brits, among whom I used to live, are quite happy to pronounce Ibiza as the Spaniards themselves do — and to go there in vast numbers in their late teens to behave as obnoxiously as it is possible to behave — even while staunchly refusing to acknowledge that Tenerife has four syllables, rather than three. Londoners will compound this by insisting on pronouncing the vowel in taco, for instance, like that in the English word hat, though their pronunciation of dance, for instance (they pronounce the vowel as in want) suggests it’s just sheer contrariness at work — or, as they would put it, bloody-mindedness.

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