"... And all them other cats you run with, get dumb with, dumb quick,
How the f*** you gonna cross the dog with some bum shit?
There go the gun click, nine one one shit
All over some dumb shit, ain't that some shit
Y'all n***** remind me of a strip club, cause every time you come around ..."
On Sunday, January 13, I looked at Terrence and raised an eyebrow. Pointing upward at the speaker system in the Birmingham Indoor Arena (NIA), I said, "They're playing the unedited version of this song?"
On the court below, top seeded teams of the BBL Cup 2008 were warming up for the final game. Terrence had just finished shooting in the Molten Three-Point Shootout with nine of the other "finest 3-point shooters in the BBL," and we were sticking around to watch the championship match. He didn't win the grand prize, which we could have used for our trip to London the following Tuesday, but I'm sure he was honored to be among the 10 league players in the contest.
As children ran up and down the aisles of the arena, waving #1 foam fingers and team banners, Terrence replied, "Yea. I was shocked the first time I realized that, too. But it's kind of like how there is porn on regular TV."
We discussed how there seems to be less offense taken to arbitrary things over here. Americans generally seem more conservative, which is somewhat ironic given our basic freedoms. That's probably why things like alcohol, sex and swearing might be more appealing to young people in the U.S.; there is such a taboo attached to them. This could be argued either way, of course, but we chose to find humor in the afternoon.
"But that couldn't have been the issue,
Or maybe they just sayin that now cause they miss you
Shit a n**** tried to diss you
That's why you layin on your back, lookin at the roof of the church
Preacher tellin the truth and it hurts"
"They're playing DMX ... unedited ... at a sporting event ... with families ..." I said, half talking to Terrence, half thinking out loud. He nodded, "Yep."
Moments, later Dr. Dre and Eminem came over the loud speakers. Terrence and I looked at each other and just started laughing. With every curse word or inflammatory remark, we laughed harder and harder until I was almost in tears.
It reminded me of when I studied in Spain for a semester in college, and my American classmates and I were amazed that an extremely erotic sex scene of a movie was playing on every television screen in the electronics section of a high-end department store. We were the only ones in the crowd who actually stopped and paid attention.
Since landing in London on the afternoon of January 12 (following a 3-hour delay the prior evening at JFK because of suspicious luggage), I had already experienced a handful of eyebrow-raising moments. After Terrence's home game that Saturday evening, the team gathered for the post-match meal and cocktails at a nearby hotel restaurant and bar. While I mingled with some of the other players and their wives and girlfriends, Terrence was sitting across the room with the head coach and his wife.
"I know what was wrong tonight," she said to him (the team had just lost). "When was the last time you saw that young lady over there?"
"September," Terrence replied.
"No wonder," she said. "That is what you should have done before the game."
Other things I noticed while in England:
- The British take basketball very seriously.
- The F-word is roughly equivalent to "damn."
- Sidewalk is pavement, bathroom is toilet, game schedule is fixture, call is ring, cell phone is mobile, trunk is boot, gasoline is petrol, pants are trousers, french fries are chips, potato chips are crisps.
- The exchange rate from U.S. dollars to pounds sucks.
- A lot of people drive Bentleys (Leceister and London), Maseratis and Aston Martins (London); Mercedes and BMWs are common; generally a smaller, practical car is preferred.
- 90 miles an hour on the highway is slow.
- The English may be second in alcohol consumption to the Irish.
- Chicken Mayo Bacon & Sweet Corn (breast of chicken & Dutch bacon mixed with sweet corn & bound in rich mayonnaise) is my new favorite sandwich filling.
- Sometimes round-abouts make sense, but often they don't.
- The wide staircases and hallways of The Park Lane Hotel on Piccadilly [where we stayed for my (early) birthday present: a sightseeing trip to London on Tuesday, January 15] are almost like those in The Shining; and it's an old building so it's creepy and fun (T took pictures of me at the end of a long hallway with my hair hanging over my face like the girl from The Ring).
- Leicester has a severe addiction to stop lights; I challenge anyone to drive through the town without hitting red lights within 50 feet of each other.
- It rains a lot.
I turned 28 on Friday (January 18) - my second year into my Late 20s. Twenty-seven in New York City and 28 in England. Not so bad for this life. A year ago tomorrow, I had a conversation with a coworker about life decisions, specifically my long distance relationship with Terrence and the separate lives we were choosing.
For a few days last week, I felt like I could drop my New York life entirely and follow Terrence around the world on his overseas adventures. But when I saw the halos over Manhattan glowing under the purple night sky on the return descent into JFK, I was reminded of why I chose to become a New Yorker.
As I disembarked from the plane, I thought about how Terrence and I have become a commuter couple in a relationship filled with last looks. New York-Atlanta; New York-Sacramento; New York-Seattle; New York-Florida; New York-Leicester (England).
I passed through customs, claimed my bags and looked toward New York.