A Book Review: Graham Greene’s The Quiet American

Written July, 2013

I read Graham Greene’s The Quiet American when I first arrived in Vietnam, almost four years ago. I was living in a hotel room, didn’t have a job, and was apprehensive about everything going on in my life. I also barely knew anything about Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon) at the time, let alone the country of Vietnam, which is much larger and more complex than most people realize. Most importantly, I only had a rudimentary understanding of the history involving the wars that tore Vietnam apart for 30 years, let alone the cultural habits and tendencies of Vietnamese people. I think for all of these reasons, I didn’t particularly enjoy, or understand, The Quiet American.

But 3.5 years later, the book sparkles. Greene lived in Saigon in the early 1950s, covering the French Indochina War for the British press. His novel is partly fiction, partly autobiography; the plot surrounds the murder of an American Legation officer secretly working for the CIA. Published in 1955 (by which time the war with the French was freshly over), it looks scathingly at the American funding of the French war, the secret operations that were happening involving the CIA at the time, and even the American pressmen. It was widely seen as being anti-American when it was published, and did not sell well in the USA, though it did well in Britain. (In 1958 Hollywood released their own version of The Quiet American, which all but stripped the political message that was sent out. Greene was furious).

Many show amazement at Greene’s vision for the future, but in actuality he was just observing what was happening and reporting it through his novel: the U.S. was very much involved in Vietnam by the early 1950s, even as the French suffered the causalities and longed to be over with what had become a nightmare war that was fought in thick jungle against invisible enemies.

In many ways this novel serves as a precursor to Michael Herr’s Dispatches, the hard-hitting correspondent’s tale published in 1977 detailing life in Vietnam at the height of the American / Vietnam War in 1968. Herr mentions Pyle’s murder in his book; in my opinion he was definitely inspired by the writing style Greene used to describe things. Both writers are sharp-witted and extremely honest, and at times Herr’s book mirrors Greene’s: there are press conference scenes from each book which are eerily similar. Perhaps this is simply because neither war was very different from the other; the same could probably be said for the press and the military officers talking to the press. But it seems worth mentioning.

It also depicts the horrors of war as well as any novel can; while describing the scene at Phat Diem, war simply becomes death and decay.

On a lighter note, I was somewhat amazed by the way in which this book portrays Saigon. Despite the fact that this book was written in 1955, nearly 60 years ago, the city still feels the same. The dark streets, oppressing heat, the squatting women gossiping, the obnoxious foreigners, the restaurants, the way the girls dress in colorful ao dais: it all feels like I’m reading about current day Saigon. Much the same can be said about Dispatches.

And, of course, beyond all the historical stuff, all the stuff about Saigon, and everything else, lies a touching love story. Numerous themes are touched on that again mirror the political stuff happening: ignorance, hatred, deceit, the question of etiquette vs. character.

It helps to read this book with at least a little bit of an understanding of what was happening in Vietnam in the early 1950s. If you have the time the best book to read is Stanley Karnow’s Vietnam: A History, though this book is over 700 pages long. Of course, you could just read the chapter pertaining to French involvement in the war. Without a general knowledge of what was going on, it’s easy to get lost when reading about the Cao Daists, Hoa Haos, the Bich Xuyen, and General The, as well as the Viet Minh. Greene doesn’t try to explain who these people were, because at the time they were groups of people that were well known in Vietnam. This book was written several years before the term Viet Cong was ever used.

There are several The Quiet American reader websites that help out with terminology. Lots of dialogue is printed in French, and the websites translate this stuff. They also help out with outdated stuff we might not know about, like the Kinsey Report (a 1948 book on male sexuality) and pinastres (the currency used in French-controlled Vietnam). What most of the websites didn’t help with were street locations: Saigon under French control had French street names (the city grids for Saigon and Phnom Penh were designed and built by the French). Today lots of French street names remain in Phnom Penh, but in Ho Chi Minh City they are almost entirely gone. The only ones that remain are Pasteur (the scientist), Yersin (another scientist), Calmette (yet another scientist) and Alexadre De Rhodes (the French missionary who transcribed the Chinese lettering of Old Vietnamese to the current system, which uses Roman letters). All other French street names were changed in 1955, when the South Vietnamese government was created. After doing a little research I’ve found most of the street and other locations of the book and have put them here for anyone who lives in Ho Chi Minh City and is interested in reading the book and locating where events are happening.

Rue Catinat: The most important street in the book, where the main character, Fowler, lives. I also believe it is where Graham Greene lived. The Rue Catinat was and still is the most central street in downtown Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City. The Opera House and Continental Hotel, both important landmarks at the time of the novel and today, are found on this street. In 1955, when the South Vietnamese government was formed, it was re-named Duong Tu Do, which translates to Freedom Street. In Dispatches, Tu Do Street is equally important to Greene’s Catinat. But in 1975, when the North Vietnamese Army marched into Saigon to end 30 years of war, once again the street name was changed, and it has stayed the same since. Today it is Duong Dong Khoi, translated to mean Uprising Street. Today Dong Khoi still serves as the central pulse of District 1, though it is more commercialized. The Caravelle Hotel, Opera House and Continental are all still there, but so are the Louis Vuitton store, the VinCom Center with its huge electronic murals, and numerous other over-priced shops. Things have changed and things haven’t changed.

Rue Duranton: This is where Pyle lived before he was murdered. As far as I can tell from looking at an old map of French Saigon, it’s either Bui Thi Xuan or Suong Nguyet Anh, parallel to Nguyen Thi Minh Khai and perpendicular to CMT8. In District 1.

The Dakow Bridge: This where the pivotal scene, the murder of Pyle, occurs, though we never see it happen. It’s also where another very important scene happens towards the end of the book. The internet tells us that the Dakow Bridge has been ripped down (and presumably re-built), but it doesn’t tell us where. It was most likely located in the Dakow or Dachau area of District 1. In the book Fowler goes to a Burgundian (East German) restaurant right near the bridge to meet Pyle. According to the novel, on the their side of the bridge it safe; on the other side of the bridge the Vietnamese Army control things by day, and the Viet Minh by night. It is described as enemy territory, a place where you would get your throat slit if you crossed at night. The restaurant near the bridge has a metal gate to protect it from grenade attacks. Although it’s tough to figure out where exactly this bridge was located, my guess would be that is at the end of Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, where it crosses a newish bridge into Binh Thanh District. This makes sense as it is a little bit off the beaten path, but not too far away (the Zoo and Botanical Gardens are nearby, and the rest of Downtown is only about a five minute drive away). In this case, Binh Thanh District, on the other side of the river, would be the enemy territory controlled by the Viet Minh at night, where Pyle was murdered.

Boulevard Charner: Nguyen Hue

Boulevard Bonner: Le Loi

Avenue Gallieni: Trung Hung Dao

Boulevard de la Somme: Ham Nghi. Boulevard de la Somme plays an interesting part in the novel. It is where Phuong does all her shopping for meats and fruits at the markets. Interestingly, I don’t think there are markets on Ham Nghi today, though there are international food markets (different than Vietnamese markets). It’s also interesting to note that Greene seems to consider this part of town to be part of Cho Lon, aka Chinatown. Today Cho Lon is still a major part of Ho Chi Minh City, and it is still largely Chinese, but it in no way stretches all the way to Ham Nghi, in District 1. Cho Lon today is found in District 5 and 11. District 1 is not considered to be Cho Lon, nor is it considered to be very Chinese. Cho Lon is mentioned throughout the novel, and much of the action happens in the somewhat shady areas of Cho Lon. Again, much can be said of Cho Lon in Dispatches, and in Karnow’s book on Vietnam. During the war years Cho Lon was always known as a somewhat dangerous place that was to be treated cautiously, but it was also a place where French or American servicemen could find plenty of useful things on the black market that they couldn’t get in other places. Anyway, I find it interesting that Greene seems to consider Ham Nghi (Boulevard de la Somme) to be in Cho Lon. Perhaps Chinatown used to be a much bigger part of Saigon. Or perhaps it shifted over the years. Or maybe I misread him. Not sure.

Other street names from French Saigon that weren’t mentioned in the novel, but I find them interesting anyway: Le Duan – Boulevard Norodom; Nam Ky Khoi Nghia – Rue Mac Mahon; Hai Ba Trung – Rue Paul Blanchy; Pasteur – Rue Pellerin; Thi Sach – Rue Pasteur; Nguyen Thi Minh Khai – Rue Chasseloup Laubat; Cach Manh Thang 8 – Rue de Verdun; Vo Van Tan – Rue Testard; Truong Dinh – Rue Miss Cawall; Dinh Thieng Hoang – Boulevard Albert; Nguyen Binh Khiem – Rue Rousseau.

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Fake 2007 NCAA Tourney: Mascots!

[ORIGINALLY POSTED MARCH 2007]

Hey Everyone….how’s it going. Good? Glad to hear it. Have you ever wondered what would happen if instead of basketball games being played in the NCAA Basketball tournaments, the mascots simply battled to the death? Well I have. Forget the brackets you’ve figured out; your whole bracket world is about to be thrown upside down

Without further ado,

THE BATTLE OF THE COLLEGE BASKETBALL MASCOTS….WHO WILL BE VICTORIOUS??

Before I do anything, I have to give a shout out to my Main Man Kevin Canavan, who has already seen this plan in motion (back in the fall, with NFL football teams. No one but his dad was there to witness it; until the time comes around again, I won’t reveal who won). While watching b-ball with him yesterday, he brought it up. And a lightbulb went on in my head. Ahoy! So Kev….thanks for the inspiration, dawg.

Let’s get to the rules of play:

1) The mascots are not playing each other in basketball….that would just be ludicrous. They are fighting…TO THE DEATH!!!

2) A basketball team sends five guys to the court…for the time being, we’ll say that five of each mascot will be sent to face another five, although it may get complicated, and I think the rules will need to be tweaked. (I think the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will cause the most problems here).

3) Basketball is played on hardwood floors. For the sake of the mascots, who usually don’t do battle on hardwood, we’ll move them to a neutral, outdoor setting.

4) Since I am the Commish of this league…the final rules involving discrepencies comes down to me, and me only. I will be fair and just.

Now….the Matchups.

Play in game:

The Florida A&M Rattlers vs. The Niagra Purple Eagles

Round 1, The Midwest:

The Florida Gators vs. The Jackson State Tigers

The Arizona Wildcats vs. The Purdue Boilermakers

The Butler Bulldogs vs. The Old Dominion Monarchs

The Maryland Terrapins vs. The Davidson Wildcats

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. The Winthrop Eagles

The Oregon Ducks vs. The Miami of Ohio Redhawks

The UNLV Rebels vs. The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

The Wisconsin Badgers vs. The Texas A&M Corpus Christi Islanders

The West:

The Kansas Jayhawks vs. The Florida A&M Rattlers or The Niagra Purple Eagles

The Kentucky Wildcats vs. The Villanova Wildcats

The Virginia Tech Hokies vs. The Illinios Fighting Illini

The Southern Illinois Salukies vs. The Holy Cross Crusaders

The Duke Blue Devils vs. The Virginia Commonwealth Rams

The Pittsburgh Panthers vs. The Wright State Raiders

The Indiana Hoosiers vs. The Gonzaga Bulldogs

The UCLA Bruins vs. The Weber State Wildcats

The East:

The North Carolina Tarheels vs. The Eastern Kentucky Colonels

The Marquette Golden Eagles vs. The Michigan State Spartans

The USC Trojans vs. The Arkansas Razorbacks

The Texas Longhorns vs. The New Mexico State Aggies

The Vanderbilt Commodores vs. The George Washington Colonials

The Washington State Cougars vs. The Oral Roberts Golden Eagles

The Boston College Eagles vs. The Texas Tech Red Raiders

The Georgetown Hoyas vs. The Belmont Bruins

The South:

The Ohio State Buckeyes vs. The Central Conneticutt State Blue Devils

The BYU Cougars vs. The Xavier Musketeers

The Tennessee Vols vs. The Long Beach State 49ers

The Virginia Cavaliers vs. The Albany Great Danes

The Louisville Cardinals vs. The Stanford Cardinal

The Texas A&M Aggies vs. The Penn Quakers

The Nevada Wolf Pack vs. The Creighton Bluejays

The Memphis Tigers vs. The North Texas Mean Green

Phew….that took awhile.

Okay….

There is no possible way I’m going to be able to go over every match up in the First Round tonight, let alone the whole tournament. This might be a mulitple entry procedure. But I’ll see what I can get done tonight, starting with the West Bracket, which has the play-game. So before the tourney starts, lets go over the play-in game.

The Florida A&M Rattlers vs. The Niagra Purple Eagles:

Rattlers, for the most part, are a pretty formidable foe. They’re poisonous, aggressive, and sneaky. In a neutral outdoor setting, with five rattlers slithering around, I think any opponent would be intimidated.

Ofcourse, we’re not dealing with any opponent here: we’re dealing with Purple Eagles. Purple Eagles?!?! I mean, I’ve heard of some crazy shit, but I think Purple Eagles take the cake. Are these special eagles? Are they magical? As far as I know, there are no purple eagles in the wild. So what kind of eagles, are purple eagles, exactly?

Here’s what I say: they’re majestic and fierce….but not magical. Sorry, there’s no mention of magic here. But they are purple, don’t forget. All of this being said…I think the Purple Eagles take the Rattlers down. The Rattlers are at a distinct disadvantage, because the Purple Eagles can swoop from above and take out the Rattlers, one at a time. Don’t get me wrong…I think a Purple Eagle could get bitten in the melee. I just don’t see them losing.

Victor: The Niagra Purple Eagles

Round 1, The West:

The Purple Eagles get no rest…they immediately have to take on the Kansas Jayhawks. Which, honestly, doesn’t seem like as formidable a task. I mean…Jayhawks sound tough and everything, but against Purple Eagles…I don’t know. Let’s not forget….these are Purple Eagles that just defeated a bunch of nasty Rattlers. I think the Jayhawks would certainly be tough, especially off some rest…but I just think the Purple Eagles prevail here. I don’t know…just a gut feeling.

The Victor: The Purple Eagles

Okay folks…thats all I can do right now. Sorry…gotta get some shut eye. But I will be back to finish this epic tournament.

Until Next Time,

Greg

Alright, lets get down to business, no waiting around….

We’re moving on in the Mascot Basketball Challenge, whether you like it or not.

I’m starting with the Midwest, even though we already decided the play in game and first game in the West earlier. We’ll get back to that region. Anyone who is confused, check in with the last blog entry for rules and regulations, and to know what the hell I’m talking about.

Let the games….BEGIN:

The Midwest:

The Florida Gators vs. The Jackson St. Tigers:

Okay…this is one is pretty straight forward. We have two powerful, ferocious groups of predators facing off against one another in a neutral, outdoor setting. I think the neutral setting, however, actually hurts the Gators here. Gators need water to be very effective: without it, they lose their stealth. I think the Tigers pull out a win…but I think its bloody, and hard fought.

The Arizona Wildcats vs. The Purdue Boilermakers:

Okay…this is pretty interesting. First, we have the Wildcats, from Arizona. Since we don’t know what wildcats are being talked about here, we will presume they are natural to Arizona (I’m taking some liberties and making up rules as I go…let me know if you have a problem with this). Assuming this, we’ll say its a mix-bag of bobcats, cougars, and other assorted cats.

As for the Boilermakers, well….we’ll say five professionally made boilermakers, with Bud Light and Jack Daniels, will be laid out on the ground ( a boilermaker, for those who don’t know, is a beer with a shot of whiskey thrown into it). Like I said, interesting.

Wildcats are ferocious predators, known to attack people sometimes…but I wouldn’t call them “smart.” To expect a wildcat to understand what a boliermaker is, well, simply impossible. My estimation: the cats would drink the boilermakers and get drunk.

Now….I believe this would be detrimental to the cats well-being. But, that being said, the Boilermakers would cease to exist….therefore, although their plan to get the cats drunk succeeded, the boilermakers attempt suicide in the process.

The Butler Bulldogs vs. The Old Dominion Monarchs:

Well now…this is interesting. I’m not a big fan of bulldogs in battles…sure, they have strong jaws, and can intimidate foes with their drool…but are they really good fighters? I say no.

However, I’m not sure that a group of five Monarchs would really impress me.

Honestly, I think these two would make better friends than foes….I mean, can’t you see some old, crusty monarch from 300 years ago walking around with a spoiled bulldog as a pet? I can. But fighting each other…I think it’d be a little weird.

I see it happening in this way: five random monarchs, from various countries, of varying ages, enter the neutral area. They are given nice, plush chairs to sit on, and each a platter of grapes to eat from.

The bulldogs are led out, and let loose.

And for awhile, nothing happens. The bulldogs walk around slobbering; the monarchs sit around, talking of their palaces and their royal halls, and eating their grapes. Eventually, they get up to befriend the bulldogs, who seem somewhat royal themselves. And out of boredom and hunger, the bulldogs attack the monarchs, and eventually win the match.

I’m sorry…that may have seemed lame. But I am not, under any circumstances, allowing stalemates in this tourney…one way or another, there will be a winner. In the end….someone’s got to go. That’s the only way I saw it happening.

The Maryland Terrapins vs. The Davidson Wildcats

Hmm….more wildcats….only this time, they land a challenging foe.

For those who don’t know, terrapins are giant snapping turtles (I googled it just to make sure). Wildcats, as we already know, are wildcats. I think this would be a tremendous match-up, with non-stop excitement. The terrapins, slow but strong; the wildcats, quick and lean. I think it would last for hours, and I also think opinions would vary as to who would win….but I think, in the end, the terrapins outwit the cats, and eventually take them down. Remember….Turtles Have Wisdom (atleast I think they do…they live to be like 140 years old).

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. The Winthrop Eagles:

Ahh…here’s one of the matchups I’ve been waiting for. A bunch of fighting Irish dudes….against eagles. At Notre Dame games, a leprehchan guy (I’m not even gonna look up how to spell that…actually, it kinda looks right) runs around the field/court. We’re elimating him….and replacing him with some of the craziest, drunkest, Irish dudes I know. I know a lot of them. It kind of sucks….they get to go against….eagles. The most cliched sports animal ever. Whatever….here’s how I see it.

The Irish dudes are pissed at being made to do this, and they’re drunk. They’re allowed to bring their beers into the fighting area with them. The majestic eagles, flying high above, see their drunken targets below. Easy pickens, right?

Wrong. The first eagle swoops, hits a guy in the head, draws blood….and gets these crazy, drunk Irish dudes REALLY pissed. They start chucking a barrage of beer cans, beer bottles, and rocks at the birds. The birds can’t handle it. The Fighing Irish kick the crap out of them. And afterwards, they grill the eagles over an open pit…and drink more beers.

(If anyone was offended by my portrayal of Fighting Irish dudes….just make fun of Armenians, of which I am half. Or actually, just make fun of any ethnic group/religion/club that you feel like. Just don’t fight me.)

The Oregon Ducks vs. The Miami of Ohio Redhawks:

Ahhh, the Ducks….the absolute lamest mascot of all time, not including the Arlington Spy Ponders (inside joke for those from eastern Mass.). I don’t care if they’re an intrical part of Oregon’s history….I don’t care if ducks founded the state, wrote the constitution, and designed the state flag. Its still a shitty name for a sports team. They’re not even cool, like cardnals or bluejays…there, just, well, ducks!!

If you even have to think about what I think the Redhawks would do to the Ducks…well, you’re reading the wrong blog (on that note, you’re probably reading the wrong blog anyway).

The UNLV Rebels vs. The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets:

Okay….this is where my whole system hits a snag. Up until this point, according to my earlier post regarding this tourney, five of each mascot would enter the fighting area (per five basketball players per team to a court).

This is all fine and well for the Rebels….but for the Yellow Jackets, it just doesn’t work. Yellow Jackets, like all members of the bee/wasp family, produce their terror in numbers. Unless you’re allergic to bees, they’re only a nusance if there’s a few of them; a break a nest, and watch out.

If these Rebels, armed with….well, guns and stuff, I guess…were to face off against five yellow jackets…..well, they’d probably get a few stings, and then squish the little suckers. But if hundreds of yellow jackets were allowed to fight…well forget about the Rebels, the Yellow Jackets might be the tourney favorites.

I’m sort of torn here…..but I’m also in a hurry, and don’t have time to dwell, so I’m making an executive decision:

“It is with great regret that I, Greg Hovanesian, Commissioner of this fake Tournament, turn down the request of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, who have requested that five hundred bees be allowed to fight, instead of five.”

Tough loss for the Jackets….but it was just as tough a decision by me. Honestly…its one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made, and it leaves me with a heavy heart…I like those little guys. (In real life…I HATE BEES).

The Wisconsin Badgers vs. The Texas A&M Corpus Christie Islanders:

With all due respect….this would be a bloodbath.

Badgers, like Terrapins, are a sleeper pick for myself (for those not familiar with the term: an opponent that critics “sleep” on….and end up being better than expected). Badgers are really, really, tough. They live in tough climates. They can take down a deer with a single blow….okay, maybe not. But they’re damn tough little critters….and they fight dirty.

As for the Islanders….well, being from the South, we’ll say their tropical island dwellers. I love Islanders….they’re easy going, make cool drinks, and party on the beach. I mean, they make great company. But Islanders, atleast in my mind, aren’t really great fighters (anyone upset with my perception of Islanders….see above about the Irish).

Anyway…I think the Islanders, much like the earlier Monarchs, would try to befriend the Badgers. And, much to their chagrin…the badgers would launch their nasty attack. Honestly….this makes me sad to think about. I like Islanders…they’re good people.

And this marks the end of the Midwest Bracket:

Sorry, I’ve gotta go to bed. But don’t fret….this baby ain’t done yet. Peace.

Greg

—-

Okay, we’re gonna keep the ball rolling, just a few things first:

Well, I’m bleeding in my real brackets. Situation: I picked Notre Dame to go not only to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAAs, but the Elite Eight. And they lost to Winthrop. The sad part: I really wanted to pick Winthrop, but Notre Dame was one of my pre-tourney faves, so I had to stick with them. But because of this, I was actually rooting for Winthrop on TV (I forgot I had ND in the Elite Eight, I thought it was only the Sweet Sixteen). The point to all this: I suck. But hey, atleast I picked Virginia Commonwealth to beat Duke; now all they have to do is beat Pitt and I’m all set.

Quick Movie Review: Here’s a quick review of “300″, which I saw last weekend:

It sucked. It reminded my of a boring opera with no music. It made me tired. There was too much blood; not enough substance. I was bored 12 minutes in. I hated Spartans by the end of the movie. I found out that monsters existed in Ancient Greece, and mingled with humans, and had big teeth. I also found out that wolves were about 1,600 pounds, had yellow, glowing eyes, and looked really fake back then. I hated everyone in the movie except for a twelve foot monster who kicked ass about halfway through, and some deformed dude.

To sum it up: I reminded me of a nice, delicious plate of steaming dog poop. Hey, if this sounds like your type of movie….CHECK IT OUT!!!!

Moving on….

Yes, its true…advertising works!:

I’ve been watching a lot of college hoops for the last 3-4 weeks, and I’ve noticed an ad that occurs over and over: its for Buffalo Wild Wings, some restaurant chain I’ve never heard of. Well, I’ve fallen in love with this place, and not because of the food, or anything I’ve heard: only because of the ads. Which aren’t even that cool; they just kind of suck me in.

What does this mean? Well, it means that someday I’ll pull off a random highway in some random state, and there, in front of me, will be a Buffalo Wild Wings. I’ll stare in shock for a couple minutes, and then mutter, “My God, its what I’ve been waiting for.”

And I’ll probably get a buffalo chicken sandwich with a Ceasar Salad on the side, and it will probably be lame, and maybe I’ll sit at the bar and have a beer or too.

Why am I telling you this? Because it proves that adverstising does work; in perverse ways, maybe, but it works.

Okay..back to My Fake Tourney.

If you don’t know what’s going on…check back a couple of entries ago:

We’re going back to the West, where we already know that the Niagra Purple Eagles take down the Kansas Jayhawks in the first game. Let’s see how the rest of the bracket plays out:

The Villanova Wildcats vs. The Kentucky Wildcats:

Okaaaaay….I don’t even know what to say. Is this lame, or so lame that its cool? I say it its kinda cool. Like I said in an earlier post, there will no stalemates, no matter the situation. So one of these groups of wildcats is going to come out on top: end of story.

I’m making another executive decision here: the wildcats facing each other will be directly related to the geography of each school. That means that the wildcats of Villanova will be directly associated with Philadelphia; and the wildcats of of Kentucky will be associated with, well, Kentucky.

This leaves us with five Philly Wildcats, presumably alley cats and strays, to face up against bobcats and cougars from the backwoods of Kentucky.

Look, alley cats are tough and everything….I used to hear them fighting behind my house growing up (interestingly, there is no alley behind the house where I grew up). But in this situation, I’ll take the cats who weigh about 200 more pounds and eat deermeat for dinner.

The Victors: Kentucky

Next up: The Virginia Tech Hokies vs. The Illinios Fighting Illini

Okay…its Google Time!!

After googling “Hokies” I came back, well….confused. A little history about Virginia Tech: turns out, they were originally the Virginia Tech Gobblers; then at some point, Tech fans starting cheering “Hokie, Hokie, Hokie, Hi!” at games. Umm…whatever. But I guess everyone loved this cheer so much that it was decided to officially change the name of the team to “The Hokies,” and even rip down the Gobbler on the scoreboard (although it was later put back up).

So, to put it plainly: The Hokies, are, well…a type of cheer.

The Illini, on the other hand, are an American Indian tribe from Illinois. And being The Fighting Illini….well, we’ll assume they’re pissed off and armed.

Now this is somewhat interesting: its already been established that 5 of each mascot will enter the neutral outdoor setting: the 5 Fighting Illini are easy.

But how, exactly, do you count 5 hokies? Simple: you don’t. The Hokies, actually, are not actually anything: because of this, there will only be one Hokie, and this Hokie will not even exist.

As I see it: the Fighting Illini wait for someone to show up, but all they here is “Hokie, Hokie, Hokie, Hi!” being chanted over and over.

I think this would freak a lot of people out, Illini included: there wouldn’t even be an opponent to fight, just: “Hokie.” This all brings up an interesting question: how, exactly, do you defeat something that doesn’t exist. Simple answer: you don’t. But this brings up the whole stalemate issue. So a new rule is being created by me, on the spot: “If an opponent cannot be defeated in any way, then it is decided that they lose by default.”

So there, the Hokies lose. Even if the Hokies could pull off a win (which I don’t think they would; I don’t care how scared or freaked the Illini would get, I don’t see them actually losing to Hokies), they would lose by default because in actuality, they don’t exist.

So the victors, by default: Illinois

Next up…The Southern Illinois Salukis vs. The Holy Cross Crusaders:

Well, I learned something today: a Saluki is a type of dog that has been around for atleast 3,500 years. To see a picture of one, check this out: . (I hope this link works; I’m an idiot and may have screwed it up). It turns out they were bred to hunt in Egypt and Mesopotamia: what they’re doing in Southern Illinois….I have no freaking idea.

As for the Crusaders: there were nine crusades, and most of them consisted of Popes calling for the destruction of heathens in the East, leading to knights leading armies to the Middle East to wage war and pillage in the name of The Church.

As noble and graceful as the Salukies are (the thing looks pretty damn pompous on that website I found), I think the Crusaders would slaughter those heathen bastards in no time.

By the way, I know I’ve messed up the link somehow cause I looked at my draft….um, give me time.

Okay, I think I got it.

Nope…I didn’t….now I’m pissed. Goddamned Salukies!!! Screw ‘em…I’m glad they lost!!!!

Okay, if you’re annoyed that this entire thing has become a link….so am I.

Hold on.

Screw it…I’m done. Atleast you know what a Saluki looks like. I’m tired and I’ve been drinking anyway, so I’m running out of ideas and I think I kind of suck right now. So after I figure out this problem (which most 6th graders probably know how to fix), I’ll be back.

Until Then….I’m Pissed.

Whatever.

Until Next Time,

Greg

Jobs That Suck, Volume 1: Sidewalk Watching (A Re-Post From Awhile Ago)

Note: This is a re-post from a long time ago.

Quote of the Day,  5/10/07:

“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”

-Winston Churchill

I took a big step tonight….finally got out and started handing out some business cards….at the wonderful Tavern in Central Square, Cambridge…..so to all of you new readers, the above quote sums up how I will treat myself to please you.  Seriously.

Anyway….I mentioned a project I’m working on involving Nintendo songs to some you….but since I need to do some more collaboration with my trusty Nintendo/video game expert, that’s on hold for the minute.  So instead I’ll be posting about a certain job that sucks.

C’mon….we’ve all had ’em.  Jobs that you absolutely just hate….you bitch about them to your friends, your parents, whoever, until eventually, you quit or get fired.  Well, I like shitty jobs like this, for the following reason: you can tell great stories about them down the road.  This is the first part in a three part series.  So, without further ado:

EVERYTHING YOU EVER NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SIDEWALK WATCHING, AND WHY IT SUCKS:

Okay, first things first.  A long time ago, I used to be a construction worker.  I was still in college, and my dad happens to be best friends with the owner of one of the larger construction companies in Boston.  After my freshman year in college, my best friend and I were given jobs working in the garage for a large construction site: for the most part we were ‘runners’ (driving parts, ect.., from one construction site to the other), or just help for the mechanics.  Well, that lasted one summer: the next summer, my friend went his own way, and I went back to the construction company.  Only this time, I wasn’t working in a garage: I was a straight-up laborer (for you union experts out there….I was cleared by union officials to work the summer for Local 22 in Boston.  So there).

Being a laborer was tough work at times….but for the most part, I enjoyed it.  I got yelled at a lot, was sore from doing a lot of shoveling, and came home at weird hours due to my shifts, but I enjoyed meeting the guys and staying in shape.  But there was one aspect to this job that I hated: sidewalk watching.

That’s right…..watching cement dry on a sidewalk.  But wait…..why must someone watch the sidewalk dry?  Because cement is very, very expensive (a lot of people don’t realize this), and construction companies don’t like to pay for more of it than they need to.  Let’s back up a second: this construction company did road work for the most part, so laying down sidewalk cement was a part of the everyday schedule.  This was usually done during the day shifts: guys would smooth it over and make sure it was absolutely perfect all day, and then go home.  I happened to work second shift, which is 3pm-11pm, for those who don’t know.  So if there was cement that had been laid out late in the day, someone from the second shift was picked to watch it.  And that someone was usually me.

Now, this might actually not sound so bad.  In fact, the first time my foreman dragged me aside to tell I was going to go watch sidewalk instead of breaking my back shoveling, I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing in joy.  Really?  I don’t have to shovel?  I can sit on my ass and watch cement dry, and get paid?  Sign me up.  But there were a few problems: first of all, I couldn’t sit on my ass, cause there was no where to sit: I had to stand.

I remember getting dropped off the first time to watch sidewalk, and I was like, “Ohh, shit, there’s nowhere to sit.”  Ofcourse, I didn’t say this…my boss would have yelled at me.

My boss, who happened to be a supervisor (higher up then foremen) told me:  “Watch this sidewalk and don’t let anyone step on it.”

The only problem: it was a section of sidewalk about 500 feet long, and I was standing way down at one end on a busy road.  To put it into perspective:  I was on Huntington Ave. in Boston, right across from the Mass. School of Art.  There happened to be a bus stop located right in the middle of this piece of sidewalk.  And for anyone who knows the Huntington Ave. area, right near Northeastern University:  there are a ton of people walking around, and lots of traffic.

Well, the first half hour went fine……aside from the mind-numbing boredom.  And the general tiredness in my legs.  You don’t realize how stiff your legs can get from standing until you’ve stood in the same place for an hour.  After about 2 hours, things got interesting, but not in a good way: it was about 6pm, and people were trying to wait at the bus stop.

Unfortunately for them, they had to wait in the busy road.  Its not that I didn’t feel bad…I did.  But I wasn’t about to get skinned for letting the cement get screwed up.  A couple people stood up on the sidewalk (there was yellow tape around it), and I preceded to shout at them.  They all looked down the street, a little surprised to see me.  There I was: a 19 year old kid in a red helmet and glo-vest, lunchbox by my side.  Real intimidating.

But most people listened.  I was golden.  And then some absolutely crazy lady, probably in her 40s or 50s, came running out of nowhere.  She was dressed in a business suit.

I could tell she was trouble as soon as I saw her.  The traffic was a little menacing, and she seemed very confused and frantic by the whole ordeal.

Before she came along, most people would gingerly try to step on the curb, and I would shout them down.  No big problem.  Well, this Bat Out of Hell came running out of nowhere, and simply jumped over the yellow tape (I’ve never, in all my days since, seen a middle aged woman in high heels jump like this).  She came down…..right, smack dab, in the middle of the sidewalk.  I didn’t even shout.  I was stunned.

After about a two second delay, I shouted: “Hey!!”   That’s all I could think of.  Not, “What the f**k are you doing!!”, or “Get off the f**king sidewalk!!”  Nope….I yelled “Hey!!”

She looked at me with a real herky-jerky movement of her head, like a deer in the headlights.  She kept standing there.  And then she actually took two steps towards me on the sidewalk.

Now I was scared.

“HEY!!!  HEEYY!!!”

Finally, the “Heys” started working….she tramped off the sidewalk.  But the damage had been done.  It was like closing the barn door after the horse gets out.  Her bus came a few minutes later, and she was gone.

About 10 minutes later, the supervisor came back (Manny, an old salt who used to be a foreman; there are two types of supers in the construction world: old salts like Manny, and kids right out of engineering school).  He pulled up, kinda glanced at me, asked how it was going.  I didn’t say anything: just shrugged my shoulders and nodded.

Well, he started walking up and down the sidewalk, and at first everything was cool:  but about halfway up the sidewalk he stopped and started yelling in my general direction:

“What the f**k is this?!?!  Did someone f**king walk on the sidewalk!?!?  What the f**k is this?!?!”

Me: “Um, yah….this lady, she wouldn’t listen…..(trailing off).

Manny, muttering: “What the f**k….”

I’ll never forgot what happened next….he got in his truck and drove away without acknowledging me.  I don’t think he talked to me for about 2 weeks: when he finally did, I think he called me either “shithead” or “shit for brains.”

The moral to this story:  Sidewalk watching is a thankless, awful job.  Granted, it only happened about once or twice every two weeks when I was working, but when it did,  I was pretty much miserable.  Other general notes about sidewalk-watching:

1)  You absolutely need to make sure you pee before you start watching sidewalk.  This is imperative for a couple of reasons:  first of all, you usually watch sidewalk in very public places, with no where to go if you need to.  Second, sidewalk watching shifts usually last about 6 hours.  Third, and most importantly: you can absolutely never leave your post, because you never know when a boss might drive by.  My foreman was supposed to check on me every two hours or so, but it was usually more like 4, sometimes six.  If, for instance, there was a bush that looked acceptable (maybe not legal or decent….but acceptable), and you happened to duck away for a minute, and in that time a boss drove by….well, your ass would officially be in hot water.  I’ll never forget standing on Huntington Ave. one time, and some boss I had never seen drove by, and he yelled “Good job!!”  out the window.  I never found out who that guy was…..but it sort of scared me.

One time while standing on Huntington Ave., in the rain no less, the pain was simply too great: for about two hours I was in agony, and I’m not sure now, but I think I started seeing purple stuff floating around in the sky.  It was one of those moments when you have to pee so bad you don’t shift your feet, for fear of hitting a pebble the wrong way and setting off a chain reaction of feelings, leading to involuntary pee.   I happened to be in front of an apartment building: eventually a pizza guy came, and I actually made him watch the sidewalk while I peed in a corner.  At this point, I didn’t care if I was arrested, fired, beat up, whatever: the pee was actually giving me hallucinatory like feelings, and I needed to come to my senses.  So if you ever watch sidewalk on a busy road:  make sure you pee first, and don’t drink too many liquids during the watch.

2)  Also remember: when you are a sidewalk watcher, you are “The Bad Guy.”  I mean, c’mon…who hasn’t written something in fresh cement at some point?  Its harmless fun, right?  Yah….except to the construction company paying for the cement.   Considering the fact that an art school was right near by most of the time, this made me even more of a bad guy.

My first time doing it, I had some guy with a beard and a plaid shirt come up to me:

“So wait, let me get this straight…..you’re ensuring that no one expresses themselves, right in front of an art school?  How ironic!”

I didn’t really see it that way…but whatever.  It didn’t change the fact that I was the bad guy.  Once I had to yell at a guy and his girlfriend trying to write something, and I kinda felt like a jerk as they ran away in fear.  Another time, a bunch of kids, probably ten or eleven, tried writing stuff.  I yelled at them, but they didn’t listen.  So I ran at them, and as I did, I tripped on a bush and fell, and my helmet fell off.  And as I looked up from the dirt, I saw a bunch of little kids laughing at me…..and a couple of them stuck their fingers in the sidewalk defiantly before they left.  Needless to say….that was a low point.

But the thing to remember above all else is that sidewalk watching may be the most insanely boring job in the world.  Its so boring, you start counting cars like sheep, and noticing music coming from cars and singing the songs for as long as you can after they leave.  Its a job so boring that you can’t even talk to yourself (I find talking to oneself much more pleasing when walking, rather than being stationary).  Take it from me…..when you’re staring at cement in the hot summer sun….you start having some crazy thoughts.  It sucks.  It sucks bad.  And that, my friends, is Sidewalk Watching in a nutshell.

I hope, for your sake, you never have to Watch Sidewalk.

Until Next Time,

Greg