Saturday, September 29, 2007

Rooting for you, red team

There's a game tonight and hordes of red-shirted football fans are in the neighborhood. I walk towards the looming cement stadium with Yuki, taking advantage of walking in the middle of normally busy streets that are are now closed to traffic. I see a wildcat family, all dressed in red and carrying stadium cushions. The girl wants to pet Yuki; I ask to see the flashing lights shining from the older boy's teeth. The mom tells me they're similar to those wax lips we used to wear at Halloween except that the lights are worn like a retainer inside the mouth and against your teeth.

On a corner I see a scalper who asks me if Yuki is a spitz. I say no, he's an American Eskimo dog, and I ask him if scalping is legal. It is in Arizona, he says. On a side street near a convenience store, more red shirted people are drinking beer out of cans and bottles that are partially concealed in brown bags. I look up at the various sports flags on the side of the stadium and simultaneously imagine these flags as prayer flags and the Wildcat fans as ticket holders for a Dalai Lama event... My mind stops there. Yuki and I cross the street.

I catch a snippet of dialogue between two scalpers on cell phones--I have two tickets together for $60 at the 20 yard line, one says--and I see the lit up squares of both scalpers' cell phones moving towards each other on the dark street. A neighbor seated on a beach chair is holding up a cardboard sign advertising $15 street parking with free beer, $2 a cup if you just want beer.

I hear the announcer's stadium voice, "ladies & gentlemen, please rise for the national anthem" and in a flash I recall watching a Cubs' game in Wrigley Field when I was nine with my grandfather who smoked cigars. There was organ playing throughout the game and the sky was blue. My grandfather bought me a blue cotton CUBS cap with a big red "C" stitched on it, and I remember the crack of the ball on wooden bat.

Yuki is oblivious to the festive atmosphere around us and to my reverie; he just sniffs along enjoying what he enjoys until the fireworks makes him jump at kick off. I've never been a football fan and find nothing appealing about American alcohol culture, and yet tonight I find a peculiar joy in observing the people and things that turn an ordinary Tucson neighborhood into "Wildcat Country."

Meanwhile many thousands of miles away, on the streets of Yangon and Mandalay, red and saffron robed Burmese monks and thousands of lay people march peacefully, nonviolently, for democracy. Go red team! Burma may not win right now, but they will eventually.

"May we be completely free from all danger, may we be completely free from all grief, may we be completely free from poverty, may we have peace in heart and mind." (This is a translation of what the monks chanted when they were greeted by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi).

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