A very special guest-post from Monseur Vandal-prone of the snazzy Run of Play
Everybody’s like “ooh, it’s so dangerous, the government’s imploding” and whatever, but I am telling you from experience that it is less dangerous in San Pedro Sula than it is in Rome when a brutal Cockney crimelord is trying to kill you for having foiled his plot to crash the international butterfly smuggling rackets. Without getting into the whole nasty backstory, let’s just say I was in Honduras to hide.
We could also say I was in Honduras to hide because my Russian friend whose daughter I was formerly in love with used the political connections he’d forged as the official state embalmer of Vladimir Lenin to get me a job under a fake name at the Planetario Infantil, but that’s probably getting too mired down in the details. At this point even I’m having trouble keeping it all straight.
Anyway, this far out of Tegucigalpa, you would barely even know that there was a constitutional crisis going on. Really the only sign is the large bands of police who occasionally roll through your neighborhood firing live ammunition and kicking everyone to the ground. If it weren’t for them? Honestly, this might as well be Madison.
The point is, before the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team touched down at La Mesa, I had a decent life. Wake up, go to work, crank the lever that makes the stars turn, wonder if I could ask out Irma, the girl who sells the tickets at the planetarium, without eventually getting beaten up by her so far completely hypothetical older brother, go to McDonald’s for a cuarto di libra con queso or a tasty McPollo sandwich, try not to get killed by the police while looking for a decent third-run movie, go home and hit the sack. Not exactly the rock star life, but a hell of a lot better than what went down after Landon Donovan and Co. hit town.
First of all, I didn’t even want to go to their hotel. I had been in this great place where soccer was sort of like perpetually just around the corner in my brain—it wasn’t exactly out of my mind, but it was like, I knew the MLS season was raging along, but I still wasn’t that desperate to follow it or watch any of the games. (If you can even believe that.) I was content just to know it was out there, like the way I imagine guys who are obsessed with childhood memorabilia from the ’80s probably feel about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Like, yeah, that happened, but it’s not the fucking Thundercats. I was so caught up in the astronomy life that I barely even knew the USMNT was due in town for a game.
Irma, though. For about a week before the game, she was doing this whole thing where every day when I came into the planetarium she’d sort of eye me with this very teasing look and tell me what Los Catrachos were going to do to my gringos, if you catch my drift. I wasn’t totally sure how to respond to this, because her whole manner was so appealing and sarcastic that it made it impossible for me to figure out how comfortable I could be with other people’s casual social homophobia manifesting itself for comedy purposes, because where was that coming from? But at the same time there was something about her that made me think it just might feel right, you know?
So one day I just threw out there that we should go scope out their hotel and see what they were really like. I don’t know what the point was supposed to be, but it gave me the chance to show off that I write for an American soccer website (because I said I would let her sit in on my “big interview with Charlie Davies,” and at this point nobody needed to know that my password had been revoked). She said okay, and before I knew it we were closing up the planetarium and jumping on the back of a banana truck. (She seemed to know the driver, or at least, she said a bunch of stuff to him that I couldn’t quite decipher with my zero years of high-school Spanish.)
So we rumbled along, through endless winding streets of like shaggy leaf fringe and dental clinics and rows of just hundreds of t-shirts for sale under giant umbrellas. This was all so exhilarating—normally at that hour I’d be crawling around in the planetarium machinery, trying to figure out why Castor was knocking into Pollux—that I guess I didn’t really formulate a plan, and by the time we got to the hotel I had basically let Irma come to the conclusion that I was the most important soccer/sports writer in the history of the United States. I didn’t lie on purpose. It was more like baby steps of misunderstanding. She was like, “What are you doing working at the Planetario,” and I was like, “Um, I have some dangerous enemies,” and she just assumed from there that I meant Sunil Gulati. Also there’s a chance I took credit for the writings of Grantland Rice. It was a long drive, and say what you want, but the back of a banana truck can be extremely romantic. The writings of Grantland Rice were completely up for grabs at that point.
So when we got to the hotel, there was clearly a sense that I would be able to flash some sort of card and waltz straight into Bob Bradley’s closet, like Judi Dench in a movie where she played a soccer reporter and/or Grantland Rice. (No one implicitly deserves access to more places than Judi Dench. She is like Rahm Emanuel crossed with the Holy Ghost.) Irma was kind of holding onto my arm in this very encouraging way, so I walked right up to the security guard at the door and said, “My good man, I’m here to interview Charlie Davies.”
“Nobody’s allowed in,” said the guard impassively.
“My good man,” I continued, “I think Mr. Davies will want to speak to me.”
“You are?” said the guard.
“Uh, Vandal-prone,” I answered, sort of gulping to myself.
“He’s a very important writer,” Irma told him confidingly.
“Look, I don’t care if he’s Grantland Rice, he’s not on the list, and nobody gets into the hotel.”
“Why not?” I asked, totally like a VIP would do it.
“We’ve got an unstable political situation, and we have carte blanche to protect these assets,” said the guard.
“What, like they’re oil fields?” I snapped. I have no idea where that came from.
“No more blood for oil!” Irma shouted, not missing a beat.
The guard turned to one side and clicked his wrist piece. “We’ve got an insurgency underway at Door 2,” he said. “Repeat. Insurgency at Door 2.”
“What, like you’re nation-building? Like you’re nation-building in the hotel lobby,” I squealed.
“You think you’ll be welcomed as liberators,” Irma hissed, “but the staff will see you as oppressors.” She was surprisingly ready for this.
“More personnel to Door 2,” the guard said. “Repeat. More personnel to Door 2.”
Irma’s eyes went wide. “He’s calling for a surge,” she said. “Come on. We’ve got to get out of here.”
So we turned and took off, only to collide with the banana truck driver, who was holding a Sharpie and wondering if I could get Tim Howard to autograph his hat.
It got worse from there. I have no idea if the guys who were chasing us were FBI, Micheletti’s thugs, or just a whole swarm of Irma’s infuriated older brothers. All I know is that Irma now thinks it’s too dangerous for us to see each other, and I’m supposed to take this secret plane out of the country tomorrow night. (“To freedom,” she told me, squeezing my hand.) No, I don’t want to get on it, and yes, I’ll probably wind up in Hugo Chavez’s hot tub, but the whole situation has a very “Fernando”-like quality that I don’t know how to contend with. Plus, there’s no way I’m going to jail for Landon Donovan. Not again. No matter how happy I am that we qualified for the World Cup.
I don’t know, maybe it’s all for the best. I only have two new Office episodes left on my iPod anyway. What with all the turmoil there’s no way to download more, and eventually it’s going to be impossible for me to keep pretending I don’t know Pam is pregnant.
Vandal-prone writes semi-regularly for the delightful runofplay.com