“Ugh, I lost my voice this weekend,” read my Facebook post. “That’s what happens when you get to the tailgate early and go in lit!” Replied Stefan. He wasn’t wrong. That is what happens when I get to the tailgate early and go in lit; I yell way too much and don’t care if I get rained on.
The bad news is that D.C. United delivered an incredible stinker of a performance last Saturday, with Steve Birnbaum giving up two--yes, two--penalty kicks which Columbus converted, winning the game… 0-2. Three games into the season and D.C. United has given up six goals and scored precisely zero.
The good news is that I went in lit and had a hell of good time yelling at the Crew goalkeeper Zack Steffan (helpfully informing him that he will be dying alone) and then, as the game wore on, demanding that Bobby Boswell be brought on.
But all that’s in the past.
Having had almost two weeks to let the shittiness of the game itself wash away, all that’s left are some very fond memories of the weekend.
The push and pull of winter and spring we’d been experiencing the last couple months had once again tilted back towards spring and Saturday dawned warm and sunny. I’d gone to Target early in the day to pick up supplies--contractor bags and some single serving boxes of wine. A few of us Ultras were meeting at RFK early in order to clean up the tailgate area down by the Anacostia.
Since writing my first post this season on the stadium groundbreaking I had become much more aware of the river. The level of pollution in the Anacostia is shameful, even more so when you consider that many people depend on the river as a food source. (The linked video is short and well worth watching.) Looking around at all the garbage littering the riverbank at the first home game of the season, I’d wanted to do something about it. At least what little I could.
When we pulled up to the tailgate area on Saturday it looked even worse than I remembered. There had been a marathon and a St. Patrick’s Day drinking event since we’d been there last and apparently the participants of those yuppie shindigs didn’t particularly care where their SunChips™ bags and plastic water bottles and granola bar wrappers ended up.
Time to get to work.
Josh put on some tunes as we all grabbed garbage bags and started cleaning.
Lot 8 is eerily quiet in the hours before a game and the cheesy pop songs from Josh’s speakers seemed to dissipate under the strong sunlight, swallowed by the vast silence of the empty parking lot. I focused on picking through the scrubby trees on the riverbank, untangling plastic bags from prickly branches, digging up water bottles buried under rotting leaves. Boots squelching in arsenic-tainted mud as I fished out yet another green Nature Valley™ wrapper from the cloudy water of the Anacostia.
Occasionally a shout would ring out: “I found a mustache!” or “Check out this credit card from 2010!”
Two hours later we’d collected seven overflowing bags of trash.
The tailgate area looked beautiful.
I could almost forget the white plastic shopping bag I’d found poking out from under some tree roots. When I’d tugged on it, it dissolved into thousands of tiny plastic pieces. I did my best to gather up what I could but some of the plastic would inevitably end up washed into the river by the rain.
People began arriving. I cracked open my wine and proceed to get lit.
“I’m going to yell at anybody I see dropping trash on the ground!” I declared, box of wine sloshing.
If there was going to be any home game this season I remember fuzzily, I’m really happy it was this 0-2 monstrosity.
We sung and waved flags and did the chant were we all get low and the other one that we only do for Columbus: [To the tune of “Yellow Submarine”] “We all piss on the yellow football team, the yellow football team, the yellow football team…”
(Hell yeah! I got to try on the DISTRICT ULTRAS WWE BELT!)
The coda to this shit show of a game is that the Ultras are going to be punished at the next one. Nothing improves the fan morale of a team that has yet to score a goal three games into the season like taking away drums and flags from people who did nothing wrong just because some asshole standing near them threw a beer at Ted Unkel for awarding Columbus two penalty kicks.
The day after the game I got up extremely early, still a bit fuzzy headed for some reason, and drove to Pittsburgh with my buddy Ben for a live recording of the Street Fight Radio podcast.
If you haven’t listened to Street Fight, I strongly suggest that you do. It might take a couple of episodes to catch the rhythm of it but Brett and Bryan’s free-wheeling anarcho-comedy is fantastic. The format is basically like sticking a microphone in the middle of a bullshit session with a couple buddies talking politics--not this horse race bullshit we hear on the news but real, lived experience politics. I didn’t realize how disconnected I’d felt from the politics of work until I began listening to Brett and Bryan on a regular basis. Anybody who has worked a job where you have to fight to get a lunch or where they try to get you to work off the clock or any of the daily indignities of ordinary life should give it a listen.
The drive up to Pittsburgh takes about four hours and is absolutely gorgeous. Clouds hung low and misty over the Appalachian mountains making everything feel dreamlike and cozy.
Our first stop was to pick up another buddy, Marvin, who’d taken the bus in to Pittsburgh from Cleveland, and then to ride the Duquesne Incline, an inclined plane railroad which has been in (almost) continual operation since the late 19th century. Pittsburgh has the most municipal inclines of any city in the United States and the Duquesne is still a vital part of the city’s mass transit system, hauling riders up and down Mount Washington.
The view from the top of Mount Washington is mesmerizing. Marvin and I counted the bridges and picked out landmarks. And the three of us joined the other tourists in taking millions of pictures.
From there we stopped at Primanti Bros for lunch and had sandwiches with french fries in them.
And then it was time for the show. It was held at an upscale pizza place, Spirit, tucked away in what seemed to be a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.
To my surprise, when we pulled up there were already people clustered around the doors waiting to go in.
Word had gone out that people under 21 needed to accompanied by an adult and I was both charmed and delighted when a young man came up to me and asked if I’d accompany him and his friend inside because they were only 20 years old. “Of course I’ll be your mom for the day!”
I do like being helpful. I can’t turn off my need to librarian.
The Street Fight show was great! The theme was small business tyrants and we heard some stories from Brett and Bryan’s days in the trenches. The visuals add an extra layer to the voices I’m used to hearing from my headphones: the way Brett gets a real wicked glint in his eyes when he’s telling a story; Bryan’s inability to ever be completely at rest.
The boys from Chapo Trap House also made an appearance and the crowd Chapo pulls is distinctly more… liberal arts college, as are the Chapo folks themselves. But what I like about Chapo is that they use the insider knowledge of liberal arts thought to reveal the flaws and inanities of that way of thinking, the reflexive way certain codes of speech are used to exclude and dismiss. (Also, they are genuinely hilarious and share my fascination with both mass transit and daily newspaper comics. Is Mary Worth on social security? Nobody is talking about this.)
So, I find one of the odd things about Chapo is that a certain segment of their audience wants to put a real political weight on the podcast--a weight it neither asks for nor merits--and to Chapo’s credit they have tried to discourage this as much as possible. The highlight of the entire show for me was during the Q&A a Chapo fan got up and essentially asked the boys what he should be doing now. They didn’t know. Why would they? But then Brett jumped in with a really thoughtful answer about how to get politics off the Internet and into your life. And it made me really hope that some of the college Chapo fans would start listening to Street Fight. Tune in, turn on, and get out in the streets.
The rest of the evening was spent catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. I met both a nuclear engineer and a stage manager and made fun of Pennsylvanians weird way of shortening all their city names to like “A-town”. WHY DO YOU DO THAT?!
I wished I could have stayed longer and talked to everyone (especially Virgil Texas, who is one of the few people that has managed to successfully “actually” me, thereby winning my undying loyalty forever. That’s how these things work among pedants.) but big gatherings are an introvert’s nightmare and my voice was still hoarse from yelling so much the day before.
I lost what was left of my voice on the ride home trying to keep Ben awake with cringey stories of my youth but it was worth it.