When I officially embarked upon YESQUEST 2011 (Where I’d say Yes! to everything), I just didn’t think…well, I just didn’t think. As I’ve spent the last few years in front of the TV (my readers will know this about me already, so I’ll spare you the nearly paralyzing anguish I’ve suffered with the whole Two and a Half Men deal), I thought that saying Yes! to every invitation would be somewhere within my comfort zone. I thought that a wild time doing something I don’t normally do would be, I dunno, gettin’ all crazy and shit and hitting the grocery store after nine p.m.
I thought wrong.
The moment I arrived back in town from my time in Austin and at South x Southwest, the fellow who is generous enough to stay at my house and sit my dog, Mark Matsusaki, asked if I’d like to go to a Dynamos game. What did I know about Houston’s professional soccer team? Nothing. And I’d never cared. All the better! Yes!
Anyway, it was one of those breezy spring evenings that makes us forget that Houston is normally a subtropical shithole, so I dropped off my luggage and ventured forth. The Dynamos play their games at Robertson Stadium at the University of Houston which is also serves as the home for the Houston Cougars Football,. It’d been a while since I’d been to UH, which is kind of a shame, as I went there. I hadn’t been in this stadium–or a sports venue of any kind–since 1999, when, thanks to a twirler in the drawing class I conducted as a graduate student in the art department at UH, I spent almost a year on the front lines of the football field and basketball court and made paintings of the cheerleaders. Though I’d previously held nothing but disdain for girls with a penchant for showing off their panties, I came to respect them. I, after all, couldn’t do a quintuple back flip and land on my feet with a grin.
Despite my new found reverence for dedication and athletic ability at the UH games back then, though, I never attended another sporting event. I’m still really into basketball and the NBA, (I was the statistician for my high school team–where else is a nearly six foot tall teen supposed to troll for dates?) but I’ve kept my passion closeted. I don’t think I know anyone in the art world who follows organized sports. I know a few who play golf or surf, but not any artists who follow team activity. As one of those booger-eatin’ morons glued to the set, though, I admit that Charles Barkley entertains me more than just about anybody out there. The guy’ll say anything, and his friends will, too. If you missed the night in which Tracy Morgan proclaimed Sarah Palin excellent “masturbation material”, I highly recommend that you check it out here . It’s not only hilarious, but it actually made it past the censors during prime time (TNT had to deal with it later, but still!). Anyway, maybe there are a bunch of sports fans out there at Menil openings. I just haven’t talked to them.
So there I was at my first sporting event in years. It was kind of a thrill. We got free t-shirts! We kept getting chased out of our seats because we couldn’t tell the difference between a “1” and an “I”! Eventually, Mark abandoned me for the beer line and I was stranded with some guy who was 20 and not a sparkling conversationalist. Have any of you tried chatting with a 20 year old lately–I mean, like, when you’re all old and shit? Not pretty. There was a lot of Uh, yeah. Um, do you like stuff? And this guy knew even less about soccer–let alone Houston soccer–than I did. After a while, our friend Zach showed up with his very cute neighbor, so she and the young guy amused each other for the remainder of the game. Unfortunately, Zach’s friend and the underage fellow were between me and the very entertaining Zach. This left me nothing to do but watch the game.
Soccer’s pretty straightforward, but I think I’m missing the concept on a lot of key elements. I’ll give it more credence than Stephen Colbert, who deemed it “the sport for fourth graders that foreigners take seriously”, but only because I don’t know anything about it. The game wasn’t very good and things seemed to move dreadfully slow. After watching it for a couple of minutes, I realized that I was doing the sports version of My Kid Could Paint That. One guy kept screwing up, and he struck me as so inept, I found myself thinking, I Could Kick The Thing Better Than That! Which is a bunch of hooey, I know. I couldn’t kick a soccer ball across a narrow hallway. But I realized, right then, that I was a little involved there. Very little, I grant you, but I stamped my foot on a bleacher and cursed that inept Houston soccer team guy whose name I never found out, and it dawned on me: I was doing what millions of sports fans do millions of times a year–proclaiming ownership and authority and a sense of pride (or shame) over a matter in which I had absolutely nothing to do with. It was stirring.
It reminded me of this pasty guy walking out of my gym the other day. He was wearing a Rockets Drexler jersey. I tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around. Hey, I said, you’re not Clyde Drexler! He stared at me. I thought you were because you’re wearing his clothes! I said. He was not amused.
Despite my tepid team spirit epiphany, I had a hard time concentrating on the game. I concentrated on the people instead. I noticed that we whities were the minority. I guessed that pleased me because it seems that, unless you’re at Project Row Houses or another multicultural arts venue, the Houston art world, in contrast, can seem a pretty palefaced place to be. Most Dynamos fans, as might be predicted, were Hispanic. They seemed to understand the game and were cheering and jumping up and down in the bleachers. The row of 20-something guys behind me were particularly enthused, and particularly vocal. When first entering the stadium, a voice over the loudspeaker asked that, due to the presence of children in the audience, we refrain from profanity. Fine by me. I couldn’t tell what the fuck was going on out there, anyway. Although the rest of my crew had no idea what was being said behind them, my limited restaurant Spanish told me that the men behind me were making an awful lot of references to various regions of their genitalia, their buttocks, and the sex act that various prostitutes and each other’s mothers would be receiving at an unspecified time. I guess that intercom guy just meant that people should simply refrain from profanity in English.
We lost (notice the we, as if I had something to do with it), and we (Mark and Zach) headed to the Moon Tower Inn for some fancy-ass hot dogs (phenomenal fancy-ass hot dogs, by the way) and a chance to feel hip for hanging out in the Second Ward. That hip, in-the-know feeling rapidly vanished when a charter bus deposited a pack of drunken, rodeo-geared business types in front of the place. There’s nothing scarier than a pale, 6’3″ western wannabe in pressed Wranglers, obscenely expensive ostrich boots, and a belt buckle the size of a dinner plate.
The whole episode wore me out. And wasn’t I missing a world of programming in which the brightest reality-TV stars had come out to shine? I suspected as much. But then, as if by kismet, my friend David LaDuca asked me later that week to see the Rockets play the Golden State Warriors at the Toyota Center. Zow! A game I knew–and liked! We had VIP parking! Fifth row seats! We even got hats thrown to us by petite girls wearing far too much makeup, for God’s sake! And with just a quick trip through the “Tundra Tunnel” at the center, we had access to free drinks! What could be better? Oh, yeah! We won! It’s so much nicer to feel as if you’re part of a team that you’re not really a part of when they’re winning! I think it might have been the most fun I’ve had in…well…a long time. David called his brother and said, You’re not going to believe this: Laura Lark is yelling and jumping up and down…
It was a good time, and even though I generally have problems with people I don’t know touching me, I didn’t even mind when the woman in obscenely tight jeans and stilettos next to me kept grabbing my arm every time the Rockets scored or got the rebound. And there were those fabulous Rockets Power Dancers. I’d like to point out the difference here between a Power Dancer and a cheerleader: the cheerleader is the one doing the quintuple back flips, and the Power Dancer is the one gyrating as if she might be entertaining at Rick’s. David leaned over to me as the Power Dancers were in the middle of their “Little Schoolgirl” number and said, I think I’m looking at everything that’s cheesy about Texas. I asked him to elaborate, so he did: The uber-white teeth and orange spray tans and bad dye jobs and fake tits. I agreed. Then again, I’m probably just jealous. I would never be asked to be a Power Dancer or a dancer at Rick’s. And a couple of the girls I went to grad school with in the ’80s not only paid their tuition as exotic dancers (if anyone can tell me why it’s “exotic”, I’ll give ’em a lap dance–wait, no–), they had nice clothes. And there I was back then, schlepping drinks and shopping at the Salvation Army.
As I stated earlier, the Rockets won, and I got to marvel at the giant Argentine, Luis Scola, who is so oafish and ungainly it’s a wonder he can move at all, yet move he does, and quite effectively.
Did I feel proud that the Rockets beat the Warriors by a few points? Eh. Probably not. But both games I saw made me ponder the notions of spirit, pride, and of feeling part of something larger than oneself. A team, doggone it! I sure as hell didn’t identify with anything Houston-oriented, be it Dynamo or Rocket, even though I can honestly say I do like Houston well enough not to recommend that it be razed. But all those fans of different ethnicities, coming together to root for a common cause? Kinda brings a lump to my throat. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could all get together in support of our country in the same way? That’s probably too much to ask. Okay, how about if we try to get the Democratic party to have a unified vision? No, still too much. How about if we all get together and put the head of that greedy, oily, duplicitous asshole Rick Perry on the same chopping block upon which he’s ravaged (or is in the process of ravaging) arts and education? Man, that’s a lovely image: off with his head! But do I think that we’ll all get our shit together and actually be able to do something about it? I’m dubious. As artists, we are solo practitioners with our individual visions, and it’s hard to get things together. And as artists, we don’t feel particularly loyal to one team–but wouldn’t that be great? An art team? There’s probably one out there that I don’t know about–I’ve already admitted that I’m out of it. Hey, if there is one, I know I’m over the hill, but can I please, please, please be one of the dancers? That would be so much fun! Because it’s always nice to remember: there’s no “I” in team! Alas, there is one in “artist”.