25 Jun 2010

Interracial Super Friends

2011? Jesus, how did you arrive here - on your dinosaur? Click here to go to hencewise.com, and stop a weirdo holding a candle in the dark, looking all dramatic and old-fashioned.

After an amazingly healthy breakfast accompanied by proper, proper coffee at our hosts, the Littlefield family’s house, we got in to our borrowed car, and typed an address into our gifted sat nav and headed to our next destination: scenic Lake George, northern New York State.

After relaxing on the lake beach for a while, we started looking for somewhere we could camp for free – the more bear footprints and shotgun shells, the better. However, we found somewhere lovely instead. We went to the reception to ask how much it would be… $22.

Well, I don’t know what five and a half bucks means to you, but to me that’s a buffet. Staring out at endless acres of woodland, and endless miles of lake, I was less than keen. However, this is when fate stepped in. More accurately, this is where fate waddled in. The Universe had just delivered to us large happy crappy camper Steve.

Steve, first and foremost, is not made for the wilderness. He’s barely made for surviving civilisation, bless him. But he saw us, four youthful brain-trained individuals, with time to kill. He asked us if we could put up his tent for him.

‘Of course! Get in’, we said, hugely pleased to be of service.

So, it turns out, Steve and his friend Sam (think Bubba from Forrest Gump but a lot more blind) are the two greatest men on the planet. Not only are they cute, interracial super friends, they are recovered alcoholics, ceaseless world watchers, and amongst the world’s most generous, simple and lazy creatures.

After setting up their tent for them (turns out they hadn’t read the instructions), we also set up their camping cots, six electric lanterns, their radio and their torches – all of which were brand new for their trip (estimated cost: well over a thousand pounds). It would later rain, and we quite simply could not imagine where they would have been if we hadn’t helped them (though in the dark, wet and upside-down would be a good guess.)

What followed was a night and morning of insightful quotes, nuggets of wisdom and insights into the workings of two minds that couldn’t figure out a zip… between two of them:

  • At three in the morning, “hey, Steve! How do you make this zip work?! I’m having so much trouble I think Ima have a accident!”
  • Paul: “Bad news, there’s no showers. Good news, I saw a chipmunk.”
    Sam: “Oh yeh! I saw a chipmunk this morning… in the shower!”
  • Steve trying to take a group photo of all of us. Unfortunately for several minutes he is pointing the camera at his own face, despite being the one with working eyes.
  • They take us out for breakfast (and please bear in mind we are camping on Lake George):
    Steve: “Hey, look at this lake.”
    He points at his table mat. Sam looks from Steve’s table mat to his own.
    Sam: “Hey, I think I got the same lake!”
  • Sam, a cigar-smoking basically-blind man, meandering around the camp trying to get some photos of us on his camera-phone, and literally pointing it at anything that moved. He also insisted on using a flash, despite it definitely being the day. Steve’s photography was almost as wondrous. We asked him to take a photo of all of us together, but he protested that we wouldn't all fit in. We explained he would have to get up and move back a bit.
  • Paul: “Are you gonna do a fire later?'
    Steve: “Depends if the trolley comes by with some wood.”
    This is mostly funny because we were in a wood.

But it is difficult to describe what genuinely great people they really were. Charming, engaging, curious. We were so, so fond of them. Steve, apart from feeding us and taking us out for breakfast, gave us a $100 towards our fuel, for little other reason that he hoped someone might do the same for his nieces and nephews while they were travelling. Amazing. To sum him up though, please see this animated gif, shot on a self-timer over the course of about 2 minutes.

Pictured: Steve and the World that moves around him.

To read more, visit USA by Hammock.

2011? Jesus, how did you arrive here - on your dinosaur? Click here to go to hencewise.com, and stop a weirdo holding a candle in the dark, looking all dramatic and old-fashioned.

15 Jun 2010


Americans are mostly rubbish at watching football or 'soccer' as it isn't called. They try, bless them, they really do. They put it on the television, just like the rest of us. They watch it down the pub with a beer, just like the rest of us. They say things like ‘yeah’ and ‘woo’ – sometimes at the right time – just like we all do. If you were watching from inside a deaf man’s head, you could honestly believe they were actual football fans from anywhere in the world. They’re not though, and owning sound converting ear things inside a bar in New York has proved this to me in an oversimplified and prejudiced way. I’ve heard them consistently not get it. ‘Come on!’ they shout angrily at perfectly normal tackles. ‘Are you frickin’ kidding me?!’ every time they misunderstand the offside rule. ‘Good kicking!’ nobody shouted at any point.

So, what’s the problem? I think there’s too much subtlety and not enough points for a nation weened on high-scoring, action-packed sports like basketball, ice hockey and American rugby (also known as 'football' to the natives.) I basically haven’t got a clue what I’m talking about when it comes to football. I have two generic conversations I can fall back in the pub if someone confronts me with an opinion. One's about how 'it's all, like, just a business, man' and the other starts something like 'I just can't understand why they haven't bought in video technology yet.' However, even I’ve played and enjoyed enough football in my life to appreciate the very basics of the game. Sit me in a pub with ‘blokes’, and I can shout things like ‘triangles!,’ ‘jog on! and ‘line him!’ almost convincingly. Put one of my made-up, stereotypical Americans in the same situation and it will be half an hour before they realise that the game has started.

This is why me and my friends have came up with a new set of rules to spice up the game for our transatlantic neighbours. Thanks, then, to Lucy, Alex, Andy, Aaron and Isaac, who may or may not have been drinking at the time, but definitely, definitely were.

New Rules Football:
  1. All balls must go in the goal.
  2. There will be one thousand footballs.
  3. Balls can only be moved by tongue.
  4. Goals can only be scored on horseback or whilst playing a mandolin.
  5. Managers must be singing at all times.
  6. Drinks may not be imbibed after the 35th minute.
  7. No draws.
  8. Goal keepers must wear ties.
  9. The goal is indicated not by a geometric arrangement of posts, but by an elephant.
  10. Every time a player scores, they must be replaced by a fan.
  11. In extra time, the ball(s) will be replaced with a chair. The game is basically the same, except now instead of scoring goals the teams compete to all be standing on the chair.
  12. Similarly, if footchair goes to penalties, the ball is replaced with a slippery pig. The winners must eat the pig.
  13. An Amazonian tribesmen (who has never seen shoes) is chosen to draw the lines on the pitch and choose the chair. After, he is killed.
  14. Fans have as many water balloons as they can fit in to their hats.
  15. No hats.
  16. Ronaldo must be waist-deep in the elephant at all times.
  17. Buckets are to be used instead of shoes.
  18. In order to encourage integration, leagues are organised not by country or region, but by first name, e.g. The Norman League.
  19. Finals are sponsored by Mr Kipling.
  20. Players must be wearing eye-patches. If the player fouls and gets a non colour-discriminatory circle card, the eye-patch must be replaced with glued-on binoculars.
  21. There is no referee, ever, unless someone successfully convinces everyone there is.
  22. Action replays are sepia-toned and projected on to the elephant.
  23. Minimum game time: 2 hours. Maximum game time: the life expectancy of an elephant.
  24. No players are allowed to advertise pants.
  25. Players may, however, advertise Boris Johnson as a non-political human.
  26. All team chants are ‘Magic’ by Pilot.
  27. If the ball goes off the pitch, the nearest player must set him or herself on fire.
  28. Should a player fall over, they may add a rule that lasts until the end of the game.
  29. Games end when Lucy laughs hysterically and runs out of breath.
  30. Rick Astley must attend every game and serve drinks until the 35th minute. Strictly no talking.
  31. Players must take brain supplements.
  32. Every team must have a player over the age of 80.
  33. There are no rules.
I think it would take a while to transition between the current ‘old rules’ and our more logical new ones, but the result would be a world where Americans could not only join in with the fun of football but hopefully learn to understand even the simplest rules of the game a little better.

Pictured: Too complicated.

11 Jun 2010

Mumble in the Bronx

So… planes now. I flew to Florida when I was a kid to cuddle strangers in animal costumes, but I don’t have a sparkling memory from that age. I remember I cried when I didn’t want to go on Space Mountain (after queuing for an hour first. Thanks Dad), and my brother jumped over two beds and into a wall when lightning struck a nearby hotel. However, what I definitely don’t remember is every seat having its own media TV station thing where you can watch a catalogue of movies, play games, listen to music, and even follow the plane’s progress on an animated flight chart. I was apparently so spoiled for choice that I couldn’t even make a choice. I just watched bits of things and fell asleep. I especially enjoyed the first ten minutes of Ghandi. I hope everything works out alright for that lovely little bald man.

One plane landing, forty fingerprints and fifteen bucks later, we were not only on a government database but also outside Grand Central station, poncing wireless from a Starbucks and downloading directions to our first host, a woman called Lisa in the Bronx. At this point, we were still weighed down by our bags and looking a bit like four people trying to smuggle folded camels into a rucksack convention.

We did the looking-up-everywhere-touristy thing for a bit, then found a Subway station to get confused in. A lovely woman helped us press some buttons on a machine because apparently it was too complicated to figure out for ourselves, and then we went to the platform to watch lots of trains that should have had us on them leave without us on them. Finally, we confirmed the right one and boarded, rearranging as many tired commuters with our massive rucksacks as possible.

In the Bronx, it was pissing down but it seemed very fitting that four English people should arrive to their first Couch Surfing host absolutely soaked. Despite this, we stopped in a shop doorway for a few minutes, and met a black skinned, blue eyed man called Charles. Thirty seconds in, it was clear he was on the Diana side of the Queen vs. Diana debate, if indeed that debate is going on anywhere.

We got to Lisa’s and within five minutes were in love with her, her son Ethan and their place. I’ll leave Lucy to describe them as she already has a new 8-year old best friend. Meanwhile, we all went out to grab some shopping for dinner and blended immediately into the local neighbourhood.

‘Yo! Where all these white people come from?!’

Or not.

Pictured: 'When in Rome.' Us blending in to the Bronx.

To read more, visit USA by Hammock.