Barbershops, Fútbol, and Tiny Foreign Visitors

Pascual Firuglia, barber, talks shit about the fútbol team for ten minutes straight. The players couldn’t find the ball if it was attached to their asses by a chain. They used to have a forward who could actually shoot, but that was in the 70’s, and they’ve been fucking pussies ever since. The coach, he says, doesn’t know a goddamn thing. Historically, Pascual notes, the best coaches have been Italian, and he goes on to name seven top Italian coaches, starting in 1953.

As in every other barbershop in the world, Pascual’s place is full of gray old men who argue about soccer while flipping through the sports pages and watching the world pass by the window. Unlike most barbershops, though, Pascual’s is run by a former FIFA referee, who worked top-level international matches for almost thirty years. The walls of Pascual’s basement shop are covered with photos of him–young, black shirt, black shorts, black socks pulled high–standing between team captains from Czechoslovakia, Russia, Brazil, Jamaica, more. Pascual is short, solid, an athlete. He’s 73 now. He has done the math, and figures he ran almost 24,000 kilometers in his career; he opens his shirt buttons to show me a heart surgery scar. Aorta, he says. Fucking aorta.

Sheepishly, I tell Pascual and the old men that like a lot of Americans, I don’t know much about fútbol. Oh, he’ll teach you, the men say, but ignore fifty percent of what he says–it’s all bullshit. If it’s about refereeing, one guy says, not looking up from his paper, it’s one hundred percent bullshit. Assholes, Pascual answers. Freshly shaved, I step down from the chair. One of the assholes takes my spot, insults the Italian team as Pascual ties the cape around his neck, and says he just wants a little off the sides.

From the medical desk: I’ve been sick all week. Scratchy throat, runny nose, stuffed-up ears. With students from nearly every continent, all recently arrived in Caracas from summer travels, I’ve had an opportunity to catch germs from all over the world without ever leaving my classroom. My snot-filled head has had visitors from Asia, Europe, Africa. Just as the Spanish and the French and the Portuguese came to South America in search of land and gold, their bacterial compatriots have traveled, too–and staked claims to my sinuses, where I expect they’ll try to convert the natives, destroy the local mucosal economy, and replace my immune-system government with something that only works temporarily, relying on violence to achieve its short-term goals. Colonialism at work, even now.

Next week, a report on Sandra’s amazing dedication to organizing and folding everything in my house from plastic bags to electrical cables to underwear. Short version: before Sandra (B.S.), I thought I knew how to fold pants. Long version: I’m living in an A.S. world; check this space for more.

PS–I just subscribed to this blog, so now I get the email messages whenever there’s an update. It’s fun. I write, hit “publish post,” and forget about it. Then in the morning, my inbox has a nice note that there’s a new entry on the blog–and the message contains the full entry! I read the post and think, Wow, that guy sounds like he’s full of crap, but I guess I’ll keep reading. You can do the same thing, by entering your address on the “Follow by Email” form at the top of the page and following the simple instructions. Or, you know, just check for the latest.


One thought on “Barbershops, Fútbol, and Tiny Foreign Visitors

  1. Love the barbershop guys… so much bravado and camaraderie! Why did I think of Eddie Murphy (playing 3 barbershop guys in Coming to America) when I read that portion of your post? And… how was the haircut?

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