Since our last soccer pilgrimage to Newark was so successful, we decided to do another, and we didn't feel like we were pressing our luck because Newark's murder-free streak is over--which is a relief-- how long can you keep something like that up? In a sense, a murder free streak in Newark is exactly like a 0-0 soccer match, you know something eventually has to give, and the tension is unbearable.
We weren't going to the new soccer stadium in Harrison via Newark this time-- this time Newark was our destination: the Ironbound neighborhood in particular, which has a huge Portuguese population. We thought it would be a fun place to watch the Spain Portugal game, and it was.
Since Terry and I weren't murdered on our last trip, we were able to coerce a few other people into going: Ed, Stacey, and my wife. Terry is on the far left in the picture above, and he is fascinated by this stuff called "beer."
My wife, Terry and I took the train from New Brunswick, and-- as instructed by TR, The Official G:TB Drunken Public Transportation Correspondent-- we drank some of these "beers" on the train ride, but we did not overhear anything as fantastic as this. In fact, our conversation was the exact opposite of that one; we ran into our neighbor Roman, who is a medical doctor, and we talked about liver transplants and blood clots. Not very sexy at all.
Digression: you know what is NOT funny to say on the train when you are a teacher on summer vacation? "What are all these people doing on this train? And why are they all dressed up? Oh, that's right, they have to work." We're lucky they didn't beat us up and take our benefits.
Our first stop was Iberia Peninsula, which is a rather touristy place on Ferry Street. Ed and Stacey were enjoying a bucket of ice cold beer in the outdoor seating area, which was festive but loud as all fuck, so Terry, Catherine, and I decided to do a recon mission and scope out a number of bars that were rumored to be "soccer joints."
After a bit of walking , we found ourselves in a Brazilian neighborhood. How could we tell? Brazilian flags. Boi Na Brasa looked promising and a bit quieter than Iberia Peninsula . . . but as we closed in we realized it was too quiet. There was a tent and outdoor seating, but it was abandoned. Why is it abandoned? we wondered. There's soccer afoot. It took us a moment to unravel the mystery: the tent was for Monday's game . . . the Brazil game. Brazilians, despite speaking the same language, don't give a fuck about the Portuguese soccer team. I guess when you are Brazilian it's hard to deign to watch any other team. But here is the great thing about America: you can walk from Portugal to Brazil. Next World Cup, we know where to head for the Brazil games-- East on Market Street.
We tried one last spot: The Madrid and Lisboa Restaurant. This place appealed to Terry because he wanted to root for Spain, and he figured at a place with both Madrid and Lisbon in the name, you could root for either team. He was wrong. The place was perfect, as long as you were rooting for Portugal. For the sake of G:TB, I conducted a short interview. I asked the little dark-haired bartender:"Are you for Spain? Or Portugal?" She said, with contempt for my questions: "Portugal," and scurried away-- the place was way to busy to answer idiotic questions like that.
The place was packed, and the atmosphere was soccer oriented yet festive, so I stepped into a back room and called Ed and Stacey to give them directions. I used my cell phone (these things are pretty excellent and very convenient in a situation like this one) to convey this information and then I "texted" them the address so they wouldn't miss it. In the old days, I would have used a "pay-phone" to call the restaurant and they would have "paged" Ed and Stacey, and then Ed and Stacey would have "written" the directions down on a "napkin," but those days are long gone.
When Ed and Stacey arrived, Stacey claimed she was a victim of "white racism" at Iberia Peninsula-- the wait staff ignored her because she didn't look Portuguese and she couldn't speak Portuguese. They couldn't ignore us at The Madrid and Lisboa because we had three seats at the bar. I'm not sure exactly how this went down, but when I returned from using my "cell phone," Catherine and Terry were sitting front and center, with a bar stool between them. Apparently, when some guys got up (this was before the game started) Catherine slid in and grabbed the stool-- which some other guys were eyeing-- and when one of the guys said, "Are you serious?" Catherine said, "Yes" and sat down. She was one of two girls in the place at the time, and the Portuguese are chivalrous, so the guy backed down.
The game was a good one, and the Portuguese team hung in against mighty Spain. They even looked dangerous at times. The bar was festive in the first half: people blew vuvuzelas and cheered for anything remotely pro-Portuguese (including an inadvertent kick to a Spaniard's face).
But the second half the bar almost became somber, and everyone watched the game intently, as if their seriousness could convey the gravity of the situation.
And after David Villa struck that perfect heel pass from Xavi Hernandez and then scored on his own rebound, things got downright grim. Even Terry began rooting for Portugal. We were all desperate for an equalizer; we wanted to see these festive folk happy again, but alas, Spain was controlling play. It was downright depressing, but then we remembered: we had seats at the bar! We ordered more sangria, more buckets of Sagres, and more food. And it's hard to be depressed when they bring you one of these . . .
It's actually called what it looks like: a "flaming sausage." I won't even bother with the jokes. If you can't think of your own, ask T.J. for help. He's not an expert on "flaming sausage" per se, but he knows a great deal about each word individually.
The game ended and everyone filed out to smoke, but we stayed to finish our Sagres and to enjoy the post-game quiet. And that's when I saw him. A genuine celebrity sighting! Here in the Ironbound, in Newark! Which made perfect sense. What better place to escape your celebrity? You could vanish into the ethnic neighborhoods and do your own thing.
There he was . . . just outside the bar, through the window . . . Danny Devito! Wait . . . maybe not. But it was certainly The Portuguese Danny DeVito! Or maybe not. My wife didn't really see it, and maybe I had consumed too much sangria, but if it wasn't The Portuguese Danny DeVito, than this guy looked like somebody. I got everyone to agree to that. This guy looks like somebody. Here he is: you make the call.
After the game the Spaniards came out of the woodwork and started parading around the streets, but Terry observed that it seemed to be a "friendly rivalry." It was a riot, but not a real riot, like the old days.
So, in short, we had a great time in Newark. There may have been some "white racism" but we were treated pretty well, and most importantly, we weren't murdered. In fact, we felt quite safe, even amidst celebrating Spaniards. The city didn't seem particularly dirty or seedy. For example, we didn't see anyone smoking crack. In fact, the only crack we saw was this one.