Thankfully, today, Euro 2008 kicks off, giving me the excuse to spend the day in the aforementioned bar. It's also the last day of vacation, so I'll feel no guilt. The Virginia-Highland fest is also today, but it's outside. So, soccer it is -- I'm supporting the Czechs (who face host Switzerland today), with backup plans in place for Croatia. Old pal Sauer says he's gonna do a Euro 2008 blog -- in the meantime, the Czech and Croatian blogs at worldcupblog.org are both informative and fun.
What else: I meant to add Frank Black's "Dog in the Sand" to the list of what I was listening to in Boulder, since I probably had that on more than anything else. Fidel introduced it to me a few years back, for which I'll always be grateful. I like the Pixies but can take or leave most of Black's solo stuff -- "The Cult of Ray" always seemed like a high-quality joke album, way too self-indulgent for my taste. But "Dog in the Sand" is fantastic from start to finish. It seems like it's been generally ignored, though since I read about three music blogs, I guess what I mean is that no one's ever come up to me on the streets singing its praises, and I never find it in jukeboxes. It came out on Boulder's W.A.R. records, which I mostly remember for sending me 16 review copies of every Samples album when I worked back at the paper. Anyway, it's great. You can probably find a used copy for 50 cents somewhere on the internet, too.
Moving on: I read a ton on vacation, but didn't finish anything -- probably because I focused on "Mason & Dixon," which is really thick and manages to be more difficult than the rest of Pynchon's work (after a week, I'm on page 170 or so), and because after vowing not to buy any books I bought about $150 worth. Hooray, me. One of those books was
#20 -- "Prague Pictures" by John Banville
which I found used at the Boulder Book Store. Didn't really know what to expect from this, because the cover screams "dour poetry" and while I've never read "The Sea," I seem to remember one or two friends having unkind things to say about it. But "Prague Pictures" is pleasant fun, a ramble through Banville's various visits to the city -- it's not unlike having drinks with an extremely gifted storyteller. He even manages to make Angelo Maria Ripellino's "Magic Prague," which I've found well-nigh unreadable in multiple assaults on its pages, seem accessible in occasional excerpts. Now I'll probably have to try that again, after I finish "Mason & Dixon."
Finally: reluctant congratulations to the Detroit Red Wings, for winning the Stanley Cup. I watched the final game in a bar with pals back in Boulder (an aside: one of the pleasant things about this trip back was being reminded how many people there are back there that I can slip back into easy conversation with, after not seeing them for years. Those people are few anywhere on the planet -- and I met a lot of them during my 1996-1999 sojourn in my home town), and was happy to note that the Wings fans there were generally non-douchebags -- obviously Boulder's civilizing influence has taken hold. And as a Eurohockeyphile, it was good to see both a European captain (Lidstrom) lifting the Cup and a European Conn Smythe winner (Zetterberg) in the same year. All the same, I'd prefer that they miss the playoffs next year.
Enough of all this. Time to prepare for soccer. I used to know the Czech term for "Go Czechs," but I've forgotten, so: Go Czechs!