O'Hare's international terminal was littered with just enough Fighting Irish shirts to know that there is going to be a theme to my European Vacation. I sat at the Frontera Grill's bar with my brother and ordered the only Irish thing I saw; Jameson on the rocks. He got a Modelo Negro. Soon our parents joined and a very drunk man wearing a black fedora, black leather vest, black t-shirt and sporting a sun tattoo on his right forearm jokingly accused my dad of being a politician. My mom entertained this possibility, explaining people have said he looks like John Edwards in the past. This was news to me.
Before we were ready to head to our gate -- K9, like the dog, a mantra we had to repeat over and over for my mom after she took an extra Xanax by accident -- a large, freshly shaven man with thick black hair parted to the side, tapped me on the shoulder. It took me a second to recognize him without a very bushy, black beard, a look he rocked for many years. It was Colin, a kid I went to high school with. I wish I could say this is a rare occurrence for me, but that not that case. (Such is life when you went to New Trier High School.) We chatted for a bit about our plans. (He's on his way to Arizona to partake in a weekend of partying/fantasy football picking with some other Trevians.) Soon after, my family and I departed after swift introductions.
After an hour delay and taxing back to the gate, I started a conversation with a lovely French women next to me. She appeared to be in her 50s with short black hair, dyed, some grays peaking through. She wore a silk polka dot scarf, blue sweater and red pants. Her glasses were a similar color combination. Everything was designer. Her English was pretty good, but a thick French accent made it hard sometimes to recognize her exact intent.
I asked her if she likes "football, soccer." She said no, but explained that she was the exception and that all Europeans have to follow it to some degree. I asked her why she was in Chicago and she told me that she did a few days in D.C., Boston, Philadelphia -- which she did not like -- and Chicago. She then told me how beautiful and safe Chicago seemed. I informed her there were more murders in Chicago than Afghanistan last year because that is the kind of person I am, apparently. (I should probably mention she was with her husband. He had a very trendy look to him; grey sweater, designer glasses and a short haircut.)
Our conversation moved back to soccer and how shocked she was to see Premier League teams in Philadelphia. This is also around the time she asked, "Who are the Cubes?" I told her they are the Cubs, a baseball team, and that the reason Euro soccer teams started coming to America is because the owner of the Boston Red Sox, another baseball team, I explained, also owns Liverpool and a host of others Premiere League teams -- including Man U who I will be seeing tomorrow -- have American owners. Then she remarked that to her understanding, in America, soccer "is for women." I smile and nod.
She had a point.
Z.W. Martin is a staff writer for SB Nation Chicago and will be in the UK and Ireland over the next ten days. He will be in attendance for
Manchester United vs. Fulham at Old Trafford Chelsea vs. Newcastle at Stamford Bridge and then Notre Dame vs. Navy at Dublin's Aviva Stadium. Follow him on Twitter @ZWMartin or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.