Topophilia. East Rutherford. West of the Hudson.
Now This Is America...
MOHICANS, PIPES AND DREAMS OF AMERICAN FOOTBALL.
Bear with me. I was up there, night in on my tod, flying with the ravens, when I first tried writing this. When that happens it can kick off, and the travelling memories get melded and mashed and mixed and spliced into one another; like a pre Best Editor Oscar announcement compilation, or a 1980s punk rock “great artists” revival concert.
This time my American Football sport memories were getting rammed into my East Rutherford place memories, which were getting stirred into my romantic movie memories…
It was the opening credits of "Last of the Mohicans" in gold Times Roman capital letters that fuelled the flames,
"The American Colonies. It is the third year of the war between England and France for the possession of the continent."
"Three men, the last of a vanishing people, are on the frontier west of the Hudson River."
...and then we’re given a long establishing shot of a spectacular blue-gray mist draped mountainside at around forty minutes past sunrise.
Enter Daniel Day Lewis with his long hair.
He’s running full tilt through the forest, in his leathers. ...the rousing Trevor Jones symphony layers on. Diddlee diddlee celticlee diddleee diddle, diddly diddly diddly diddly celticlee diddle. Through the lush forest green dashes Dan. He runs and he runs and he runs and he runs. Hunched shoulders, his flintlock rifle ready, grasped in his left mitt.
The drums and strings quicken. Diddleediddleediddleediddleee diddle, diddlydiddlydiddlydiddly diddle. (The conductor back in the studio must have been going bananas waggling his arms like a loony coordinating that part.)
Dan pauses. The orchestra cuts out. Silence.
Dan shoots a stag. It tumbles head first down a ravine.
As Daniel and his pals gather round they have a cutesie ethnic pray,
"We're sorry to kill you brother. We do honour to your courage and speed, your strength." Oooerrr.
Okay. I realise the enlightened, dedicated and very, very, much cherished readers of these pages know that the Mohicans were running around semi starkers in the Carolinas and I understand gridiron players are always fully padded up, but whenever I watch American Footie I think of them Mohicans, and whenever I watch Mohicans I think of American Footie. I just do.
Christmas Eve was the day we finally got to our first full on NFL fixture. The promotional masquerades and European leagues in London didn’t really count. NFL has to be done in the NFS of A. And that's where we were. In the thick of it. West of the Hudson.
When we tootled into Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, we were presented with a parking lot heaving full with folk cooking and noshing on more steaks, burgers, sausages and hotdogs than's available in an Argentinean Costco. It was a joyful festive crowd that welcomed us with “Golly gee Elma, are you from England?” open arms and squeaky-clean paper plates.
An hour later we were inside getting comfy, behind the end zone wrapped up warm in blue scarves and blue hats. With indigestion.
Perked in those seats you're presented with the full glory of the defensive line's muscly bottoms rippling away in front of you. Extremely gladiatorial.
As the Giants later continued to balls up their plays the ground emptied. By the third quarter we’d talked our way onto the halfway side lines' very posh, but now very vacantly posh, seats. There we got another angle on those well defined thigh muscles. Jeesh ! Goodness ! Twenty rows back and we could still hear those helmets clash. Of course, we remained Britishly concerned about the working class fellows down there suffering neck and brain damage for our entertainment.
Oh yes. Our first NFL-in-the-flesh-and-uniforms experience and, whoever was winning, and whoever was losing, cracking it was.
LET'S GET BACK TO DANIEL
We have to skip forward now. Far far forward from the stag death and to about another hour in. Middle of the third quarter. (Zipping through to the third quarter doesn’t miss out much because there is a fair amount of dull to wade through - in both American Footie and Last of the Mohicans. I don't mind this dross, I need it. It's when I can slurp my Coke, shuffle on the sofa and get me bum comfie again. If a two hour movie game is all too smashing I’d be having sequential heart attacks from the adrenalin not pumping its way through my hot dog clogged arteries. And piles.)
Anyhow, when Scene 25 arrives it’s all on again. Dull has been punt returned out the window.
Dan the Mo is leading the colonial lass he fancies away from dangerous rival skin heads (and the pasty-faced English spineless, colonial, lamp bloke).
The chasing Huron warriors are close on their heels, with flaming torches flashing in the gloom. They're probably less than twenty-five yards away.
Dan and the missus are in a cave… behind a raging roaring waterfall. Dan stands close to the tumbling torrent.
Our hero’s number is up.
No way is he going to make it out of there. They're on their own two yard line, eight points down, 15 seconds on the clock. Neither Special Teams nor a Hail Mary enter into it. Game over. Their playoff chances too.
It's emotion time.
Dan loves his lass and his lass loves Dan.
The signature theme floods in (diddlee diddleee diddleee diddleee didddlee, didddlee diddlee diddlee diddle). Loud and flowing the symphony plays.
And I'm in there with them, in that waterfall, in 1757. (Actually, at this point I also do a swift mental whiz around all my favourite global waterfalls, Livingstone, Victoria, Sai Yok, Derbyshire, Wherever. Ooops. I'd better keep to the script.) The big screen pictures, the subtitles, the music... Oh my. It’s like reading a nifty novel with Matisse and the London Philharmonic doing the sensual envelope.
Dialogue. Weepies. The Works.
The Immortal Lines...
Dan's Lass:"You've done everything you can do. Save yourself. If the worst happens... and only one survives, something of the other does too."
Dan:"NO. You stay alive! If they don't kill you, they'll take you north up to the Huron lands. Submit, do you hear? You're strong!"
Still Dan:"You survive! Stay alive, no matter what occurs ! ...I WILL FIND YOU."
(More Trevor Jones audibles and I'm in getting to tears.)
Dan Again: NO MATTER HOW LONG IT TAKES, NO MATTER HOW FAR. I WILL FIND YOU."
Dan looks into her eyes. The bint gazes into his. Dan's long soaking wet locks flop down on his shoulders, and he sets off to sprint once more - past her – and out he goes, leaping through the cascading wall of the wet. (Oh goodness me.... oh goodness, goodness me! It’s no wonder that I can't walk past a town centre fountain without doing Daniel Day Lewis’ “no matter” line to the nearest wench.)
On the NFL official films they have whacky Aryan symphonies and deep voiced geezers accompanying the spiraling slo mo ball spinning through the sky. When some dippy bloke drops it, splashes around in the mud and gets his head stomped on by the secondary… The overweight and grotchy coach then chucks his clipboard at the bench and lobs his headphones sideways to his assistant. American imagery true and blue. That's all wrong that is. What they need is LOTM diddleedeeing in the background.
Me and The Mohicans Away To The Giants, Giant Stadium, East Rutherford.
When the movie ended and my memories of Giant's stadium faded like the Laotian embers in the ashtray I staggered up to bed. As I settled into my pillow I was back in waterfalled Africa, I was there in Colonial America and I was reliving one-yard line defenses at Rutherford...
That's what happens when you travel West of the Hudson. The trip deposits high interest life experiences onto your memory bank balance. And you can draw on them when you need a mid week top up. You just can't beat it, particularly when you take them out in a lavish batch.