The trip to Lambertville, NJ was ostensibly to watch the final game of World Cup 2006, but really it was just to see JohnnyGoodyear again. Such is the magnetism of the man that, having once met him, one cannot help but wish to see him again. The World Cup was an excuse. Italia won on overtime kicks. We had rhubarb-strawberry pie and mango sorbette as the afternoon sun streamed into their small television watching room. It was a magical time.
For all his British bluster, he is quite a lovely man. A big heart in a big body. An articulate man, ever quick to quote a literary bon mot, but full of love.
I arrived after the Germany-Portugal game the Saturday before. We went out for an evening stroll through Lambertville’s charming main streets with Jennifer and the Finn and with various hangers-on in tow. The evening air smelled river-sweet with the nearby the odors of the high-crested Delaware River waters nearby. People talked outside, not quite believing their good fortune at the cool evening temperatures in the middle of July. The shops were still open. Neighbors greeted one another in various languages. Well kept women air kissed. Expensive cars drove by. It was lovely.
Mr. Goodyear’s eyes were ever on his son as he ran across the bridge as every four year old should do. When the Finn got a bit too far down range, pere Goodyear ran after him in the protective manner known to fathers everywhere. The observer whose days of fatherhood are long behind him could not help but smile.
After the youngster was put to bed, we headed over to Mr. slidewell’s garden for an evening of cigars and conversation. A small bottle appeared, as it does so often in situations such as these, and thimblesful of vodka laced lemon syrup were dispensed, and toasts were made, and our Ashtons were smoked, and conversations randomly walked through fields of politics and philosophy and religion. The vodka helped by making us think of ourselves as more intelligent and witty than we actually were. Slidewell brought out his custom made guitar and proceeded to play delicate sliding chords that hung in the evening air. Neighbors rustled. A woman’s head appeared over the fence and asked when the singing would begin. Mr. Slidewell, who is one of these multiply talented individuals who can draw and make music and yet still make intelligent conversation, entranced us with his music. The candles flickered and the cigar ends glowed. We said our adieus at 3 a.m. I could have died a happy man that night. Messieurs Goodyear and Slidewell are Renaissance men one reads about but rarely meets, but that evening I experienced both of them full on. It was a beautiful evening.
I believe we shall be hearing more of Mr. Slidewell over the next few years. He is the sort of man every other man wishes to be.
Sunday morning Mr. Goodyear and I ambled down the gravel-covered canal road to the town’s new boutique coffee shop for a morning conversation. We wiped away the sweat from our brows – the summer humidity had returned – and talked of books and writing projects. It is my earnest hope that I can one day hold a book of his in my hands. The coffee shop is an industrial looking place with couches and a German bean roasting machine, and coffee is served in glass mugs. A few people stopped by for their morning brew and the New York Times and exchanged convivial pleasantries.
We did a bit of pre-game shopping at a local delicatessen, where Italian sausage and German sauerkraut was procured for the Goodyearian soccer meal. I made the mistake of asking for directions to the aisle which held the sauerkraut, after being warned by Mr. Goodyear that such was not done by true men. Sure enough, he found the bottles of sauerkraut in his best hunter-gatherer manner well before I did. His reaction was one of general scorn for my urban ways. Men do not do this, he sneered, even out of town men. I tried to plead my case but to no avail. He affected his best British public school system air of disapproval and told me that I’d make someone a fine wife some day.
His German friend Michael joined us for the sacred hours of the World Cup final. Michael is a film director. We chatted about our Germanic upbringings. We also discussed Leni Riefenstahl and something I’d written about her, Triumph of the Will. The man knows film. Just as Johnny had said, Michael stood at the kitchen bar and ate his sausages in German style. Men did not sit at bars, you see. He was not about to depart from his ways now. I had to smile.
Zidane head-butted the tall Italian defender, drew a red card and was ejected, an ignominious end to a glorious soccer career. This seemed to predestine France’s sad ending as well. Mr. Goodyear kept asking the gods to have the game end properly, in regulation time, for it is bad form to end such a world tournament in overtime kicks, but alas, the gods were not listening.
The game was just a game. Ultimately, I may not remember this world cup, but I will remember Johnny’s kindness. I will remember meeting Michael. I will remember Mr. slidewell and hope to meet him again. I will remember Saturday night in Mr. Slidewell’s garden, the candles, the cigars, the lemoncello, the music, the conversation, the conviviality.
Amicus usque ad aras