You know what’s crazy? I’ll tell you what’s crazy.
The opening ceremonies from London. The games of the 30th Olympiad.
I am in a bar for the first time in my own Olympic history watching the opening ceremony.
I didn’t plan to be in a bar, but this is where the world has thrown me on this Friday night.
As I down a Mexican beer, I look up at the small screen over the bar and I see the majesty that is the opening ceremony.
The bar is packed and people are watching, but the scene is surreal.
The games are on, but the sound is down and the bar full of noise.
Plates clanking, drunk girls chirping, blenders roaring.
“I need 3 margaritas with Patron,” a server shouts to the bar keep.
Somewhere behind a partition, I hear a waiter talking about tonight’s dinner special.
My bartender pours the remainder of my beer into my glass.
He motions to the tv and snarls; “The Chinese were so much more precise 4 years ago. What is this?”
He doesn’t wait for my reply. He doesn’t care. He fires my empty bottle into the trash behind him.
I hear glass smash on glass and it suddenly dawns on me; he’s talking about last year’s opening games versus the one before me.
He used the words precision. Interesting choice. I’ve only been here a few moments. How can you tell from what I have seen so far with the sound down.
I stare at the set intently.
With the sound down and the ambience of the bar filling most of my other senses, there is a tremendous disconnect.
I watch as what appeaers to be men in stove pipe hats climb a factory smoke stack. They all look like Abe Lincoln and I wonder what our 16th President has to do with the Olympics in London.
Suddenly the menagerie in the stadium is surrounded by what appears to be 18th century puritans break dancing. Nothing says Industrial Revolution like costumed poor people gyrating indiscriminately.
I laugh out loud as I push another lime wedge into my Dos Equis.
At first glance, the games are not pretty.
It looks like the cast of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang fornicated with the cast of Bed Nobs and Broomsticks and had a partially aborted child that was the cast of Mary Poppins.
It is a bad peyote trip in the desert of this opening ceremony.
Without sound, without narrative explanation, this is awful. It looks like a truck tire that has exploded on the interstate and nobody is sure where all the flying pieces are going to fall.
Suddenly I see 007 and the Queen in Buckingham Palace. It looks promising. That is really the queen all right. And that is really james Bond. People in the bar look up from their elixirs to take notice. Suddenly there is a helicopter and Corgi dogs and then the queen bailing out into the sky.
People at the bar laugh out loud. Now this sight gag worked. But what the hell has this got to do with the industrial revolution that I just saw 2 seconds ago.
As I sip my 2nd Mexican beer, I decide that the opening cermony looks like slap stick British Humor. Perhaps this is translating to the 80,000 people watching in the stands and the billions watching with the sound on, but in this establishment, people look at one another and laugh an incredulous laugh.
I text a woman I know.
What are you doing?
I’m watching the opening ceremony she texts back.
Over the top she writes.
Abe Lincoln spillunking down a chimney? I’ll say.
I’m not sure if OVER THE TOP is good or bad. I wonder how different this would be if I were home curled up on the couch glued to the proceedings with the sound on.
Would Bob Costas walk me through the awkwardness of girls jumping on beds like they are trampolines. Would I think this was a Wow moment?
What part of British history incorporates trampoline beds?
Bartender, I might need a shot with this beer.
People are shaking their heads as they watch.
From the distorted viewpoint of a bar television, this all just seems lame. 4 years to come up with this?, I think to myself.
I’m sure they have been practicing for months, but to the bar viewers, it appears as if they are making this all up on the spot.
OK, the director will shout. There is a chest full of costumes. Put something on and then get out there and move around. That’s our show.
“This sucks,” some man with a martini says to nobody in particular.
My bartender who knows a little something about everything says, “You didn’t need translation in Beijing.”
He has made his way back to my end of the bar and he is still talking about the Chinese dedication to precision and singular uniformity. The opening ceremony was beautiful, enchanting, memorable. Sound was nice, but not necessary to appreciate the majesty of the moment.
Beijing was an electric synchronized ballet of the impossible. The floor was a movie screen of imagination, the sky was the limit with people soaring through the heavens on hard to see wires.
By contrast, in the bar, with no sound, the British opening ceremony looks like a Monte Python sketch. Not necessarily a bad Monte Python sketch, but haphazard to be sure.
As I watch the chaotic frenzy, I expect cows to fly over the castle wall. I expect knights to fight each other and blood to spurt from their stumps.
“It’s merely a flesh wound. Come back and fight.”
“That rabbit’s dynamite.”
I laugh to myself. That would be funny. But this is the Olympics and I can’t but help think this is not suppose to be funny.
I see a guitar player, he waves to the crowd. There is no graphic so I don’t even know who he is. I suspect he is a British Invasion rocker, but he is so bloated, he looks like the aftermath of a 911 call.
After a while I’m watching the march of nations. This is easy to understand with sound, without sound, in any language.
The excitement, the enthusiasm, the smile on young athletic faces.
This is what the olympics is about.
The African nations are dressed like brightly colored curtains in a scene from Mad Men. The participants appear primal, like they could take down a Zebra at any moment.
Other nations are more traditional with colorful hats and scarfs and nuances of splendor associated with their home country.
Some obscure Island nation with 2 participants look like they are wearing t shirts and jeans from the Gap.
I laugh as the Independent Olympic Athletes enter. 3 athletes who appear drunk and should be arrested for crashing the parade of nations. Who are these miscreants? Who the hell are the independent Olympic athletes? Even with narrative, this Bourbon Street of randomness makes no sense. Are there countries not recognized with athletes who are not assigned to anything? It’s the island of misfit toys ready to hurl a javelin at someone.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say, 4 years from now, I’m going to tell the bartender to turn up the sound.
The games are in Rio. Perhaps that will help. Perhaps the beautiful Brazilian women will shake and shimmy and i will not care what is being said.
I sip my Mexican beer wondering how the Brazilian women will fill the screen in brightly colored feathered boas and not much else.
I look forward to the events. Should be exciting. I think I will watch the closing ceremony that day with all my senses.
Now that will be crazy.