Monday, July 04, 2011

Horsehoes and Ham grenades.

That is a pig in front of that man. It was delicious, and I apologize for nothing. (Photos by Michelle Cabassut)

This weekend was our second July 4th weekend in the U.S., but the first for which we were actually invited to anything. Amynah’s co-worker and friend Monique was kind enough to invite us to her extended family’s annual horseshoe tournament and cookout. Monique and her relatives being exceedingly generous people, the invitation was flexible enough to include us, and three friends from France (via San Francisco and Duarte, CA, respectively).

The tournament was in what the French might call “La Californie profonde”, and is known locally as “Inland Empire.” This is not the California of San Francisco or Los Angeles. This is farm country. The tournament was a local tradition, for which a good portion of the town turned out, to bolster the friends and family that returned from all over the country for the occasion.

We weren’t quite sure what to expect out in the white spaces of the map in which Murietta is found, but when we arrived in mid-afternoon, the heat was scorching, the beer was flowing, and the horseshoes were darkening the sky.

I immediately noticed certain things about the locals. While it was not, evidently a law that the womenfolk be blond, if they did choose to be blond, it seemed to be a requirement that the shade of blond they be should blind onlookers if seen in direct sunlight. As for the men, the total acreage of torso covered by shirts was roughly equal to that covered by tattoos. (When I later pointed this out to Amynah she said “Yeah, there was a lot of eye-candy,” as if that is what I had meant).

I had not played horseshoes since I was about seven (a game in which I seem to recall I was allowed to stand 10 feet from the stake instead of the regulation 40), while Michelle, Manu and Qi had never encountered the game at all in their respective home countries of France and China.

Qi in competitive form, managing to be undistracted by the man-meat in the background

Monique kindly let us internationals represent her team, and gave us a quick tutorial. We just as quickly disqualified ourselves with two losses in a row. I managed to score 3 points to my teammate Anna’s 8. I used the same girly-wrists excuse I attempted when shooting guns in Vegas – she used the excuse of being distracted by the shirtless tattooed guy playing next to her. My friend Qi meanwhile, scored 4 points even though she had never heard of the game before, while her teammate Manu – who also had never played before - managed 10.

Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do when she comes for you?

While this was going on, Sana was having a grand old time. She inspected the friendly horses and pronounced them dirty, and then freaked out when one breathed on her. She then commandeered a toy push police car which she used as a prop with which to act out her own action movie: leaping into it, riding maniacally for ten feet, dramatically kicking the door open and leaping out as if in pursuit of a bank robber. This was causing great amusement in Monique’s friends and various other people who I’d never seen before that seemed to be taking care of my daughter while Amynah held court in the shade and I watched the games.

We left soon after eating the food, the centerpiece of which was a pig that had been slow-roasted underground and delivered to the picnic area via a backhoe. All in all, it was a highly enjoyable time and we were treated like very welcome, if completely athletically inept guests. I can't help but wonder if we were welcome in part because we were inept: horseshoes is a very serious business out there, and I don't know how we would have been received if we'd been any threat to the locals' dominance. As it is, I was happy to have left with the souvenir t-shirt, though I hope one day to win the first prize belt buckle.

That is, if I’m invited back next year. If it helps my case, I know just the tattoo I want to get in place of my shirt.

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