More Alive Than Ever

The moon hides the sun for about two hours. That’s basically what all this business about the solar eclipse comes down to – the 14 brands of sunglasses NASA’s approved for viewing, the hastily requested time-off notices, the paths of totality sounding like some phony spiritual journey, the 99 years of waiting. But some state Departments of Transportation are taking it seriously in an effort to work around what they see as being a potentially severe congestion problem along many of the country’s major trucking routes. From I-5 running parallel up Oregon’s coast to I-26 slicing through the heart of South Carolina, officials are considering limited deliveries and restricted wide loads.

It’s a stone of madness, really. The country’s major terra firma shipping arteries could be clogged by a bunch of us desperate to stare at our most blistering light in the anticipation that it gets hidden for a twelfth of our day. What new astrological insights are we hoping for from down here? What are we expecting to be different? What truth will freshly burned retinas bring us?

Plenty of cosmic rituals make absolutely no sense to me, but this one is its own reality.

– – – – –

Do I remember where I was when Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior joined Paris-Saint Germain merely a fortnight before the commencement of the 2017-18 Ligue 1 season? Of course I don’t. I’m betting Neymar doesn’t, either; carefully untangling oneself from a web of financial instruments and political triplespeak isn’t the business of a world-class soccer player, playing world-class soccer and Instagramming like a god (Nike, for example) is the business. In that rarefied atmosphere, you leave the paperwork to your dad.

Well, and an oil-rich Gulf state willing to pay through the nose to buy you out from a beloved club for the sake of indirectly refurbishing its own reputation during a time of high anxiety and, oh right, an ongoing blockade that no one could possibly expect you to remember because just think of all the push notifications you’ve lost your fucking mind over since June. It’s a lot, right? You can’t even ballpark it. It’s its own reality. But Qatar continues to exist both amid this mess and apart from it, continues to deny allegations that it supports terrorism – as empty a trigger word as you’re likely to find on a global scale these days – continues to host a significant Western military presence at Al Udeid Air Base, continues to wheedle its way out of a lousy situation instigated by a morally duplicitous and wholly untrustworthy “ally” of America (or whatever’s left of it now) in Saudi Arabia.

Nasser al-Khelaifi isn’t a world-class tennis player, but he knows how to do world-class business. And business is never just business when you’re talking Qatar; it’s morally duplicitous politicking through a different filter, a heavier lens, a shield with which to stare straight into the sun of infinite futures. Business is watching beIN Sports (which has – slowly, carefully, maybe you’ve noticed this, too – crept its way onto bar big screens, existing at the fringes of the week and filling in the gaps where the rasp of your expected ESPN and FS1 fury finally runs dry). Business is being CEO of Paris Saint-Germain. Business is owning a team hilariously sponsored by Emirates Airlines, which even The Economist didn’t get around to addressing. Business isn’t just pursuing Neymar, it’s pursuing him successfully. Business is soccer. Business is politics. Business is shineblockas for a blockade.

“Plenty of soccer transfers make absolutely no sense to me,” this site’s proprietor texted me after I expressed my incredulity at the crustpunk’s hair knot of intrigue behind the deal. “But this one is its own reality.”

– – – – –

A mere 11 days after Neymar transferred from much-beloved Barcelona to much-ballyhooed PSG, he scored his first goal. It took all of 82 minutes into the 2017-18 season against Guingamp, a literal commune of a place whose population has never crested 10,000 people (there were 18,378 reportedly in attendance on Sunday). Afterward, Neymar said, “I’m more alive than ever. I play, I am very happy and football is the same. Only the country, the city and the team change, but football is the same.”

And wouldn’t you feel that way, too? You’re the richest soccer transfer in history and you’re the object in a deal that put Paul Pogba and Gareth Bale firmly in the shade by more than €100 million – a preposterous sum for one human being by any measure, let alone one human ostensibly part of a team with 10 other people on it. But it’s a drop in the bucket so long as the rigs are running. So long as the capitalist itch scratches and the need to ship with Amazon Prime necessitates overnight deliveries so your center can be fulfilled. So long as the roads must be run.

– – – – –

  • A single Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, with enough money left to buy this Hong Kong luxury apartment
  • 493 long-wheelbase 2018 Rolls-Royce Phantoms, complete with built-in art galleries
  • 60,813 bitcoin at the current exchange rate of $4,300, its highest yet
  • 100,770 of these 13’ trampolines, outfitted with safety nets and a basketball hoop
  • The entire $236.6 million external debt of São Tomé and Principe
  • 9,032,815 copies of Clarice Lispector’s The Complete Stories in hardcover at list price (and 13,287,602 copies if you buy it now off Amazon, which you will, right?)
  • 26,281,407 3’x5’ Brazilian polyester flags
  • 65 bales worth of “high-purity” cocaine at street value (Gareth not included)
  • A Dodge Challenger SRT Demon and 261,413,910 passenger seats, which come as $1 extra once you’ve purchased the car
  • 73,661,971 Baby-sized six-ounce scoops of marionberry-flavored ice cream – a flavor that is not a pun for former Washington DC mayor Marion Barry, as it turns out – from Sherman’s Dairy Bar in South Haven, Michigan (with tax)
  • All 5,000 copies of Third Man’s The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records 1917-1927 at the original $400 list price, with enough left to buy an additional 44,300 unmade box sets
  • The entire selldown of China’s second-largest property developer, China Vanke
  • 266,836,735 pounds of strawberries at this grocery store Stanley’s Fruit & Vegetables on North Ave. that I should really frequent more often, now that I think about it
  • A new 893,000-square-foot UPS package processing facility in Plainfield, Indiana
  • 3 LGM-30 Minuteman ICBMs

– – – – –

Every second is a circle, every dream a memory, every blink a labyrinth, every breath a reality. But reality is not always probable, or likely, as it’s said. Here we go about worrying, checking our push notifications, full of anxiety. Does our world demand an explanation? Has it already moved on and forgotten us? What is your epistemic crisis telling you today? Does it tell you to choose? Because the world is moving on. There, look again: Nasser al-Khelaifi had many choices, but he chose Neymar. Now we must choose whether to watch and cheer, watch and jeer, or merely close our eyes.

Maybe soccer helps you cope with the harder questions; maybe it helps you ask them; maybe it does nothing. Only you and The Maker can ever really know, and there’s only so much time to explain when the reality show we’re currently living continues apace. Paper like it wasn’t precious, another old order unraveling, a blissful string theory of numbers – we all survive the best we can trying to rig the system in our favor until we’re gone, vaporized by the black that lies beyond. Some of us survive on $550,000 a week. Some of us survive on the memory of a holy front trinity, Messi and Suarez plus one.

Some of us survive for staring with feverish excitement straight into the blinding light, wishing for wisps of vapor from the black before, tempting it closer. Beckoning the only reality that ever seems inevitable, the one we all share.

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