Chicago Addick living in Bermuda
Saturday 31 May 2008
  Wrigley to host Blackhawks NHL game On January 1st this year the Buffalo Sabres played Pittsburgh Penguins in the National Hockey League outdoors at the Ralph Wilson Stadium in front of a record 71,217. If you didn't see photos from the occassion, it was a pretty remarkable scene and next January the NHL plan to repeat it by allowing the Chicago Blackhawks to play rivals Detroit Red Wings at baseball's iconic stadium Wrigley Field. (more)

Next week the NHL are expected to officially announce the event, which will certainly lighthen up a winters night in the windy city. 
Friday 30 May 2008
  An open letter to Steve Waggott Dear Steve,

Congratulations on your apppointment as Charlton's new chief executive. Peter Varney did a fantastic job at balancing emotion, business acumen and public persona. He was a credit to us all, and I know you have been around the club long enough to understand that Charlton and all of us that have them in our hearts, is unlike the many other English football clubs. I wish you all the very best in your newly deserved position.

Charlton's fanbase has grown substantially in the last 10 years, and the board should be credited for encouraging this with clever pricing and a vastly improved Valley that we can all be very proud off.

After living within easy or relatively easy distance of the Valley for my whole life, thirty of which I was a season-ticket holder, I moved late in 2003 to Chicago after taking up a work opportunity. My love for the club has never abated and I follow them in anyway I can, which to be frank this past season has been difficult without any online commentaries, just a extremely slow "in game" service supplied by the official website and a patent lack of television coverage due to our relegation from the Premier League.

This is the first point of my letter to you and I was wondering if this lack of live commentaries will be addressed this pre-season? I understand the license restrictions and how this will infringe on the individuality of but last season having no access to commentaries was simply unacceptable to a club of our size with the modern technology available.

For me and others overseas the BBC blocks all form of media anyhow but to friends and relatives in Charlton and Kent the BBC Radio Kent service and it's frequency range is both irregular and poor. We had many games last season when a fan living around the corner from The Valley was unable to pick up radio reception. I would think you'd agree that is crazy?

The other issue that I hope you address in your new position is that of an International Supporters club. There are hundreds and hundreds of Addicks overseas, most probably ex-pats like me who just can't shake the bug, but there are many others, some of whom I have met, that have just adopted that "little club from London SE7."

Following the club's fortunes from the four corners of the world is one thing, but feeling like one belongs is something else entirely, and this does not even contemplate the massive commerical opportunities available that the organisation of overseas Addicks can bring.

Some fans have already endeavoured to constitute independent overseas chapters but the lack of effort made on is embarrassing. Still the email address on the International Membership page comes back to sender as failed and unknown. There are many, many Addicks who would love to embrace an International Supporters Club (ISC). One of whom Ken Jennings from Vancouver, the club actually invited to The Valley last year, as part of the Target 40,000 initiative, to layout a blue print for a future ISC. Despite Ken's efforts and a long flight, the ideas from this meeting seemingly have ended up on the cutting room floor.

At that meeting the various attendees agreed a framework of proposals for an ISC, including a dedicated web page with relevant information and a community network to enable foreign based fans get to know each other with links to local fan blogs etc. An annual membership pack, an ability to book tickets, travel and accommodation. Merchandise discounts, a page in the programme and to improve communication, a dedicated contact within the club, this might have been Ben Hayes.

The club's work in communities abroad should be applauded but I think you are missing a very obvious trick, that is fans who don't need to be persauded or cajouled into supporting or help financing the club. At some point in the distant past, we have already swallowed that Addick pill!

I am accutely aware that funds for a lot of projects are hard to find in our current situation, but out there around the globe there are literally hundreds of Addicks sat there in their red shirts wanting to be more of a part of that special something that Charlton gives to us.

Steve, I hope in your new position, you come to realise how laudable a rebirth or should I say, an inauguration of an International Supporters Club would be.

The very best of luck and congratulations again. Thanks for reading, and I look forward to your comments.

Chicago Addick 
Thursday 29 May 2008
  My Chicago - #17 Streeterville Streeterville to be honest is a kind of made up neighbourhood in my mind but it was the first place I actually lived (below left) when I first came to Chicago, albeit for just 3 weeks. Four and a half years ago it was starting to look like things were happening at this scrunched up piece of the city, just north of the Chicago River, with Michigan Avenue to the west and Navy Pier and Lake Michigan to the east.

Older buildings were being torn down, a huge AMC theater, we call them cinemas, had appeared in what seemed the middle of nowhere, a very nice Art Center had taken over a beautiful loft building on E Illinois St, just next door to where me and my couple of suitcases were temporarily staying and still to this day my favourite food market, Fox and Obel was up the street on the corner, a stone's throw from some brand new condominium buildings overlooking the mouth of the River.

Once upon a time this area began life under water. George Wellington 'Cap' Streeter and his missus Maria 'Ma' Mullholland from Flint in Michigan decided to make their fortunes as gun runners in Honduras. They purchased and repaired a boat and christened it the 'Reutan.' This was in 1886 and like all good well laid out plans in this part of the world, one can't account for the weather because sure enough they got on their boat to set sail for Honduras and the wind got up.

Gale force winds meant they only just got across Lake Michigan and Cap and Ma got stranded on a sandbar about 450 feet east of Chicago's Michigan Avenue. Instead of digging out and continuing their expedition they chose to make the sandbar their new home and lived aboard the Reutan and blew out the planned voyage down to Latin America!

The Sandbar eventually became a landfill and the Streeters seeked squatters rights. However the actual landowner was some rich dude called Nathaniel Kellogg (NK) Fairbank, a Chicago industrialist whose soap company invented and manufactured the still famous Fairy Soap, now owned by Proctor & Gamble. And for 28 years Sweeter refused to budge from Fairbank's land despite a string of legal battles. The net result is the whole area is now named after the Squatter and the land owner, Fairbank, just has a tiny street named after him as recognition!

The scaffolding is slowly starting to come down around Streeterville today, and from behind the dust is appearing a number of brand new skyscrapers, including what will be when it's finished the 2nd tallest building in the world, the Chicago corkscrew, sorry Spire.

It's also home to the 20-acre Northwestern University's School of Law and Medical Center, the state-of-the-art Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business, and both Chicago's CBS and NBC TV studios.

Streeterville's number one tourist attraction is Navy Pier. 3,300 ft long, it is the most visited tourist attraction in the midwest and apparently 8 million people walk up and down it every year stopping in at one of it's museums, one of which is the Childrens Museum, although they has announced intentions to move to a larger space in the city. Further down the pier there is an MAX theater as well as a ferris wheel.

But the main reasons I come to this part of town is to see a film at one of the 21 AMC River East screens. Incidentially next door there is the Lucky Strike bowling alley if you want to wear someone else's shoes or I come to mooch around the grand food store of Fox and Obel and marvel at all that scrummy food and wine.

There are a couple of restaurants that I would recommend in Streeterville, both entirely different. First for reasonably priced and authentic Italian food try Volare and for something splashy try De La Costa, a flamboyant and theatrical mix of South America, Spain and the Carribbean. The ceviches are excellent, the lunch menu is simple and less expensive and make sure you sit at the very back of the restaurant to get some superb views of the river.

I wonder what old Cap Streeter would think seeing this place now with all it's highrise expensive apartments. A far cry from his boat I am sure. Nevertheless I bet he chuckles to himself knowing the locals named the neighourhood after him and not his arch nemesis Mr NK Fairbank. 
Wednesday 28 May 2008
  Friendly drinks I thought today would be a perfect day to begin my leaving celebrations. This afternoon I will be in the pub to watch the friendly between England and USA and hopefully will be joined by various worky people I have got to know until I crawl home sometime tonight.

My American visa when I came here from London in 2003 took so long, that I actually ended up repeating all of my leaving parties! I don't think that will be the case here, as I do seem on plan to leave for Bermuda during June.

Following our absence from the Euro's, today's game bears no significence whatsoever except some good hearted banter, although in the name of pride and face-saving I hope England repeat the easy victory I witnessed in Chicago 3 years ago.

Meanwhile David Beckham warmed up for the match by scoring a 70-yarder for Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday. Click here to see it and the US squad also includes local boys Jonathan Spector and Jay DeMerit. 
Tuesday 27 May 2008
  Sedona, Arizona As a kid Sunday afternoons used to be taken up watching old cowboy and indian films on television with my Dad. Those westerns took place in a dreamy bygone era hard to imagine sat on the carpet with Dad in south-east London. Sedona is that place.

Over 100 films were made in or near Sedona, most after the 2nd world war, and in striking colour. The 1941 film Billy the Kid, Burt Lancaster's Apache was filmed in 1954, The Comancheros with John Wayne was filmed in 1961 and the original 3:10 to Yuma in 1957. Hollywood loved Sedona and whole film sets were built and dismantled amongst the beautiful red rocks but in 1950 only 350 people were said to actually live in these gorgeous canyons.

Sedona was once the sole preserve of indian natives and wildlife. The creeks were jammed with trout, and deer and bears were everywhere in the forests, making pathways to the creeks. Plants were lush and bountiful but life was hard for settlers and the land, though bountiful, was unforgiving.

The ancestors of the Yavapai Native Americans were the first people of Sedona but they were forcefully removed by white settlers in 1876, to the San Carlos Indian Reservation, 180 miles southeast. 1500 people were marched, in midwinter, to the San Carlos Reservation. Several hundred lost their lives.

European settlers came to farm and mine but they lived a precarious existence, hunting, fishing, and farming a few acres to keep food on the table, few families stayed and it wasn't until 1951 a groundwater aquifer under West Sedona was discovered and it opened the way for several new housing developments. Retirees became attracted to the area. Other new residents came for the spiritual and reflective atmosphere, and slowly an artistic community was formed. Sedona didn't actually get it's first mayor until 1988. You can visit the Sedona Historical Society, which is open daily ($3 admission) for more on Sedona's 350 million year story.

Sedona's setting is absolutely beautiful. Driving north from Phoenix red-rock buttes surround you on all sides with eroded canyon walls, and mesas rising into bright blue skies. With a wide band of rosy sandstone predominating in this area, Sedona has come to be known as red-rock country, and at sunset, the rocks put on an unforgettable light show that is reason enough for a visit. Oh, that and the ribs at the Cowboy Club.

The Cowboy Club with the Silver Saddle Room (above right) next door was a must. Heads of various beasts cover the walls, cowboy hats are a prerequisite and cactus, rattlesnake, elk and buffalo can be found on the menu. The ribs were mighty good though.

The main road does have a bit of a tourist trap character to it, and from what I read the outskirts of the city is in danger of being overdeveloped. However with drop-dead scenery all around, too many t-shirt shops is not going to ruin any photos. Away from Main Street though, some better souvenir hunting can be found at Tlaquepaque.

In recent years resort hotels and spas have found their way amongst the red-rocks. Sedona is a hideout for people looking to come to relax and seek their inner-self. We stayed in the Amara Resort and Spa, the rooms were ok, but the red rocks of Oak Creek Canyon butt up against the pretty hotel gardens. We ate in the restaurant, where the service didn't do justice to the food but it was over expensive.

Sedona has long been a haven for New Age believers, who come to experience unseen cosmic energy fields known as vortexes. The vortexes are such a powerful attraction that many New Age types have stayed in the area and have turned Sedona into a hotbed of alternative therapies. A Tibetan Buddhist shrine is erected in west Sedona. The 36-foot-tall stupa is up a short path that winds through juniper trees festooned with prayer flags and is visited by devout Buddhists.

The art scene is more suited to the tourist looking for a mantlepiece trinket than fine art, although there is an Arts Center. The surrounding rugged canyons have many trails and are popular with cyclists. Another way to get around is on the Sedona Trolley but the best way to explore the red rocks is by Jeep. You will see Pink Jeep Tours' pink jeeps everywhere and were recommended to us, although we didn't take the offer up.

We used Sedona as a base to get us to the Grand Canyon, but the place is deserving of it's own story because this is a remarkable place. Stare at the rock formations long enough you'll see all kinds of shapes, the most obvious being Snoopy Rock, and Bell Rock (above left). Stare even harder at those amazing red rocks, rugged canyons with their forests and ponderosa pines and imagine those Sunday afternoon cowboy and indian films.
Sunday 25 May 2008
  Wheels As has been pointed out my some, my carbon footprint is not the best, however for all of my almost 5 years in Chicago, I have relied upon public transport and my feet to get around. But not anymore as I finally bought a set of wheels yesterday - a bicycle.

Yep, should have done it a couple of years ago, although the 7-month long winters invariably put me off the outlay. However a move to the sunnier and more bike-friendly climes of Bermuda made our minds up, and I can confirm after an absence of about 7-8 years, riding a bike is just like riding a bike!

We have a nearby cyclery (that must be an Americanism, mustn't it?), and wow, that place does an absolute staggering amount of business, I am sure boosted rather belatedly by the onset of Chicago's summer and today's annual Chicago Bike the Drive, when 30 miles of Lakeshore Drive is given over to cyclists.

My days of mountain biking, and Eddie Merckx road riding are over, well they never started to be honest, so I plumped for something more comfy that befits my ageing body from Specialized, and I love it. Ride on. 
Saturday 24 May 2008
  What Palarse fans think of us signing Mark Hudson If you can be bothered to wade through the Palarse tossers moaning about losing Mark Hudson, then click here. Around about page 13 it occurs to them that it is us clowns that have taken their captain and the player who held their appearance record for the past season.

And you thought they didn't care about us. Have to laugh don't you. 
Friday 23 May 2008
  Bermuda update There isn't really one to be honest, well perhaps there is a little one. I received an email yesterday saying that the immigration paperwork should be finalised next week. At least then we can start planning around a date, at the moment organising certain things is tricky without a drop dead date. The only date I really have to worry about is July 5th, which is when my US working visa expires and I can't live or work here beyond that.

This is a long weekend in the States too, with Memorial Day Monday. We have friends, who moved to Zurich from Chicago back in town next week, so we will see them a couple of times and then my mock sister-in-law and her two girls (aged 14 and 10) descend on us Tuesday for almost a week. Timing is ill-chosen to say the least, but they wanted to come, and an unfavourable response was not a possibility!

Tomorrow morning I'll watch the play-off final. If I had to pick, I'd root for Bristol City because they have been trying to play their way out of the division, in stark contrast to those nasty Tigers. It will be at some point then tomorrow lunchtime, Chicago time, that we can finally put this season to bed. 
Thursday 22 May 2008
  Crying shame I walked from the pub yesterday afternoon to another pub chuckling my arse off at John Terry. I mean if it wasn't for that bitch slap that Drogba had done on Vidic, then I'm assuming that JT would not have taken that 5th penalty. I hope poor old Didlier got a good slapping himself in the dressing room, I mean if you're going to get sent-off in a big game, then do it properly a la Zidane, eh?

The game did keep my interest though, I'm not a Champions League watcher because, well I'm a Charlton fan, so for the same reason's I don't watch what the weather's doing in Australia, I have little interest in the Champions League. But it had all the thrills and spills that I'd hoped for. United and Ronaldo were awesome as my American Manchester Devil fans call them, in the first half. Lampard got a lucky goal and then 2nd half Chelsea really should have won it.

But penalties are made for heroes and villians (and 10 years on, don't we just know it?) and Ronaldo after a season when he could do no wrong, was bloody odds on, in my book, to miss but Terry saved his bacon, even though Big Brave JT fell over, his was still a better kick thant Ronaldo's.

Le Sulk, who doesn't give a flying who he plays for, then strolled up, and that was it. Cue Sir Bobby and some strange looks from the people around me in the pub. "Who the fucks that?" said one, and that was the young lad I befriended in the queue (yes there was a queue to get in the pub much to the amazement of passers by) before the game, who was from that hotbed of United support, Hampshire.

Anyway at least a proper Champion won and I was pleased for Giggsy, what football fan wouldn't be? But as Ronaldo cried joys of relief, Terry blubbed like a baby, and for those who have witnessed him parking in disabled bays, pissing on the floor of nightclubs, attacking innocent bystanders, haranguing referees or spitting at Carlos Tevez, well they just grinned. 
Wednesday 21 May 2008
  Chicago Sting Quite some time ago Paul May, perhaps better known as Reams of Verse, got in touch with me to tell me the story of his Dad's time in Chicago. Eddie May had spent most of his playing career playing in Wales for Wrexham. He played 334 times for the Red Dragons, who sadly saw their 87-year league history end recently. May ended up as Wrexham's club captain but it is after that where May becomes of interest to me. For one summer in 1975 Eddie played for NASL side Chicago Sting, one of the more successful teams in the North American Soccer League's short, colourful but eventual sad demise.

Eddie moved to Chicago for the 1975 summer season, taking his family with him, including a young Paul. The then owner, financial legend Lee Stern, put all of the non-local players and their families in what was the Churchill Hotel in the Gold Coast near the lake, opposite the legendary Ambassador, a famous hangout for film stars. Paul and his family then spent that summer falling in love with Chicago and watching Eddie play in the NASL, at the height of it's popularity.

The NASL actually started in 1968, with the game gathering popularity mainly due to England's 1966 world cup win. Two previous leagues merged to form the NASL but it died an expensive death in 1984, ironically the year FIFA brought the world cup to America, which still to this day holds the record for the most attended sports event in American sports history.

The problem with the NASL was that the American public did not get it. They 'Americanized' the rules in the attempt to make the game more exciting, and comprehensible, to the average American sports fan. These changes included a clock that counted time down to zero as was typical of other timed American sports, rather than upwards to 45 minutes as was traditional, a 35-yard line for offsides rather than a half-way line, and as no one ever draws in this country, the NASL introduced a shootout to decide matches that ended in a draw. Fans need to go home having seen someone win, and someone lose! Plus there was a very confusing points system, which I have no idea how to decipher.

Initially the league brought people and players flocking to the game, but the NASL spreaded 'the wealth' too thin, the talent too wide and paid out massive salaries to aged 'stars,' who ended up playing in front of huge non-owned stadiums with 5,000 people in them.

Chicago however has always had a 'soccer' history in this country. The Chicago Mustangs were made up predominately of Sardinian players from Serie A's Calgiari Calcio, who came with others from Europe (Wolves and Stoke also took part) and South America to contest a summer league in an effort to bring the beautiful game to this vastly non-interested country. That was in 1967, and the Mustangs faded into a semi-pro team whereas their rivals Chicago Spurs were packed off the Kansas City. However in 1975 the Mustangs become the foundation for the Chicago Sting, who entered the then thriving NASL.

Eddie May, a little known winger called Gordon Hill, who was at Millwall before he came to the windy city, ex-Man Utd and Forest forward Ian Storey-Moore (now working with Martin O'Neil at Villa) and Southend's Mervyn Cawston were all signed by head coach, and Munich air crash survivor Bill Foulkes.

In 1975 the Sting, apparently named after the 1973 film of the same name, which was based in Chicago, played their home matches at Soldier Field. Sting lost their first game of that innagrual season to the Vancouver Whitecaps, who I have mentioned on here before. The first home game also ended in defeat against Denver Dynamos in front of 4,536.

The Sting's first win came in the next game when American Rudy Getzinger scored the teams first ever goal in the 3-2 win over Dallas Tornado at Soldier Field. By mid-season, the Sting had lost more games than they'd won but the 21-year old Gordon Hill was making quite a name for himself.

The game Paul remembers the most was St Louis Stars at home, when a typical June rainstorm caused the game to be postponed 20 minutes before the game was due to kick-off. Paul sat and ate hotdogs watching the Fire Department pump the water of the astroturf whilst waiting for his Dad to get changed.

In the 2nd half of the season the Sting started to gel. In July five games were won on the trot and 15 goals were scored in that period. Defender May got 5 of them, Hill also scored 5 and suddenly the Sting were challenging St Louis at the top of the Central Division. The NASL was split into four geographical divisions like in other professional sports in this vast country. In other divisions, the Boston Minutemen (with Portuguese legend Eusébio in their line up), Portland Timbers (with Peter Withe scoring for fun), the Elton John part-owned Los Angeles Aztecs and the Tampa Bay Rowdies were leading the way.

The biggest home crowd of the season saw Sting beat San Antonio Thunder on penalties, but a defeat away at rivals St. Louis Stars, and then on the final day a penalty shoot-out loss to the Washington Diplomats meant that Chicago Sting ended it's first NASL season in 2nd place and missed out on the obligatory play-offs. Tampa Bay Rowdies won the 1975 'soccer bowl (yes, it really was called that) beating Portland Timbers 2-0, encouraging Rodney Marsh and Bermudian Clyde Best to join the Rowdies the following season.

Despite match tickets being only $5, Sting's attendances only averaged 4,330 in a 57,000 capacity that first year, they did improve in the following season's though, getting into double digits in 1980 and almost 13,000 the year Chicago brought home the 'soccer bowl' in 1981 when they beat the New York Cosmos 1-0.

Eddie May and his family headed back to Wales, where Dad signed for Swansea. He ended his playing career at the Vetch Field before moving into a four corners coaching and managerial career, starting when Jock Wallace appointed him as coach and then assistant manager of Leicester in 1978. In 1983 he joined Lennie Lawrence at Charlton during a tumultuous, but against all odds successful period of our history. May clearly got the taste for working overseas and went on to work in Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Iceland, Norway, Ireland, Finland, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe. He is now back living in Wales.

A young Gordon Hill left Chicago to be snapped up by Tommy Dcoherty for a bargain £70,000 but he left after two seasons (and two FA Cup finals) and eventually returned to the USA, playing again for the Chicago Sting in 1982 amongst others. He now lives in Texas.

The Chicago Sting folded in 1988, after playing indoor 'soccer' once the NASL was dissolved. They actually won the final 'soccer bowl' in 1984 and Everton legend Duncan McKenzie, goalkeeper Phil Parkes, Zenit St. Petersburg manager Dick Advocaat, Jim McCalliog, Willie Morgan and a certain Ronnie Moore, before his time at The Valley, all proudly wore the yellow and black of the Chicago Sting during the club's 13-year history.

References and Thanks:
Paul May -
Reams' Into The Valley message board
History of the NASL
Cracking jerseys
Logos of the NASL 
Tuesday 20 May 2008
  Trump Tower final update The scaffolding still surrounds Chicago's Trump Tower but I walked through it's doors for the first time on Saturday night and I'm sad to say was disappointed.

They are still pouring concrete up top, which was a strange feeling walking into the Lobby. The residences (starting at $850,000 with plenty left) are not open yet, but the hotel, bar and restaurant called Sixteen is.

First of all I would say that the Lobby and bar decor looks cheap, it's probably not, but that makes it worse. The restaurant on the 16th floor is a lot better, with an impressive wine cellar catching the eye on exit from the lift. The restaurant bar is not over welcoming, but that would be most restaurant bars, and the restaurant is split into three areas. This I would say is a sensible move on Trump's part, possibly thinking ahead to nights when the fine dining crowd move onto the next hot spot in town. Presently we were told every Friday and Saturday is booked for dinner until July.

The focal part of the restaurant is a 19,000-crystal Swarovski chandelier (see photo), although the views take most of the plaudits with the restaurant well appointed looking east down the Chicago River with the skyling bustling on each side.

So I liked the look, I did. But the food and it's prices I was less enamoured with. The wine list was very overpriced, and starters ranged around the $20 mark, with main courses at about $40. That is a lot for even some of the superlative Chicago restaurants. Set meals were available with wine pairings but we each chose of menu, each selecting different dishes and we agreed neither were great.

Chef, Australian Chef Frank Brunacci does change the menu every day apparently, which allows one to come back and spunk another $300 but all in all it was an un-fulfilling experience not enhanced by a jobs worth waiter.

We ended the night on the mezzanine level bar called Rebar, which had a multifarious collection of people, not unexpected late at night in a hotel bar but the space was lacking in individuality and service. Nevertheless the city views out of the 30ft floor to ceiling windows will probably encourage people to come and spend $15 on a cocktail. 
Monday 19 May 2008
  Toilet humour What do they say about what goes around comes around? Well poor Glen Johnson had his FA Cup winners medal stolen yesterday after he left it in a hotel. Perhaps he should call his old mate Ben May because he may have it stuffed down his sofa?

"When I got back to the hotel and checked to look at my winner's medal, it was gone. I'm so disappointed. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed someone's going to give it back." (more)

Back at the beginning of last year the brainless Johnson and Scunthorpe's May, then at Millwall were caught red handed trying to steal a toilet seat and a set of taps from B&Q in Dartford.

Maybe if Johnson had stolen a bath tap he could of hung that around his neck instead of his medal. Dick. 
Sunday 18 May 2008
  Tapered I quite enjoyed the FA Cup final, despite Pompey being so negative in the 2nd half, but credit to Cardiff for never giving up the ghost. I was in a half-full pub and it was unusual not to hear one American accent, just English voices with the occasional Welsh one mixed in. It will be a lot different I am sure on Wednesday when the Manchester Devils play the Chelsea Ruskies.

I found myself pleased for the Herminator, he was crap last year but clearly not past it and in my book a victory for one of the proper clubs is a victory for us all. As for Jelly Floyd Hasselbaink, well at least that was situation normal.

Wednesday's Champions League game has all the hallmarks of a flop, although I do plan to meet a couple of mates and get out of work early to watch it. I've hardly been starved of football this season and I even found myself watching some of the Serie A title decider today, but like New York Addick my appetite for all things Charlton has certainly been tapered recently.

I've just remembered the European Championships start in less than 3 weeks. Hmmm, another reason to get into Bermudian cricket. 
Saturday 17 May 2008
  Gavin and Stacey Tidy.

We don't get to see much British television, that might change a tad in Bermuda, but other than repeats of old Are You Being Served episodes on BBC America we are starved of most things British, especially comedies.

However thanks to the wonder of iTunes, over the past few weeks we have sat through the whole two series of BBC Three's Gavin and Stacey, and I know I'm a bit old with this, but it is bloody superb. It's a sure sign one has been away from home too long when these cult comedies pass you by. In a night out with the lads, when everyone is saying "What's occurring?" and I don't have a clue what they are on about. The same happened initially with Little Britain and Catherine Tait.

Gavin & Stacey is comedy genius, every character offers so much depth and hilarity and watching them one after the other, all 13 episodes, was like a drug. Smithy and Gavlar are two of my Essex mates ten years ago, although it was me who used to drive to Pennyfford (don't ask) to see a girl I met on holiday a long time ago!

I have read that after a Christmas special writers James Corden and Ruth Jones will end it there, but they have sold the rights to American network NBC. This was the channel that Americanized The Office, and on the whole did a decent job. Whether Gavin and Stacey from New Jersey and South Carolina will have the same impact, I think I am skeptical. 
Friday 16 May 2008
  More ticks on the 'Bucket List' A weekend at home, a blissful thought, although we are managing to cram a couple more Chicago 'Bucket List' items in. Tonight we're going to listen to the jazz performed by Danilo Pérez and others at the Chicago Symphony Centre. The main Orchestral Hall dates from 1904 and was designed by famous Chicago architect Daniel Burnham and I've never been.

Saturday night we have the long awaited visit to the Trump Tower's new restaurant Sixteen. The Trump Tower my regular readers will know is something I have followed from seed since I lived across the street. We're going with some friends, so I will report back. Plus tomorrow morning, as is customary I will take my place in front of the television, probably at Fado, and watch the FA Cup Final. 8/1 for Jimmy Floyd first goalscorer? 
  My Chicago - #16 Chinatown Centered around Cermak Road and Wentworth Avenue south of the downtown area near the Red Line 'L' train stop, recently the scene of a tragic accident, is Chicago's Chinatown. It was established in 1905 when a number of restaurants, shops and laundries (430 in total!) were opened by Chinese immigrants, many of whom had ridden the railroad away from the Pacific Coast.

The largest influx of new immigrants happened in the 1950’s and 60’s. The Chinese were coming to America in large numbers seeking a better life at this time largely due to adverse conditions in China but improved relations between the two countries.

Back then Chinese-American associations helped provide new immigrants with proper housing and jobs. Nowadays Chinese communities can be found all over Chicago, particularly the more established families but for most Chinatown is still home. 68,000 were said to live there in 2000 and I am sure it allows them to celebrate their own history as well as keep connected to the country they left, and I know all about that.

Most people visit Chinatown for it's restaurants and grocery stores. Home and professional cooks can find everything Chinese or Asian related in the food shops that spill out onto pavements on S. Wentworth Ave.

Festivals occur in Chinatown year-round and seeing at least one is a must. The New Year celebrations were in February (2008 is year of the Rat), the Chinese Autumn Moon Festival celebrates the day when the moon is the brightest and huge lanterns light the night sky. The Chinatown Summer Fair features cooking, live music, cultural dances and a Lion Dance Procession. Another traditional event is July's Dragon Boat Race for Literacy, held on the Chicago River. You can watch the race as you enjoy food, live music and people flogging crafts.

In August is the curious Miss Chicago Chinese Pageant. Curious only because I've never been! And in the Autumn is the Double Ten Parade, celebrating Chinese Independence with floats, marchers and of course an immense Mystical Dragon. What would a Chinese parade be without a big mystical dragon? The annual Chicago Marathon also takes runners through the neighbourhood in October as thousands take to the streets to cheer.

Restaurants in Chinatown serve various types of Southeast and Far East Asian food. They are all a bit much of a muchness however Lao Sze Chuan is one of the classier joints. For a cup of tea and sit down, visit Tea Leaf Cafe, I recommend their coconut bubble tea or Mui's Feida Bakery (2228 S. Wentworth Ave) for great pastries and Chinese cookies.

A Chinese-American Museum (238 West 23rd Street) shows exhibits and puts on events and lectures but is only open Friday mornings and all day Saturday and Sunday.

Chicago's Chinatown is by no means the biggest and far from the best in the United States. However, walking around this little district is a glimpse into another people's world, where Chinese individuals from around the city visit for groceries, food, newspapers and a touch of home and tourists gawp, eat and get a tiny taste of where this amazing race of people have come from.
Thursday 15 May 2008
  Bermuda Hogges take on American stripeys I have a new inherited football team, the Bermuda Hogges. And on Saturday they play arch rivals, well my arch rivals anyway, Crystal Palace Baltimore, in the United Soccer League (USL) 2nd Division.

What? I hear you ask. Well let me explain. The USL is the 2nd tier of the Major League Soccer (MLS) league here in the United States. There are two divisions to the USL, the first contains such luminaries as Vancouver Whitecaps, Portland Timber and Charleston Battery. I can see you’re impressed, although the Vancouver Whitecaps do actually have quite a ‘soccer’ pedigree up there on the west coast of Canada, after 10 years as members of the defunct NASL, actually winning the title in 1979.

There is a straight promotion and relegation between USL 1 and 2, although money, and franchise bollocks still dictate which cities ‘gain a MLS team.’ The standard from what I have seen of USL 1 on the box, ranges from rubbish to down right shocking. However for those crazy soccer aliens in cities such as Portland, Minnesota, Seattle and Cleveland, this represents the only live action you are going to get, and therefore the crowds are habitually made up of families, ex-pats and local college kids.

There are a lot of players in the league from the Caribbean, South and Central America, some young, escaping their homelands and trying to create a sporting career for themselves in the States and some older on a (small) final payday it would seem. These foreigners are mixed in with a good sprinkling of former college stars not good enough for the MLS plus from what I have seen, people like you and me, who have a real job during the day, and just play as a pastime to earn a bit more cash.

I would say that the standard falls somewhere between what I have seen at Eastbourne Borough in the Blue Square Southern Conference, but that is USL 1 remember, not 2 in which my new boys the Bermuda Hogges compete, so I hate to think how bad it will be, but your daring Chicago Addick, will at some point, once settled on the island go along and give you a full report, you have my word.

I don’t know how Bermuda was invited into the American 3rd tier of professional soccer (Puerto Rico play in the 2nd tier). They only formed in 2006 and I do understand that the Hogges are taking the competition very seriously blooding players that appear in their national team, that are not playing overseas.

The Hogges are backed by none other than Bermuda legend Shaun Goater and coached by Kyle Lighbourne. They play homes games at Bermuda's National Stadium (capacity 8,500) and on Saturday host that horrible bunch of Yankee Nigels in just the 4th game of the summer season.

Palarse USA are owned by the Orange one, and overseen by his brother Dominic. You will like this, found on their website:

"Crystal Palace USA was created as a feeder organization to the world-renowned Crystal Palace Football Club in the UK. Crystal Palace USA is the first professional soccer team in the USA with a direct link to a professional English football (soccer) team. Crystal Palace Football Club (UK) is a $100,000,000 company founded in 1905 in south London."

See, what better way than to inherit a team, than to have a ready-made rivalry as a great reason to support them? Come on you Hogges. 
Wednesday 14 May 2008
  Oranges and Lemons Tossers eh? Like London buses. Plenty last night on the M4 and then this morning one turns up in Shepherds Bush. Some may argue that Dowie in his last couple of posts has not been given enough time to show what he can really achieve, others will say that he did enough damage in the time he was allowed. I don't expect QPRhaha's owners will be those of a patient sort, do you? Whatever, Dowie might not have a face for TV, but he sure does interview well.

I thought it was kind of strange that Bristol City's fans acted like they'd won the Champions League, it was only Palarse after all. I don't remember us behaving like that when we beat Ipswich. You have to assume Hull will win tonight, and will join Stoke and the Baggies in the Dream League. We are surely getting to the point that all of the elite have been crying out for. No relegation. The three promoted clubs will have their 'fun,' make a few quid but each go sliding back down again after spending most of their new found wealth trying to compete and with whatever is left on restructuring their finances.

In fact that has almost been true in recent years, with Reading and Sunderland breaking the mould. One would have thought that its becoming easier for established Premier League sides such as Fulham, Boro, Bolton, even Wigan to not get relegated, even more sickening for us, eh? Particulary when Peter Varney used to bang the old Prem 1 and 2 drum.

Wouldn't it make sense for Hull, say, not to spend any money at all, get tonked every week, gain enough points in their mini-league so they get into double figures and then put together a formidable Championship team the following year allowing them a better chance of safety in the Prem second time around? They won't do it of course. A flutter on Phil Brown getting sacked before Christmas anyone?

As for those teams that have been relegated. The classic second-season story that is Reading are looking a bit dishelveled. Coppell may walk and I expect a number of their players, some of whom have been accused of giving up, will become targets for Premier League clubs - Shorey, Doyle, Hunt and Harper amongst them. Reading 'found' a lot of new fans in the past couple of season's yet their attendances still rarely met ours. However if Coppell does stay, then I would consider Reading a promotion candidate next season.

All does not appear rosy at Birmingham either. Gold and Sullivan have to be fair, made a silk purse out of a pigs ear but they want out. The fans are pissed off and I have a distinct feeling that next season will be a tough one for them in the fizzies, particularly with McLeish's lack of second tier experience.

As for Derby, who knows how this season will affect them next, but it almost certainly will. Yes they have a new benefactor but have admitted to over-spending. They too, have a decent manager though but with a complete clear out planned they might suffer from a bit of Charlton-itis.

And with one place still up for grabs in the League One play-off's, I don't think Forest can be underestimated, well at least until I saw they offered £2.5m for Robert Earnshaw! What do you think? 
Tuesday 13 May 2008
  Those who left - what happened? Soon enough we will learn of the fate of those Addicks whose contracts expire this summer. Grant Basey, Kelly Youga and Rob Elliot’s futures have already been determined but those of club captain Matt Holland, Svetoslav Todorov, Osei Sankofa, Chris Powell and Ben Thatcher will be a topic of conversation around the boardroom in these coming weeks as will many others under contract who might be subject to offers from other clubs. Real Betis have, according to Sky Sports, already made a bid for Madjid Bougherra.

I thought meanwhile that this would be a good time to check on the 18 players who left the club last summer, some released, some sold and some sent out to pasture, this is what I found out:

Kevin Lisbie - Lets be honest most of us were pleased or relieved that Pardew finally moved 'Super Kev' on. My only reservation was that he could score goals at this level, but hang on the blokes always injured isn't he? Well 39 appearances later he ended 5th in the goal charts with 17 league goals, which is more than he scored in 12 years with us!

Simon Walton - Signed by John Gregory at QPR before Bernie Ecclestone pitched up at Loftus Road. Sadly broke his leg in a pre-season game and started just one game in December before being shipped off to Hull on loan for whom his last game was a month ago, although he was on the bench at Watford. He's now dating Page 3 girl Nicola T, so perhaps things are starting to look up?

Dennis Rommedahl - Many were surprised that Dennis got a move to Ajax last summer, he only started 15 games but has become known as a bit of supersub coming of the bench 18 times and scoring 4 vital goals including last week in the Eredivisie play-off's to determine who qualifies for next season's Champions League.

Luke Young - Luke Warm has turned into the consummate Premier League professional and made the right back spot his own at the Riverside playing 35 games, scoring one goal - that cracker against his old club Spurs in November.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink - Well, well. 14 games for us, 39 for Cardiff. 4 goals for us, 9 for Cardiff and a bloody FA Cup final!

Talal El Karkouri - Signed a two year contract with Qatar Sports Club last June and impressed scoring 5 goals, including a trademark free-kick. Qatar finished 4th in the Q League and are in the final of the prestigious Emir Cup.

Thomas Myhre - Moved back to his boyhood club Viking FK in Stavanger primarily as a coach but Thomas has this season started 5 of Viking's 6 league games (2008 season started at the end of March).

Darren Bent - Hindered by injuries Benty clearly struggled following his big money move to Spurs. However under Ramos his form improved, and although mainly from the bench he scored 8 goals including his 100th career goal against Curbs' Hammers.

Radostin Kishishev - Kish's move to relegated Leicester has been a disaster. Kish played just twice before being shipped out to Leeds on loan after Holloway arrived. Back at the Walkers in January but he spent the rest of the season playing in the stiffs.

Bryan Hughes - The opposite is true for Hughes. Signed a 3-year deal at Hull, scored on his debut, has been a regular in their starting line up and has a Wembley play-off final to play for tomorrow night.

Hermann Hreidarsson - Hands up who thought the Herminator was past it? 35 games for the 33-year old for Portsmouth this season including a FA Cup semi at Wembley and expected to line up in the final this Saturday.

Nathan Ashton - Signed for Fulham under a recommendation by Les Reed. Made his Premier League debut at home to Reading in November. Must of then done something horribly wrong because he got sent to Palarse on loan. Played once but since been in their reserves.

Rurik Gislason - Playing regularly in the Danish Superliga for Viborg, who are struggling near the bottom of the table

Alistair John - Made the wrong headlines after signing for Stevenage Borough when stabbed outside his home. Has served under 3 managers this season including Peter Taylor and struggled to get to be a regular.

Myles Weston - signed a 2-year deal with Notts County managed by Steve 'Rambo' Thompson, who was then sacked in October. However Myles was a regular first-teamer and helped keep the Magpies in the league.

Souleymane Diawara - We will never know if Diawara could've prevented those too frequent defensive lapses, particularly early season. 36 appearances for title chasing Bordeaux underlines what some of us thought - he's a good player.

Marcus Bent - Scored 7 goals in his first 14 games whilst on loan at Wigan. The next 18 he scored a bit fat zero. Sound familiar? Expected to sign permanently, thank god.

Amdy Faye - Arrested in November, accused of rape in April and in between played 226 minutes whilst at Glasgow Rangers. Still has a year left on his Charlton contract.

James Walker - A January move to Southend fell through due to heart issues coming up in his medical. Fortunately James got a loan move to Roots Hall and has played 15 games, including last weekend's play-off game. Has scoring 4 times and is expected to make the move permanent. 
Monday 12 May 2008
  Palm Springs & Joshua Tree National Park We only had one night in Palm Springs, about a 2 hour drive from San Diego but it was a good resting point for the long drive the next day to Sedona. Driving in you are met by thousands of energy wind turbine generators which powers the whole of Palm Springs.

Most of the population of this desert city call it a 2nd home as wealthy families take flight from the winters of Los Angeles and San Diego, however in recent times retirees have made it more of a year-round place meaning that businesses and restaurants no longer have to close-down in the summer.

Famous and rich residents aside the largest land owner in Palm Springs is the Agua Caliente band of Cahuilla Indians, who have lived here in the year-round heat for almost 500 years and 300 or so tribal indians are known to still live on the reservation. You can visit the reservation and it's various canyons and resorts and spas.

We arrived in the afternoon and chose to take a ride on the world's largest rotating tramcars at the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. A 10-minute journey began at the nicely named Valley Station, just a short ride from the main town, and took us up North America's sheerest mountain to 8516 feet (2600 m) above sea level.

The ascent takes you past five different life zones and the temperature dropped considerably once we disembarked the tram at Mountain Station. The views up top were incredible. Mt San Jacinto's snow covered peak was clearly visible. From different viewing points you can see across the Coachella Valley and have a Google Map like view of Palm Springs.

At the summit there is the compulsory array of crap restaurants plus gift shops and a visitors centre as well as numerous walking trails. The Aerial Tramway was certainly a good decision.

The two main arteries that supply the bulk of non-residential activities in Palm Springs are North Palm Canyon Drive and North Indian Canyon Drive and the night we were there the roads were closed for a street festival. Palm Springs is also noted for it's gay and lesbian influence and it was pretty evident, particularly at dinner on an evening that the city's restaurants were joining forces for local AIDS charities.

We chose Copley's for dinner predominately because it had an English chef (Copley himself) and the restaurant was situated in what was the former estate of Cary Grant. Sat outside in the front garden of Cary Grant's house under a sky full of brilliant lucent stars in the desert, it was the best meal I'd had for some time.

The next day after an excellent breakfast in our tired but once I am sure, bewitching hotel we made tracks for Sedona but after an hour made a brief stop at the Joshua Tree National Park. Any U2 fans will have the hairs on the back of their necks stand upright at the thought of being stood in a desert in front of these amazing yet very peculiar beings.

The trees only grow in the Mojave Desert, which occupies parts of California, Utah, Nevada and Arizona and are almost impossible to age as their trunks are made of thousands of small fibres and have no growth rings. It is thought that some maybe 1,000 years old. It was slightly surreal standing in front of them snapping away in the desert heat but I had a wide smile as we got back in our car and zapped up the air-conditioning.

"Desert sky
Dream beneath the desert sky
The rivers run, but soon run dry
We need new dreams tonight."
Sunday 11 May 2008
  San Diego California has it all. Mountains, sunshine, big cities, beautiful national parks, Hollywood, vineyards and San Diego.

San Diego is beautiful, but it really wasn't always like that. The Great Depression put pay to it's progress after the gold rush and economic growth never came to this small outpost just north of the Mexican border. However the aviation and maritime industries did come in the 1920's and 30's finally giving the city a jumpstart and then in 1935, as the Depression waned, San Diego staged a huge exposition touting itself as the first port of call for ships heading north from the new Panama Canal. Architects chose to showcase a Spanish-Colonial style and the success gave San Diego a lot of impetus.

Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the headquarters of the US Pacific Fleet was moved to San Diego. The boom in wartime activity transformed the city - vast tracts of instant housing appeared, public spaces were turned into training camps, storage depots and hospitals, and the population doubled in a few years. The city's wartime role and the associated publicity more than anything else put San Diego on the American map. Post-war, the naval and military presence provided an expanding core of activity, employing up to a quarter of the San Diego workforce. There are still 165,000 active personnel based in San Diego today, the largest naval base in the world. Honestly though bobbing about on a boat in the ocean, you wouldn't even know the navy existed apart from the huge USS Midway, now a museum and well worth a few hours visiting plus take a glance up at the 25ft high statue 'The Kiss' which stands next to the 972ft long war veteran (left).

Naval towns attract certain night time activities and other than sailors San Diego didn't hold much pull to anyone else. However since the 1980's this part of southern California helped by a lovely climate, investment in good public transport links and a beautiful coastline has gone through a gentrification frenzy.

It was my first visit to San Diego and I purposely avoided taking my passport so I would have no excuse to travel the 20-odd miles over the Mexican border to Tijuana, which 300,000 visitors do every day at the San Ysidro point of entry to drink, dance, eat tacos and buy cheap drugs (both the legal and illegal kind). I knew if I found myself crossing that border on a works do, only bad things would happen!

Like all my favourite cities San Diego asks to be walked and is served by an excellent trolley system, plus the airport is only 10 minutes outside of the downtown area. A ferry service also crosses to Coronado every 30 minutes.

Coronado, Spanish for 'the crowned one' is connected to the mainland by the 2.12-mile Coronado Bay Bridge (above) as well as by a long, narrow spit of sand known as the Silver Strand. We drove over the bridge the practice day of the Red Bull Air Race (incidentially won by Englishman Paul Bonhomme), which provided some very eye-catching moments (very top right). Coronado is certainly worth a visit to see it's tiny sandy beaches, quaint restaurants and it's enchanting but very expensive houses, one of which is the summer home of Senator John McCain. The Hotel del Coronado, one of America's most famous hotels, has a colourful history and was the backdrop for the Marilyn Monroe film 'Some Like It Hot.'

Another place worth a drive out to is La Jolla ('The Jewel' in Spanish), a seaside community, full of character with spectacular seafronts and endless choices of fine shops and restaurants. For golfers the Torrey Pines Golf Course is nearby, venue of this year's US Open.

The downtown of San Diego itself encourages walking and it's historic Old Town should be a place to start your exploration. There are many tours that help you experience the original settling place of the Europeans on the west coast of the new world. The San Diego State Historic Park blankets a good chunk of the area and San Diego's history is well preserved here with a treasure chest of things to see and do.

Balboa Park is not just a park either, containing a junior theatre, golf courses and the city's famous zoo home to 4,000 animals. Through the middle of the park runs a wide promenade called El Prado. Along here are situated many museums including the San Diego Museum of Man.

Little Italy offers a lot more that Italian restaurants, although an anti-Mexican protest being carried out by some assorted white trash outside the Mexican consulate was more than we bargained for. Little Italy has a thriving arts and home design scene and is easily accessible by trolley although a visit to Sea World to see Shamu probably needs a car.

I stayed in the Gaslamp District and this is where most of the cities hotels and nightlife hang out. Once home to sailors looking for some onshore action, the area became the major focus of redevelopment in the 1980's and accelerated by the popularity of Horton Plaza, a shopping mall built in 1984 and named for Alonzo Horton, a San Diego visionary.

A new baseball stadium for the Padres completed the areas regeneration in 2004. A game was going on whilst I was there and the stadium had a very welcoming appeal looking over the bay with the sun beating down on a full house.

Most of the restaurants and bars centre around 5th Avenue, although most were occupied by businessmen with expense accounts so it is worth investigating some of quieter streets. The best meal I had was at Candelas on 3rd Ave. Annoying although hangover diminishing, the bars did shut at 1.30am, which surprised me.

Hotels trip over themselves in this part of town to encourage both out-of-towners and locals into their establishments with pool bars, roof top bars, live music and all kinds of frivolity, although the Hard Rock Hotel beat them all on the day I arrived when it was hosting a pool party - walking around there on that Sunday afternoon was a sight for sore eyes let me tell you. Who said conventions were boring?

I really liked San Diego and it's mix of beach bum surfer dude, grown up business city and culinary high-life. There's a lot of history here and they showcase it very well, all walkable and you're rarely out of sight of the Pacific Ocean and the warm sun. 
Friday 9 May 2008
  Play-off's if we can bear it Timing is everything and last night I was out with an old Palarse work acquaintance of mine, who now works in New York and was visiting Chicago on business. This trip had been arranged a number of weeks ago and sure enough bragging rights switched and my did he enjoy his moment in the spotlight.

This brings me onto this weekend's play-off's. Southend play tonight and are expected to include James Walker in their line up against Doncaster. It's hard to back anyone else but Leeds in League One, and they are the form team amongst the four candidates. Carlisle at one point led the table and have nose-dived. Steve Tilson has done really well and Southend is a nice little day out for most Addicks plus we haven't met for almost 12 years, however Carlisle holds many memories for me and I would love them to go up.

League Two kicks off on Saturday evening with Darlington v Rochdale. Wycombe play favourites Stockport on Sunday. Dale have played everyone of the last 33 season's in the countries bottom division and for no other reason it would be marvellous if they could go up in their centenary season. A season they have chosen to switch to playing in black & white stripes for the first time in almost 50, other than their usual all blue.

Then if we can bear it there is the Championship play-off's. I heard Warnock on a BBC podcast yesterday smirking that they were the underdogs and all the pressure is on the Hull, Watford and Bristol City. My Palarse mate asked me where he could watch the game in Chicago tomorrow. It begins at 6.15am so obviously I sent him on a wild goose chase north about 5 miles. That should teach him.

Hull and Palarse are the form sides by a country mile, in fact Watford have won only once in 14 games, form worse than ours. Those 35 points in their first 15 games probably kept them up!

Palarse winning promotion would be the final nail in a very rusty coffin, and a bit too much to take. I actually remember a thread on Charlton Life the day before the home game asking 'the double over Palace but no promtion or they thrash us but we still win promotion?' Clearly we weren't thinking straight because the majority could not see beyond that Friday night in February.

That 2-0 Friday night victory when I celebrated like a demented fool at Toronto airport after the score came through on a call from a riotous Royal Oak sure does feel like a long, long time ago. 
Thursday 8 May 2008
  Play-off dreams still alive Nope, no change in the rules I'm afraid but Eastbourne Borough play Hampton and Richmond Borough tonight at Stevenage Borough's Broadhall Way to contest the Conference South play-off final, kick off is at 7.45pm and £13 if you live nearby and fancy giving the Sports a cheer on my behalf!

Borough comprehensively beat Braintree Town 5-0 over two legs in the semi, whilst Hampton knocked Fisher out on penalties.

At one point the Sports looked like they would take the title and automatic promotion but local rivals Lewes overtook them as Borough won only one of their final eight matches, me trumpeting their aspirations obviously put the kibosh on them. However they came good in the play-off's and I'm hoping my inherited non-league team satisfy my promotion fantasies tonight by climbing into the highest non-league tier for the first time in their 44-year history.
Wednesday 7 May 2008
  The wild west What a great trip, probably the last time I'll be holidaying in the US for a while, but full of great experiences and plenty for me to write about soon.

We drove just shy of 1,000 miles from San Diego to Las Vegas via Palm Springs (desert life for the rich and famous), the Joshua Tree National Park (stunning trees older than anything that surrounds them), Sedona in Arizona (a wild west cowboy & indian town known for it’s spirituality and sat amongst the most glorious red rocks), the Grand Canyon (one of the greatest natural wonders of the world), the Hoover Dam (an engineering marvel) and Las Vegas (a marvel of gambling, drinking, eating, boobs and sun).

If any of you are ever thinking about coming on holiday to the US, then please consider this trip to explore the west. It is an amazing part of the world, and Vegas will certainly fill any shopping or late night desires. Death Valley, Yosemite National Park or Albuquergue the other way could all be added for a wonderful experience of the American wild west.

The day at the Grand Canyon will long live in the memory, being allowed to co-pilot the little 7-seater Cessna back the 100 miles to Sedona airport was an absolute thrill, even though for the last 20 minutes I thought I was going to be sick. We were so lucky that just the two of us had booked the trip for that day, and I will be forever grateful to our superb guide and pilot (and flying instructor) Chris for allowing me the chance of a free lesson.

The Grand Canyon is awe-inspiring and after being snowed out last time I was there with my brother in 1994, I was so glad I got another chance to see a place of such magnificent natural beauty.

Back in Chicago now though and with so much to do. A flurry of e-mails this morning resulted in no one seeming to know the status of my immigration application to Bermuda. My current work permit here in the US does run out on July 5th, which cannot be exceeded without an extension that has not for obvious reasons been applied for.

I expect to be in Bermuda by July but if not, it will mean that I'll go and stay at my parents in Eastbourne for a while until I can move to Bermuda (you are not allowed to visit the island, whilst the immigration application is being reviewed). I'd actually quite like that, but we will have to wait and see. Meanwhile there's a lot to do in my final weeks in Chicago. 
  Beach diet After the excesses of Las Vegas realisation has finally struck that I am a bloater. Nearly 5 years of living the life of an American has caught up with me. When I first sat in restaurants here I just stared at the portions with disbelief, but now I scoff the whole bloody lot unashamedly. So to celebrate my impending move to the island of Bermuda, known for its short wearing beach activities, I am planning a diet.

I’ve never been very good at diets, I’d just cut out the bread, or the beer, or the burgers and that would do, mixed in with a tiny bit of exercise and footy and I was good. But no more, my ankle (still swollen by the way, and still a tiny bit sore) injury hasn’t helped but is not an excuse because I have been on the journey to pot-bellyhood for a good year now.

The reason I am telling you this is, well it’s a blog, and two, if you are in on it, then I can’t pretend that 6-7 pints of Stella, or a tub of Ben & Jerry’s won’t matter. So after reading the magazine on the plane with all those silly gadgets in, I’m going to invest in some snazzy exercise contraptions, watch what I eat, drink less and cut out the excess, oh and the sandwiches, because I do love a loaf of bread.

There now you know. 
Monday 5 May 2008
  Coventry at home. What was the score? Won 4-1 There is a poker expression known as Little Blind and I spunked a few extra dollars last night here in Sin City but I did it with a smile on my face. True, a thumping victory only adds to the head scratching after an unsatisfactory season but even though I wasn't witness to yesterday's fine win, it has spurred me on into thinking that perhaps things are not as desperate as some fans think.

Pardew has made many mistakes, some he has admitted to, although his perserverance in Iwelumo still needs to be knocked out of him, but we came up two wins short of a play-off place. A conclusion, if achieved, that most of us would have been content with 9 months ago.

We failed though, and therefore yesterday was about sending Addicks' home with a spring in their step, a defeat would have made for a grisly summer. But we won and we won well.

Chris Powell rightly took the headlines and made the memories. The man is a hero amongst Addicks young and old, but we are crying out for new heroes we can be proud off, players for whom we can scream their names from the stands until we are hoarse.

But hang on don't we have some likely future heroes? Jonjo Shelvey sounds like he is the real deal. I like what I have seen of Basey and I would love Moo2Kil to prove himself in this team. Wagstaff sounds lightweight but has bags of potential and so does Rashid Yussuff and Kelly Youga, despite a tendency to over-play.

Luke Varney was by all accounts excellent again and he has already won the hearts and minds of Addicks fans, Gray may take a bit longer but Pardew may have finally stumbled across a strike partnership to threaten tier 2 defences, with Toddy (hopefully if finances allow) and Dickson set to return. Another positive is the growing centre-half relationship between the polar differences of Magic and Paddy.

Of course a lot of work has to be done, probably more physche than anything else plus we are bound to go through another summer of departures and arrivals but for now when it comes to Charlton, I am more than a Little Blind, but after yesterday's season closer, I think I can see a little light at the end of this fizzy pop tunnel.

Who saw Chris Powell's swansong: All Quiet; Drinking During the Game; Blackheath Addicted (2nd half!); A Red Divided.
Reports: Daily Mail; Kent Online; Daily Telegraph;; Coventry Telegraph.
What did Pardew think of it: "I just felt we played with freedom today as there was no pressure on us. It's that mentality - to be able to cope with the pressure and expectation - that I feel has cost us this year."
A bottle of fizzy pop for: Luke Varney. A mystery why he only appeared in half the games that Big Chris did. 
Sunday 4 May 2008
  Arise Sir Chris A stirring way to finish an extremely disappointing season. More perspective on the season and today's result later, but what a pleasure it must have been to see Sir Chris Powell score the 4th goal today just after coming on for his last game (playing at least) in a red shirt that he has worn with such honour.

It makes you proud, our season closes with a smile and with a hint of brighter times ahead. 
Saturday 3 May 2008
  Red Rocks San Diego, working, conventioning and late nights all seem like a long time ago at this moment. But please visit San Diego it is beautiful.

We left San Diego and drove to Palm Springs on Thursday afternoon where we spent a night, before setting off early Friday on a 6-hour drive to the beautiful red rocks of Sedona. We took an early pit stop at the Joshua Tree National Park to stare and photograph this amazing tree.

"It's supposed to be the oldest living organism in the desert. They can't put a time on it, because when you cut it, there's no rings to indicate how old it is. Maybe that's a good sign for the record" - Larry Mullen Jr.

We are in Sedona now and their red rocks form a gorgeous backdrop but it's also a great base to explore Arizona's desert and canyons. And today we took the most awesome journey.

We flew from Sedona to the 17-million year old Grand Canyon, truly one of the natural wonders of the ancient and modern world. I'll write more on our trip next week but being allowed to fly our little Cessna 400 back by our guide and pilot was the icing on one of my favourite ever days.

Tomorrow we leave Sedona for two nights in Las Vegas to wrap up our desert road trip. We are 8 hours behind London here and the Addicks would have probably ended a sorry season by the time we take to Route 66 and the casinos of Vegas. 
About Me
After living in Chicago for four and a half years, I moved to the beautiful if bewildering island of Bermuda in July 2008. This blog is about being an exiled and depressed Charlton Athletic fan and whatever else the day brings.
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