Editor’s Note: Earlier this year, Justin wrote Iceland, a blog about his band’s American tour. Justin isn’t on tour anymore, but Iceland continues, twice a week, on City Desk.
I open this revamped, semiweekly Iceland: Summer ’07 Edition by challenging any and all women and children under 16 living in Washington, D.C. to a game of basketball. This game can be played at any agreed-upon time from June 1 to Sept. 1, 2007. I am ready, willing, and able to play any and all agreed-upon games with any and all qualified women and children, including but not limited to winner’s outs, loser’s outs, to 11 by ones, to 16 by ones, to 30 by twos, “21,” “33,” and “HORSE.” I must insist that shots scored from outside the 3-point line count more than shots scored from within the 3-point line, and that no fouls be called unless someone is bleeding. Interested parties should contact the Washington City Paper, where my name and address are on file.
Though I am an admirer of Andy Kaufman, I do not issue my basketball challenge as Dadaist adventure-cum-performance art. Because I am not very large, fast, or particularly skilled at basketball, I prefer playing women and children because there is a greater chance that I will win or, at the very least, prove marginally competitive. Of course, this idea sometimes backfires.
“Would you like to play?” I was practicing my jump shot at Upshur Recreation Center at 4300 Arkansas Ave. NW, a fine facility maintained by the well-oiled machine that is the D.C. Parks and Recreation Department, when a young woman with the handle “Veronica” challenged me to one-on-one. Though I stand a mere 5-foot-8, I quickly calculated that Veronica was even shorter than myself.
“I accept your challenge,” I agreed. “Let us proceed by ones to sixteen.” I scored six points in quick secession, noting that Veronica refrained from trash-talking. I appreciate a player who doesn’t trash-talk, as I retired from snaps battles after a long and illustrious schoolyard career.
“Damn,” Veronica had noted that the score was not in her favor.
“Have faith,” I replied. “Maybe you are just letting me get a good lead, then plan to come back.” If Veronica smiled at this point, I did not see it. Nevertheless, she came back to beat me 16-6. We played again, and she beat me again. Mercifully, she let me score in the double digits during the second game.
“Good game, Veronica,” I said. She shook my hand and, as the sun set on the Upshur Recreation Center, disappeared into the green hills flanking 14th Street NW. I considered my future as a basketball player and remained optimistic. Earlier in the week, I had soundly beaten a different woman who had been wearing flip-flops.