It would be remiss to forgo recounting to you the bounty of authentic cuisine on offer in such an elite (just 120 seats in the whole joint!) sky-bound, all-American lounge. There were chipped potatoes of many varieties, roasted cashews, and from the state of "Arizona," one of their finest teas, iced, presumably only for the summer months. And for those rootless cosmopolitans present in the cabin, there was coffee from the American northeast's most prominent and popular artisanal roasters, Dunkin' Donuts. America, apparently, runs on it.
But I know what you're thinking: how can one claim to have seen authentic American culture while flying tens of thousands of miles above it? Spoiler alert! The plane landed.
And so there you are after a two-hour drive west and north through the remarkably picturesque North Carolina high country, looking for a suitably "ethnic" place to watch the United States play their new Auld Enemy, England. You would do well to find yourself at the Bayou Smokehouse in Banner Elk, NC, improbably -- yet altogether appropriately -- situated "upon" Tynecastle Highway.
On such a beautiful day it would make sense that most of the Bayou's patrons were seated outside. But of the 17 customers perched around the large, central U-shaped bar inside where the game was showing, 11 were there expressly to watch soccer; the rest, either to eat, drink, or to play Countdown Trivia, which occupied around 20% of the bar's televisions. On the far wall opposite the entrance hung a small chalkboard that read, "RIP GARY COLEMAN." A crude yet surprisingly accurate caricature of the child star appeared in chalk below. A waitress asked, "What does FIFA stand for?" in the match's opening minutes. Answered: "It's French." Someone else ordered a Newcastle and was summarily rebuked.
"Which soup is a traditional Chinese dish?," the trivia screens asked. The English scored. One-nil. "Egg drop," announced the screen. The Americans equalized. One-one. "Did you know that George Washington was proven to be a member of the Virginia legislature before becoming president?" A patron smiled at the writing on a dollar bill pasted above the bar: "Strippers go to Fairbanks, AK to die!!" Washington sat, green and silent on the matter, muzzled by the double exclamation points. The referee blew for the final whistle. Full time. A computerized game of no-limit Texas hold 'em played itself out on an unwatched television in the corner. No one stuck around for the flop.
Now: anyone know where to find the perfect kim-chi taco before the group stage is over?
Pete L'Official is currently a student in the History of American
Civilization program at
Harvard. His interests in modern American literature and culture,
and the urban built environment do not preclude him from waking up at
hours on the weekends to watch the English Premier League and the
Patrice Evra, Park Ji-Sung, and Carlos Tevez. His work has appeared in
the Village Voice, Salon, the Believer and
He previously wrote about the Louis Vuitton World Cup trophy case.