I'm nursing a knee injury, so bi-monthly trips to my orthopedic physician have recently become a regularity. My doctor's office is located in Fox Chapel, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh. It's typical of the larger communities in Western Pennsylvania, save for its above average per capita income.
Basically, if you live in Fox Chapel, area locals will assume you're loaded. Loaded with wealth, I mean, not liquor.
A large shopping plaza dominates downtown Fox Chapel, featuring a super market, Walmart, movie theater, Barnes & Noble, specialty shops aplenty and, tucked away in a corner, the burgeoning Burgatory.
Burgatory is about as innovative of an eatery as you could hope to encounter around Pittsburgh. It's a bar/restaurant that specializes in burgers and milkshakes, traditional and spiked. The burgers are highly customizable. Dozens of toppings and sauces. Meats aplenty, buns from healthy to creative, and your choice of what kind of rub to mix with the chosen meat. Oh, and they're delicious too. Plus, the beer selection? Craftacular.
In short, nirvana.
Fulham had already kicked off by the time I left the doctors office, and as much as I love the team, I wasn't sacrificing a chance to stop at Burgatory for a half, maybe, of choppy, pirated Europa League action online.
Hell, I probably wouldn't even have sacrificed Burgatory for a full game.
I picked an empty seat on a mostly empty side of Burgatory's bar, the end to my left filled with a group of wealthy 40-somethings, highlighted by an ex-NHLer, drinking away and enjoying a random day for no particular reason, as though they even needed one.
Notoriously nit-picky when choosing a beverage, I bypassed the taps to scan a mini-fridge behind the bar. Young's Double Chocolate Stout? Yes, please. I ordered a tall can, pouring it expertly into my glass, adding a burger to my tab shortly after. The day was mine.
I set up shop, unsheathing my e-reader from its carrying case, my smartphone parked to its left, the dark, rich, oh-so-chocolaty stout to my right. I'm not as insufferable as that last sentence makes me sound, I promise.
I took a sip of the beer, letting the taste linger, while refreshing my TweetDeck, hoping for the Fulham community to keep me abreast of the game's occurrences.
Nothing much early on, the prolific hammyend.com's Twitter account maintaining a brisk updating pace to satiate my curiosity. Moussa Dembele with a weak shot, Fulham fans in fine voice, Aaron Hughes' turnover almost leads to a goal against. Sounds bland enough.
I put the phone aside and fired up the e-reader. I had begun working my way through the novella "Who Goes There?", John W. Campbell's short story that inspired The Thing, last night. I wasn't loving it, but it was short enough and seemed a better option than engaging with they merrymakers at the end of the bar.
Time passed. I worked my way through a few pseudo-pages, set the e-reader aside, and went back to the TweetDeck.
Moussa Dembele had been sent off, and apparently less than deservedly.
@hammyend.com: Dembele sent off. Crafty acting from Nunez - but very silly from Dembele.
@FulhamFC: Mousa Dembele has been sent off in Poland. Mousa pushed Nunez on the arm and the Wisla midfielder went down clutching his face. Enough said.
@richallenfulham: If I'd been Dembele I'd have sat down on the pitch and not moved. Wrong is wrong.
I saw nothing, but I read enough, and was effectively outraged by default.
I put the game away, got back to my book, beer and recently received burger.
Took a few bites, reopened Pandora's Box, and Fulham had conceded. Oh, and the lights went out.
Things were dire. Dire in Campbell's Antarctic, Science Fiction nightmare, where an alien was consuming and mimicking scientists, and in Poland, where electricity and objectivity schemed against Martin Jol's men.
Eat, read, Twitterverse. Eat, read, Twitterverse. A cycle of instantly updated second-hand accounts. A joy, to be sure.
I gradually slowed my refreshing from occasional to infrequent. The updates I caught were of the bland-to-sad variety, mostly pertaining to injuries and little in the way of offensive enlightenment. The final whistle blew, but I didn't know. I was finishing the last of my chips and beer.
Fulham fell to Wisla Krakow 1-0. FC Twente gave Odense a hiding, moving the Dutch side clear to the top of the Europa League group, Fulham now in second.
Oh well. I drove home, satiated from a full meal, and knowing that I hadn't missed a thing.