“I was thinking maybe we could go outside
Let the night sky cool your foolish pride
Don’t you feel alive
These are your times, these are your highs.”
When I thought about you and how I was gonna say all this to you—how I would tell the story of my trip in a way completely different to the way I told my mom—I initially hit a bit of a wall because sometimes the best stories are ruined by the details. So I won’t give you a painfully long, blow-by-blow of my four-plus days in your city. It is YOUR city for so many reading this and you know what the buildings look like and how it smells and the way the women dress on a weekend evening in town regardless of the weather conditions. What’s the point in some jerk like me regurgitating your hometown right back at you? I know I wouldn’t want to read that. No, this is just a reasonably-sized piece about feelings.
So let’s talk about THAT night.
THAT night in Liverpool was truly like none I’d experienced before—and it was a feeling of triumph and liberation that you only experience on the rarest of occasions. I was a shade under 4,500 miles from home and I was me, but I wasn’t and the world was mine and yet I had no idea what would happen next. THIS was one of those life moments that makes the flashback reel during the near-death episodes. I recall being suddenly consumed by a deep sense of my own mortality and the value of life in such a world as this as I finished a drunken mercy piss in the dark corner of that parking lot near Salt Dog Slims—and it was then that I knew I’d hold this place in my heart forever.
But the NEXT night was also reel-worthy. Palace at home. 4 PM kick off. Late enough so that I’d had an opportunity to recall exactly who I was and how one’s head feels when booze aren’t at the helm—though my voice was still rough from all the singing and dancing of the night before. Luckily, it only made me sound sexier. Now of course, despite how utterly repellant the idea of drinking felt to me by Sunday afternoon, traditions are traditions for a reason. So I made my way with friends to the Ship & Mitre for the second time on the trip, met up with some more friends who I’d known for a while but had never met in person, and decided that any anxiety about the upcoming game ought to take a backseat to shared brews and great conversation. And hugs. I’m a hugger, dammit—though none of you seemed to mind.
On that note, a quick aside regarding those of you I’ve met on my two trips to Liverpool. From this one man’s perspective, I’m struck by the way that almost all of you have been cordial, warm, and to a person so refreshingly genuine—all with a bit of edge to go with that special brand of dark humor. The Scouser is a person who can be described in a number of colorful ways but can’t be truly understood without face to face interaction. The ones I’ve come to know are biting without meanness. They are both hopeless and hopeful within the confines of a single interaction—or often the same sentence. Their wit and humor are constantly being sharpened in a very steel sharpens steel sort of way when interacting with one another. But the sense that once they’ve become your friend that they’ll have your back forever is palpable. You lot are some of the best that humanity has to offer—and not just because you’re in the top 1% at mixing boozing with brilliantly lewd humor (a sport in my country). Friends who make you feel like family as easily as you do are a rarity in this world and aren’t to be taken for granted. It’s why I constantly reference the feeling that when I am in Liverpool, I am home.
So to recap, my first trip came back in December over the holiday period where my brother and I popped our live Everton cherries watching Big Sam’s “musky” brand of special–a 2-1 away defeat at Everton’s upside down place at Bournemouth, followed by a 2-0 home defeat to United on New Year’s Day. And now—just ten months later—coming back to THIS Everton made me feel like I’d actually returned years later.
Of course, you all know how the Palace match went. If you don’t, feel free to browse this elite Everton website where I’m sure you’ll find a kickass recap. Having said that, can I just say that I am HONORED to have witnessed the Everton debut of the bearded Portuguese Gosling, Andre Gomes?! He is walking heaven. I know he smells fantastic like I know the sky is blue. The revelation of Gomes was like having had a big fight with your significant other one day and then you have volcanic sex the next day—and I’m talking like vacation/hookup-level sex—and you can’t recall for the life of you what the subject of the argument even was. We were arguing about someone else in midfield on Everton Twitter, but now I can’t remember who. Because of all the SEX.
(Catches breath) So yeah, while my previous trip had been all about making a pilgrimage, this one was all about seeing my family play well and seeing my family be happy about playing well. Coming off an international break and a great road win over Leicester, clearly everything was primed for a colossal let-down. And as you can imagine, a semi-sober man like me—4,500 miles from home and standing in the Lower Gwladys—watched with all the familiar blue-tinged dread that comes with this most lovely of curses as the minutes and seconds of the match ticked by. Keep in mind, I’d only seen ONE live Everton goal before this.
Then comes the Palace penalty. Because of course. But then comes the save I was so sure wouldn’t come. And then things evened out again as the two sides dicked around deep into the final ten minutes. Cenk comes on. Then Lookman and Calvert-Lewin. DCL—I remember thinking at the time—a player so special for his ability to possess every athletic attribute you’d want in a striker except for the ability to score in the Premier League. It all felt so predictable.
Until…it wasn’t. Which was great. Deep in the recesses of my soul—in places I don’t often talk about except with you because YOU are my special little unicorns—a rush of glowing, loving light that I’m reasonably sure wasn’t ale-driven flooded my chest all at once as DCL’s header rippled the net. There were limbs. There were screams of pure, unadulterated, stupid hot joy. And then there was that glow. I looked down at my feet and covered my eyes as they filled with tears of happiness and relief and of a decade and a half of waiting for this moment and I just allowed myself to feel all of it. This all probably sounds so emo and so over the top, but I suppose that’s precisely the point. It was emo and it was over the top because for me, it felt like reaching some sort of personal summit. Everton—the source of so much devotion and doubt and frustration and adoration—had in this one moment loved me back in a way that felt personal and transcendent.
So while I’ll entertain endless discussion of ambition and “the project” and trophies and the new stadium, it is moments like these that make life worth living. Bursts of joy. Surrounded by thousands whose hearts are racing, whose voices are joined in unison, and whose belief has been rewarded. This, my friends, is the life pursuit. I remember Denis Leary once opining that happiness “comes in small doses…It’s a cigarette butt, or a chocolate chip cookie or a five second orgasm. You come, you smoke the butt, you eat the cookie, you go to sleep, wake up and go back to fucking work the next morning. That’s it!” It may all feel fleeting, but what isn’t fleeting? I may have returned home to Oklahoma and life may indeed go on, but I returned with a moment I get to keep forever. Everton—a club, a family, a state of mind—had somehow become something even greater on this night where I dared to dream of something magical, something poetic and saw it realized. And as Cenk slotted home goal number two and tugged on that badge and clenched his fist in ecstasy at the Gwladys Street, I knew that in this time and in this place, we’d all be together forever.