Southern California Summer

I'm slowly adjusting to the three-hour time difference between New York and California. The change in time zones has enabled me to wake up well-rested around 6 AM every day, just in time to watch the World Cup. So far, the first matches of the day have been the most exciting, in my opinion. The best match so far? Australia's three goal burst against Japan in the last 10 minutes is easily number one, followed by South Korea's comeback against Togo. I was rooting for Togo to pull one off for the African teams, but it's hard not to be won over by South Korea's passion for the game. Their fans owned the stadium and partied like it was 2002. Hey America, this is how it's done!

Then there's the second match of the day. I accomplish more in each day by 9 AM than France or Switzerland did in 90 minutes. The French haven't scored since the 20th century and were fortunate to survive the not so neutral Swiss side. A team with as much talent as Le Bleu shouldn't have so much trouble finding the back of the net. Thierry Henry led the Premiership in goals and '98 hero Zinedine Zidane is aging but still effective. This team should find scoring easy, but against the Swiss their attack lacked creativity and patience. Henry can't do it all by himself. He'll need better service and support if the French want any shot at beating the Koreans.

As for the Yanks, the less said the better. We stunk up the joint for sure. The vast difference in quality between the U.S. and the Czechs was a depressing reminder that we are still a long, long way from being a true world power. Or maybe it was just a bad day? We'll see against the Italians.

As I type now the first round of group play is nearly complete. Time is passing too fast! Will England find their form against T&T;? Is Ronaldo too fat to lead Brazil to glory once again? Will the Americans prove everyone wrong and upset the Italians? So much drama. I love the World Cup.

I'm in Southern California this entire week for a long-awaited vacation. Yeah, vacation! Today I watched two World Cup games, went to the beach and ate some decent seafood. The weather is spectacular (wish you were here, natch), blue skies and wide horizons. Old man June gloom hasn't shown his face around here just yet.

Normally I look forward to cross country flights as a chance to spend dedicated time with my iPod. I dropped a bushel of new songs, along with choice old favorites onto the little player and prepared for some long interrupted listening. Then I remembered - I'm flying JetBlue early in the morning and the World Cup will be on. So instead of checking out Alex Smoke's Paradolia or Ghostface Killah's Fishscale, I sipped a Bloody Mary and watched the Netherlands defeat soon to be separated Serbia-Montenegro 1-0 on a screen the size of a CD case.

Having only seen one other complete match, the snooze-fest that was England vs Paraguay, I was relieved to see a well-played World Cup game. Goal scoerer Arjen Robben (who plays for FA Premier League champions Chelsea) owned this match for the Dutch, creating chances seemingly every time he touched the ball. I haven't been following the Dutch that closely lately and was unfamiliar with most of their team. Where's Edgar Davids or Clarence Seedorf? Is Dennis Bergkamp still retired from international play? Holland played well, but I am not yet convinced they will make up for missing the last World Cup.

JetBlue's TV package includes ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Classic, but not ABC so I missed the Mexico-Iran battle. With two hours of a five-hour flight remaining, it was music time. Thanks to Forced Exposure, I've been introduced to two excellent Latin collections: Senor Coconut and His Orchestra Play YMO and Panama! Latin, Calypso and Funk on the Isthmus, 1965-75. Both albums seemed appropriate given the international spirit of day. Then it was on to my first spin of Brightblack Morning Light's laconic debut record, which Rajeev has been pimping for good reason lately. The album's hazy, lackadaisical vibe was just right antidote for in-flight anxiety. Meanwhile in France, Rafeal Nadal was beating Roger Federer on NBC. Why does JetBlue have NBC, but not ABC?

Around 11 AM I was finally in San Diego and ready for seven days of football (you know, soccer), beaches, freeways and complimentary hotel breakfasts. Now if only the U.S. team would play better! More on that later.