All Eddie Holtz really knew about Monaco was that Grace Kelly got old and fat there after she married the guy Eddie's mother had always called Prince Reindeer.
It was different with his mother, who could talk about Monte Carlo and Monaco as if she were talking about Long Island City. But then she'd been fixed on the princess for as long as Eddie could remember. "I've always felt a bond," she'd say, "maybe because we're both the daughters of bricklayers." Then she'd sigh and say, "One of us grew up to marry a Grimaldi and one of us married your father, may the sonofabitch rest in peace." Eddie never knew whether that was true or not, the bricklayer part, he always had trouble separating fact from fiction with his mother, who didn't stop keeping scrapbooks on Princess Grace until she died in that car crash on the same road Eddie'd driven down from Cannes--the Grand Corniche--which was scarier than the Cyclone ride at Coney Island. When he finally pulled up in front of his hotel, the Loew's-Monte Carlo, actually finding 12 Avenue Spelugues on his own, he wondered how come more people didn't end up dead on the side of that Corniche. You thought you were going fast enough on the twisty roller-coaster turns, but even when you pushed it up to seventy or eighty there'd be some lunatic right behind you flashing his lights and blowing his horn, waving at you to get the hell out of the way.
Eddie couldn't remember whether it was the crash or a stroke that had killed Princess Grace, but after making the drive himself he saw where it could just have been the road that finally blew all her circuits.
It made the Grand Central Parkway look slower than a funeral procession, Eddie decided. He'd promised his mother he'd go to Monaco Cathedral to visit Princess Grace's tomb--"For someone who had all the advantages, she really had a very difficult life," Catherine Holtz had told him sadly--but now he was just going to say a couple of fast Hail Marys that he and the Renault had made it here in one piece.
The whole eastern part of the Riviera that Eddie'd seen was pretty much what he'd expected from the movies, especially his mother's all-time favorite, the one he'd seen on Turner Classic Movies right before he came over, with the young Grace Kelly giving it up to Cary Grant during the fireworks. Except that even in Monte Carlo, with the drop-dead view of the Mediterranean from his balcony, he noticed they were doing the same dumb-ass thing he'd seen everywhere he'd been the last two weeks, Barcelona, Lisbon, France, even Rome: trying to make it more American than judge shows on TV.
It hadn't taken long for Eddie to figure out that Europeans loved pretty much everything American except Americans.
The whole continent was mean people with accents.
The night before he'd passed up the Italian restaurant at the hotel-Le Pistou, Eddie loved the idea of one of these restaurants finally admitting it was pissed off--and ended up eating the worst Tex-Mex food of his life at a place called Le Texan, which served him right. And tonight, on the way to Stade Louis II for the game, he'd stopped at a bar Larry Bird had told him about from when Bird was with that Olympic Dream Team back in 1992. The Summer Olympics had been in Barcelona that year, but Bird and Jordan and Magic and the rest of them had played a couple of tune-up games in Monte Carlo.
Bird said you had to go into the place on the name alone: Le Freaky Pub.
Eddie thought it looked like about nine thousand joints on Second Avenue, just without cable or beer that was cold enough. Jesus, you only had to get thirsty one time over here to find out this was the anti-ice capital of the world.
He nursed a couple of almost-cold ones anyway, killing an hour or so, eyeballing the tall girl barmaid. The rest of the time he tried to translate some of the conversations at the bar without having to run to the men's room every few minutes and check out Langenscheidt's Universal Phrasebook. He didn't usually drink before he scouted a game, but tonight was a little different; there was as much chance of his being interested in somebody besides Earthwind Morton as there was of old Prince Reindeer, who was supposed to be in the crowd, running out and dunking the ball during the pregame warm-ups.
Reprinted from Full Court Press by Mike Lupica by permission of G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 2001, Mike Lupica. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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