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Fantasy Tuesday: A Day with the Cup

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A lot of times, thinking about the things you don’t have (and likely never will) can be depressing. But I recently discovered that taking a somewhat “realistic” approach to a fantasy can bring a little bit of lightness to your day. Like, go from “Wouldn’t that be nice” to almost planning for the opportunity—whatever it may be. Sure, it sucks that it’s not going to happen, but maybe this is like when they tell you to smile even if you feel like ass—that there’s still something physiologically beneficial to the act. And nothing says “Tuesday” like a forced smile.

(P.S. Please don’t ever tell me to smile when I feel like ass, or I will give myself a reason to smile, and it will involve violence.)

Anyway, here is the first of three fantasies that I will try to play through to their logical outcomes.

A Day with the Cup

Interestingly, I never really thought about what I’d do if I, like someone on the winning team, got to spend 24 hours doing whatever with the Stanley Cup.

Seems right to take it to your hometown, as many folks do. So I guess my day would involve a trip to Bradenton Beach, where the Cup would be the mold for the top of a sandcastle before being filled with ice to keep my beers cold.

It’d also have to take a moment on the Asolo stage, and then I’d do a soccer-themed photo shoot with it at GT Bray.

It’s also logical to take the Cup back to where you first started playing—for real Cup winners, this invokes memories of mite-ish beginnings and that oh-how-far-I’ve-come kind of vibe. My hockey roots are decidedly more shallow.

But I could see it do just as well around a table at the rink’s Beef O’Brady’s (back before it was a preschool, a church, an OK bar, a bad bar, and then a horrible steakhouse). No, Beef’s: a few tables pushed together, with all the old crew, and the crew that have come since. And select favored opponents. And every single soul who ever showed up just to watch us play and then hang out afterward. With a pile of wings, keep the pitchers coming.

And, while we’re fantasizing, make it on a Sunday night before a Monday holiday—so nobody has to worry about going to work in the morning.

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Ms. BananaHammer Goes to Bradenton (Part 2)

And so, after the great grey hot dog debacle, I gave up and went back to the prospective juror holding pen. And I paced. I was done with sitting and reading.

The group of us who’d been summoned for the 1:30 trial included several middle-aged women, some denim-clad mustachioed men, a couple of girls who looked like they needed permission slips, and a guy who was sort of the lovechild of Craig T. Nelson and Jon Taffer.

We were led into a room that was both more and less formal than I’d expected. I know most modern-day courtrooms aren’t the ornate, wooden-veneered things of the movies, but this wasn’t just a church rec room, either.  The judge’s bench in the corner put him sufficiently higher than everyone else, and there were special benches and enclaves, all seemingly different for the various positions.

Not to overwhelm us with reverence, two uniformed bailiffs virtually reclined in their chairs, hands folded behind their heads, half-amused at the proceedings, half asleep.

It was a DUI trial. Two lawyers on each side, plus the defendant—a pretty young blonde girl. I felt embarrassed for her at first and then later kind annoyed with her for instigating all this contentiousness. Conflict bothers me.

The lead attorney for each side stood in front of the group and asked various questions regarding our experiences with DUIs. Whenever someone shared a story, the attorneys would nod, maybe ask a follow-up question, and then conclude with, “Do you feel like this would affect your ability to render an impartial verdict?” And inevitably, the person would say, “No, I don’t think so,” and they’d move on.

It was that clear-cut, and yet, Nerdy McTeacher’sPet that I am, I jumped at those questions that allowed me to raise my hand—“Well, I’m a journalist, and I did this story about DUIs, and there were sheriffs there and I got all these people drunk in my boss’s office.” Any excuse to tell that story, really.

Even when I knew every story was going to end the same, and I wasn’t going to suddenly realize, “Oh, wait, I can’t render an impartial verdict,” I couldn’t help raise my hand and share my stories. Lord. At least I came by my geekiness honestly.

Coach Bar Rescue next to me obviously knew what he was doing: He sat legs out, arms crossed or behind his head or propping up his chin. It wasn’t sincere indifference; his body posture screamed, “Nuh-uh. Not having it. I’ve got golf on Thursday.” He was the only person the whole time who was never asked a direct question, and never said a thing.

Eventually the attorneys started floundering for questions. They sounded like me trying to burn through an interview when I have no idea what I want the other person to say. But, as attorneys, they demonstrated this amazing ability to make a nonsensical inquiry with utter professional confidence.

I thought for sure they’d gotten to the end of the ridiculousness when the defense attorney busted out a hypothetical scenario: “Ok, say you’re throwing a Superbowl party at your house. And one person shows up with a six-pack of beer. Would any of you tell them to go home?”

I started to smirk into, “OK, ladies, I think your questions are getting silly,” when two people—TWO  people—in the front row raised their hands. Say…what now? You would turn away someone who brought a six-pack to your party? What…the hell?

They each explained something about not allowing alcohol in their houses…something something…I dunno; I didn’t hear much beyond my brain screaming incredulity. Of all experiences with this cross-section of humanity, this is the one that hammered it home: Man, some people really do live totally different lives.

Then a woman in the second row raised her hand: “I’m sorry,” she laughed apologetically. “But if someone showed up at my Superbowl party without beer, I would send them away to go get some.”

OK, is it against judicial ethics to make her my new best friend?

Anyway, they eventually finished up, let us loiter in the hall a bit before calling us back in and reading a list of seven people for the jury—including one of the teetotalers and one of the teenagers. But not me.

It’s not that I’m actually insulted. But I would give anything to know more about their reasoning—from both sides—and how they came to their consensus. That’s probably pretty straightforward to anyone with legal experience; I just don’t know anything about it. Obviously it’s not as straightforward as people’s answers—and really, that makes it even more interesting. If they were reading attitude, intelligence, body language, etc., what did they see—or not see—in me?

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Ms. BananaHammer Goes to Bradenton

(Part I)

I bitched, but secretly, I was looking forward to jury duty Monday. (Yeah, I don’t have a lot going on right now.) I looked forward to it last time, whenever that was—last year or so? But that time they released us all with nary a juror selected.

But here’s the thing: I stayed up waaaay too late on Sunday night. 6:30 a.m. Monday was not good. Not good at all.

First thing I did when I got to the big juror holding pen was make a B-line for the soda machine. And then I promptly, accidentally bought a Cherry Coke Zero.

THIS IS NOT MY BEAUTIFUL CHERRY COKE.

Man, that was not a good start. I chugged it anyway and just barely managed not to hockey-burp myself into contempt of court.

“Juror No. 257?”

BRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAP!

“Ok, yeah, you’re going to jail.”

Various judges and juror-corrallers use a mic to talk to the room, explain stuff, give instructions, swear us all in, etc. I swear to god, every time someone finished speaking and went to hand the mic off, I had to stop myself from applauding. Weird how strong that impulse is.

But my heart warmed, because I am a cheesy bastard: I like seeing so many different people who came only to perform their civic duty—a beautiful cross-section of humanity, brought together simply to serve the idealistic essence of our judicial system. I’m always so cynical about people’s motivations; it’s neat how everyone here is entrusted with a responsibility to be considerate, thoughtful and honest in analyzing information and working together to come to a consensus. And just by entrusting people with that great responsibility, they embrace it.

And then they wait. And cough. In addition to a model of human service, the juror corral is a TB petri dish.

Around 11, they called my name among a group that was scheduled to see the judge at 1. So I ventured forth for food.

I wasn’t particularly hungry; my stomach was full of Cherry Coke Abomination and pretzels. But I knew I needed to eat, because fainting in a courtroom is not on my bucket list. After a quick stroll up and down Main Street, I decided a hot dog seemed like the most tempting option.

Oh, god, people. The hot dog. Oh god.

Now, I figure a hot dog vendor outside a courthouse is a safe bet. I don’t know why; just seems like if you’re going to set up in such a pedestrian-heavy area, you’re going to be held to high standards.

Oh. God.

From my notes for the day.

From my notes for the day.

First of all, when I walked up and asked for a hot dog, the first thing the old man did was open a little drawer in his cart to deposit his nub of a still-lit cigarette. Homeboy had a built-in ash-tray. He asked what I wanted on it; I suddenly realized I had no idea what to expect of a hot dog cart.

“Onions?” I asked.

I got a onion sauce that’ll knock yer socks off.” He sounded like Billy Crystal in The Princess Bride.

The hot dog? Was grey. The sauce? Was orange.

He sent me away with, “You never had a hot dog like that before, I bet.” It…kind of sounded like a threat.

I was already getting queasy, but I took an obligatory bite as I turned away—because apparently I don’t want to offend creepy people.

I cannot describe to you the texture. There was no texture. It was so soft as to be almost nonexistent. The bun was more toothsome.

You do not want your hot dog to dissolve on contact.

Oh. God.

I did not take another bite.

I walked all the way around the courthouse in search of a trash can somewhere far away from people—because I didn’t want to be seen throwing out a whole hot dog. Apparently that’s embarrassing. I have no idea why my brain sucks like that.

At the far side of the building, I found a trash can…and then looked up to see Council’s. Right there. No idea it was so close. Council’s has one of the best hamburgers in Southwest Florida, y’all. I’m not even lying. And I’d just opted for a hot dog that rendered me hungerless for the foreseeable future. That sucked.

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Fog

When I woke up on Sunday, I planned (as per usual) for coffee to be the first order of the day. But then I opened the door and saw the fog–it seemed so thick, I wanted to see how far it went. But I figured I had to hurry; it would burn off soon. I hopped on my bike and rode toward the bridge.

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It could just be the islands, but the extent of the fog felt unusual. It was tactile, practically dripping. Brigadoon, quiet and blurry, like disappearing. It’s so wide open out here, with the water and all–you could feel the distance, but you couldn’t see it. The sun distant and inconsequential. It was soothing.

Plus, it’s neat to step out your front door, hop on your bike and wind up in such a different place entirely.

For once I feel like I captured a little bit of the scene with the photos. I already posted them to Facebook, but I’m so
enamored of them I wanted to put them here, too. (Click on them to see the larger version.)

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An erosion-stopping “groin” on the beach.

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Boats in the bay.

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The return trip.

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Last Week’s Craziness: Day One

Last week featured a series of three very intense, very different, very awesome days.

Thursday: Starting at 8 a.m., I got a three-and-a-half-hour tennis lesson at IMG, which is kind of a big deal in the sports world, since everyone from Drew Brees to the U.S. women’s national soccer team trains there. Mine was just an adult class for amateurs, but the coaching was top notch—every instruction was concise and easy to incorporate, like learning a dance: point your lead hand at the ball, shorten your back swing, touch the racquet with your left hand after you hit the ball, step forward with your right foot on the follow through. I feel like I got exponentially better at a sport I wasn’t particularly good at to begin with. And we got a visit from Nick Bollettieri, who coached Andre Agassi (among many others) and founded this tennis academy way back in the day.

But: Three and a half hours. For someone who considers herself relatively fit, I can confirm that they put these grownups through the ringer, cardiovascularly speaking. Which is awesome—I hate the idea of paying a lot of money to be athletically coddled—but I actually had to call on pride and competitive spirit a few times just to keep up with the drills. Wore my ass out.

Then, after lunch, I realized exactly how much my ass had been worn out, when I wanted to quit 30 seconds into an hour-long strength and conditioning session. I instantly—and lengthily—lamented my cavalier approach to sports nutrition. Breakfast, people. Always eat breakfast. By the end of it—and I have never before in my life wanted to quit a workout so badly—I didn’t know whether to cry, puke or pass out.

This is all for a story I’m working on. The upside: It was free, and I got a day out of the office. The downside: There are photographs. That are going to be published.

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Day Off No. 4

Apologies for the delay, but on Friday, after I got everything written out, WordPress ATE MY DRAFT, and I had to wait until I didn’t want to kill things anymore. Which takes a while, obviously.

So: Thursday. Thursday was our Anna Maria Island day. (And as an added bonus, I actually managed to sleep in until 10, so that was a good start.)

First up was beach. I love Bradenton/Coquina/Cortez/whateveryoucallit beach (the one that stretches south of Cortez Road). Debby did do some damage, but it’s a great demonstration of the importance of sea oats: The water obviously came right up and over the oats, but the erosion stopped at their roots–so now there’s this nifty sedentary study of a shelf of sand, and then waves that wash up much further on the flattened beach than they used to, leaving only 20 feet or so of sand. It’s still an awesome beach, though.

We lounged. We swam–the water was just cool enough to be refreshing, but warm enough so you wanted to jump right in. We played catch with our cool little Waboba-ripoff skippy ball thing. We swam around with our masks on and searched underwater for shells. It was perfect.

From there we walked dripping to Joe’s Eats and Sweets for ice cream, since Joe’s made a big impression during our office ice cream-a-thon, and salty lips love cool, creamy sweetness. Waffle cones of butter pecan and almond, and before lunch, too, because that is what you do on days off.

For lunch, as per the plan, we hit up Skinny’s–arch rival to our beloved Duffy’s. But we picked Duffy’s only because we loved their burgers by a lot, but we’d never tried Skinny’s by comparison before. This was our chance to make an educated decision.

Skinny’s: two TVs, both on SportsCenter. Good sign.

Skinny’s is an AC-less Old Florida shack right across the street from Manatee County Beach. It’s the perfect draw for beachgoers–close and casual, super-friendly and heavenly satisfying, with its own quirky-but-simple ordering rules. Burgers are Skinny (single) or Fatty (double), with cheese and bacon if you want, but your condiment/toppings options stop at “mayo” or “no mayo.”

I’m sorry, have we met? If the question is “mayo or no?,” the answer is always YES.

Also, tater tots. Tots are always a yes.

And yes, the burgers, they are juicy and delicious.

And yes, I’m still a Duffy’s gal.

I mean, I’m not going to turn down a Skinny’s burger–not on your life–but it wasn’t the kind of transcendent must-eat-this-burger-and-all-of-its-brethren experience I’ve had at Duffy’s. It’s just the way my beef has lain.

Stuffed and a tad overheated, we got in the car and just…drove. What a lovely thing–this must have been what all the old people were savoring while I was a bored and impatient child in the back seat. (Although I imagine they didn’t savor it too much with me there, heh.) We wound our way north to get to know the island. And then we wound up at one of my top 10 favorite places in all the world: Anna Maria City Pier.

Wood underfoot 100 yards out into the gulf; Skyway backdrop, sea breeze and cold beer, afternoon sunshine and a deep breath.

Doesn’t. Get. Better.

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True Story

Scene: A Bradenton Circle-K. Cash register.

CCB [indicating ME]: She stuck this [free bag of Doritos coupon] to me.

GAS STATION CASHIER: Oh no. Why did she do that?

CCB: She’s pretty mean sometimes.

GAS STATION CASHIER: I bet you deserved it. But I’m divorced, so that’s what I say, haha.

ME: Haha.

GAS STATION CASHIER: Well. I had to lock him up.

ME: …oh?

GAS STATION CASHIER: Yeah. My face hit is fist too many times.

ME: Oh. Well. …Fuck him then.

GAS STATION CASHIER: Yep.

And then, in our trip out of the parking lot, CCB almost ran over a shirtless guy in a motorized wheelchair.

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