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A Home Hockey Weekend Away

The best bar in the world.

The best bar in the world.

At one week before the tournament, the schedule comes out and shit starts to get real. Everyone on the team has her own job, her own life, stretching from north Tampa down to Port Charlotte. But now the shift to hockey lives ramps up on social media. Lefty, a sister-like friend and old-school Canadian defenseman, posts a “Timehop” status from five years ago: “Reading Hannah’s blog, it dawns on me I made it through an entire tournament without a single penalty!!! WTF is happening to me?”

I respond, “Hoping to do an account this time through; see if you can change the narrative a bit, hmm?”
The Friday game always garners the most adrenaline—a week’s worth of daydreaming of crisp passes and hard shots—but even more so this time, as I’ve got a big group of coworkers, friends even and accompanying strangers here to watch. It’s an honor, and heartwarming, up until the point I realize that we’re going to get dominated by the other team, and my contributions will be a single line-rush to the offensive zone and a pretty blatant trip that I somehow still didn’t get called for. “We” (my teammates) muster a couple of goals on a paltry number of shots, and lose 4-2. The awesome people cheer anyway.

Everyone is amped to blow off some steam, especially considering we don’t play again until Saturday afternoon. But anchoring my mood is a 7 a.m. “agreement” (I didn’t realize it would be so early) to help Mrs. Harrible man the check-in table. Still, there’s a crowd out, and people need beer. We all down a couple Bud Lights while standing in crowds around the lobby, exchanging numbers, trying to sort out plans. A few of us, along with the remaining fans, head to Applebee’s for a bit. Around 12:30 I meet up with another group downtown. It’s loud and smokey and I’m relatively subdued—a whiskey here, a beer there—and make my escape around 2. Teammates J.D. and Kamikaski show no signs of slowing down.

The 7 a.m. arrival was never going to happen. At 2:30 a.m. I make it official with a text to Mrs. Harrible: “Sorry, dude. Everybody came out tonight instead of tomorrow. Aiming for 8:30.” It’s kind of a shitty thing to do.

Up at 7:30 and make it to the rink by 8:30. I’m surprised my back isn’t worse, but the lack of sleep is already worrisome. I question the wisdom of my McMuffin breakfast (and the caffeine content of McDonald’s coffee). I sell a few raffle tickets and try to avoid nodding off. At 11, as other teammates have arrived, I beg off—45 minutes to drive home, 45-minute nap, then 45 minutes back to the rink by 1:15 for our 2 p.m. game. I regret nothing about these decisions.

Kamikaski, apparently, regrets the shots that happened before, during and after my time at the bar. She’s only moderately late to the locker room, but misses the first shift or two due to an unscheduled appointment between her head and the toilet.

It’s the same team again, and while our shot total goes up, we struggle finding the back of the net. Frustration mounts. The other team is both physical and winning, and the refs miss a couple of opportunities to intercede early—illegal checks and behind-the-play high sticks, coming and going from both teams. Kamikaski lowers her football shoulder pads into the other team’s star, who responds with a two-hander to the helmet and a squealy rebuke to our bench. Quick Little K gets crunched off the puck in the corner. Furious warnings from our bench, “You better call something or this is about to get really bad!”

During a scrum in front of our net, an opposing player goes flying. Coasting toward the penalty box, Lefty stops for a moment in the doorway, seeing me on the bench: “Your wish is my command,” she grins.

Final score: 4-0. Blessedly, we get to keep the same locker room, which will stay a sea of stank, wet gear for the three hours until time next to suit up again.

Between games, Captain Beerslinger heads out to get more beer, but in the meantime, we need beer, so we snag a couple of pitchers from the snack bar and plop around in front of college basketball, bullshitting about whatever and rehashing old stories for new teammates.

Our goalie ambles over balancing plates stacked with soft pretzels and neon-orange nacho cheese, turns her back to deflect the ribbing: “Don’t worry about what’s going on over here.”

Keight, a newer addition but one of the stronger and more experienced skaters on the team, shows up with a Subway sandwich and a 12-pack of…”Azulitas?” I ask.

“…what?”

“Haha, dude, those are 8-ouncers.” There’s an ongoing discussion of the merits of smaller serving sizes even when the same total amount of beer will be consumed. More contributions come. Within an hour, despite our best efforts to keep up with supply, the cooler is overflowing.

harrible

Mr. Harrible and an Azulita.

The 6 p.m. game takes effort, but at least it’s a different team this time—a selection of players from Alabama and Georgia. We go the entire second period without a shot on net, but it’s more competitive than it sounds. My best play—a steal at the blue-line and potential breakaway—was negated by a prolonged stumble of wobbledy ankles and eventual fall. I keep my cool about it until a linemate mentions how close it was to an awesome play. “FUCK!” I respond.

Later, Little J, who’s been our lone fan for the day, commends my ability to shield the puck even as I fall down. Good man.

An opposing player “goes batshit crazy,” to Kamikaski’s estimation, and attacks J.D. after the goalie covered the puck. Somehow both players get penalties. Kamikaski and her football pads are ready to nail someone, but order prevails.

Shut out in another loss.

Postgame pizza party to watch even more hockey at the Harribles’ house. The young ‘uns—Little K and Hands—show up with, I shit you not, juice boxes and fruit-by-the-foot. Lefty and I put cheese puffs on our pizza. Inspired by my negated breakaway, Hands shows me—and then everyone else—a video of a runway model wobbling and falling in too-high heels. Guffaws. “I hate you all.”

Sunday locker room conversations are both celebratory and somber—work and real life loom, and talk turns to impending deadlines and asshole fourth-graders. Male hockey players are predominantly blue collar—landscapers, plumbers, welders, firemen. Percentage-wise, female hockey players are overwhelmingly teachers. I could run down a few theories for why this is, but maybe it’s better you ponder it on your own.

The game is our best yet—a 2-2 tie against the out-of-staters, despite the fact that J.D. had her own batshit moment and got tossed for mouthing off at the ref. But I’m subdued by exhaustion, frustration and an inability to get my juju going. I try not to let my cloud affect the team’s celebration, and it eventually clears. Yet more post-game locker room hangout time–feet on bags, beers in hand–stretches indefinitely into the afternoon.

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The Prodigal Blog

Been a while since a blog. Lots of mindless refusal to ponder the universe, punctuated by some moderate-to-decent-to-maybe-a-bit-too-decent(-if-you-know-what-I-mean) times, plus the occasional crying jags over money, my waistline and the still-lingering Worst Feeling of All.

But this week so far? I dunno. I mean, Sunday night involved that latter option for activities. (When coworkers McD and TinyRed gracefully responded to my complaining by calling me a trooper, I dissented with, “Not in the least: I cry, I scream, I whine, I rend my garments…and at the end of it…well, I’m just still here.”)

Then Monday started with a flat tire three miles from home (soon-to-be NotHome)—and a spare tire buried under Clothes ‘N Crap for the upcoming move. Plus, no cheater for the lug nuts, so I had to wander over to a nearby construction zone to borrow a rebar bender. Thus was my outfit ruined with grease, pavement, brake dust, and about four gallons of sweat. (Careful, random condominium driveway users—it’s slippery over there.)

Except that, for all that inconvenience (and the eventual expense of new tires), I kinda felt like a badass, so…we’ll call that breaking even.

But then the rest of Monday kind of continued as a general Foray into Fuckery: late work assignments returned for poor quality; random medical emergencies; blah-de-blah blah.

And then came today: Tuesday. And with Monday sucking up all the suckitude, Tuesday was bound to have promise. And I gotta say, it kinda delivered.

After a 10:30 Monday bedtime, I woke unaided at 7 a.m. and so…jogged? Where did THAT come from?

Took my car to the shop for two new tires, an oil change and AC charge.

Walked to the office (bonus cardio!)

Wrote a 1,200-word feature (among the late assignments I failed to complete on Monday) in four hours.

Worked through lunch.

Wrote copy for a heartwarming photo-based charticle about a local charity that organizes baseball leagues for disabled kids.

Called FPL, the propane people and the county utilities office to get light/gas/water squared away for my new apartment.

Started three more departments that will actually be done tomorrow. (Late, as it happens, but not TOO late.)

Received word from the Head Word-Lady In Charge that my 1,200-word feature was not, in fact, the irredeemable pile of poo I’d suspected. No rewrites!

Retrieved car and drove home.

With cool AC!

While listening to The Immaculate Collection!

And have thus far this evening mopped, loaded some of the very last bits and tiddles into the car, watched baseball, and ventured forth with transferring my Comcast account.

I mean, I’m just saying: This week has so far had a good deal of everything. Am I headed for a rest? Or something new entirely?

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Another Post About the Weather

 

Same Old Horizon

To every thing, there is a season, and a time to every purpose under OH MY GOD TURN ON THE AC.

Yep: summer. It’s not exactly a sudden transition, but a series of changes that become more and more drastic, more and more frequently: The relief of coming inside to the AC, even before you realized you were uncomfortable; the sudden afternoon storm; the reappearance of massive car-movers parked in the center lane along the key, taking people’s Jags and Beamers back to their homes up North.

What feel like the BLAM: SUMMER’S DEFINITELY HERE moments—the smack-you-in-the-face morning-time heat; the “I’ll just have lunch delivered, thank you” afternoons huddled indoors and painful, grump-inducing, oven-stuffed commutes home that end with you in a crumpled, naked heap on the couch the moment you can get in the door and strip (…what? Just me?)—have thus far been offset by still-pleasant moments, including this past week’s surprise 70-degree weather and less-than-washcloth humidity.

But we all know those temperate moments are numbered.

Still, there are things to be said for summer—though “relentless, oppressive sunshine” remains one of my favorite self-coined phrases, and a lot of summer’s benefits involve…well…avoiding summer.

This is the time of year for maximum Gulf-diving anticipation, when there’s zero cold-water hesitancy, because you know the waves will only be about 15 degrees cooler than the air—ie perfect.

And this is the time of year when, even if your car’s AC keeps acting up (thus the grump-inducing commutes), you still have four hours of post-work daylight to take advantage of the Gulf’s bathtub waters.

And this is the time of year when barbecues and baseball games invite you to suffer–but happily so–through the weather, stuffing your face and sweating and laughing, only to discover beautiful clouds, a cool breeze and a wonderful evening on the other side.

And this is the time of year when things turn inward. Indoors, of course, but also the metaphorical equivalent—switching from an obligation for appreciating the whole, big, beautiful world to an awareness of beautiful, closed-in quietude.

I like a nice dark bar with just enough windows to show how blindingly bright it is outside. I like the feeling of sanctuary. Relieved survival. And I like emerging with a buzz into the still-warm humid night: There’s a smell that occurs only when the day has been tempered in the heat and wetness and then plunged into darkness, and it’s most noticeable when you spend a few hours talking about other things, dulling your neuroses and breathing sweet, chemically cooled air through your nostrils.

If you do it right, summer brings things back to scale.

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