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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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The Day After (A Hockey Tourney by the Beach)

Shaky-hand locker-room selfie!

Shaky-hand locker-room selfie!

Sunburned and hockey-sore,

Whiplash, backache,

Slew-footed tailbone ass-pain

And butthurt: losing sucks.

Puck-bruised (self-inflicted warm-up shots

And others from more legitimate sources),

Leftover pretzels, beer cans, wet gear—

Dear god, the laundry—

Crumpled coozies, sandy coolers,

Reliving recent minor glories and glorious minors,

Oh-so-many missed passes and

Ridiculous, hysterical slips and stumbles,

Collisions, whiffs, fluttered wristers,

A sorority of blue-paint scrums and handshakes,

Of locker room beer and gear-bag ottomans:

Alpha Chica Ow.

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What I Did on My Summer Vacation

scooter

San Diego transportation, in style.

I don’t mean to brag, but I just got an 18-pack of Bud Light for $13.69 and BOGO parmesan cheese—I feel a sense of accomplishment. (Also, on Thursday I finished my book just in time for PTI—talk about vacation, right?)

Oh, yeah, and I got my cast off yesterday. (Woooooooo…ew, my body is vile.)

But the biggest accomplishments of this vacation—indeed, the whole point of it—centered on my trip to San Diego. Here are some of the things I did:

  • Sat next to a guy who was even more freaked out about the choppy-droppy flight than I was. (Seriously, he was shaking and twitching.)
  • Negotiated a two-minute layover in ATL. On crutches.
  • Learned  how to use a knee scooter like a skilled, responsible pedestrian.
  • …and then rode it bicycle-style down a hill before Thing 2 pushed me across the street.
Wore a basket.

Wore a basket.

  • Diagnosed the difference between a heat wave in Florida and one in SD. (AC is, apparently, optional in SoCal.)
  • Bought additional shorts and tank tops at Target.
  • Shopped for sugar skulls and socks and shot glasses in Seaport Village, Spanish Art Village, Hillcrest and Ocean Beach.
  • Saw sandcastles!
beaver

Took awesome pictures.

  • Slept with the door open.
  • Did my fantasy football draft in a dark, cool bar at 4 p.m. (Verdict so far? Fuck yeah Wes Welker.)
  • Witnessed a plethora of bananas.
  • Bonded with Thing 2’s friends over football, beer and Intervention.
  • Caught up on My Drunk Kitchen.
Hell yeah dancing bananas.

Hell yeah dancing bananas.

  • Got coffee at five different coffee shops and drinks at 10 different bars in six days.
  • Ate burgers, carbonara, pizza, pigs in blankets, homemade salsa and five different kinds of tacos.
  • Played “Boy Named Sue,” “Doin’ It” and “Brave” with a single jukebox dollar.
  • Danced in a stranger’s apartment.
Wore a pig.

Wore a pig.

    • Skyped with Thing 1 in Raleigh. (With special guest appearance by Captain Slack!)
    • Spent an afternoon/evening brewery-hopping for three different San Diego samplers and some home brew nightcaps.

And now? At long last, wrote a blog.

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Not as Good a Long Day

footTV

Started out a standard Sunday: Up at 10 for Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me and Radiolab, leftover pizza and coffee. Settled in with some Fandemonium and laundry.

2 p.m. left for the rink for our 3:15 game.

3:45 contemplated vomiting in pain.

Game had started well enough; got an assist. But not long after that, I was rushing to the back boards to get a puck that had been dumped in. Just before I got there, I turned in anticipation of (hopefully) snatching the puck clean and pulling it behind the net.

Instead, I lost an edge and in a blink went feet-first into the boards.

Feet-first always looks bad—it’s not an unusual source of hockey injuries—but I’ve done it a hundred times without incident, usually because I have time to position myself and/or bend my knees to absorb the impact. But this happened so fast. I saw a flash of light and for a brief moment thought, “Oh, this is one of those things that just looks bad.”

But within moments, the pain crept in, leaving me scooting forward on my hands and knees, and then knees and elbows, head on the ice.

Two guys—one from each team—helped me to the bench, one skate gliding, the other hanging.

There on the little recessed goalie bench, in a shaky daze of adrenaline, I took off my helmet. And there was a roach in it.

Apparently in times of sweaty, adrenalized semi-consciousness, bugs haunt me. It’s like they’re my incapacitated spirit animals or something.

Seriously—and this is the only time I will ever say this—but I couldn’t give a damn about the roach. The pain was preoccupying. Then after a few minutes I started pouring sweat and feeling nauseous. I wasn’t ever aware of an imminent fainting (although I’m not sure you ever see that coming without following through), but I figured I might have to throw up on someone’s backup stick, because I couldn’t fathom moving beyond leaning forward, and even throwing up on my pants didn’t seem to be something I should care about at the moment.

It was halfway through the first; a full period and a half went by before I could pay attention to the game. I’d left the team with eight skaters, and even as they scurried around me exhausted, I couldn’t even contemplate what was going on on the ice. I wanted to, but nothing existed beyond my lower left leg.

But that was the worst of it. After the game, with lots of hopping and scooting and help from my friends, me and my stuff got sorted out and stuffed in my car. Mrs. Harrible accompanied me to the ER, where Ma and Krazy Kevin eventually joined us. The docs gave me drugs and a splint and crutches and a diagnosis: broken fibula.

splinting

The PA prepares my splint.

So that’s that. After post-hospital dinner and a trip to CVS (yay pharmacy drive-through), I didn’t get home until 10. It took me five minutes to make it from car to door—my gear stayed put—and simply walking from here to there is now an awkward, painful spasm of hops, stumbles and crutches akimbo that leaves me panting and sweaty. My right leg is already exhausted. Every little task is some combination of baffling and grueling: feeding the cat; getting my water glass from the kitchen to the couch. I haven’t yet figured out an approach to bathing that would be sufficient for hockey stink.

ma kevin

Krazy Kevin keeps Ma entertained over dinner.

Still. Intense physical pain has a way of singeing off neuroses; hydrocodone amplifies that effect. So thanks to those two, I’ve mostly been basking in the loveliness of friends and acquaintances alike—feeling sincerely appreciative of the attention, instead of the guilt and embarrassment I’d expect to feel:

  • A total stranger from the other team helping get me to the bench.
  • Teammates I’ve only known through a handful of games gathering my gloves and helmet and skate and stick and socks from the bench, asking after me in the locker room, fetching an office chair to roll me to the lobby, even spending quality time with my stank feet to strap ice onto my leg with an Ace bandage.
  • Steadfast friends Krazy K and Mr. Harrible, one on each side, escorting me across the ice, taking great care navigating doors and corners.
  • Mrs. Harrible cheerfully taking me to the hospital in my own car, running inside to grab a wheelchair and dropping me off before parking the car, then joining me in the exam room.
  • Ma coming just to be there.
  • Krazy Kevin arriving after playing his second game of the afternoon, popping in to say hi, then staying another half hour alone in the waiting room because I was only allowed two visitors at a time.
  • Ma picking up the dinner tab to show her gratefulness, too, to these friends.

I’d gladly give my left leg for experiences like that.

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10 Short Letters from Me

 

 

Dear Mr. Ford Explorer on Gulf Drive,

Thank you for not hitting me as I rode my bike back from Publix. In return, I offer you this observation: I should not be able to smell your cologne outside of your car.

 
Signed,

The Bicyclist with a Bourbon Bottle Sticking Out of Her Backpack

 
***

 

 

Dear friends,

I’ve decided I shall throw a party in celebration of the completion of the puzzle I’m working on. No need to worry about disturbing the vacationneighbors; it’s going to be fucking June before I get this shit done.

 

Until then,

Sad, Sad Puzzle Lady

 

 

***

 

 

Dear Alex Trebek and the peacocks,

 

SHUT. UP. You pompous, preening, stupidly vocal bird-brains. ARGH.

 

 

XOXO,

Person Who Shouts at Animals and the TV

 

 

P.S. If you run in front of my car again, I’m not braking. For any of you.

 

 

***

 

 

puzzle

Seriously. SIX WEEKS.

 

 

***

 

 

To the Angry German pedestrian on St. Armands:

To answer your question, although it seems it should have been apparent, no, I am not going to stop for you. First and foremost, you were not near enough to the road warrant stopping; had I glided right through, you would not have had to break stride, as I would have been past the crosswalk already. Secondly, I regret that I had to stop on the crosswalk in your presence, but you see, I’d just gotten cut off by a motherfucking horse-drawn carriage that did not yield appropriately. I thought you might have noticed that, being a horse’s ass yourself.

Still, I was in the process of offering you a conciliatory wave when you threw your arms up in the air and began expressing your assholeishness in a vocal manner. This, and not any innate character flaw on my part, is why I told you to fuck off.

 

 

Auf wiedersehen,

Frau F-Bomb

 

 

P.S. Way to stand in the middle of the road and yell at me like a crazy old fart as I drove off. I hope that horse shit on you.

 

 

***

 

 

Dear IRS,

I know we’ve had our differences, but…I love you. It’s not about the money.

Except, well, actually, it is, yeah. But that doesn’t make my love any less real.

 

 

Thanks for the refund,

Broke lady

 

 

***

 

 

Oh CJ,

Honey. No. Stop licking the floor.

—Foodbearer

 

 

***

 

 

Dear Awesome People Behind the Counters of Various Downtown Sarasota Businesses (You Know Who You Are),

You are awesome. Everybody thinks so. We talk about it all the time. You greet us so warmly—many of you even remember our names—offer us the best service, make small talk without being cheesy about it. You even forgive us when we come up short, or say things like “Just get us next time” when we try to pay for a $1 soda with a credit card.

You are a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day. And on sunshiny days? Forget about it. We appreciate ya.

Keep being awesome,

Hammer and friends

 

 

***

 

 

To the current vacationneighbors:

Please do not be alarmed that I listened to the Lawrence Wright Scientology interview on NPR and then immediately listened to it again on the interwebs. I simply appreciate public radio. Do not report this, or you will be declared a Potential Trouble Source.

Ta-ta for now,

Operating Thetan

 

***

 

Hey, Lady at the Gym,

The stairmill is less effective if you prop yourself up on the handrail so your legs aren’t bearing any weight. Why not get some parallel bars and stay home? Just sayin’.

 

Signed,

The Sweatmonster Next to You

 

 

P.S. I know it’s a locker room, but…just…stop being naked.

 
***

 

Dear orchid,

Please don’t die. I don’t know what you want. Open up to me.  I’ve tried being there for you. I’ve tried giving you your space. Nothing makes you happy. Believe me when I tell you that you’re a very special flower. Please. Let’s work on this together.

Love,

Your Confused Life Partner

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