The best game you can name

I used to love hockey.

Like, A LOT.

For the past eight and a half years M and I spent countless hours together (and apart) watching the sport – curled up together on our couch, pacing the length of our living room, crammed into the booth of a sports bar, languishing in the nose-bleeds – we’ve done it all.

I used to be, as they say, ready to rock it. Vintage Canadian hockey sweater, Olympics 2010

And I loved it.

I listened to sports radio on an almost daily basis, often e-mailing or texting into the shows, with the hosts regularly reading them on air. I liked being a part of their banter.

I really loved going to parties and knowing more than all the dude-bros who were always congregating in the corners of the living room (seriously why only the corners dudes?) discussing the latest scoring stats, and drinking their Budweiser.  Their squinty eyes and slightly open mouths always said (though never out loud): How does a girl know this much about hockey?

For my birthday last year M bought me a beautiful old school Canucks jersey that I wore with pride to every game that I attended (as well as each game I watched from said before mentioned pubs/couches/houses/etc.)

My three favourite teams were (in order): the Vancouver Canucks, Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Redwings.

My hockey husbands were Teemu Selanne and Henrik Zetterberg.

My hockey little brothers were Jonathan Toews and Drew Doughty.

M and I bought sticks and pucks and gloves and tape, and we would brace ourselves against the biting cold of the early (or not so early) Winter mornings so we could go play street hockey together at the elementary school rink, close by to our home.

I cried big, hot, sticky tears and my body heaved with my heavy sobs, when the Canucks lost in game seven of the Stanley Cup finals, on that beautiful summer day, June 15, 2011.

(Heck, I cried big, hot, sticky tears when Patrice Bergeron scored the opening goal, and was assisted by that idiot of a goonmeister known as Brad Marchand.)

(Take my word for it, that human parasite is one giant embarrassment for all of Nova Scotia. Anyone who tells you different is unhinged.)

I once made fun of Sidney Crosby and then came to love him.

I probably watched Alex Ovechkin score a hole-in-one as many times as I watched his many highlight reels.

I loved the mastery, and skill, and speed, and intuition, and love, and passion, and hard work, and magic that hockey could produce.

I lamented over and over again at the lack of sportsmanship of the league, and the violence worship by fans, and the permeation of goon culture, and the destructive and saddening “win at any cost” attitudes of so many of the players, GMs, coaches, spectators and media.

I decried the NHL as a bush league more times than I can count.

And yet.

I loved hockey.

I used to love hockey.

I used to love hockey, but my love has left.

I have not sat down and watched (or perhaps I should just say watched – as those who have ever spent an entire three periods with me would know that I can never sit still for long) more than 30 seconds of highlights since the season began in October of last year.

I feel very much strangely detached from this whole development.

My mother and I were talking on the phone last night and she momentarily commented on the World Junior Hockey tournament, asking me if I was watching the semi-final game between Canada and Russia.

“No, Mom,” I said. “I don’t watch hockey anymore.”

“Oh yes, that’s right,” she replied. “It’s just so hard to imagine. It was such a huge part of your life for so long that I keep forgetting. I keep forgetting.”

The strange thing is, I keep forgetting too.

I keep forgetting that this sport once played such a pivotal role in my life, for so many years.

The one thing I do miss is how excited I would get each Valentine’s Day. I used to pick a sports bar where myself and M would go watch the game, order nachos and drink strongbow (or diet coke) and root, root, root for the home team (in the parlance of our times). It was a tradition that was romantic and brilliant, and most importantly, it was ours.

Now, I don’t even give the game more than a passing glance – maybe if I catch a highlight here or there I will remark on the beauty of that one play, or goal, or pass.

But mostly, I just shake my head, because everything is still the same, and I can no longer protect myself from all the rot that exists inside of the League and still enjoy the game for what it should be:

Athleticism, and art, and respect among players for their ability to create and sustain, but most importantly excel, within these two noteworthy mediums.

Instead, I read about concussions, and fists, and broken backs, and slashes, and elbows, and sexism, and racism, and homophobia, and xenophobia, and I’m just so tired of all this bullshit and it’s propagation and adoration and alienation.

And I truly believe this is what destroys athleticism. This is what destroys art.

I used to love hockey.

Maybe I still do. At some level, I’m sure of it.

But not this.

I can’t love this. Not anymore.

Book em, Dano

M and I received some pretty great books for Christmas this year. He was gifted some Stephenson and Pratchett, and I, some Murakami, Richler and Mantel.

Bliss folks – for us, THIS is bliss.

I am currently 600+ pages into 1Q84 by Mr. Murakami and if you were to catch me at any given time today you would have found me in a position similar to this:

Aomame and Tengo are my new best friends.

What happens with me is that, although I read quite a bit, and for the most part, I enjoy everything that I read (and even those books that I do not enjoy, I slog through them anyways. I finally finished Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare only a couple of months ago, after what seemed to be an on-again-off-again relationship with the book for close to eight months) I tend to go overboard on those works that I do enjoy, like, A LOT.

You see, there are some authors that I find so transcendent, that I develop an almost perverse obsession with findingand reading all of their published works, lest I miss out on experiencing everything their genius has to offer.

And I really mean everything.

Three of our bookshelves. I really fear that we will be crushed to death once the big one arrives. At least we'll go with the things we love...

The earliest memory I have of this phenomenon is from grade four, when I first discovered the great Canadian children’s author Kit Pearson. I picked up The Lights Go on Again not knowing that this book is in fact the third of a trilogy that explores the journey of two young English siblings’ experiences as war children, evacuated from a (fictional) small town in England and sent to live in the posh Toronto neighbourhood of Yorkville.

To say that I loved this book (and then the rest of the books in the series) would be an understatement. I am sure that I read each novel close to twenty times. This fascination with Ms. Pearson’s writing was then transferred onto her other works, The Daring Game and A Handful of Time.

So you must understand what a soul crushing blow it was to read her newest work (at the time) when it came out, hot off the presses, and to feel no connection whatsoever with the narrative or the narrator.

In fact, I remember despising the protagonist, and feeling utterly morose by both the story’s flaccid narrative arc, and (what I felt to be) rather limp conclusion.

To paraphrase Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda, I was DISAPPOINTED.

Alas.

In grade five I started reading “grown-up” book. Pilfering from my older sister’s collection, I read most of Anne Rice’s

Bedroom bookshelf. Now will more Gene Wolfe.

Vampire series, (do I regret this? No. But, erm, next time, I think I may take the left turn atAlbuquerque and forgo any literary adventures with Mr. Lestat), and pretty much everything John Grisham and Michael Crichton had written up until that point.

I remember passages from both The Firm and Jurassic Park as if they have been burned into my cerebral cortex (or whatever part of the brain is used when flipping those pages over, and over again.)

The one big mistake however? Reading Misery. Yeah, not about to get those nightmare filled sleeps back anytime soon!

In grade eight I started my five year love affair with Mr. William Shakespeare, obsessing over King Lear’s poor decision making processes, despising young Hamlet and his gutless procrastination, and emulating and loving (and therefore memorizing) Beatrice’s lines and soliloquies.

I read every one of his plays, including the ones that that most people probably wouldn’t recognize. However, I am sure that if you asked me right now, I probably couldn’t even remember the simplest of story details of those plays (let alone two hours after I had finished them) because they left no discernable effect on me what so ever.

I am sure I decided to read the entire canon not so much due to my burning desire and admiration for the Bard and his words (although this did, and still does very much exist,) but because I was fifteen and thought I was misunderstood and brilliant.

Kerouac I was not.

When I first met M, he gave me Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions to read on the long flight down to Nova Scotia and I almost died with shock and delight within the first few pages. During those next two weeks I inhaled every work of his I could find.

As I mentioned before, in first year of my undergrad I read Dostoevsky’s Devils and my brain (metaphorically) exploded all over my room. I gobbled up Crime and Punishment with an almost maniacal zeal, and after that devoured The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov.

These are a few of my favorite things!

The next year I discovered the fabulous and hauntingly beautiful writings of the Swedish author Henning Mankell, and spent my summer telling everyone I knew to, “check out this guy from Sweden because holy frick you will never read anything so bloody good in your entire bloody life!!!”

I received a lot of strange looks during that time.

I could go on at length about all the books that have shook me to my core, but I think it may be impossible, and I really must try to reign myself in.

I just get so overwhelmed and confused when I hear that so many people don’t read anymore, and I get panicked and desperate when M tells me that his students at school are hard pressed to even read their assigned passages, let along deign to pick up a novel outside of class.

I even get anxious worrying over whether I’ll die not having read all the books I want to read.

Yeesh.

I just want to create a place where everyone can live peacefully, and where I will read to them from Thomas King, and Neal Stephenson, and Robertson Davies, and Hanif Kureshi, and Gunter Grass, and Terry Pratchett, and George R. R. Martin, and Richard Russo, and, Michael Palin, and Hunter S. Thompson, and Gene Wolfe, and J. R. R. Tolkein, and Robert Heinlein, and Richard Matheson, and Ray Bradbury, and P.D. James and well, this list grows ever long, and I’m sure, your patience short.

One day I will find the Dolphin Hotel

My great friend A gave me my first Murakami book this year for my birthday. A Wild Sheep Chase is gut busting hilarious, and heart breakingly sad. Reading it alone set in motion my newest “author” fixation, and I have blown through a good portion of his works to date.

So now, I sit (please consult the above picture for the exact positioning), reading his latest tome, and I am so inspired, and intimidated, and just plain breathless by what an extraordinary work it truly is.

I am trying to take it slow, to savour the process, each page, each line, each word, each letter.

But it is hard. So very hard.

I have around three hundred pages left, and I am sure to be done before I know it. I am sure that I too, like the characters in the book, will be living in a slightly altered world, because of this work.

So with this, I can’t help but say: “Bring it Murakami.”

Bring it.

A cup of kindness

It’s pretty crazy to think that we are only two days away from beginning a new year.

I don’t know whether time is speeding up, or if I am slowing down, but events seem to be happening at a much quicker pace, than say, ten years ago.

So, to whomever turned up the dial on the world’s treadmill, could you slow it down a tad friend? I need to catch my breath and get my bearings!

I find that doing something that really pushes your physical and mental limits is a great way to help both time run away from you, and yet somehow make it hang suspended in mid-air, like some crazed escape artist, hanging from a tightrope wire.

For instance, yesterday, M, my dad, and I climbed Mount Haystack, all 3560 feet high and 8.6 miles long of it.

DO IT.
Just a hop, skip and a jump to the summit!

It was an adventure and a half, especially seeing as though for the actual ascent we didn’t have a marked path.

I have never scrambled up so much loose rock in my life.

I have never been pricked by two different types of cacti, nor have I ever seen a coyote while mid-mountain descent ( they are usually only skulking around my backyard back home).

Nor have I ever seen a view quite like this one before:

This is the definition of man-made (and man-maintained).

We started out at 7:30am, to get a jump on the crowds (there weren’t any) and the heat (there was quite a lot of this).

It was a seriously fun, seriously taxing hike.

Other things that I learned while out on the trail:

1. Barrel-head cacti always grow leaning to the south, and look like giant prickly cucumbers.

Keep those barrels rolling. ROLL HIGH!

2. An oasis will crop up in just about the most remote, random place that you could ever imagine.

Yet not a drop to drink.

3. Making your sandwich with a tomato in it the night before is never a good idea, even if you think you’ve protected the bread with both lettuce and cheese, because the lettuce and cheese will also make it grow soggy.

I don't have a photo of my sandwich so please accept this glowing cactus.

4. I am the queen of the world.

Leo ain't got nothing on me.
A room, erm, peak with a view!

It’s quite insane to really mediate on 2012 as a tangible, real thing. I remember ringing in 2000 as if it was yesterday.

You've got to put one foot, in front of the other...

It’s not that I am weary of the new year, but more curious, filled with a subtle sense of wonderment about all the new (and completely bonkers) adventures I will embark on next.

So here, in no particular order are my resolutions for the approaching three hundred and sixty-five days:

– Run the Victoria marathon in 3:30:00 – Begin training in April, qualify for Boston in October.

– Travel, explore and take on the (sometimes scary) unknown with the love of my life, Mr. M.

MISTER M!

– Continue having a positive relationship with food and my body, because without this, there is no way I will be able to accomplish numbers 1 and 2.

I am also so happy to be writing regularly again through Rant and Roll.

Many, many thanks to all of my fabittyfabfab readers and subscribers. Your encouragement, comments and support mean the world to me! Without a doubt, you all make my little, slightly daft heart smile!

I wish you all a brilliant and beautiful coming year, free of prejudice, and bias, but always REMEMBER: should you encounter any of this in your daily life, do not despair, for after I wrench myself from the corner from whence I have curled myself up in the fetal position, I WILL TAKE THEM ON AND I WILL CRUSH THEM!!!

FOR I AM THE ERADICATOR!!!

Erm…

Smile, little heart. SMILE!

Happy New Year to you all!

– Ethel the Dean.

Another little piece of my heart

Do you have a place that you like to visit, because no matter what may have happened in your life (or may be happening) – as soon as you get there, you suddenly feel better?

You feel healthier?  You feel whole?

I have such a place.

This past Friday night, M and I adventured up to the Sunshine Coast where his parent’s have a brilliant little getaway that they very generously let us make use of for the weekend.

I will never tire of this view for as long as I live.

This place is amazing for many reasons.

From the spectacular view of the waterfront, to the epic record collection, to the amazingly comfortable beds, to the new wood burning stove – it really is a piece of heaven.

I feel the earth move...SING IT CAROLE!

I’m not sure how many times M and I have visited this unique and beautiful spot, but I can without hesitation say that each stay has, and forever will, occupy a special place in my heart.

Before I regale you with some of the finer (re: hilarious) moments of our brief, just-passed sojourn, here are three snapshots of past-times spent at this haven of dreams.

1.Sepetember 2003.  M and I have been dating for approximately two months and I am completely head-over-heels in love with him.   I am in first year at UBC and he is in third, and one day while we’re eating breakfast at my dorm’s cafeteria, he asks me if I would like to go away with him at the end of the month.

Yes, I tell him. Unequivocally, without question, YES.

My heart practically implodes in my chest upon hearing that my father is willing to let me borrow his car for the weekend.  My excitement knows no bounds.

We arrive early the Saturday morning because M ends up having to work at the movie theatre that Friday night. I am too restless to fall back asleep once we arrive, so after the inaugural tour we make peanut butter and jam sandwiches with thick slices of French bread and head down to the dock to suntan and “study.”

After lunch, we take the canoe out for a long afternoon paddle.  I marvel at how quickly our boat is skimming along – that is, of course, until I take a brief rest and realize we haven’t slowed down at all.

M just laughs at me.  I laugh too.

The weather is so hot I want to take off my clothes and dive right into the water. Instead, I dip my fingers into blue-green depths one at a time, and let the droplets run down my forearms and drip off of my elbows.

That night, against our better judgement, we light a fire and roast ourselves silly as we eat our dinner and grow tipsy off of red wine and Cat Stevens.

I remember thinking how I never wanted our dance to end.

2. New Years, 2006. M and I invite eight of our closest friends up to the Coast for a New Years raclette feast.  We eat (what seems like) pounds of the delicious Swiss cheese, drink good wine, and laugh ourselves crazy playing charades, dancing to Boney M, and lighting sparklers and banging on all the pots and pans we can find when the hour strikes twelve.

HAPPY NEW YEAR YOU CRAZY LOONS!

The next day we set out for a brisk, first-day-of-the-new-year-hike, letting the gale-force winds blow right through us – it sends the last year packing, and makes sure we are fresh and clean for all that awaits us in the coming months.

As we round the corner at the end of the trail, the winds are so strong that my ear muffs are blown from my head, and the only thing that saves them from an ocean swim is the lone, bare-faced tree, clinging for dear life on the cliff edge, twenty meters on my right.

M gallantly saves them, but in the process, almost gives up his place on earth in exchange.

Next time, I tell him, just let them go.

When we arrive back at the house, the power goes out.  We spend the rest of the evening cooking chilli and garlic bread on the wood burning stove, and playing balderdash by candlelight.

I know I still have abdominal muscles from laughing so hard that night – believe me, they’re in there somewhere, I just need to find them.

3. August 2010. Having defended my master’s thesis in May of that year, for the first time in (what seems like) my entire life, I am not stressing over, or thinking about school.

Mother Nature’s summer-stat has been set on full blast, and every day looks like a photo-still from a Richard Attenborough documentary.  Everything looks as though it has been kissed by magic.

My swimming hole.

Each morning I wake up and run a 10km loop that winds from the house to the local provincial park and back. Each morning upon my return I race down to the dock where I strip down to my underwear before jumping into the drink for a refreshing post-run swim.

I am sure the neighbours think I’m bloody bonkers, but I don’t care.

I feel light.  I feel fabulous.

I feel love.

When we arrived at the house on Friday night, the place was pretty darn freezing.  No word of a lie, I am fairly sure that I lost the feeling in the bottoms of my feet within the first fifteen minutes of our arrival.

PJs + sweats + winter coat + tea + fire = defrosted me

Thank goodness I am married to a mountain man who managed to quickly get a roaring fire going – but for a little lass such as I, with very poor circulation, I was hard pressed to get out of my winter coat until the place reached sauna status.

After that though, I was fine.  After that I was on fire!

Over the weekend, in preparation for Christmas, M and I decided that we would whip ourselves up in a baking tizzy.  Initially it was pretty difficult deciding on what we wanted to accomplish, but eventually we managed to cull the original list of must-dos down to three choice items: cheese sticks, sugar cookies (reprised from my culinary adventure from the other night) and cinnamon stars.

Cheeeeeeeeezzzzeeee sticks! So good!

The cheese sticks and the sugar cookies were by far the more successful undertakings.  I not sure how many of those cheesy delights I’ve scarfed down since M removed them from the oven – but it’s safe to say that we will definitely be making a few more trays of those before the holiday season is over.

Also, I think I will just become a sugar cookie making machine, in so far as they are super easy to make and way fun to decorate.

At first M and I were all, “ERM..?” because he inadvertently purchased the neon food colouring, but we’ve come to understand that if psychedelic Santa doesn’t say HO HO HO, that we don’t know what does.

(Don’t tell us.)

All the colours that you had on your snowsuit in the 80s!

The cinnamon stars weren’t so much a failure as they were a reinterpretation of the definition of star. (I mean, cupcakes aren’t too far off, right?)

Yes. I am drinking prosecco out of a Swiss anniversary brandy snifter. There’s no shame here!

We topped off the night with a sunset down at the dock, stellar homemade pasta, and a crisp prosecco that danced on our tongues, although our feet did the actually jigging as we boogied down to Rod Stewart, Neil Diamond and the Rolling Stones.

Seriously, guys, if you start us up – if you start us up, we’ll never stop.

Tomorrow, tomorrow

Seeing as though I got my rant on yesterday (and get it on did I ever), I am trying to look at the bright side of things on this rainy December day.

I feel really fortunate to have so many solid individuals in my life whom I can count on to comfort (or at least abide) me when I am at my utmost dejected. Without them, I would probably slink off the forest and live out my days in obscurity, becoming feral and losing my ability to speak and maintain healthy (if any) human relationships.  I would either end up in the National Enquirer, or have Jodi Foster play me in some Oscar-winning biopic, scored by Howard Shore.

Like my blood pressure, the sun will rise again...

So thank you my friends.  Thank you for your support and for helping me rebuild my humpty-dumpty confidence in humanity (or at least chose to stay in society for a little while longer.)

(Man, speaking of that nursery rhyme – what the heck were all the King’s horses going to accomplish? THEY ARE HORSES. If anything, they were probably responsible for further smashing up Mr. Egg Wall-sitter’s remains.)

Anywho, yesterday night I met up with my Little Sister (I’ve worked with Big Sisters for the past three years) and hanging out with that little firecracker of genius was exactly what I needed to regroup and refocus.

Working with my Little has been life changing in many different ways, and knowing that as much as she has transformed my life, I have had a positive impact on hers, is something I very much cherish.  When I am overwhelmed to the point of tears by what I see to be insurmountable, soul-crushing obstacles, I have to remember that little by little, constructive actions are capable of chipping away at the our society’s monolithic, and firmly-rooted ills.

So remember kids: Only you can prevent further reinforcement of institutionalized, overarching destructive norms!

That, and you know, forest fires.

As they say, baby steps.

Either way, today I am focusing on the positive!

Case in point, a couple of nights ago I was invited to a friend’s house to bake sugar cookies and watch The Muppet

Rolling pins are good for getting out stress.

Christmas Carol.  It was a gas and a half: munching on junk food, laughing at Gonzo (playing Charles Dickens, of course), loving Michael Caine as Scrooge, sharing the bizarre and equally funny parts of our day.

Sometimes you cannot get any better than that.

Of course, our first batch of cookies wasn’t hugely successful.  We tried to fit two sheets on one rack at the same time.  It wasn’t until I started to see smoke seeping out from the top of the door that we decided we might have to exercise some restraint and only do one batch at a time.

I would be lying if I said we didn't eat quite a few of these anyway...

(This worked to varying degrees, as the more we talked – and the more we laughed – the harder it seemed to be to actually make sure we timed the baking process properly.)

Now, I am not by nature a very visually artistic individual, but years of dedication to cookie decoration has left me with a particular prowess in this department that I am not afraid to talk up.

Oh what fun!

Back home in Halifax my mother goes absolutely bonkers in the kitchen every Christmas, whipping up batches of (sometimes) up to two hundred ginger bread men.  I will spend hours hunched over the kitchen table, painstakingly decorating cookie after cookie, to the point where it is almost a little heartbreaking to watch people cart them off, or even worse, scarf them down without properly admiring their long-endured edible beautification process!

Yeah.  That’s definitely a little sad on my part.

But I don’t care!  Love live the cookie decorator!  PEACE, LAND, BREAD!

Erm…

Nom nom - WAIT! Tell me how pretty they are!

I mean: ICING, SPRINKLES, SMARTIES!

I hope you all have a wonderful, rage-out-free weekend.

And if not, I’ll do my darndest to put you back together again.