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.

Beam me up Scotty

This morning, I felt the cold in my bones.  We have been lucky for the most part this winter – while it has been colder than usual, it has been remarkably dry, a nice change from the expected (and therefore, albeit grudgingly accepted) monotonous rain and overcast skies.

Sun, Sun Mr. Golden Sun IS ON VACATION

Growing up in Vancouver you acclimatize pretty darn quickly to the damp. If you’re not careful enough, you may start to sprout mushrooms sometime around mid-March, due to the relentless onslaught of drizzle and murk.

Constant vigilance and a darn good umbrella are needed to combat this problem.

Well, that and a good pair of rain boots.

Remember folks, it’s the reason David Duchovny forced X-Files to move down to L.A. (And boy did that show ever go downhill after that.)

Anywho, this is the first Christmas in three years that M and I are sticking around town (at least for the big day) which is pretty darn exciting. The past two years we have been far and yonder – first in London and then in Halifax, respectively, where we not only enjoyed the fantastic seasonal flavour of these two brilliant cities (and the people who live there), but the always enjoyable stress overload of travelling on Christmas Eve.

Nothing makes giant masses of people, into giant masses of asses, er – I mean, as jolly as they can be, like overcrowded, delayed airlines can!

We are however doing our (small) share of travel this year, having been invited to go check out all the sights and sounds of balmy Palm Desert – my father and step-mom own a time share and live there for part of the year and this will mark the first time we have visited them in their fruit-treed, half-year-home.

I’ve never actually been to California, other than Disneyland when I was eleven years old, and I am not ashamed to say that the thought of twenty-seven degrees and sunny skies, tickles my little, frozen-solid heart silly, especially in the wake of today’s cold.

Now to find that pot of gold...

Yet on days like this, I also cannot help but be transported back to the streets of Edinburgh, where M and I walked and walked and walked and then walked some more in October of 2009.

The moment we exited Waverly Train Station, the skies opened up and just as the rains began to fall, a rainbow spread its way clear across the sky.

For the rest of the trip, the rain and wind whipped and lashed our bodies in earnest – every night as we fell asleep in our little hostel, tucked away off of the Royal Mile, I was so exhausted I could actually feel my heartbeat inside of my calf muscles.

We climbed to the very top of Arthur’s Seat, and then to other side of the Old Town, up to the national monument; we drunk ourselves silly doing our own version of a pub crawl, beginning at the famous Oxford Bar, the favourite haunt of the fictional Inspector Rebus, and his creator Ian Rankin. We day-travelled up to St. Andrews, where M ran across the sand à la Chariots of Fire, and took part in an underground tour of Mary King’s Close where we readily accepted “gardy loo!” into our everyday vocabulary.

Really excited! REALLY DRUNK.

(I am also still trying to figure out whether or not I could fashion a plague doctor Halloween costume if I put enough energy into it.)

Nova Scotia! The gift that keeps on giving.

I had never been to Scotland before, and yet I somehow felt as though the country was home. I knew for so long that I had some sort of innate connection to the land and the people, whether it was forged from spending time in Nova Scotia, or through my highland dancing, or my fascination with Celtic music and mythology – I’m not sure, but I always felt that I just needed to go.

I can still smell the salt air.

And just being there, I felt very grounded and safe.  Like it is a country where I could live a life with less anxiety and doubt – or at least feel as though I could lay down some serious roots.

We had such a brilliantly amazing visit and did in fact walk so much that I had to purchase new shoes – shoes that to this day remind me of the visit each time I put them on.  (My old ones had developed a serious case of the heel-mouths and the water trickling down the cobble streets had begun to seriously trickle down my stocking feet.)

Even in the face of a bloody gale, I kept turning to M and saying to him, “Isn’t this the most enchanting city you have ever been too?”

I truly felt as though there is magic there, running through the air like an invisible current, transported along those fierce, fierce winds because it feels as though its blowing right through you, right through to the depths of your being, penetrating deep inside your soul.

Be still my heart.

But instead of cold, it warms you.

So on days like today, where I feel the dampness in my bones, I doesn’t bother me.

I think about my ancestors, and my travels, and I take comfort.

I take comfort in it all.

Safety dance

I was listening to CBC’s “As it Happens” last night and they replayed an interview that focused on white nose syndrome, a commonly misunderstood disease that has affected over one million bats living in eastern Canada and the United States.  I have read articles on this malady and the photos that inevitably accompany the piece are heartbreaking.   I couldn’t listen to more than a couple minutes of the show because I felt as though my heart had been placed in a vice.  In between deep breaths I kept repeating to myself, “those poor batties…those poor little batties.”

Sheesh – anyone who might have overheard me would probably have immediately written me off as “poor” and “batty” too.

But the crux of the matter is, I am very easily overwhelmed by things I read or hear about.  It’s almost as if a temporary paralysis sets in, and I am unable to concentrate on anything else.   Whatever “it” happens to be, completely derails me from my everyday mental and physical normalcy.

So, just as I cannot stand to listen about the untreatable ravaging of our little nocturnal flying friends, I also cannot get the image of my mother, sitting at her kitchen table, eating two massive pieces of toast, dancing to Maroon 5’s “Moves like Jagger” out of my head.

The difference being, of course, is that this image does not make my heart ache, but swell.

I should clarify however, she was not full on dancing – just shoulder-heavy, top half dancing, with quite a bit of arm movement thrown in for good measure.  The kind of dancing you do when you’re sitting on transit and the BSE (best song EVER) comes onto your ipod and it’s taking everything in your being not to jump up and start breaking it down, because even though no one is sitting next to you and you have a good amount of room, and really, no one is looking, and certainly no one cares, and you think you might as well go for it, you really don’t want people to stare.

In trust, it was one of the most simple, beautiful and hilarious things I have ever seen.  She had never heard the song before, and when it began to play on the radio she didn’t immediately react; my mother isn’t one to immediately burst into the shoulder swing.  (Coincidentally, we were also listening to CBC – we don’t do much else in this family.  Side note: I was having tea with a friend and I asked her if she ever listened to the station and she was like, “No, but my Dad does!” which only reinforced my belief that I may be aging prematurely.)

Anyways, there was mom, sitting, eating her toast, reading the Globe and Mail’s editorial cartoon, and as I’m watching her, I begin to see the song start to work its magic.  The song itself isn’t revolutionary, but it’s darn catchy.  It’s pretty hard to listen to it and not get a good foot tap going.   So first, I notice a finger wag, then, a head nod.  In no time, slowly but surely, and then WHAM!  Shoulders shimmying for all of Canada.

Living so far away from my family members is hard.  As much as I enjoy phone calls, skype chats and e-mails, nothing really can take the place of a face-to-face, in the flesh chin wag.  If anything, as electronic means of communication get better and better, it seems to get harder and harder to maintain individual, in person relationships.  (Also, is it just me, or to cross-Canada flight prices increase with each introduction of an iphone upgrade?)

This conceit is certainly not new, nor is it groundbreaking.   That electronic media has usurped traditional forms of communication is a horse with a “flogged” tattoo on its hide.

The one thing I can, and do take to heart in knowing this, is that the things that make it okay for me to live so far away from my loved ones is not a machine with an operating system that will be obsolete in six months, but the images of a dancing mom, or a poker playing dad, or one sister that eats hot sauce on everything and another who always asks “do you love me?” before she crushes me in a hug.

I will choose a locket with two tiny photos sitting inside it, over an electronic picture frame any day.

Pragmatic addendum: these images that live inside of me are also excellent blinders for the times when I think that 5000km aren’t enough of a buffer between myself and these individuals (but this doesn’t happen all that often.)

In the mean time, I’m going to do a little dance.  And since I’m not on transit, I’m going to give it.  Because hot damn, can I move like Mick Jagger.