Monday, January 30, 2023

Deja Blue

To the surprise of exactly no one, it happened again. Just like it always does. Lather, rinse, repeat. Police kill a guy, people get inflamed and call for change, and it happens again. It’s happened enough over the last decade or so that I’ve written about it 43 times before, according to the “Police Stories” label on my Label Cloud on the right. This is the 44th time. What does one even say anymore?

So, five cops from a special “Scorpion” squad chased a guy down on a traffic stop for reckless operation, and just beat the guy to death. Five guys punched, kicked, and tased an unarmed man until he lay there unconscious and eventually died. According to the police chief, they’re not even sure there WAS any reckless op. Why five cops from a specialized unit were pursuing some rando in the first place is another question. I mean, don’t these “elite” teams have a higher list of priorities to pursue besides traffic violations?

I’m suspect of all of these “elite” teams that are separated from the rest of the rank and file. (The brilliant Lawyers Guns and Money blog is on the same wavelength.) I think it’s human nature for those placed in small groups with increased power to let it go to their heads. Hell, just look at HOAs. I guarantee there are people in your HOA who would just LOVE to curb stomp anyone who lets their grass grow too high or has non-standard pavers making up their walkway. But they don’t have the cover of law enforcement protecting their actions.

Baltimore is famous for its “Gun Trace Task Force,” which created the need for a Consent Decree and spawned the HBO mini-series/docu-drama “We Own This City.” This was a unit assembled to get guns off the streets but quickly devolved into a renegade band who robbed drug dealers (and anyone else they found with more than pocket change), kept the money, planted evidence and guns at crime scenes, and arrested anyone who had the nerve to complain. And all the while, they were padding their paychecks with unworked overtime to an obscene degree.

The Memphis police chief disbanded this Scorpion unit over the weekend and we’re already watching how these five officers are being singled out for 100% of the blame. The problem is that this “civilians as blood enemies” culture doesn’t grow out of thin air; that’s why these incidents keep happening. The recruitment, training, and supervision of the nation’s police units need a top to bottom overhaul. I guarantee it never happens, for the same reason that every other systematic injustice remains: because the people with money want it the way it is. Hardcore policing keeps the riffraff at bay. It’s not their problem if they get the crap kicked out of them. It’s their own fault for not being born into wealth.

Of course, Fox “News” is leading the way with headlines like this:

“Lowered standards,” right beside pictures of the five Black cops. Tell us what you really think the problem is, Fox! Maybe their point is that White cops would have known to turn their body cameras off before beating someone to death. Silly savages.

The racists love Black-on-Black violence because then they get to sit back and cluck over it all, knowing that whichever party is in the wrong, a Black person gets the blame.


It is with a lead-heavy heart that I read of the passing of Annie Wersching, who I adored. She played many notable roles but came to my attention when she co-starred in two seasons of “24,” as Special Agent Renee Walker, FBI badass, and eventual love interest of Jack Bauer. And here I thought it was bad when her character was killed off. She died of cancer at 45. Forty-freakin-FIVE!

This is what I wrote in this very blog, back in 2010, when her character was whacked:

Sometimes it really sucks following shows like 24 and last night was one of those times.  Just when you think things are going well… Jack finally gets a moment’s peace and gets to do some belly rubbin’ with yummy FBI Agent Renee Walker.

“All looks good, but deep down, you know that there are still six more episodes to come, so something else has to happen.  Then… BAM.  Sniper fire.  Agent “Freckles” is down, wearing nothing but a bed sheet.

“You would think having sex with Jack Bauer would make a girl bulletproof.

“So I’m bummed.  No more looking into the haunted eyes of our Agent Walker. She’s been my favorite part of the last 2 seasons.  I know it’s stupid to get upset about a freakin’ TV show.  I know that right afterward, someone yells, “Cut!” and everyone gets up and grabs some coffee and a donut.  But why let reality encroach on the story?  You can’t help but get drawn in when you follow a story over time.  While the show is rolling, you start to see these characters as real people.  What’s the point of watching a drama if you don’t suspend disbelief?

“The skeptic can come out after the credits roll.”

So there’s no real-life buffer with this loss. This one hurts.

On the flip side, I can offer a happy “RIP” to the Cincinnati Bengals Super Bowl hopes, after their loss yesterday to the Chiefs. Once again, they lost in part because they couldn’t keep themselves from committing stupid personal fouls. They’ve handed the Steelers at least two such wins in past years. Now they’re spreading the love.

And thank you to the Chiefs! Your win keeps me from having to root for a Philadelphia team, and that’s always a winner in my book.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Cuts, Butts, and Nuts

My original plan was to write about the debt ceiling mess. I mean, how many times must we do this dance? Every time it comes up and there’s a Democratic president, Republicans pretend that they’re against national debt and decide to hold the debt ceiling for ransom, so to extract concessions that would never otherwise be on the table.

When there’s a Republican president, the debt ceiling is raised without issue. Even when the Trump tax cuts were adding over a trillion dollars to the deficit, you never heard a peep about the deficit from Republicans. They’re not against government spending, per se, just against Democrats directing the spending.

Republicans came into this term stating out loud that their goal was to extract concessions or else they’d tank the economy. What I don’t know is why they think it will play out differently this time than it has the last several times they did the same thing. Do they think no one remembers?

Once those Social Security checks stop rolling out, people will start losing their minds… including Republican people. Not that these criminals care about the average retiree, mind you. They’re just collateral damage. But eventually, when the wheels of government grind to a halt and it begins to affect businesses, the Donor Class will start button-holing people and telling them to cut the shit, and then the debt ceiling will be raised and we’ll all live to fight another day about something else.

So I don’t feel like there’s enough here worth blowing up into a full post. Instead, let’s talk about some goofy shit.

It all starts with Chicken Butt. Do you know how little kids run around repeating pointless rhymes and stuff? For no reason whatsoever. Around here, first-graders love to come up to grown-ups and say, “Guess what?

You answer “What?

They say, “Chicken butt!” and giggle with glee. They will do this to their parents roughly 25 times a day. My wife, Sweetpea, the first-grade teacher, has been hearing this for generations.

A while back, I saw this design on a t-shirt and immediately got it for her.

I mean, how could I not, right? I had to live up to the t-shirt I got myself at the same time, that said, “Trophy Husband.”

On Friday, she wore it to school, (under a buttoned shirt), to reveal to her class. That was the plan, up until she opened her email and saw one from a parent with a complaint. This parent said her daughter told her that a boy from another class used inappropriate language in the cafeteria. The daughter came to her to ask what it meant, which upset the parent.

What was said? She heard a boy say “My nuts hurt.”

Yep, “nuts.” That is what set off the alarms. And rather than engage in a 30-second explanation with her child, the parent decided that the school needed to drop what they were doing and investigate, to stop this little nut-cracker in his tracks.

At that point, Sweetpea decided this probably wasn’t the best day to reveal her chicken butt shirt. She directed the email to her principal and added “Suggestions?” Later she told him she’d speak to the other first-grade teacher, who said she would talk to her class about appropriate language in the cafeteria.

But if you ever wonder why schools seem like they don’t have enough time in the day, things like this are a contributing factor.

What’s the beef here, that a 5-year-old didn’t use the word “testicles?” Or did she have a problem that this boy referred to something that’s literally a part of him? It’s a good thing they retired the “Dick and Jane” books, or who knows what else kids would overhear and cause their parents to email their complaints? Oh man, what if the cafeteria was serving mushroom caps? There would be anarchy.

She’s lucky her kid was never in a class with my youngest nephew, Sammy, when he was in first grade. He not only used that term liberally, he rolled it out with a great flourish.

Oooh,” he’d say, “That got’em right in then NNNNNNNNuttts!”

One time there were at a Catholic League gym hockey game and Sammy saw the goalie putting on his pads. At top volume, he exclaimed, “Hey Dad, those are for his NNNNNNNNUttts!”

If “nuts” didn’t corrupt a Catholic League gym full of students and parents, I’m sure the cafeteria crowd will survive.

Now watch, the next brainstorm from the school board will be some kind of naughty-word tracking system that teachers to have to complete daily. I bet Florida already has one. Just wait until these new report cards come rolling out. Wouldn’t it be a shame if a student could be kept out of the college of their choice based on incorrect gonadal terminology from elementary school?

Good thing we have such active parents in the community, who keep teachers focused on what’s really important.

Monday, January 16, 2023

What's Up, Docs?

If the “effective” portion of the Biden presidency didn’t end with the election of a Republican-led House, it sure seems to be over now, with the discovery of more secret documents on Biden’s premises. As many, many other people have pointed out, there is little comparison between Biden’s document situation and that of TFG. Biden’s team were the ones who found the misplaced docs and turned them in immediately, and has been actively cooperating with the National Archives ever since. TFG delayed and prevaricated so much they had to issue a search warrant just to find out what was still there, long after his team swore that all docs had been turned over.

But none of that matters to a GOP House. The Democrats just handed them two years of investigations on a silver platter, with the delicious irony of it being a similar issue to the one over which TFG has been dogged.

Now we can look forward to every new revelation being blown up to the most important threat to national security ever, whether it’s an 8-year-old requisition for military-grade TP or the names of every spy and mole in the system. The truth won’t matter to these “esteemed panels,” only headlines and outrage. I expect Fox "News“ to set up a regular time slot with its own theme music, just to cover “Docu-gate.”

This is what they do. Why bother to govern when they can get people pissed off enough to, with any luck, vote them back in two years later, despite having no beneficial accomplishments on which to run.

And it’s doubly upsetting that the Dems just handed this to them like a 16th birthday present only instead of a new sports car with a bow on it, it’s a lip-sticked, gift-wrapped, pig.

Republicans will be working overtime to ensure that the only things Americans care about more in 2024 are Hunter Biden’s dick picks. All the better to provide cover while they strip Social Security and Medicare, for parts.


I saw this on FB a week or so ago and it just rubbed me the wrong way.

On the surface, it may seem benign, but because I culled it from a Republican friend’s stream, I know what it’s really about.

Yeah, this is a call to go back to the “good ole days,” where Black people were property, gays were closeted, and uppity women were burned at the stake as witches.

Or, is it the yearning for a more recent past, when Black people were locked into subservient jobs, gays were still closeted, and women were tied to the kitchen and bedroom.

Note that in both eras, well-to-do White men got to pretty much do as they pleased. To this mindset, I’m sure it does seem like the tearing down of civilization when your own demographic no longer rules the roost by default. But a civilization really prospers when everyone is on it and the world is not just a looting opportunity for the ruling class.

I hope you had/are having a nice MLK Day. It’s a shame that so many pay lip-service to his words and then act in complete contrast to their meaning. But I’m happy to enjoy a day off, in celebration of an extraordinary man.

And it’s especially sweet because MLK Day is the anniversary of my first date with Sweetpea. This year the numbers line up exactly as they did in 2017, when we met on Sunday 1/15, (which we now call our Meet-a-versary) then went out for lunch the next day because we were both off from work. (If interested, you can read full story here.)

That’s one thing I learned from my dad… use national holidays for important occasions; that way you always have the anniversary off. This, from the guy who got married on July 4th.

I wish I could say that it was intentional in my situation, but I’d be lying. Sometimes, shit just works out a certain way and you go with it.  

So happy anniversary, Sweetpea! It’s surely a good thing that we met… after all, if the Republicans get their way, it’s going to take both our Social Security checks to keep from living in a refrigerator box in my brother’s garage.

Monday, January 9, 2023


I wanted to pull up to a front-row seat and bring a tub of popcorn, but the proceedings stopped being funny and ended up giving us all a sneak preview of the clusterfuck the House of Representatives is going to be for the next two years.

They say depravity sells and there it was out on display; a parade of fame and power whores lining up to see who could be the most petty, vindictive, and self-promoting. I wonder what kind of ratings CSPAN got last week…

One of the things that bothered me the most was the oratorical cover they tried to give themselves, speechifying about how they needed to “clear the swamp” and get back to “The People’s business.” But when you get a look at their action agenda, you find nothing but the pursuit of vendettas and the appeasing of the rich. They’re already talking about gutting the Ethics rules. Is there anything more Republican than that? That tells you all you need to know about that group of people. Rules are for everyone else because they were chosen by God, and He wants them to have nice things.

I’m sure there’s a reason their God wants them to cut Social Security and Medicare, despite providing massive assistance to millions of Americans. Just ask them; they’ll come up with something. Although, the fact that it’s something their rich benefactors have been wanting for decades probably won’t be mentioned.

They probably even have biblical verses to back up their desire to end assistance to Ukraine. I imagine it goes something like, “And I say unto ye, let thy allies fighteth their own battles against tyranny and oppression, for it shant be thy problem. Hunter of Biden’s laptop will not investigateth itself.”

It’s not like there was anyone to root for here. Picking sides was like trying to choose between syphilis and herpes. On one side, you had the noodle-spined Kevin McCarthy, who in his clumsy pursuit of power, stepped on his own balls by bargaining away any power he hoped to wield. On the other, a bunch of know-nothing attention whores, clamoring to get their way by holding their breath until the whole House falls in. And that would be just fine with them, as it seems their main preoccupation is to grind the government to a halt anyway. They can’t wait to shut things down over the debt ceiling, which is merely the approval to pay for the stuff they already bought.

You know it’s the End of Days when MT Greene sounds like the voice of reason. Of course, that’s only because she landed a special deal with McCarthy, to ensure her own seat at the head of a table. I’m sure we’ll find out, shortly, which committee she’ll be screwing up.

Now they’re bending over backward trying to find a way to blame the Democrats for the display of Republican dysfunction. It won’t work though, not on anyone who isn’t down the Fox “News” rabbit hole. When you elect a bunch of clowns to run the circus, you can’t blame the acrobats when the Big Top inevitably collapses. We’ll have to be sure to elect some lion tamers in 2026.

And can you believe there were people in the media wondering why the Democrats weren’t there to cut a deal with McCarthy? Personally, I wouldn’t trust any deal coming from a Congressional Republican. They’ve already shown an eagerness to play both sides of any fence, taking any stand that will help them today, regardless of taking the opposite stand yesterday. They are a team of “Lucys,” who can’t wait to pull the ball out from under Charlie Brown, again and again. I wouldn’t piss on their shoes if their feet were on fire, let alone help them solve a problem of their own creation.

The best we can say about last week was that it was a week not spent screwing the American people. I’m sure they will begin their mission of financially fellating their rich donors later this week or next, once the rest of the mundane Housekeeping tasks are handled.

I think that’s why the voting spectacle finally came to an end. The Donor Class button-holed some of their loose cannons and told them to cut the shit and get on with siphoning money from the treasury, right back to them, as they were “elected” to do. Time was a-wasting. And if they wouldn’t do it, they’d find themselves being primaried in two years by someone that would.

In the meantime, I hope President Biden is getting his executive orders in order. If he wants anything done before 2025, he’s going to need them.

Monday, January 2, 2023

New Year's Puck Droppings

A new year always makes me a bit nostalgic. As I’m waiting for the Annual Winter Classic hockey game (which takes place outdoors), I started thinking back to when I used to play pickup hockey.

I fell in love with hockey when we lived in Chicago and I was in 3rd grade. That’s the year I got ice skates and a hockey stick for Christmas. I learned how to skate with a stick in my hand and that’s just how it was.

Now when I say, “learned how to skate”, you have to take that with a grain of salt. I learned how to scramble around a bumpy lake or snow-packed street without falling down very much. The hockey stick was kind of like that big pole that high-wire acts use to keep their balance. But that first time skating, there was no teaching, it was just “you have skates, here’s your stick, there’s the ice… get out there.”

I never played organized hockey when I was growing up. That seemed way too complicated. But every day in the winter, my brother and I would be out on the street or on a local pond, “skating” around and shooting pucks at each other. Even in the summer, we’d play in the garage. One of us would grab a baseball glove and guard a little spot between two pieces of firewood we’d set up for a goal. We’d use either a real puck or a baseball. Man, my shins got so banged up sometimes that I could hardly walk.

We learned to skate on figure skates… that just happened to be what we got for that 3rd grade Christmas, so that’s what we used and never thought twice about it. I got a pair of hockey skates once in junior high school and I hated them. They didn’t have toe-picks, (the small jagged section on the front end of the blade) so I couldn’t push off. (Remember, I didn’t really know how to skate properly. Left to our own, we used our toe-picks to get started.)

A toe-pick almost killed me once… or rather, killed my ego. I was a teenager, skating at night on our neighbor’s pond, on a beautiful crisp night. I was telling a neighbor girl about how sometimes when I almost fall, I can throw a quick spin-around and come out of it looking like I did it all on purpose. I told her, “sometimes I can be pretty graceful”. The exact moment I said the word “graceful”, my toe-pick hit a crack in the ice and I pitched forward, flat on my face, spinning in lazy circles as I slid another 20 feet.  Pride indeed cameth before my fall.

In college, I took a semester of figure skating and it was the greatest thing. It was also very hard because I had to unlearn everything I’d ever “learned.”

The best thing I learned was that it helps to have sharp skates. My instructor had wondered why a big strapping guy like me was having such trouble with the rudimentary beginner’s drills. She said, “Let me see your blades.”

I showed her the blade of my old skate. She said, “Oh my God.  Take those off right now.”

My blades were about as sharp as butter knife handles.  What the hell did I know?  I thought skates were skates…

She got me in a pair of house skates that were sharp… ones with actual inside and outside edges… and holy hell! I had no idea skating could be like that! Suddenly I could stop, turn, and accelerate… It was like the first time I put on glasses, not knowing how well the rest of the world could see.

I didn’t learn anything terribly difficult in skating class, but I did re-learn how to skate, forward and backward. I learned to do those fancy backward crossovers. I could even do a 180-degree jump… in other words, skating backward, jumping, and coming down on the other foot, facing forward. On the last day of class, right at the end, I tried to do a 360. Almost pulled it off, too. The teacher was not amused.  “Do NOT try that again… you’re nowhere near ready for that!”

OK, OK.  I had to try though.

After that class, I hardly ever got to skate. Too busy out making a living and trying to find my way in the world. Next thing you know, 13 years down the road I’m married (cold chill runs down back), living in Albany, NY, in 1996, spotting an ad in the Pennysaver announcing the formation of a new co-ed, non-checking hockey league in Saratoga Springs.

I called and found out that it was started by a group of hockey parents. They’d had a pickup game, grownups against the kids, and found out how much fun it was to get on the ice and play. They decided to do so regularly and thus the “league” was born. I wanted in immediately and even without being a parent, I was welcomed with open arms.

First, I had to get suited up. I’d never owned a single piece of hockey equipment other than skates and a stick. I had no idea what was involved. A trip to Dick’s Sporting Goods was a necessity. Luckily, the guy in their hockey department took good care of me. He gave me everything I’d need for such a league and was careful not to overdo it. Like, for a non-checking game, I wouldn’t need the big Robo-shoulder pads; a nice light pair would do just fine. It’s a good thing he was there… I didn’t even know how to put all the stuff on.

And yes, I got some nice new hockey skates. No more toe picks for me.

I had no idea what to expect from the Just-For-Fun League when I showed up that first night. The rink was pretty primitive, but then so were my skills. I needn’t have worried, though, because so were everyone else’s. I was afraid I’d stand out as a rube, but in fact, I was in the middle of the pack, skills-wise.

While the name says “Just-for-Fun League”, it really wasn’t a league as much as a big pickup game. There would be about 20 players and we’d divide up teams. At first, we’d just throw all the sticks on the ice and then they’d be separated randomly, forming two teams. Later, after we got a good bead on each other, Ellen the “founder” (and one of the goalies) would take people of similar skill by twos and divide them, so that no one side could accidentally become stacked.

I scored a goal that first night so I at least felt like I belonged. In the early years, we were all pretty raggedy. There were some epic collisions… not because we were looking to hit, but because we weren’t very good at stopping and turning in time before, WHAM.

One of the cool things was that by design, you’d get to play every position. (Except for goalie, of course.) First, you’d have your starting five, and then as people got tired (usually after 1-2 minutes) they’d come to the bench and yell out their position. Whoever was next in line would go in and take that their place. That way, no one could monopolize any one position.

The first thing I learned was that playing hockey was nothing like playing softball. In softball, you spend most of your time waiting for something to happen. Most of the time, it didn’t involve you. It was mostly standing around, followed by short bursts of furious activity. If you screwed something up, maybe you got a chance to redeem yourself, maybe you didn’t.

In hockey, it’s nothing but furious activity. You can lose the puck, stop the other guy, take it back, take a shot, and make a pass… all in about 30 seconds. It’s constant ebb and flow. You really don’t have time to dwell on mistakes because you’re immediately onto the next thing.

I loved the speed, the woosh of the wind in your earholes, and your hair blowing in the breeze behind you.  Yeah, I had longish hair back then, at least in the back.  My idol of that era was Jaromir Jagr. Hockey fans and Pittsburghers who were around in the 90s know who I’m talking about. For everyone else, Jagr joined the Penguins at age 18, directly from Czechoslovakia. He was a mullet-wearing, free-spirited bundle of talent back then and I totally wanted to be him. For most of our games, I wore a white Penguins jersey with his number 68 on it.

About once a year, I’d have my wife come to a game and shoot some video.  I was sure we’d all look fabulous out there flying around at such great speed. Then I watched the tape.

Oh. My. God. We were sooooo slooooooooooooooow. I don’t know how it’s possible to feel like you're zooming all over the place and then watch the tape that shows what looks like a bunch of people drifting aimlessly about the ice. It was excruciating.

I played for four years and had the time of my life. It was very gratifying, over the years, to see the overall skill level pick up. We were worlds better the 4th year than we were when we started.

If I had to scout myself, it would be like this:

Good skating in straight lines; not so maneuverable.  Outstanding reach. Hard to get around.

Smaller players skated rings around me, but I could often catch them if I turned and skated alongside them.  Having long arms helped a great deal. If I was facing someone on a breakaway, they’d go around me like I was a giant cone. But if I turned and went the same direction, I could always interfere with their shot and usually force them wide. One of the guys once told me, “Trying to get around you is like trying to go around a wall.”

Good in the corners, a grinder.

My skating or puck skills weren’t going to dazzle anyone, so I decided I’d try to out-hustle. I’d be the guy battling people, chasing the puck, and fishing it out of the corners.

Great wrist shot, absolutely no slapshot. (Where you take a big windup, with the stick up off the ice.)

I couldn’t shoot a slapshot to save my life. I’d either whiff or it would just kind of dribble up there. But I was a sniper with a wrist shot.  (Where you just kind of snap the puck without lifting your stick.) I was one of the few people that could get the puck up in the air easily… it’s something I’ve always been able to do since I was a kid.  Every shot came at least knee-high. I had this one stick I got from the local minor league team that had a wicked curve and loft to it.  It took me a while to get the handle on it, because every shot would go high and to the left. I took a shot from the right point once and almost took off our defenseman’s head. She was standing at the bottom of the left circle.

There was another guy that just had a cannon of a slapshot… but he couldn’t control it. I called it the Moses Shot, because he’s wind up from the point and everyone would just part like the Red Sea. No one had any idea where it was going to end up and it was seldom on net.

Plays a sportsmanlike game but don’t get him riled up.

I was so glad it was a non-hitting game because another thing I learned is how easy it is for one’s passions to run over. I normally played a very gentlemanly game, but if someone were to, say, jostle me, elbow me, or knock me off the puck in any way, it was like my eyes would turn red and I’d just want to plow into someone. I’d go all “Francis” on them and make it my mission to “accidentally” mash the offender into the glass, the post, the ice, or whatever.

"Lighten up, Francis."

I was only ever called for two penalties, one of which I deserved. One of the bigger dudes (four inches shorter than me but about 50 lbs heavier) knocked me off the puck and stole it, taking it up the ice. I got up and just charged. I was praying he’d keep possession of the puck because I thought that would give me cover. I caught up to him and basically flew at him, like "My Cousin Vinny" did to the redneck that wanted to fight him.

Tweeeeeet!  Two minutes!

Then I had the nerve to stand there with my arms out going, “What?

It was a clean hit that wouldn’t be penalized in a regular game, but we were in a non-checking league, hence the penalty.

It was a learning experience playing with women, and sometimes their daughters. I found that while they may not have shot as hard as the guys or were as physical, they skated better and were better passers. What was hard for me was getting into the physical battles for the puck. Even in a no-checking group, there was a lot of pushing, shoving, and muscling for the puck. I always felt like I shouldn’t do that with women. I was brought up to never raise a hand to a lady and that was a hard thing to overcome.

The women helped me with that though, mostly by stealing the puck from me with great regularity, so often that I wanted to kill them. There were two, in particular, the teenage daughters of a 40-something player named Joanne.  We’d be in the locker room afterward, (no one was getting naked, just getting pads off and on) and I told a couple of them how troubled I was about not wanting to be rough with them.

They basically laughed at me, telling me that the boys they play against in their own league have no such inhibitions. Made me feel better, anyway. I still didn’t knock them around like I could have, but I didn’t feel so bad about using my size if I had to.

The family aspect of our group also made for some memorable encounters. I was skating with Joanne one game and she got plowed into behind the net. I went flying up to put a shoulder on the guy that did it, but I pulled up at the last moment when I saw that it was her husband!

We got back to the bench and I told her I almost went after him. She looked pissed. I said, “You want me to get him, next shift?

She was like, “Hell yeah!”

There was one guy in our group that was really good. He was a smallish, wiry guy but he could just blaze up and down the ice. Before I knew his name, I just thought of him as "My Nemesis." (Later, he was just "Danny", and happened to be a really good guy.) But I decided to make it my business that this was the guy I was going to dedicate myself to stopping. The dude undressed me more times than a $20 hooker, but it forced me to get better. I became a much better defender because of it so that by the end of my tenure, we'd have some pretty epic battles. But that’s a life lesson, isn’t it? You never get better at anything unless you go up against someone who’s better.

But OMG, what a workout the game was! Every muscle group would be spent... legs from skating, back from hunching over the stick and getting low, arms and shoulders from pushing and grinding in the corners... After a game, it was all I could do to get my gear bag back to the car. I'd be totally whipped, especially early in the season. But later, of course, it would get easier. I was in the best shape of my life when I was playing hockey.

Anyway, it was really a great group of people.  We’d chase each other around for an hour and a half and then limp down to the pub and drink for another 2. Good times.

It killed me to leave all that behind, but my non-hockey life was in the toilet. Divorced, working a shitty job with horrible hours, living like a monk… there was nothing left for me in New York.

One night I made a list of all the reasons I should move to Baltimore to be near family, versus all the reasons I should stay. Needless to say, one list was very long and the other was quite short. The biggest reason on the short list, the one to stay in New York, was playing hockey. But sadly, there had to be more to life than that couple hours a week every winter, so I moved on to start a new life chapter.

After moving to Baltimore, I tried to find a similar gig. There was a rink nearby, but there were two things going against it. First, the pickup hockey hours were 11:30-1:00 on Saturday nights. I’m sorry, but I'm ready for bed at that hour, not ready to go out and scrap. But most importantly, the people were very clique-ish. I did NOT feel very welcomed. Everyone mostly seemed concerned with skating exclusively with their friends. I went twice, then never again. They were not interested in entertaining any "intruders" in their club.

Still, I’ll never forget the woosh of the wind in my ears and long-gone hair blowing behind me.