Gelato can change your life

I present part four, long overdue in the creative writing series. The topic, as ever, provided by 642 Things to Write About.

“Your most transcendent ice cream experience.”

I begin by slightly altering the topic to “Your most transcendent gelato experience”. This is two-fold. Firstly, ice cream is something you can buy at any grocer, corner store, or mom-and-pop shop across the way. Gelato however, gelato is a love affair you will chase across the globe. Ice cream is the poor man’s gelato, and anyone telling you otherwise should be put in their place. Secondly, I am in the midst of a 5 year love affair with gelato.

It’s not that I had never tried it prior to arriving in Italy, it’s just that everything that accompanied my double-scoop cone from Gelateria Santa Trinita was what put it at the top of my all time culinary experiences. (This is saying something, coming from someone who dated a chef, and a damn good one at that.) Sure, the atmosphere makes the experience of cool, perfectly flavoured crema and nocciola gelato dribbling down your chin fairly memorable. Let’s be honest, you’re in the middle of a Florentine palace (the Frescobaldi Palace, to be exact), everything by default is going to taste that much sweeter. There is a reason there were repeat purchases made here throughout the remainder of my week long stay in Firenze.

Santa Trinita Gelateria Exterior

Photo credit: Gelateria Santa Trinita online

 

Gelateria Santa Trinita

Photo credit: Almeera Ismail, Firenze, 2009

Most travel books tell you to visit San Crispino in Rome for great gelato. They are lying to you, straight up, bold-faced lies. If you must skip Florence and get gelato in Rome, please do yourself a favour and venture to your local pizzeria, or any restaurant for apertivo instead. You’ll thank me. Nothing will compare to gelato from Santa Trinita, nothing.

Unless you visit Vancouver. In which case, please, please, I beg of you, visit Bella Gelateria in downtown Vancouver. You will wait in line, likely year round, and absolutely so in good weather. But your taste buds will alight the minute you get your first sampling. I visited this establishment after returning from Italy (with my elitist gelato expectations in tow), and was absolutely blown away. (So too were a lot of Italians when this little company from Vancouver, B.C. won the 2012 Technical Jury Award, at the Florence International Gelato Festival in Italy. (And has continued to win, year after year, since).

Bella GelateriaPhoto Credit: D. Sitar and an iPhone5, 2014 (Eating Salted Caramel and Meyer Lemon Gelato)

Rather obviously, I accompanied a friend of mine for a noon “ice cream” fix ready to critique the heck out of their offerings. Trouble was, I couldn’t find a problem. In fact, in the three years since I had been back, this was the first time through taste alone I seriously wondered if I was back in that piazza, sitting on a church step listening to the sound of rain while I contemplated life over gelato.

It was those first moments in Florence, sitting in the quiet, the rain my only soundtrack, that I realized a few things. One was that this was truly the pace of life in Italy. This is a country that beats to its own drum when it comes to that ever elusive work-life balance. As a culture, they take their time with life, savour it. If there was one thing I brought back with me, it was this outlook on life. To savour the sweetness of doing nothing, and everything at the same time.

The other realizations were more personal. I was preparing to come back to Canada, and start a career that I was unsure of before it had even begun. This decision would be the first of many life lessons I would learn in the following years. And not once do I regret my decisions. Now, more than ever, I unabashedly believe that we are the creators and destroyers of our own opportunities. Your life is going to be what you make of it, so you better make sure you are going to be happy with the decisions you make now.

Lastly, on those very steps is where I came to terms with the fact that the relationship I was in was finally coming to a close. It was one of those that probably went on a little longer than it should, but you didn’t want to be the one to end it. You had gotten to that comfortable place where a part of you says “it’s not terrible, we don’t hate each other, and we care for each other, so why end something you’re sure of?” Life lesson: end it. The difference between being a young-twentysomething in a relationship and an older-twentysomething in a relationship is that you finally figure out that if you’re not 100% happy with something, you can say so.

It was in these quiet moments, savouring the sweet offerings of Florence that I was changed. I did not know it at the time, but slowly, your own self creeps up on you and surprises you when you least expect it. So go ahead, get that double-scoop cone or cup, sit on a park bench, on some church steps, or wander the streets. But whatever you do, allow yourself to enjoy those quiet moments. They speak loudly if you let them.

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The greatness of sandwiches

A while back, I talked about a journal I stumbled upon, called 642 Things to Write About. I’ve been fairly diligent in writing every day, sometimes twice. So as part of the new direction of this blog, I give you the second in this creative writing series.

“The greatness of sandwiches.”

Sandwiches are perfect. Straight up, they are legitimately p-e-r-f-e-c-t. They don’t discriminate in their length or width or smell, if they’re regulated as a side to a soup, or if they’re your entree. Sandwiches just want to be there for you, to be eaten, and savoured. The perfect sandwich will aim to please you so greatly, you’ll come back to them. They are not unlike your own personal yes-man. Hungry? Yes-man. Want a delicious sandwich that’s the perfect mix of protein, seasoning, garnish and cheese? Yes-man. I reiterate, sandwiches, you are perfect.

If done right, you, the eater, are faced with this perfect equilibrium of your choice of protein, dairy, vegetables and bread. This is the stuff dreams are made of. A good sandwich can fill you up. A great sandwich can turn your day around and put you in a better mood. An epic sandwich? That will change your life in a way you never imagined.

Consuming an epic sandwich means you’ve hit some various criteria: the ideal crunch-to-softness ratio has been achieved, there’s just enough flavouring to your meat or substitute so as to not overpower you, the right combination of salty and sweet has been met in your vegetable additions and somewhere in there, you’ve added in delicious cheese to ooze every where, or bring out the flavours further in your wonderful gastro-experiment.

Case and point, this example from a local Vancouver eatery, Meat and Bread, their slow braised beef brisket with cabbage.

I have consumed many a sandwich in my day, from the ho-hum mystery lunch meat specials, to a solid PBJ (Organic peanut butter and home made jam, of course), to amazing finds on the go in Vancouver and abroad. Thankfully, sandwiches are one way that experimenting with foods and combinations can actually pay off once in a while. Your adventurous nature is often rewarded in the symphony of deliciousness that unfolds with your first bite. I can verify this is a thing. No, seriously, if you’re ever in Florence, head over to i due fratellini, order the cinghiale piccante con caprino and then come back here and tell me I changed your life.

Prosciutto panini
Prosciutto and provolone on a homemade bun, i due frattelini (please note the massive size of this amazing sandiwch).

The fact that someone can even question the greatness that is the sandwich breaks my heart. ‘Breaking bread’ is a time honoured tradition with friends and family, but why bother breaking it in the first place if you don’t intend on piling it high with amazing ingredients, revering it for what it is (the best sit down or on the go food around), and stuffing your face?

 

 

 

A True Sports Fan’s Guide to Playoff Hockey

So, your hometown team didn’t make the playoffs.  In fact, they went from being an absolute lock for a playoff spot and a contender for the Western Conference title to pathetically stumbling to the finish line with a team being held together by some scotch tape, glue and probably a lot of cortisone shots.

Now what? Pack up and go home for the summer? No, not this girl. I may not watch nearly as avidly or intently as I would during the regular season, but if it’s a good match up, and the potential for a knock-down drag-out series, I’m all over it. (See: Chicago v. St. Louis, Boston v. Montreal). I will get my butt out of bed for the crazily scheduled 10AM game on a Saturday morning. Hockey is hockey, and I for one think you should take what you can get, while you can still get it. (I’m looking at you, Gary-ye-of-the-lockout-happy-Bettman).

Sure, I could watch the Memorial, or World Championships, but the calibre of hockey would still not be as high as in the NHL. And, arguably, the guys playing for the Memorial or the World Championship title would MUCH rather be fighting for Lord Stanley’s Cup. I’m serious.  There’s a reason the Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy to win in professional sports. There are no first-round byes in hockey, 16 teams are in contention from the go,  MLB has 8 by comparison. You have to win 16 games to come out on top, or play up to 28. That is a LOT of hockey, if you factor in overtime, where 2 and 3OT is not a rare sight. That’s 2 60-minute games, in one night.

It takes a team to win this championship, a clutch 3-pointer, 70 yard end zone run, or home run isn’t going to seal the deal. The entire team, physically and mentally needs to persevere with each round, facing tougher opponents and ever-ailing bodies. 82 games a year, and another 28 in the playoffs at full throttle will wear on the best, and it certainly does. I mean seriously, who plays for a championship with a broken rib, separated right shoulder and a punctured lung? Hockey players, that’s who.

Stories like these of the injured players fighting as hard as they can, and their superstitions are the reason I still watch hockey this late in the year. I like to see who is arrogant enough to lift or touch the conference trophy on the way to the Stanley Cup Final, how their personalities change in locker-room interviews the closer they get to the holy grail. Call me a nerd, a geek, a silly fan (if you call me a puck bunny, you have another thing coming), but THIS is what hockey is all about. And this is why I don’t pack up and hang out by pool all summer, like Junior over there.

Playoffs

How to Deal When You Love Hockey, But Your Team Majorly Sucked This Season

Obviously, if you’ve read any of this blog in the past two years, you can safely determine that I am a tiny bit of a hockey fan. So, recently, faced with a new “my-Canucks-sucked-so-bad-they-didn’t-make-the-NHL-playoffs-and-oh-my-God-the-team-is-going-to-blow-up” world, a thought occurred to me. What’s it like to be a hockey fan in the depths of summer, when you have no one to cheer for? I posed this question to a friend of mine, we’ll call him Junior, and asked him to write his take of life deep into the most exciting time of the year, with nothing at all to be excited about. Is it really about the world’s best and most beautiful sport? Or do allegiances taint the love?

Junior:

It’s Wednesday, May 14th and the eyes of the hockey fans around world (really, mostly North America) are focused on the TD Boston Garden where the Bruins are set to face the Montreal Canadiens in Game 7 of their war of attrition 2nd round playoff series. As a Vancouver Canucks fan, you would think that I would be greatly anticipating the prospect of the Bruins’ season ending at home – to a Canadian hockey team no less.

The sad fact is: I just don’t really care either way. I guess it’s a symptom of watching your favourite team’s season end before the playoffs even begin. Without a vested interest in the NHL playoffs, you find yourself saying things like “that Marchand is a talented two way forward” and “Milan Lucic sure seems like a classy fellow.”  Yes – you can become a bandwagon fan for a few weeks and cheer for a feel good story – there’s nothing wrong with that. (Editor’s Note- There is, 100% absolutely something wrong with BOTH of these former statements, and I have supporting evidence to both, but I digress.) But if you have not spent an entire season following a team through its highs and lows (and being a Canucks fan, there have been plenty of crippling, deeply dark, lows lately), that emotional component that makes the road to the Stanley Cup so exhilarating is noticeably absent. In other words, I could give a duck. It’s impossible to feel good about hockey in general when you realize that in the span of about eight months, your team went from being a high-calibre, playoff ready squad, to having two rookies in net, lowest scoring totals in half a decade, and an injury list that could reach Los Angeles.

Playoff Hopes

 And this is how I have come to feel strangely indifferent about the NHL playoffs this spring without the Vancouver Canucks’ involvement. There were never any potential second or third round match ups to worry about. Never any lineup controversies to get into a heated argument discuss with co-workers. Never any ridiculous time pumping quotes to analyze. No, being a hockey fan come playoff time when your team does not even qualify for postseason play is an altogether dreary experience. It’s like knowing someone’s going to win the lottery, someone you know, maybe even like a little, and you’re not even getting a penny of it. Maybe admitting this fact makes me a sad excuse for a hockey fan, but it also makes me an honest hockey fan. I’m a one-team, and one-team only kind of guy.

 The rest of you can enjoy watching hockey well into June. I’ll be sitting by a swimming pool somewhere eagerly awaiting (and maybe dreading) October.

The One Where Her Guard Fell

I’ve been meaning to write something like this for a while, but never really had the cajones to do it. This last year has been tough, amazing, but tough, in all aspects of life. So I figure doing some cathartic writing therapy, before charging into 2014 was as good a time as any. This is going to get personal fast, but we all know I wear my heart on my sleeve. For better or worse.

The best way to attack this is to break it down, categorically. We’ll briefly touch on friendships, career(s), and love. Let’s dive in, shall we?

Friendship:
About a year ago, it became clear to me that someone I thought would be in my life forever, as my best friend, would not in fact be that person. I’ve been told time and again that people are in our lives sometimes for a certain length of time to teach us about ourselves, and move on. I firmly believe this was what she was to me now. We’ll call her AB. We had a great ride, I mean, I can honestly say that I have never, and likely will never pick up a girl at a bar again on St. Patrick’s Day, by offering to swap our dates for each other, and then end up leaving together without either of them. Upon moving back to Ottawa last year, she and I tried to dive right back in. Big mistake. A lot had changed for both of us, and we were not the same university students anymore. She decided to pull the rip cord, and I, though completely disapproving of her actions, did not push her. It is now a year later, and we have not spoken. Not to sound ungrateful, but her absence, though known,  has not necessarily been missed. Sure, I recall fondly our time together, memories and conversations. But my life has not suffered for it, there is no void. When I realized this, about 6 months into my imposed friendship exile, I knew I was at peace with it. I wish her only the best in life, hold no ill will, and thank her for everything she has taught me. This is not a conclusion that would have come so easily to me in the past. I would sit and over analyze it, pick apart everything said and figure out how to fix it. I fight for people I love, and friendships sometimes to a fault, and I know now that it’s ok to let someone step back if they need to, they’ll come back if they are meant to be in your life. Frankly, if I had gone into past-Meera-psycho-mode, I think this situation would be a lot more miserable than it was, and I don’t think either of us would have been OK with that.

Career(s):
If I can say one thing about 2013, it is that I have legitimately worked my ass off. (No, seriously, my ass is smaller than it used to be, I’m pissed). I have held down, at any given time, anywhere between one to four jobs, and at full steam put in 70-80 work weeks. Everything about my life at that time was amazing and miserable simultaneously. You know when people say that they really value work-life balance? Let’s just say I didn’t believe in it. While working these crazy hours, I sacrificed my health, my sanity, friends wondered who the zombie-like brown girl was in the room, and the person in my life took matters into their own hands, and turned off my cellphone, and laptop to just get me to watch a football game with him. This job consumed me. It came to a bit of an abrupt end, which absolutely caught me off guard, but also gave me a healthy dose of reality. I knew what I wanted out of a mentor, a boss, and this person did not fit the bill. Losing that job got me back to BC, (the place of my last missing mojo crisis) but this time I was coming back with my tail between my legs, but my head held high. Part of that mojo loss was placing expectations others had for me, above those of my own. I can’t function that way, especially when those people (the closest to me), do it out of love. I understand their concern, but them worrying about me, and constantly voicing their opinion on the matter became suffocating the last time. I knew that coming in, and asked for my space. Lo and behold, it took a while, but employment came in a tidal wave, and I am glad to say I am finishing off the year in a good place, and in Vancouver, somewhat permanently.*

Love:
Love is a fickle, unforgiving bitch. OK, maybe not totally true, but I have a point! I can honestly say that this past couple of years, I was in love, in lust, and just plain bored. Let’s begin with bored. You know when friends tell you that you should take up a hobby? Maybe actually take up a hobby, and don’t do what I did- date someone as a social experiment, realize you do like them a bit, but not as much as they you, and then brutally dump them hastily before a party because that wasn’t part of the plan. No one likes a bitch, let me tell you. Boy A, let’s call him, met me at a time where someone I like to refer to as “bored-Meera” showed up. She’s got a job, got a good group of friends, and decides to bring in some companionship to boot. Nothing serious, a dalliance, someone to go out with, spend some time with and then say thank you and move along. All-in-all a solid plan, until it blows up in your face. Boy A ended up falling for me a bit, this was a no-no. Not in the plans, and not what I wanted. I chose him for external factors that seemed to be ideally suited for where I was mentally at the time, and then he went and threw the caring wrench into it. Sorry to say, that relationship ended (on relatively good terms), we went our separate ways, and I fell in lust.

Enter #2, Hulk. Here was someone who was smart, funny, loved football (and played it too!), and seemingly loved a lot about me. The duper became the duped here. This is a situation where I thoroughly thought there was something substantial going on with us, assumed the feeling was mutual and never sought to clarify. This went on eight months. Note to future Meera: always clarify, it saves you a lot of time, and a lot of looking like a ass. Had I clarified, this could have been a mutually beneficial situation, instead, I was a little surly and a little upset for a time, but I got over it. I can say, looking back on my time with Hulk, I regret nothing, we were great fun while it lasted, it was nice to feel like a real woman, (my girls know what I mean), and I harbour no grudges. If anything, I thank him for making me realize the massive douche-nozzle (real term, I said so) I was to Boy A up there, and I am better for it.

The final chapter, #3. The one where her guard fell down. Hulk up there, he taught me to not be a jerk, but he also taught me to have my guard up, and not drop it so easily any more. Enter the Magnet. Something about this person has always kept me interested for the greater part of a decade. Be that on a mental, physical, spiritual level. He is the type of person that makes me so furious when we talk because he constantly challenges me on everything, but that can say one word or phrase and I give up. He had said, repeatedly since we had been together that we were going to change each other, whether we intended to or not. The Magnet was 100% correct. My constant questioning of his carefree nature and live in the moment attitude balanced out his lack of observation for the rules of relationships that I adhere to. I fell hard, fast, and absolutely was in denial of it, until it was too late. Magnet is the type of person who says whatever is on his mind about you, and “we” and does not question it. That’s a scary thing, to be presented with someone who cares for you so fiercely that they say, honestly so, they see a future with you. And when in my sarcastic nature challenge them to paint it out, the illustration is so realistic is scares the shit out of you. As we know, I am the take what you say with a grain of salt type person, and Magnet managed to beat that side out of me. I began to believe him, and eventually I saw it too, clearly. I told him I finally got what he was talking about, and I was in. If you could have seen the look on his face, it was like a kid that was just told “hey, it’s Christmas morning everyday for a year, oh, and you can eat ice cream for breakfast too”. His reaction to my revelation? “Finally, now I’m not the only one in this.”  You know it’s a bad break-up when I’m the one trying to hold back an all out sob because he emailed you to end things because shit got real for him. That’s when I knew precisely how bad it was. I don’t cry over men, I haven’t in a while, because I’m just as happy in a relationship as I am out. This just pulled the rug out from under me. Suddenly all of the trials I had been through the past year or two didn’t matter as much. My heart dropped, my breath went shallow: no, not him. It was a slap in the face, and kick in the gut at the same time. And moreover, email? WHO THE HELL DOES THAT? He was right, our relationship did change me, he gave me a sense of clarity in what I want in a partner, he also cleared up the what I don’ts. So, thank you Magnet, for finally answering the what-if. Our timing has, and likely always will be off, but I know I think perhaps you were more caught up in the idea of us than the reality of us. We will always be messy, complicated, tricky to navigate, and it could be glorious, or a disaster. We both knew there would be no in-between. Because, if you weren’t, you’d have stayed and fought. Let’s face it, you’re the first person who ever told me I was worth fighting for, and fortunately, that is the one thing that has not changed.

This verbal rant fills the void of blog posts from the fall, (see above writings for reasonings why), and also serves as a verbal confirmation that yes, I am doing all right, thank you. So 2014, I look to you for bigger, better and more enlightening occurrences.  Until then, enough real talk, I have a spiked hot chocolate with my name on it waiting for me.

I leave you with words of wisdom sent to me from the aforementioned best friend and bride of earlier this year:

2653703

How To Torment Your Dog, As Seen By A 13-Month Old

Last week, I had the pleasure of being able to stay home and look after my sister’s family, and her adorable 13-month old daughter, who had a bad fever and ear infection. Before I get into the havoc she unleashed on the family pet, Bauer, I’d like to make a note of a few more random observations made this week.

Firstly, taking care of a sick child is like playing a game of chicken with a super-illness waiting to attack you. There is no where to run and hide, you WILL get sick, this is inevitable. You can immunize, shore up your vitamin C defences all you like, but all of it is futile. One tiny human managed to get 3 adult humans sick in the span of 24 hours, to varying degrees of potency. This transfer of illness has still not left us, and it’s been a week, thanks child.

Second, if I had to do this full time, I would be run ragged very quickly, so huge props to all the parents, and single parents out there reading this blog. For my week, I had two “kids”, the tiny human and Bauer, between the two of them, naps, diapers, feeding, cooking, and cleaning by the time 5 p.m. rolled around I probably would have paid someone to take over for an hour or two.

Now on to how my niece decided to occupy herself at home this week. As I mentioned, Bauer has been around the family for some time. He’s three years old now, and an old hand around the house. He runs this show. Correction, he ran this show. He has had three years to stake out his space, preferred space on the couch and general routine. Sorry buddy, the tiny human just railroaded your hard-plotted plans. 

My niece started off the week trying to hesitantly creep up to him to pat him. A harmless action and a pretty easy-going pup, it’s a win-win. He let her get just close enough and then scampered off to freedom. She then grew slowly more confident. I caught her belly flopping on his bed forcing him out of his own space. He didn’t complain, just found somewhere else to go hide out. A couple hours later, she figured out that he had the ability to walk like her, trouble was brewing.

The tiny human proceeded to chase him from place to place giggling all the way. She really upped her game though, when she realized that if she clapped her stackable cups together, in his face, he happened to move a little quicker. Queue the toddler chasing dog around the house banging cups together and laughing maniacally all the way. I admit, I do feel bad for him, he’s had all this time to himself and the peace and quiet, and “it” comes along and throws a wrench into everything.

Day three, she still hasn’t gotten enough amusement. B’s sleeping and snoring the morning away on his bed, and in walks the tiny human, who decides it’s her bed too. She belly-flops right beside him and catches his tail. A giggle and a bark arises, and soon, I see a tricoloured tail bolting past me to go anywhere that wasn’t here.

Another golden moment when I realized B was really just over having the tiny human around was playtime in her room. Sprawled on the floor reading books and babbling away, the tiny human was in her own world until she set her sights on him. I have to hand it to him, he’s a smart pooch. Crawling behind the rocking chair in to the crevice of space between the chair frame and the wall to hide, he’s little patch of serenity now. She tried as hard as she could, and just could not reach him, tough luck.

I’m sure the older and more dexterous she gets, the more tormented he’ll be. In the meantime, I’ll continue to document her reign of terror.

Church is in Session (The NHL is upon us)

The first week of October is brings with it many great things. Pumpkins start arriving on porches throughout my neighbourhood; the few deciduous trees in my lovely province begin to turn elegant shades of yellow, orange and red;  and cooler temperatures arrive, meaning sweater weather is upon us. Best of all, this means I can dust off my superstitions and get ready for another year for heart palpitating, anger-inducing and family-tie-testing hockey.

Yes, it’s Christmas in October for us die-hard fans. This year is especially great, coming off an NHL lockout that tested loyalties last year, a new collective bargaining agreement in place and rosters set, we can finally get rolling on a real season. I mentioned superstitions before, and I was not kidding. I take hockey very seriously. Last night, the first game of the season was on deck for my team, the Vancouver Canucks. I never, ever, watch the first game of the season. The handful of season openers I have watched, we’ve lost, embarrassingly so.

It’s for this reason I did my absolute best to avoid it on TV last night. Unsurprisingly, my brother-in-law turned it on at one point. Of course, I couldn’t look away. What was the result? Up 1-0 after two periods, and lost 4-1. I told them. I explicitly said, I don’t want to watch it, I can’t. So, thanks RDK, thanks a whole damn lot. I mean, sure, the Canucks historically seriously suck in October, but we didn’t need to start off with a loss.

Now begins 8 months of agony and boundless gloating. Things on the family front will stay stagnant until about December, then with the holiday cheer will come new levels of torment from kin and friends. This is life in Canada. People actually do get together on Saturday nights to “watch the game(s)”, it is our past-time. The Americans have baseball, football and Budweiser. We have hockey, poutine and Don Cherry. It’s just how the cookie crumbled.

Buckle up, gang this blog will continue to have light hockey commentary until hopefully June 2014. Next year is the year that keeps on giving in that sense, NHL and the Sochi Games will take place, and hopefully a Canadian repeat is in store for gold.

The One Where She Ate Her Words

What I am experiencing today can most succinctly be described as disappointment. This will be a brief post. I can, without a doubt, launch into a retrospective diatribe of the Canucks play this post season, blown calls, missed glorious scoring chances, and puck luck.  But I’m not going to. No, this season will likely be summed up by pundits and amateurs as the “their-last-chance” season. I agree with this for the most part, some changes need to be made, an aging team is a hard thing to hide and pretend nothing is wrong, unless you’re the Detroit Red Wings and draft/develop players with wizard-like efficiency.

I will say one thing, with respect to last night’s game. My boys definitely laid everything on the ice. They hit hard, shot often, and were out duelled by the hungrier team. Surely plenty of changes will occur this off season, or in a shocking move, none at all. In any case, even though I know for sure that no one at the Canucks organization will read this, I say simply one thing: Thank you. The Canucks are a hell of a team to cheer for, one I am proud to say I have been behind for 20 years. From top to bottom, management to coaching staff, and in particular the players, they give back to the community in a lot of anonymous ways. This is not unnoticed by those of us who know where to look. To those of you who stick around for next season, I hope you have a rested summer, come back healthier, stronger, and fully recuperated from whatever the hell ailed you this year. To the departing, thanks for the memories, (well, maybe not you, Derek Roy, we never really got to know you, or like you).

Until training camp, boys.

thankyoufromvan

Hockey Heartbreak

I am writing this in advance of my team’s fourth (and potentially final) game of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.  I am by no means admitting defeat, in any way shape or form, of my beloved Canucks to the San Jose Sharks.

Today, I am here to confess that I am a hockey instigator. In no way do I claim to know all about hockey, rather the opposite.  However, I am no slouch. I know teams, most relevant stats, player statuses and rumours inside and out. It is this knowledge that becomes my best friend and mortal enemy during playoff season.  You see, I am not what one would call a “silent spectator”. Sure, I watch games in relative silence, I enjoy the peace, for goodness sakes we all know I have to watch the first period of a regular season game on mute! Playoff hockey brings out the Jekyll in me. I am a raging, high-strung, stressed-out, heart-racing, clawing-at-my-jersey, monster. A monster. There, I said it.

This can best be exemplified by my actions last Friday evening. I was having a girls day out, ending of course in time for puck drop to go spend the evening with my boys. We watched Ottawa and Montreal play, Montreal winning 3-1, and I convinced the keeper of the remote to play the Vancouver-San Jose game immediately after. Down after 20 minutes, Ryan Kesler (Kes-lord to you plebes), strapped the Canucks on his back to score twice in the third, ensuring a Canucks win, with a minute left to play, right?  Wrong. Patrick Marleau, ever invisible, scored the game-tying-goal at 19:04 in the final frame.

Now, until this point, I was quiet. Occasionally looking skyward, praying to the hockey gods for a goal or four to break the opposing goalie’s Berlin Wall-esque demeanour. There were  a few groans on bad hockey plays, and a few instances of shouting at the TV while the boys looked on at me in disbelief. I only acutely resembled this guy, I swear!

At 19:04 of the third, everything changed. I made the quick decision to split, immediately.  Forcing myself to bust-my-butt to get home for the start of overtime (OT).  I explained to the boys that I did not want them to see me “that way”, and scurried out the door. You see, OT makes me freak out. The sit in a corner of my room, rock back and forth and repeat “come on boys” kind of freak out. I am a mess when it comes to sudden-death overtime, why? Because that’s it. That’s all she wrote. No re-dos, no play out the rest of the period, that’s it.  Your goose is effectively cooked, and being down 2-0 in a series is never, ever a good thing, even worse when your next two games of a seven game series are in the other team’s house. Last Friday, I made it home for OT. I loaded up a stream in time to hear iron ring and pray to God that puck hit the post a few inches inside the bar, and not out.  God did not answer those prayers. A minute later, the Sharks scored, the game was over and my team is headed for what many feel is a second consecutive ousting in the first round of the playoffs.

Losing did not sting as badly as it should have. Losing in OT, when your team out hustled, out hit and out shot the winners is the stinger.  This, friends, is hockey heartbreak, and this is why I am writing this today, ahead of game four, down 0-3 in the series with supposedly no hope left. Friday night was heartbreak night, Sunday was time to be enthused and hopeful for 40 minutes, and then watch your team implode night. I have hope. There will be a game 5, at least. There has to be, because if not, I have to hear it from my “friends”, the Leafs fans, in particular, who after 9 years of ridicule, shame, and constantly cheering for a team who fails to live up to expectations, they will seek their revenge.

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Ch-ch-changes

In life, sometimes we all need to take a risk from time to time, if only to spice up the ordinary by trying a new cuisine, or more drastic options, such as packing up your life and moving clear across the country on a wing and a prayer. As most of you may have gathered by now, I am not one for the small gesture. For me, if a change needs to happen, it needs to be balls-to-the-wall or not at all, otherwise it won’t have nearly the impact desired.

Long story short, it’s been just over a month since my last post, I no longer call Vancouver “home”, and find myself 3542km across the country in Ottawa with friends who happen to be like family to me, trying to start the next chapter of my life. This decision was not made lightly at all. Sure, I flipped back and forth on it for the greater half of the summer and ultimately, this was a decision that wasn’t a choice at all. A shift had to occur in my life anyway, and what better place to go than somewhere with legitimate job prospects and a solid as steel support system?

It’s been one week since I’ve arrived. Yes, it feels rather surreal to not see my family or friends in Vancouver daily or weekly. Yes, it feels surreal to see my friends here in Ottawa daily or weekly. This will all taking some adjusting and getting used to. Can I do it? Absolutely. Do I have any regrets? As of right now, no. I can’t say with 100% confidence (more like, 95%) that this is where I am meant to be. However, I can say with 100% certainty that I am not meant to be in Vancouver right now. That’s all the clarity I need for the moment. I know that’s not a lot of assurances to go on for most people, my family members included. Most of them are worried for me, scared of what may or may not come to fruition for me. I completely understand and respect that. However, sometimes following your gut pays off, and my gut hasn’t been this settled on a choice I’ve made in a long time. It’s hard to convey that feeling to people who don’t function that way; the people who need quantitative facts and figures to weigh their options and then take the appropriate course of action. Perhaps it’s a generational gap kind of thing, or a miscommunication of sorts. Regardless, here I am, and here I will be for the foreseeable future.

I find it amazing how much information the human brain can retain. It has only been one week since I’ve moved here, and 3 years since I last officially lived here. In a lot of ways, nothing and everything has changed. My internal navigation system hasn’t quite failed me yet (thank goodness). The surreal feeling I was referring to above is mainly to do with my friends. People I rely upon daily through the wonderful advances in technology, and now they are in front of me- tangibly. My male roommate and friend pointed this out to me a short few hours ago. Our “brunches” we reserved for each other on Sundays when I lived here can now occur at any moment, I just need to ask. It’s the little things like that, the safety nets I didn’t quite realize I needed that let me know things will be OK.

As the quote says above, 20 seconds of insane courage was all it took for me to start my next chapter. I’m not sure what will be written of it, but I can promise it will be entertaining, heartfelt, full of life experiences, and most importantly, all of my own doing.