December, 2010

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Not Pittsburgh (Day 4+): Back on the road to…happiness?

Not Pittsburgh, PA Today I was supposed to get on an airplane that would take me to the Philippines for two months of “work.” There are worst things in life than spending the winter on a tropical beach, that’s for sure. However, it was not to be, and I’ve started to realize that I have too much unfinished business in the hockey world to be able to start something new and not be tempted to look back. I set a goal for myself a couple years ago to experience the game at all thirty of the National Hockey League cities. The reason for this was simply that I loved hockey so much that I wanted to see what the other lovers of the game saw from their seats at rinks across North America. I wanted to meet the fans, eat the food, and watch their teams go into battle if only for one night. Before I left for Korea, I had been to twenty-three out of the thirty arenas, and those last seven rinks are like a storm cloud hanging over me.

During my first post-Korea hockey road trip, I started to have second thoughts about being back in North America. If there was one good thing about Korea, it was that life wasn’t real. Now that I’m back, I wake up every morning and I’m faced with reality: family, friends, finances, responsibility. Every day is like a nail in the woodworking of my future. It’s just so… real. I started to experience a lot of regrets while I was in New York. I started to feel like I had made a bad decision, and that now I was going to have to live with not only the consequences, but the reality that there is nothing better waiting for me on this side of the world.

I had to leave Michelle’s house at 3AM that morning. So while she was sleeping, I had a lot of time to kill with the wi-fi. For some reason a bunch of my Korea-based friends decided to message me all at once. They all complained about how their lives have been boring since I’ve left, and how miserable they are now. And if that didn’t make me feel guilty enough, I was informed that my boss in Korea died suddenly a few days before. I know my disappearance caused a lot of unnecessary stress on the higher ups of the organization, so a part of me wonders if that stress contributed to his untimely demise. He was only in his fifties. He, like most of us, lived alone, and so by the time they found him it was too late. Although, I’ve seen and heard stories of foreigners suffering all sorts of illnesses and untimely fates while in Korea, I wasn’t any less shocked to receive the news that night.

I found myself on yet another monumental quest. I had to somehow find my way from New Jersey to LaGuardia. This trip was hard. I like having my car with me. Waa! Between bus rides, and wandering around Manhattan in the middle of the night, and in the freezing cold, I was pretty quick to accept a ride from a hotel limo while I was contemplating giving up the shuttle option. I was headed back to Buffalo to pick up my car and head back home. I had been on the fence all weekend about heading to Pittsburgh for the Coyotes game. I haven’t been to the new rink in Pittsburgh yet, obviously, so I have to give Steel Town another visit to complete my mission. However, touching down in Buffalo only to hit the road again was all too familiar. “Don’t go down that road again. You don’t need that bullshit.” I stopped myself from going, and did the mature thing and just went home, but not before my driver that night gave me something to think about.

The driver was a bit of a strange one between asking to go for coffee with me, and his various bits of advice, but one thing he said really made my ears perk up. Out of nowhere he starts giving me a lecture on happiness. I found this very bizarre as this advice was prompted by nothing. He told me that no matter what I do, I need to make sure that I’m happy. Jobs, money, everything should be second to my happiness. He told me that my mandate should be to make the person I see in the mirror happy each and every day. What was stranger still was that two more people would randomly give me the same advice that day.

This was very relevant advice. All night I was having second thoughts and regrets that I had done the wrong thing when I decided to fly home, but the truth was I was really unhappy in that final stretch in Korea. And in terms of hockey, hockey does make me happy, and sadly the team that I like to follow the most is Phoenix. Remember what I said about not being able to go back? Sometimes you get exposed to something, and suddenly everything else just isn’t as good. The Phoenix experience, for me, is always really amusing. Whether it’s good or bad, I don’t experience that kind of drama with any other team, and so, sometimes, the other teams just bore me. I still wouldn’t go to Pittsburgh that day, I wanted to give myself some time to think. It took days before I decided the fate of the Phoenix Coyotes in the Psycho Lady story. Now, I’m not stupid. There’s some drama and bullshit I’m not willing to put up with for the sake of entertainment. So, I’ve decided to give Phoenix one more shot, one final game to determine if they are the team that I’m still willing to follow. If so much as one thing goes wrong this time, I will take it as a sign, a sign I arguably should have processed years ago, that it’s time to move onto the next one.

See you in Minnesota.

Top Photo: I’m not really a fan of this pic, but one thing that always struck me about it was how happy I looked. Philadelphia Flyers @ Boston Bruins March 3rd, 2009.

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Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Long Island (Day 3): The Saga (Coyotes@Islanders)

Long Island, NY If I learned anything from the Coyotes/Islanders game at Nassau Coliseum, it was that I can now completely understand why the Isles are at a loss for fans. Now don’t get huffy! This has nothing to do with the team itself, the fans, or even the questionable moves made by the front office (which can only suggest that the organization itself is a bit messed up at multiple levels). No, the problem with the Islanders is quite simply Long Island. Instead of presenting a well thought out argument to try and convince you of this fact, I will simply present the events of my journey to and from the game that fateful Saturday.

My first visit to the worst arena in the league (a.k.a. Nassau Coliseum) was back in March of the 2008-09 season. This visit was part of my “Mystical Six Game Road Trip,” which took me to Boston, Buffalo, Long Island, Detroit, and Newark over a span of eleven days. Despite the arena, my first Long Island experience was not as unpleasant as it was this time, though even then I remember encountering horrible hotels, and extremely rude people. I remember walking into that Marriott across from the arena when a guy came up behind me and said, “Now that ass needs to get f***ed!” This was pre-Korea, so I was likely very offended by this statement at the time. However, what I would learn this time around was that my experience last time wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been because I had the luxury of my car (then, Lupie RIP) to keep me from the majority of the unpleasantness that is Long Island. This time I would experience Long Island the way a New Yorker would, and, quite frankly, I don’t blame any of them for staying away.

The day began at Michelle’s house, a (normally) twenty minute bus ride from Manhattan. As Michelle would learn firsthand, there is a reason I’m called PSYCHO (Puck/Hockey) Lady, and that reason is that I will go absolutely postal if anyone or anything stands in the way of me and a hockey game. Game day is usually a fairly anxious time, and while most New York area residents tend to plan their commute to the minute, I, however, don’t care for it. We crunched the numbers several times, but I didn’t trust the punctuality of the New York transit line. We decided to leave three hours earlier than the time we wanted to be there. We ended up being twenty minutes late! Luckily that was still forty minutes before puck drop! And we thought we’d have a lot of time to kill…

The bus, for some reason, decided to take an hour to get to Manhattan. Apparently in New York more people drive on Saturday than during the week. From there we took a dizzying amount of trains and subways. The journey lasted what seemed like forever. By the time we arrived at the train station in Long Island, we were already late, and I was a ticking time bomb ready to explode on the next unsuspecting civilian. That unlucky person was a Long Island taxi driver parked outside Hempstead station. I’m not what you would call a patient person. I don’t like to be kept waiting, and I especially don’t like to be kept waiting when I’m already supposed to be at the rink. The super-douche decided to keep us waiting because he wanted to wait until some other game goers came along to fill the cab so he could charge us more money. Well… seeing that we were in Long Island and Islanders attendance is low, I knew there was more than a slight chance that two extra fans would be hard to find. Naturally, I had something to say (read: yell) about this to not only the cunty taxi driver (pardon my French), but also to some fans that were just standing around completely oblivious, and, in other words, not in the cab so we could get moving. However, it wasn’t until the driver said, “The game isn’t until 7, you have plenty of time still,” that I really threw a shit storm. If you don’t want to have your throat ripped out through your ass, hockey land, then don’t ever, EVER, say those words to me – EVER! I travel far and wide for the unique game experience at hockey arenas the world over. If I’m not there when the gates open, I feel like I’m missing out on something, and thusly, not getting the most for my efforts. Don’t ever cross me!

Twenty minutes, and a bus ride later, we were finally at Nassau Coliseum. Yup, still shitty, just as I remembered it! Michelle and I had a bit of a surprise when we learned our seats were actually on the glass behind the Phoenix bench. I was under the impression they were located somewhere in the section next to the visiting bench….yikes… Luckily the game wasn’t as awkward as it could have been. It was kind of nice to see Phoenix play again. It had been nearly eleven months since our last encounter in Detroit last January. Hell, I’ve seen their farm team play more recently! The Coyotes even won that game! The only one they would win on the entire road trip. Two points to the Psycho Lady! Also, I had nearly forgotten about the ornament to the Coyotes bench, and by that I mean Taylor Pyatt. Bambi has a message for you, Pyatt, click here to read it! The other ornament, however, I could hardly forget. I’m of course referring to Vice Coach DILF, Ulf Samuelsson. I know some of you were upset that he was blocking my camera time, but I certainly didn’t mind! Oh, I should mention that, according to the Islanders fans, I’m apparently still married to one of the Phoenix Coyotes. Some things never change, eh?

After the game we waited, and waited, and waited for a bus to take us back to the train station. Someone was going to die if I attempted the Long Island taxi system again. Since the bus took a lifetime to come, we must have missed the first train out, and were stuck in a horrible part of town in the middle of the night. The train station was closed, and so we found refuge in some grease pit of a restaurant a block away so as not to freeze to death. We ordered some food after some local drag queens had their meals sorted out. I’d like to point out that they looked much better than this one! The Adam’s Apple is too obvious in this one. However, our meal would not go peacefully.

I wasn’t one bite into my gyro before two shady characters spotted me through the window, and came into the restaurant to “hit on” me for the next twenty minutes. I use quotation marks because it didn’t feel like flirting it felt more like intimidation tactics. The restaurant owner was clearly put off by their presence and asked them to leave to no avail. One of the men got really angry because the owner asked him not to bother me. Now, I’ve just come back from Korea. For the last seven months cars following me home, pimps offering me work, and men trying to break into my apartment were my everyday realities. I don’t scare or intimidate easily, but the forcefulness in the tone this guy used on the owner put me on high alert. If I had to describe it, I would liken it to the way a bank robber (or the like) would address the hostages he had corralled onto the floor.

I decided it was best not to show any unease over the situation. Michelle was taking the don’t-look-up-don’t-make-eye-contact approach. I needed to come up with a fake but real identity to get out without any problems. I had already asserted that I was en route to the airport. I decided to maintain that I was this pig I went to high school with. I’ve seen some pretty ridiculous shit from jealous women writing this blog alone, but in high school this girl definitely took the cake. The girl’s beef with me was that people often confused us for one another – from the back no less. She decided to make it her mission in life to convince people that I was always trying to copy her look, and basically wanted to be her. Here’s what makes the story amusing. We went to a Catholic high school, which means we wore the same short skirts, and knee high socks, and shirts as all the other girls in that school. I guess I wasn’t aware that wearing your hair in a ponytail (on most days) was a hairstyle she had patented and alone could use. What’s even funnier still is that she’s a quadruplet and has two other sisters that actually look EXACTLY like her. You think she wouldn’t be so sensitive. I should also note that this actually caused more problems for me than it should have because people are irrational in high school. Anyway, I finally fulfilled my lifelong fantasy of being this girl while I was with these two questionable hoodlums, and I was more than willing to make sure they got the spelling of her last name just right when they basically threatened to not let me leave unless I gave them my phone number or Facebook – tee hee! Now you get yours, pig!

Satisfied with the acquisition of the train wrecked gopher’s Facebook, Michelle and I were finally able to escape to the safety of the train station. It was after two in the morning when we finally got back to Michelle’s place. Doing a multiple hour commute for a losing hockey team in a vile arena is just not appealing. Sure, if you live in Long Island, then I feel like you don’t have much of an excuse not to show up, especially when you can get tickets for nothing. However, I can understand why those living on the outskirts would be quick to find other forms of entertainment. Think about it. In terms of the three New York area teams, the Islanders come up short. In Manhattan the Rangers offer hockey lovers the prestige and history that comes with an Original Six franchise. In Newark, the Devils offer fans a swanky new arena, which always makes the atmosphere on game day a lot better. Also, both Prudential Center and Madison Square Garden are convenient to get to by public trans. What do the Islanders offer? Not much! And that arena is absolutely annihilating them. Do I smell Toronto’s second team on the horizon?

Right from when I woke up that morning the air felt heavy and ominous. I was all too familiar with this feeling. It was the same feeling I had prior to some of my other more unfortunate hockey excursions like St. Louis, Colorado, and Detroit last season. It’s that feeling you get when you know something bad or significant is about to happen. Truthfully, I began to feel this way while I was watching the Rangers/Coyotes game in that restaurant in Manhattan two days before. So, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised by the unpleasant series of events that day. The question is was there some deeper meaning as to why this game went go so badly? I found myself wondering if it was time to put Phoenix behind me for good.

Top Photo: If you squint it looks like it says, “CUMIE!” You know it’s been a few weeks when…

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