na foine ting
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Today I walked a couple of miles of the Croton Aqueduct with Lili. Or rather Lili rode in the baby backpack and I walked.
It's only a few hours' drive from West Roxbury to Hastings-on-Hudson, where Becca's mom lives. The small towns along the Hudson here feel like they're virtually unchanged from the eighteenth century; some of the buildings are just that old, some built to imitate their neighbors. Just across the street from the house here a bunch of locals duked it out with maurading Hessians during the Revolutionary War: The Battle of Edgar's Lane, fought from the road back to the ravine, the commemorative plaque says.
The battle site is now a small park, baseball diamond and community gardens. Behind it runs the Aqueduct, barely recognizable for what it is; today even the small footpath was covered in fallen leaves and I almost missed it.
But the gap between rows of houses is continuous, and here and there, the dirt path is uncovered, wet with winter rains.
Lili and I walked along, maples bent over us and the occasional leaf drifting down.
I haven't been out in the woods much since Lili was born, and this was unexpected and welcomed quiet, moments where I couldn't hear anything but the sound of the wind in leaves.
Lili's content in the backpack, sometimes offering the occasional chuckle or comment, but for the better part of two hours, seemed all right with the trees and quiet and cold bitter enough that I kept my hands in my pockets despite the exercise.
According to the Captain Underpants books, my Professor Poopypants officially changed name is:
And while I'm on the topic of perfection, thank you again, Chris.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
This is really all I have to say today:
The Llama Song
Friday, November 11, 2005
We're worlds apart where we could meet
Where the street fold round and the motors start
And the idiot wields the power
Where the chosen hold the highest card
On the field of honour where the ground is hard
So the highest hand is joking wild
And the house soon fold and no one stand
I put my finger on and dialled
The tower, the moon, the gun and
Nine nine nine, singer down
Cloudburst and all around
The first are last, the blessed get wired
The best is yet to come
I put my finger on and fired
Heat-seeking, out of the sun
You can set the controls for the heart or the knees
And the meek'll inherit what they damn well please
Get ahead, go figure, go ahead and pull the trigger
Everything under the gun
I lied when I said that his hands on me didn't scare me. Or if I didn't say that exactly, I painted it as a triumph because I'd survived, I'd kept playing piano the entire time it happened. That time, all the times, literally or metaphorically. I was scared, and I still am. It's dual, though. Part of me flinches, part of me recoils sometimes, part of me thinks the worst thing that could happen would be touch I didn't want, again. But there's an equal part of me dying for it. Wanting it. Yearning for someone to do that to me now. So I can turn around and kill the motherfucking son of a bitch.
I am scared, in the end, of not being charming, brilliant, clever, witty, loving, no vital enough to people that they can disengage and walk away and never come back. That some day you or she or someone who matters will write me a letter, and send it certified mail saying "I can't. Goodbye."
I am terrified that no one's listening. That I will fall down and no one will be there. This has happened several times and I've survived it fine, but it doesn't stop the fear.
When I was little, every day was full of markets and streets and sidewalks and alleys full of children with sores and distended stomachs, who watched me go by and even at five I knew the rift. Sensed it, could feel it. I used to have a dream I was in our old green VW bug driving through the red dust in Ghana. Outside, children ran by the car, begging and pleading. Help for something. Famine. Lost hope. Nuclear war. Loneliness. Poverty. When we stopped, my dad reached over and rolled up the window, so their hands slipped down the glass and their voices were muffled.
I'm frightened of the window. Of its closing, and being caught on either side.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
We got a locker room today. We'd been changing next to the ice, which I've done before and I don't mind, it's just cold, that's all. But now we have a locker room, with wood stalls and hooks to hang things on, a nice floor and heat.
Cock and hiney. Cock and hiney everywhere.
I don't know if it's a cultural difference, or maybe Paul let it be known I'm lesbian (half right, anyway). But the game was over and gear and jocks and... well, everything hit the floor, and there it all was.
Whoa. Whoa fuckin' nelly.
Welcome to Boston, Kate.
Brian's advice was good.
I sat on the bench and chanted "into the net" to myself a few dozen times, and watched Rachel warm up. Everyone has talked about her. Reverent tones. Like Radar and Bach, in that M*A*S*H episode. "Ahhhh, Rachel." Sage nod.
I introduced myself to her in the locker room (that was before the sudden cock cornucopia, which Rachel missed), and she smiled and was polite, but when I came out on the ice today she more or less ignored me.
She'd brought her own pucks, and had them arrayed in front of the net. Practicing wristers. Right pocket, left pocket, back, top bar *ping*. Right pocket, left pocket, back, top bar *clang*. Right pocket, left pocket, back --
I kept waiting for her to miss. Once.
Then she backed up two feet and started all over again.
There was a low mist hanging on the ice, and she was bent into it, away from me. I took a cue, and left her and that half of the ice well alone.
Some of the guys came out, and we all skated around in the fog, which was rising now, and there were five of us on one half, and Rachel on the other, and there might as well have been a wall as well as the fog between us.
The best player there, a young guy who wears a motheaten blue jersey and tribal necklace, and skates like a man possessed, grinned widely at me as he came on. He's offered me a lot of opportunites on the ice. Lots of passes, even after I've missed them all. Today he came out and warmed up, and then I happened to look over and catch his glance and a puck sailed my way. Cross ice; a hard, fast pass. Since it wasn't a critical game situation, I caught it easily, handled it once and sent it back, just as hard.
I came up on the net and another guy at the right faceoff circle tapped his stick for my puck. I passed it and continued to the net and forgot to pick up the return pass to shoot. He grinned, shrugged, skated off.
Rachel continued to shoot on the other net, uninterrupted.
Today was different. Short benches, with everyone headed into the holiday tomorrow. No Virginnie, no other women besides me, and Rachel didn't count because apparently she didn't get Donne's memo, or maybe she thought it didn't apply to women.
The mood was a lot more like what I'm used to, and when play started, I got smiles, a joke or two. Good natured ribbing, the kind that makes me know things are OK, I'm OK, it's OK that I'm there.
We played 4 on 4. 4 on 4 on regulation ice, with hands down the fastest skaters I've ever played pickup with. It was brutal. Fast, relentless, brutal. No time to sit, with only two men on the bench. No wind, no air.
Rachel played a detached, perfect game. I watched her and thought, fuck. That's how it looks when you're pro. She wasn't even trying, and no one could touch her anyway.
But the guys weren't all about her. Instead suddenly I was getting barked at and nagged, and for the first time since I started there, guys backed off me.
It used to make me wild. I'd yell something like "don't give me the puck! I won't learn if you baby me!" Or something stupid like that.
Because it is stupid.
These guys are all leagues and leagues beyond me. They've played for Harvard, they've played for MIT, they've played for Canadian juniors teams. They've played for decades. And I've come to learn that the minute I step up and take advantage, they'll notch up the level, baby me a little less. And then again, and again.
And you know what? I get better, in increments, that way.
So today when I got the puck right about the blue line and started chanting "into the net, into the net" to myself, the entire ice full of men (not Rachel, she'd left early without a word to me other than "puck bag, please. And water bottle") started hollering "SKATE, SKATE!" or "take it in!" or "go... wait, what's your name, again?"
A fuck of a time for introductions, but I had a good feeling because time was slowing down. And it wasn't just because the guys were backing off me.
Tomasson got in my way, and I know it was him because my head was up, and I remember the jersey color. And I don't care if he let me get around him, I still kept the puck on the stick and got around him.
I got around Tomasson, I saw the goalie coming over to my side of the net, and kept going left but shot right. No really, I planned the shot. Planned it. Like meant to hit the net meant to hit the empty part of the net planned it.
I fell down.
That was how I first knew I'd gotten it in, because every time I've ever scored when it wasn't mostly an accident, I've fallen down. So I hit the ice and was pretty happy already, because I knew there was a strong chance the puck was in the net. And besides which, then next thing that happened was everybody was celebrating.
Remember how I said how quiet those guys are?
They were loud. They were happy.
Even the goalie was happy.
I was happy.
It didn't matter that maybe, maybe they hadn't pressed me as hard as they might, with the exception of Tomasson giving me something to go around. It didn't matter to them, and it didn't matter to me. They've all been thinking the same thing Brian said. And it came very clear with that goal that they wanted me to go for it, push hard, score.
And I did.
I sucked pretty much the rest of the game. Too tired, and everyone else was tired and the play was starting to get chaotic. But it was still fun.
I crawled home on my lips and after Lili went down for her nap I didn't get out of the recliner for like three hours. Everything hurt.
But it's a good hurt. Good.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Linking Ivan's journal. I like a lot of what he has to say, and how he says it.
Brian, it's official. I miss you.
At least right now, this group, hockey is really different. The only way to describe hockey out there is how I've heard it described here: cowboy. Here? Definitely not cowboy. There's not a lot of laughter on the ice, not a lot of yapping, friendly or otherwise. People are quiet, and serious. I miss the liveliness, the sometimes arrogant, showy, talky feel of California hockey.
Or maybe it's just that it's five in the morning and no one can work up much more than game.
I had a great time this morning, though. I mean, despite that. I modified my helmet (pictures and description of the Creation of Frankenhelmet to follow in a later post for all your amusement), and now it fits perfectly. It doesn't fall over my eyes and it doesn't squeeze my brain, so I can both see and concentrate.
I was tired, not much sleep because we got to bed late and then Lili woke up once every hour on the hour. Though it bears mentioning that however much sleep I don't get, you can half that and it's what Bec's getting. Sometimes even less. I'm not sure how she functions, honestly.
But for all that, I reminded myself before I even got out there that it's my ice.
I mean, that's where I got in the memoir, you know? That in the end, every sheet of ice is mine. It holds equal promise for me to go all out, have fun, do some great stuff, fail spectacularly. I'm not supplicant, not as far as the ice is concerned. Mine to use, mine to enjoy. Mine.
So I flew around with the stort of stupid Corky grin on my face, kept my head up this time and as Brian advised, worked on fighting through.
I saw more results, oddly enough, doing that when I was on D than O. Stopped a lot more pucks, interrupted a lot more plays. I guess it works on both sides, though.
Virginnie, the girl who skates circles around me and is many of the things I want to be in hockey -- for a start, fucking unbelievably good -- keeps an eye on me, grins at me, and came and sat next to me when we were getting undressed today. It's the first time I've had a woman take that role, and honestly? It's fucking great.
It turns out she's only played hockey four years herself. Which, as I said, intimidates the fuck out of me. Her response was a shrug, and to say as though it explained everything: "I'm Dutch. Then I moved to Minnesota." She also added that she's always been able to skate, and skate well.
Yeah. It shows.
We were talking about other hockey options, and I was saying while I find the MIT skates insane and intimidating, I'm enjoying them, and in the end it's what I'm used to.
She was quiet a moment. Then she shrugged. "It's better to play with men," she said, and tossed her skate in her bag.
Just like that.
The other thing I want to post about is the Great Gavin Bus Adventure and How We Got Him to Ride the Bus through Bribery and Other Low and Embarassing Means.
But later. I need to eat, and also shower.
Thanks to everyone who responded to that last post the way you all did.
I had this sort of 'it wasn't as bad as I'm making it seem' feel when I posted it. Call it apologist, or worse.
You all slapped me right back with the affirming truth.
Saturday, November 05, 2005
His name's Rob.
He's got one tooth in front and when I first met him in the West Roxbury pub he was still wearing his safety red nylon jacket that had "COACH" embroidered on it in big black letters. He'd looped his whistle around his belt when his friends gave him too much shit about it. But the jacket stayed on.
Rob's a Special Ed teacher here in the West Rox school district, son of two teachers and the eldest of seven kids. He played hockey most of his life, including when he went to Montreal for college.
"I thought I'd be the only Boston guy up there," he told me. "No, there were twenty-five of us, twenty five Boston guys."
"And you all played hockey," I added.
"You know it," he said.
When Rob was a kid most of West Roxbury was farms. He got paid a nickel a day to help out some old lady who owned most of the acreage here, and had chicken coops. Rob's job was collecting the eggs.
When Rob was a kid there was no organized hockey in West Rox, in fact no organized hockey for youth in most of Boston. Then came the Bruins' golden playoff years, and suddenly hockey sprang up everywhere.
"You know that Billings Field over there?" he asked me. It's the field where I take the kids to play most sunny days. I nodded. "Well, every winter they'd flood that field, and we'd play hockey there. Every winter for years, but not now. It's not cold enough these days. Won't stay solid." I looked confused. "Global warming," he said.
"And when we didn't play hockey on the field, we could play up on the swamp." I've driven past the swamp several times: this isn't some backyard pond, this is several square miles of water and the soft golden spines of reeds. I pictured boys skating in and amongst the stalks, losing the puck in the leaves and moss.
In addition to his job as a Special Ed teacher, Rob's the union rep for his district, and just recently got asked to help coach peewee hockey. "I'm just doin' them a favor," he said. "Just helping out a little bit." Clearly for Rob it's more serious than that. He's told me at length about the kids, about the other coach -- a twenty two year old guy that while Rob hastened to say is very nice and a fine athlete and instructor, clearly doesn't have the level of worshipful seriousness that Rob seems to think the job requires. So Rob takes his 'helping out' very seriously. "It's a good cop, bad cop thing." He paused. He was halfway through the third Miller he'd had since I'd been there. He'd never actually finished any of them. "The other coach is the good cop. I'm the bad cop," Rob clarified.
Rob asked me about why I moved to Boston, and we talked about hockey some more, and the fact that I was there at the pub working on my book. This all led me to being introduced to more people. Pete, who's also writing a book. He taught with Rob's parents and was Rob's mentor. Paul, who's my age, and Irish. He's been to California, and told me all about the drive from San Francisco to San Diego. "That was a hell of a long way," he said.
We hung around and talked hockey and books and teaching some more, and Rob got on the subject again of coaching. "You know," he said, I've got a couple of girls on my team." He paused, as if for reaction. I just nodded and said that was great. He took another sip of his beer, and went on. "Now, I just started, but after I get my legs under me a little bit, maybe you should come down. You know. Get some free ice time. You need the ice time, don't you?"
I looked at him, slightly dumbfounded. "Help coach?" I asked finally.
"Yeah." He nodded. "It's good for those girls to have a girl on the ice. You know. An older one. It's good for them to see it."
"I'd love to," I said, without hesitation.
"Well, you know. When I get my legs under me and all."
"Right," I said. "Of course."
The topic turned to other things, and then I said I really needed to get back to work on my book and then get home. Rob and the guys gave me a good natured sort of bad time about it, then left me alone.
I went back to the pub last night to work on revisions, and sure enough Rob and his cronies were there. I said I'd come finish my beer with them when I was done writing, and hang around for a few minutes to listen to all the karaoke folks.
I got a third of the way through the book and my eyes started to cross, so I closed up shop and made my way back to the bar. Paul jumped off his stool and insisted I sit down, and talk about hockey and schools and district politics and great first novels started up again like we'd never left off.
Just a bunch of drunk guys and me down at the pub. But I'd felt so isolated and cut off, and Rob was still talking about me helping out with the peewee team, and I was feeling pretty good.
Then Rob said something about my kids and asked me what my husband did, and as I always do, I corrected "wife" and went on from there telling him about Bec and her old job and her new job.
Something had gone wrong, though. The whole conversation had suddenly changed, and Rob said "now, wait, now, what? What?"
I laughed it off. It's the standard tactic I take to ease someone past the shock reaction. My way of letting them off the hook, especially old guys like Rob. "Uh oh," I laughed. "Just ground your gears, didn't I? All right, all right. You breathe deeply, and I'll buy you a drink." Laughing some more. Come on, I thought. Come on.
Rob acted like I hadn't said anything. "So that's the real reason you moved to Boston, isn't it?" His tone was mocking, nasty.
"No," I said. Still with the laughing. But answering him. "I told you. I moved here for the hockey."
He ignored me again. "Well," he said, "I was raised Irish Catholic." Pausing, like he expected me to answer that somehow.
"Yeah, I pretty much figured that," I said. "And?"
"Well what do you think?" was his answer.
"OK," I said. "Let's drop this. Let's get back to what we were talking about."
Rob shook his head. "You tricked me," he said.
"You tricked me. Here I was thinking you were this nice girl and --"
I ran out of good humor. I picked up my bag. "All right. This is bullshit. I'm out of here. See you around."
I walked out of the bar and didn't burst into tears until I was in the parking lot, after I'd kicked the parking lot wall.
I cried for a long time. Not just because of the homophobic bullshit. I know it's there. I've dealt with it; I know it exists. But this is my new home, and Rob was the first real friend I'd made here. And suddenly, definitively, I went from a friend to someone he feared, hated, loathed.
It took me a while to realize Rob was standing there. I had no more good humor, no more laughing. "Stay the fuck away from me," I snarled.
"Kate," he said. "Kate." Unfazed. "Now see, that's the last thing I want to see. That I made a woman cry."
"Well, what the fuck did you think was going to happen?" I demanded. "That one second we're friends and the next I'm supposed to understand when you don't like me anymore?"
He made a distressed sound. "Listen," he said. "I came out here to apologize. For everything. How I acted, what I said. You threw me for a loop, that's all. I didn't know what to say and then when I said it I regretted it."
"Well you should."
"I know. I know it. I'm sorry. Listen, Kate, I was raised Irish Catholic," he started again.
I turned on him, livid. "You think that gives you any fucking excuse??!" Then it was my turn to relent. "I get that," I said. "OK? I understand."
"No," he said, "I don't think you do. My parents were Irish, I went to St. Teresa's down there; you see that steeple?" he pointed. "Then I went to the Jesuit school and then I went to the damn Jesuit university in Montreal. I hate the fuckin' Church," he said. "I was one of those kids the priest was abusing when I was an altar boy. All right? But it was how I was raised, and that's a lot of years. That's all I'm saying. You know?"
I was silent. Trying to wrap my brain around all of it, trying to figure out what the fuck to say.
Rob stood there with his hands jammed in the pockets of the bright red jacket with COACH embroidered on it.
"I'm real sorry, Kate. You seemed like a nice girl and--"
"I'm STILL a nice girl!!" I all but hollered.
Rob shook his head. "No, no, I know that. It just wasn't what I was expecting. I said the wrong thing. I did the wrong thing. I'm sorry. I'm really sorry."
I sat in silence.
"Please accept my apology, Kate. Come on. I cut my night short with my friends back there to come out here and apologize to you. I haven't done that in years. That's how serious I am. I'm sorry."
"All right, all right, I accept your apology."
"Let me buy you a beer, make it up to you."
I looked at him in bewilderment. "Back there?"
"Nah, there's another pub down the way."
I laughed, despite everything. "The Corrib."
He looked surprised. "You know it?"
"Yeah," I said, "I do."
So I sat with Rob at the Corrib, where I got to meet the school district commissioner and a few other West Roxbury luminaries. The commissioner pointed to Rob's glass. "You know," he said, "he never finishes a beer."
Rob introduced me proudly and said later to me "you know, if you need a job I can probably get you a teaching gig."
"I'd rather coach for free," I said.
"Well, OK," he conceeded. "Or that, too."
Rob apologized about once every three minutes for the rest of the evening. The more he apologized and the more he drank while he did it, the rest of the truth became clear.
More so when he asked me out on a date.
"Rob," I said. "We've been over this. I'm *married.* Remember? That's what started this whole issue."
"Really really married?" he asked me.
"Yeah. Very married. Very happily so."
He insisted on walking me back to my car, which was parked by Billings Field and where, Rob said for the third time that night, they used to flood the baseball diamond in the winter so the kids could skate.
"And they can't anymore because of the global warming," I continued.
He chuckled. "That's right."
"Good night, Rob."
"Good night, Kate."
Friday, November 04, 2005
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
0500 for hockey is too fucking early, although I'm not complaining, exactly, just remarking.
The level's insane. I played for shit today... worse than last time. My new helmet's just too damn big, and sat over my eyebrows, making my play even worse. I'm used to this. If I weren't exhausted it would be all right. No one's grudging my being there. It's just tiring being the suckiest one.
And I miss having friends there who can say "yeah you sucked but x is getting better" or "yeah, but at least you showed up and tried hard" or whatever. I know it takes time. Just feeling isolated.
And like I really, really suck.