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Life, Loss, Hockey and Baseball — not necessarily in that order.

Random thoughts from the most random of minds…

Those tricky first steps…

Next Saturday, I have an audition.

For the first time in 28 years, I will be auditioning for a role in a local theatre company’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  I’m not looking for a big part–not looking to jump in and be the star, just to get one of the four smaller “adult” male roles in the show (Jacob, Potiphar, the Butler, the Baker).  I’ve probably seen productions of Joseph more than a dozen times, not including the countless times I’ve watched the DVD made from one of the major productions starring Donny Osmond as Joseph.  It’s fair to say I’m pretty familiar with the Andrew Lloyd Webber production.

Do I expect to show up for my brief audition and walk away with the role?  Not really.  It would be nice if I got a callback.  It would be fantastic if I got serious consideration.  But I understand that it’s been nearly three decades since I performed in a musical on stage.  I understand that this theatre undoubtedly has it’s corps of actors that it routinely draws on to stage its shows.  And I also know how I feel right now…

See, as good or mediocre or whatever as I might have been as a high school actor/singer/performer, and as much fun as I had being a part of those shows, I was never truly musically trained.  Not just not “classically” trained, but not really trained at all.  I cannot sight-read music in any meaningful way.  I cannot play a single musical instrument.  I can carry a tune, and if I practice enough, I can learn the music underlying the song I’m performing.

And therein lies the problem.  I’m walking into a world of people that have theatre resumes (that don’t feature 28-year gaps), professional headshots, a catalog of well-rehearsed audition songs to draw from (heck–sheet music to work from)…  I have, well, my desire to jump back into the theatre world.  I have a small handful of songs that I more-or-less know, but whose rehearsal time has consisted of singing in the shower–God knows whether or not in key.  I feel ill-prepared.

See, one problem of having a 28-year absence from performing (yeah, I know–I’ve been doing public address announcing and general making-a-fool-of-myself work for the past ten years, but that’s really not the same thing) is that I don’t have much of a circle of local theatre friends to draw on.  I foolishly posted something on Facebook, asking if someone would like to help me prepare.  My answer: crickets (and a couple well-intentioned references to Statler and Waldorf).

The audition is five and a half days away.  It will be carried off, as the lyrics to theme song for the old 80s superhero show, “The Greatest American Hero,” described: “flying away on a wing and prayer.”

Sometimes the first steps are the most treacherous.  They would appear to be markedly more so when you take them without proper shoes on your feet.  Maybe this time next week, I will realize that this dream was just folly, and I’ll move on with–whatever else is in front of me.  Perhaps I should just focus on writing something for the stage instead of trying to act and sing on it.  (I did have one suggestion that my book should actually be a fiction novel–or a stage or screenplay.)  Or maybe something clicks, and I get to walk through those doors and onto the proscenium stage again, at least one more time.

I keep thinking–there’s that old adage about creative people doing their best work when they’re suffering, when they’re in pain…  Maybe this is the ideal time to be auditioning for my first musical in 28 years.  I guess I’ll know soon enough.

 

David

Hummingbird

A single bird,
Not content to stay at a distance
Needs to feel close
To those his spirit loves.

Present at the funeral
Watching
Listening
Feeling
Close–yet not close enough.

Nearby at the memorial
Observing
Noting
Longing
Keeping watch on his loved ones from his perch.

Last week
On the sidewalk
Next to the house carrying his number
Looking on as we walk through the house
That he will always be a part of
Forever more.

Today
At a wedding of old friends and new
A single hummingbird
Watching on
As happiness pushes past old heartbreak
Being present as his loved ones sit
In quiet conflict–
Happy for others
Yet unsettled among self.

A single hummingbird
Rejoicing at the nuptuals of a friend
Comforting the uncertainty of his own
All the while
Present
Watching
Never far
From those he loves.

 

David

The Sound of Breathing

My last two weeks have been dominated by a focus on sounds: the tearing of tape being removed from a box, the crackle of opening a plastic pastry box, the creaking of my office chair, breathing…  Deep breaths, shallow breathing, congestion, wheezing…  My own breathing.

Staggered, uncertain, labored breathing–Micah’s breathing on that last, sleepless day.  Listening to my son struggling to take his next breath as I listen–watch–helplessly.

I have spent 35 of my 46 years on this planet suffering from moderate to severe asthma.  I have heard breathing that scared me–that scared Cynthia–that scared strangers that did not know me.  I have spent over a week inpatient in a hospital as they tried to clear my chest to the point where sufficient oxygen was reaching my bloodstream.  No sound coming from my chest, my lungs, my nose and mouth–no matter how distressed–could ever match the sounds coming from my son, struggling to survive.  No sounds could haunt my dreams–my nightmares, my daymares–like Micah’s life-sustaining breaths.

Time after time, people have told me that the worst thing you can do, if you feel depressed, is to isolate yourself.  Over the past few months, I have experienced that desire–to not want to be around other people.  I have “just not felt right,” and wanted to sit, quietly in my bedroom, in my office–even at the dining room table, ignoring the world around me.  I can definitely acknowledge that isolating myself when I’ve felt down did not help buoy my mood.

So, as the lone full-time appellate attorney in my office, I am a division of one.  I work regularly with one other attorney–but she also carries a half delinquency caseload that keeps her pretty busy in between appeals cases.  I handle appeals from our dependency division, but I am not really part of that division.  I sit on the side of the office with the delinquency attorneys, but I am not a delinquency attorney.  Add in a cup of self-defeating desire to isolate myself when I start to feel depressed, and work is the perfect recipe to spend my days in my office, staring at the computer screen, printed transcripts or files–or the wall, and feel very alone.

The sound of my breathing…thinking about Micah’s breathing…thinking about our upcoming move away from the home where we lost him…added to everything else…

What does it all add up to?  Lost sleep.  Waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat.  Dwelling on things of the past that are gone.  Focusing on the changes in my life over the past two months.  Wondering what I should do next.

I started with self therapy–this blog.  That took me so far–until about the one-year mark from Micah’s death, and then, while it still helped, it was not nearly as therapeutic as it started out.  I saw a therapist that I liked for a few months, but suddenly he was no longer covered by my insurance (and I could not get a return call from him either way when I attempted to schedule an appointment).  I probably need to find a new therapist, but I’m on the verge of a change in health care providers (getting rid of UHC and going back to Cigna–finally!), and most of the decent, recommended therapists have a waiting list to get an intake appointment.  So, I’m back to the blog.  Back to talking about the thoughts traipsing through my conscious mind.

I don’t write this for pity.  I don’t write this as a desperate cry for some kind of help.  I am not contemplating any kind of self harm.  I just need to try and make sense of my thoughts, and this seems to be the best available method for doing that.

In shedding as many sources of stress as possible and trying to focus more on my family and myself, I have also shed a good deal of two of my support systems.  When depression hits, so does pessimism.  I begin to wonder, now away from the hub of those support systems, how many friends from those systems will drift away into the ether?  As time goes by, will others’ memory of Micah fade?  One thing I know for certain–not mine.

I can’t stress this enough–what some people told me–about the second year after loss being tougher than the first–is so incredibly true.  It saps your energy, steals your sleep, makes exciting things seem mundane, and mundane thing seem unbearable.  We need so badly to get out of this house–to get away from his room and the visual memories that pop up every time we walk by his door.  While Micah’s presence has been felt in so many other places–even in the actual street address of our new home (3706), he does not seem to have been able to push the builder or its contractors to get us a closing date so we can prepare to move.

Breathing.  People say to “just take a deep breath” when you need to relax.  That deep breath is anything but relaxing when it’s the only sound you hear…

David

Hockey tryouts are upon us! A Tryout Primer

Good evening/morning hockey fans–specifically youth hockey fans.  USA Hockey Nationals have wrapped up, the various Easter Weekend tournaments have crowned their champions, and now it’s time to rest, relax and regain your strength.

Wait a minute.  You mean you can’t rest, relax and regain your strength because tryout season has started?!  Alas, depending on which part of the country you live in — the chaos is dead, long live the chaos!

Here in Arizona, the various organizations cannot wait to get you onto their ice, perhaps get your money into their wallets, and get your child that all-so-valuable chance to play for their team!  Tier I tryouts are already wrapping up.  Tier II and non-Tier tryouts are only two weeks away!  Quick!  Get your wallet, check the websites, and register right away!  OR…hold on for a moment and read on…

The Tryout Glossary
Here are a few terms you will need to know and understand as you head into the tryout season.  Some of what I have to say may not be popular, but since when has that ever stopped me?

  • Tier I Hockey – This is what is known as “AAA” youth hockey.  Officially, USA Hockey only recognizes Tier I/AAA hockey at the 14u (formerly known as Bantam) level and above.  For the upcoming season, this would mean kids born in 2003 or 2004.  If your kid is a 10u (Squirt) player, teams can claim to be anything they please–but USA Hockey does not recognize Squirt AAA, or Peewee (12u) AAA, or MITE (8u) AAA.
  • Tier II Hockey – See Tier I hockey, except these are considered “AA” teams.  Take off a vowel, and expect to be considered the “second-best” teams in your state.  Again, no such thing as Tier II or “AA” prior to 14u hockey (2003 and 2004 birth years).
  • Non-Tier Hockey – These poor kids are doomed to only being “A” or “B” players–this season.  Technically, any 8u, 10u or 12u team is a non-Tier team.
  • High School Hockey – This is a tricky one.  What this means varies greatly depending on where you live.  In some regions, high school hockey is where most of the top high school-aged kids play.  In others, high school hockey is wedged in between Tier II and non-Tier hockey for 14-18 year olds.  In Arizona, at least, this is considerably more affordable hockey–usually less than $2,000 per season on a standard high school team.  Competition varies depending on what level team you’re on.  A JV or D3 team may look a lot like house, but a D2 or D1 team may look a lot more like Tier II, or in some rare cases, Tier I.
  • House Hockey – Don’t want to spend $4,000, $7,000, $10,000 on your kid’s first year of competitive hockey?  You might want to consider the fine house hockey programs offered at rinks around the country.  These teams are considerably more affordable, have much lighter schedules (maybe one practice and one game per week), and most coaches and parents do not treat the games as though the top scout for the Chicago Blackhawks is watching from the stands.  The level of play is typically lower than travel hockey, but if you’re just starting out, or if you are not in the high five-figure salary range, this might be a good solution for you.
  • “Already Signed” – This is what happens when a team from last season is solid and/or successful, and they decide to bring most of their team back for next season.  Sure, your average travel team has 16-18 players on the roster (including two goalies), but your kid may be competing for only a small number of open spots on the team due to 75 percent of the players already having signed their contracts for next season before the first tryout skate has begun.  If your kid is a goalie, hopefully both that team’s goalies haven’t already signed on for next season–or, well, happy spending!
  • Billeting – There is real, official billeting, and then unofficial cheating-the-rules billeting.  In Arizona, teams are limited as to how many players from outside the state they can give roster spots to.  HINT: If your kid was born in 2005 or since, the answer is NONE.  As of today, the Arizona Amateur Hockey Association (the state board that all travel teams in Arizona are supposed to answer to) does NOT allow non-Tier teams to billet their players.  That means everyone on your kid’s team should also be living somewhere in Arizona with a parent or guardian.  At the 14u Tier level and above, only a couple to a few billeted kids are allowed per team.  Trying to figure out how those seven kids on the team all have thick Minnesota accents?  Yah.  Sure.  They all magically have grandparents, aunts and uncles that they live with for family (read: NOT hockey) reasons within Arizona.  I know, nothing is more frustrating than having your kid bust his hide for a few years, only to have the organization decide to throw away the local kids and import a couple new players.

Fees, Costs, Travel, Fees and Fees
Hockey is not a poor man’s (or women’s) sport.  I have estimated that the average travel hockey fee in the Phoenix area is around $4,000 per season.  That “contract” fee typically includes your practice ice, game jerseys, practice jersey, game and practice socks, warmup track suit, off-ice warmup shirt and shorts, stipends for your coach(es) and possibly team manager, and administrative fees.  Some teams include more gear–like helmets, gloves and bags (though they almost never include protective gear for goalies). Some organizations include the “team account” in this fee, which can cover things like tournament entry fees, coach travel expenses, off-ice conditioning sessions, skills coaching and extra practice ice–some organizations do not include this fee at all.  If that fee isn’t included, expect to pay an extra $750-1500 in most cases to help build the team account.  Some, if they include travel costs for the players, or extra player gear (or, like two particular organizations in the Phoenix area, all personalization costs for your gear), can run a little to significantly higher.  ASK QUESTIONS before accepting or signing a contract.  The last thing you want to do is commit your kid to Team X thinking the costs are $4,000–already stretching your budget, only to discover that there’s going to be another $1,500 payment due on August 1st for a team account.

Travel costs are another issue all together.  Some older teams may opt to travel coaches, kids, and maybe manager(s) only–which might mean $500 or so per trip plus airfare.  Younger teams typically expect that a parent will take the kid to their tournaments.  If the tournament is in Las Vegas or Anaheim, maybe this costs you around $1,000 for the weekend.  However, if your team is flying to Detroit, $2,000 or more might be necessary after you add airfare and car rental (and obviously, if the whole family of five is going…well…).  Can you finance or make payment arrangements for these trips?  Sure–just talk to Chase or Capital One or Citibank or your credit card provider of choice.  Beyond the money per trip, you might also want to know how many trips the team will make.  Some younger teams may just make one “fly away” trip, and keep the rest local, or maybe throw in a “drivable” trip like LA, San Diego or Las Vegas (from Phoenix).  Some teams that sell themselves as “AAA Elite” and “AAAAA Super Duper Mega Elite” are more likely to tax your wallet by taking four, five, six–even seven fly-away trips during the course of the season.

Are there local options for tournaments?  Sure.  The Phoenix area hosted five open tournaments last season–some very strong and competitive like the Arizona Hockey Union’s Presidents Day Invitational (largest Presidents’ Day Tournament in the country several years in a row) and PWC’s Arizona Cactus Cup (97 teams over MLK Weekend 2017 from several different states and multiple Canadian provinces), other solid or growing options like AHU’s Thanksgiving Tournament, the Coyote Cup (between Christmas and New Years), the Southwest Elite AAA Showcase (also over Winter Break), and the Columbus Day Weekend AHU Ice Breaker Invitational.

ASK QUESTIONS
Making the decision to have your kid play travel hockey should not be taken lightly.  Over the ten seasons Micah played travel hockey, we easily spent over $100,000 on the sport between fees, travel, private lessons, camps, clinics and protective gear.  That’s a really nice down payment on a house.  That’s two nice cars or four reasonable cars (or one high-end Tesla Model S, or a used Model X).  Would you spend that much money on anything else without being an educated consumer?

Before I give you my list of suggested questions, let me start with a few warnings:

  • No, the stands are not lined with professional scouts looking to sign or draft your kid into the NHL.  They’re simply not.  Might there be select tournaments that the highest level, older Tier kids play in where scouts from hockey boarding schools, NCAA or Juniors programs show up to find talented players?  Yes.  Are these scouts going to be at your 10u (Squirt) state league games or at the Labor Day Tournament in San Diego?  I will say emphatically NO.  Hockey is a sport–for 99.95 percent of our kids, it’s about having fun, making friends and developing as young men and women.  If you want your kid in this for any other reason, might I suggest another sport?  (Actually, those of you that this applies to have likely stopped reading long ago…)
  • There are no questions about where your money is being spent that you should not be able to ask.  Some organizations are very up-front about where your money is going, providing you a pretty detailed breakdown of what part of your fees goes to pay which expense.  Other organizations just give you a bottom line and say, “You can either pay this or have your kid go play somewhere else.”  Your choice, I suppose.  If you’re made to feel afraid to ask the money questions, is that really somewhere you want your kid to be?  I don’t care what heights they claim they’ll take your kid.
  • No organization is going to make your kid a star.  Know how many players in the NHL played their youth hockey, in part or whole, in Arizona?  Less than the fingers on one shop teacher’s hand.  Know how many kids player Tier, Non-Tier, High School or House hockey in Arizona just this last season?  Well over a thousand.  You do the math.  Can your kid excel?  Can he or she work hard and maximize potential?  Yes and yes!  Should you put that weight on your kid?  No.  Will having a coach that played in the NHL, AHL, ECHL, NCAA, WSHL or any other HL guarantee your kid success?  No.  The coolness factor of your kid playing for someone that you still have a jersey for in your closet will wear off quickly.  This is not to say that those guys and girls are bad coaches–some are fantastic.  It’s just a reminder that it takes more than a famous name, even of an elite, skilled former player, to make it to the pros (and making it to the pros should not be a consideration when finding a home for your 9- or 11- or 13-year old).
  • Treat tryouts like you should treat job interviews.  It shouldn’t just be about whether or not your kid can get on a particular team–it should also be about whether that team is a good fit for your kid–and your whole family.  Hockey is a family sport.  We spend lots of time mingling with our kid’s teammate’s families.  On good teams, you develop a hockey family–where people become more than hockey parents or siblings with kids on the same team, they become friends, life-long friends.
  • Be friendly, be polite, and don’t badmouth other kids, teams or organizations when you’re at the rink.  Hockey is a funny game, and the youth hockey community is a very small world.  You never know today who your kid might play with tomorrow–who his or her coach might be–or which rink you might be calling home next.  Don’t burn bridges unnecessarily.

Now–those questions:

  • Money Matters.  Ask the tough questions about fees, what’s included in them, what’s not included in them, and how payments need to be made.  Hockey is an expensive game.  Don’t get yourself in over your head.  At the same time, know where your money is going.  If you can’t get straight answers, you might want to head straight to another rink.
  • Organizational Structure.  It might be nice to know whom answers to who.  If you have a question about payments, who is the treasurer?  Does someone else work with financial issues?  If you ever have a problem with a coach, who do you turn to?  Does someone monitor organizational compliance with USA Hockey rules like SafeSport, background checks, coaching proficiency certificates, age-level appropriate coaching modules?  Who actually handles the money?  Does each team have to have their own team account, handled by a team manager, or does the organization oversee all accounts?  All organizations have some sort of Board of Directors.  Find out about them.  What do they do?  How are they chosen?  (Not all are elected…)  What responsibilities do they have?
  • Community Service.  Does the team intend to do anything to help those in the community?  One of the best ways to bring a team together is to have them do team-based philanthropy projects.  You can learn a lot about a team–and an organization, by what they do or don’t encourage their teams to do for others.  I can tell you–there are organizations that do community service project after community service project, that volunteer parent hours to help with youth hockey in Arizona–both inside and outside their own organization…then there are organizations that simply don’t care to make that part of their plans.  If you ask and get a dirty look or a blank stare, you have your answer.  If youth hockey is really about developing young men and women, building our future–what kind of future do you want your kids associated with?
  • Team Travel Plans.  Some teams and organizations will have handy fact sheets available at tryouts, telling you what kind of league, tournament and travel considerations you need to consider if your kid is going to be on that team.  Some do not.  Ask.  Ask.  Ask.  Don’t get caught off-guard at the first team meeting in late August when the manager or coach starts talking about the six trips to the Midwest and East Coast your team will be taking.  Don’t assume that because an organization talks about “making hockey more affordable” that they don’t travel–a lot.  Talk is cheap.  Travel hockey is not.
  • Your Kid’s Role.  When your kid gets an offer to play on a team, is your kid going to be an equal member of the team, or is he/she getting the “benefit of superior (?) coaching and lots of ice time to develop during practices?”  Most teams don’t have a different pay structure for kids that are backup or part-time players.  No, not every kid is going to be the star, and the older the team, the more uneven playing time tends to be–but know what you and your kid can expect when it comes to playing time and opportunities.  This goes doubly-so for goalies.  Is your kid going to get a chance to split the net 50-50 (with an understanding that the coaches, especially again on older teams, reserve the right to go with the “hot hand”), or is your kid the backup and practice goalie for full-sheet practices?  Again, most teams don’t prorate the goalie’s fees (at least not in Arizona) based on playing time.  If you kid is the backup and only going to play one out of every 6-8-10 games, and may travel for tournaments but never touch the ice after pregame warmups, you deserve to know that before you commit thousands of dollars (plus travel, team and equipment expenses) to the sport.
  • Girls On Teams.  This one typically only applies to parents with girl hockey players.  It’s been pretty well documented recently that girls hockey is often not treated at all equally, even up to the USA Hockey level.  There are no rules that I’m aware of that prevent a 14u, 16u or even 18u Tier team from taking girls on their rosters.  If your daughter can keep up and play even-up with the boys, she should be able to play with the boys.  Sure, there are girls-only options (in Arizona, we have the Lady Coyotes), but if your daughter has played on co-ed teams since she was six, and she is still enjoying playing on co-ed teams at 14, why not try to play on a co-ed team at 15?  Most rinks offer a girls-only locker room for older girls and young women to have some privacy when it comes time to change (and if the rink doesn’t, accommodations can be provided).  Just something to think about…

Quick Decisions
Most organizations, unfortunately, push you to choose their team right away.  Some give a 24- to 48-hour window with which to give your answer, or they’ll “give you kid’s spot to someone else.”  The truth is, if your kid is actually particularly good, he or she won’t have a problem hooking on with another team if you need more time to decide.  Don’t be pressured into a decision that you might regret.

Consider all the pros and cons of each organization: costs, coaches, organization and team “feel”, playing time opportunities, other intangibles above.  Every organization in Arizona has it’s benefits, and every organization in Arizona has it’s weaknesses.  No single organization is perfect.  Ever wonder how one organization can only have AA and AAA teams, but others only have A and B?  If an organization frequently pulls in kids from other organizations or other states, how loyal are they to their own players?  What kind of environment do you want your kid in?  There are lots of facets to consider…

In the end, ask your questions, pay attention, and above all–listen to your kids.  Sometimes the most important deal-breaking decisions will come down to what your kids think, how comfortable they seem.  If your kid wants to play with his friends on a “AA” team, should you force him to play on a “AAA” team?  (Not to mention, is the team “AA” or “AAA” in name only–are they really better than the more vowel-restricted teams in the area?)

 

Best of luck at tryouts everyone!

David1

My Shoes Won’t Ever Fit You

If there’s one thing that the cruel twists of fate in my life have taught me, it’s that no two people ever experience traumatic events–even similar traumatic events–in the same way.  If there’s a second thing I’ve learned, it’s that some people will never get that message.

At the “young” age of 46, I have lost both my parents, one of my three uncles, and most painfully, my son.  My parents passed away at 55 and 60.  My son passed away at 15.  These are just numbers–facts, statistics–meaningless in the end.  They may match the facts and numbers of other people I’ve known that have lost loved ones, but those numbers are still trivial scribble.  No two people that have lost their children will ever feel the same–outside the likely common thread of deep sorrow and loss.

Losing Micah was, bar none, the most intense experience I have ever had.  Fifteen months later, the wound is as raw as it was the night he died.  My moments of grief are just as intense now–if not moreso–than they were as we prepared to lay his body to rest.  In the end though, these are my moments, my experiences–and no one, not even my wife and daughter, shares the exact same experiences.

The most genuine response I’ve heard when people discover for the first time that I’ve suffered the loss of my son is, “I’m so sorry.  I don’t have any idea what to say.”  How can you know what to tell someone that has suffered the death of his son?  Sure, you can express your own sorrow, or how horrible you feel for my loss.  These are acceptable responses.  However, when you cross the line into making my son’s death some kind of message for your faith, your god, “warning,” or task on your part–that’s when you’ve stuck the poisoned arrow deep into my chest.

Micah did not die because of anything anyone else did.  Micah did not die because he “wasn’t saved,” or because his parents “didn’t believe in Christ.”  Micah was not part of some random deity’s grand plan.  Micah did not die to teach me, my wife, my daughter, the Jewish people, democrats, liberals, independents, gays, lesbians, transgender individuals, queers, the State of California, non-believers, or anyone else a lesson.  Micah did not die because he played sports on Sunday.  Micah did not die because he played Xbox on Saturday.  Micah died because he suffered from depression and other facets of mental illness, and despite everything his loving mother, father and sister did to help him, the power of his mental illness was too great.  To tell me anything else, to try and preach to me or “explain” his death in some other fashion is to dishonor Micah and everything he stood for.  Most of all, to try and blame some facet of our lives, our beliefs, Micah’s beliefs, or any other contrived excuse for his death is slapping me in the face with a spiked medieval glove.  I don’t like being slapped in the face.

I don’t care what you believe.  The Quran teaches, “To you be your religion, to me be mine.” (Quran 109:6).  Dave Allen, the old Irish comedian, used to end his show by saying, “Good night, and may your god go with you.”  My message here: peace be with you and whatever you believe, but do not trouble my family, myself, by imposing your beliefs on us.  All you will do is upset my family and drive a wedge into any friendship we may have.

More troubling, though, is when especially close friends or even family feel the need to impose their beliefs on us.  To them, I quote the Book of Proverbs, 11:29, “He who troubleth his own house…shall inherit the wind.”  (Some day, maybe I’ll take a little more time with this particular quote, and my fascination with the play and movie that added it to my knowledge base.)

You cannot walk in my shoes.  Heaven knows why you would even want to try.  You can certainly feel for me, my family, those who were closest to Micah–but you cannot be us, and therefore you can never know truly how we feel, save for this: if you troubleth our house, prepare to inherit the wind.

David

Transition

As I prepare to spend a few hours resting up for another whirlwind trip to Chicago, I think about the concept of “turning the page.”

Earlier today, I played the role of scorekeeper and announcer (and DJ) for two 2017 USA Hockey National Championship Semifinal games: the 14u Tier I semifinal between Chicago Mission and the Syracuse Nationals and the 15-only Tier I semifinal between the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite and the Colorado Evolution.  These were two fantastic, competitive youth hockey games featuring four of the top teams in the country.  I was honored by being asked to scorekeep and announce these games (and even being asked if I was sure I couldn’t cover one of the National Championship games tomorrow afternoon), but as the sun set and I prepared for tomorrow’s adventure, it dawned on me: at 2:20pm this afternoon, I officially turned the page–my final season intricately involved in youth hockey had come to an end.

With the conclusion of the USA Hockey National Championship Tournaments tomorrow, the 2016-17 youth hockey season is complete.  As I had other plans for my day tomorrow, my season ended with the final announcement of the 15-only Tier I semifinal game I worked this afternoon.  My hockey plans for next season?  Announcing Tucson Roadrunners games, working with the Arizona Cactus Cup youth hockey tournament committee, and–that’s about it.  Perhaps I do some light scorekeeping here and there.  Maybe I sell myself as a Championship Sunday specialist for local hockey tournaments.  Either way, my free time now looks a lot more–well–free.

Tomorrow, I make my pilgrimage to my holy sports shrine: the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field.  I will put hockey behind me, and make the full transition into the Chicago Cubs baseball fanatic that many of you know and love.  The hockey jerseys go into storage (actually, into a packing box for our upcoming move), and the Chicago Cubs jerseys emerge.  The hockey caps go up on the shelf and the Cubby Blue caps start going into rotation on cold or windy (mostly windy) days.  My computer, phone, tablet and televisions become portals for MLB Advanced Media’s MLB.tv app.  My blog posts will turn from philosophical hockey thoughts to mental meanderings on Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, Willson Contreras, Anthony Rizzo, “The Professor” Kyle Hendricks, and the rest of the 2017 Defending World Champion Chicago Cubs.

There is no feeling like walking into Wrigley Field.  There is no energy like being part of the crowd singing, “Go Cubs Go!  Go Cubs Go!  Hey Chicago, what do you say?  The Cubs are going to win today!”  I fully expect to lose emotional control sometime during the 6pm hour when the 2016 World Series Championship Banner is hoisted alongside the historic Wrigley Field scoreboard in centerfield, when I realize–again–what a magical tale was last season.  As I stood next to the player tunnel at Tucson Arena listening to the final outs of 10th inning, I experienced a feeling, a euphoria, like nothing I had ever felt before.  I had to watch the post-game coverage and celebration.  I had to listen to whatever coverage I could find on my drive home that night–and for the next two hours after I arrived home.  The feeling has still just barely receded…

Tomorrow night, I will meet my good friend David outside the ballpark, check out the new Park at Wrigley area along Clark Street, grab some Wrigley Field treats, and take an incredible photo journal of my experience that night–from the packed ballpark to the classic scoreboard to the fans around me.  From the players on the field to the banner raised in the outfield, I want to capture it all.  I want pictures that I can print on canvas to fill my new home office walls with.  I want to be able to look at those pictures and feel the energy again and again and again.

I want to see Kyle Schwarber and Kris Bryant go deep into the night sky.  I want to watch Addison Russell line an RBI double to the right-center field gap.  I want to see Javy Baez put on a clinic at second base.  I want to see Jon Lester handcuff the Dodgers tomorrow night, just as he did last October.  I want to see new closer Wade Davis come in “just for some work” because the Cubs have a six or seven run lead late, preventing Davis from qualifying for the save.

Really, I want to enter my baseball Utopia for a few hours tomorrow night with both friends known (like David) and 40,000 friends unknown.  Will I be able to relax?  Oh, not really–as I live and breathe with every pitch Lester makes, and every swing Schwarber takes.

No matter.  It’s time to turn my page and start my new chapter.

PLAY BALL!

David

At a loss…

Like the tides,
Washing in and out from the ocean.
Beware the unseen undertow–
Sneaking up
Grabbing from below
Pulling you under before you can react.

The surface of my days seems calm.
There is only as much rush and chaos as I allow.
But something I sense–
A change in temperature
Slight tug at my heart.

Thoughts amassing at the base of my mind,
Not yet fully formed,
No defined shape–
Just a shadow,
Barely a glimpse,
But foreboding none the less.

The silhouette distracts.
Indecision slips in to intrude.
Things that were desired,
Now just wishes.
Things that were needed,
Utility is questioned.

In the distance sits a lifeguard–
Stoic,
Strong,
Is he smiling?
He watches from his far outpost.
Always watching.
His form seems familiar–
Shadowy…
Like that same shadow,
That same figure forming in my mind.

Fearful of the immediate future,
But calm knowing that the lifeguard watches
Guards
Prepares the way ahead.
His soul already rests,
But his heart is ever vigilant.

 

David
 

One Last Time…for 2016-17

Tonight, as I drove to and from Tucson Arena, I had this song on the brain.  The lyrics aren’t particularly relevant to the end of the Roadrunner home season, but the chorus just sticks… One last time…

I have now finished my first full season as the public address announcer for the American Hockey League’s Tucson Roadrunners.  The season–and the experience–had their ups and downs, but I’m glad to say there were far more ups than downs.  Thirty-five times since early October, I drove almost exactly 200-miles round trip to be a part of something special: the inaugural season of an AHL franchise.  I “stepped up” from announcing club college and Junior hockey games to being at the (microphone) helm of a professional sports team.  I know some friends have said it took too long (and a few others have wondered why I didn’t wait a few more years), but I’m happy to have arrived where I am now.

I was happy to tell a few select Roadrunners fans tonight that, yes, I plan to return to the mic at the Tucson Arena next season, and continue being the informative (and occasionally entertaining) voice of the Roadrunners.  The Roadrunners seemed pretty happy with my performance.  The fans seemed to enjoy hearing me on the mic.  Why wouldn’t I return?  (Okay–yeah, if the Chicago Cubs called and offered me a front office job that included handling PA duties at Wrigley Field, I would have to give that some serious consideration.)

With Tucson in the rear-view mirror for the next six months (the 2017-18 AHL season should start up again in mid October), I can now focus on other things: my book (still kind of stalled out in the early stages–waiting for a clear head and free time to really begin), a little collegiate softball and USA Hockey Tier I Nationals announcing over the next few weeks (don’t get too excited–it’s 14u and 15u teams, not the 18u National team), getting ready to move into our new house, and–likely around June sometime–auditioning for my first musical in 28 years.

…and, of course, the Cubs start their 2017 campaign tomorrow night as the defending World Series Champions–a title that has not been uttered about a Chicago Cubs team since William Taft was President–1909.  Heck, the Cubs haven’t even been able to say they were the defending National League Champions since just after World War II (1946).

Micah, this season of your father announcing for the Roadrunners was for you–and for him–and for the great fans of Tucson!  I know you’re smiling proudly.

 

David

Theatrical Monday

I admit it.  I can sometimes be a drama queen.  Especially in recent times, with my emotions often slightly (?) imbalanced, I do have a slight tendency to exaggerate things–again, especially emotional reactions.

My morning started on a downbeat note.  Not feeling particularly happy–still in that misguiding haze from the weekend, I pulled myself out of bed and went about the business of getting ready for work.  As I sat at the office desk putting a couple emails together, Avi started playing her current favorite soundtrack: Beauty and the Beast.  She got “stuck” on one song…

Have you ever heard a song that your mind tied directly to a specific memory?  It could be a place, a time, a person.  For example, I cannot hear the 1989 Mike and the Mechanics song, “Living Years” without being transported back to the Houston Airport in July, 2006.  I received a call from my brother telling me that my father was not doing well, and he (my brother) did not think my father had more than a week or two left.  My father’s health had never been the best (weighing 350+ pounds for the majority of the last 40 years of his life had that unfortunate side effect), but over the previous week or two, he had gotten steadily worse.  I made plans to hop a flight the next morning to Chicago to see my father.  On very short notice, and having only been an attorney (a public defender at that) for about seven months, I couldn’t afford a normal last minute flight.  My sister-in-law’s husband worked for Continental Airlines and offered to let me use one of his buddy passes for the flight.  Because Continental did not, at that time, offer direct flights from Phoenix to Chicago, I had to fly to Houston and then connect on a flight from Houston to Chicago.  When we touched down in Houston, I turned my phone back on and saw the message light flashing.  My heart and stomach dropped.  The message was from my brother–my father had passed away while I was in the air heading to Houston.

I wasn’t there that morning
When my father passed away.
I didn’t get to tell him
All the things I had to say.

Ever since that day, I cannot listen to this song without choking up or crying outright, thinking about my father.

This morning, Aviela was listening to Evermore, Beast’s ode to Belle as she galloped away to try and save her father from the villagers.  Most of the song doesn’t really fit, but then there’s this lyric…

Now I know she’ll never leave me
Even as she fades from view.
She will still inspire me,
Be a part
Of
everything I do.

My mind easily substituted “he” for “she”, and it was my thoughts on Micah.  Now, every time I hear that song, I tear up thinking about Micah.  As you can see, the tone for my day was set early…

After a relatively uneventful morning at work, I headed over to the softball stadium to call the ASU-Oregon State softball game.  A beautiful afternoon for softball, but my mind was elsewhere…  Still, game finished in just under two hours, and my day rolled on.

Tonight was the ASU Gammage Theatre’s 2017-18 Subscriber Preview night.  All I knew going in was that they would give us the first official announcement of the shows for next season and a few “special performances.”  The presentation went on for a little under an hour and a half and included three performances from current touring cast members of shows coming to Gammage next season: a young (10-11?) lady from the show Fun Home (cute and poignant), a breathtaking performance from an actress from The Color Purple (WOW!!), and a nice performance from The King and I (beautiful, but not one of my favorite musicals).  When it was all said and done, I came away super excited about Hamilton (but that was the one show we KNEW was coming) and School of Rock (closing out the series in June, 2018), intrigued and looking forward to Fun Home, Something Rotten, The Humans and The Color Purple, and–eh–I’m sure I won’t hate going to see The Bodyguard or The King and I.  Eight shows in 2017-18 as part of the season ticket package (instead of the seven this season) plus the two optional add-ons: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella and the classic: Les Miserables.

Cinderella is somewhat special to me, believe it or not.  It was one of the first musicals I did in community “tween” theatre at about 13 years old.  (I played the wine steward and was a part of the general chorus.)  Fun show to do, all those years ago…  Les Miz, well, I have never actually seen performed live–so I’m intrigued to give it a try this time around.

The bottom line: still a good deal, but about 21 percent higher for the package than last season.  I imagine most of that is the addition of the eighth show, and a little extra for Hamilton and School of Rock.  Any hesitation here?  Umm, no.  I will be paying that invoice before the week is out.

The day started with emotional theatrics and ended with a couple awesome stage performances and a reveal of next season’s series.  Tomorrow is a busy day–work and then Roadrunners.  Wednesday and Thursday are movie nights: Wednesday for a special advanced screening of Ghost in the Shell and Thursday for a Fifth Element movie party.  Friday and Saturday night are the last two Roadrunner home games of the season…and maybe, just maybe–I can relax on Sunday…at least until the first pitch is thrown on Sunday evening in the MLB Season Opener: the Cubs visiting their arch-rivals (see what I did there?), the St. Louis Cardinals!  (Yes, lots of baseball thoughts coming soon…)

Good night everyone.
Good night Micah.
Good night Dad.
Good night Mom.

David

 

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