Wednesday, April 13 2022

the best weekend ever 2

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, friends. Welcome to Wednesday. Today, the cool air smells like rain. The sky is gray. Over my shoulder through our living room windows I can hear cars whiz by on the wet pavement. On the bench beside me, Ziggy rests her chin on the sill so she can stare out the window like a brooding teenager. Judging by the heartbreak in her heavy eyes, you'd think she just went through a terrible break-up, but rest assured the only thing she is mourning is that Marissa skipped her usual nap on the couch so she could get some extra ring time.


Be strong, Ziggy. We'll get through this.

There's not much happening around here lately. I'm back at work, Marissa is back to painting, and Rodney is back to school. I think this lull in the early week makes for the perfect time to finish recapping the best weekend ever. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and let's get into it.

Sip. When we last left off, our protagonists had just finished shoveling fine breakfast food into their mouths before hiking back to the hotel for a nap. When was the last time you woke up from a nap in a hotel bed? It's a startling experience, simply because when Marissa and I take naps we're so accustomed to waking up with imminent responsibilities. Who is going to get Miles before he rips his diaper off? Who is going to run interference for Rodney, who has been bouncing off the walls of his bedroom without another human being to talk to for a whole two hours?

Alas, when my phone alarm rang, I felt the jolt of responsibility, but alone in our fresh hotel room there was nothing to do. Our only responsibilities were throwing on our Hawk's jerseys and meeting an Uber out front. We made it from the foot of the bed to the lobby in only ten minutes.

"Going places is so much simpler without kids," laughed Marissa.

While we waited for the Uber, Marissa talked sports with the doorman. I made sure to give them their space, as talking sports with a local is kind of a big milestone for a new hockey fan like Marissa. From what I could here, she passed the test with flying colors.


On vacations, we try to avoid using Uber. The walking makes for great exercise, and it offsets all the lavish tourist eating. But there's really no other way to get to the United Center. Starting from the loop, if you don't want to bother with the L or a bus, you're only choices are a sixty minute brisk walk over a highway and through quiet apartments dwelling streets, or you can take a fifteen minute Uber.

We arrived two hours early to the game. Our special "fan experience" tickets granted us access to some special activities at the Blackhawk's community center across the street from the United Center. After floating through a quick security check, we found ourselves in a bustling lobby.

"Let's do the locker room tour first," said Marissa.

In the weeks leading up to the locker room tour, Marissa joked about writing a love note and leaving it in one of the players' lockers. Well, that wasn't an empty threat, because as we began the self-guided tour, she had a real note palmed in her hand. She wrote it on the train over. Objectively, it was a nice note filled with gratitude and some encouraging words that any player might like to hear after a disappointing season. She addressed the letter to forward Dylan Strome simply because he seemed like the most approachable guy on the team.

"Plus, he has a wife and a kid now. He's got to be sentimental," we reasoned.

Marissa's ability to deliver the note depended on a number of factors. How closely would we be monitored? How many people would be on the tour with us? The last thing we wanted to do was upset the staff and get thrown out of the fan experience before the game began.


The locker room was quiet, like a museum. A single tour guide stood at her post in the center of the room, watching me and Marissa like her head was on a swivel. I assumed the special operation was off, and I asked a question to ease the tension.

"So is this their actual gear?" I asked.

"No, this is just what they practice with," said the tour guide. "They have a different locker room for before the game."

That was when I saw it - using my question as a diversion, Marissa leaned closed to Dylan Strome's locker. Without bending her elbow, she tossed the note with her finger tips. It landed perfectly on the back shelf next to his mouth guard case and hockey tape.

"A perfect drop! Channeling your inner Nacho Varga," I said quietly.

The secret love note delivery was a success, now we could just enjoy the tour. Marissa found her idol Kevin Lankinen's locker.


Seeing Fleury's blocker and glove in an empty locker, we stopped in our tracks to pay our respects. He's still alive - he was just traded to Minnesota before the trade deadline. But in our house, being traded to our rivals in Minnesota is still a terrible fate, and we mourn it like death.


I goaded Marissa to show off her secret talent for imitating hockey players. Don't all hockey players kind of look the same? Yes, but hers is a subtle craft. Marissa can capture their small nuances, like the intense, unblinking glare from Sam Lafferty.


Or Jake McCabe's ruggedly handsome smirk.


The way Kirby Dach shakes his head in disappointment when he first sits down in the penalty box.


We went on to tour the Blackhawk's weight room. Would it surprise you to learn the players' weight room looks kind of quaint? Just a few machines, some medicine balls, a row of treadmills, and a short astro turf track for doing sprints. It doesn't look that far off from what we did in our living room under the tutelage of Trainer Greg.


Marissa and I skated laps on the practice rink. She aptly compared me to Michael Scott because I couldn't stop showing off. It's hard for me to throw on a pair of skates without wanting to see if I still remember how to skate backwards.


Ice skating before a hockey game was awesome. With my face still dripping with sweat and my back sore from pumping my legs, sitting in a chilly stadium with a beer and snacks was even more inviting. Regrettably, the Blackhawks got killed out there, but we had great seats.


There was a family seated in front of us. Their youngest son kind of reminded me of Rodney. In the middle of the game, I heard him shriek and pick something up out of his nachos.

"I lossth-t my tooof!" he cried.

A few seats away, his dad sprang out of his chair in excitement. "You lost your tooth? That's awesome!"

Our whole section cheered him on.

I have to head upstairs to start work in a minute, so I'll leave you with two final food pictures. Shortly after the game, we ventured to the near north side of the city for Pequod's Pizza. Their style of deep dish pizza is famous for the layer of crispy burnt cheese around the outside of the crust.


Our final indulgence of the weekend was Al's Beef. Marissa and I picked up a pair of sandwiches to eat on the train. I got my sandwich dipped with hot giardiniera. The soft beef wrapped in gently soaked bread looked simply angelic, even in the stark fluorescent lighting of the Metra train.


Sorry if I made you hungry. That's what I got today - have a good Wednesday.