Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Feeling Blue in Paradise

This time a year ago I was in the Caribbean islands for a friend’s wedding, surrounded by white sand and crystal blue waters. I was even planning on proposing to my girlfriend on the final day. However, despite being in a virtual heaven on earth, I was sitting in a tiny bar, in front of a video blackjack machine, totally bummed out, absent-mindedly choosing hit or stand, not caring at all whether I won or lost. My favorite team, the Washington Capitals, had just been eliminated from the playoffs. I hadn’t even been able to watch the game.

It has been extremely stressful to be a Caps fan over the past five years. Tonight, they will play their 5th Game 7 during that stretch, more than any other team in the NHL, except one…their opponent, the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Boston Bruins.

As a diehard, Capitals fanatic, I can remember each game like it was yesterday:

April 22nd, 2008- In their first playoff appearance in four years, the Caps managed to storm back from a three games to one deficit against the Philadelphia Flyers. The game eventually went to overtime before Joffrey Lupul tucked a rebound past Cristobal Huet and my head collapsed into the carpet.

April 28th, 2009- The Caps once again clawed back from three games to one, against the New York Rangers this time, and the game fell on the same night when I hosted my weekly poker game. When Sergei Federov blasted a goal with five minutes left, I celebrated so loudly, my friend across the street thought I was getting robbed.

May13th, 2009- Against the Pittsburgh Penguins, my most hated sports franchise, the Caps got embarrassed in front of a home crowd, 6-2. The following day, with my girlfriend out of town, totally alone, a bottle of good bourbon helped me discover the wisdom of country music.

April 28th, 2010- After winning the President’s Trophy for the best regular season record in the NHL, the Caps were heavy favorites to battle for the Cup. This time, it was the Caps that stormed to a commanding three games to one lead against the lowly Montreal Canadiens before completely choking. I’m not embarrassed to admit that, for the first time in more than a decade, I cried.

The Caps have faced the Bruins twice before in the playoffs. Each team has won one series. Both times the winner has gone on to the Stanley Cup finals. I have little faith the Caps will prevail tonight. My stomach churns a horrible knot and I feel on the verge of utter collapse. Time moves with sting of a thousand pin pricks until the puck drops.

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Ah, Las Vegas

My recent trip to Las Vegas was my sixth visit to the international gambling Mecca, but I hadn’t been in years. Here are some of the lesser known truths about Sin City that I had forgotten.

1)      Get ready to wait in lines. The airport taxi cab line is longer than the wait for Space Mountain. It may be the worst, but is by no means the last line to encounter for a weekend in Vegas. The buffet, the nightclub, and even the card room are often protected by monstrous, snaking queues that challenge your resolve to enter.

2)      Taxi cabs can be unpleasant. Up front, next to the driver in a full cab, I was bombarded with the aroma of a week-old, soiled, adult diaper. One member of our group climbed into a back seat and found his hand in a fresh puddle of love pudding. Always look before you sit! For a full night on the town, limos are worth it.

3)      You don’t actually need sleep. Coming from the east coast instantly throws your internal clock out of whack. No, the casinos don’t pump in pure oxygen, but the city runs on the swirling mess of adrenaline produced by lust and greed. It is very hard to get more than four hours of rest at a time. Meh. Sleep when you are dead.

4)      People get cranky when they lose. I should have remembered this one. While everyone smiles upon arrival, the faces are not nearly as cheery waiting at the terminal for departure. The city is built upon the graves of losers. Get a long last look; it may be awhile before you return.