Monthly Archives: April 2016

Ends & Beginnings

Life is full of ends and beginnings.  In the past seven days since my last blog post, I’ve experienced the ups and downs and the comings and goings of ordinary existence.

One end this week:  my fostering of Fritzie (fka Frodo), who has gone off to live in his “furever” home with a lovely couple who will spoil him and treat him like the little prince he was born to be.  I don’t know what his former life was like; the horrible condition he was in when Linda from Posh Pets found him at Manhattan ACC would lead me to believe that he wasn’t well cared for, but his gentle demeanor was clear evidence to me that, at least at some point in his brief life, he had been loved.  Now that Fritz is gone, I probably won’t take on any more fosters for a while.  It’s not because fostering is a painful process; rather, it is a joyful one, because I know my foster fur babies are going to great new homes, where they can be the center of attention and affection.

Which brings me to a beginning:  I am moving into a high-rise apartment right on the Long Beach Boardwalk next week while my house is getting elevated, a process that could take anywhere from six months to a year.  I had no choice but to take the apartment on a year’s lease, although it wouldn’t surprise me if it turns out that I have to stay there for the whole year anyway.  Who knows what my contractor will find when he raises this weird little Lego house, with its additions and done-on-a-dime renovations over the years since its first incarnation as a one-room beach bungalow back in the 1920s.

The coming months promise to be stressful, but as soon as I get settled into the new apartment, I will at least have an eye of calm in the potential shitstorm.  The only problem with my new abode is that the management company doesn’t know the full extent of my menagerie, so at least the first few weeks may involve some stealth on my part, which I am most assuredly NOT looking forward to.  What I am looking forward to is being literally an elevator ride and a few steps from the beach.  And this apartment also has a lovely little terrace that faces north, where on a clear day I can see across Reynolds Channel all the way to the middle of Long Island and off in the west I can see the skyscrapers of NYC, especially at night.  It will be interesting to get a different perspective from what I’ve become used to in the 12 years I’ve lived in my house in the West End of Long Beach.  True, I won’t have to familiarize myself with a whole new town, but I will be in an entirely different neighborhood.  The West End of Long Beach, with its narrow streets and restaurants in walking distance and robust night life,  is considerably different than  “over East”, as my daughter calls it, which is mostly residential homes and high rises, a bus or bike ride from any shops or eateries.  It’ll be a change of scenery to look forward to, in any event, and it’s a chance to start a whole new set of (hopefully better) habits.  I plan to start a boardwalk-walking regimen right away.

Another end this week?  Well, the Rangers’ 2015-16 season, and maybe even their playoff hopes for the foreseeable future, seeing as they’ve traded away so many prospects in the hopes of winning in the present.  Over the past few years they’ve gotten tantalizingly close but not close enough, and now the win-it-all window has most likely closed.  Sadly, they went out with a whimper, throttled by the high-powered Penguins in only five games.  If I’m being honest, they were actually a tough team to watch most of this season, failing to display the necessary killer instinct, giving up late goals and squandering valuable points.  Perhaps this core group has one more push in them, but they’re going to need some serious evaluation at the team level and soul-searching on an individual basis.  They were even bad at being bad, unable to lose quite enough at the end of the season so that they would fall into the first wild card spot and face the Florida Panthers instead of the Penguins.  The latter squad is on fire right now and may give the Washington Capitals, who have been a juggernaut all season (and my prohibitive favorite to FINALLY win the Cup this year), a serious run for their money.

I’m a little worried about two things:  First, will Coach Vigneault get axed?  It did seem as if he lost the room in the end.  And second, is Henrik Lundqvist, one of the world’s elite goaltenders, done?  As Henrik goes, so go the Rangers.  Henrik looked literally crushed on the bench after being pulled in the last game, and later in the locker room afterwards.  I often wondered if something was wrong with him, especially during this series but really throughout the latter weeks of the season.  How far the mighty King has fallen!  It used to be that he could do no wrong, but might his head have gotten too big?  Did he have to be brought back down to earth?  He’s usually such a cool customer, perfect in every way, but I detected on more than one occasion a pissiness this season, throwing up his arms in aggravation at his teammates or a lack of referee’s call.  My chiropractor, a fellow Ranger fan, said he lost all respect for Henrik one night when the team gave up a late goal (as was their wont), losing him a shutout, and you could read in the King’s body language his petty exasperation over the slight.

Speaking of losing one’s head, one last joyous, highly anticipated beginning this week:  GAME OF THRONES IS FINALLY BACK!!  During the past couple of months I have been reading and watching everything I could find on the Internet about the coming season, and now it has arrived!!  At the end of the premiere episode last night, I was almost angry at the fact that I’d have to wait A WHOLE OTHER WEEK before I could watch it again!  Fortunately, there’s a new post-show show on HBO called “After the Thrones” featuring two writers, Andy Greenwald and Chris Ryan, who used to do a similar video blog (or vidcast or whatever you call a podcast with video) under the late, lamented Grantland banner, to break down and discuss every aspect of each episode.  I am glad that they’ve been given a wider platform because I really enjoy their devoted and yet irreverent analyses.

GOT show runners David Benioff and D.B.Weiss have stated publicly that, after this Season 6, there is really only material for another 13 or so episodes, which they will probably split into two separate seasons (7 and 8), but then IT WILL BE OVER!!  THE END!!  I don’t know what I’ll do without it!  Of course by then I’ll hopefully have another volume of George R.R. Martin’s epic tome to get through.  I actually just finished Book Five, A Dance with Dragons, last week, just in time for the start of the new season.

There are certainly things I WANT to end – my current employment situation, for example, and this whole house-raising process – but there are others that I wish could go on forever (like Game of Thrones!).  I think that’s why I liked school so much:  Even though every year ended in May or June, come September, it would start all over again, with the promise of new and potentially wonderful experiences and bits of knowledge to be gleaned over the coming months.  There aren’t too many things like that anymore when you’re a non-teacher adult and, to be honest, I miss it.  Beginnings, middles and ends – but on some rare and wonderful occasions, we get to start all over again.

Lots of things that happen in our lifetimes may LOOK linear, but many more aspects of human life are cycles:  There is an end, yes, but it’s really just the beginning of something new.  I have no insight about this from a theological perspective.  To me, being born is THE BEGINNING, and when we die, as far as I know, that is THE END.  But I like to think that the end of one’s life on this plane will just be the start of some new life elsewhere.  And of course, at a very minimum, my physical body will return to the earth as ash and bone packed with nutrients for some future creation.

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Why I Hate Hockey

Hockey is a supremely stupid game.  Things don’t happen the way they’re supposed to. The Hockey Gods reward and punish on a whim.  Case in point:  Tonight’s Game 3 in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Rangers-Pens, first of two at MSG.  Joint is jumping, Rangers come out flying and in fact play two pretty solid periods of defensive hockey, forechecking in earnest, clogging up the neutral zone and not letting the Penguins through.  Pens are on the power play in the first period when they take a double minor for high-sticking.  The teams play four-on-four for a while, then, not long after the Rangers’ power play starts, Krieder scores a beautiful second-effort goal.  The Garden erupts in ecstasy.

Ah, but no – our joy is short-lived:  The newly instituted coach’s offside challenge is employed and it turns out that the Ranger’s skate was inches over the blue line before the puck came over. Goal is waved off and we can feel the negative energy lurking.

Rick Nash scored a beauty of a short-handed goal to give the Rangers the lead but, truth be told, the Rangers spent much of the first two periods wasting offensive chances, including the rest of that first 4-minute penalty and then two more power plays in the second period during which they got barely a sniff.  Begrudging credit to Penguins, but Rangers need to work through that shit.  That’s the whole POINT.  You need to play BETTER than the other team.

Tonight, even though the game-winning goal was flukey – two Rangers collided at the blue line and the puck miraculously popped on to the stick of the on-rushing Penguin, who was almost shocked to receive it – he was just in the right place at the right time (for HIM). Now the Rangers are trailing with ten minutes left in the third period, at which point the Penguins rallied around their rookie goalie even more stoutly, and the Rangers failed to find the will within themselves to break through.   Any of them could have risen to the occasion and bulled his way to scoring a goal – anyone! – but instead no one did.

There’s this “advanced analytic” measure that the hockey stats nerds cite which is literally a calculation of LUCK.  It ultimately regresses to the mean, but some teams seem to consistently have better luck than others.  Yes, to quote an ancient hockey truism, “You make your own breaks” – by working harder, by putting in that extra effort.  But hockey is a freaky competitive experience.  Sometimes things happen that SHOULD NOT HAPPEN.  The puck pinballs in off three sets of skates, or conversely stays out of the net despite going from post to post along the goal line without ever crossing it.  A stick comes up into a guy’s face and it’s a penalty, but every once in a while – whoopsie!  Human error!!  – no one sees it.  There’s dozens of happenstances in a typical game that make the  diehard fan scratch his or her head in perplexity:  “How was that even REAL??”

And there’s another phenomenon that always baffles me:  how an ENTIRE TEAM can suck at the same time.  It must be bad mojo or something supernatural.  Even though a team has four separate lines and three sets of d‑men, and only five skaters are on the ice at one time, when something goes wrong for one of those lines or D pairs, suddenly it infects ALL the lines and/or ALL the defensemen.  How is that even possible?  I guess it is the case that confidence and positive energy can be contagious among teammates; why not a crisis of confidence and negative juju?

Well, the Rangers need to re-group.  That’s all there is to it.  There were a lot of positive signs tonight, but they have a very big problem (and I’m sure I’ve mentioned it in one or another of my hockey posts):  They don’t have the killer instinct.  They seem unable (or unwilling) to capitalize when they force the other team into mistakes.  Their power play is a prime example of consistently wasted opportunities to make the other team pay.  And they also don’t shoot enough.  How many times have we heard the fans at MSG screaming at the boys to “SHOOOOT!!”, especially with the man advantage?  They’re always looking for the perfect pass, the highlight reel play, when all they really need to do is get the puck on net and send some bodies that way as well.

Simple, right?  But they don’t listen to me shouting through the TV or sending telepathic messages.  Ah, how I wish they would!  It’s like I’m an “eye in the sky” and can see what ails them, but I just can’t get my message through!

Boys!  Rangers!!  I love ya, but you’ve got to SHOOT THE PUCK.  Please.

Paper Morass

[Well, it happened.  I missed a Tuesday posting.  My excuse?  I forgot today wasn’t Tuesday, having gone into the office on Monday rather than later in the week, as I usually do.  So let’s just pretend today is Tuesday and say no more about it.]

I live my life amidst a mess of papers:  papers at work, papers at home; papers from my past and papers to deal with my future.  Some days I feel like putting a lighter to all of it and saying, “Oh, well, it’s all burnt up now.  I’m finally free.”

Of course, there’s really less need for paper these days, with electronic storage on the computer (which is by no means secure, says the woman who’s had no fewer than three total computer crashes), CDs and flash drives and now the iCloud, which holds out the promise of storage foreverness (but at what potential risk to my cyber-security?).

But the old-school side of me still prints out and saves an inordinate amount of paper, both here and at work – hence, the full desk trays and file cabinets, the manila folders and 3-hole binders filling every inch of my home office (the “Long Beach office”, as I refer to it with colleagues and clients).  My office at work is much the same but a little neater, given that when a deal is over, I just send the papers “away”:  I don’t care where they go, I just want them GONE.  I welcomed the advent of transaction closing document sets on disk rather than in massive paper files (velo – or Acco-bound), but that’s just left me with dozens of identical disks that I have to flip through any time I want to find a particular document from a precedent deal.  Now the “kids” at work (i.e., the associates and paralegals) save closing documents as Adobe pdf files right in the firm’s document management system, enabling any document to be easily found with a simple mouse click.  I’m quickly become a fan of this, but not to the point of doing it with any regularity myself (yet).  Unsurprisingly, I still tend to favor paper when I assemble my closing documents at the conclusion of a deal.

My boss has a colossal paper problem.  Sometimes you’ll go into his office and worry that you (or he) will be buried forever by the toppling of a precarious paper pile.  He’s twice had to move offices since I’ve known him, and both times involved a painful purge (after weeks of procrastination), but more often than not the documents just went into hiding rather than into the “circular file” where they belonged.  He’s even more old school and attached to his paper than I am.

One reason I save so much paper is in anticipation of some future circumstance where I’ll have to PROVE something to someone.  Ideally, I’ll be able to pull out the applicable piece of paper and, lo and behold, the problems will be solved.  But that comes with a caveat:  I have to be able to FIND that piece of paper.  The other day, my ex-husband asked me for a stamped copy of our divorce decree, which he needed so that he could change his name back to his former pre-married name on his Social Security card.  [My ex is/was so gender-enlightened that he hyphenated HIS last name, as I had done, when we got married so that our whole family – including our future children – could have the same last name.  I went back to my maiden name (what’s the male equivalent of a “maiden” name – a “bachelor” name?) not long after our divorce but he had evidently held on to the hyphen all these years.]   Evidently his current marriage certificate and driver’s license were insufficient proof to the authorities that he was who he said he was.

Now, I consider myself a reasonably well organized paper-keeper, in that I have file cabinets and an alphabetically-classified collection of file folders containing my personal documents.  But every once in a while, my filing methods will come up against a logic problem, and this was one of those occasions.  I knew I had a file for my divorce papers – I could see it in my mind’s eye, in a certain file drawer – but it just wasn’t where I expected it to be.  Nor was it in the lockbox with my other important “life” papers, and it wasn’t in any other location that would have made sense.  I still haven’t found the file, although by now my ex had gotten what he needed from the county clerk, the ultimate repository of EVERYBODY’s important legal papers.

My ex’s dilemma was a prime example of the excess of legal and bureaucratic paperwork that drives our world.  Sure, as a lawyer, paperwork certainly pays MY bills, so I shouldn’t complain, but it can get very exasperating.  Administering the grant from New York State to raise my house requires VOLUMES of paper.  Clearing up my daughter’s legal problems has been complicated by cross-state-border lack of communication and documentary coordination.  She’s also dealing with an apartment lease situation that is giving her a cruel lesson about signing contracts and “buyer beware”.  I even had to file papers with the Nassau County Surrogates Court to prove I was my daughter’s legal guardian (“I’m her MOTHER,” I kept telling them, but evidently that wasn’t proof enough).  Then there’s all the insurance to keep track of:  homeowners, flood, renters’ (for my “contents”), car, life, health – and all of it requires reams and reams of paperwork.  I pay most of my bills online, but I still have to save copies of the invoices marked with “paid online”.  I just can’t stop.

As if public bureaucracy wasn’t enough reason to drown us all in paper, I’m also an article accumulator.  I find interesting stories online and I print them out for some unknown future use, so of course I have to save them somewhere.  And then there’s the journals – literally 30+ years of daily journals and assorted writings that I’ve been amassing over the years that I have no idea what to do with, or when I will ever get a chance to organize and go through them.  I swear that someday I will, perhaps in my doddering retirement.  But after that, THEN what will I do with them?  Transcribe them all into an electronic format so I can store them in some other medium for posterity and actually THROW THEM AWAY??  (*gulp*)  Ultimately, no one but me cares about my papers.  But it’s true that I’m very attached to them – some might even say pathologically.  And I’m sure it’s a fire hazard to be surrounded by this much flammable material.

I’m going to be moving to a new apartment in a couple of weeks, and I will inevitably drag most of my papers with me even though it’s only for less than a year.  And there they’ll sit, in boxes, waiting for the return move into my elevated house, when they can go back into the file cabinets and shelves and desk trays.  Am I a hoarder?  Nah, I’m just a paper collector.

Sleepwalking into the Playoffs

I am mystified by the New York Rangers.

They had multiple opportunities to put what Coach Alain Vigneault calls the “checkmark” by their name as permanently in possession of a playoff spot, against non-playoff teams Carolina and Buffalo last week, but somehow fell into deep holes in both games from which they were not able to recover, despite turning on the boosters in the latter stages of  each contest.  If this is an indication of the Rangers’ thinking that they can just generate offense at will and score goals in bunches when they let inferior teams (let alone equal or superior teams) get ahead of them, well, I suppose these games have been “wake up” calls (although you wouldn’t have thought they’d need TWO “wake up” calls, but I guess we’re all guilty of pressing the snooze button occasionally).

Fortunately, they finally had some success against the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets and the limping Tampa Bay Lightning last night and tonight in back-to-back games, getting the checkmark and solidifying third place, but having blown home ice advantage despite being in second place for much of the season.  In fact, the Tampa game tonight started off perilously like the two games against Carolina and Buffalo, with the Rangers going down by two goals and being thoroughly outplayed and outshot in the first period.  But the boys found their legs, and Henrik kept them in it (as he often does), Derek Stepan has stepped up his game for sure, and Chris Krieder has emerged from the fog he’s been in all season to show some signs of the brilliance his physical gifts allow him, and they managed to put the Lightning to bed.

Unlike their closest competitors, the Penguins and Islanders, the Rangers had been reasonably healthy.  Well, at least to our knowledge – teams have a tendency to hide the bumps and bruises at this time of year; but as long as the boys can still lace up the boots and know which direction to skate in, they’ll be out on the ice for every game – and at least until last night, when our captain and arguably our best defenseman suffered some sort of “upper body injury” (i.e., RIGHT HAND) and is unlikely to be 100% by the time the playoffs begin next week.  And then tonight, in the waning minutes of a 3-2 game, former Ranger and current Bolt Brian Boyle used his behemoth body to shove Dan Girardi into the boards, which resulted in a groggy “G” having to be helped off the ice, looking much the worse for his collision with the boards.  But in general, missing key players due to injuries can’t be the Rangers’ excuse.

My mother used to recite a nursery rhyme to me when I was being a naughty kid:  “There was a little girl who had a little curl/Right in the middle of her forehead/And when she was good, she was very, very good/But when she was bad, she was horrid.”  The 2015-16 New York Rangers are the little girl with the curl.  They’ve put up masterful efforts (beating the Blues and the Stars, two of the Western Conference’s strongest teams, “in their own barns”, as Derek Stepan likes to say), assembling an impressive 26-9-4 home record through 80 games and sending the fans home happy most nights (except, of course, for the one night Darian and I were there and also one game that Darian went to with a friend; in both of those games, as if to spite those of us low-rent fans who can only afford to attend a couple of in-person games a season, the Rangers stunk up the place).

But when they should be revving up to head into the playoffs – the REAL season – as strong as they can be, with confidence, clicking on all cylinders after a season of getting their timing down and familiarizing themselves with one another, they suddenly got LAZY, careless, unwilling to show the killer instinct that teams need at this time of year.  Even King Henrik, usually a dependable stalwart, has looked somewhat disinterested and pissy.

Maybe it’s all a ruse.  After all, these same Rangers, with very few new pieces, have gone deep into the playoffs in four of the last five seasons.  They must have learned some lessons.  They MUST know what they need to do.  So maybe they’re playing a rope-a-dope game with their opponents, pretending to be less-than-stellar so they can surprise the Pens and the Caps, like “Where were THESE Rangers all season long?”  Well, clearly they were saving themselves for the playoffs.  That’s what I’m hoping, anyway, even if it might be a bit delusional.

Check back with me in a couple of weeks to see what kind of mood I’m in where Rangers and playoff hockey is concerned.  It’s so embarrassing to me that the Rangers’ performance has an actual effect on my demeanor and state of mind for the entire day after.  As I’ve said previously [“Hockey:  An Obsession”, 4/21/15 – note that it was around this same time LAST season, when the boys were well on their way to making me suffer on their way to being eliminated by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Conference Finals), being so invested in something over which I have ABSOLUTELY NO CONTROL borders on insanity.  But I wouldn’t have it any other way, and I’ve even infected my child with the same affliction (although she fortunately only has a mild form).

And I must admit, they have looked much better the last two games (or at least for 5 of the 6 periods).  Their special teams are sharper than they’ve been all season, which is a real boon, especially in the playoffs when the teams are more on par with one another and the coaches often engage in chess matches.  An opportunity on the power play – or, alternatively, a huge penalty kill – can make a huge difference in the outcome of a game.

As always, I’m looking forward to the “second season.”  Rangers beat writer Steve Zipay of Newsday quoted Van Morrison lyrics to describe the upcoming playoff season:  “You make it to spring / And there’s no bed of roses / Just more hard work and bad company . . . “ (Steve Zipay, “As always, expectations high for Rangers come playoff time”, Newsday, 4/2/16, http://www.newsday.com/sports/columnists/steve-zipay/as-always-expectations-high-for-rangers-come-playoff-time-1.11646333).  There are sudden death moments and epic one-on-one battles over the course of up to seven straight games against the same opponent.  The NHL playoffs provide some of the most exciting sports action of ANY kind, no matter how the Rangers fare, although of course I’m a believer!  If not now, when?