TOR @ DET: Cartwheels

TOR @ DET: Cartwheels

3/7/18 Detroit: We used to have these ridiculous parties on our back deck when my brothers were in the prime of their degeneracy. They were the two oldest, my sisters were in the middle, and I was the BBAAYYYYBBEEEEE. I must’ve been in the 7-12 age range during the heyday of these “deck jams,” as they were called. My sister Amy -who was closest to me in age- and I would try to stay up and hang around these parties as long as possible, before we were shoved off to bed once the savage drunkenness was taking hold. My oldest sister, Sue, didn’t care for them as much, until she was the deck’s legal drinking age of 16 or 17, then she became one of the cool kids, and we were still just the mascot kids. A few times, my brothers or their savage friends would have me or Amy hold a beer as they hoisted us in the air for one of their drunken group photos. Everyone got a kick out of these gigantic, scary looking motherfuckers, smiling and holding up a prepubescent child with a beer in their hand.

If I was my brothers’ mascot, then I was my sisters’ play toy. I hadn’t realized until somewhat recently the subtle torture that they subjected me to in my early years. I’d been bragging to people for most of my life about how good I was at doing cartwheels. Just this past Christmas, my whole extended family was over, and we were drinking and such, and I was telling an aunt or cousin or someone how awesome I was at doing cartwheels. Amy started laughing and said, “no, me and Sue would just tell you that you were good at cartwheels, because we thought it was funny when you and your chubby little body used to do them with your legs bent and stuff, and you thought you were so good at them and you had so much confidence, and that made it so much funnier.” My whole life was a lie.

The guard began to shift when I was about 12, Sue and her friends were making up more of the population of the deck jams. And Amy was nearing the deck’s legal drinking age; much to my mother’s chagrin. She hoped it would all end once my brothers calmed down a bit and were no longer drunkenly fighting each other on the deck. And it ended to some extent, the savagery was mostly gone, but the drunkenness was still very present. Someone, I can’t remember who, snuck me my first beer around this time. It was a Guinness and I thought it was absolutely disgusting, and I didn’t feel great after drinking it. Amy made fun of me for getting drunk off half a beer. But 8 years later I stole all her friends with my charm and wit, so I had the last laugh… Until the Christmas cartwheel thing, then she had the last laugh again.

I helped Sue move from Ithaca to Detroit two years ago. She and her husband Michael were both teaching at Cornell, then got jobs at Michigan University. Michael had to stay in Ithaca a week later for some employed person reason, so I drove the U-Haul since Sue sucked at driving. The move was before I knew the truth about my cartwheels, so I didn’t lie to her and tell her she was good at driving for my own amusement, had I known I would’ve told her good luck with that fuckin’ 7 hour drive!!

I was just kidding, the cartwheel thing wasn’t that big of a deal…

So I selflessly moved her to Detroit two years ago. I’d been back to visit maybe four or five times since then, and compared to the rest of the vast United States, Detroit felt like home. It was the first feeling of familiarity in 2 months.

By the time the deck jams were mostly my friends, and Aim’s friends that I had stolen, Sue was upstate at Cornell for graduate school. I think it was the first time it dawned on me that you were allowed to leave Staten Island. There were 5 of us childrens plus our parents crammed in our beach bungalow that neighbored a sewage treatment plant, so there wasn’t exactly a vacation fund in the budget.

If Staten Island had a mantra it would’ve been, “Why You Wanna Go There For?” As in, “where you goin’? L.A? I heard the pizza sucks out there, why you wanna go there for?” “Mexico? It’s all Mexicans down there, why you wanna go there for?” “Pensyl-wha? Pennsylvania? Ya gotta pay a toll, it’s all the way ova there, why you wanna go there for?” “Just Stay Here,” could’ve been the secondary mantra. And, “Sanitation?! That’s a good job!!” could’ve been the tertiary, but that was another story. I sang those mantras for most of my life. Until I was 20, the furthest I’d ever been from Staten Island was Ocean City, Maryland, a whopping 5 hours away. All of my mom’s siblings and their families lived within like 5-10 minutes of us; Staten Island was the center of the universe as far as I was concerned. Then Sue went away to college, and through that was going to all these places I wasn’t even sure were real, like Barcelona, and Italy, and Vietnam. Vietnam? You could just go to Vietnam? You didn’t have to be drafted by the Army? How was that possible? Did you swim there? Did they have electricity in Vietnam? It was baffling. I finally got on a plane at like 22 years old, and I learned part of why people wanted to go places; because going to new places was stimulating and sometimes boring and sometimes eye opening and sometimes it sucked, but it was rarely what I thought it would be. Whenever I got back to Staten Island after some bouncing around, the question I now had in my head was, “why you wanna stay here for?” Why did all these people want to stay put on this rock where everyone was pissed and cutting each other off in traffic all the time.

It felt good to be in the familiarity of Detroit, and it felt good to be with my sister and her husband and their dog. But being in Detroit also meant Staten Island was a mere 10 hours away. I had absolutely no plan for once I got back there. I was going back to a place where studio apartments were $1200 a month, and the only thing I was qualified to do was work in a kitchen for maybe $15 an hour, and to be honest I barely felt qualified for that. But Sue and Michael were pillars of success, they graduated from Cornell with degrees in architecture, they’d been teaching at the collegiate level for years, surely they could steer me in the right direction.

Sue wasn’t sure if they’d be continuing the fellowship program she was brought in on, and Michael had already made the decision that he was quitting his professing gig. They were as unsure about their futures as I was about mine.

But Sue was the one who went to Vietnam, she lived in like 12 places in the last 8 years, she opened up this can of worms. I would’ve just kept being a miserable yet financially secure union worker if she hadn’t unknowingly introduced this alternative way of living, she owed me the answer of what the fuck I should be doing with myself. She told me my cartwheels were good, I didn’t decide they were good on my own. I wasn’t even sure if I’d ever seen her attempt a cartwheel, but I just assumed she knew things.

But really, the cartwheel thing was not a big deal, I wasn’t even that mad…

There was some solidarity in knowing that we were all shooting from the hip. She and Michael had always landed on their feet, so that was somewhat encouraging. I guess it would’ve help if I had their collegiate pedigree before I dove into this world of uncertainty, but I had irrational confidence and didn’t think I needed any pedigree… almost as if someone had told me I was good at something that I actually sucked at from a young age.

I’ll let it go now.

I was pretty fuckin’ sick of going to these basketball games, especially going by myself. I came this far though, so I had to see the trip through. I figured Sue and Michael would be too busy to accompany lil ole me to the game. But much to my relief they wanted to go, we moseyed on over around the time the 2nd quarter was starting. The Pistons were hosting my adopted favorite team Toronto Raptors, and since Detroit was so close to Canada, there was a bounty of Raptors fan, and the atmosphere was more intense than I expected it to be.

I didn’t recognize the amount of Raptors fans at first, and wasn’t really paying attention to what was happening in the game, because we were seated behind one of the drunkest people I’d ever seen at a sporting event. It was only like a half hour into the game and this dude just appeared out of nowhere, double fisting beers, and crab dancing across the half empty row. It was the first row of the nosebleeds and we were in the second row, I was sure we were going to witness this dude fall over the facing of the upper-deck and plummet to his death. He was probably around my age and seemed to be at the game by himself; that was my thing!! Only I hadn’t made a fool of myself at any of the games I went to, this fuckin’ guy was one-upping me. The only people in the half empty row was a group of like twelve girls in their early 20s, which I also had never seen, what the hell was going on in Detroit. It became clear why he had chosen this row. He not so smoothly danced his way all the way down to sit next to the group of girls, as the girl who was seated directly next to him seemed mortified, and her friends laughed at them. Security finally came over after like 15 minutes of him periodically yelling out “KOBE,” then attempting to hit on the girls. I was sure he was gonna get kicked out, but the security dude just gave him a half assed warning after he leaned over the upper-deck’s protective glass for the third time. The security guy didn’t even check his ticket, there was no way his seat was in this row, but the security guy let him stay. We did not pay attention to one second of game action while this guy was in front of us, it was impossible to focus on anything else. By halftime he left and never returned. He was either too drunk to find his seat, or he got kicked out, or he died. We’ll never know, but the in game entertainment was gone, and now we all had to settle for the professional athletes.

Sue and Michael weren’t gigantic basketball fans by any means, and they were busy folks so I just assumed we’d just leave after the 3rd or something, but the game was so fuckin’ good that we couldn’t. Everybody was into, that drunken mess really fucked up. My new favorite player, DeMar DeRozan, and the Pistons’ Blake Griffin were in a shootout, and it came down to the final seconds, twice. This game happened like 2 weeks ago and I didn’t remember the exact sequence, but at some point Griffin hit a jumper to put the Pistons up 3, then the Pistons got the ball back and it looked like the game might be over. Then DeRozan either got a steal or a long rebound or something with less than 10 seconds to go, and he drove down the entire length of the court. No one on the Pistons picked him up, and by the time someone got near him he was mid lift off; he dunked on someone’s head and got fouled. He hit the free throw and sent it to overtime, or at least that was how I remembered it. I said, “oh shit!” Sue and Michael said, “oh shit!” The twelve girls in their early 20s said, “oh shit!!” And the drunk guy appeared out of nowhere and yelled, “KOBE!” It was thrilling.

I said to Sue, “up to you, wanna stay for overtime?” And she said, “of course I wanna stay for overtime, fuck you think, this shit is nutty… KOBE!” Sue was actually the drunk guy this whole time. Nobody scored for the first couple of minutes of overtime, then Griffin and DeRozan continued their back and forth thing, I think, to be honest I didn’t remember… Doesn’t it feel like you were there… What I did remember was DeRozan having the ball with less than 10 seconds left and the game was tied. He drew attention from like three defenders as he drove, then quickly kicked it out to Fred Van Fleet in the corner, Van Fleet wasn’t hitting shit all game, but he drilled the corner jumper and put the Raptors up with like 4 seconds left on the clock. The Pistons in-bounded after a timeout, and Griffin got off some tough, contested jumper that hit of the side of the rim. The Pistons let their country down as the Raptors fans cheered loudly. I was proud of my adopted team.

I was staying in Detroit for about a week, partly because of when the Pistons game was scheduled, but mostly because I was prolonging the end of this trip. I was putting off reality as long as possible. If I did enough cooking, I knew I wouldn’t over stay my welcome, since they were usually too busy being employed to do a lot of home cooking. I pulled out all the stops, whipped up some hearty gumbo my third night there, then churned out homemade pasta in a mushroom cream sauce the night after the Pistons game. It was my first crack at fresh pasta, and it was all compliments from Sue and Michael, as they offered me a hypothetical personal chef job after they hit it big in the architecture world. Had it just been Sue, or if Amy was there, I would’ve been skeptical of that feedback. But Michael was a kind Midwesterner, and would not stoop so low as to play that kind of cruel trickery on me. I would take the personal chef job if it ever became non-hypothetical, but for the time being I had to take my leave.

The deck didn’t exist anymore. Our house was gone; washed away by the beach where we all had so many glorious and unnecessarily drunken nights. There was a deck at our parent’s new house too, but no savagery had ever taken place there, we were all past that. We held Christmas at the new house, it was only 5 minutes from where our house used to be, but it was uphill, away from the beach. Sue wasn’t there for that Christmas, she was in Detroit. We drank inside, even though it was pretty mild for December. Amy argued that it was good that they lied and pumped me full of false confidence. That was somewhat true; it made me arrogant enough to think the world needed stories about me oversharing personal issues, while shit talking people across America at hostels and basketball games. But Staten Island was only 10 hours away and only a handful of people even realized I was gone. It didn’t matter that there was a deck at the new house. It didn’t matter that I could make homemade pasta and gumbo, it didn’t matter that I figured out how to straighten my legs during a cartwheel. Two months of driving felt like a lifetime, then I saw signs for the Outerbridge and there was still snow on the ground, like I never left.


DAL @ CHI: Quiet

DAL @ CHI: Quiet

3/2/18 Chicago: Up until I was like 13, the main thing I wanted in life was a pool table in my house, but it never came to fruition for space and financial reasons. Now I was staying at this hostel in Chicago that had a pool table in the common area, and there was no one to shoot pool with, so I just stared at the pool table while drinking a beer.

It was silly for me to complain about the lack of atmosphere at the last few hostels I’d been at, I was the idiot who decided to travel to all these cold places in the dead of winter, but I internally complained over the unused pool table nevertheless. I opened up another brew and did a lap around the empty common area before settling on the couch. I stared at the blank T.V screen as I considered my options for the night. I wasn’t particularly hungry, plus I had leftover ox-tail stew from Milwaukee; so dinner was covered. I really had no desire to go out to a bar and spend a bunch of money and likely not speak to anyone, plus I still had the beers I bought. I could aimlessly walk around the city, but it was the dead of winter… plus I already did that earlier in the day.

I flipped on the T.V and scrolled through the guide. The Cavs were hosting the young gun 76ers on TNT. I grabbed another beer from the fridge and sunk into the couch. I wasn’t sure if it was just because it was a good matchup, or maybe it had just been a while since I kicked back and watched a game in privacy, but I was thoroughly enjoying lounging out on the couch and sipping on a nice brew in that empty room. I had half a mind to take my pants off and really relax, but it was still possible that someone else could saunter on in to the common area.

I made it all the way into the 4th quarter before I was rudely reminded that I was not the sole human life-form staying in the hostel. An older Asian dude sat down at the table directly behind the couch, and began loudly eating a salad in my ear. Sure there was like a 20 foot long table behind that with eight hundred empty seats to choose from, but he must’ve had an inkling that I loved the gross sound of people chewing. A few minutes after, a chubby white dude sat down at the far end of the lengthy table and opened a beer. The atmosphere was officially revved up. The 76ers held off the Cavs in a close game, as I finished my beer and got the hell out of there. I went back to my room to listen to a podcast in solitude.

The next day came and it was pretty nice out for February in Chicago. A Nor’easter was dropkicking the East Coast, so I felt pretty good about 40 degrees and sunny. I walked a few miles to a Chicago staple establishment, and got their famed Italian Beef sandwich, and it lived up to the hype. I don’t know, don’t get me wrong, food in New York was great, but I wasn’t sure where we came off acting like it was the end all for all things dope food. The likes of the South, Portland, Chicago, etc were not playing games. I think I would have a harder time not turning into a fat fuck in any of those other places than I would back home, or maybe I was just being a glutton on the road because these things were new and exciting. And no lame adults were around to tell me I couldn’t!!

The famed Italian Beef sandwich was the only thing I had on my agenda for the day, anything else I could think of doing was gonna cost money, and I was just about done with spending money, there wasn’t a whole lot left.

So fuckin’ what if it was Friday… Allow me to back track, it was Friday. The Bulls game that I had lined up was a Friday night game, which was always more expensive. The Bulls were fuckin’ trash, but I hadn’t seen them yet, so I suppose I had slight interest. They were playing the Mavs, who were even worse, and who I had already begrudgingly watched twice on this trip thus far. So… so fuckin’ what if it was Friday, it was a garbage matchup, two of the worst teams in the league. I was not spending $40 on that nonsense. I wasn’t spending $40 to sit through another arena full of people dancing to get on the JumboTron, and kill each other for shitty T-Shirts, while those two shit teams were tripping over their own shoelaces and accidently passing the ball off each other’s faces. I wasn’t willing to spend over $15, and really I didn’t even wanna spend that.

It was Friday night. Which meant ESPN would have two games slotted. And generally, they aimed to have good teams slotted for national games, but sometimes they scheduled the Knicks on national T.V in the beginning of the season, with hopes that this might be the year they became competent. Thankfully they weren’t scheduled for this Friday night ESPN game, ESPN had actual competent teams scheduled to face off against each other. The first game was the Raptors @ the Wizards; a game with playoff implications, and from the couch it was free.

I bought some more beers and put them in the common area’s fridge. I said to myself if the Bulls-Mavs tickets dropped under $15, I would still go to the game, but that wasn’t true. I bought beers knowing that I wasn’t going anywhere, even if someone gave me free tickets. I was gonna sit on that couch, drink, and watch basketball by myself again. It would be glorious.

The Raptors of Toronto were one of the five or six teams I hadn’t seen yet, and I wouldn’t see them at home, because I wasn’t going up to Canada during the winter. I drew the line there, I did that once before and wouldn’t be doing it again, but that was another story. All signs were pointing to watching the Raptors on T.V. in Chicago being a better idea than going to watch the Bulls live, even though technically that was why I went there in the first place.

The games started at the same time. As I popped open my beer and sunk into the couch- right before the Raptors and Wiz tipped off- I checked what the Bulls tickets got down to out of curiosity. There was a ticket down to $15 exactly. I did say in my lie to myself, that the ticket would have drop under $15… so it wasn’t a lie after all.

After the first commercial break- a nice peaceful commercial break, without a sexy dance routine or a fast food sponsored fan free throw shooting contest- ESPN showed part of an interview with Toronto’s All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan, where he discussed his life long struggle with depression. DeRozan was a top five MVP candidate, but he was a very reserved and quiet guy, who wasn’t featured on many commercials and probably wasn’t a household name. He talked about his quiet demeanor being sort of rooted in depression he experienced ever since he was a little kid. As a quiet person who internalized everything, this quickly got my attention. I generally steered more towards the anxious side of the quiet coin, but I certainly had days every once in a while where I didn’t see the sense of leaving bed ever again.

DeRozan began getting attention for this after he tweeted the song lyric “this depression gets the better of me,” during All-Star weekend. What followed was an outpour of support and people rallying behind him, but also looking to him as a voice for people who went through something similar. Personally, as a fellow quiet-men, all that attention would’ve gotten the better of me. But DeRozan seemed to take it in stride, in the interview saying that he didn’t see any kind of stigma in dealing with depression. He seemed very comfortable discussing it, as if it wasn’t brought up before partly because he was quiet and kept to himself. He understood the importance of a professional athlete, especially one at his level of seemed-invincibility, coming out and saying that he was only human. That he wasn’t as invincible as he appeared on the court, he struggled like anybody else.

The day before my car got broken into and all my shit got jacked, I grabbed my Toronto Raptors snap-back from the passenger seat. My hair was feeling unruly and I was wearing a purple shirt, so the Raptors hat seemed like the obvious fix. All my other snap-backs fell victim to the jacking, and now my hat options were a Knicks winter hat and the Raptors snapback. The Knicks were no longer relevant, and I’d been searching for a good team to adopt.

DeRozan’s transparency made him my new favorite athlete, and the robbery made the Raptors snapback my new favorite hat. It felt like I had my adopted team. It helped that they were 1st place in the Eastern Conference, but I wasn’t a front runner, because the Cavs and Celtics were still taken more seriously as contenders than Canada’s lone professional basketball representative. I scoured the United States, watching live basketball games only to land on Canada’s team as my adopted squad. And it was due to a game I watched on T.V. from a couch; leaving the house was overrated.

The Raptors got off to a very slow start, falling behind the Wizards by double digits early, but then their bench came in and significantly out outplayed the bench of the Wizards. They had the lead by halftime, and I was half drunk on the cheap by halftime. The Raptors held onto the lead the rest of the way, but it stayed close the whole time. There was a threat of the Wizards stealing a win at the end, but DeRozan sealed the game with one of his patented mid-range pull-up’s, and a driving dunk in traffic. What better way to pull out the W in my inaugural game as a Raptors’ fan.

The second game started up, another good matchup of the T-Wolves vs the Jazz, two more teams I hadn’t seen yet. I thought, why move, where do I need to be. I watched the entire first game with barely any other human activity in the common room. This game was more of the same, until the 3rd quarter when a couple of low speaking German dudes moseyed on in. They asked in a very low volume if I minded if they played some pool. Of course I minded, I was pretending this was my home, but I couldn’t say that. I said, of course, go right ahead. The pool table was finally being used. I was still on the couch. They broke, and spoke to each other in a German whisper. I couldn’t wait for the games to be over.

WAS @ MIL: Circle

WAS @ MIL: Circle

2/27/18 Milwaukee: The place was pretty dead, I guess it was before any kind of dinner rush type deal. The gal who was tending bar/waiting tables was telling an older guy who worked there about some Disney Trivia thing they had at the bar the night before. This guy might’ve even been an owner or manager of some sort, or he was just a run of the mill middle aged white dude who carried himself as such. “Disney Trivia? Why would I go to that?” he asked while looking around at the me and the one other dude who were sitting at the bar, he continued, “I wanna see naked chicks dancing on top of tables, that’s what I wanna see. Disney Trivia? Sounds like something my wife would take the kids to see.” Good thing he decided to reproduce. It felt like I was back at some terrible, Staten Island firefighter bar. A little slice of home, and it simultaneously made me never wanna go home, or stay there.

I’d been away from the Isle long enough that I started to romanticize it, as one might do when they’ve been away from home for a while. I was heading back East, and the realization of going back home was creeping back into my brain more and more with every city I passed. People kept asking, “so when ya comin home? When ya gonna be back? It’s great ya doin that, but when ya comin home?” By the time I got to the Midwest I felt myself kinda going through the motions of travel, my mind was drifting towards the finish line.

But then this token Staten Islander with a Wisconsin accent started talking about watching naked chicks right before mentioning his wife and kids, and I snapped out of it. I remembered why I’d been traveling for the better part of 6 months, I didn’t wanna be on Staten Island anymore.

The thing about watching naked chicks dance on tables was that it was cool when you were like 18, and naked chicks being in the same room as you was still a fairly new experience. But by the time you were legally able to drink it was just expensive, and frankly, pretty boring. The naked chicks didn’t like you, nothing was gonna happen, what was the point. If you were 48 and still talking about naked chicks dancing on tables, it was pathetic. And if you were talking about it in the same sentence as your wife and kids, it was just cringe-worthy. I almost went Full-Tom on Milwaukee and discounted the entire city because I hated this one guy who I overheard speaking.

I wasn’t a part of the LGBTQ-whatever-other-letters-there-were community, but while driving across this confused nation during the Mad King’s reign, I felt a sense of relief in a new city any time I saw the rainbow flag in a storefront window or over someone’s porch. I never looked into which way any given city leaned, for all I knew Milwaukee was a white-washed hell hole, where chicks only existed to dance on tables. But Father of the Year didn’t represent all of Milwaukee; walking around the next day I saw some Pride flags, way more non-white people living in Wisconsin than I would’ve guessed, and most fellow whiteys seemed nice and not Staten Islandy. Folks said “hi” on the street and such, which caught me off guard about 98% of the time, and resulted in a shocked smile as I quickly mumbled, “howsitgoin,” or “howwayugood?”

I still had tons of Staten Island in me, and it would likely never go away. In addition to not trusting people who said “hi” to me on the street; I got irrationally angry at pedestrians and people on bikes who I felt took up too much of the street, I refused to eat pizza on this whole trip because I bought the narrative that all other pizza sucked outside of New York, and I could not stop offering people a dollar for a bust-down of their Newport. That stuff might’ve been a little irritating, but it was mostly harmless. Anymore quality time with Staten Island though, and I might be avoiding my wife and kids to watch naked chicks dance on tables in thirty years.

Did that mean I wanted to move to Milwaukee, because they had a few Pride flags? No, no it did not, because 98% of the people I actually liked in the world lived on Staten Island, or like 45 minutes out of Staten Island. And if the second portion of this trip confirmed anything, it was that I was shit at making new friends. And most of the time I had very little interest in even making an effort.

Ideally, I would just take the nine or so people I liked on this planet, and we would all move just outside of Asheville or Portland or Milwaukee, and farm the land. We would drink fancy beers and coffee, and eat pork belly with our homegrown veg, but that wasn’t realistic because people had “jobs,” and “their own lives,” and “families.” And none of us “knew how to farm the land,” fuckin assholes. So I had a decision to make, and Staten Island was breathing down my neck, it was just over the horizon.

The matchup in Milwaukee was the Bucks at home against the visiting Wizards of Washington, which was the inversed matchup I attended in Washington. That was first game that I went to alone on this trip, nearly two months ago. Another reminder that I’d come a long way, and figured out essentially nothing.

There were some matchup differences in this game aside from the locale, so it didn’t feel too Groundhog Dayish. John Wall, the Wizard’s premiere point guard, was out with an injury of some kind, and apparently they were doing just fine without him, or so I’d heard.

It was funny, I’d actually not been following basketball at all aside from the games I was going to. I had no idea who was doing what across the NBA. From my vantage point, the Portland Trailblazers were the best team in the league, because they were the only team I had seen twice who won both games, and they won the third game I had to skip in Utah. By my math, they needed to be crowned, and quickly.

So John Wall was out, and former 2nd overall pick from three years ago -Jabari Parker- was back for the Bucks. Jabari (don’t worry he called me by my first name too) had some terrible luck with his health; tearing everything in all of his knees any time he got some momentum and started showing his potential. I was kinda half adopting the Bucks to be my favorite non-Knicks team, since the Knicks were having their own knee tearing issues and would never be good again and made me sad all the time. I was happy as a general basketball fan and potential adoption parent of the Bucks to see Jabari rejoin the team. I had no idea he was back in action, as he entered the game with a few minutes left in the 1st quarter.

Perhaps he needed to check-in earlier, because sans Wall, the Wizards still got out to an incredibly early 20 point lead, as the Bucks gave up 40 points in the 1st quarter. Jabari came in and steadied the ship a bit; showing a nice arsenal from mid-range, to knocking down 3’s, and getting to the hoop. I think he dropped 14 off the bench in limited minutes during 1st half, but I didn’t write it down, so I could’ve been making that up. It was something like that though.

They were still down a good chunk at the half (I didn’t write that amount down either), but they came storming back in the 2nd half, led by the Nigerian Greek Freak and Khris Middleton. I felt like Jabari made some more timely hoops, but I couldn’t remember any in particular. It was possible that I just wanted him to, and he didn’t actually do shit after halftime. Their team-old-person off the bench -Jason Terry- even added in a few 3’s, and led the team in telling the crowd to get louder. They adhered; these Milwaukeeons were feisty, god damn. I’d say feisty to a fault. When you collectively as a crowd got outraged at every foul call against your squad, it kinda diminished the calls that were actually bullshit… And it annoyed the guy who was driving around the country going to basketball games.

Throughout the final 8 minutes of play, the Bucks kept getting the lead down to one, then missing layups that would’ve given them their first lead of the game. Without Wall, it felt like the entire crowd –myself included- just assumed Giannis would put them ahead at some point, and that would be that. But he missed at least one breakaway layup, Eric Bledsoe missed what felt like twelve, and Bradley Beal hit ever big shot down the stretch for the Wizards, including the game clinching 3 with less than 10 seconds to go. He hit the 3, and then put his index finger up to his lips in a shushing manner. I enjoyed it, because the guy behind me at one point earlier in the game yelled, after Beal had scored, “you suck Beal! You live in John Wall’s Shadow!!”

Bradley Beal was a professional basketball player, and a very good one. You sir were in an arena full of people who paid to watch him play basketball, seated in the third to last row of the nosebleeds, behind a guy who hasn’t had an income in over 2 months. You were in no position to talk about any human on Earth being in someone else’s shadow. What a fuckin’ moron.

I was backing out of the Bucks adoption process. That guy would be watching naked chicks dance on tables well into his 50’s, there was no doubt in my mind. Everything else was still a doubt in my mind, but that I was certain of. So just like I was happy the obnoxious fan in Washington left disappointed when the Wizards lost to the Bucks, I was delighted that this guy’s night was ruined. The trip was winding down just as it began, everything came full circle.

POR @ UTA: Canceled

POR @ UTA: Canceled

2/23/28 Salt Lake City: I stopped in Salt Lake City on my way to Boise, where I was staying for the night en route to Portland. It was Super Bowl Sunday and I wanted to catch at least some of the game on T.V. I drove about 7 hours from Denver, and pulled into Big Willies Bar and Grill almost exactly when the national anthem was being sung.

Being an East-Coast-beach-human, I’d never been around proper mountains before. They were pretty stunning and made me feel insignificant, in a good way. And they were everywhere. When I pulled into the parking lot, I said out loud to myself, looking around at all the houses, “how you gonna just live next to a mountain?” And I one-hundred percent meant it, how were you just gonna go and do that.

I wasn’t crazy about Big Willies, I liked the mountains much more, so I watched the first half then hit the road. I still had a fair deal of driving to do and just wanted to get it over with. I listened to the rest of the game switching static-y A.M. radio stations as the mountains disappeared with the sun going down.

My plan was to hit Salt Lake City on my drive back east to catch a Jazz game. I even had someone to stay with in Utah; a friend of a friend of a friend, a girl I’d never met or seen before, who lived in some ski town an hour up the mountain from Salt Lake City. I had texted with her a few times just to set up when I’d be coming through town and such. The mystery of this girl was very enticing, not that we had any exchange of particular interest, but I was just beyond curious what she looked like, and if she had any interest in hooking up with the half a hobo-dude who’d be crashing on her couch. I fought the urge to do any FaceBook stalking to find out what she looked like. I just wanted to be appreciative that this stranger was opening her home up to me. I wanted to not be a piece of shit guy for two seconds… Also, who knew what the weather would be like in the mountains in February on the way back, if I preemptively found out she was a god damn fox, I was more likely to drive through some suspect weather; for potential’s sake.

The NBA All-Star break was happening while I was in California, which meant no games for like a week and a half. Luckily, a dude I knew from back home moved out to Northern Cali a few years back and offered up a place to crash, so I didn’t have to pussy-foot around paying for Airbnbs or hostels for a week until games started back up.

This fella and his cousin moved out to Northern Cali from New York to get in on Northern Cali’s booming farm business, which meant he was out in the god damn sticks. And after getting my car broken into in the disgusting city of San Francisco, it was exactly what the doctor ordered. It was spacious, and quaint, and had beautiful scenery of mountains, and was a pretty close drive to one of Northern Cali’s Red Wood forests. The trailer and couch where I was crashing weren’t the cleanest, and it got pretty frigid at night. But there were four awesome, big ole dogs, so I didn’t give a fuck. It was two German Shepard pups who were brother and sister, and two Pitbulls. With an acre and a half to run around and go crazy and be super cute on, they were some of the happiest pups I’d ever seen. All the good dog energy and clean air made me forget about being robbed in San Francisco, plus we made Thanksgiving dinner because it was my friend’s b-day and we could. He made the turkey and I churned out some homemade biscuits, his cousin smoked a brisket too, everything was lovely.

Thankfully we went out for his birthday and I got really drunk, the next morning I was too hungover to start my drive out to Utah, so I pushed it back a day. Then the next day it was being forecasted that Utah was about to get karate chopped in the neck with 10 inches of snow. Drinking too much saves lives, I said I’d wait another day to head out. They had been out there farming for a few years, and they’d gotten pretty familiar with the terrain; navigating mountains and such. We were talking about my route to Utah, and the cousin asked if my tires were any good, he said I was gonna want good snow tires to fuck with those mountains after a snow storm.

These two just up and left the comfort of their friends and families in New York to go be Northern Cali farmers, in the god damn sticks, to live in trailers, with barely any cell reception amongst extreme forest fires and droughts. So if they thought me driving through the mountains on my current tires was a risk, I was gonna heed their advice and skip seeing the Jazz play at home… but at least I knew what the Jazz looked like. At least I had a pretty good idea of where the Utah Jazz stood on the random half a hobo-dude who’d be crashing on their couch.

I texted the mystery Utah girl that I had to take a rain check. A rain check that I’d likely never cash in. I thought she’d be like, good, one less thing to worry about. But I guess people who did things like open their doors to strangers, did it because they liked meeting new people. She said, “you sure? The snow’s not so bad.” She said, “I can get you a ski pass : )” And she used the old school smiley face thing, not the emoji. WHO WAS THIS PERSON. So naturally -since I now wasn’t going anyway- I took to FaceBook, but the appropriate friend of a friend did not have an active FaceBook that I could snoop on, so I couldn’t find the mystery girl’s page. Now I’d never know what she looked like, or if she was into half hobo-dudes who wore the same pair of socks too many days in a row, and I’d have to live with that for the rest of my life. Because of snow, and old tires, and farmers. Because of people who just lived next to a mountain.

(GS) SA @ DEN: Drama

(GS) SA @ DEN: Drama

2/3/18 & 2/23/18 Denver: In my wildest dreams, I would never have guessed the most difficult, stress causing element of this trip would’ve been the ticket purchasing. I figured it was 2018, we as a society had a firm grasp on this whole attaining tickets via an app thing, but I was so wrong that it was astonishing.

When was the last time you had a hard copy ticket to an event of any kind? I’m going to say it had been around the 7-10 year range for me. I didn’t even know it was an option anymore. So you could imagine my surprise when I got a voicemail from my dad, during my drive from Dallas to OKC, that tickets had arrived at their house in Staten Island, for a game I was attending in Denver two days later. I called up StubHub and asked if there was any way I could’ve gotten another copy at will-call or something. They said a bunch of corporate words that added up to, “no. Overnight them. You fuckin’ sheep.” So I called my dad back, and he over-nighted them to the friend of a friend’s house I was staying at in Denver. The tickets would arrive in time, but for some reason my dad said someone was going to be there to sign for them. I certainly was not going to be there, and I wasn’t going to tell this person who I’d never met before to hunker down and be around to sign for my tickets. I told her about the situation and she said she’d try to be around to sign for them.

But I wouldn’t be talking about this if that was in fact what happened. No one was home to sign for the tickets, and the mail-human left a slip saying where the tickets would be held. But the mail-human thought since the next day was Saturday, and the post offices closed early, that it would be a really funny joke to write down that the tickets were at the wrong post office three towns over. So that way, by the time my host found out which post office they were really at (the one 13 seconds from her house) it would be closed… because mail-humans loved funny pranks.

I arrived in Denver after a 9-10 hour drive, and my brain was not a brain anymore, then I got all of this funny-mail-human information upon arriving, roughly 4 hours before the game. I called StubHub again and asked if there was any way I could get a reprinted copy or get tickets at will-call or something, anything. They called the seller, and he informed them that he got the ticket from some military raffle thing that printed raffle tickets, and the military place where he got them was closed on Saturday, and they couldn’t reprint them. So now the Army was involved. I asked them again if there was ANY WAY I could get the ticket to this game that I already paid for. They said a lot of corporate words that added up to, “no. Punk. The ticket got delivered to the address listed. We don’t give a fuck if they got delivered to a state two time zones away. That’s on you. Buy another $70 ticket if you wanna see the game. SHEEP… Now you got any other questions, you dumb fuck?” And I said no.

I started to take all of this as an omen, maybe there was going to be a bombing or something at this game. I didn’t even wanna go anymore, too many things went wrong already.

Utah was canceled due to snow, and I couldn’t cut back across to Denver. So I left my friend’s farm in Northern Cali and drove 13 hours down to Flagstaff, Arizona, to go around the snowy mountains. I ate In n Out for the first time in my life, and a whole fast food meal for the first time in I didn’t even know how long, then paid too much money for a Ramada Inn room. And I did not feel good in any way.

I spent the night with two double-doubles animal style and fries, then got up and drove another 11 hours to Denver. I felt like a crazy person, I never wanted to be in my car again. My gracious hosts’ went through much trouble to get the hard copy ticket from the post office, finally, and framed it for me as a “welcome back to Denver” present. I cooked up some dank pasta in a mushroom-roasted garlic-tomato sauce as a thank you, and we watched the Women’s Figure Skating finals.

The 2018 crop of American skaters were butt, and the hometown Korean girl I was rooting for wasn’t good enough to keep up with the grace-robot-Russians. These two Russian gals who had the same coach duked it out for gold, and it was fuckin’ intense. NBC kept showing them focusing and warming up prior to their… run? Skate? Go-at-it? Whatever, their turn, and neither of them could’ve been more than 5’2, 98 pounds, but the looks in their eyes shook me to my core. They looked like they could’ve eaten my face off of my head if they felt like it. I didn’t know shit about skating aside from falling was not good, but these two were clearly better than everybody else, and the 15 year old took down the more seasoned skater that everyone pegged to win beforehand. And I felt bad for her, even though she scared me.

If the game between the Nuggets and Spurs had half the drama of that battle for gold, the ticket mishap would’ve been well worth it.

On paper it was a very good game, the old guard of the Spurs vs the up-and-coming Nuggets. And through the first half it was living up to my expectations, it was an up and down, semi high scoring affair. The Nuggets had their mountain human, Serbian 7 footer Nikola Jokic. Who, as I said, was a mountain human, but played like a point guard; whipping no look passes, nailing 3’s, pump faking and swooping in towards the hoop. I’d never really watched him before, but he was living up to the hype. LaMarcus Aldridge was doing his usual thing; turn around J’s, put backs, overall good player stuff. Each team had their respective Murray; the Spurs Murray was playing his all-around kinda game, but the Nuggets Murray was having a pretty rough shooting night. Gary Harris and other Nuggets were picking up their Murray’s slack, and they were up 8 or 9 going into the 4th quarter. It was a pretty good game, but it had nothing on the grace-robot-Russian’s battle for gold.

The refs must’ve also watched the terrifying grace-robots and been inspired by the drama. The Nuggets lead got a little too high for their liking at the start of the 4th, and they were going to right the ship. They called a foul on a Nugget player every time they came with 5 feet of a Spurs player. They were calling the Spurs for too many fouls too, but it was literally every single time down the court on the Nuggets for what felt like 4 straight minutes of game play. And even two or three offensive fouls, just to really piss the crowd off. It turned into a foul shooting contest, which at first was beyond boring. To entice the crowd to boo louder as the Spurs shot free throws, they put pictures of Tom Brady on the Jumbotron, since it was Broncos country. It was kinda funny the first 3 times, but there were so many foul shots that it got old quite quickly. But it was like when someone said a joke so many times, that it went from getting old to be being funny again. It wasn’t funny to the Denver faithful though, I was waiting for someone to chuck a beer at the refs, and it would’ve been completely warranted. These foul calls were so ticky-tacky, and they only started calling them in the 4th. The Serbian Mountain had zero fouls halfway through the 3rd quarter, and he fouled out with two minutes left in the 4th. That was pretty unheard of, especially against a team’s marquee player, at home. Then the rest of the team was getting so pissed that the refs started doling out technical fouls against them, it was absolutely ridiculous.

I didn’t really give a shit who won the game up until that point, but the calls felt so blatant against the Nuggets, and the crowd was getting so rowdy that I couldn’t help but pull for them. The Spurs went up by 1 after one of their many free throws, but then the Nuggets regrouped, and Gary Harris hit a mid- range jumper to put them back up with a minute and change to go. The whole team was super pissed and started going absolutely crazy after retaking the lead, yelling and emphatically imploring the crowd to get louder. And I had to say, the refs did it, they cultivated some real drama, it was the most intense moment in a crowd I experienced my entire trip. On the Spurs following possession, the Nuggets forced a turnover and Harris had a breakaway dunk to put them up 3, and the place exploded. They made another stop with 30 seconds left, and one more bucket essentially ended the game. The Serbian Mountain’s backup, Mason Plumlee, got a pass rolling to the basket from Denver’s Murray, and dunked it over Aldridge to ice it. The Nuggets on the court, the bench, and the entire crowd went nuts.

The clock hit triple zeros, and the crowd rushed in from the stands. They sacrificed the refs at mid court, and the Serbian Mountain drank every last ounce of their blood, as everyone cheered him on. It was quite an intense couple of days for Eastern European athletes. But I’d still give the edge to the battle for gold between the two Russian women.

Thanks to the now deceased referee crew, the game did have more than half the drama of the Women’s Figure Skating battle for gold… but I lied. It still wasn’t worth all the ticket bullshit, even with the sacrificial ritual. I haven’t had an income in months, and that $70 could’ve gone a long way, so StubHub could go fuck themselves.

PHO @ GS: Culture

PHO @ GS: Culture

2/12/18 San Francisco: I wasn’t sure what aspect of San Francisco was supposed to endearing, but I just watched a crazy person on a bike try to chase down an ambulance, because the ambulance ran a red light and kinda came close to almost hitting him.

I guess the food was pretty good, and I could see the novelty of the old feel of the buildings and such. It kinda had a dirty European vibe to it, like Naples, but far less beautiful and with wwaaayyyyy more mentally ill homeless people. San Fran was like half homeless, half yuppie, and no in between. I don’t think there were many welders on this side of the Bay.

It was actually pretty depressing when I first got there, kinda had like the worst aspects of NYC times 50. And much like in my hometown, San Fran had all this littered trash and schizophrenia masquerading as culture. People liked to say that was what made places like NYC and San Fran, “cool,” and, “gritty.” It was neither, these were glaring problems, and having good burritos or a plethora of Indian restaurants didn’t make up for it.

Folks forewarned me about the homelessness in San Fran, but I just responded the way I did to every issue a new place might have, “I’m from NNNEEWWWW YYYOOORRKKK, OOHHHHH!” “If you could navigate the homeless people dere, you could navigate dem anywhere!!!” It became apparent quite quickly though, that this was a new level. The amount of people per capita who were just screaming or making loud noises of some kind, had to be at least 15%. And I was sympathetic at first, but it was like a sea of mania. After a while I got desensitized to the shitting on the sidewalk and random noises, I was just like, “I get it, you’re fuckin’ crazy, I don’t care, shut the fuck up. No, I don’t have .50 cents, I’m unemployed as well.”

Right before I headed out to the Warriors game, I considered grabbing my pea coat from the car. I parked it on the street a few blocks away from my hostel, but it was just warm enough to not need a jacket, so I decided against it.

It was a nice ass pea coat though, lemme tell ya. It was the first really nice piece of clothing I’ve had in some time, and the first nice jacket I think I’ve ever owned. I got it this past Christmas, and never before had I slipped on anything that fit so perfectly. When I was in Nashville, me and my friend went to go grab some lunch. I was still rockin’ my shitty-gray-baggy-nylon-travelman-pants, but I threw the navy blue pea coat on anyway. I said to my friend that I looked like a homeless guy who just robbed a well-dressed man’s coat and scarf.

The window was gonna cost $175 to replace. They grabbed just about everything. My spare blanket and pillow, my spare winter jacket, my cd book and aux chord; because y’know, those were valuable. They even inexplicably snatched my insurance card. And of course, the pea coat… along with a few snapbacks I had in the backseat. They took my favorite Spurs hat… but left my Knicks hat… what were they trying to say. Maybe they read my story about San Antonio, maybe they were fans!!! They robbed me out of admiration, yea, that was it. The Knicks hat and my handy dandy omlette pan was about all they left. Oh, and books, I guess they weren’t reading fans after all.

I tried to be all hippie-dippie about it, “oh, how hard they must have it, to have to resort to smashing in my window and rummaging through my belongings. These poor, beautyfull, unfortunate souls.” But I saw at least three homeless dudes with pea coats on throughout the day- none of which were mine- like they had a network. All I could picture was some toothless fuckin’ moron pissing himself while wearing my pea coat around his waist, any sympathy I could muster had been melting away and now it was gone. Jerkoffs hopped up on Robitussin and cat piss will always steal your pea coat given the chance, because they were fuckin parasites and that’s what they did. Especially if you had New York plates in San Francisco, they’d show you what piece of shit city really looked like.

Later that day some dumb homeless lady scooted pass me, babbling some incoherent nonsense. I had a strong desire to drop kick her off the motorized scooter that probably wasn’t hers. I had officially lost my patience with these sad fucks. I wanted to take all their knees out with a crowbar, at least those who still had functioning knees.

Oh yes, the basketball game, lest we forget. Well… I paid $70 to see the best team in the league play the worst team in the league, and the worst team’s only good player didn’t suit up. I left after 3 quarters, you can likely guess what the outcome was.

I had two more nights booked at my hostel. I would’ve left right after getting my window replaced, but I already had tickets to go see Kimbra play at a theater about 15 minutes from my hostel. So after I got my window replaced, I parked it in a nearby garage, and decided I’d go to the show that night and just leave one day early. There were so many parking garages, and auto shops that advertised fixing windows, that I kinda half convinced myself it was a racket, and all these businesses were in cahoots with the jerkoffs breaking into cars.

I wasn’t a gigantic Kimbra fan, I had the cd of her first album and liked it a lot. She was also a bit of a crush of mine, so a few weeks ago I saw on her Instagram that she’d be touring through San Fran when I’d be there. I figured what the fuck, why the hell not. By the time the show rolled around, San Fran had broken my spirit along with my car window. I went to the theatre in my homeless guy nylon pants, because fuck it. I wasn’t sure what kinda crowd to expect. For some reason I assumed it would also be a bunch of medium fans in nylon pants, but wouldn’t ya know it, that wasn’t the case.

I strolled to the theatre a little after 7, when the doors opened, and there was a fuckin’ line around the corner. Of course she had a dedicated/cultish following, if she was touring America and had like hundreds of thousands or millions or whatever Instagram followers, why wouldn’t she have a cultish following. And of course all these people dressed eccentrically like she did.  Why would I think that it would just be a bunch of other people in comfy-homeless-guy nylon pants who kinda liked her. This gal who was trying very hard to look like Kimbra- she had some bedazzled outfit with outlandish heels on and was rocking straight black bangs- started talking to the security at the metal detectors in that hipster-everything’s-a-question-vocal-fry-tone, and as I walked past the front on the line, all I heard was, “sooooo, I’m a really big Kimbra fannnnn? And I brought this tambourinnneee? And I was wonderingggg?…” I looked down at my pants as I walked to the back of the line, and feared whatever I had gotten myself into.

Even the opening act was part of the KimbraCult, so much so I started texting my sister that I wasn’t sure if there was an opening act or if it was Kimbra playing with a band. My sister called me a total poser, and I couldn’t argue. Not-Kimbra looked and sounded very much like Kimbra though, I pinky swear. I couldn’t have been the only one who was confused. It was very bizarre for an opening act to be that similar to the headliner. I really had no idea if it was her or not through the first three or four songs, then Not-Kimbra said the name of their band in a non-New Zealand accent, and it was all cleared up for me. I was less of a fan than I even thought.

I should’ve mentioned, I began drinking not too long after my car fiasco. So by the time the opening act went on I was a good eight or nine beers deep. I actually liked not-Kimbra and her band of mischiefs quite a bit. I couldn’t hum you a tune off the top of my head, but I remembered enjoying it in the moment. The only thing wrong with them was that Not-Kimbra and her keyboard player were doing these synchronized head dances, where they were turning their heads in one direction then back to center then in the other direction, and it was not really synchronized at all. Even if it was, it still would’ve been awful. But aside from that I really enjoyed it, I might even look up what they were called one day.

As Not-Kimbra and the Head Turners grooved on, I got looser and looser and started grooving myself. Nothing crazy just some swaying and bobbing and slight feet movement. I looked around at the crowd and it felt like I was the only breathing entity in a sea of mannequins. It felt a little weird, the only time anyone moved was when a song ended and they clapped like mad. I didn’t understand what was happening, were they enjoying themselves or not. I gave the crowd the benefit of the doubt, they likely didn’t know Not-Kimbra either, and maybe they still had to drink more.

The moment of truth was upon us and the actual Kimbra came out in front of this screen that had two mystery musicians behind it. The crowd went wild. I didn’t know anything she played aside from one song, it was almost all off her upcoming album that hadn’t been released. But I didn’t care, I was drunk and she put on a good live show with her little DJ set up thing. She did a lot of looping vocals and drum beats and what have you, and it was really cool and impressive. I guess she had the dudes behind the screen to make it seem like she was looping all the bass lines and shit too, which I thought was a little fucked up, but whatever it all sounded good. Again, I couldn’t hum you a single second of it, but I remembered gettin’ down with the get down. And drunk or not, I didn’t get down just for the fuck of it, if I was groovin’ out, limbs and all, it meant I was diggin’ what the tunes were shovelin’. I figured the KimbraCult would be going in as well, but no, they might’ve been more still than before. A crowd of zombies, until they erupted at the end of songs.

As I’ve made pretty clear, I was no Kimbra aficionado, but I did legitimately enjoy her music. Even if she was hiding her band and taking credit for it, I knew what she was doing as a performer and musician was no simple task. But c’mon, it wasn’t fuckin’ Chopin, we could move around and have a good time without missing out on any of the intricacies. I must’ve looked like a mad man after a while, I think the only two people who were moving at all in the whole place were me and Kimbra. Which was what made it even weirder to me, if she was your leader; the one taking all the wives and husbands she wanted, wouldn’t you want to appease her by at least bobbing your head to the music. She was prancing around the stage in her wild heels, it didn’t seem like she would’ve been opposed to people doing the same. She didn’t yell at me, but it was like the crowd was paralyzed.

It occurred to me that this was the other half of San Francisco, the yuppie portion of what this grand-cultured mecca had to offer; a bunch of boring music snobs. They took on the identities of their fearless leaders by wearing tambourines around their necks. They didn’t dare sway or shift their heads in fear of missing a single note. They got mad at me for bumping into them at a concert of someone who primarily played dance music.

I almost preferred the first half of the city. They actually showed signs of some life from time to time; the ones who weren’t possibly dead in the middle of the sidewalk, that is. But even those without functioning knees moved around and made noises. Some of them even got turnt by smashing windows and stealing Kimbra cds. They appreciated the simplicity of a well-fitted pea coat.

POR @ SAC: Wrong

POR @ SAC: Wrong

2/9/18 Sacramento: Hot damn was I in a mood as I pulled into Sacramento. My inner temperament was that of a 12 year old who was forced to go to a family function. “Sacramento’s stupid, why did I even have to come here, I hate it here this is stupid. The Kings are stupid and bad, why am I going to watch the Kings, they’re STUPID.”

To defend myself from myself; I did go right to the arena after 9 hours of driving from Portland, so I was pretty beat. And I would’ve just preferred to just stay in Portland forever. My inner 12 year old was like, “Sacramento is so stupid, who even comes here. Portland’s so much better, Sacramento doesn’t even have raspberry basil buttermilk doughnuts and a brewery every 13 feet, so stupid here.” My inner 12 year old was very pretentious.

I internally sulked through the game, and the game sucked. The Blazers accompanied me from Portland, and Dame dropped 50 points through 3 quarters. He didn’t have to play the 4th because they were beating up on the young, not very good yet Kings. So it was kinda cool to see a 50 point game, but to be honest I was hardly paying attention.

I booked an extra day/night in Sacramento because San Francisco (which was the next stop) was dumb expensive. I figured I’d stay in Sacramento to get some writing done, since it was stupid and boring and cheap.

My plan was just to stay cooped up in my Airbnb all day and not spend any money, but I didn’t realize when I booked it that I couldn’t be there after 8 a.m., since the area was rented out as an office space during the day. I had to leave at 8 a.m. and could come back at 8 p.m. Now I was forced to experience Sacramento, so stupid!!

The thing about being out and about was that just about everything- aside from looking at trees- costed money. I went there to avoid spending, but now I was being forced to try and enjoy the city. I wasn’t being a very good unemployed person on this trip thus far; drinking good beer, eating artisanal hipster sandwiches, and tipping people like I had an income. But since I had pre-decided that Sacramento sucked, I would not be tempted by any good beer or food.

So instead, like an asshole, I found a fancy coffee shop on the World Wide Web and walked the 3 miles there. I strolled along this bike path that connected to the downtown area of Sacramento, it was quite beautiful out, about 55 and sunny, and I was suddenly no longer feeling annoyed. Across the lawn that ran along this path were people’s backyards; one guy had a chicken coop, there were multiple backyards that had orange trees, an expansive community garden at the end of a row of houses, and this one house had a legit batting cage in the backyard. Now I wanted to live in Sacramento.

I got to the coffee shop, and it was super kewl and hip. Their coffee was locally brewed or roasted or harvested or whatever hip thing they were saying about it, there was a rad dude playing rad acoustic guitar in the corner, and a beautiful girl with dreads was running the joint. I fell in love and told her that I hated Sacramento for no reason yesterday, and now I loved it. I was gonna move there and we could get married. She said no thank you, but have a good day.

After that I strolled around a park/ garden thing that had like 83 different types of trees, including more orange trees. Half the plants were all colorful and half were all dead. I wanted to climb a tree and grab an orange, but I wasn’t sure how legal that was, and didn’t wanna get jammed up by Johnny Law.

I did the free look at trees thing for a good while, but I still had like 4 hours before I could return to the place I paid to stay in. And now I found myself in Sacramento’s hipster underbelly, that I wasn’t aware even existed until I sought it out. Of course I left the park and where did I go; a cocktail bar that doubled as a responsibly sourced butchery. Who did I think I was. Why did I keep doing this. Who knew Sacramento was cool.

I grabbed a stool at the bar and ordered some fancy ass Porter, because I was an asshole.  After savoring the delicious brew I decided to re-enter reality, and ordered the shitty cheap light beer they were offering. Some of the people who worked at this groovy joint were just getting off and hung around the bar a bit, I got to chatting with them and the bartender. I was digging the camaraderie the staff had, and was tempted to apply for a line cook job. I was a kitchen guy, and I knew I’d get along with these kitchen people. So I asked them, I said, “hey guys! When I move here and marry the girl with dreads from the coffee shop, can I work here and we can all be best friends?” And they said no. Kitchen people worked in hospitality but generally hated other people, so I understood.

There was this beautiful girl with blue hair who worked there. I told her about my Sacramento turn around, and asked if she would marry me if the dread girl meant what she said. And she said yes! Under one condition, she said I had to climb one of the trees and get her an orange. I told her I wasn’t sure if that was allowed, and I didn’t wanna get jammed up by Johnny Law. So I said never mind.

I hadn’t chilled with my friends in so long that I was ready to latch on to any group that would have me. That was until these two friends entered my eavesdropping zone. They were in the middle of some conversation and the one said, “yea, yea, yea it’s not WHAT you wear, but HOW you wear it.” And I thought, oh no, I don’t wanna be anywhere near these people. But maybe I was being too harsh. Sure I was no fashionista, I cared very little for clothes, but why should I besmirch these two buds for having opinions on fashion. I reserved my judgment of them as humans… for another 40 seconds or so. They were talking about the décor of the place or something, then one of them said, “what did you think of the bathroom?” And he was serious. The other dude said, “different… it was different, fun.”

Public service announcement: if you’re critiquing bathrooms of bars/restaurants; you need to get a hobby. And I’m not trying to be funny, for your own mental health, you have to take up crocheting or archery or start collecting bottle caps or something. Get a paper route, I don’t care what it is, but for the love of god find something to preoccupy yourself with. Oh man.

Anyway… so I left after that. I asked the bartender one more time if we could all be best friends, and he still said no thank you, but have a good night. My eyes went over to the blue haired girl and she had a look that said, “don’t ever come back in here unless you have an orange.” I nodded and took my leave.

It turned out that just because I assumed Sacramento sucked two days ago, it didn’t make it a cheap place to live. So I wouldn’t be moving there after all. But if anyone ever asked me about Sacramento I would tell them about oranges, and batting cages, and chickens, and trees, and responsibly sourced meats. I would tell them it’s not what you wear, but how you wear it. I would tell them about my best friends and my two wives. I would tell them to check it out.

Free Breakfast: 7-10

He goes, “it was nice and hot this time” She smiles and nods. “That guy just finished his, so it was nice and hot” She smiles. He goes, “waffle iron in a hostel… now I’ve seen it all.” She smiles and nods. He goes, “maybe we should get a waffle iron… get a waffle iron and go to France.” She smiles as her eyes widen in horror. He goes, “I don’t know… I’m just thinking out loud, I’m just thinking crazy.” She blows on her tea. He goes, “it’s just… that this was such a great idea, I don’t know, it’s just nice.” She smiles and nods. He goes, “it’s like we’re 19 again, like we’re 25, like we’re 32.” She smiles as her eyes drift off in horror. He grabs her hand on the table, her left hand in his right hand. He goes, “so what’re we doin today, after breakfast, what’re we doin. We can see the Parthenon, the Statue of Liberty, the Grand Canyon.” She smiles. He goes, “we can eat waffles til 10.” He goes, “we can tango, waltz.” He goes, “we can dance.” She smiles. She blows on her tea. She looks at her toast. She goes, “whatever you want.”

CHA @ POR: Social

CHA @ POR: Social

2/9/18 Portland: I was leaving the Airbnb in Boise, and when I got in my car it was littered with Pringles containers and candy wrappers and Cheeze-it bags, purchased at various gas stations along the 12 hour route from Denver. I felt like a pile of shit in that moment, a whole day of living on packaged garbage. I was doing so well up until that point in the lonely road snacks department, but the 12 hour drive did me in.

The day prior to that was a 9 hour drive into Denver, also filled with garbage snacks, and the drive into Portland had more of the same. I rushed to Portland in 3 days from OKC to catch the Trailblazers play, but in classic me fashion I mixed up their dates, and they were playing the Pistons in Detroit the day I arrived in Portland. I don’t know what was wrong with me, I guess I was just not very good at paying close attention to things.

It wasn’t a big deal, they’d be playing again IN Portland during my planned stay, but it just annoyed me that I drove thirty-something hours in 3 days for a game that was happening in a different time zone. I could’ve watched the Super Bowl on television like a modern human, instead of switching static-y A.M. radio stations, while flying up a pitch black, empty Idaho-an highway. I could’ve taken my time and eaten real food.

Portland was renowned for their real food. They had the realest, localest, tastiest food on the planet, according to Food Television and the like. So I guess it was ok that I got here a few days earlier than I needed to be. I was a fan of real food.

Everyone there seemed to be a real food fan, and a tasty beer fan, and a fancy coffee fan, and everyone looked and dressed like me. Brooklyn hipsters tended to be more well put together. You could tell they weren’t actually poor, just pretending to be, whilst living in the most expensive place on Earth. Half the people in Portland looked like they were running for mayor of some silly fictional town from like a hybrid Tim Burton/Wes Anderson movie. They were unapologetically raggedy yet bright; wearing shitty old t-shirts with loudly colored accessories (hair, arms, sunglasses). I thought that was my thing, but these fucks were everywhere. I guess I wasn’t half a hipster like I’d often said; I was just a Portland hipster this whole time and didn’t know it.

I bought a six pack once I got settled, and brought it back to my hostel. I only had one, then hopped around bars in the general vicinity of my hostel. It was ok, but I wasn’t good at making new friends at bars, everyone seemed to have their cliques and I wasn’t sure how to break in, even if I did look like one of them. I drank a few more beers than I needed to while out by myself, but by no means did I go overboard.

I felt a bit shitty the next morning, partly because the weird quiet guy in my room turned on the lights at like 7 a.m. so he could look around for his shit. He apologized, then kept the lights on until he got all his shit together.

I got nothing against quiet people. I was one of them, and preferred them to the loud. But something about the lights guy’s quietness, it irked me. He had this apologetic look on his face at all times, and had one of those rolling suitcases. I could’ve looked past all that, but it was an unwritten rule in hostels to not just turn the lights on and off as you damn well pleased. Use the flashlight on your god damn phone, you mousey savage, you. Maybe I could’ve even looked past him doing that once, but he did it every god damn morning, and I would passive aggressively go, “uugghhh,” or, “c’monnn,” while he apologized. And that was that, I officially hated this person.

The second day in Portland I went to go grab another beer from the fridge before I started cooking dinner. My beers were nowhere to be found, I searched the fridges high and low. I was descending into a tizzy. It was then that I saw a notice on the fridge that no alcohol was permitted on premises. I booked the one hostel in the world that didn’t allow the consumption of booze. They told me I could get the booze back prior to leaving, but what good did that do me now.

I drank a bunch of coffee while making my dinner, because I had to sip on something while cooking. I whipped it up and wasn’t crazy about it, I added beets where there didn’t need to be beets, and it kinda ruined it. Plus I still hadn’t figured out how to cook for one, so I made way too much, and now I had to consume all of this subpar beet concoction during the rest of my stay in Portland. I was also jacked up from the coffee, so I was all over the place. As I finished up my third serving of this beet-tofu-spinach-curry-stew thing, one of the other dudes in the hostel started making his dinner. He put on some terrible mid 2000’s metal- it wasn’t Disturbed but it was like Disturbed- and I rolled my eyes round n’ round. After ten minutes or so of badass rockin’ and cooking, this guy’s dinner was not smelling great. I knew I wasn’t in a position to judge- given my beet faux pas- but at least what I made smelled pretty good, and had some level of difficulty. As not-Disturbed continued to kick ass and take names, the not great smell turned into a burning smell, he was torching something. A few minutes later I walked through the kitchen and saw a black piece of chicken on a plate with other shitty looking stuff. Of course the guy listening to not-Disturbed burnt his chicken to shit. That made two people in this hostel I hated for no real reason.

The next day at the hostel we had like a community dinner type deal, and burnt chicken guy joined in. He was Australian, and he was the first Australian person I’d ever heard speak that actively annoyed me. Australians sounded cool, that was what they did. But this guy had a ridiculously low voice and you couldn’t understand every other word he said, and he never shut the fuck up. We were all trying to have normal hostel chat, “where are you from?” “I’m from this or that place,” “cool, what’s that like,” “what do you do back there?” That kinda stuff, sure it was a little mundane, but it was nice way to get the convo’s going. But this fuckin’ chicken burning Aussie went on about sports, sports of all kinds- American football, soccer, baseball, cricket- for 20 minutes straight. Nobody was even responding to him, he was just talking about sports to everybody and nobody at once. It was fuckin’ baffling. As he was droning on and on about nothing at all, he kept scraping up the little amount of sauce left on his plate; one half filled fork-prong at a time and spreading it onto his piece of naan, while there was a pot full of sauce with a spoon right next to him. It was driving me up the god damn wall, I wanted to pour the pot of chicken curry over his dumb bearded head. I never had more murderous thoughts during a meal in my life.

At one point I had enough. I walked over to the couch and put my headphones on. After an hour or so I settled down, took off my headphones, and who was seated at the table but lights guy and burnt chicken. Lights guy would meekly ask something dumb like, “is Aus-stra-lia…far?” And badass burnt chicken would ramble on for 20 minutes, “Stralia’s foakin’ faah mate, foakin’ faah, awl the way ovaah thaaiirr, ‘Stralia…” There were bridges all over Portland, connecting the East and West side of the city. I couldn’t figure what was stopping these two from taking a stroll to one of these bridges and face planting into the water. If I was a part of that conversation, I would’ve found six different ways to kill myself.

I’d never seen a shrink, I most definitely should’ve, but my health insurance wouldn’t allow it at this time. However, I didn’t need a shrink to know that I was projecting my own social inadequacies on these two poor souls. I didn’t speak to people with fears that they would look at me the way I was looking at lights and burnt chicken. But that wasn’t their problem. Maybe they didn’t mind painful conversations. Maybe they didn’t feel bad about waking people up at 7 a.m., maybe burnt chicken tasted good to them. Who was I to judge.

Aside from my hostel, I was all about Portland, even if I didn’t do much speaking to humans while I was there. A German gal from my hostel joined me on a hike through some of the beautiful, moss-y woodland areas within the city limits. We chatted about life and things, as you do on hikes, but it wasn’t what you’re thinking. It was just a hike and a chat, and a car ride to the hike, that was it. And that was enough socializing for my time in Portland, I just wasn’t in the mood to speak. I was in the mood to eat pork belly Reubens and drink 9% stouts.

On my walk to the game, I stopped by a bar that had a sandwich shop attached to it. I got this wine-braised-beef-sandwich-with-other-stuff-on-it thing, and good god, those silly fictional mayors knew what the fuck they were doing. I had a few 9% stouts with the sandwich, and I no longer wanted to go to the game. I wanted to be in a perpetual state of eating that sandwich, drinking those beers, and being the only person in the bar.

But… I continued on my way, and passed by twenty other places where I could’ve just eaten sandwiches and drank beers at.

I always liked the Blazers jerseys and logo and color scheme and stuff. I dug their teams from the eras of Rasheed Wallace and Bonzi Wells to Brandon Roy to now. They never won shit but they were always competitive, and that seemed enough for a city so rich in great sandwiches and beers. They also had a reputation of good crowds who gave a shit.

I was seated between a couple of silly mayors, and a chanting guy and his son. Chanting guy was chanting “DE-FENSE, DE-FENSE,” in the 1st quarter; he was chanting guy. And he had a son, they both had their hats on the same way; halfway between backwards and sideways. 2002 style. Which meant this kid would grow up to be chanting guy, and the cycle would never end.

The silly mayors knew where to get the best beer, even in a basketball arena. One of them confidently said, “the lady down here, to the left, has two different IPAs.” And I thought, of course, fuckin’ silly mayors. Then I thought about which beer stand he was talking about, and it was the same one I got my IPA from. God damn it.

The game went on and chanting guy chanted, and his son chanted, and he patted his son on the head. The silly fictional mayors said things like, “so good to have Evan Turner back, we needed E.T. back in the lineup.” Because commenting on one of the Blazers all-star caliber dudes- Dame Lillard or C.J. McCollum- would’ve been too main-stream. Kinda like how I used to love Chris Childs and Charlie Ward, way back when the Knicks used to have all-stars. I was a silly mayor before it was cool.

Like most of the games I’d been to, it looked like the better team was gonna win easily, then it got close. The Blazers were up nearly twenty in the second half, then Kemba came roaring back and the rest of the Hornets were on the court too. It was tied with 15 seconds to go, the Blazers had the ball. Lillard missed the shot to win it, McCollum got the rebound and missed his fade away to win it. They should’ve given the rock to E.T.

I was getting some free basketball for the first time on this trip. Overtime opened up with Kemba hitting a 3, then Dame hitting a 3. Dame turned it over, then Kemba got his shot blocked. The Blazers retook the lead, then the Hornets blew a fast break that would’ve tied it back up. The Blazers pulled ahead and sealed the game with a put back dunk by Moe Harkless. The silly mayors were thrilled, chanting guy and chant junior were thrilled, I was drunk and still kinda thinking about that sandwich from before, but also happy for the home crowd and team.

I strolled back in the direction of my hostel and stopped at the bar/sandwich shop. I had another stout, but not another sandwich. Only because I was unemployed and couldn’t justify getting the same $12 sandwich twice in the span of 4 hours. The place was still empty, except for an old guy drinking a PBR at the bar. I sat down a few stools away from him and ordered my beer. He didn’t wanna talk, and I didn’t wanna talk. And I felt at home in Portland.

NO @ OKC: Spiritual

NO @ OKC: Spiritual

2/2/18 Oklahoma City: I decided to attempt fasting in OKC. One reason being the South was fuckin insane, and I’d been rotating between eating po’boys, tacos, and BBQ for over 2 weeks like it was an ok way to go about life. Another reason was I didn’t know what else to write about in OKC, and thought it might be interesting.

But really, I’d heard some folks talking about fasting on a podcast as a spiritual experience of sorts, and it sounded kinda appealing. I always went through phases of dipping my toes into the spiritual world; whether it’d be meditation or yoga or long lonely walks through wooded areas or what have you. It was typically a half assed attempt to connect to something bigger, and I never stuck with any daily practice for more than a month or so. Partly because I was lazy, and partly because I was unsure how I felt about the whole thing.

I went back and forth between feeling like there was some grander force or energy pulling strings, and like our time here was essentially random and meaningless.

I was raised Catholic and went to church every Sunday growing up. I didn’t do that anymore, and no longer considered myself Catholic. I had heard a couple of my siblings and a lot of other reformed Catholics talk about hang-ups they had with Catholicism- sexual suppression, hypocrisy within the church, just general guilt about everything- and I guess I had a little of that just from growing up in it. But mostly I just never really felt any kind of connection to it, it always just felt boring as a kid, and silly as I got older.

When I was young and would have to sit through mass every week, I would make up games to try and make the time go faster. I would turn and stare at the clock, and waited for the second’s hand to get almost all the way back to the 12, then I would start to count as fast as I could in my head to 60 , and see if I could beat the second’s hand back to 60 seconds. I played that game for years.

My fondest memories of church were when something funny would happen; like the priest would mess up one of the prayer things, or an old lady would sing along with the somber tunes in a ridiculous high pitched vibrato, or someone would fart. That was the best. Because you couldn’t laugh, so me and my sisters would be suppressing our laughter, trying not to look at each other, but that only made it funnier. My dad would get so pissed, which also made it funnier. I remembered thinking on many of occasion, “I can’t wait to get out of church to laugh about this,” but it was never that funny once we got outside. Church funnies were confined inside those high ceilings and sad stained glass windows.

But I didn’t want to just rag on Catholicism, it’d been done. And I didn’t actually know a whole lot about it, I was busy playing the clock game. I still didn’t understand the difference between like Pentecostal, Lutheran, and Catholicism. Didn’t they all root for the same guy? Whatever, I’m sure they all did good and did harm, like every entity on the planet.

It was more just the arrogance of all organized religions that turned me off to them, what were the odds that your thing was 100% right and all these other religions were totally full of shit, it just didn’t seem very likely to me. It just felt like the world’s largest annoying bar argument where nobody was willing to give an inch, and being right was the most important thing in the world. Like, my dad had way more in common spiritually with my super-into-it Jewish barber, than he did with most of my siblings and me, but it felt like he would never see it that way because we were baptized or whatever the bench mark for spirituality was. It felt like a practice in stubbornness, and it didn’t make sense to me.

So I preferred to meditate sometimes, and not eat any food in Oklahoma City, like a rational person!!

I went to the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial Museum my second day in town. I was over 40 hours into my fast and was feeling like dog shit. I had a full night of hungry sleep, but I was still absolutely exhausted, and dumb as fuck. It felt like one of those lingering hangovers where you couldn’t do anything right, and you were just slow and dumb, and it took you like 20 minutes to take a sip from the bottle of water that was right next to you. Everything was an ordeal. But I figured a catastrophic-tragedy-museum wouldn’t be the worst place to go on an empty stomach, I couldn’t imagine it was going to make me hungrier, and if anything it would curb my appetite a bit. My brother had been to the museum during his visit to OKC and recommended it to me, and I had watched a documentary about the bombing, so I had a slight idea of what I was in for.

But you could never really prepare for something like that. The tour started out with me sitting in this room by myself, and there was audio of some kinda run of the mill bureaucratic board meeting-about like city water lines or something- then 2 minutes into the meeting there was an Earth-shattering explosion and people yelling, then the faces of all 168 victims appeared on the wall, and these double doors opened to the rest of the museum. It was fuckin’ terrifying.

The museum was set up like a timeline of the events from the 3 hours prior to the bombing, to the lethal injection of McVeigh. There were displays of like watches, and coffee mugs, and a kid’s shoe they found in the debris. It was rough.  They had everything from how the community came together, to how the media handled the story, to personal accounts, to the contributions of various religious organizations, and absolutely horrific pictures of the recovery efforts. I was tearing up left and right, especially with the sections about the daycare that was in the path of the explosion. I just thought of my niece being in that kind of situation and it made my stomach turn, my empty stomach.

It occurred to me in that moment that fasting was fuckin’ dumb, especially in the name of some spiritual endeavor. Because you know what? Even if there was a God or whatever, crazy random shit like the OKC bombing happened all the time, so starving yourself to try and get a better understanding of this God that might exist, made no fucking sense. What was stopping some white supremacist lunatic from blowing up that memorial museum in the name of Timothy McVeigh? Then I was gonna get blown to bits after not eating for 2 days? Get the fuck out of here. Bad shit happened to decent people every day-God or no- so I was just gonna enjoy the simple pleasures of life while things weren’t exploding. I was gonna eat food while I still had the option.

Now… was I using the memorial of this tragic event as an excuse to cut this fast short by a couple of hours… Yea, lil bit, lil bit. But I agreed with the rationale… plus I felt like garbage and didn’t know what else to do in OKC on a 40 degree day.

And I regretted nothing. I’ll tell ya what fasting was good for, it really made you appreciate food, and it made food taste absolutely phenomenal. I still had some leftover rice and tomato/mushroom bisque that I cooked in Dallas. My last night in Dallas, I whipped up some crispy fried rice over-top/mixed in with the bisque, then capped it with a fried egg on top. And it was no fuckin’ joke, lemme tell ya, one of the better things I’d ever made, and I was no slouch in the kitchen. So after pretending for another 20 minutes like I was gonna keep fasting upon leaving the museum, I raced back to my Airbnb. I threw together the same thing with the same leftovers, and it was the greatest fuckin’ thing I’d ever eaten in my life; it put the same dish from two nights prior to shame. It wasn’t even close. I kept telling myself to take my time eating it, y’know, really enjoy it, but my body was just like, “fuck you bitch!!!” as my hands were shoveling everything into my face. I’d also gotten some salted chocolate covered almonds during the period when I was lying to myself about continuing the fast. And I kept lying to myself after shoveling the leftovers into my head; that I was going to save the almonds for a quick to-go breakfast in the morning. That lasted about 2 minutes. I ripped them shits open and continued to lie to myself, “I’ll just have a handful,” “I’ll just have a couple more,” “I’ll leave half the bag for the morning…” “fffuuccckkk thhhattt, I’m eating all these god damn things RIGHT NOW.” And that was what I did. I finished my coffee, then drank a brew, canceling out the 2 day fast in 20 minutes.

At the end of the, tour? Exhibit? Piece de Remembrance? I didn’t know what to call it, whatever, unimportant. At the end of the museum, they had this nice display of how OKC had bounced back. The last thing was about the Thunder; just having an NBA team was a victory in itself for this small-town-feelin’-city, which had gone through such upheaval. After a player was drafted by/signed/traded to the Thunder, they were taken on a tour of the museum, which I found really cool. There was no way any human who wasn’t a mass murderer could walk through it and not have the museum leave a big imprint on them. The players would have a connection to Oklahoma that other players, playing on other teams, just wouldn’t have with their cities.

And I felt it in the crowd; it had the intimacy of like a college or high school game. I did a lot of shitting on crowds in general, and perhaps the majority OKC fans didn’t know what the hell they were talking about, just like most sports fans. But they certainly gave a shit, which was more than could be said for almost all the cities I’d been to thus far. And the few people that yelled out random shit throughout the game seemed to have a basic grasp on basketball, which I appreciated.

Ever since they moved to OKC, the Thunder were kinda my backup favorite team, since the Knicks were always a non-factor come playoff time. They had one of, if not the, most exciting young teams in my lifetime dating back to about 2010. They drafted two players who would become league MVPs in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, and a third in James Harden who would likely win MVP this year, while now playing for the Rockets. They had all 3 of these guys when they were like 23 and under, and somehow never won a championship. They got there once but fell short to a hungrier, more experienced Heat team led by LeBron, then that off-season made an ill-advised trade of Harden. There were years of injuries mid-playoff runs following that. Russ and KD had the 73 win Warriors beat in 2016, but blew game 6 of the Western Conference Finals at home, in stomach turning fashion. KD then left that off season-in stomach turning fashion- to join the Warriors.  And just like that the Thunder of Oklahoma City became the dynasty that never was.

This was the first game where I actually gave a shit if the home team won or not. Partly because the Thunder were my backup favorite team, but also because Oklahoma City had won me over a bit. I guess I had a soft spot for places that experienced massive terrorist attacks, then constructed intense interactive memorial museums at the sites of said attacks… Hmm, didn’t think I’d be referencing 9/11 for the second time in a collection of short stories roughly based around going to basketball games, but here we are… Anywho, so yea, I was pumped to cheer along with OKC.

Prior to the national anthem at the start of the game, they had a Pentecostal-Catholic-Lutheran-Pastor-Priest of some sort come out to center court and say a prayer for the game and the athletes and stuff. Then he said, “Amen,” and the crowd responded, “Amen.” Did they do this before every game? What the hell was going on? It felt like I was at one of those crazy ass mega church places, without the theatrics, just the sheer size. Maybe it was a sign from on high about my half assed fasting!! Or maybe Oklahoma was just super religious. I guess if I played, I’d appreciated the preacher-man asking God to look out for me… just in case.

My spirit animal, Boogie Cousins of the opposing Pelicans, had ruptured his Achilles a few games prior. So I kinda figured the Thunder would come out and roll over the shorthanded Pels. Especially since the Thunder had just suffered a heartbreaking loss in Denver the night before. And through the first quarter and a half that was exactly what transpired. Russ and Steven Adams were working the two man game to perfection, and former Knick-hamstringing-All-Star Carmelo Anthony pitched in a bit on offense. They were building close to a 20 point lead at one point in the 2nd, then were only up by 4 at the half. They relinquished the lead in the 3rd, and missed ample opportunities for a comeback W in the 4th. Everyone was missing everything, plus Russell Hustle and Muscle played to his weaknesses in the 4th; turning the ball over and chucking up 3’s. Anthony Davis was the best player on the court and he dropped 40 points as the Pels walked away with the victory.

The skyscraper and two other biggish buildings were lit up in Thunder blue, and it made me sad for the whole city that they lost. On our way to the parking lot, one guy said to his friends, “these games are just fun, I don’t even care what happens, I just like to see them try and do well.” He said that as I passed their group, and I made a face like I was watching one of those Youtube compilations of like family dogs and babies playing together. That was one of the sweetest things I’d ever heard uttered from a human’s face.

I wanted to get back to my Airbnb and comfort myself with some salted chocolate covered almonds, but my body had ravaged my supply. So it wouldn’t had mattered anyway, they weren’t lasting til breakfast one way or the other.