Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My Last Few Days of Adventures

I love the holiday season, but the social calendar tends to get rather insane this time of year. There's parties to attend, gifts to buy, events to see, and you still need to manage to work and take care of the day to day things about the house. Tonight, I sit at home, which is really the first night in about a week that I can say that. I love being busy, but at some point you just need to hide for a bit..

Thursday 12/4 - After a day at work, girl and I headed to the Cheerful Bullpen for our TA monthly gathering. The off season being here, we gather the first Thursday of the month to talk about things and plan next season's activities. Well, today, someone had posted on our message board about setting up Timbers currency, which led to all sorts of board havoc, so the conversation was pretty animated. The food was good, the alcohol excellent, and the deer with a TA scarf was a really nice touch in Christmas decorations. We stayed a bit late, but thankfully I didn't have to work on Friday.

Friday 12/5 - I've never been to the Holiday Ale Fest, as I considered the location small, the beers not very good, and the time of year was tough to get a day off to drink. But I had a vacation day available, and girl encouraged me to hang out with the boys, so I did. Since the location was at Pioneer Square in downtown Portland, it was a very easy MAX ride down there to meet up with the boys. And then drink, eat a bit and keep drinking.

I loved the chocolate porter with vanilla beans, and the commemorative beer was great, too. We also got some condoms from Rogue while getting food, as I noticed there were plenty of merchandise booths there. Going early on Friday was rather smart, as the lines weren't bad, the beer was still plentiful, and you could leave before the Friday night crowds showed up. Around 4 PM, I decided to head home, although the trip home I don't remember that much of. Thankfully, the MAX did the driving for me, and so I wasn't on the road scaring people. I made it home to see part of the Trail Blazer - Celtics game, but the pull of food was more important that watching the Celtics smack us about. The Road House steak was very good, and filled my stomach with goodness, which at that point, I needed as I was still full of beer. By 9:30 PM, I was in bed, dreaming of things not related to beer. Girl woke me up around midnight to drink some water, which was good since most of my liquid consumption that day was fermented.

Saturday, 12/6 - Girl and I worked on a few things here at the house before we left for downtown to meet up with some Timbers Army to watch the Winterhawks that night. The TA had gotten a block of tickets to watch the Winterhawks - Thunderchickens match at the Coliseum, with it being teddy bear toss night (score a goal, toss a bear on the ice) and such. We met at a pub to snack a bit before catching the MAX over there.

Admittedly, the Winterhawks used to be one of my teams in the wheelhouse, as I went to at least 10 games a year when I first moved here. The team was good and competitive, the stadium was fun to watch games at, and the ticket prices were reasonable. Well, over the years, the team got better then worse, the tickets starting running close to ticket prices for the NBA, and I decided that watching them lose all the time wasn't worth my money. I've tried to get back into going, but every recent game I've attended in the past 2 seasons, it hasn't worked to draw me back in.

So, Saturday was a litmus test. I did enjoy the bear toss, and the video screen in the Coliseum actually worked, plus the team played well despite losing. Also, the mascot Tom-A-Hawk came to visit us a couple of times with a TA scarf on But, the concession lines sucked (over 30 minutes to get two beers), and we had an issue with our tickets. The TA was supposed to have a reserved section, but instead, our original seats had us surrounding families. Mind you, we stand and chant at all matches, and the language can be PG-13 to R at points, so we tried to find another spot. After folks started showing up for the seats we were at, we decided to find the top rows of the section and hang out there. The regular hockey crowd seemed to like our noise, although we did get a lot of strange looks for most of the night. Eh, I'm used to it.

Sunday 12/7 - I got a taste of what outdoor winter soccer will be like in the mid-afternoon, as it was down pouring during our scrimmage at Columbia Park. After a while, I didn't notice how wet I was until I stopped running and thought about the coldness. But around here, if you don't get out of the house in the rain, you might go from November to April without seeing the outside. That's why Gore Tex and rain gear was invented.

I did make it home in time to watch my fantasy football results come in from the day. I know some folks don't like make believe football or the real version anyway, but I've been running our league for about 15 years, and many of our teams have been with us since the early days. While we all worked together at one point, for some, this is the only time they see each other, and it's nice to be able to connect after the years even for a day. The stories of beer and fun adventures in the past are now stories of new children and different jobs. What I do like about fantasy sports is that it forces you to be a fan of the sport, because being a homer fan of your team in any fantasy setting can be a recipe for disaster. My first year of fantasy football, I won the league with lots of Broncos (my team), yet months later, I did fantasy hoops with tons of Trail Blazers and I got my lunch handed to me. It's a fun diversion, and if I win now and then, it makes it fun.

Monday 12/8 - After a day of working, girl and I went downtown to celebrate our first date anniversary at Ringler's Annex before heading to a concert later. It was 3 years ago, when we had our first real date there, and we go back every year near the date to celebrate. And so, it's plenty of food, drink, and me trying not to act like too much of a geek realizing that I'm now married to the girl. Yes, there are points the conversation mirrored the talk of that first night, as I was nervous trying to think of things to say. Glad to know that some things don't change, but I'd like to see this one little thing disappear.

We then found our way to the Crystal to watch Cold War Kids and Franz Ferdinand. While I've seen Franz perform before, this was a smaller venue so I was looking forward to seeing them up close, plus girl worships them. The show was good, but it was a tale of two bands. One was young, inexperienced, and their sound showed it, with distorted vocals, too much treble and bass drum, and other assorted noises appear in their songs. Yes, you guessed it, the Cold War Kids really looked rather amateurish and while their show had moments of goodness, it was really shoddy in comparison to the old pros. Franz Ferdinand started on time, had a crystal clear sound, and the band just owned the stage. Plus, the singer engaged the crowd all night, something that the first band couldn't be bothered with. When the show got done about 11 PM, the room was still buzzing from nearly 2 hours of high energy rock. It's a treat to see professionals do their thing.

Tuesday 12/9 - We still bowl on Tuesday nights in our Big Turkey league, so it was off to Hollywood Bowl for some bowling action with our friends. The alley has refurbished their bar and snack area rather nicely, and the food is actually good quality when it finally arrives, although they are still working out some of the kinks. It's too bad the actual alleys haven't been repaired, because they could use some serious attention and maintenance.

For me, this is my 11th term of bowling, from the days of Bourbon Crew to Got Balls? to Gutter Punks, and I'm happy we have such an amazing group of guys and gals to bowl each week. They are all wonderful people, and so very unique. Hornman is our ringer, bowling like a true pro, while S3K does his dance hop thing and flips pins off when he misses shots. NickyD is a super bowler, and has the unique style of position then loft, but it works. Graceless throws the ball, and then superstitiously, she can't watch it hit the pins, while her beau fenrus just throws really hard - no change up, just fastball. Hornman's gal joined us this term, and she's a lefty social butterfly, while girl is our captain and emotional leader of the team. She's a great bowler, but also knows what to do to loosen the team up when needed. And myself, well, I send the emails and try to be the other quiet leader while trying to throw my ball straight. I love having such a good group of friends to meet up with and bowl, and while we might now win most of the time, we always have a good time. Unless you are listening to the Trail Blazers game and they lose on a last second shot..

So, it's now Wednesday, and I'm exhausted just typing all this in. But, I had fun doing all the things I did, and I owe much of this to girl and my friends. I spent times in my life being rather insular, only going out once in a while, and so forming bonds with people was hard. But getting involved in the TA means there are events going on all the time, and while you don't have to attend them all, it's nice having such a diverse group of people there to do things with. If there's something I'm thankful for this holiday season, it's meeting up with this lot. Without them, I wouldn't have these fun adventures nor would I have met my wonderful wife. Not bad for a bunch of soccer hooligans...

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