Sunday, February 28, 2010

The last dance ... err ... hockey game.

2 comments

Okay. So there's good news and bad news.

The good news is that after today, you'll no longer have to be bothered by notifications about my rants/observations/pleas regarding the Olympics.

The bad news is that after today, there's no more Olympics.

I would like to thank NBC for providing live coverage for the gold medal game in Men's Hockey. Thanks for listening to my calm, polite, and in no-way sarcastic grievances. What's that? You didn't read my letter because my blog is the most obscure piece of web-related literature ever to haunt the annals of the blogosphere?? That's okay. I think my brilliance was acute enough to reach you without even knowing it. Yep ... I have the power to make people read things by Karmic osmosis. I'm awesome.

I would like to thank you, dear reader, for hanging in there through my elation, my passion, and my crazy obsession with all things Olympically related. You've been kind and supportive, even through my more insane moments. You're swell, reader!

I'd also like to thank the athletes for providing me with countless hours of entertainment, ecstasy, agony, and everything in between. Here are some final parting shots:

Apolo Ohno - you're a douchebag.
Lindsey Vonn - Julia Mancuso was right, even though she shouldn't have said it. It's not all your fault.
Kim Yu Na - you're beautiful!
Joannie Rochette - you took my breath away and made me weep.
Women Bobsleighers (of any country) - Thank you for keeping the Olympic spirit alive with your unadulterated joy and hugs. You're great!
NBC's Curling After Dark - Yes. And I did - often.
US Women's hockey players - you'll always be my heroes. You made me weep, too. I heart Julie Chu!
Evan Lysacek - You're awesome, but no more feathers, okay?
Amateur Athletes in any sport - You are why I watch the Olympics. If I could sponsor all of you, I would. I salute you!
Cheryl Bernard - You were my crush for these Olympics. I could watch you curl all day long.
Russia - Die Ruskies, Die! (and lighten up, would ya??)
Germany - Your strangle-hold of the Winter Olympics is over. What happened in Bobsledding?
Finland - Good show! Your names frustrate me, but I've never seen more grateful Olympians. Go Teemu!
Canada - you kicked *major* ass on home soil, and I couldn't be more happy and proud of you. I hope that this Olympics will help you ease some of the inferiority complex? You kick ass! There's no reason to feel like the US's more polite, well-behaved, yet less recognized and appreciated brother. You're the winner now, Canada. Especially because in the not-so-distant future, you're going to win me as a citizen. No, No. Don't thank me. You deserve me!

And does anyone know WHY there's an exhibition skate in Figure Skating and Ice Dancing? I've always wondered this....

In non-sports related news today: I'm going to go meet with Dennis to read some scenes from Lear. Oh ... I didn't tell you?

I'm playing the Fool in King Lear. Across from master teacher, Dennis Krausnick. WHOA.
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This blog post is brought to you by:

The IOC
Vancouver, B.C.
NBC (and affiliates)
Vitamin Water

Friday, February 26, 2010

A plea for women's sports...

3 comments

I had a huge emotional reaction to yesterday's gold medal hockey game between the US and Canadian women; more than is even shown in my previous post. I cried for the better part of 2 hours. And yes, I'm a passionate bear, prone to great ecstasy and terrible agony - and I've always loved watching the US women's hockey team. I'm definitely a dedicated fan. But I can't say that crying - nay - flat out weeping for 2 hours is a normal response to a loss like that.

And here's what I realized: I wasn't crying for the loss, or the game. I was crying for the plight of women's sports in this country.

The US Women's Hockey team (really, all the women's hockey teams - all over the world) are amateur athletes. They don't have crazy sponsorships like Lindsey Vonn or even Gretchen Bleiler. They all have jobs. And they train. And they go to practice. And they have an uphill battle unknown to most athletes today. Even the "non-pro" athletes that compete in the Olympics (at least from the US), have the financial support to dedicate themselves solely to the training they need. Apolo Ohno, Evan Lysacek, Johnny Weir - if it's a sport that the US has any remote chance of excelling in, we will throw money at them and let them train all day, every day, without having to worry about the every day things like bills and work and mortgages. Don't get me wrong - they're incredible athletes. But what would happen if you took that financial support away? What if they had to work, AND train, AND pay bills, AND endure the day-in, day-out slog that every other regular Joe faces - yet add on top of that, 5 hours a day of practice and training.

What would their success rate be then?

If any of you watched the game, or at least saw a replay of the women's hockey medal ceremony, you would have seen 60+ women, from three different countries, who all know what that training/real life balance is like. They all had to work TWICE as hard as any sponsored athlete in the games. Consequently, all of the curling, bobsledding, nordic skiing, and women's speed skaters are in the same boat.

Unsurprisingly, most of the sponsored athletes are men.

I understand that many of these sports are not made for a commercial market. I get that they just don't sell as well as baseball, football, basketball, or even men's hockey (at least in Canada). But every four years, Americans especially, put an inordinate amount of pressure on these amateur athletes, and expect Gold. We are a society of Gold-hungry Midases, and anything less is insignificant. This is proof positive in the sports we broadcast - I saw one women's speed skating relay race, one nordic event, and one round of women's bobsledding, compared with the umpteen downhill skiing events, snowboarding, and men's speedskating. And as soon as the American team falls behind, the feed is cut and switches to a more result-bearing event, like downhill skiing. Where the sponsored athletes are.

But I'm veering off my rant path.

There needs to be equity. Financially, emotionally, and with equipment and facilities. Title IX may have passed years ago, but it STILL doesn't do a damn thing. We need to invest in young girls, just as we do with young boys. We need more sports available to women in high school and college. We need to make the rules of sports the SAME for men AND women - currently there's no checking in women's hockey. Is there any more insulting and degrading statement to women than that of the no-hit rule?! In essence, we're saying, "Sure ladies, you can play hockey. But don't hit each other - women who hit each other are unseemly." Fuck off!
How dare you! How dare you limit a woman's potential and power! There is no reason for it, except for someone's gross discomfort at the notion of two women pounding each other against boards. My guess? Sarah Palin. But I digress (again).

There have been quite a few studies done over the past few years - as to their validity, I can't say. But these studies seem to be wondering why we're seeing more criminal violence committed by women. And people are confused and dumbfounded! Why? Why would women resort to violence? What reason do they have? Buddy - they have PLENTY of reason. As a majority/minority group, we still remain one of the most abused, underrepresented, and repressed. In history. For the longest amount of time....

You want to fix violence tendencies within women? Give them a voice. Give them empowerment. Let them know it's okay to be as aggressive as men. Let them know that they are just as valued. Put a ball, a stick, a racket in their hand - and teach them. But then - THEN - you must support them. No matter what. No matter the cost. No matter the pain.

But please - don't expect miracles and then treat them like discarded pieces of refuse. That just makes us angry.

And as you've already witnessed, you wouldn't like us when we're angry.
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This blog post is brought to you by:

US Women's Hockey Team
Amateur athletes
Girls everywhere

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Live Blogging the Women's Hockey Gold Medal Game!

1 comments

So the thought just occurred to me, while watching the US and Canadian women's teams warm up, that I should live blog the game.

Obviously I can't *actually* live blog the game - that would make my blog like Twitter, and just annoy all 25 of you faithful followers with my ridiculous and multiple posts. So I'll just write everything out here, and post it for your viewing enjoyment.

The pre-game information that you should know is that my Monkey has been giving me shit (on and off) since we knew the Canadians would be playing the Americans for the Gold. I told her that her ego was going to hurt when she suffered that long, hard fall from the pedestal in her mind. She told me that mine would hurt with the spanking I was going to receive. I told her that I didn't mind so long as she was the one to dole out the punishment. TMI? Anyway ... she's pretty cocky for a Canadian. Ergo, I'm ridiculously in love with her.

The P&G "Thank you, Mom" commercial ALWAYS makes me tear up a little ... and I think I've seen it at least 50 times over the past two weeks. Here - watch it! SHARE MY PAIN!!!



Yeah, yeah, yeah, CNBC - stop stalling! Start the game! (they're showing highlights from the Bronze medal match between Finland and Sweden ... the Fins won)

I think it's really stupid that there's a) no checking whatsoever in Women's hockey, and b) no fighting. Cammi Granato's co-anchor just asked her if fighting in women's hockey was unseemly. She gave him an exasperated, yet patronizing look, and talked about the high emotions of the game. That Cammi Granato is one class lady. I would have just called him a sexist asshole. Maybe that's why Polar Bear's don't anchor media shows....

Meghan Agosta - she's scary.

If I hear "Miracle on Ice" one more time, I will throw orange peels at the TV screen!

The Canadians don't only have a hockey scene on their $5.00 bill ... but it has a little girl hockey player on it. I have to say, that's really boss awesome.

More commercials ... you're right Trace ... NBC dickheads.

Best use of a Black Eyed Peas song - Canada hockey place!



PERIOD ONE
Opening face off is on!

*reminding myself to breathe!*

Good defense on both sides, so far... I keep knocking on wood to disspell the bad juju commentators keep throwing out into the universe. Jinxy fezzes, that's what!

GAH! Rebounds, ladies, rebounds!

Canada's on a power play ... Julie Chu is GREAT on the power play!! consider that Power Play killed, Canada!

Amazing save by Canadian goalie Szabados ...

Liz used to play rugby with one of the Canadian defensemen, Colleen Sistorics. She's pretty cool.

AWESOME SAVE BY VETTER!

Shoot! Canadian power play. Sorry, but that was one hell of an acting job.

Canada is out passing us right now... WHOA! Natalie Durwitz has balls! Four Canadians all over her - Penalty for Canada! US on the power play ... Another Canadian power play - 30 second of a 5-on-3 - come on Girls!! You can do it! Come ON!!!! Our passes are terrible right now!

Shit. Goal, Canada. Well, the ice is broken ... maybe we'll settle down a bit more.....Nope. 2-0 Canada.

End of first period. We're being out-passed, and Szabados (the Canadian goalie) is stopping everything. We need to get her moving side to side ... The cats are scared. They've run away. I'm yelling at the TV. Like, a lot. *sigh*

I want the US women's team to win because the work SOOOO hard, and get so little recognition for it in this country. They're expected to do well, because they're American - and that's what we do during the Olympics. But these women are amature athletes - they don't get paid like Lindsey Vonn. They work hard because they love the game. And more Americans don't know who they are -they don't KNOW that they've won the world Championships the last two times. They probably don't even know there IS such a thing as the Women's Hockey World Championships. It's a totally different story for the Canadian women. And I really like the Canadian women's team ... but our girls ... they deserve something special.

(My sense of humor is clearly on hold for the duration of this game)

PERIOD TWO
Janis and Karen are giving me all varieties of maple-leaf flavored shit on facebook. I'm highly unamused.

The Canadian goalie just shut down a 5-on-3 penalty kill. If you're American, and are confused by that statement - that's BAD for us. I just put on my jinxed Team Canada hockey jersey - the one I wore when the US Men beat the Canadian Men. Hopefully this will stir the cosmos to the favor of the US Women....

During the 2007 Stanley Cup play-offs, my roommate, Steph, would go get naked under her blanket when the Ducks were down in the 3rd period, and *miraculously*, the Ducks would come back and win. I may call her if we haven't scored by the 3rd period ... I think Steph has the love of the Hockey Gods.

See? I'm not above ANYTHING.

GO JESSIE VETTER, GO!!!!!! GO JULIE CHU, GO!!!!!!!!! AWESOME PENALTY KILL!!!!!!!!!!!! 6. BLOCKED. SHOTS. That's *my* kind of defense!

Jillian Apps and Angela Ruggiero are about to go to blows ... I hope Angela Ruggiero kicks Apps' ass.

AAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!! GET IN THE BELLY!!! WHY isn't the puck going in?!?! Stooopid Szabados!

GOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Shit. End of 2nd period.

That was actually a REALLY great period. We held them, and our attacking was much better, and our PENALTY Kill was much better. No matter what - I am SOOOOO proud of these women. Such a GREAT representation for the US!! Great. Now I'm getting teary.

Coach Bradac's advice: More traffic in front of the Canadian goalie, better passes. See? Simple.

Hmmmm...maybe that "Miracle on Ice" would be handy right about now....

THIRD PERIOD
Nice plug for Women's college hockey, Mike. That was classy.

Pierre Maguire just shared that Brian Burke had the US Men's team in the hallway outside the women's dressing room, giving the women high-fives and well wishes as they walked out onto the ice. Then they showed the Canadian Men watching the game. In a word: Awesome. This is what the Olympics is all about.

5:10 left to go - score is still 2-0

2:51 - same score .... if you're making a move, ladies, now would be the time to do it...

1:30...

37.6 seconds ...

Canada wins 2-0.

And I'm sitting on the futon, crying.

That was one HELL of a game.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

An Open Letter to NBC

4 comments

Dear NBC,

I hate you.

Yes, you read that correctly. As the official media carrier of the Olympics until the end of time, your coverage of these games, be them winter or summer, should be as up-to-date and as ground-breaking as possible. In short - LIVE. Or as close to live as the federal regulations on broadcasting will allow.

I understand the censorship delay (even though I don't agree with it). I understand that when the Olympics are in China, Italy, Russia, Brazil, or London, that the time-zones of our awesomely cool planet (in accordance with the sun) will not allow for live broadcasting. Sportscasters do have to sleep, after-all. I understand that your constituency is not comprised of Olympic-junkie insomniacs who eat, sleep, and breathe the greatest of sporting events (though don't count us out!). I've given you a lot of slack over the years, NBC. I've never complained before. At times, I've even defended you to some of my more outraged friends who were already aware of your shady and irresponsible broadcasting ways. But now? You've pissed off a Polar Bear. And I have one word for you: Vancouver.

In case you didn't know, NBC, you are located on a continent in the Western Hemisphere called North America. Coincidentally, (and luckily) Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada is ALSO located in North America. Now, I know it's confusing that the province (Canadian states are called 'Provinces') of British Columbia has both the words 'British' and 'Columbia' in the name. Is it that Rabbit-shaped island in Europe? Or is it a South American country known for mass producing Cocaine? Happily for you, NBC, it is neither of these. British Columbia, in fact, is the Province above the State of Washington (and part of Idaho). It's just North of our American city, Seattle! See? That's not so scary, is it? In fact, British Columbia even shares a time-zone with the Pacific US - Yes! It's true! The time zone goes by the name "Pacific Standard Time." Yes, the same time zone that your affiliates in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Portland use! Yes, Seattle is in that time zone, too - stay with me.

Now, there are actually 6 time zones in US - Alaska and Hawaii each have their own time-zones, but let's just concentrate on the continental United States for the time being, shall we? We'll go from Left to Right - there's the Pacific Standard (remember, Los Angeles to Seattle?), Mountain (Denver, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Salt Lake City), Central (Dallas, Kansas City, St. Louis, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Nashville, Chicago), and Eastern (New York City, Boston, Cleveland, Washington DC, Baltimore, Atlanta).

This is where things get tricky.

So if Vancouver, BC shares time with Los Angeles, that means that the cities in the Mountain Time Zone are one hour ahead - Here - let's graph this out, shall we?

If Los Angeles is 12:00 p.m., then ...

- Denver is 1:00 p.m.
- Chicago is 2:00 p.m.
- New York is 3:00 p.m.

Got that? I know it takes some heavy-duty mathematics to calculate this, but you're doing super well! Hang in there!

So let's say there's an Olympic event ... any event ... let's take, oh, I don't know ... MEN'S QUARTER FINALS in HOCKEY - The United States (that's our country) playing Switzerland (It's one of those European countries in the middle, but they're pretty good at Hockey). This is the elimination round, so if either team loses, they're out of the tournament. Now the game starts at 12:00 p.m. in Vancouver. You have 4 continental time zones in which to show it ... looking at the math we *just* did, what do you do, NBC?

Do you....

A) Show the game live at 12:00 p.m. PST (with a censorship delay) across all market time zones, with the option to replay the game on one of the FOUR other networks you have during Prime time (for each respective time zone) for the folks who might have missed it while at work?

B) Skip the game all together in favor for sudden-death curling between two countries that have nothing to do with the United States or Canada?

C) Tape the game, but wait until 3:00 p.m. PST/6:00 p.m. EST to show the game on ALL local affiliates, thereby canceling any excitement for anyone who has the opportunity to watch the game live, and showing crappy day-time shows like Deal or No Deal, Access Hollywood, The Ellen DeGeneres Show*, Days of Our Lives, and The Martha Stewart Show?

D) Show the game live on one of the basic cable channels (CNBC or MSNBC), with the option to air it on the local affiliates during Prime Time

E) Either A or D, because they make the most sense and serve the most people across all time-zones.

F) Either B or C, because no other city but New York City matters, and if most of us can't watch the game live, then neither can the rest of you?

Do you know why I'm upset with you now, NBC? Can you see why your programming makes no sense? I don't understand, in an Olympic year where the games are being held on our great North American continent, why you only seem to show "live" coverage of sports you don't think most people care about like Curling, Women's Hockey, Nordic Skiing, and the Biathalon. I, for one, DO care about those sports, and have been grateful to have spent my mornings and afternoons watching them. So thank you for that.

But I simply can't fathom how you've let this opportunity slip you by! "LIVE" is the banner that local news affiliates have shouted as a battle cry for the past three decades. "We come to you live...", "We are live on the scene," "We're bringing you live coverage..." - These are the anthems you in the broadcasting media seem to live by - it's your battle cry! News is not news unless it's happening RIGHT NOW. Ironically enough, most of the news you do cover live seems to be about the horribly depressing and dire side of our human condition. And the Olympics always elicit the best moments that we, as a world, get to watch together. No other event happens with the consistent joy and regularity that the Olympics do. 

And yet you take this precious two weeks of time to refuse our potential for LIVE enjoyment and pride by dictating the terms under which we can view events? Shame on you, NBC. You are a media oligarchy, and not as benevolent as you presuppose. 

If such weighty measures came down to me, I'd split your contract between ABC, CBS, and Comedy Central. Because I'll tell you what - Stephen Colbert could give me better, more interesting coverage than Bob Costas ever could. 

Yours disgustedly,

The Polar Bear

*No, Ellen DeGeneres' show isn't crappy at all - but don't you think the quarter-final of Olympic Hockey is slightly more important?? If your answer is no, I don't want to hear it.
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This blog post is brought to you by:

NBC
CNBC
MSNBC
My Disgust for the above

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

National Pride vs. Human Interest

5 comments

It's been made abundantly clear to me over the past few days, that the men in my life take some issue with the fact that I've been cheering for Canada. Mind you, these are American AND Canadian men. While I think it's highly charming that both nationalities of Y chromosomes are having the same problem (so cute!), I find myself on the losing end. I am the "traitor" who hates my country, who's a poser, who has no national pride.

Conversely, the women don't have a problem with this at all. In fact, even the most die-hard of my sports-loving ladies totally understands my compulsions to root for Canada.

It's occurred to me that this might be a gender differential; that maybe men, trained to love, fight, and take pride in their country - for them, that's the only option. Whereas women seem to have a heavy interest in the human interest; the stories behind the individuals or even countries who play the games.

In short, Women will root for Kazakhstan, just because they're under represented. Men will not. Women are more likely to cheer on China, who doesn't have a lot of Winter Olympic experience, but seem to be trying their darndest to master Winter sports. Men will not. Women are okay with wanting Canada to win the gold in the sport they invented on home ice. And Men ... remain surprised and dismayed that such a heinous suggestion could ever be MADE!!!! But I'm not bitter.

Okay, yes I am. I have the right to cheer for anyone I want to, damnit - be it an under-dog, a sob-story, or the proper recognition for the country who created the best game in the world. I have the right to cheer for multiple countries ... at the SAME TIME if I want! And it doesn't make me an unpatriotic poser who's just rooting for her girlfriend's country. I actually have reasons for why I'm cheering for who (and what) I'm cheering for, and FRAK YOU if you don't like it!!

*ahem*

I'm better now.

*picks up soap box, collects toys, and goes home.*
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This blog post is brought to you by:

The Y Chromosome
Haikus
Peppermint and Ginseng Tea

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Bear's Bayou Bash - Addendum

4 comments

I totally forgot that I took a picture of one of the Polar Bears at the Museum of Natural Science on Erin's camera. She very nicely sent it to me, so I thought I'd post the photo here ... proof that there are Polar Bears in Louisiana ... 

Dumb Happiness: A Mish-Mash...

4 comments

My darling best friend has written/composed a blog entry/collage about happiness. She needs some extra happiness today, I think. Really, who *couldn't* use some extra happiness today. Although I'm twisting this a little ... I'm entitling mine: Dumb Happiness.

    in case today is your birthday ... or you like llamas ...
                              photo credit


                                   photo credit


Kind of gay. Kind of awesome.
                  photo credit


   I don't know what this is, but I like it! photo credit


                             photo credit


Why? Who knows. but it has black olive eyes and marshmallow teeth!
                              photo credit


This probably didn't make him happy, but it's kind of an incredible photo (if it's real!)
                  photo credit

And so, we shall go to war! photo credit


hee hee hee! this might be my favorite. Photo credit


And yet I think it's hilarious. Photo credit
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This blog post is brought to you by:

Happiness
The Canadian Women's Curling Team
Tracy
Cutie Oranges


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Some Olympic Haikus...

2 comments

Canadians, please
Do not fret; the puck will find
it's way inside, eh?

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Ryan Miller why
did you pick tonight to shine?
My heart is depressed.

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Mike Babcock, you are
Killing me slowly with bad
choices. Don't mess up.

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Dearest NBC:
Apolo did not defeat
Korea. Lame-O's.

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American sports
Commentators make me cry
With stupidity.

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Curling is the shit
Hommies rolling ice rocks down;
Get that hammer, son!

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Cross Country Skiing
Hours of laps on the snow
How fascinating!

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Women of Denmark
When curling, you puzzle me
What is with the skirts?

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The male bobsledders
Look like giant behemoths
Have they been tested?

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Russia is pissed off
Evan Lysacek wins gold
Putin, be quiet

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This blog post is brought to you by:

My sad heart
Vancouver, British Columbia
Winter Olympics XXI

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The top ten signs of Olympic Obsession...

5 comments

I have spent most of my waking hours (and some of my sleeping ones) watching the Vancouver Olympics. Now I know that the Olympics are the most watched programs on television right now, second only to Tiger Woods and his all-too-polished apologies ... but ... I don't think most people are *truly* obsessed. They watch because it's the only thing on TV.

But luckily for you, I've come up with the 10 tell-tale signs to tell whether you're obsessed or not. (I can't just let anyone go around proclaiming their obsession ... where's the specialness of that?!)

Please note - none of these items apply to Canadians. If you're a Canadian, and you're not obsessed with the Olympics ...

I don't even want to finish that statement. (Except for you, Fee!)

The Top Ten Signs of Olympic Obsession


10. You text the results of the events you're watching.

9. You're willing to watch a "sport" you detest, like Ice Dancing, when there's no other Olympic coverage on either NBC, MSNBC, USA Network, or CNBC. *I hang my head in shame.*

8. You voluntarily watch x-country skiing. All 1 hour and 15 minutes of it.

7. You refer to the Great British curling teams as "Scotland" - because that's where all the GB curlers are from. (duh)

6. You are sadistically fascinated with raving loony sports like the Skeleton and Ski Jumping.

5. You watch any coverage of Stephen Colbert wearing a mountie uniform you can find. Especially if he's talking to Bob Costas.

4. If your response to Russia losing in either figure skating, hockey or curling is, "Die, Ruskie, Die!"*

3. You not only watch curling, but you actually have an idea of what's going on, either because you've read up on it at sites like this, or because you've watched so much of it, you've figured most of it out.

2. You desperately wish there was radio coverage of the Olympics for when you're in the car, cursedly far from a television.

1. You've ever had fantasies of kidnapping Bob Costas, just so you could take his job.

#4 is brought to you by my dad, who is definitely obsessed. 


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This blog post is brought to you by:

NBC
The Canadian Men's Curling Team
The US Women's Curling Team
The Swedish Men's X-Country Skiing Team

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Bear's Bayou Bash - Part 2: New Orleans

4 comments

Sunday, Feb. 14th - In case you didn't know, this was Valentine's Day. I was, most unfortunately, not with my Valentine. The bummer factor of this statement is multiplied by the fact that (besides Erin) I was surrounded by people who were with their valentine's. I'm not even a fan of V-Day, but when I can't be with her, it just makes me want it more. 

I digress.

A 24-hr. plague had infested some of the wedding goers - the first casualty being Megan's Uncle Jay, who couldn't make the wedding - he had been feeling that badly. The next victim, inexplicably, was Megan's brand-new husband, John. Then it was Megan's mother, Connie. Our caravan to New Orleans was supposed to contain all of these people, but circumstances being what they were, Connie and John stayed in Baton Rouge. So Erin, Megan, Paul (Megan's step-brother), Grandma Gloria, and a handful of Megan's aunts, uncle, and cousins came with us. We actually dropped Paul off at the New Orleans airport, but not before we stopped for Daiquiri's.



Discovery #6: Daiquiri huts. There are whole stores dedicated to Daiquiris ... that's all they sell. a wall of churning slushy machines dedicated to every kind of daiquiri flavor you can imagine - tropical fruits, pina colada, MUDSLIDES, White Russians - and they come in massive 32 oz. containers. It's a college student's spring break dream - the drink that keeps on giving.

Once Paul was off and away, we kept along our epic trail, driving by Lake Ponchartrain, which looks like the missing Great Lake. There was something eerie to me about driving over it - because of Hurricane Katrina. The highway is divided over the Western portion of the lake, and I could just imagine lines and lines of cars fleeing the city on these tiny little two-lane roads floating over this lake. Anyway.



If you ever drive into New Orleans, you'll see two or three cemeteries on either side of the highway - and in the French fashion, the cemeteries are all above-ground mausoleums, which I find ghoulishly fascinating. From the back seat of the car, I caught a photo of this guy - a Southern Officer of the Civil War. The South will rise again!



To reach NOLA's downtown area, you must pass the Superdome. Which is huge. Mardi Gras balls are held there, floats are parked and stored outside, and the streets around are closed off for the various parades. That's right, parades - plural. I was under the foolish impression that there was only one Mardi Gras parade - the one clip that would ever make it onto the evening news in Los Angeles. So imagine my great shock when Megan tells me that there are multiple parades. All the better to capture beads at, my dear...




The traffic, while not as bad as my foray the night before, was still quite rough. We had to park and hike to the hotel. I had brought all of my luggage, for no apparent reason, so I was left to scurry behind Megan and Erin, who had a purse and a backpack. I was quite brave in hauling my wheeled luggage behind me, my messenger bag slung across my back. Yeah, I'm a road warrior, and I'm not ashamed to say it. As we walked along, some guy wearing camouflage stopped Erin and said, "Where are you from?" She replied, "Phoenix." The man said, "Do they have crime there, too?" Erin looked to us for help. Our response? Keep walking.

Discovery #7: Camouflage. I have never seen so much camo in my life than I have in Louisiana. All kinds of it, too - military camo, hunting camo, multi-colored camo - if the people watching the parade weren't dressed in Mardi Gras colors and costumes, they were dressed in camo.

We encountered one of the parades as we walked along - the Thoth Parade. All of the parades have different names, because of the "Krewes" who produce them. See all those Krewes? They ALL put on parades. At any rate, we stopped to watch the Thoth Parade, as we couldn't get across the street. We settled behind an area that had been sanctioned off for some people somehow remotely related to LSU. The danger in doing this was that some of the Thoth Krewe members knew these particular LSU-ers, and randomly started pelting (and I mean pelting!) beads from their float, which was easily 10 feet taller than we were; and not just beads, whole BAGS of beads, being launched at us at the speeds of a major league fastball. I was beaned in the head. By a bag of beads.



There was a break in the parade, and we were finally able to cross the street, and make it around the corner to our hotel. We relaxed for about 45 minutes, and then met up with Megan's family to go walk down to the French Quarter. There is no possible way for me to describe the French Quarter, especially not during Mardi Gras, so I'll just post these photos:























I will say that everyone walks around with open containers of alcohol, and the alcohol that's sold is quite cheap. Drinks of choice range from everything between beer and bloody mary's, to Hurricanes and Hand Grenades. I don't know what a Hand Grenade is, but they sell a lot of them. And the police? The police just watch to make sure that fights don't break loose. Or like, anyone gets killed.


    (the Po-Po)

After our tour through the Quarter, we left Megan's family at a corner of the parade route by the hotel, and we walked for what seemed like miles to the complete opposite end. This parade was the main event - the Bacchus Krewe Parade. The Bacchus Krewe is famous for having famous people as their grand marshals. This year's famous marshal? Who but the King of New Orleans himself: Drew Brees.*

As we furiously made our way past Lee Circle (see: Robert E.), I realized that my hands were getting a little shaky. Massive amounts of alcohol, coupled with lots of walking without food = a dumb idea. Erin was quite inebriated at this point, and as Megan's the fastest walker I know (faster than you, monkey!), I mandated a stop at one of the several street meat vans along the way. We waited in line for about half an hour, but I'll tell you, that was the best corn-dog I'd ever had. And the shrimp on a stick? To die for. Megan got a tray of nachos, and Erin bought something called a "Columbian Tamale," which was potatoes and chicken in a banana leaf.



Once fed, we found a place along the route, next to a charming family that Erin (in her drunkenness) kept proclaiming as "The most beautiful family ever!" They laughed at her and thought she was sweet. And so she was. Megan and I kept giving each other side-long glances of ironic delight. Erin is a huge light-weight on the alcohol scale. It was hilarious. More beads were thrown, more beads were caught. All three of us actually scored an awesomely rare necklace with large red hearts. To see us, you'd have thought we won the lottery.


    (That's Karen. From New Orleans. Yeah, I have no idea who she is, either...)

The Bacchus parade theme had to do with love cliches of all varieties, so there were lots of hearts all over the place, and obviously different characterizations on the Roman god himself...along with multiple bottles of wine. It was, perhaps, the most fitting parade for capturing the Mardi Gras spirit. Again, more men with concealed faces. CREEPY. There was also a great number of marching bands during this parade - in fact, they were between every float on the route (and there were tons of floats).

 

We watched the entirety of the parade, but didn't see Drew Brees. We walked back toward downtown, the three of us famished again. At an intersection, while once again waiting for the parade to subside so we could cross, we met a gaggle of very nice University of New Orleans boys - who, like us, found Erin to be hilarious.



Megan took us to the Crescent City Brewery, where we ate, and drank, and I drunk-dialed my girlfriend. There were inexplicable Jellyfish lights on the ceiling. Why? Who knows. But they amused me. By the time we finished our Po'boys, it was raining. We got our beers to go (because you can do that in New Orleans) and walked back to the hotel, soaked, but very happy.



A few parting shots for you:


    (That's Officer Duncan. He was nice.)


    (Protesters)


    (Bacchus himself)


    (The Superdome)

Monday, Feb. 15th - PAIN. Massive amounts of pain. No, I wasn't hung over. But between my oh-so-blistered feet from all the walking, and my lower back from all the standing - I was one hurtin' cowpoke, as my dad would say. My throat was also a bit raw from the hooting and hollering for beads. Erin's knee was also giving her tons of trouble. We gathered our stuff, resolute on getting out of town as soon as possible, and finding the nearest McDonald's for breakfast.

We drove back to Baton Rouge. It was only upon arrival that I realized I had left my laptop cord at the hotel in New Orleans. I didn't have enough time to drive back down there and fetch it - I had to drive back to Houston. Daniel was thankfully still in NO, so he picked it up for me, and is shipping it to me down here. I had no charger in the interim, so I went to Best Buy and bought an universal charger and an auxiliary cord for my ipod during the drive back to Houston. We got back to the Hilton, said goodbye to John (who was feeling much better), and Connie (who was better as well). I said goodbyes all around, hugs were given in multiple, and I got in my rental car, and drove to Houston.

As you might imagine, the drive back to Houston was not nearly as interesting as the initial drive to Baton Rouge. Not only was it dull, but that raw feeling in my throat from earlier kept growing. and growing. and growing - so that by the time I reached Texas, I was positively shivering with aches and exhaustion. I made it to Houston by 7:30 p.m., found the right hotel after some trouble, checked-in, and then went to drop off my rental car.

When I got back to the hotel, I took the hottest shower I possibly could, ordered a pizza, and took to organizing my luggage so that I could sleep in the next morning.

As Stephen the Cajun had told me, perhaps prophetically, there is balance in the culture. So much fun could not have been had to the fullest extent without a price. I'm still paying for it in sniffles and coughs.

But I wouldn't change a thing. ;)


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This blog post brought to you by:

The Vancouver Winter Olympics
Orange Juice
Advil

*For Tracy, Fee, or anyone else who may not recall, Drew Brees is the quarter back of the New Orleans Saints. Those guys who won the super bowl last month. He's kind of a big deal in NOLA...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Bear's Bayou Bash - Part 1: Baton Rouge

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Before I start my tale, let me say that this weekend has been one of the most fun, the most fulfilling, and the most exhausting weekends of my life.

I think I'll take this day by day - there's a lot to recall.

Thursday, Feb. 11th - The plane was an hour and a half late leaving LAX, which meant that I was an hour and a half late arriving in Houston, which put my arrival at 9:30 p.m. Didn't get to the rental car facility until 10:00 p.m. My original plan was drive through the night to Baton Rouge - this clearly wasn't going to happen.

Fatal mistake #1: I gave the rental car guy my debit card, rather than my credit card. Somewhere along the way, my traveler's handbook is missing the page where it says, "NEVER pay for a rental car with your debit card!" I'll explain this more in-depth later.

I get in my little Hyundai Accent rental, and drive to Baytown, Texas, a hamlet just on the Western outskirts of Houston. I paid $40.00 for a room at the Baytown Motel 6, purchased a chicken mcnugget meal across the street, tried to access the internet in my room, but to no avail. I went to sleep, dreaming of the next day's road trip to Louisiana.

Friday, Feb. 12th - I awake to my phone, not my alarm. Megan is calling, asking if I can go back to Houston and pick up the officiant and a wedding guest from the airport. The cause? Snow in Baton Rouge - planes from Houston to Baton Rouge have been canceled. I drive back to Houston, pick up Stephen LeBouf (a real-live Cajun!) and Kelly, a friend of Megan's, and former LSU grad school student. It was a pleasant trip, with Stephen graciously narrating facts and stories about his home state of Louisiana. If you can imagine one of the more interesting documentaries you've seen, and think of that narrator - that's Stephen. Well, no, not literally. But his manner of conversation is much like a documentary - informative, factual, charming. He also told us Boudreaux and Thibodeaux jokes:

Discovery #1: Boudreaux and Thibodeaux jokes are a huge part of Cajun humor. There are restaurants, bars, and businesses named after these two family names, which are apparently as popular in Cajun names as Jones is to the Welsh or Andersson is in Sweden. It also should be noted that the respective wives of either Boudreaux or Thibodeaux are always named Clotile or Marie.

Example: When Boudreaux got home yesterday, Clotile ran out to him saying, "The car got water in the carburetor!" "How you know that, you?" "Cause it's parked in the Bayou!"

We stopped for gas somewhere in Western Louisiana. It was some non-name brand of gasoline. Inside the convenience store, they sold something called Boudin Balls. For those who don't know, Boudin is pig sausage. Boudin Balls are a Cajun delicacy - it's the sausage rolled into balls with rice and seasonings, the sausage is braised or simmered. It's interesting - I'm not used to eating pig sausage, so the texture took a bit of getting used to, but the flavor was quite amazing. This gas station also had Cracklins. I'm not going to take the time to explain Cracklins here, but you can look them up for yourselves. QUEEN FEE: DO NOT READ.  DANGER! DANGER! It should be noted that the Cracklins were not purchased, and thereby not consumed.



About 4.5 hours after we left Houston (the second time), we arrived in Baton Rouge, and I have to say, Baton Rouge has some amazing trees! I dropped Kelly and Stephen off at their respective hotels, then went to see Megan, who had just returned from her pre-wedding spa day, complete with pink nails. I then went to the Hilton, aka wedding central, and found Erin and Megan's grandmother Gloria, who's room I was to sleep in. Having been previously unsuccessful with finding that ever illusive internet connection, I found solace at the Hilton. I checked my e-mail, where I discovered an alert from Wells Fargo, telling me that I had over-drawn my account. Say what?! I hadn't been gone for 24 hrs., how was that possible? I logged into my account to find that enterprise was charging me $350.00. The Debit Card Fiasco. I would like it known that no where on the Enterprise counter, or as a warning by the fellow who had been assisting me, did anything warn me about this Debit Card rule; and I said as much to the woman from Enterprise who took my angry call. Ice was creeping into my veins. Why does this shit happen to me? Why are there unwritten and unexplained small-print rules like this, that I should just inherently know? The tragic irony is that I usually would have paid with my credit card. I just wasn't paying attention. And I didn't know. Oh. And when I called to see if I could switch cards, the answer I received was, "No."

So after some quick finagling with the assistance of my dad and Lara, I cleared the negative balance in my account, and had some money. By the time this was all sorted out, it was time for me to go downstairs for the rehearsal dinner.

The "rehearsal" was actually only about 15 minutes in the lobby of the Hilton, which was crowded to the brim with pre-Mardi Gras-ers, guests for another wedding, and some sort of Saints gathering that I never did figure out. Megan matched her girls with John's boys, told us what order we were going in, and what time we had to be in the lobby for pictures that morning. Then, we loaded up into some yellow school buses which took us to  LSU's Museum of Natural History. Yep - our rehearsal dinner was among taxidermied animals, both foreign and domestic. There were showcases of insect varieties, lizards, mammals, reptiles - it was actually really cool. They even had the first LSU tiger stuffed and on display. That's right - I said first. LSU is currently on their 6th Tiger. Apparently he (or she) lives in the lap of revered luxury on the LSU campus. There were two taxidermied polar bears - but apparently, I didn't think I would need my camera for the dinner, so I have absolutely no photos. None. Lame? Definitely. For dinner we had Gumbo, white beans and rice, and salad.

Discovery #2: Abita Beer. Abita is a Louisiana local beer that is really quite good. Between the beer and the amazing cuisine, it's a good thing I don't live in Louisiana. I'd be spherical - like a globe.



We arrived back at the hotel in time to catch the tail end of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies. We then went to sleep, our alarms set for 5:30 a.m. Erin was out pretty quickly, as was Grandma Gloria. But I? I lay awake.  Remember that other wedding I mentioned? They had a party tent set up on the street below our window, and they had a live band playing into the wee hours of the morning. This normally wouldn't have bothered me, except my brain thought it would be an awesome idea to play "Name that tune!" until about 2:00 a.m., when I think I finally fell asleep. Which means I clocked about 3.5 hours before Megan's wedding. *Sigh*

Saturday, Feb. 13th - 5:30 a.m. that alarm came ridiculously early. Erin had actually set her alarm for 4:15 to go work out and shower, because she's a masochist. And then she woke me up 4 minutes before my alarm went off, because she thought I would over sleep - sadomasochist, even. I took my shower, and did my best to wake up ... except that I started feeling nauseous. Not because of anything my body was doing, but because, as I realized, there was no ventilation fan in the bathroom, and it was sauna hot. And with such little sleep, and no food yet in my system, it was not a great start to my day. I pulled my pajamas back on, and lay down again, until I realized there was banana bread and orange juice, courtesy of the gift baskets that Megan's dad and step-mom had given anyone staying at the Hilton for Megan's wedding. Good people, those Appersons. Food made me feel like a new bear, and then I took to blow-drying my hair - yep, I pulled out the big guns.



Megan came over around 6:00 a.m., and started to curl her hair. Amanda, Megan's oldest friend came over shortly after, and we had one of those girly hair parties that I've always heard about, but rarely ever partake in. Because my hair is so short, and because I'm so low-maintenance about such things, I actually served as documenter, photographing the morning's events with not one, not two, but three cameras. Yeah. I'm that cool. Megan asked me to turn on the radio to a Baton Rouge station that played Mardi Gras music. We got ready for the wedding listening to Cajun bands and Mardi Gras Jazz and Dixieland. It was sort of perfect.


(By the way, the smaller bottle reads: Bayou Love Potion #9 ... it's a hot sauce!)

Once hair was done, the make-up portion of the program ensued. Erin did my make-up, and did a damn fine job, if I do say so myself. I do know how to do my own make-up - to a degree. I've been under the belief, however, that other girls just inherently know how to do it better - as though it's a chapter in the Handbook for Straight Girls, that somehow didn't transfer into the Handbook for Gay Girls. Our secret chapter has to do with power tools, which I always thought was a fair trade off ... except for instances like this. Erin then convinced me that I should curl my hair, which I did. I find my current lack of a hair cut entirely too Jackson Browne-esque for such a momentous event like my best friend's wedding. So, I braved the way with the hot implement of death, and didn't fare too badly, if I do say so myself.

After the completion of hair/make-up, we dressed, and I once again felt like the country dyke. The only pink top I could find was a men's dress shirt. I had wanted to find a nice hot pink v-neck sweater, but apparently no such thing exists (I looked! At malls even!). So there I am, in my pinstripe slacks, men's metro-sexual black shoes, and my men's dress shirt. Amanda, Erin, and Jessica (Megan's sister), all found hot pink variations of a cocktail dress, and all looked fabulous. Megan gave us our bride's maids gifts ... Fabulous pink flamingo sunglasses, a plastic pink flamingo cup, and a coffee thermos with a flur-de-lis ... although I was actually the only "maid" - Erin, Amanda, and Jessica are all married. Erin and Jessica both have two children each. It was kind of weird to think about. Let's not mince words - I was the odd dyke out. I like to think that I just added some more flare to an already fabulous wedding.

[I know, I'm using "fabulous" a lot ... but it truly was]



Anyway, we went downstairs for photos. Which were outside. In 35 degree weather. I was freezing, and I was wearing more clothes than any of the ladies. We took silly pictures with our new (and fabulous!) glasses, and a photo with a guy dressed up as a jailbird. Megan took a photo with a trio of police motorcycles, and also attempted to take photos in a Mardi Gras port-a-potty. The groomsmen all had hot pink ties and cummerbunds made from fabric with different bugs or lizards. Why? Three out of the four of them are biologists, as is Megan's husband John. Yeah - this has been the most fabulously nerdy wedding I've ever heard of, let alone been too. Brian was my groomsman partner. He had dragonflies as his theme. He was super nice, and I noticed that had my hair not been curled, we would have had the same haircut. Coincidence?



Megan and John took their family photos inside at the Hilton's swanky bar. After photos, we walked over to the reception hall (De La Ronde Hall) a few blocks up the street. There was a room for us to wait in, and we puttered around taking pictures of things and admiring the hall while we waited. Megan was anxious and excited. There was a lovely tray of muffins, and champagne and orange juice for us. I couldn't help but marvel at the fact that my best friend of 14 years was about to get married. She wanted to practice reading her vows to us, and started to get teary, and asked us for advice on how not to cry. I told her to breathe. Her grandmother told her to bite the inside of her cheek. She handed me her vows to hang on to - I was the only one with pockets.



We waited while everyone sat down, and finally it was time. Megan had both her mom and dad walk her down the aisle. I was the third bridesmaid down the aisle, after Amanda and Erin. I smiled to Brian and gave him a huge thumbs up before I started walking. He winked at me. He was a little nervous, but we both smiled as we walked. Now, because Stephen's flight had been canceled, there was a baggage issue, as in - no one could find it. So poor Stephen was dressed in his clothes from the day before: blue jeans, a blue and white baseball shirt, and a weathered brown leather jacket. Megan thought the concept of being married by a man wearing jeans and a leather jacket was awesome.

Stephen told a Boudreaux/Thibodeaux joke, and was quite charming and personable. Megan read her vows, and got through them beautifully. John read his vows, and had to stop at one point as he choked back tears. I think that's when everyone of us lost it a little. They exchanged rings, and we there was much rejoicing. Megan and John left the hall, came back, and were announced at "Mr. & Mrs. McVay."



Then there was drinking; an open bar with mimosas, Abita, bloody mary's ... there were some other things, but I stuck to those three. Mind you, it was only 9:30 a.m. at this point. The band at the wedding was the Lost Bayou Ramblers, a Cajun band complete with accordion, upright base, and fiddle. And they rocked! There were dancing lessons for both the two-step and the waltz. The reception had a full country breakfast with grits, eggs, bacon, eggs benedict, and more boudin balls. The centerpieces were pink flamingos and hot pink Mardi Gras beads. It was a rockin' good time.



Discovery #3: King Cake. King Cake is a dessert associated with Mardi Gras. It's actually more of a bread in the shape of a giant donut, with homemade frosting and a variety of different fillings, from praline to cream cheese to raspberry. The best part about a King Cake, is that there's a little Baby Jesus in each one. Yep, you read that right - a little Baby Jesus. Why? Who cares why. THERE'S A LITTLE BABY JESUS IN THE CAKE! Now, if you are fortunate enough to get the little Baby Jesus in your piece of King Cake, not only are you blessed with luck for the rest of the year, you also have to buy next year's cake - balance, you know. You get the luck, you give the luck. According to Stephen the Cajun, there's a lot of ying/yang in the Cajun culture too.



Anyway, the wedding cake was a King Cake - more like 7 King Cakes. No, I didn't get a Little Baby Jesus. I tried, and I tried. Well, I only tried once. A little King Cake goes a long way! There were also beignets - I had to pace my self.



After some more dancing, the reception ended, and then transformed into the after party, which consisted of most of the wedding guests making our way with John and Megan down the crowded and float-filled streets of Baton Rouge for the Spanish Town parade; Baton Rouge's biggest Mardi Gras affair. In case you were wondering why Megan chose hot pink and flamingos to emblemize her wedding, it's because both the color and the bird are the standards of the Spanish Town parade - it was all linked, you see. That Megan is a smart cookie. As we were walking up the street to the parade route, people were congratulating Megan and John, and one man looked at John and said, "Hey! Don't forget to put the toilet seat down, man!" Best wedding advice ever? Possibly.



One of Megan and John's friends, a photographer for the Baton Rouge paper, threw the after party for them, complete with kegs of Abita and Bud Light, and some of the most delicious smelling food I might have ever smelled. Unfortunately, between the length of the parade, and events that happened later, I didn't actually get to eat any of it. This is, perhaps, my only regret of the weekend.



We watched the parade, which consisted of different floats and different people of all kinds ... like:

Canadians!


and lesbians!



and the gay KKK!


(some of the original Mardi Gras costumes look strangely like the get-ups of the KKK...people on the floats often have covered faces ... it's kind of unsettling.)

Different people throwing beads of all kinds. I snagged a LOT of beads. Like, a lot-a lot. The people in front of us were terribly nice, and came up from New Orleans just for this parade. According to them, the Spanish Town parade was one of the best of Mardi Gras, and one of the most generous in terms of bead throwing.

Discovery #4: Bead etiquette. For those who have never been to Mardi Gras, there are some rules to the acquirement of the ever-sacred bead.

1) You can shove, push, elbow your way toward a necklace in the air - but you NEVER, EVER pick it up from the ground.

2) Not all beads are equal. There are the beads that the rest of the world associates with Mardi Gras, which are little beads on a string. In reality, there are many different colors, sizes and rarities of necklaces. The more colorful, large-in-size, and unique the bead, the better.

3) You do NOT need to take off your shirt for beads - only tourists and drunken college girls do that. From what I can glean, people on floats will throw beads based on the factors of attractiveness, loudness, enthusiasm, costume pieces, or familiarity. For example - Erin received a lot of beads from older men who clearly appreciated her gorgeous hair and her hot pink cocktail dress. I received lots of beads from older women, either because they felt sorry for me, or because I was being loud and wore my pink flamingo sunglasses. See? Anyone can get beads!



I'm not sure how long we were out there, but it was a long time. I waited in line upstairs for the bathroom, and when I was done, that lovely smelling bar-b-q was all gone. And I was hungry!



I was going to go to New Orleans that night with my friend Dan and his friend Alina, but once I told Megan, she was sad. So I changed my mind - I was there for her, after all. I wasn't about to make the bride unhappy. In my indecision, however, I made Dan and Alina miss their bus. So I drove them down to NOLA, which is about 70 miles away from Baton Rouge. Under normal circumstances, it would have been an easy 2.5 hour drive, round trip. But Mardi Gras is not a normal circumstance. The traffic in down town New Orleans was so intense, it ended up taking about 5 hours, round trip.

On the way back, I stopped for some gas. As I flipped through the channels on the radio, I happened across an old BBC recording of A Midsummer Night's Dream, complete with psychedelic sound effects any time a fairy entered or exited. There I was, driving through the Southern Louisiana Bayou, listening to Shakespeare.

Prophetic, no?

Baton Rouge: The Aftermath


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This blog post brought to you by:

Boudin Balls
My Red Moleskin Notebook
The Winter Olympics
Megan's Awesome Wedding