So we're back. Security was awful, thanks to the young Nigerian man who tried to blow up a plane bound for Detroit on Christmas day. (By the way, we were driving into Detroit from Ontario on the 26th and leaving it for Pittsburgh on the 27th. The Nigerian terrorist added all kinds of extra layers of fun, especially after another passenger got sick on the exact same flight yesterday.) We had to clean our first hotel room in Pittsburgh ourselves. The Penguins lost *both* of the two games we saw, and the Red Wings won one of the two. In the first two games we saw, both of our teams actually got shut out by the opposing goalie--that's right, we saw absolutely *no* goals scored by anyone on either of our favorite teams. And you know what? It was still a better trip than going to Florida to see my family would've been! I'm not even kidding!
Due to the snowstorms, we had to leave late Monday morning for Pittsburgh, as opposed to Sunday night as we'd originally planned. We are so thankful that we didn't have to try sleeping at the airport, though, and we could negotiate with both the airline and our hotel. A lot of people didn't leave when they'd originally planned. Several of my relatives called to
We got to Pittsburgh eventually, in time to clean our allegedly "clean" room and change into Penguins fangirl attire and get to Mellon Arena. I met Bill Guerin!!!! Mind you, it lasted all of thirty seconds. He autographed my T-shirt. He looks better in person, and a bit paler than I'd thought--I guess winter will do that to anybody. I suppose I can tell people I saw history happen. Martin Brodeur, goalie for the New Jersey Devils, set the all-time record for shutouts against the Penguins on the 21st. Good for him. Wish he'd made history against any other team instead. "Fuck history," I hissed to L'Ailee, much the way I did when Jimmie Johnson got his fourth championship, but I applauded tepidly like other Penguins fans. You know, because we're classy like that.
We were going to stay longer in Pittsburgh, but given the opportunity, we figured we'd be better off taking an earlier flight to Detroit. There was tons of snow in the Midwest. We knew Detroit, and all of Michigan, was depressed, but it still struck us to see just how much was boarded up and closed up. We felt especially good about spending some money there. The morning of the 23rd, we got manicures and pedicures. We found a tattoo parlor very close to the nail salon. We'd each sort of had an idea for a tattoo knocking around in our heads. It looked clean, and the two tattoo artists inside looked bored. So we got tattoos there. L'Ailee got her 13th and, she swears, final little black bat on her left arm. (She's gotten them one at a time, all over the East Coast and the Midwest, and she likes that there are small variations between individual bats. So do I.) I got an excerpt of the Vonnegut quote above just below my right wrist, in tiny deep turquoise letters: "Please notice when you are happy." We're both pleased with them--the only drawback is we can't donate blood for a year now. We think we're done getting tattoos anyway, at least for a very long time.
That night, we went to Joe Louis Arena. As a Penguins fan, it holds a special significance for me--it's the venue where the team won the Stanley Cup last season. L'Ailee's eyes got big and glittery. We'd joked about how she wasn't going to tell Pavel Datsyuk how much she liked him. When we went to the autumn 2008 race at Dover, L'Ailee stunned Kyle Busch by telling him he was "brilliant," and he quickly crashed out of the race to finish, like, 42nd. Datsyuk was one of the few star players on the Red Wings who wasn't injured. Well, she seized the opportunity to catch up to him and get her jersey autographed and tell him, in their native Russian, how much she liked him.
Then the Wings got their asses handed to them by the Chicago Blackhawks. "I am starting to get as superstitious as you are," she told me. "I almost worried that I gave him bad luck." We agreed that both the Wings and the Hawks are stupid to have Jimmy Howard and Antti Niemi, respectively, as their backup goalies rather than their main goalies--they are so clearly superior to Chris Osgood and Cristobal Huet it ain't even funny. Meanwhile, over in Pittsburgh, the Penguins were walking all over the Ottawa Senators, 8-2.
"Why the fuck didn't we go to *that* game?" I whined.
"Our timing is very bad," L'Ailee replied. Then we both looked at my tattoo, and burst out laughing.
On the 24th, we went to my great-aunt's house. She is 89, and we don't think she has many more Christmases or anything else in front of her. She's such a sweet and funny woman, though, and she loves having company over. Her daughter is well into her 60s and has her own health issues. It was good to be able to help them out a little bit. My...I suppose I call her my cousin, though it's somewhat odd when she's older than my mother...is a very conservative Evangelical Christian, like so many of the Florida relatives. However, my great-aunt cut any attempts at "witnessing" or otherwise baiting us short. "They've heard," she said gently. The daughter's tune changed pretty quickly.
We talk on the phone at least every other week, but there were still so many stories to tell. She showed us pictures of my great-grandmother (her sister) and my great-great-grandmother. We left with real treasures. I have a photograph of my great-grandmother and great-aunt as very young women now, that I will frame and display with pride, and a recipe for rugelach. My great-great-grandmother supported the family through the 1920s by making and bottling her own liquor--that's right, she was a bootlegger. My brother and I already have her whiskey recipe. Now I, and soon my brother, have her recipes for gin, red wine, and berry wine, all neatly handwritten. She made the berry wine for herself based on whatever she had handy, even after Prohibition ended and it was no longer a money-maker for her.
We drove to Ontario (they asked me not to share the name of the town) to be with L'Ailee's uncle, aunt, five of their six children, and their families on Christmas Day. It was a mostly Jewish/Pagan/atheist Christmas, and even the Christians there were far less, well, aggressive about it than we were used to on Christmas. My own relatives have told me that we're welcome to sleep in their homes, but emphasized that we'd have to sleep in separate rooms because, you know, they can't allow sinful behavior to go on under their own roofs. (Even if we're too tired to do anything but crash on the bed together, that's sinful.) So we sleep in hotels. L'Ailee's uncle and aunt had urged us to spend the night at their home when we were planning this trip, and she actually laughed when I asked, "Same room?" I am a little embarrassed to say that I teared up slightly as they showed us the guest room, with one full bed, where we would sleep. But one of L'Ailee's cousins is a gay man, and another is a bi woman, and both brought same-sex partners. I'm the only openly queer person in my family.
We talked about family and the weather. We got worried when the reports about the aborted bombing on the Detroit-bound flight came up via texts on several cell phones, and turned on the news long enough to learn the details. We shared stories and ate a lot. It's a damn good thing L'Ailee got me into hockey, because the roster for the Russian Olympic mens' team was announced that day and the World Juniors championship was coming up on the 26th. Surprisingly enough, this Russian-Canadian family was excited about both these things. Everyone but me was a Wings, Senators, or Toronto Maple Leafs fan. I made L'Ailee's aunt--actually, her whole family--laugh out loud without trying again. She jokingly asked L'Ailee, "How did you let her become a Penguins fan?," as if this was a grievous lapse in my hockey education. The redneck girl in me bubbled up: "Let, hell! Nobody *lets* me do anything." I guess it was all in keeping with the theme of our vacation. L'Ailee's uncle urged us to consider alternating between their home and my family for the holidays. We're definitely considering it.
Getting back over the border was trickier than coming up, of course. There was a lot more questioning and searching, and the line was longer. Eventually, however, we got to our hotel in Detroit, then back to Joe Louis. They played the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first part of a home-and-home series. L'Ailee didn't like the Wings' signing Todd Bertuzzi this summer--he has a justifiably bad reputation. However, she grudgingly admitted that she didn't hate him quite so much after he scored the only two Wings goals and gave the team the win. We enjoyed our only winning sports team sex of the trip because of him, so, thank you, Todd Bertuzzi.
We flew to Pittsburgh in the morning, tired but happy. The Leafs were a much better team than they had been earlier in the season. Still, it wasn't a shutout. Such a pleasure to watch Sidney Crosby score a goal in person, just feet away from me. (I did that during the New York Islanders season opener, too, but I don't get bored with it. At least I could holler out "Hell yeah!" without people around me looking homicidal this time.) The teams traded leads throughout the game. With a minute and a half to spare, our own Mike Rupp tied the game, and I whispered to L'Ailee, "Cool! We *own* overtime!" Then a Leafs player, Ian Fucking White, had to go and ruin things by scoring a winning goal in the last minute of regulation. Oh, well. I got to experience the Mellon Arena during its last season as the home of the Penguins, before the team moves to the new Consol Energy arena across the street. I got to look at Consol, too. I've said this before in other venues, but I love seeing places that I've only seen on TV come to life before my eyes. That in itself was an experience.
This morning, we skipped the free continental breakfast at the hotel in favor of breakfast at Sheetz, then dashed to the airport. We went through far more security than we liked. We weren't permitted to go to the lav or have anything on our laps in the last hour of the flight, but we'd been warned about that, so we timed things accordingly. I don't see how this or most of the other security measures enacted in response to terrorist attacks actually help--I would prefer that our government, you know, catches this shit before it happens and punishes the people who deserve it.
Then we were home. Oh, we were happy. Our cats will forgive us eventually, but they know and like the teenage boy who fed and played with them. (We don't know what we'll do when he starts college in a couple years.) We rested and took care of things and answered phone calls. We're actually kinda looking forward to going back to work tomorrow. Right now, L'Ailee is watching the Wings play the Jackets in the second part of that home-and-home series. As I type, apparently they're more interested in killing each other than scoring.
"I got to see these teams live two nights ago," L'Ailee said. "That is so great!"
"Wanna go back?"
"Oh, I would love to. But I also like to be home on my own sofa."
If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.