Weekend With Lord Stanley: The High AND Lows
Now Playing: Tom Waits - Closing Time & Jeff Buckley – Grace
Those of you familiar with me personally, and more specifically my rooting interests with regards to team athletics would probably surmise that I’ve been particularly ecstatic lately. For the most part you would be correct. The team with which I live and die has captured the most storied trophy in professional sports; hockey’s Stanley Cup. They’ve treated hockey fanatics everywhere to an incredible playoff run and ended the NHL’s longest championship drought much to the elation of its recently rejuvenated fan base.
My readers who follow me on Twitter or are friends with me on Facebook are undoubtedly aware that it’s been a continuous, city-wide celebration since the Blackhawks returned victorious from Philadelphia with the spoils of the Stanley Cup Finals war. They began a five day hard-charging victory lap around Chicago, including a jaw-dropping ticker-tape parade and rally that saw an estimated two million people flood Michigan Avenue creating a spectacle these eyes will surely never forget.
But as the saying goes, God doesn’t give with both hands, and I found out the hard way that the long-awaited return of Lord Stanley’s Cup to Chicago was not without a personally devastating price tag.
Less than 24 hours after seeing a dream realized and being on the greatest (natural) high I can remember, the floor gave way abruptly as I was informed that due to circumstances I had failed to control, my relationship of over four years with the woman I love was being terminated, and the severance package left something to be desired (read: SUCKS). This leaves me kind of pissed that no one has developed a manual to deal with going from Everest to ocean floor in mere moments like this. But I guess that onus falls upon me now.
A crossroads was reached: celebrate like it’s 1961, or wallow in misery like a broken man? I chose both. Coping Manual Tip #1: Do what feels right. While Wednesday night was filled with beers, cheers, and more hugs from strangers donning the Indian Head sweater than I can recall, Thursday was a night filled with shock, self-loathing, confusion, regret, anxiety, and a truckload of other emotions that left me wondering what the hell had just transpired. I tossed and turned endlessly, and discovered that the best way to focus your complete attention on something was to concentrate on not thinking about it at all. So it was going to be a trial and error process.
At Friday’s parade and rally on the streets of Chicago, I celebrated with a couple million of my closest friends, albeit with a bit more reserved exuberance than most would expect at an event of this magnitude, but I enjoyed myself nonetheless. Friday night saw my friend Emily from Vegas join me and my jackass friends as we began our chase of the Cup throughout Chicago. She and I connected through Twitter, and it was immediately apparent that we had entirely too much in common, and our friendship, while thrilling in our eyes, was probably going to be detrimental to the sanity of those around us. Thus, it was shaping up to be the kind of night that I needed. We bird-dogged the Cup to many different places in the city, always just missing it by five or ten minutes. We hit a handful of my favorite haunts along the way, and although we failed at connecting with hockey’s holy grail, we managed to have ourselves a blast at the expense of many a brain cell.
Thankfully I tend to overbook myself, as everyone knows that idle minds are akin to idle hands in their appeal to evil. This weekend was no exception, as Saturday was the annual Miller Park Tailgate with even more of my jackass friends in Milwaukee. This is an event that I look forward to every year, and the 2010 incarnation was no exception. I would later find out that I was perceived as a 50/50 shot to even show up at the party this year because most didn’t expect me to survive the Stanley Cup celebration, let alone be in any shape to make the short trip up to Brew Town. However there was never a doubt in my mind that Milwaukee was where at least some comfort lay for me. Brian, Tina, and I were initially chided for sporting our Blackhawks gear in Milwaukee, but no one could really deny that we had every reason to be proud of our boys and begrudge us for showing it off whenever and wherever possible. It also helps that I have dual citizenship in Wisconsin and Illinois, I’m kind of like a “made man” up there. We proceeded to grill, drink, reminisce, and even watch parts of a baseball game that happened to be going on at the time as I tried to avoid the less than pleasant thoughts that constantly tried to edge their way in. Coping Manual Tip #2: Have AMAZING friends.
On the heels of Saturday’s revelry, Sunday seemed to come entirely too quick for all of us. However we battled through it with the help of Advil, Vitamin Water, and Kenosha’s legendary Brat Stop as we regrouped for another night of “Follow That Cup” in Chicago Sunday night! Coping Manual Tip #3: Stay busy. Luckily, my new temporary home is about 5 blocks from Wrigley Field, so with the Blackhawks parading it around the field and stadium we had a great base of operations. As soon as the 7th inning stretch was finished (a performance for which I’m holding back my scathing review), we made our way down Waveland Avenue and got to watch as the Cup was carried out and loaded into the “shotgun” seat as the team filed in behind it. A truly glorious moment. Next stop was Harry Caray’s Tavern where my fragile emotional state was stressed to its limit as out of the blue, Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell appeared over my right shoulder. After muttering what probably sounded something like the end of a bad game of “Telephone”, I composed myself, said a few coherent words, and got a picture. After several more bars and near misses with the players and the Cup, we called it a night, and a weekend.
I was completely gassed. It was the most emotionally taxing five day period I’ve ever experienced. While it’s impossible to ignore the traumatic low points that found their way in, there always seemed to be one of my Cup crazy cohorts there to hand me a drink, lend me an ear, or hand me a drink. My friends had successfully transformed a weekend that could have easily been one long pity party and made it one that I will still never forget, only now it will be for more of the right reasons. Granted, there were still a lot of moments that were painful, but although these two highly emotional events will be inexorably tied in my mental history, this weekend will be forever remembered as “The Weekend With Stanley”, and not “The Weekend Without…”
too young to hold on / too old to just break free and run