(Bolding is for skimming clarity, not emphasis.)

Hellooooo, livejournal! If I waited five days, it will have been a full year since I posted! Which is annoying because I really should have done a US Open write-up like I did once before, because i'll want that. I'll just summarize: awesome time at the US Open last September! XDD I finally got to see David Ferrer play in person!! He was the last of my favorite players that I hadn't managed to see, and as expected, was utterly gorgeous in person. And I saw the beautiful Dustin Brown, and Petko playing mixed doubles with Eric Butorac, which was the most adorable thing ever and they were so precious and smiley! I friggin love mixed doubles. We also were able to get tickets for Arthur Ashe and I therefore saw a bit of Kim Clijster's final match, against Laura Robson. And then we were smart and watched Sara Errani beat up on someone late in the day because the next match on the court was Kim's mixed doubles match, her actual last match now that I think of it, and we were all very emotional and supportive and it was lovely. (Also I love Sara and the entire Italian Fed Cup team.)

So yeah that was super fun. And me, my sister, and my brother-in-law went to Newport to see the grass tournament there, and also the crazy mansions. It was fun and the visitors and inhabitants of Newport were all unknowing participants in a preppiness contest. The men's title was won by a 60-odd year old man wearing pink shorts with a cardigan around his shoulders. The women's title was won by a young woman that Katie and I still affectionately refer to as the princess of all preppiness, she was at the tennis wearing gold boat shoes, formal navy blue shorts, and a red blouse with an anchor pattern on it. With appropriate jewelery and long straight blonde hair of course. :') (This was last July, and yes I am a freakshow for remembering it.)

Oh, and I also got into cricket? Just a little bit. Can't remember when, but I watched Fire in Babylon, which is this amazing documentary about West Indies cricket in the late 70s-early 80s, when they were becoming a team that would absolutely dominate the cricket world for a decade. I don't particularly follow cricket much but I have watched that documentary about 80 times and now have a massive crush on Vivian Richards and an icon to match. :D

Work's been good, I have an actual unit now! Two co-workers! I share a cubicle with one of them and at first it was kind of tense but then hurricane Sandy happened and my entire office got moved to temporary quarters and the whole unit was sharing a little office together and we all became bros. So since then it's been quite pleasant and chatty in our cube - he's an Arsenal fan and so is my sister so we discuss their fortunes and I complain about Schalke. XDD The cube, unfortunately, is in a very loud area which still drives me crazy, but I actually like sharing most of the time. Or at least, I like being able to chit chat when I feel like it, sometimes I still want more privacy and just a calmer atmosphere. Other work news is that my boss says he's trying to work out the admin stuff needed to get me a raise, thank god. To be fair, I'm not particularly struggling, but also to be fair, I'm not rolling in it and I'm basically being paid an entry level salary after 5 years because the base salary went up since I started, and I am definitely doing significantly better and more important work than I was when I was entry level. But my boss does recognize it, so now it's a question of them figuring out how to take care of it - I'll probably nag him about it again soon.

But speaking of Schalke!! Last time I updated, I was about to go see them in Philly! AND IT WAS AMAZING. So, so incredibly awesome to see them all in person - to be watching the warm-ups and have Raul right in front of me, running towards me... it was amazing. And we were in the front row for the game and saw some amazing action and it was just the coolest thing. I still feel so lucky that they came to America during the short period while Raul was there, and to a city I could get to so easily! PLUS omg my brother gets family hotel discounts cos he works for a massive resort owned by Sheraton or something, so we got to stay in a super duper nice hotel, AND they gave us 50% off room service, which isn't always a part of the discount, and it was the GREATEST. I've never gotten room service and breakfast came with all these tiny pots of jam and personal carafes of OJ and little dishes of butter.

And possibly even better was the Schalke fan we met on the trip down, who we know as Holtby Bro. He was on the Amtrak train down from Manhattan because he's from Gelsenkirchen but was on vacation in NYC, and still went out of his way to trek down to Philly to see Schalke play a random MLS team. XDD He was DEVOTED. We were wearing Schalke gear too so we had a little moment and he was surprised that we were American. XD Then we helped him in the Philly train station find the commuter rail and get the tickets he needed to get to the game later, and then several hours later we were in the shuttle going to the game together!! He started singing Schalke songs and there were only 2 Philly fans to 4 or 5 Schalke fans and they were like "...whoa." THEN he was in the shuttle and commuter rail back with us and was bonding with all the Philly fans and they traded scarves and it was AMAZING. Epic, giant bald dude with an earring. Schalke faaaaans <33333

I asked my roommate to move out last May, because she was thoughtless and messy and did her dishes once a week and I thought i could do better. So I went roommate-less for the summer, as a treat to myself (like a staycation that I have to pay for? I also went to a friend's wedding in Massachusetts and then road tripped up to Buffalo with a friend, which was fun and now means I'm bffs with her tiny dog) and watched every second of the London Olympics from an air mattress that I set up in front of the TV and was extremely happy. Also, thoughtless, sloppy roommate unsurprisingly left behind a lot of stuff - but like, surprisingly good stuff. Like her coffee maker. And a Christmas tree? And a VHS player that I am determined to use! I did of course contact her about it but she didn't want it!

Unfortunately, because I got so sucked into the Olympics, I didn't start searching until late in the summer, and ended up at the last minute signing on with a 22 y/o young woman learning to be a ballerina and working at a tailor. She was very nice as a roommate, quiet, took good ? I'm not the most extroverted roommate - I'm happy to chat but only briefly, and I was always left feeling like I'd rejected her, or like she was lonely. So I don't know, but she moved out after only three months. :|||| Gaaaaaaaaaaaah. At least she paid her rent and everything - she was definitely flaky so it's kind of bullet dodged, I guess. Except I had a very stressful roommate search in November and December!

But my current roommate is working out pretty good so far. She's very sweet and chatty but not too chatty, she doesn't make me feel like I'm being cold and mean when I just want to watch videos on my laptop for a few days. Of course sometimes I can't understand her Chicago accent, which can make conversation hard! And there was a weird situation last Monday where she brought a guy home at 11:30 even though we definitely have the type of roommate relationship where you give the other a heads up if you're bringing someone home, don't do so on weeknights, and generally, hopefully, only bring home only people you know and not strange men? Gaaaah. And then they were coming and going, which was even worse, and I stacare of things, but uncomfortably needyrt angrily stomping into the bathroom (I'm usually pretty good about passive aggression, it was more of a "HEY SOMEONE ELSE LIVES HERE AND IT'S BEDTIME.") so then they leave again and she comes back alone, thank god, and I poked my head out and asked if she was in for the night and asked her not to do that again. I was going to clarify the next day but she seemed cool so I just let it be. But she did mention that she had the day off, and I was thinking "UHHHH JUST BECAUSE YOU HAD THE DAY OFF DOESN'T MEAN IT WASN'T STILL A MONDAY NIGHT FOR ME?????" ... there are occasional moments of intense ditziness.

But we shall see. Basically it's working, she's very quiet and takes care of her dishes and doesn't give me a hard time about anything I do, and she goes to bed at around 9 and is a heavy sleeper.

HAHAHAHA NEVER MIND SHE JUST TOLD ME SHE'S MOVING OUT IN SIX WEEKS. She got transferred at work. SIIIIIIIIIGH AUGH. So back on the horse. I could move, but I like paying $900/month, I like my building, my landlord, my neighborhood, how quiet my apartment is, how big and nice it is. I don't like having to deal with roommates and I don't like being so far away from my friends, but there isn't really a great place for me to move where I could be somewhere convenient to work and friends and be able to afford a nice one-bedroom. (After living in my beautiful large apartment for five years, it'd have to be a REALLY nice studio for me to consider it.) So for now, I think it's best for me to keep getting roommates!

So yeah, the newest thing in my life is hockey. XDDD I've always enjoyed it as a sport, especially since falling in love with the Mighty Ducks movies, and then with curling and my love of Canadiana, I'd hear about hockey goings on but nothing that sucked me in. But then I'd check this tumblr a bunch: http://waxjism.tumblr.com/ which I found because of Teen Wolf (briefly a fan) and just really liked, and she started posting a bunch of hockey stuff, so I was able to get sucked into the personalities in a slow, subtle way, and then I started reading fanfic and it was all over.

But then there was the "which team tho???" process, and it was kind of bumpy and weird. [livejournal.com profile] kikigirl is a Pens fan and my only close friend who loves hockey, so she was getting me to watch Penguins games and I wanted to embrace them but I had to create my own relationship with them and I was worried it wouldn't happen. But it did!! And now I adore them, and am especially excited that they traded for Jarome Iginla, which I know is sad in many ways but I just was madly in love with him from day one and love having him on my team and want all good things for him. And I adore Sid as well, and you know, all of them. :D And being a Pens fan has been super fun. I had it way too easy, of course - the first game of theirs that I watched was the last one in February, a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. Then they didn't lose a single game through the entirety of March! So I felt like I brought some good vibes around. XD

Then I wanted to have an NY area team, and I thought it'd be the Devils because I love Martin Brodeur and Ken Daneyko, and I still am fond of them (I'm trying to be chill about the hockey thing and not feel the rivalries quite as much as in soccer - I still root against rival teams, but I don't feel as much vitriol towards them and their fans) buuuuuuuut things worked out differently than I expected. [livejournal.com profile] kikigirl and I were going to try to go to a Pens-Rangers game at MSG, but it didn't work out and I still really wanted to go to an NHL game, and my parents live really close to Nassau Coliseum, and tickets are really cheap there, so... I went to see the Islanders vs the Tampa Bay Lightning. XDDDDD

So random, but - IT WAS AMAZING. It was easily my best live sports experience, especially men's sports. A lot of the credit for that definitely is how easy the transportation was - even leaving, we live in the opposite direction as the highway so there was no traffic - and it helped that we had great seats. But it was also a really fantastic game and there genuinely was a great atmosphere. Lots of families, lots of women around, which was great (except there were only 5 stalls in the bathroom, cos the building is old as the hills). The team played well and played really hard - effort is something that I have an easier time seeing in person, how hard they go in for what would be called a 50/50 ball in soccer (I do a lot of comparing), that sort of thing. And the way the game played out was just amazing - we were up 1-0 after the first period, then they equalized! We went up again to be 2-1 after the second (so we got to spend both breaks winning) but then they equalized again! My dad apparently felt totally despairing at that point, but we scored again! And then they pulled their goalie (one of my fave things in hockey) and it was still super tense, and then with 15 seconds left there was a great empty-netter - he just cleared it out and it drifted gently into the goal. The commentators (we checked the highlights) compared it to a curling rock. :DDD

So that was just completely fun and delightful and now I'm an Islanders fan!! Against all my better judgement, hahaha. BUT!! Then they went on a points streak for most of April, and qualified for the friggin playoffs!! For the first time since 2007!! :DDDDDDD It was all so exciting and wonderful and I was delighted to have been tricked into loving them. I had to buy playoff tickets as soon as we clinched, even though we didn't know who we'd be playing or what the schedule was. They're moving to Brooklyn in a couple years and tickets will all be way more expensive, and I just had to do it.

Of course, then we stop winning the last couple games of the season and end up the 8th seed in the eastern conference and of course are facing the Penguins in the first round. Of course. XDDD In a way, it's good, because one of my teams will go through. But I wanted to be able to root for the Islanders without hesitation, whereas in this matchup I'm pulling a little harder for the Penguins - aforementioned Iginla factor, plus greater expectations, plus better chances of going farther. Plus it's just so much more difficult a matchup for the Islanders! They've been playing great and most of the other teams in the conference have shown a lot of weakness, but the Pens have been a different level. However!! It does mean that i'll get to see both teams I love, and it'll be amazing to see the Penguins in the playoffs, and even if things go badly whichever way, I can be consoled. So I'm definitely feeling fairly good about how things worked out.

Also amazed at how the scheduling worked out - I knew that the higher ranked team had "home ice advantage" but I had no idea how that actually worked or how the games would be scheduled, especially in the shortened season, but I went for Islanders home game 2 ($65 each after fees, in the corner on the upper level, which is still pretty dang close). Which I kind of thought would be the third game of the series. The playoffs start today so I thought that'd be maybe on the weekend and it'd be nice. Well, what I forgot was that I'm doing an awesome house tour of fancy Greenwich Village townhouses on Sunday - it's a fundraiser, but I'm volunteering and get to go on the tour for free. I did it last year and it's the greatest, I friggin love seeing inside rich people's homes! Very beautiful and luxurious and kind of fantasy-ish. So I realized that game 3 might conflict with this, and then spent the whole weekend fretting at various levels, while I came to terms with the possibility of having to sell off my tickets. I also didn't know who we'd be playing at that point, so there was just so much freaking out, watching scores, waiting for schedules.

And of course it turns out that game 3 of Pens-Isles is indeed on Sunday afternoon, and I would have had to miss it. Except Islanders home game 2 is actually GAME FOUR of the series!! Which I didn't realize until quite a bit after the schedule was released, because I think they just said "game 1" and the date and time rather than "Islanders at Penguins" and the date and time. So then I kind of saw an offhand comment about the first two games being in Pittsburgh and I was like "WAIT WHAT" and spent the next hour in adrenaline-fueled confusion - a terrible state in which to be. XDDD

But YES. It turns out the game I got tickets for is a week from today at 7 PM and I will absolutely be able to go, and will also be able to go to the house tour! And I'd completely forgotten when the tour was when buying the tickets and totally preferred game 3 (cos game 4 could be elimination if the Pens sweep, and regardless of my feelings about the ultimate result, I'm going to the Coliseum to make noise for the Islanders) and totally thought weekend tickets would be great, so if I'd actually understood the scheduling, I almost definitely would have gotten home game 1 tickets and then I wouldn't have been able to go!! All morning yesterday I was kind of still in shock from both relief that it worked out and from how narrowly my ignorance saved me!! WACKY. TIMES.

So now, a little over 2 months from really embracing hockey fandom, I am going to go see my two favorite teams face each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. To quote a meme - that escalated quickly.

I'd like to stop there because it's such a good conclusion, but I have to talk briefly about my first experience being a female fan of a major American sports league. It can be. Exhausting. I mostly just go to spaces dominated by female fans, but I don't avoid all mainstream sports media, PLUS for me a big part of liking a sport is being a fan of specific athletes. And it is so, so incredibly hard to feel secure that the athletes I'm full of affection for are not secretly total sexist assholes with a history of treating women horribly that they've always gotten away with because of how we treat male athletes.

I'm slowly navigating my way through it and trying not to let it stop my enjoyment of the sport - and great experiences like seeing the Islanders play their asses off help a lot, there's definitely a lot of pure joy to be gotten out of it. But it's also tiring in a different way than soccer, because it's so close to home and so very much a part of the culture that I have to live in, so when powerful, popular men are constantly only talking, in fluff pieces and interviews, about women as if they just exist to be eyecandy, and saying stuff about how they'd never let their sister date a hockey player - but not that they think the hockey players need to change their behavior, because it's fine to treat other women in whatever way you wouldn't want your sister treated - it actually hurts more than whatever drama comes out of European soccer. Plus it's much more likely to be in English, especially in the countries where there might not be loud voices condemning sexism when it occurs.

Plus hockey is such a white privileged sport and racism is also a problem, definitely in a bigger way than I've seen in MLS (although I'm not the most reliable judge of how much racism is a problem in MLS). Black players are few and far between and are sometimes treated differently by fans, with more hostility if only occasionally outright racism. And the hockey media is kind of into veiled racism in lots of self-congratulatory comments about how family-oriented hockey is and how well-behaved hockey players are (ps not necessarily the case). They talk about family support as if it's the only sport where athletes are helped along by their parents? By the way it's also one of the most expensive sports for kids to play, as far as I know. Obviously white privilege here, but I don't feel tense about this the same way as I do about sexism - I don't get nervous about it when a player is interviewed or when we get insight into their personal life because I don't think they'll accidentally expose their racism, you know? But it's also something I don't have to worry about the same way, and fans of color and just generally smarter people than me have pointed out various problematic elements so it's also something I try to acknowledge and keep in mind.

What hockey is comparatively good about, certainly compared to European soccer, is homophobia, with the You Can Play project pushing education about acceptance. So that's good - because like, I'm sure there are lots of problems facing gay athletes and gay fans, but at least I know there's movement being made, the problem being acknowledged and steps being taken. So I can relax about it a little.

(This isn't really related, but it's a significantly more homoerotic sport than I expected of North America? So many more roommates than soccer! Not just road roommates, although that's sadly gone as of the new collective bargaining agreement, but also lots of players just living together. It's amazing, and makes for a lot of truly delightful fluff pieces, when they aren't talking about women!)

Oh and you can find me as ambitiouspants on twitter and tumblr now - especially twitter, where I am far too prolific.
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