In which Sarah goes to her first ice hockey game

Before I get going, let me just preface this post by stating that everything I know about ice hockey I learned from The Mighty Ducks. Me and sport have never seen eye to eye, mostly because I end up feeling so sorry for the losing team that it takes all the fun out of it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll support Ireland in anything, especially if it’s rugby and there’s a pub involved, but in general I have no time for sport. Yes, I can appreciate the talent and skill that goes into a game of Gaelic football, but the amount of money professional athletes here and in the UK earn makes me want to hurl (in the non sporting sense).

Despite my apathy for sport and sporty people in general, I was very excited when Eoin’s aunt sent him a pair of ice hockey tickets as a birthday present. The game (or match, if you prefer) was on Friday night in the Rose Garden, where the Portland Winterhawks were playing the Everett Silvertips and I spent last week working myself up into a frenzy about it. I don’t get out much, remember? Being well-prepared, I had Milo nice and tired so he would sleep soundly in his crate while we were out and had even hired a nine-year-old girl to stand outside our door and listen for him (this is totally above board. More about her at a later date.) You can imagine how enraged I was then when we got to Portland and discovered that Eoin’s poxy work phone, which rings every eight seconds, was at home, charging away quietly. Back we went to get it, causing us to miss the start of the game, but only by a few minutes.

As far as I know, the Winterhawks share the Rose Garden with the Trailblazers, Portland’s basketball team. It’s a really cool and well-maintained stadium, I’m not sure of the capacity but I reckon it was three-quarters full for our game. And the best bit? Our seats were in the front row, practically on the ice, with only a sheet of plexiglass separating us from flying players and pucks. Below, I have used my feet to illustrate just how close to the action we were.

A little too close for comfort, don’t you think? To my left is where the teams were sitting. As I said, I don’t know much about the rules of ice hockey but I did learn that the game is broken up into three 20-minute periods and that every few minutes four players from each team did this thing I called Swapsies, wherein they sat down and four other lads got a chance to play. It was hard to keep up. Look at them there doing their Swapsies.

As you would expect, considering it’s played on ice, the game was fast and furious. For the first period most of the action was at the far end of the rink around the Silvertips’ goal, to wit I concluded they must be the less talented of the two teams. Also, I have never heard of Everett. But then, out of nowhere, the Silvertips scored. Naturally, I clapped. A goal is a goal, right? WRONG. You could have heard a pin drop in the stadium. Everett had no supporters in the house and it turns out that at American games the only time you cheer for the “other” team is when one of their players gets knocked out by one of your own. Well, you can imagine what started to happen in my head. I was picturing the Silvertips’ nanas at home watching the game on TV, possibly knitting green victory scarves for their little underdog grandsons. So even though they were winning, I felt the need to cheer for them because, well, no one else there could be arsed. Thankfully the whistle went so the torture could be paused while we went out to grab some burgers (delicious, in case you were wondering.)

The teams swapped places for the second period, which meant the Silvertips’ goal was right in front of us. The players were so close I could nearly smell their sweat and I’m sure, as the game progressed, they got the occasional whiff of my fear. Every time one of them was rammed up against the glass in front of me I almost jumped out of my skin, and after a particularly aggressive bash I saw myself on the big screen in the background – with my hands over my face. A few minutes later Portland scored and the whole Rose Garden erupted. It turns out that the crowd could actually make noise if they put their minds to it. Everyone did this kind of choreographed fist pump thing and stood up and generally went nuts. Of course I clapped along, but my heart wasn’t in it. I don’t think anyone noticed. I’m quite a good actress.

A couple of minutes later, three of the Hawks pounded one of my guys against the wall so hard he was almost knocked out. The crowd cheered so loudly I thought they’d scored. I’m telling you, ice hockey fans are barbaric. They love the fouls and the fights the players get into every 30 seconds. If you ask me, it’s all a bit theatrical. There were four umpires on the ice who spent most of their time separating the teams and making sure they didn’t kick the shit out of each other. Puh-lease, the players wear so much protective gear their outfits are practically bullet-proof. I doubt they’d be so brave if they weren’t covered in several inches of plastic and padding. The kids behind me chanting “Let them fight! Let them fight!” seemed to enjoy it though.

And then the whistle went, marking the end of the second period. We didn’t have anything pressing to attend to in this break so we stuck around to watch what happened in the ice. It was all go. First, the Kiss Cam popped up on the big screen, just like you see in movies. It was very cute when people spotted themselves up there and kissed; one elderly man even went so far as to hump his wife (my mind immediately turned to Milo and I wondered how he was getting on at home alone). Americans have no sense of embarrassment when it comes to the big screen, which I admire. I would have been mortified to see my face up there.

Next up, the Rose Buds made a dramatic entrance on to the ice. As a 28-year-old wannabe cheerleader, I was pretty disappointed with these girls. They did a little dance but showed no athleticism whatsoever, just lots of big white smiles, high kicks and announcements about their official tanning sponsor. Even Eoin was like, “I was expecting more pyramids from them.” After their routine, things took a turn for the weird when people started standing up and throwing rubber pucks on to the ice. Turns out it was for a raffle or something and, get this, the Rose Buds had to clean up afterwards. Scarleh for them. My dreams of being a cheerleader ended here, I can tell you.

And so, on to the third and final period. I was really starting to get into the game at this stage and was using all the tricks I know from The Secret to will the Silvertips to victory. Play was aggressive and the goals were coming thick and fast. Thankfully I’m not a nail biter because today I would have bloody stumps where my hands should be.

Coming up to the final whistle, the Hawks were leading by one goal but my brave little Silvertips just weren’t giving up. I feel like my support was really making a difference. Everyone is ordered to stand up for the final minute so tension was at fever pitch and I was definitely making some noise. But despite my valiant efforts, the Portland Winterhawks won with a final score of 4–3.

Of course they milked it, skating around soaking up all the applause and adoration, while my guys just skulked off quietly into oblivion. But that’s sport for you, isn’t it? I wouldn’t say I’ve been converted, and you’ll definitely never see me in any kind of jersey, but I would happily go to another game if the opportunity presented itself.

And  if you’re wondering how Milo got on, he was mute from the moment we left at 5.45pm ’til I freed him at 10.45pm. So in the end, victory really was mine, when you think about it.


The things you do when you’re Irish and you live in America

Since moving to America I have been craving cheese and onion Tayto. Craving them bad. (I know, I’m such a cliché.) At home, unless it was Christmas and they were flowing like wine, I wouldn’t look twice at a bag of cheese and onion crisps. I like my salty snacks cheap and nasty, like Meanies or Banshee Bones. But here, I cannot stop thinking about Tayto. When I babysat a few months ago, I “borrowed” a bag from the family’s stash. Jesus, the guilt afterwards! Of course you can get Tayto in certain shops over here, and online, but it’s not cheap or easy. For Christmas, we received many, many bags in the post from friends and family at home but when you have a finite supply, every crisp is tinged with sadness and loss, which kind of ruins the whole experience.

Like the new Tayto obsession, last night I did something that I wouldn’t be caught dead at in Dublin: I went to see The Coronas. Now I’m not a music snob by any means (my fondness for Britney, 90s J-Lo and that Like A G6 song is testament to that) but I always thought The Coronas were a bit, well, shite. Still, there was a group going and I’m not in a position to turn down a night out. Plus, they’re Irish, we’re Irish, it would be rude not to.

So, after emptying Milo and sticking him in his new crate (a very worthwhile investment, thank you we headed into Portland to the Doug Fir, a really cool venue with toilets so trippy I got a little bit scared at one point. After a few Bud Lights in the bar, and getting stamped to within an inch of our lives, we headed downstairs to where an American band, aptly named The Dregs, were playing for what I assume were some close friends and family members. Now they really were shite.

And then The Coronas, who were headlining, came on. All in all I’d say there were about 80 people there which I suppose wasn’t a bad turnout since the band didn’t seem to have any relatives in the audience. Considering I only know one Coronas song (you know it too, it’s about the J1 and it goes “So we sleep all day and we drink blah blah, we are not blahing our blah”) I was surprised and impressed with their performance. The proof is that I started fancying them within minutes. They were changing guitars like it was going out of fashion, playing piano and generally being very entertaining. Nice arms, too. Their set was short but that suited me just fine. I know it’s a cliché, but I’d definitely go see them if they came back, and not just because I’m Irish and I live in America.

Portland, you’re famous!

I wrote a piece on why Portland is great for today’s Irish Times. Check it out hizzere.

Also, come visit me! I’m only in Oregon for another two and a half months, you know.

Downtown Portland in pictures

Last weekend we took our first trip downtown. (Our stuff from Arizona, including my computer, only arrived today and I didn’t have the patience to try and blog from Eoin’s laptop. Soz!) The weather was dire so we didn’t stick around for long but I did manage to snap a few pics as we walked around. I LOVE Portland. To me, it’s how a city should be: plenty of people on the sidewalks, lots of atmosphere and best of all, bars. So very many bars. It’s worlds away from Phoenix and a lot like Dublin. No wonder I like it so much.

We stopped in hipster hangout Stumptown Coffee Roasters for a quick latte and it was there I realised just how old and uncool I am. I think I was the only person not using some kind of Apple device. The shame.  Then we hit up Powell’s Books, which I believe is the biggest book store in America. Or I could be making that up. Anyway, it’s mahoosive, covers an entire block and is four stories high. You need a map to find anything. After all that, and some yummy noodles, we headed home which is exactly 20 minutes away by car. My aim for next week is to get my shizz together and go in using public transport. It will involve one bus and one trip on the MAX. I think I can handle it.

I’ll leave you with this Portland themed gem, as sourced by the incomparable Doug Whelan. It’s quite accurate!

And before I go, I want to say thanks everyone for your support over the whole dog thing. It has consumed me all week. One minute I’m 100% sure it’s not meant to be and the next I’m searching frantically on Craigslist, refreshing the page every 30 seconds. Get it together, emotions!

Oregon: my first impressions

I’m here, y’all!

On Wednesday morning we packed up the last of our apartment in Chandler (sob!) and headed for the airport via a quick stop at Desert Breeze Park for an auld leg stretch. I knew we had been approved for a housewares package at the new gaff (thank you, Massive Multinational Company That Cannot Be Named!) but we tried to squeeze in some sheets and pillows cos our shipment doesn’t arrive til next week and we weren’t really sure what “housewares” included anyway.

The airport was really quiet so check in was a breeze and we even managed to sneak an extra bag in with our hand luggage. That would never happen with Ryanair. Before boarding we sat down for a drink during which I started banging on about all the stuff I was going to miss about Arizona. In the middle of my spiel I had a quick look at Twitter and discovered that our local mall, Chandler Fashion Centre, was at that moment closed because there was a gun-wielding madman down there taking hostages. It was at that point that I was ready to say goodbye to Arizona.

Our 1,009 mile flight north was fairly uneventful, unless you count the pilot announcing that there was a sick passenger on board and basically asking if there was a doctor in the house. When we landed the paramedics boarded and stretchered off an old man, who I hope was okay in the end. Seriously, drama was just following me around that day.

And so, we were in Oregon! Thanks yet again to The Massive Multinational Company That Cannot Be Named, we were picked up at the airport by a chauffeur and driven swankily to our new apartment. It was dark at that stage but the differences between Oregon and Arizona were already screaming at me. For one, the weather was basically the same as Dublin: it was cold and wet. Also, everything here is much more normal sized. I can’t stress how big the roads are in AZ, here they’re much more manageable and crossing the street doesn’t take 20 minutes. Oh, and the houses are so cute! No more low, stucco buildings with small windows designed to keep out the heat. Here it’s all about timber. They’re just adorable.

After about an hour we got to our new gaff which I LOVE. I really liked our AZ gaff too, so much so that we were going to see if we could live in the same community when we go back, but this place blows its socks off. It’s really bright and airy, with a vaulted 15 foot ceiling in the living room, and a much nicer kitchen. And lots of windows everywhere. Plus, we found out that the housewares package meant we were arriving to a hotel situation: the bed was made, we have loads of appliances (like an iron!) and even towels. I never want to move house without The Multinational Company That Cannot Be Named again.

I had been perving on our neighbourhood for ages via Google Maps and it didn’t disappoint in the flesh when we went out for dinner. Although I have my driver license, I will only have my legs and bike for transport Monday to Friday, so the outdoor mall right across the street is going to be my new best friend. It has clothes shops and restaurants, and there are a couple of supermarkets nearby too, including my personal favourite, Trader Joe’s.

Here’s a rundown of some other stuff I’ve noticed in the last 36 hours:

  • People here are really outcdoorsy. A lady from the relocation company came to show us around the ‘hood yesterday and she said basically everyone goes skiing or camping or hiking at the weekends once the weather warms up.
  • There’s a light rail (MAX), tram and bus service available and Oregonians actually use them. In downtown Portland, the MAX is free so it’s really easy to explore. How cool is that?
  • The international headquarters for Nike is just down the road and apparently if you’re spotted running in the surrounding park wearing a competitor’s T-shirt a security guard will step out and hand you a Nike one. (The rule doesn’t apply to running shoes, I checked.)
  • The Oregon Ducks are playing in some big game on Monday and apparently everyone is very excited indeed.
  • We now have a sofa bed, which I hope will lure visitors across the Atlantic. Anyone? ANYONE? BUELLER?

Last night I sent in my dog adoption application form so please cross your extremities and pray I hear something back soon!

On the move again

What? You didn’t think I was going to stay in Arizona forever, did you?

As of January 5th, Eoin and I will be living just outside Portland, Oregon. Yes, moving again so soon is not ideal but at the same time Portland sounds lovely, and it will give me the chance to have a bit of a winter. Oh yes, Portland, unlike Arizona, is cold. Actually, the climate is much like the one I’m used to at home in Ireland. Yay for seasons!

Below is (a really crude, in hindsight) map to show you where I’m at now and where I’m headed.

Now, isn’t that informative? I like to think of my new home as “just a California away.” We’ll be living there from the beginning of January til the very end of April/start of May, after which we’ll be coming back here for a long stint.

So what do I know about Portland?

  • It’s one of the greenest (as in, most eco-friendly) cities in the United States. That means the public transport up there is top-notch. (Although I’m driving now, I like to have options. And drinks.)
  • It’s famous for having a thriving music scene. Bands like Modest Mouse and Death Cab For Cutie originated in Portland and apparently (if you can believe Wikipedia) it’s where Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love met way back when.
  • One of its nicknames is Beertown. Why? Cos it’s home to lots of micro breweries. HELLO, BEER.
  • It’s very leafy. Leafy is good. I like leafy.
  • The Roloffs live there. And yes, before you ask, I intend to stalk them. Especially Jeremy, the 20-year-old son I’m not ashamed to say I have a crush on.

Overall, I really like the sound of Oregon. It rings my bell. Now all I have to worry about is the small matter of moving house. It feels like I only unpacked all this crap yesterday but c’est la vie. In this case though, the shipment shouldn’t take as long to reach us cos a) customs won’t be a factor and b) surely they can just put it all in a truck and drive it up to us. I would be less worried if we weren’t going away for Christmas. Oh didn’t I tell you? I’ll be raising a margarita to Baby Jesus from here as of next week:

That’s Isla Mujeres, just off Cancun, Mexico. EXCITED!

Have you been to Portland? Any tips for things to do in Oregon? Sharing is caring.