Travel Would You Rather

"Would you rather" is always a really fun game to play, is it not? I recently came across this post idea and knew immediately I had to do it. Because why not debate some crazy scenarios that'll never actually happen? ;)

Q: Have a $10,000 budget for a holiday and you can either fly first class for $5,000 and stay in mediocre accommodation, or spend $1,000 on economy and stay in luxury accommodation?

Oh gosh, this is really hard. Usually I fly economy and stay in mediocre accommodation, so I'd be thrilled with either option! I guess I'd fly first class, though. Ideally when I travel I don't want to spend too much time hanging around the hotel/hostel, so all I really need is a shower and a bed.

Q: An all expenses paid trip to a small town in the Netherlands with your best friends or an all expenses paid trip to your dream destination with your frenemy?

What's wrong with a small town in the Netherlands? Because that sounds absolutely lovely!

Q: Have a cup of tea with Jon Hamm or Josh Homme?

Jon Hamm, because I have no idea who Josh Homme even is. Oops?

Q: Never take the train or never take the airplane again?

NEITHER. I need to fly (if only to visit home!) and I need to take the train (because I cannot call myself a native Long Islander and be okay with the idea of never taking the LIRR again). So yeah, absolutely not. I need both.

Q: Spend a full day with a thief or with a beggar?

A beggar. I will willingly share what little I have, but if it's taken from me without my consent I fly into a rage. I'm not okay with thieves.

Q: You have won a prize. The prize has two options, and you can choose either (but not both). The first option is a year in the USA with a monthly stipend of 1,000. The second option is ten minutes on the moon. Which option do you select?

Would this year in the USA involve working, or is this a year off to explore the country? Because I already spend all of my years in the USA with a monthly stipend (well, salary) of more than $1,000. But I'd love a paid year off to actually see the country I've lived in my entire life!

Q: Wake up without your wallet or wake up without your passport and phone?

Wallet. IDs can be replaced and cards can be cancelled. Even a phone is replaceable (but after doing that once, let's not do it again). But a passport? Kind of catastrophic.

My phone was stolen in New York City. Rude.

Q: Be left behind in the bush on an African safari or be left behind in the water on a scuba trip?

In the bush on safari. That's significantly more survivable. Forget sharks; too long in the water and you'll drown from exhaustion. I like my chances much better on land.

Q: Lose your luggage but land on time OR land 12 hours late with your luggage intact?

Twelve hours late with my luggage. That much of a delay sucks, but landing without your luggage probably means a whole lot more than 12 hours of additional stress about it, plus returning to the airport to pick it up (or not getting it at all).

Q: Bike across the U.S. from New York City to San Francisco, or bike across China from Beijing to Tibet?

Ooh both options sound so cool! I mean, biking that far sounds miserable (I'm not much of a biker), but in theory those trips would both be awesome. I think I'd choose China. The U.S. has very large amounts of nothing in the midwest; I've driven through Kansas twice, so I speak from experience. I don't know what the landscape in that part of China looks like, but what a cool way to see the country!

On the Kansas/Colorado border. So much nothing.

Q: Decide between taking The Unbearable Lightness of Being, or Dracula for a ‘stuck on a desert island book’?

Are these both supposed to be bad choices? I've never read either one. So I'd probably be fine with either one.

Q: Be able to teleport to places you’ve already been or only be able to teleport to places you’ve never been before?

Places I've already been! Take me back to London immediately!

Q: Be stuck on a seven-hour delay, or turn up at the airport and realize your flight is tomorrow?

Seven-hour delay. I did once turn up at the airport only to realize my flight was the next day, and it was THE WORST. We call it Parisgate but try not to speak of it. So if I never have an experience like that again, I'd be a very happy camper!

Travel Tuesday

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Miracle Monday: Colleges (And Rivalries)

Hey there, Monday! Everybody good? We all doing okay? Hanging in there? Good.

So, today we're gonna be chatting about the pre-Miracle on Ice days, back when these ridiculous boys were... well, younger ridiculous boys. Ye olde college days, if you will. There were six schools represented on the Olympic team. Miracle only tells us about the University of Minnesota vs. Boston University rivalry, but there was a whole lot more going on within this group than just that!

Herb Brooks coached the Gophers for seven seasons before moving on to the Olympic team, so it's not a huge surprise that almost half the team attended Minnesota. There were national championships won in 1974, 1976 and 1979 (with Bill, Phil and Janny on both the '76 and '79 teams!), and the argument could be made that those teams were some of the best in college hockey history. So they had a ton of teams gunning for them, and while they faced off against Boston University when the stakes were high, the local rivalries ran just as hot, if not more so.

The Bulldog contingent may be very small, but these guys were a thorn in Herb's side for years before he got to scoop them up for the Olympic team. UMD and UM used to both play in the WCHA conference, so these teams would play each other multiple times each season. There was a good amount of bad blood there, and even though UM usually came away victorious, those games were always rough and hard-fought. Bah has said that he wanted to win those games so he could go up to Herb afterwards and say "good game" as the victor (y'know, just rub his face in it a little bit).

I don't know a whole lot about college hockey, but one thing I do know is that the UND/UM rivalry is real and it is intense. I almost feel bad for poor Dave being the only Sioux on a team with so many Gophers! There was a ton of animosity between these two teams; UM beat UND in the 1979 national championship game, but UND beat UM in the 1979 WCHA conference finals. Dave actually scored twice in that game, one of which was a one-on-nobody empty netter that Dave took care to wind up for just to drive the dagger a little further into Gopher hearts.

While the players claim that everyone not from Boston or Minnesota just sort of blended in, make no mistake: the Badgers were far from passive observers, that's for sure. Wisconsin also played in the WCHA (are we noticing a pattern here?), which meant playing UND, UMD and UM multiple times each season. And the Gophers have not been shy about describing their distaste for playing the Badgers, with Bob japping them and Mark scoring goals and the arena full of rowdy, screaming fans. Wisconsin won the national championship in 1977 and made the Frozen Four in 1978, so they were right there in the mix the whole time. There was certainly no love lost.

Hey there, Michigan contingent, I see you! The Falcons might've been the only true neutral members of the Olympic team, despite some serious postseason history. They're the only players on the Olympic team to have played in the NCAA tournament in 1977, 1978 and 1979 (and actually losing to Minnesota in the '79 quarterfinals). But they played in a different conference, so any rivalries with these other schools were on a game-by-game basis.

Yes, Minnesota beat Boston in the 1976 NCAA semifinals and there was a big brawl and all kinds of bad blood. If you've watched Miracle, you know this already. But Boston also faced Wisconsin in the 1978 NCAA semifinals on the way to winning the championship. Those two instances, however, are the only times (I can find, at least) that BU crossed paths with any of these schools from '76-'79. For the most part, BU was concerned with its more local rivals: Boston College, Harvard and the University of New Hampshire, which were represented on the initial Olympic team roster.

So don't think it was just Minnesotans vs. Bostonians! There was allllll sorts of regional infighting happening (#drama), which only makes how close the Olympic team got all the more remarkable. :)

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Five Things That Made Me Happy This Week (And One Confession)

Guys, this has been A Week. You know it's not a good sign when your Monday blog post starts off with you complaining about how tired you are. I spent the whole week stressed at work and didn't go to sleep early enough on a single night (shame on me). Throw in some dreary weather and car repairs, and I am 250% over it. All of it. Come to me, weekend.

Needless to say, I didn't feel inspired (or energized) enough to write what was on my editorial calendar for this week. So in what's become sort of a tradition on these "blah" sort of weeks, I've decided to dust off this old post idea and chat about some things that made me happy!

Five Things That Made Me Happy This Week (And One Confession)

1. My car repairs weren't nearly as bad as I thought they would be! Last week on a rainy day, I went to turn my lights on and nothing happened. I'd had this exact problem almost exactly a year ago, and my mechanic had to replace the whole switch in there. It took several days and several hundred dollars and so much stress, I can't even tell you. So to have no headlights again within a year had me on the verge of crying, I was so frustrated. But lo and behold, the problem ended up being dead lightbulbs. That's it. First of all, how the heck do both headlights die simultaneously? And second of all, this is the first time in the two-year history of my ownership of Buzz that I took him to the mechanic expecting the worst and escaping with something minor. Usually it's the complete opposite; I go in for an oil change and find out he needs new brakes. But this time I had Buzz back later that same morning, saving me hours (and potentially days) of stressing about it. [praise hands emoji]

2. Last Saturday I hosted a (very belated) Passover Seder for a few of my (non-Jewish) friends. I hadn't been planning on celebrating this year, but they requested a Seder. And this same group of people celebrated Chanukah with me back in December. I have non-Jewish friends who go out of their way to celebrate my holidays with me. That is the most amazing thing. (I also cooked everything myself, did so successfully and had everything ready with 10 minutes to spare. Whaaaaat.)

3. Also last Saturday, a TV special on the Miracle on Ice reunion aired. I've been basically dying for footage of the reunion since the moment it ended (over two months ago, omg), and now we FINALLY have some! I also scrounged up a radio show that did a broadcast about the reunion, which has some great audio from the ceremony. So I'm no longer left to reminisce with just my memories, and I can share the joy of what actually happened with whoever wants to experience it! (I may or may not have watched the special and listened to the radio show like three or four times apiece. Don't judge me.)

4. My boss has a lot of faith in me. Which is sometimes kind of terrifying, because sometimes she thinks I'm capable of doing things that I'm not so sure I'm capable of. But it's pretty cool to work for someone who tells me that I'm smart and capable... even if that comes after throwing me into a task that I have no real idea how to tackle.

5. THE METS. Guys. I've been a lifelong fan of this historically terrible team. But right now they have the best record in the entire MLB. They swept a 10-game homestand for the first time in franchise history. They tied the 1986 World Series-winning team with the best start in franchise history. They won 11 games in a row for the first time since 1990. And they've done all of this despite a laundry list of injured players (David Wright included). Holy. What is going on? Who are these people? What has happened to this team that used to roll over and die? Where have all these haters come from? Are there going to be bandwagon fans?

I haven't been this excited about the Mets since 2012, when we had Dickey Day instead of Harvey Day.

And my confession: I literally don't know how to handle rooting for a team that's good. LOL. I got more and more emotional the longer the winning streak went on. I've been tweeting and posting on Tumblr about the Mets nonstop because suddenly it's exciting to be a fan! I can finally be proud of my team! And I'm sorry but I cannot shut up about it! I'm finally excited about watching games because losing isn't all but guaranteed! And even if the Mets are down a few runs, they actually fight back! WOW. All of this is unprecedented. I kid you not. I'm used to being utterly embarrassed by this franchise. I need to get used to this whole "winning" thing. In the meantime I might be really annoying. My apologies. (But of course, I miss all games in the 11-game winning streak, but as soon as I can watch a game, they lose 6-1 to the Yankees. Of course. Of course.)

Hope everyone had a lovely week! :)

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Miracle Monday: Best Bromances

Hello again, Monday! Does anyone else feel like this weekend flew by? Sheesh. I could've used an extra day off today. But moving on.

One of the (ahem, many) things I wish Miracle had showed more of were the individual friendships on the team. There are so many great stories in there that aren't even touched on; beyond the development of the Jack O'Callahan/Rob McClanahan relationship, you don't really get much of a sense of their friendships at all. And that's really a shame because... well, see below. ;)

Are you ready for an amazing narrative? Neal and Dave grew up in nearby towns in northern Minnesota, playing hockey for high schools that are bitter rivals. Then Neal went to the University of Minnesota and Dave went to the University of North Dakota, so once again they were playing for schools with a crazy intense rivalry. But then they both made the Olympic team, and these lifelong rivals ended up as roommates for the year. And they became best friends. Aaaand 35+ years later, they're still super close and keep in touch at least every few weeks. (This is one of my favorite things in the world.)
On the complete flip side, Bill and Phil were best friends long before they made the Olympic team. They were in the same recruiting class at the University of Minnesota and spent four years as roommates. During their senior year they were captain and alternate captain together, and people called them "the Odd Couple." (Will there ever come a day when I don't laugh about this? Doubtful.) Then came the Olympic team, where they continued their roommate streak. Nowadays they live pretty close to each other, still chat on the phone regularly and meet up to hunt and fish together. Also? Their names rhyme. Truly a match made in best friend heaven!
Before the Olympics, Mac played for the University of Minnesota and Mark played for the University of Wisconsin, and Mac has been pretty open about the fact that he did NOT think he'd ever be able to befriend a Badger. But Herb appreciated how similar these two were and put them together on the first line, and the rest is sort of history. They were both at the top of the stat chart for the entire pre-Olympic season (and the Olympics). And what's truly heartwarming is that, whenever Mac is asked about something that happened during a game, his answer always includes something along the lines of, "Mark and I looked at each other, and..." This was true for post-game in 1980 and it's true for 2015. Their Olympic experiences were so completely intertwined. :)
Pav and OC, honestly, wouldn't have made this list if I hadn't seen them together at the 35th anniversary reunion. The players sat in numerical order, which obviously put #16 and #17 next to each other, and these two had their heads together the entire night. They barely stopped chatting, and it was noticeable to the point where my mom leaned over during the ceremony and asked me who Pav was sitting next to because they just kept talking. Considering Pav is known for being all but perpetually silent, this is a pretty big deal. Do they keep in touch? Are they close? I have no idea. But if you think about it, despite all their differences, they're incredibly similar; OC is loud and outspoken while Pav is incredibly private and quiet, but they're both always unapologetically true to themselves. There's got to be a huge level of understanding and respect there, and clearly they never run out of things to talk about!

Of course, these are just some of my personal favorite friendships. There are (obviously) many more, and I'm (obviously) in full support of all of them. :)

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My (Totally Fake) Fantasy Baseball Team

GUYS, guess what! I asked and I have received: there's another baseball link-up. [praise hands emoji]! So you're going to have to deal with me talking baseball once a month until the season ends (which really shouldn't be a problem, because you've dealt with me talking hockey once a week since July. Not even sorry).

This week's prompt is to create a pretend fantasy baseball team. I've never played a fantasy sport in my life, and I don't totally get it. Can you just pick players from any team? any division? How do you get points? What's the deal? So I'm totally personalizing this for myself, and making it more about, 1) rooting for my favorite players, and 2) finding new players to root for and potentially fall in love with. I'll be restricting myself to three teams: I'm a Mets fan living in Rockies territory whose favorite player is a Blue Jay. (LOL oh my god, help me.) Therefore I'll only be "drafting" Mets, Rockies and Jays, in an attempt to get attached to another Colorado team (because the Colorado Avalanche sure worked out for me this season, /sarcasm) and find more reasons to root for Toronto besides just RA Dickey (as if I even need another reason). And no points, because... seriously, how does that even work?

Whew. READY? Let's do this.

CATCHER: Travis d'Arnaud, NYM
Travis is my pick for three reasons: 1) He was an incredibly promising prospect, 2) it's too much fun to add d's to everything -- for example, d'Arnaud hit a d'Ouble and was d'Ominant. Sorry, I'm a child. And 3) the Mets acquired him in the trade that sent RA Dickey to the Blue Jays. So basically, the dude needs to make that trade worth it. No pressure.

Duda is my dude. (Ha.) Last season he led the Mets in home runs and RBIs. And he reminds me of the good ol' days, when the Mets had Ike Davis and Justin Turner and Jose Reyes and RA Dickey... he's the last of my boys that's left. Well, him and David Wright, but David's never going anywhere so he doesn't even count. So yes. Lucas Duda. I'm all about it.

Is it so wrong to pick a player solely because you like his name? Lol, sue me. I'm a sucker for a good name, and DJ has always held my interest because of his. LeMahieu. Excellent.

My man Jose used to be a Met, and I. MISS. HIM. ...Yeah, that's really it. Also, when he runs it looks like someone hit fast forward. He's super fun to watch.

THIRD BASE: Nolan Arenado, COL
Okay, listen, I'm going to be rooting for David Wright anyway. And again, with the name thing... my brother's name is Nolan. It's a rare enough name that whenever I hear it I assume someone's talking about my brother (people with unique names, you feel me on this? I've decided that nobody else is allowed to be named Darci). ANYWAY, I've low-key paid attention to Nolan for this reason already, so might as well!

LEFT FIELD: Michael Cuddyer, NYM
First of all, his nickname is Cuddy. Second of all, he was traded to the Mets from the Rockies, so he checks two boxes. And third, people were blasting the Mets for spending so much money to get him because they think he won't produce enough to make his contract worth it. And I'm just DYING for him to prove the haters wrong! (Also, he seems like a great guy.)

CENTER FIELD: Charlie Blackmon, COL
Charlie is one of five players to ever get six hits, five RBIs and four extra base hits in a single game. Bro. And apparently he's super analytical and hard-working and focused, so he sounds like my kind of dude. Also, THAT BEARD. I'm so here for it.

RIGHT FIELD: Jose Bautista, TOR
Jose follows me on Twitter, and his handle is @JoeyBats19. Joey Bats. That is adorable. He also wrote a really good piece for The Player's Tribune and is, y'know, kind of good at baseball.

1. RA Dickey, TOR
See this post. I mean, was this ever a question? Lol, bye.

2. Matt Harvey, NYM
The Dark Knight has returned. He's the hero Gotham deserves, and is most definitely the one it needs right now. Not putting Matt Harvey on my team would be Mets fan sacrilege.

3. Jacob deGrom, NYM
He's a phenomenal pitcher (2014 NL Rookie of the Year!), was brought up through the Mets farm system, is another one with a great name (I mean, deGrom pitching and d'Arnaud catching? Please. It's deGreatest. Or d'Greatest). And I'm willing to bet he has the sickest flow in all of baseball.

4. Daniel Norris, TOR
He's a rookie that still, apparently, lives in his ancient Volkswagen van. Seriously. RA Dickey also once called him "young Padawan." That's enough of a seal of approval for me!

5. Eddie Butler, COL
Because he's got a ginger beard, and he didn't know he was on the final Rockies roster until literally the last game of spring training (and the Rockies haven't lost in either of his two starts so far this season). He also looks like a huge dork. I think I'll like him. ;)

1. Brett Cecil, TOR
Every team needs a closer, and this guy? He wears glasses. Any athlete that plays with glasses on is an automatic favorite. Wild thing, I think I love you. (Anyone? Bueller?)

2. Boone Logan, COL
Boone used to be a Yankee, and I would like to support him in all of his non-Yankee endeavors. Also, his name is Boone Logan. Killer.

Wow, this was exhausting. I was about ready to skip the relievers entirely (because who needs a bullpen, honestly? KIDDING). How do people draft from the full league? Looking at three depth charts was more than enough work for me, holy cow. So yeah, I look forward to angsting over these guys for the next few months (if it's possible to look forward to angst?) and hopefully ending up with some new favorite players!

7th Inning Stretch Link Up
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Masada at Sunrise

I've got a pretty random travel throwback going on today.

Last weekend, there was nothing much on TV and I randomly decided to watch a History Channel show about Masada. And it sort of hit me that Masada was the site of what is possibly my favorite travel moment ever, yet I've never really talked about it particularly in-depth. So that's changing immediately.

Quick background: Masada is an ancient fortification atop a plateau in Israel's Judean Desert, overlooking the Dead Sea. It's known for the Siege of Masada, when Roman troops were attacking. Rather than surrender and be slaughtered, the 960 people living there decided to commit suicide en masse. They left their food stores untouched, so the conquering Romans could be sure that these deaths were no accident. So basically, even in death, these people flipped the Romans the bird, and the triumphant conquering of Masada turned into a giant "wompppp."

I'm probably not explaining it very well. But in any case, Masada is a really big deal and an incredibly important place to visit. It's also a bit of a thing to hike up there at sunrise, so that's what my group did. Or, well, that was the goal. We got a bit of a late start (an exhausted group of college students got a late start on a sunrise hike? Shocker), so the trek up the mountain was quite the speed-walk. On a personal note, I ran up a plateau in Israel at sunrise with a broken toe. So that's a fun story.

Masada itself was incredible, but the best part was that we were up there long enough to watch the swearing-in ceremony for new Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers. Masada is the end of their 60 km run/hike through the desert to the ceremony, and we were there to cheer them on as they finished and got to see them get sworn in and mingle with them afterwards.

(Now, I always feel slightly strange blogging about Israel because the Middle East is such a sensitive topic. And a lot of people are anti-Israel, or at least against Israeli policies or how they conduct their international affairs. And that's fine, I'm not here to have a political debate. But if nothing else, my trip to Israel taught me that, no matter where we're all from, people are just people. We're the same everywhere. So if you do have an issue with Israel, I ask you to please know that I'm not advocating war or politicians or any of that, and to please appreciate the following from a purely human-to-human standpoint. They were a bunch of young boys who just accomplished something major.)

Watching these guys reach Masada was such a special thing. Israel employs a mandatory draft, but all the Israelis I got to know were so passionate about their homeland that being sworn into the IDF was an honor either way. Even more interesting were the handful of Americans among the soldiers, so passionate about a country they didn't even live in that they willingly moved halfway around the world to put their lives on the line. If you know me, you know that I love when people are passionate about something, so this level of dedication absolutely blew me away. They all looked so happy as they climbed the last few yards, just bursting with pride, and it was hard not to get emotional about it.

Look how happy that boy is!
 This is still one of my favorite things in the world. An American IDF soldier throwing up the U. Too amazing.

I find it really hard to explain Israel to people who've never been there. It's just... Jewish people are few and far between in America, and I didn't realize how strongly I've always felt like the odd man out until I went to Israel, where suddenly I was normal. I imagine it's the same for other people -- I mean, there are Americans voluntarily signing up for the IDF, so clearly there's a pretty strong attachment there! And I'm having trouble explaining why witnessing this swearing-in ceremony meant so much to me. I hate that people are killing each other, I don't come from a military family, and at this point I'd only been in Israel for like six days. But we were at this place that's so steeped in history, watching something so significant unfold in front of us...

I don't know what it is. But four years later I'm still at a loss for words.

Travel Tuesday

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