What the What is a Spatula?

I felt like a really, honest-to-goodness historian the other day.

There was a disagreement amongst a few of us as to what to call a certain kitchen tool.  In order to settle the dispute, I was able to call up a historical document that proves my side of the argument was correct. Although in all honesty, before I was able to find corroboration from the historic record all the way back in 1989, I was beginning to question my own recollection.

I’ve been living in a Mandela Effect for a large portion of my adult life. There was an object that I always called something when I grew up, but nobody around me refers to it as such. Even worse, they use that exact same word to refer to another item altogether. They’re similar, but not the exact thing. Close, but no cigarette.

Most of this difference in nomenclature probably comes from location. I grew up in Southern California, but moved to the Sacramento region for college and have stuck around ever since. And 400 miles or so can make a big difference on language.

Remember back in the day when social media was new and fun? Before we realized that there were damn good reasons we didn’t keep in touch with those shitheads from [insert city/job/jail]? Back in the long-ago when people’s asinine political opinions only came out at Thanksgiving.

Anyway, back in social media’s nascence, I remember a quiz that guessed where you live by asking you a series of questions about vocabulary and pronunciation. How do you pronounce caramel, and is tote a noun or a verb, and voila! here’s where you grew up. It gave me Anaheim and Sacramento, which was a pretty good guess for the two places I’ve lived.

It makes sense. I remember one of the questions was what you call the road that runs alongside the freeway. I answered frontage road, because that’s what they call them in the central valley of Northern California. But had I lived my entire life where I was born, I would’ve answered “I don’t know a word for this,” because in Southern California, there ain’t no such thing as a frontage road. The road that’s next to the freeway is probably another freeway. Good thing there were no questions about public transportation, because neither half of California knows what that is yet.

So, even though I cringe every time someone gives directions up here and fails to put “the” in front of the number of the freeway, I am at least able to understand that it’s a minor dialectical thing. And I can condescend that it’s because they don’t have very many freeways up here. In SoCal, your directions might say “Take the five to the fifty-five to the ninety-one to the fifty-seven to the sixty to the six-oh-five to the ten to the one-oh-five.” Try saying that last sentence without the word “the”.  If you’re only ever likely to have two freeways in any given instructions, then I guess it’s easier. Although it still frustrates me when people tell me to “take five to J Street.” Take five what? Five minutes? Five miles? Five rabid orangutans?

I also find it amusing that they have traffic on the news up here. There’s pretty much only one freeway going in whatever direction you want to go. There are no alternate routes except for surface streets. In SoCal, they can report, “There’s an accident on the ten. Take the two-ten instead.” In Sacramento, all they can say is, “There’s an accident on interstate eighty. Too bad if you’re going northeast.”

But whatever. I’ve learned to change my directions to say “I-Five” or “Highway Ninety-nine.” It satisfies my need for adding a definitive article to my freeways, and those around don’t seem as bothered as using “the,” which they associate with the water-thieves down south. Even if most of SoCal’s water comes from the Colorado River, which is why Lake Mead looks like a puddle these days.

Regardless, I now know what a frontage road is, so I guess there have to be trade-offs.

Except for this kitchen utensil that seems to broker so much confusion:

Image result for spatula

In my upbringing, I would have referred to this as a spatula. I still, in my heart of hearts, think of it as such. But ever since I’ve moved to Northern California, throughout numerous roommates and families, if I ask anyone to grab me the spatula, this is what they’ll hand me:

Image result for spatula

Sure, they’re similar, but they ain’t the same things. They serve drastically different purposes in the kitchen. If I want to flip my hamburger and I get that flimsy flat thing, the poor burger ain’t getting flipped. At best I can spread a little mustard on it.

My wife refers to my spatula as a flipper or a turner. I suppose I understand that. But her form of a spatula could just as easily be called a spreader. I mean, what the fuck is a spatula, anyway?

So I’ve spent most of my adult life living in this weird spatula world. For a long time, I didn’t notice the discrepancy. It’s not like we cooked a lot in college. I might’ve heard people say they did odd things with spatulas, but I ignored it. Could I use my form of a spatula to spread frosting on a cake? I guess so, if i were in a bind. And if I got any odd looks when I talked about flipping something over with my spatula, I didn’t notice. Maybe they thought I wanted those eggs to be over hard, anyway. Or under hard. Is that a thing? Why can’t I have under hard eggs?

By the way, the Great Californian Spatula Split clearly isn’t just a golden state thing. You see those pictures I posted above? Of a flipper spatula and a spreader spatula? You know how I got those? I ran a Google image search for “spatula” and those were the first two responses I got. Evidently both of them can be spatulas? Which, in reality means that neither of them are spatulas. There’s no such thing as a spatula! Did I just blow your mind?

This doesn’t happen with other utensils, does it? If I Google knife, I might see different styles of knives, but they all do basically the same thing. In the same manner, even. I’m not going to get a picture of scissors with a shrug of, meh, they both cut.

But after years of incomprehensive looks, and after Wife refused to cowtow to my spatula definition, I finally convinced myself that a spreader is a spatula and I was just wrong before. Like Stockholm Syndrome or Big Brother teaching me that 2 + 2 = 5, I’d learned to ask for a spatula when I wanted to spread things. Otherwise I’d ask for the turner while thinking in the back of my head that it’s a fucking spatula! But I never said it aloud, and like any totalitarian regime will tell you, once you stop saying it out loud, you’ll start to doubt the veracity of your own thoughts.

But recently the wool was removed from my eyes. Two people were talking about spatulas in different regards. They didn’t understand each other. One person shrugged and said they’d always thought of spatulas as the things that flip something over.

“Oh my God,” I said. “Thank you! That’s what I always thought was a spatula, but NOBODY backs me up on that!”

Others looked at us like we were cray. Whatever. I’d seen the outside of Plato’s cave. Sorry, Robespierre, but I remember what Sunday was. And two plus two is four!

The naysayers were still saying nay, that is not what you do with a spatula. Spatulas are flat and flippers are bent, and never the twain shall meet.

But the floodgates were open on the shitshow sieve that is my brain. Because now that I’d had someone remind me that Nelson Mandela was alive the whole time, I’m remembering other references to spatulas. A movie that documented the rightful and truthful definition of a spatula. All I have to do is whip it out to pown all of the spatula deniers. And I shall strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy…

Sorry, wrong movie. I’m not going to debate whether or not Big Kahuna makes a tasty burger. What’s more important is that said tasty burger was turned over by a fucking spatula.

Five years before “Pulp Fiction” came another instant classic from a legendary writer and producer. I’m talking, of course, about Weird Al Yankovic and his seminal masterpiece, UHF.

If you’ve forgotten the intricate plot of this Lawrence of Arabia-esque epic, Weird Al played a guy who inherited a TV station. He filled the airwaves with various spoof shows. Or maybe he filled it with shitty shows but dreamed about spoof shows? Not sure. It wasn’t much on plot. But it is where Michael Richards got his start. A few years before Seinfeld and much longer before calling out ethnic minorities in his audience. And there was an Asian dude who turned “Wheel of Fortune” into “Wheel of Fish.”

Like I said, a little short on plot. Surprising for a guy who normally only needs to fill three to five minutes of satire at a time. But the spoofy parts were really funny. At least when I was fourteen.

But one of his spoofs was a commercial for a spatula store. “Spatula City: We sell spatulas, and that’s all!”

This “commercial” showed rows and rows of spatulas. Rubber spatulas, metal spatulas, silicone spatulas. Yellow, blue, green. Slightly-bent spatulas and fully-bent spatulas. But you know what it doesn’t show? A spreader.

Check it out:

You see that? Every spatula looks the way I always thought spatulas were supposed to look. Evidence that I’m not crazy!

Suck it, NorCal. You’ve been wrong all along. I now have evidence that I’m not crazy! Google should probably just get rid of half of its images searches. Once Al Yancovic has spoken, there’s really no reason to get into particulars. After all, if a worldly figure and diplomat, an honored cultural statesman like the esteemed Weird Al can properly identify what a spatula is, then why is there even a debate?

Wait a second, where did Weird Al grow up? Downey, California? Why, that’s only thirty miles away from where I grew up. Meaning… meaning…

Dammit, social media language police! You got me again!

Outdoor Curling, the Actual Games

Welcome back to the culmination of my first, and probably only, outdoor curling adventure. You can double-back to read about how a Cali dude prepares for negative temperatures and some of the off-ice happenings, such as how I slipped and sprained my goddamn wrist on the ice. Yeah, yeah, how do I slip on the ice during an off-ice event? It takes talent!

But how’d the actual curling go? Well, after we lost our first game, which I also described in the “off-ice” post because I’m bad at definitions, we came back on day two won both games. Huzzah! But how one of those wins came about deserves some extra scrutiny.

The speed of the ice, which had been an issue when the sun was out and melting the ice the day before, was pretty good at our 7:00 am draw the following day. At least for the first half of the game, until the damn sun came up again. And during that first part of the game, we raced out to a 4-0 lead. Got to feelin’ pretty good about ourselves. Unfortunately, that’s the last thing you want as a curler. Kinda like when a golfer makes a couple good swings in a row and thinks he’s finally fixed it.

The other team scored three points in the 4th end, but we came back with two more in the fifth. 6-3. Should be safe as long as we don’t do something stupid. Like give up four in the 6th and another three in the 7th!

Holy crap! The next thing I know, we’re down by four and we’re in the last end. Shit! This is not how this game was supposed to go.

We battled back, though. Knowing we needed to score four, we immediately started putting stones in the house. Started setting up a good end. We got three of our first four stones into the house. They had two in, and technically one of them was closest to the button. No worries, though. If we can protect the ones we have, there’s a line where we can take theirs out. And my vice (third) is coming up next and takeouts are his specialty.

Except their vice went first. She pulled some random shot out of her ass and TRIPLED out all of our stones. That isn’t even what she was trying to do! I think she was trying to guard the stone we were about to go after. But she slipped in her delivery. Her shot was both heavy and off-line, like a baseball pitcher who meant to throw a curveball on the outside corner but lasers a fastball right down the middle instead. And now, with only four shots left, we have nothing in the house. We have one stone up top, but it’s mainly just protecting the THREE stones they have in the house.

No problem. All we have to do is… take out all three of their stones AND get all four of our stones in the house AND have them miss three straight shots. It’s the equivalent of being down by three scores late in a football game. You need to not only score three more times, but you also need to recover two onside kicks when everybody in the stadium knows you’re going for it. If the other team catches one kickoff, the game is over. One-percent chance. Okay, maybe crappy weather increases the chance of the opponent missing their shot or fumbling a kickoff. Maybe we’ve got a three-percent chance.

C Bracket’s looking nice and inviting right about now.

First thing’s first. I gotta decide if we’re going to try to remove their three stones or try to draw in behind them. The draw is the more conservative shot, but if we’re heavy or light, or if the stone overcurls or undercurls, it’s a wasted shot and they’re still sitting three. And we’d need to make that shot four times in a row. I don’t even know if there’s enough room between their stones and the button to get all four of our stones there.

The problem with trying to take out their stones is that, if we miss, our stone goes through the house and the game is over. Plus, we’ve been doing draws this entire end and I don’t know the line to take for an upweight shot.

But there are three stones sitting more or less in a row. That’s a pretty damn big target. And my vice can throw a fucking dart. So I put down my broom and tell him to throw the fuck out of it. He doubles two of them out and manages to keep his own rock in play. Now we’ve got one in the house and they have one in the house. Theirs is closer, but the good news is I know the line now. The bad news is we can’t use that line to get to their other rock because we have a guard in the way. We might be able to make contact with it, but it will be off-center, meaning our rock would spill out, too. We’re probably going to have to hit our own guard straight back to hit theirs out, and that shot is about as low a probability as it gets.

If we weren’t in a make-every-stone count situation, I could just push our own stone further in. But then the rock we threw to do that would be further out than theirs, so the most we get with that strategy is three. And we need all four. Plus, if we raise it, it’ll be underneath their rock, making it harder to remove. So I’m going to have to call less weight and hope for the best.

These are the thoughts going through a skip’s mind in between shots. That’s why it’s called chess on ice. The difference between curling and chess, though, became noticeable on the next shot. Because the queen ain’t gonna all-of-a-sudden fall over and knock out the pawn protecting her king. But that’s what the other team did. I don’t know what they were calling, but the lady who had just missed everything and been rewarded with a triple takeout missed again. She wasn’t rewarded this time. She knocked out our guard. Now there was nothing in the way of their remaining stone. I call the right line and my vice takes it out, no problem.

Now we had two stones near the front of the house, completely wide open. They were maybe two feet away from each other. All the other teams needs to do is make contact with one. They don’t even need to keep their shooter in. We need to keep those two stones where they are and put two more in just to tie. Remove one and the game is over. As my vice, who had just nailed both of his shots, was walking in my direction to put the target broom down for my last two shots, I almost told him not to bother. By the time he made it down to this end of the ice, the game would be over.

Except they missed their shot. Their stone sailed majestically through the gap in between our two stones like an NFL kicker nailing a game winner. I didn’t even think the gap was wide enough to fit a stone through, but there it went without touching a thing, maybe six inches of clearance on each side.

Now I need to put my first stone in. We put it at a different spot in the house, because the last thing we want to do is clog up that hole he just found. I hit my shot and now we’ve got three wide-open targets. It’s like there are more options to hit than there are spots to miss. And they should know the line by now. No way he misses again.

He misses again. This time, he ticked off the inside of our right-hand stone. Our stone moved over six inches and his spun out diagonally across the house. Holy shit!

We’ve recovered our two onside kicks. But that’s only half the task. I’ve now got to score with my final possession. At this point all of the other games have stopped and there’s an odd stillness in the air, broken only by some dude yelling for us to hurry up cause he’s on this sheet in the next game and we’re over our time. Our opponent’s are all off to the side. There’s nothing they can do now except watch. All I’ve got in front of me is my two sweepers and a wide-open expanse of white. At the other end sit three red stones, waiting for their brethren in my hand.

I pushed out and let go. I knew I could be a little heavy, because the line we’re taking should run into the stones already there. So imagine my surprise when my sweepers start to sweep it, implying I’ve thrown it light. Oh well. It made it there. We got each of our last four stones in to tie the game. Now it’s on to the tiebreaker.

In curling, at the end of a tie game, we clear out the house and each team takes one stone back to the other end. One delivery each, closest to the button wins. It can technically be taken by anyone on the team, but usually it’s taken by the skip. And the team that just tied it up has to go first. No problem. I’ve just thrown two draws in a row. The last thing I want to do is have to wait until the other guy goes. Furthermore, I don’t want to know how close I have to get it. Sometimes the worst thing that can happen is if the other guy goes first and barely touches the outer ring. Then I think it’s an easy shot and throw it too light.

We call the exact same line as the shot I just threw. If the frozen pond looked weird with just my three stones in the distance, imagine how it looks with abso-fucking-lutely nothing there. Okay, breathe in, breathe out. Use the force, Luke.

The sweepers jump on it immediately. I’m light. Mother fucker!

Except I’m not all that light. It would’ve come to rest within a few feet of button. But they managed to drag it to just over a foot away. And the line was perfect. If this guys gonna beat me, he’s going to have to put it on the button. Except that’s OUR team name.

It wasn’t even close. Whereas I’ve just thrown the same shot three times in a row, he’s just thrown two takeouts. He has to scale back his delivery and guess the speed of the ice. Even worse, he missed those two shots, so he’s pissed. He’s thinking he can’t hit the broad side of a barn right now and I’ve just gone up and dropped it on a dime. He’s off broom. He’s light. I think he might have even thrown with the wrong turn, because it’s flying way off onto the other sheet and it’s barely making it past the hogline. No drama. No measurement necessary. The guy holding the broom turns around to shake our hand before the rock’s even come to a stop.

Woo Hoo! This is why I play the fucking game!

Now we just have to get drunk for the next ten hours. And maybe avoid slipping and spraining my goddamn wrist.

Speaking of drinking, something pretty cool happened on the sheet next to us during that second game. I’ve mentioned that the after-game social, the curling equivalent of the “19th Hole,” is known as broomstacking. Allegedly this term comes from something that used to happen in the middle of games, not at the end. If you fancied a mid-game break and enjoyed the camaraderie of your opponents, you’d all stack your brooms on the sheet you’re playing on. This was a signal to others who might show up that the sheet is occupied. You’re coming back. Don’t start playing on our fucking piece of ice, freeloaders.

Nowadays we do it afterward. Most of us have limited time on the ice, and we want to get as much curling in as possible. Plus I’m sure there’s a generational or societal thing. In the 1950s, dudes used to go out for a two-martini lunch. If I had two martinis at lunch, my fourth period class would be Advanced Placement Napping.

But in the fourth end on the sheet next to us, the teams disappeared. I looked at the scoreboard. Sometimes if it’s a 7-0 shitshow, the losing team will just want to shake hands and get the fuck out of the cold. But it was only 4-0. That’s hardly an ass-kicking. Nothing even a marginal team can’t come back from.

Then I saw this:

Holy shit! They’re actually broomstacking, as God intended! In fact, there they are in the hospitality tent, drinking what might be beer or might be something stronger. As a reminder, it’s barely 8:00 in the morning. The sun isn’t even up yet. Welcome to curling.

When they came back, the game changed its tenor. The team that was down came back and scored four straight to tie up the game. Wow! Either one team needed some hair-of-the-dog or else the other team plays really poorly with some alcohol in their system. We’re going to be playing one of those teams next. The winner of our game plays the winner of theirs, and the loser plays the loser. So I need to pay attention to who wins this now-tied game. If we play the guys who went up early, buy those fuckers a drink before the game! If it’s the other guys… well, I don’t know. Is it possible to ensure they’re sober in ten hours?

It ended up being the teetotalers. And it worked great, because by 8:45 PM, it was clear they’d had a few drinks that day. Game three was a bit of a snoozer. We won. I don’t remember it being too dominating a performance, but we weren’t ever really challenged. We scored a few, then we played it conservative. I’d learned after our initial arrogance in game two and wasn’t going to give these guys any big ends. Instead of going for all-or-nothing takeouts, I let them score if I could limit them to one. Then we’d come back and score one or two, so they couldn’t close the gap. I think the final score was 9-3. They shook hands when we still had two ends left to play. In fact, they didn’t even take their final shot. We were up 7-3, sitting two. He could’ve drawn one in and the score would’ve been 7-4. But this was an elimination game, so the loser doesn’t have to worry about waking up or hangovers tomorrow. So once the writing’s on the wall, might as well concede and get on with the drinking!

For us, though, it was one drink to be magnanimous and then home to get rested. We’ve accomplished Bonspiel Goal #1: Make it to Sunday. We’ll be back in the dark tomorrow morning for the second 7:00 AM draw in a row. And the forecast shows… Wait for it!

On Sunday, we fell behind early. We gave up three in the first end. I don’t really remember how. I think we were setting something up well, but they either got a good shot or a lucky shot. And clearly I didn’t do jack shit to limit them with my final shots. Blame it on the pitch black or the fact that my wrist and hand were the size and color of a fucking pomegranate or whatever.

Of course, astute readers might note that my wrist didn’t seem to be hurting us the night before. Nor had the darkness hindered us the previous morning. Funny how everything goes right in a win. However, in my partial defense, sometimes the worst thing you can do with a sprain is to let it rest overnight. It really did feel stiffer and puffier this morning.

Second end, we gave up two. In the third, they stole one more. It’s 6-0 and the sun isn’t even up yet. But they’re scoring less each end. If we can take two, maybe eke in a third, we’ll be right back in this. Not the worst position I’ve ever been in. We can do this!

Then it starts to snow.

Well, shit.

Here’s where I show my coastal noob. I knew that snow and ice were two different things. I just didn’t really think through the difference. I mean, come on, they’re both just frozen water, right? Why should it make a difference if it froze before or after it left the clouds? If it rains and then freezes, it’s super slippery and you can slide a rock across it. But if it drops from the sky that way, all of a sudden, it’s fluffy and you sink down to your knee when you try to walk across it. What the fuck?

But now it’s snowing on the ice. That’s gonna slow down the rocks. But I don’t want to make my sweepers walk along side it, because it’s even slipperier than the half-melted ice I bailed on yesterday. When we could sweep, we were just removing the snow, not creating more friction on the ice. We had a push-broom (you know, the kind you use at home to sweep your patio or driveway) to clear a brief path, but that could only be done between throws. Plus it’s hard to stay in that cleared path in a game that’s based around the stone curling off of a given path. At one point, one of my guys missed my broom and his rock went outside the swept path and immediately ground to a halt. On his next throw, he asked if he should aim for the broom or try to follow the path. Am I an asshole if I just respond “Yes”?

Anyway, the other team got two more into the house. Including this one, which I filmed instead of sweeping through:

We couldn’t get shit anywhere. Of the eight rocks we threw, five didn’t make it far enough to count. Three ended as high guards.

We’re now down 8-0. One guy thinks we can figure this out. Upweight is our specialty. He doesn’t realize that the other team is actually hitting better upweight shots than we are. Oh, and they’ve come to this outdoor bonspiel seven of the eight years it’s existed. So while we might come back against an inexperienced team, these guys have us right where they want us. And did I mention we’re down 8-0?

The other three of us look at each other. In addition to the score, need to drive back to Boise to catch some flights home tonight. The snow’s supposed to get worse. It’s a four-hour drive in good conditions. What the hell are we going to be driving through?

Besides, we have the entire outdoor bonspiel experience now. Playing in the dark? Check. Playing in the snow? Check. Slipping and hurting a body part? Check. The only checkmark we don’t have is negative temperatures.

And you know what? I’m kinda okay with that.

We shook hands and were Boise-bound within twenty minutes.

Outdoor Curling, Off-Ice

I originally intended for this post to be a two-parter.One for preparation, one for the Sawtooth Outdoor Bonspiel. But one of our games turned into an epic, inspiring poems retold for centuries to come. So now it’s a threesome of posts. No, wait a second. Is there another word for a group of three? Perhaps a double-team? You’re currently reading the meat of this curling-post sandwich.

Read on to find out what the beautiful town of Stanley was like and how I managed to snap my wrist! Then you can find the on-ice stuff here.

Okay, so the good news is that the weather was way warmer than expected. I spent the last three months expecting zero degrees Farenheit, and in the end I got zero degrees Celsius (and y’all thought I didn’t know metric.)

Heck, we didn’t even need the beards and goggles. But when you deck yourself out this sexy, there’s no turning back on account of weather.

The bad news is that it’s really, really difficult to curl when the ambient temperature is the freezing point of water. Because, you see, we need the water to be actually frozen. If it’s melting, the stone can’t glide across it, as it’s supposed to. We went to a hockey game and a water polo match broke out. Not that I’d trust horses on either surface.

As an example, we time our deliveries in curling, in order to give the sweepers an idea of when to sweep and to give the shooter an idea of how the ice is working. We only time the beginning of the delivery. Under normal conditions, a delivery of 3.5 or 3.6 or 3.7 seconds means the rock will end on the button (the middle of the “bullseye”) at the other end, about 25 seconds later. And if I’m timing the lead on my team and discover it’s 3.7 to button versus 3.5, then that tells me I need to slide out a little slower than usual.

At the beginning of our first game, it was 2.6 seconds to button. As far as we could tell. At those speeds, it’s hard to get an accurate reading, as the sweepers are chasing after a 20 MPH bullet. So yeah, for the first two ends, we were pretty much throwing as hard as we could and hoping for the best.

The game was scheduled to start at 5:00, but they pushed it back to 5:30 to accommodate for the weather. They should’ve pushed it back to 6:00. Because by the third end, the ice was closer to normal. Okay, maybe it was 3.3 to button instead of the usual 3.6, but that’s something we can work with.

Not that we could work with it. We scored one in the first end and then got shutout for the next five. There were a few times we’d get a little something going, but then the other team would make a perfect draw and we’d end up with squa-doosh. I was ready to throw in the towel on the second-to-last end when we were down 8-1. But then we were looking at three points before I took my final two shots. We all agreed: if we score less than five, we’ll shake hands and concede the game. Because if we score, the other team gets the hammer (final shot). And it’s really, really hard to score more than two if the other team has the final shot. But if we scored five, we’d be down by two. And then….

We scored five. Game’s now 8-6. Other team wants to shake hands, but we went dick-mode and made them play the final end. It didn’t matter. My final shot curled a foot too far, pushing our own stone back instead of their stone, as intended, so they didn’t even need to take their final shot.

The weight actually normalized a bit when the sun started to set. Although human beings might not like the temperature in the twenties, curling rocks do. That’s one of the ways we were able to mount that comeback. Once the ice behaved in a marginally normal way, we were able to make some stuff happen. The lines were still wonky. If you moved the broom six inches to the left, the rock might end up six feet to the left. But that actually worked in our favor because the other team kept missing their hits. A team can’t really score five points in an end unless the other team messes up.

Then again, you gotta be ready to pounce on the opponent’s mistakes.

After the game, we headed to one of two restaurants in Stanley. There’s usually a pizza place, too, but it was closed for renovation. We were worried that, in a town of 67, the restaurant might not be open past 8:00. Heck, I live in a city of 60,000 and it’s sometimes hard to find anyplace open that late.

Turns out we didn’t need to worry. They stayed open for us, and were still open when the next draw ended. Makes sense. Sixteen teams, four curlers apiece. We just doubled the size of their population. I guess when you live in a remote town, anytime there’s outside money coming in, you gotta accommodate them. Otherwise you’re just taking money from Henry at the hardware store, whom you’ll be giving it back to next week when you need some more propane.

Word in the restaurant was that the late draw worked the opposite of us. The speed of the ice was normal for the first couple of ends, and then the fog rolled in, which pushed people back up to 2.6-second draws. I never thought about the effects of fog on curling rocks (not something we encounter too much indoors), but it makes sense. The air’s going to get heavier and there’s going to be more moisture. Neither of those are great for speeding up a 42-pound rock sliding across a frozen pond.

Unfortunately, because we lost game one, we were stuck in the early draw the next morning. 7:00 AM, an hour and change before sunrise. A wonderful time to enjoy the comfort and extravagance of a mountain retreat. It was pitch black when the game started. Check this out:

You can almost see where you’re aiming, huh? It changed how I held the target broom. Usually I try to make the target as small as possible. I stand directly behind my broom, tuck one foot behind the other. The head on my broom is usually a neon green or garish orange that really pops against the black of my pants and shoes. Don’t want to confuse my team with where the target is. Some skips stand with their legs a foot or two wide and the next thing you know, you’re accidentally sighting in on their left foot or the open air in between instead of the broom.

I started this game doing just that. Then one of my teammates told me to spread my legs. After the commensurate and anatomically errant “That’s what she said,” I opened them up wide. When finished, I saw why they were asking. My body had been blocking the spotlights. They couldn’t really see the orange target. But if I widened my stance like a GOP Senator in a Minnesota airport, they could see the giant stick between my legs.

And there was a broom there, too. Hey-Oh!

I was told by a guy who had come in previous years to be on the lookout for the sunrise. It’s beautiful, he said, and it will, however temporarily, help you stop the nagging doubt building in your gut as to why you signed up and paid for the “privilege” of frostbitten testicles. Then again, he was there on one of those negative-five days, not a twenty-degrees-at-sunrise type of day that I got to experience.

But he wasn’t wrong about the sunrise:

These photos are brought to you by a couple of stones that I didn’t bother watching. I probably could’ve swept them to better positions, helped my team win their fucking game. But really, how can I let that sunrise go by? I didn’t come here to win games. I came to freeze my testicles!

I decided to throw on an extra layer of clothing this time. Despite months of planning, the previous night had been a bit chilly. My legs were fine. My toes, despite two layers of socks and two layers of rubber, felt the ice whenever I stood still. But the worst part was my chest and arms. One layer of thermal, then a t-shirt, then a onesie was not enough. And that had been at thirty degrees. This time the thermometer read a crisp eighteen when we left our hotel. What had been a wee bit uncomfortable last night would be a tad more hard-core today.

It was fine, though. I brought the flannel shirt I usually take camping. It’s thick. Add that to some thermals underneath and my super fancy onesie on top and I should be nice and cozy, right? Well, it was better but still not ideal.

I did finally get my chest to a happy medium, though. After our second game, we were supposed to return to the ice rink to help them out with some stuff around midday. This time I went old school. I have some of those old-fashioned wool long-john style underwear that I’ve had since I was a teenager. I don’t want to say we’ve regressed as a society, but the ugly-ass shit from World War II works a hell of a lot better than the sleek black Audi shit of today. We’ve become more concerned with looking good than, I don’t know, surviving the elements. At least the rescuers will find a very sexy corpse-sicle.

Fortunately it stretches, cause my gut ain’t what it once was. Or rather, it’s a lot more than it once was. Unfortunately it doesn’t stretch THAT much, so the downward-slope of my undergut was feeling a bit drafty. But whatever, it kept the rest of me warm. I actually just wore a t-shirt over it. No onesie! Besides, it was the low-thirties once again, so I didn’t need to ward off frostbite.

By our third game, I had perfected it. Sleek black thermal, wool longjohn, flannel shirt, onesie. Four layers! I was downright toasty.

Except for my feet. Cause no matter how protected my chest and arms were, my toes were still permanently aware of the fact that they were walking on ice. One layer of cotton sock, one layer of thermal sock, shoe rubber and gripper rubber be damned.

I tried some of those iron-oxide foot warmers, but they didn’t seem to do much. I put them outside the thermal socks, thinking the closer to the ice, the better. Maybe I should’ve put them in between my two socks. If I ever return, I’ll test that out.

Oh, and I fell on the ice when I helped during the day. You see, when the sun is out and it’s 34 degrees, it makes the ice super slippery. It’s a bad time to curl and evidently it’s a bad time to walk. I was in the act of kicking an errant rock over to the edge. The ice was in the act of kicking my ass to the ground.

The good news is that years of curling has taught me how to fall on ice. Always fall forward, never backward. Backward is where blackouts and cracked skulls happen. And trips to the emergency room with the commensurate ambulance bill. Unfortunately, when your ass gets above your teakettle, you can get a concussion on the front-end, too. Did you know it’s possible to land temple first?

The good news is that my on-ice instinct must be honed very well. The bad news is that I got my wrist underneath me at the last minute before my face planted. Or maybe it’s the good news. Because a sprained wrist is better than being knocked unconscious and whisked off to the nearest hospital, which was over an hour away. But unfortunately, a sprained wrist is substantially worse than an unsprained wrist. It looks gnarly, too.

That’ll teach me to help out.