Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Putting a Better Spin on Customer Service

Working in auto insurance claims for 15 years, I've come to understand a bit about the importance of customer service. And I also know just how much effort goes into providing it. I've always said everyone should wait tables at some point in their career, because having a huge chunk of your pay come from tips is a great lesson in how important it is to take care of people, as well as understand what's important to them.

One of the perks of my job now is that I travel a lot, and I get to keep my frequent flyer points for airlines, hotels, rental cars, etc. and use them to have fun Or I should say, I USED to travel a lot, as the not-so fine marketing folks at Hilton reminded me when I got this in the mail:

That's right. After 6 years as a Hilton Diamond member, and in spite of being one of their "favorite guests," I'm busted all the way down to SILVER. They were kind enough to send me my "new" Silver status card and congratulate me on my silver status, but I have to reclaim my VIP standing with them. Nice try on the spin doctoring, Hilton, but I'm not having it.

On one level I understand their approach. Your status level is based on accumulated points over a period of time. To be fair to all the members of the program, you have to be consistent in how you apply the rules. But you know what? That's inside the box thinking. And inside the box thinking makes me feel like I don't matter as a customer, even though I've been incredibly loyal to you for 6 years.

Let's think outside the box for a second. What would be so wrong with a new Diamond membership card with the message, 'We miss you. We hope you miss us too." Why not recognize that my employer, like so many others, is watching it's pennies and that MIGHT be why I'm not staying in one of your hotels 10 nights a month. What would it cost Hilton to extend my Diamond benefits for one more year? Nothing.

If you want to keep your customers, forget the spin doctoring and start thinking outside the box.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Thought Locker: Best Movie Quotes Ever Edition

        I was struggling with writers block this weekend, and while I was sitting at the computer trying to form coherent thoughts, random quotes from some of my favorite movies just started popping into my head. So I ended up on IMDB (Internet Movie Database, for the unacquainted) searching for one quote in particular, and in the process got so inspired I decided to dedicate an edition of the "Thought Locker" to my favorite movie moments.


        My first random thought was a about a recent interview I watched with a hockey player (I'll let you guess which one) that made me think about one of the most hilarious moments in Bull Durham.

        Crash Davis: It's time to work on your interviews.

        Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: My interviews? What do I gotta do?

        Crash Davis: You're gonna have to learn your clich├ęs. You're gonna have to study them, you're gonna have to know them. They're your friends. Write this down: "We gotta play it one day at a time."

        Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: Got to play... it's pretty boring.

        Crash Davis: 'Course it's boring, that's the point. Write it down.

        Of course, Bull Durham, while ostensibly a sports movie, also qualifies as a romantic comedy. And why not, with great moments like this (slighted edited for content reasons).

        Crash Davis: After 12 years in the minor leagues, I don't try out. Besides, uh, I don't believe in quantum physics when it comes to matters of the heart.

        Annie Savoy: What do you believe in, then?

        Crash Davis: Well, I believe in the soul....the small of a woman's back, the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days. [pause]

        Crash Davis: Goodnight.

        Annie Savoy: Oh my.


        Of course, my favorite movie about relationships is Say Anything. Cameron Crowe is a genius, John Cusack is just...well...my ideal guy, and the soundtrack set the standard by which all movie soundtracks since are measured. Plus, this little treasure speaks volumes of truth about relationships.

        Lloyd Dobler: I got a question. If you guys know so much about women, how come you're here at like the Gas 'n' Sip on a Saturday night completely alone drinking beers with no women anywhere?

        Joe: By choice, man.

        Lloyd Dobler: [after leaving the Gas & Sip guys] That was a mistake.


        D.C.: Lloyd, why do you have to be like this?

        Lloyd Dobler: 'Cause I'm a guy. I have pride.

        Corey Flood: You're not a guy.

        Lloyd Dobler: I am.

        Corey Flood: No. The world is full of guys. Be a man. Don't be a guy.


        Diane Court: Nobody thinks it will work, do they?

        Lloyd Dobler: No. You just described every great success story.

        For a lot of people, Indecent Proposal reeked of ick factor when it came out. After all, you're talking about a woman who pretty much ruins her marriage by sleeping with a rich guy. Now if that isn't a theme straight out of Hollywood culture, I don't know what is. But she does it to get she and her husband out of debt, and the husband is complicit in the deal, so there are bigger questions posed. And certain guys I know would actually encourage their wives to bang Robert Redford if given the chance. But when you get past the "Pretty Woman with more sleaze" aspect of the movie, some of the dialogue is actually pretty moving.

        David: I thought we were invincible. But now I know that the things that people in love do to each other, they remember. And if they stay together, it's not because they forget. It's because they forgive.

        John: I remember once when I was young, and I was coming back from some place, a movie or something. I was on the subway and there was a girl sitting across from me and she was wearing this dress that was buttoned clear up right to here, she was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. And I was shy then, so when she would look at me I would look away, then afterwards when I would look back she would look away. Then I got to where I was gonna get off, and got off, the doors closed, and as the train was pulling away she looked right at me and gave me the most incredible smile. It was awful, I wanted to tear the doors open. And I went back every night, same time, for two weeks, but she never showed up. That was 30 years ago and I don't think that there's a day that goes by that I don't think about her, I don't want that to happen again. Just one dance?

        But without a doubt, my favorite movie quote of all time comes courtesy of a little gem called The Big Chill. Because while I'm a hopeless romantic, I'm also a realist. And this is about as real as it gets.

        Meg (about men): They're either married or gay. And if they're not gay, they've just broken up with the most wonderful woman in the world, or they've just broken up with a bitch who looks exactly like me. They're in transition from a monogamous relationship and they need more space. Or they're tired of space, but they just can't commit. Or they want to commit, but they're afraid to get close. They want to get close, you don't want to get near them.

        Saturday, March 27, 2010

        Kings vs Stars: March Meltdown

        They say March comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb. Apparently the Kings have adopted this as a playing philosophy, losing their 3rd straight game 4-1 tonight against our Division and Conference rival, the Dallas Stars. And for a team that is supposedly playoff bound, this is NOT good news.

        When you get body language and expressions like this DURING THE WARM UP, you know you're in for a rough night.

        In spite of doing his best Matt Greene impression with an ugly cut below his left eye, Captain Dustin Brown just couldn't seem to rally the troops. Our power play stunk, we keep accidentally putting goals in our own net, and we couldn't stay out of the penalty box. The zebras only added to our problems, but if we haven't learned by now never to expect good on-ice officials, I don't know what it will take since they've been awful all season.

        The worst news of the night was our drop to 7th place in the Conference standings, with Colorado is right behind us in 8th, only 1 point away. And on top of that, we've got two more tough games on the road in Nashville and Minnesota before we close the book on the month of March. Greener, if you're reading, we need you back. The sooner, the better.

        (Jay here sums up how we all felt tonight)

        There were a couple of bright spots tonight. Our lone goal was one, I guess. And it was nice seeing former King Brandon Segal get stonewalled by Quickie on a breakaway. But the brightest of bright spots happened during warm-ups, when Alexander Frolov skated with his helmet OFF!

        Holy cow! I forget just how handsome Fro is sometimes. Although the superstitious fan in me wonders if this little change in routine messed up our mojo tonight. Or maybe the real reason for the loss is Nadine not bringing her "We Believe" sign and sitting up in the Lexus Club with John the whole game!

        Kopi missed seeing you down in 114, Denie! And Willy was looking for you too....

        (Fro + Willy = Too much hotness in one photo!)

        The Kings next home game is....April Fools Day. Let's not read too much into that and simply hope that April is a better month here in Hockeywood.

        GO KINGS GO!

        John Mayer in San Jose - Show #24!

        Seeing more than one show on a tour definitely has it's advantages. The first time around, you don't really know what's coming, so if you're an obsessive photo and video taker like me, you miss some of those "epic moments" at show number one.

        The next show gives you a chance at a do-over to catch the epicness. The only rub with John (and most other interesting live artists) is while a batch of the songs are in the same place on the set list every time, there are always surprises. That means you've gotta stay on your toes, because you may have ADDITIONAL epic moments to capture.

        Let's just say I've never managed to PERFECTLY document any John Mayer show I've attended, so I keep going in the hopes of actually pulling it off one day. In the worst case scenario, I get to carry around a ton of epic moments, even if they're only in my memory.

        I took the day off after show #23 and flew to San Jose for #24, my second and last stop this tour. Because I am EXACTLY the kind of person that will fly into and out of a city in one 24 hour period just to see a show. Life is for living, peeps. And I scored much better seats for this show...in the 12th row, to be exact.

        (Check out the view from MY seats!)

        I also managed to arrive early enough to catch all of the opening set, and I was glad I did.

        Michael Franti's set was full terrific energy, very little stage banter, and virtually no break between songs! He pulls people up on stage. He even got off the stage and danced out with the crowd. This guy is the energizer bunny of performers..and he does it all barefoot!

        (NONE of these people are actually IN the band...)

        The entire band just exuded energy! And his co-lead singer girl rocked the house.

        If that jacket doesn't just squeal positive vibes, I don't know what does.

        My advice - don't judge Franti by his one mega-hit "Say Hey (I Love You)" and get out to a live show and find this guy if you need a hit of happiness.

        Now on to John. The hardest part of writing this blog was picking which photos to use, so I also decided to include a link to my Facebook album if you want to see them all. I think I shot something in the neighborhood of 188 (yes, the view from row 12 was that great), although I didn't post them all. And this link works even if you're not on Facebook.


        The set list was about 75% the same as the Staples show, although a few songs were in slightly different position. The stuff that was new is in BOLD.

        Full Band
        Heartbreak Warfare
        No Such Thing
        Bigger Than My Body
        I Don't Trust Myself With Loving You
        Perfectly Lonely

        Blues Run The Game
        Stop This Train
        Ain't No Sunshine
        Wanna Take You Higher
        Waiting On The World To Change
        Half of My Heart/Dreams

        Who says
        Why Georgia

        My big video successes of the night included capturing all 8 1/2 minutes of "Assassin," another off-the-hook Steve Jordan drum solo, and John's white boy dance leading into "Wanna Take You Higher."

        And then there were the great photo captures...

        David Ryan Harris and the back-up ladies got did a beautiful vocal intro on "I Don't Trust Myself..." David just owns that song, and it suits his voice so well.

        At one point on "Stop This Train," John stopped playing guitar completely and just sang the bridge a capella. I thought my heart was going to stop. It's absolutely the best I've ever heard him sing.

        John brought Michael Franti on stage for a glorious little bit of beat boxing, leading into "Waiting On The World To Change."

        And a little private moment between John and the left side of the audience is always nice.

        Sadly, this is my last show for a bit. But somehow, I have a feeling John is gonna turn up "In My Atmosphere" before too long. I can't wait to see what epicness Show #25 will bring!

        Friday, March 26, 2010

        My 23rd John Mayer Show!

        As most of my friends know, I've been a borderline obsessive John Mayer fan for 7 years. Before hockey became such a huge part of my life, my regular indulgence was finding out where John Mayer was touring and getting a ticket to at least one show on every tour. I've managed to see him at least once a year, every year since 2003. Things got a little out of hand in 2006, when Continuum was released, and I saw 6 shows around the West Coast in about 10 days.

        Lately, things have cooled off a little between John and I, mostly because of hockey. But I still love his music and can't bring myself to completely miss a tour. So what better way to get my "John Fix" in than by seeing him at my favorite hockey venue - Staples Center! And just for good measure, I also brought along one of my favorite hockey fan friends, the lovely Miss Chelsea Alexander!

        In recounting our mutual John Mayer admiration over dinner, we discovered we both experienced our first John Mayer show in 2003, when he did a double bill with the Counting Crows and Maroon 5. Funny how the universe seems to bring people together for a reason!

        Anyway, all the restaurants were packed at LA Live, so we were a little late getting in because we were both starving. Than meant we missed the biggest part of the opening set by Michael Franti and Spearhead, but what we saw was solid. I especially liked the set they used. It just feels like summer in the middle of a concert!

        Then it was time for the man we came to see. After 22 shows, there isn't much John can do to surprise me...or at least I thought there wasn't. Musically, he's a terrific as ever, though the big surprise was in the visual interest department. Here's a run through the set list:

        "Heartbreak Warfare" kicked it off with a bang, mostly due to a very cool projected video sequence that opened the show. I shot video of it, and if you're on Facebook you can see it there.

        "No Such Thing" was next, and it still gets the crowd singing along.

        "Vultures " was the first serious rock-out moment, and included a very cool dueling guitars moment with David Ryan Harris.

        Then John started talking, and I got a little worried, given his recent press disasters (see "The Playboy Interview Debacle"). But he shared his love for LA, a city that, in his eyes, has filled up his heart, broken heart, still keeps him coming back for more. Let's give him a collective "Awwwwww...."

        That little bit of stage banter segued into "Perfectly Lonely" (because per John, LA is the perfect city to be lonely in), which he delivered pretty much straight as recorded on his latest album.

        David Ryan Harris kicked off the next tune with an improvised vocal. It may be from a song I should know, or it could be something of David's, but it meshed beautifully into my all time favorite Mayer song---"Slow Dancing in a Burning Room."

        The music is still as emotional as ever, so I was REALLY disappointed when John got all literal and had flames projected on the screen behind the stage. Really dude? The people in the row behind me laughed, which kind of summed up my feelings as well. Way too hokey...just didn't need to go there.

        "Assassin" was next, and it was everything I expected and more. When John's latest album came out, this was the one song I was most excited to see live, because the theatricality of it just lends itself to a monster live performance. It started with a really cool digitized video projection, which I shot in black and white.

        Musically, it turned into a monster jam session that integrated a riff from The Police's "Wrapped Around Your Finger" AND included John using one of Steve Jordan's drum sticks in place of his right strumming hand on the guitar.

        After all that excitement, we all had to peel ourselves off the ceiling and slow it down just a little. So the next selection was probably the most beautiful thing John has ever written but never released - a little fan favorite track called "In Your Atmosphere." The tail end got blended with a beautiful bit of "Free Fallin.'"

        Then things got epically crazy again, with a funky slow-blues cover of "Ain't No Sunshine" chock full of solo guitar. But the biggest solo of the night was all about drums. Steve Jordan got a little intro from John with a piece of Sly and the Family Stone's "Wanna Take You Higher," then he ran with it. I wish I had recorded it. If Eddie Van Halen's "Eruption" solo ever had a drumming equivalent, it was Steve Jordan's performance last night. I've never seen anything like it.

        The set continued with two tracks from Continuum, "Waiting On The World to Change" and "Belief," which was probably the biggest disappointment of the night for me. "Belief" has grooved so much harder before, I wish John done it more like the 2006 tour.

        Next up was "Half of My Heart" with an improvised intro, followed by what John called the "other half" of that song, which turned out to be none other than Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams." And in John world, when you add those two halves together you apparently get Journey's "Don't Stop Believing!" You just have to love how this guy's mind works....

        "Why Georgia" finished the main part of the set.

        For the encore, John performed an acoustic version of "Who Says" behind the stage scrim with his image projected on the outside, which I had to admit was a pretty cool effect (and therefore photo worthy).

        And the show closer was a souped up version of "Gravity," featuring some especially inspiring vocals from the two back-up singers John has on tour. I just wish he had left off the self-indulgent Hendrix imitation on the final solo. Laying the guitar on stage and playing it...Jimi could pull that off, but no one will ever be that cool again. Including you, John.

        The one song I was hoping to hear and didn't get was "Edge of Desire," off John's newest release. Maybe I'll get that one tomorrow night in San Jose. That's right...one more stop this tour. Because hockey aside, I am still a little Mayer obsessed.

        Wednesday, March 24, 2010

        Fear and Self-Loathing in Los Angeles

        For a whole host of reasons, Wednesday, March 24 was wretched. Absolutely wretched.

        I was working away at a series of tasks at work that, while necessary, bore me to tears. I had to get up earlier than usual to report to work to do things that don't motivate me. And when I get unmotivated, I get distracted. And I look for things to make me feel better. Not always more motivated, mind you, just better. That's when the Godiva chocolate arrived. And it was the straw that broke the camel's back.

        Dark chocolate covered coconut. A lot of it. I couldn't stop. And it was the ultimate low point in a terrible couple of days of eating that have been driven by nothing but stress and conflict avoidance. Catering sandwiches, cookies, salt & vinegar chips....I get depressed just thinking about it. And now I feel so terrible about falling off the food wagon, I worked myself up into a near panic attack.

        I'm a hamster on a wheel right now -- just running with no plan, no idea where I'm going. I feel terrible physically, I haven't been sleeping well, and I have a pain in my lower back over my right hip that won't go away. I feel completely out of control and terribly lost. And the worst part is, I have no idea how it started. It's like a storm surge that's been slowly building, and finally the wave got big enough and just wiped me out.

        Where do I go from here? I have no idea...

        Monday, March 22, 2010

        Kings vs Avalanche: The Kid Comes Up Big

        Most successful people will tell you to have a plan for what you want to accomplish in life. Set goals, write it down, execute the plan, make adjustments when you get off track, etc. But the really honest ones will also tell you that sometimes the biggest successes come from being in a moment where you see an opportunity, and you throw out the plan and just go for it. And in that moment, a combination of talent, vision and divine intervention come together and create something amazing.

        If a hockey player's plan for success is a play book, Drew Doughty picked exactly the right moment tonight to throw it out and just go for it.

        Much has been written about Drew's hockey sense, that instinctual ability to read plays that you just can't teach. And after an up and down game against the Colorado Avalanche, that instinct led him to disregard a planned power play strategy and score the game winning goal, in overtime, in the midst of a tight play-off race. Talk about coming up big at just the right moment. Especially after getting the wind knocked out of you in an open ice collision with your own teammate late in the third period -- Jeff Halpern, I'm looking at you. Check your blind spot before you change lanes next time!

        So Drew was the big hero of the night, and was awarded a well-deserved #3 Star. But Drew is also the consummate teammate, and wouldn't want the whole game discussion to be about him. So he won't mind me taking a minute to talk about the #1 Star of the Night - Ryan Smyth.

        Prior to being traded to the Kings this summer, Smyth was a member of the Avalanche squad, and my most hated Avs player. When he became a King, I understood after a few games why I couldn't stand playing against him - he will outwork ANYONE. In practice and game warm-ups, he's the last guy off the ice. He's got the most amazing hands around the net, and he'll hold his own against bigger guys in the crease until he gets that desperately needed "garbage goal" on an ugly scrum or rebound. So it was nice to see him score 2 of the Kings 4 goals against his old team. And he also did the coolest thing I've ever seen - sign his stick as he was skating out to give it away to a fan after being awarded his star. He is as classy a guy as you will find in the NHL, and I'm glad he's one of ours.

        Aside from the game, tonight was also special because I got to share it with one of my oldest friends - Mike Lindsay.

        He lives in Virginia and was in town on business, and in the ultimate case of divine intervention, the seat next to Nadine and I was open, so we bought it. Mike is a tremendously knowledgeable fan about all kinds of sports, so it was a pleasure to bring him to see my team. Thanks for showing him some great hockey, boys!

        Now Mike is off to finish the rest of his business trip in Southern CA, and the Kings fly out to Denver for a rematch with the Avs Wednesday night. And even though the Kings are solidly in it, the play-off race is still going to come down to the wire. Let's just hope Drew keeps throwing out the play book, and success will take care of itself.

        GO KINGS GO!

        Sunday, March 21, 2010

        Kings vs Islanders: A Step In The Right Direction

        One phrase ran through my head the entire walk to Staples tonight - "do or die." We win, or our season is screwed. If we lose, it will suck even more because it's the Islanders. Our record against the East has been impeccable this year. This isn't an afternoon game. And the Isles are a rebuilding team, hanging out at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. So If we can't even beat these guys, what does that say about our team?

        Luckily I didn't have to go there, because the Kings won 1-0. Brad Richardson, our 4th line workhorse whose scrappy play has moved him up the depth chart several times this year, got the lone goal. Well done Richie! Our poor captain Dustin Brown, on the other hand, is going to have a huge headache tomorrow after getting his noggin checked squarely through the glass. Check out the aftermath of the hit!

        YIKES! At least he's OK.

        I'm still not without my worries since we looked like we were skating in mud most of the night and the Isles did not provide much of a challenge. In fairness, the Kings did a better job with puck possession, and Quickie is looking more like himself in goal every day, but we still need to be better. Nashville is still breathing right down our necks, but we're sitting in 5th place in the Western Conference. We dodged a bullet, and we live to fight another day.

        Now let's talk cute boys. There was one noticeable stand-out for "Opposing Team Hottie of the Night," and we'll get to him in a second. But there were also some other interesting players with various features warranting attention, so I have a short "Best of..." list, somewhat like the "Senior Superlatives" you might remember from high school. So here we go.

        Best Eyes: Martin Biron. I didn't get the greatest picture, but he caught my eye as he skated past, and he has the most intense, blue eyed stare ever.

        Best Matt Greene-Like Battle Scar: Trent Hunter. This guy just looks made to stop a puck with his face.

        Best Flow: Matt Moulson (a former King, I might add.) And I thought I had big hair. Mark Streit was a close second in this category.

        Most Popular and Best Smile: Tim Jackman. I gotta give him credit. It took him four tries to flip a puck over the glass to this little kid standing next to me, but he hung in there. And he clearly had fun doing it.

        But my "Opposing Team Hottie of the Night" is none other than 2009 #1 draft pick John Tavares.

        Patrick O'Sullivan protege, former London Knight, and all around good guy. And he plays hockey pretty well too. Although he also broke a lot of sticks tonight. Not quite sure what's up with that.

        The Kings next challenge is a major one - The Colorado Avalanche, who sit 1 point and 2 spots behind us in the conference standings. Let's hope the mud gets cleaned off the ice by then.

        GO KINGS GO!

        Friday, March 19, 2010

        Rediscovering "The Velveteen Rabbit"

        A few weeks ago, I was surfing around Twitter and came across some quotes from a life coach/motivational speaker I follow named Mark Hundley. They were from a children's book I had long since forgotten, but loved very much as a little girl - The Velveteen Rabbit.

        I was moved to tears by one section he quoted, sitting right there at work, and the message was so powerful for me I knew I had to share it. So I searched Amazon and found a clean but loved 5th edition copy of the book and ordered it. Everything about it was exactly as I remembered it.

        In re-reading this wonderful story for the first time in many years, I was struck by the realization that really great children's literature isn't just for kids. The best stories have levels of meaning, so experiencing this story as a young child means one thing, yet it still has incredible impact for an adult on a completely different level.

        This is the section Mark referenced in his posts. It happens just after the beginning of the story, when the Velveteen Rabbit is talking to the oldest and wisest of all the toys in the nursery, The Skin Horse.

        "What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day....

        "Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time...then you become Real."

        "Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

        "Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

        "Does it happen all at once....or bit by bit?"

        "It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people to who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But those things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

        If you substitute the word "someone" for "child," and change "real" to "loved," the message is a compelling one for the adult world. Our contemporary society puts so much importance on beauty, newness, and even perfection as things that will make you "loved." But this story defies that logic, and rightly so. I says that when someone really loves you, outward appearances don't matter, because everything we perceive as proof of our imperfection is really a sign of how deeply we are loved by people in our lives. It's a message desperately needed out there in the world - especially now.

        So the next time you worry about having a little misplaced stuffing, some missing hair, or some less than perfect features, think about the Velveteen Rabbit. And remember that being REAL is a pretty wonderful thing.

        Thursday, March 18, 2010

        Kings vs Blackhawks: This Just Feels Wrong

        Have you ever had one of those days when everything just feels a little...off? And even worse, you can't pinpoint why so you can fix it? The Kings and I have a lot in common right now in this department.

        Take me, for instance. Ever since I discovered the tire pressure light on in my car, things just seem different. I put air in all the tires. None of them are noticeably losing air pressure. Everything looks in order. But that nagging little light makes me question how ever bump feels, how ever turn gets maneuvered. The car feels a little more loosey-goosey than normal. Is it really happening, or is it just me thinking it? I can't explain it, but IT JUST FEELS WRONG.

        The Kings are in a similar situation right now. Same guys in the line-up. No injuries (at least that anyone is willing to report). Same coaches. No system changes. And yet, nothing feels right. Everything is half a step off, one pass away, one lost rebound chance here or there. And while mistakes happened before and the outcomes were still OK, now we're losing games. And positions in the conference standings.

        I'm not even going to recount the mess that became tonight's loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. It's too depressing and it really doesn't matter why it happened. It just matters that it did, and right now IT JUST FEELS WRONG.

        Lucky for a me, a trip to the dealer and a quick diagnosis will tell me if there really is a problem with my car or if it's all in my head. But a hockey team isn't a car, which leaves the Kings without a certain diagnosis. Hopefully they can figure it out soon, because right now it feels like our play-off dream is slowly slipping away...and IT JUST FEELS WRONG.


        I can't end a blog post about hockey on such a sour note, so let's talk about HOT MEN! That will cheer me up!

        The Blackhawks squad gave me plenty of great choices. Sadly, Bret Sopel is not one of them.

        Although it certainly is comforting to know that some things never change...he still looks as greasy as he did when he played for the Kings.

        The Sopel mess aside, after examining all the other fine choices out there, it came down to two, and believe me, the final choice was tough. Rachel, I'm sorry, but Marian Hossa just doesn't make my list. And since he didn't skate much on my side of the ice during warm-ups, I didn't even get a usable photo. Oh, well.

        My "Close But Not My Winner" hottie choice is Patrick Sharpe.

        Canadian, 6' 1", 28 years old, left wing, associate captain. In short....ALL GOOD!

        But one guy had just a little more awesome sauce for me, and that was Duncan Keith.

        Granted, without the helmet off, the hair needs work. But I've got a huge soft spot for him because he's a defenceman, also an associate captain, and most importantly played HUGE minutes for Team Canada paired up with my Drewster. And any guy that teams up well with my favorite player wins by default. Plus the media voted him the #2 Star in last night's game, and that had to count for something. So Duncan, welcome to the "Opposing Team Hottie of the Night" club. See me before you leave LA and we'll do a little hair consultation...

        The Kings get their next chance to turn this slide around (and stay in the play-off hunt) on Saturday, when they face John Tavares and the visiting New York Islanders. I just hope the doctor finds a diagnosis, and a cure, by then.

        GO KINGS GO!

        Wednesday, March 17, 2010

        Tales of a Wanna Be Ice Princess

        When I was a little girl, I LOVED ice skating. Or at least the idea of it. Figure skating events were on ABC sports most Sundays in my house, and I grew up in the era of Peggy Fleming and Dorothy Hamill. I still remember watching Dorothy winning the Olympic Gold Medal in 1976 and thinking how fun it all looked. Then they made the book "Ice Castles" into a movie, and I would imagine being Lexie, the main character in the book, flying gracefully around a frozen pond straight into the arms of Robby Benson.

        The reality of skating was something completely different, which I found out the hard way the first time I REALLY attempted to skate. I don't remember how old I was, but everything else is as clear as the day it happened.

        My brother's cub scout troop went on a skating trip to the University of Delaware ice arena. It probably had something to do with him earning a badge, but all I knew was that sisters and friends were invited and I really wanted to fly gracefully around a sheet of ice and learn to be just like Dorothy Hamill - and this was my chance. So I got on my rented skates, and hopped right out there. For about the first hour, I stayed pretty close to the wall, gradually moving further away, bit by bit, under the watchful eyes of my mother. After two solid hours, I hadn't fallen once. I figured I was born to skate!

        Feeling confident, I coasted right out to the middle of the ice to try some turns, which would eventually lead to spins...and then jumps...and then.....it happened. I started to turn, both feet slipped out from under me, and I fell face forward onto the ice, like a snow angel turned over on the wrong side.

        After a moment of shock, I got up, got my legs back under me, and skated over to my Mom to see if she saw me thump my face on the ice. I was rubbing my chin, having no idea what happened other than I fell, and getting ready to do the quick report to Mom and head right back out there and try again. And then she uttered the words I will never forget the rest of my life - "Don't drip blood on your jacket!"

        That was the point when I started screaming and crying. I remember a very cute male med student laying me down on a picnic table, pulling out a first aid kit, and soon after pronouncing "It looks like this is gonna need stitches." At which point the screaming and crying increased so every last person in that building new I had split my chin open when I fell. And I was off to the emergency room with my mother.

        You see, after two hours of solid skating, your face gets a little cold, which turns out to be a good and a bad thing. The good part was that I lost less blood because I was so cold. The bad part is the skin on my chin split open wider than it would have if I was warmer, which meant you could see all the way down to the bone. So after a shot to numb my chin. and black cat gut stitches on the inside AND outside layers of skin performed by an emergency room doctor with a thick foreign accent, I went home...and didn't put on a pair of skates again for about 15 years. I was always too afraid of falling, and I still have the scar to remind me of that day.

        So I'll never be like Dorothy Hamill, but I'm old enough now that I can finally conquer my fear of falling and get back out on the ice.

        Although you won't find me heading out towards the middle and attempting turns any time soon. Skating in a big circle, close to the boards is fine by me.

        And I don't think the NHL needs to worry about me invading either...

        Tuesday, March 16, 2010

        The Thought Locker: Life's Little Annoyances Edition

        • If you can't lift your carry-on bag into the overhead bin of a plane without flagging down help, maybe you shouldn't carry it on.

        • The "expert traveler" security line at the Burbank Airport is the longest one. Apparently everyone here is an insufferable know-it-all.

        • I actually made a playlist of "Music That Makes Me Cry." Because if I ever follow my lifelong dream of acting, I need motivation, and certain music just does it for me. That and cute dog food commercials.

        • Why are slow people always in your way when you're trying to run errands quickly? In one night, I was stalled by a 10 minute decision process on chewing gum and a dude with a stack of recycling receipts he was trying to cash in.

        • I love those little 100 calories packs of cookies. But 100 calorie pack Twinkies? What's the point, really?

        • I normally would not complain about my coffee being hot. But when you order a Venti size because you're 15 minutes drive from the airport and hope to finish it BEFORE you get to security, getting it SCALDING so you have to spend 15 minutes getting it to cool down doesn't really meet your needs, now does it?

        • An earthquake is not a fun way to wake up...especially at 4 AM.

        • This cartoon proves hockey guys are not only HOT, but hilarious! Justin Bourne, if you weren't already engaged to a wonderful woman, I'd hunt you down and beg you to marry me.

        Monday, March 15, 2010

        Dark Cherry Memories

        I read once that smell is the sense most tied to memory. Since I can conjure clear images of two old boyfriends based on the scents from Polo and Fahrenheit cologne alone, this may in fact be true. But smell isn't the only sense that brings back powerful memories - taste does too.

        I was on Facebook a couple of weeks ago doing my normal kvetching about drinking too much coffee, wanting to quit even though I didn't think I could live without the caffeine, etc. when an old college friend mentioned her Starbucks drink of choice - dark cherry mocha. She said it tasted like you were drinking a chocolate covered cherry. My head snapped to attention because I knew immediately how much I would love this drink just from her description. I even asked a barista at my local Starbucks to make me one a week before they were officially selling them. And with one sip, the most powerful image came into my head - of my Dad.

        You see, when I was a little girl, I used to go everywhere with my Dad. This included trips to our neighborhood Wawa, which was a convenience store pretty much like 7-Eleven. Most of the time, we were picking up milk, or getting the Sunday paper, or running some other errand for my Mom. Regardless of the purpose of the trip, I always managed to talk my Dad into buying me a couple of those little red foil wrapped Cella's chocolate covered cherries.

        Wawa had a big jar of them on the counter, right next to the register. I think they were two cents a piece, so I could get two for a nickel and have a penny in change. I've had a sweet tooth my whole life, and lucky for me, my Daddy always seemed to have a spare nickel.

        I miss him every day. So now there is really no chance of me giving up coffee... thank you Starbucks.

        Sunday, March 14, 2010

        Kings vs Predators: Mascots and Maverick

        Sunday. High noon. A visiting team from Nashville. It sounds like a showdown to me!

        The Kings hosted the Nashville Predators in a rare afternoon game, which meant a lot was at stake. We haven't played well in most of our afternoon games this year, and Nashville has had our number (and not in a good way) all year long.

        Knowing we were going to need a little extra motivation, Brianna, Jen and Rachel had a "Top Gun" night, got some inspiration from Mav and Goose watching the movie, and proceeded to come up with "Top Gun" nicknames for the entire team. We even have our own call signs - Mustang, Guppie, Clutch and Hustler. It's our little secret who's who, but you can probably figure out at least one by the end of this post.

        So using "Top Gun" speak, the game went kinda like this.

        MiG spotted at 4:42, direct hit - damnit, Mav! Shooter returned fire and scored his 32nd take down of the season, with some help from his wing man Paradise. After some more dog-fighting, the MiGs bugged out for a while.

        Then a second round of MiGs buzzed in, which pissed Maverick off BIG TIME....so we had ourselves a little round of hand-to-hand combat. After a ton more sporadic dogfights, it was time for the final showdown.

        Wolfman split off a great pass to Merlin, who buried it to move the Top Gun squad into position to go for the kill. But the MiGs weren't giving up, and fired back with a shot of their own less than 60 secs later. With 3:31 to go, the MiGs put the final nail in the coffin, and Goose proclaimed, "We're going down Mav! Time to bail!"

        So we lost. To Nashville. AGAIN! Viper was NOT pleased.

        At least we did have one major reason to celebrate today - it was Bailey's Birthday!!! And no Bailey does not have a Top Gun call sign because Bailey is already sort of a nickname all on it's own. Plus, I don't think he's even old enough yet to have a license to drive that motorcycle of his, so putting him at the controls of a plane it simply out of the question. But we love him anyway, so he can have cake!

        All the Western Conference Mascots came to help celebrate, except Wild Wing, the Ducks mascot. I think Bailey humiliated him so badly last year he was afraid to show his ugly bill around Staples Center. The Kings fans sure don't like him very much. Of course, Nashville's mascot Gnash (worst mascot name in history, by the way), didn't get a very warm reception either, but he hung in there.

        Bernie, the Colorado Avalanche mascot, was my favorite non-Kings character. Any mascot who pretends to pick his nose and wipe it on the jersey of the person in front of me wins major points in the creativity department.

        Of course, I think Bernie hits the sauce a little too hard, which would explain his crazy behavior.

        And we got a rare treat with our favorite visitor from the East - Max, the Manchester Monarchs mascot (and Bailey's little bro)! The fact that he was wearing purple nail polish that matched mine weirded me out just a little, but otherwise Max is the coolest! And he's always happy!

        Thanks to all the mascots for helping our Bailey have a terrific birthday! The only thing that would have made it more perfect would have been a Kings win. Get to work on that for next year, boys!

        Finally, since we've seen the Preds already this season, there was no "Opposing Team Hottie of the Night" this afternoon. But my new friends Kelly and Lisa Pajak send me this super photo of the Drew-Cam in action! So now you have proof...and a view of my pretty great seats!

        Mustang is signing off....time to drink away this headache of a game! Goose, I think she's lost that lovin' feeling....