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Beneath the Cloak: An “Out Crowd” of One September 10, 2008

Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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I’m a little reluctant to write this. On the one hand, it would be good to get it off my chest, and it would probably help my fellow Caps fans to better understand where I’m coming from. On the other, I’m less than comfortable putting this up on the web for all the world to read. But with as little traffic as I get–three figures is a very good day for me–not that many people are going to see it anyway. So…what the heck, why not?

A couple of days ago, one of the more visible–or at least, more audible–Caps fans gave me a good zinging on the Capitals message boards. I completely misread his intent, and ended up giving him both barrels in return. That got ‘em talking, as they say, and I know there’s been a lot of discussion just from the page count. I have yet to read any of it, as I spent most of last night responding privately to the person in question. The tenor of his initial message to me was that he was only kidding in good fun, and, in essence, that I get a lot of ribbing because I’m liked. I wrote him a longish apology, which he accepted. Still, there’s a whole forum’s worth of Caps fans who probably want to know what the heck that was all about. So, here goes.

The truth is–and this is not to sound like I’m throwing a pity party here, but it’s true–I have almost no experience with being liked. I almost have no frame of reference when it comes to being accepted.

There was a beer commercial a couple of years ago–I want to say it was for Coors Light, but I could be wrong–with the tag line, “Here’s to Love Songs.” It was the one that introduced the “and twins” shtick which ended up jumping the shark in a hurry. The one line in there which still haunts me is, “I love burritos at 4 AM.” Haunts me? Yes. Because I knew that that was something I’d never get to experience. I don’t have a group of friends that would be out at 4 AM eating burritos. No, check that–I don’t have an organized group of friends, period. It’s my fault, really: I’m not out seeking, so there’s no way I’ll ever find.

And the thing is, it’s not just romantic love that’s missing and not missed, as I wrote about a while back. It’s everything. Heck, I even keep my own family at a distance: even though my brother’s family is close enough to the Metro that I could see them anytime I asked, I don’t. My nephew and niece are growing up fast, and I barely see them. As an uncle, I’m a failure.

But when you’re a one-man “out crowd” for most of your formative years, when you grow up with very few close friends, and when you get it hammered into your head that in the end, the only person you can trust is the person in the mirror, it’s not that easy to get away from that mind-set.

I grew up an Army brat, and that made for quite the nomadic life for the first decade and a half of my life. Every couple of years, the boxes would come out, everything would be packed away, and I’d have to start from scratch in a new city–and sometimes, a new country. The names and faces I grew up with were always changing; I lost touch with almost all of them as soon as we got to our new duty station.

We finally ended up settling down–sort of–in Harford County, Maryland, in the late 80’s. And from 7th grade all the way through high school, I was with the same group of kids. But I didn’t fit in. I was a choir boy, both figuratively and literally (I made All-State Chorus my junior year), and that wasn’t exactly the popular thing to be doing. I got by, but it wasn’t fun. I never got beaten up or anything crazy like that, but I also never got invited to Sadie Hawkins, either. I left people alone, and was pretty much ignored in return–when I wasn’t being incessantly picked on. There were a few exceptions, but those pretty much proved the rule. I have yet to attend a class reunion: frankly, I doubt I’m missed.

I was generally liked at my church youth group, but being liked didn’t end up getting me any friends away from youth group activities. They liked me when I was in the group, but away from the group, there were none of those 4 AM burritos. Even in a group where I did everything I could to fit in, I was accepted–but that was as far as it went. I’ve lost touch with all of them, as well.

From there, it was on to a hitch in the Navy that didn’t go at all as I’d hoped it would. When I got to my first permanent duty station, I ended up on the wrong end of the office politics, and that was misery enough. Now add being at sea for, sometimes, two consecutive months. I had to get by, again, more or less alone: I had no choice.

So by the time I was old enough to drink–not that I would, but at that age–I had pretty much resigned myself to a life of solitude. I’d been without close friends for most of my life, and had learned how to get by–“live” is too strong a word–without them. Being alone actually was more comfortable than being with other people–still is. Maybe I’m just so comfortable being an out crowd of one that I’m unconsciously trying to stay that way, and losing friends in the process.

But there’s more to it than that.

Not long after I left the service, I started having spiritual experiences that were, let’s just say, less than pleasant. My church was less than helpful: while they admittedly did all they could, the results were incomplete. I started investigating angels because I knew that they were the ones who could fight this directly. I asked for help, received that help, and saw firsthand the power of the forces of Light. Louis, I think that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Ever since, I’ve done what I could to advance the Light. I’m no saint, and frankly, I’m about as imperfect as it gets. I can’t do much: a few kind words here, a few prayers there, perhaps some distance healing work over there. I’ve been lovingly told–more than once–that it’s not my job to save the world; it’s to live the best life I know how to live, and shine the Light as best I know how to shine it.

But Light is only half of it. There’s Darkness out there, as well.

When I say that there’s a war on for my soul–which I believe there is–that doesn’t make me unique in any way. Because there’s a war going on for the soul of every human being, and that includes you. You may not be consciously aware of it, but it’s happening nonetheless.

I have seen both Light and Darkness at work in my life. I’ve known raw fear; I’ve seen unbridled hatred; I’ve lived with debilitating guilt; and I’ve experienced pure, unadulterated hopelessness. Darkness isn’t pleasant, and it’s no fun to fail in my struggles to defeat it–both Darkness without, and the seed of Darkness which all of us carry within.

But I’ve also felt the comforting love of an angelic embrace; experienced the peace that passes understanding; known, if infrequently, the simple joy of being alive; and seen firsthand the superhuman mercy of God.

That’s why I try my hardest to stay close to the Light. That’s why I always end up coming back, in my writing, to Spirit. That’s why I try, and fail, and try again, to live the holiest life I can.

And that’s another part of why I over-reacted with so much fear to that well-intentioned ribbing the other night. Drugs are something I can’t find funny in the least: they’re an engraved, gold-plated invitation to the Darkness without, and they nurture and feed the Darkness within. And the idea of losing the Light–not just losing it, throwing it away–was something that scared the hell out of me. Or, more properly, scared the hell into me–seeing it again, it wasn’t a response of the Light. So despite my apology having been accepted, the wrongness of what I wrote still lingers. I failed. I have to do better next time.

Coming full circle, that’s one reason I love the Capitals as much as I do. Everyone in the organization, from Ted Leonsis on down, has accepted me as is: outlandish dress, goofy spirituality, funky lightshows, 8-shots-of-espresso hyperactivity, the whole bit. Game night for the Caps is my time to play, too, and even though I have a unique way of cheering on the team, it’s accepted–at least, to my face.

Still, I do wonder sometimes how much of it is genuine, and how much is just good business sense. My seat in 417 would be very easy to sell if I could no longer come to games. When it comes right down to it, I’m replaceable. The Caps would do no better, and no worse, if I weren’t there. So at the end of the day, nothing that I do really matters one way or the other. My blog is niche, and goes mostly unread and unheeded. The players may very well see my lights on the bench, but they’re not being encouraged, never mind inspired, by them. If I weren’t there, I wouldn’t be missed.

Or so I tell myself when the loneliness really gets to me. I guess I’m not so comfortable being alone after all.

Excepting private messages, I do not plan on reading or replying to the Capitals boards for the balance of this week. I need to retreat, heal up, and make final preparations for a long hockey season ahead. I do intend to be at Kettler this Sunday for rookie camp. Hope to see you there.

CAPITAL SPIRIT
RETREAT

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Comments»

1. Mike - September 10, 2008

CS,

Let me be the first to comment and say to you that it takes a lot of courage to look oneself in the mirror, see the type of person you are, AND write it for the world to see. Even if you feel like not many people read your blog, I am one of them that does, and I commend you for your courage.

As for message boards, I very rarely frequent them, so I have no idea what was said by either party, but the fact that an apology was given (and also accepted) shows that both parties are better people then some of the other people that post to message boards.

Thanks.

2. CapitalSpirit - September 10, 2008

Mike,

From the bottom of my heart, thank you so, so much for such an inspirational reply. That’s no exaggeration, either, but more on that in a second.

The initial joke was that rave lights are normally used as light shows for people at raves who are tripping out on various illegal substances. I ignored it the first time, but when it was repeated, I totally mis-read it and thought it was a serious accusation. I genuinely thought I was being accused of using–or at least countenancing–the use of illegal drugs. Now, I’m not a man of much honor, but what little I have, I will defend. So I came back loaded for bear, and said such talk was libelous. That was late Monday night.

Last night–Tuesday–I got a private message from the same person, the gist of which I referenced here. I spent most of last night apologizing profusely. It was another nightcap on the c-space word cruncher, and I was really starting to feel like I’d just done something so stupid as to be beyond redemption.

Today at the office was mad-crazy busy, and by the time I got home, I was worn out. I found out my apology had been accepted, and that helped. Still, I thought it might be a good idea to type this post up, if for no other reason than to explain why I went so totally overboard. Fatalist that I am, I thoroughly expected to wake up tomorrow with a pre-mod comment or two that would be too obscene to let stand.

And lo and behold, one of my faithful readers comes back in almost no time flat to offer a word of encouragement that provides a much-needed lift in my spirits. I’m not kidding when I say that right now, I’m the happiest I’ve been in a couple of days.

Thank you, Mike. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU. Your kind words meant more to me just now than you’ll ever know. I’m humbled beyond words.–CS

3. june white - September 11, 2008

Hey Cpaital Spirit,

Mike was right–writing this all out wasn´t easy, I am sure. Just wanted you to know I read it, too. Thinking of you.

4. CapitalSpirit - September 11, 2008

Thanks. I appreciate that.–CS

5. Lori - September 11, 2008

CS – You would definitely be missed. I always look for you on the concourse between periods and you never fail to bring a smile to my face. It’s unfortunate that people are more likely to be vocal when they have something critical to say. It’s the ones who are supportive and appreciative who tend to keep to themselves.

Keep your head up, and just know that you have a lot more people looking out for you than you know.

6. CapitalSpirit - September 11, 2008

Lori, thank you. I’ve already been more or less speechless for a couple of hours at this point, and right now I’m literally in tears. Thank you. I wish I could find more words to say, but words are failing me now. I hope a heartfelt “thank you” will suffice.–CS

7. Jimmy Jazz - September 11, 2008

1. The people who were joshing you play dressup forty-one times a year as well. The nature of your garb isn’t any different from theirs. Do they play professional Hockey? No.
2. I’m actually a big fan of the cloak. Hockey will always be a fringe sport, and In this way, it lends itself to almost unique personalities.

8. JustAnotherCapsFan - September 11, 2008

Capital brother, never think the fans at Caps games do not enjoy your presence. it takes BALLS to allow yourself to stand out in support of our favorite team and there are 19,000 other folks in those packed houses who enjoy it as well. FAR more entertaining than what else goes on in the stands. Keep doing it, keep coming out and if one or two guys on a message board or at a Caps game makes you question what you do because of their words or actions…..THEY are the 1 in a million, or for our sake… 1 in 19,000. they don’t represent the consensus for sure.

Friends are friends, unfortuanately they come and go for everyone. The lucky ones have 1 or 2 good ones that actually stick throughout the years. Family is always better than friends anyday so go see your niece and nephew!!

See at the opener

9. The Peerless - September 11, 2008

Everyone knows by now that “fan” is generally an abbreviated form of “fanatic”…and that’s usually meant in a good way. Folks express their inner “fan” in a lot of ways. Some wear jerseys, some write blogs (go figure), and some don (as you put it) “outlandish dress, goofy spirituality, funky lightshows, 8-shots-of-espresso hyperactivity, the whole bit.” If that’s how you express your inner fan?…do it! If there’s a problem here, it sure isn’t yours.

10. Jill - September 11, 2008

CS –

I found this post because Ted linked to it in Ted’s Take in a post inviting you to his suite. I hope you take him up on it.

You have no idea how many lonely people there are out there. Some of them just aren’t honest enough to admit it to anyone else, or even to themselves. Even people who appear to be popular and loved can be lonely.

You’ve found your happiness at Caps games – so have I! They are the best therapy for my money.

A friend of mine mentioned you the other day and I said, you know, I have to give that guy propose, because he does his thing and doesn’t make any apologies for it.

As for the message board, forget about it. In my opinion, people who make disparaging remarks on message boards or blogs about people they don’t know or have never met must be pretty miserable themselves. I feel sorry for those people. Every time you read a nasty remark, think of how unhappy the person who made it must be. Also, remember they are just words on a screen. Take the high road and ignore those people who try to bring you down.

You should also know that there were a number of supportive and encouraging posts in that thread.

Looking forward to seeing you at the VC this season! Let’s Go Caps!

11. Jon - September 11, 2008

CS –

I’ve been on vacation, so I’m not really sure what happened, but let me tell you that you are one of those faces and presences at VC that DEFINITELY cannot be replaced. I sit 12 sections away from you, but believe me, we notice and appreciate your love of the game and of this team every night.

I certainly hope you won’t let the message board frenzy be the “end-all-be-all” of your connection to the team and fans. Message boards exist for elitists to treat others like garbage, and for the average fans like you and me to feel more insecure about ourselves.

Peerless said it best – “If there’s a problem here, it sure isn’t yours.”. Remember that, and let the others be the miserable ones. And you always have at least two friends in 406. :)

P.S. – Thanks to Ted for posting a link to this. We can’t let a couple of DB’s ruin a true fan’s resolve.

12. CapitalSpirit - September 11, 2008

Everyone,

To say I’m stunned by the show of support is an understatement of British proportions. Thank you all, and I’ll have more to say in this space–I hope–tomorrow.

For now, please, please, PLEASE take it easy on the person I disagreed with. It takes two to tango, and I bear more responsibility for what was said than he does. He told a good-natured joke; I totally mis-read it and went nuclear on him; and if any person is more to blame for what happened, it really is me. Really.

This was another Caps fan of considerable repute, who is also a very spirited supporter of the team. I can’t say more than that without essentially naming names, and I’m not going to do that. Leave the other person out of this–we’ve buried the hatchet privately over this.

I’m the one who overreacted, and I’m the one who was out of line. But that’s over. Done. Finished. No more bad-mouthing the other guy, please. Thanks.

13. Gustafsson - September 11, 2008

Personally, I wouldn’t choose your outfit, but I do wear one of a number of my Capitals sweaters. Along those lines, I also don’t blow a horn or lead a cheer from the lower bowl that’s audible in the upper. As always, Peerless summed it up perfectly stating that there really isn’t much of a difference. We are all fans. People support their teams in different ways.

The point is that there are now more fans, more support, and more enthusiasm for this team than ever before. We can’t afford to slow the growth and development of this fan base.

We’ll see you at the rink.

14. maruk - September 12, 2008

Rock on, brother. However you choose to do so.

15. Heather - September 12, 2008

CS-

I got over to your blog posting here because I’m friends with Jill and I followed the trail back to this.

There are many things which you’ve shared above which I can relate to on so many levels. I go through a lot of the same struggles that you do. I don’t know if my words can be of any comfort to you, but I hope that you will find some solace in knowing that there’s someone else out there like you :)

With the hectic lives we all lead as individuals and because of the de-personalization of living lives in front of a computer screen, we all tend to forget that words – though not verbalized face to face – can hurt just as bad, if not more so.

I applaud your ability to know your limits, recognize and address your faults, and wholeheartedly support you in your quest to be the best and most complete person you can be.

Keep fighting the good fight and know that I appreciate all your energy and devotion to the Caps. I look forward to rocking out during the Power Play with you!

16. KP - September 12, 2008

So you wear a cloak and spin some lights. Me, I wear a jersey, scream at the top of my lungs and clap my hands as much as possible. While you go about it in a different way than I, we’re definitely aiming for the same result and doing basically the same thing, which is cheering on our favorite team night in, night out. Honestly, I’d be flattered with all the comments, especially the negative ones. You must be doing something right to have as many haters as you do that actually take the time to point out your “flaws” as if it’s any of their business. Keep your head up, sir, keep rocking the red, and I look forward to seeing you at the arena about 50 times this year.

17. Lorne - September 12, 2008

Hey, I don’t know your name, but we have spoken several times. I’d consider you at least friendly. My son and I sat next to you in the line to get Mike Green’s autograph this off season. I can’t say I know you, but you appear to be a good person. You’re comment about the petty officers gave me a chuckle since I used to be one myself.

I don’t have your e-mail, so I’ll ask here. We are going to the MD Ren-Fair this weekend to start getting costume items for my son to be in a costume contest. I thought you told me in one of our conversations that you got your cloak at the Ren-Fest. Shoot me an e-mail if thats the case please.

18. HORN HORN HORN! - September 13, 2008

Rock on, CS. People like you make the games and the fan base interesting.

19. pepper - September 16, 2008

CS- You’re a unique and valuable part of the Caps’ community. Not long ago, I referred to you as one of our “superfans,” along with guys like Goat and the Horn Guy, fueling a golden age in Caps land:

http://theredskate.com/2008/06/18/it-takes-a-special-set-of-circumstances/

Carry on, brother. And look forward to seeing you around Kettler and the VZ.

20. Den Relojo - September 27, 2008

Just go on! Whatever floats your boat.

21. AG - October 16, 2008

Just so you know, there are 2 fans in section 410 who look for you at every game, and smile when we see the rave lights flashing. While you may think your absence would be unnoticed, we don’t think the games would be quite the same without you there. Capital Spirit Rocks!

22. CapitalSpirit - October 16, 2008

*blushes like mad*

It HAS been over a month since I wrote this…

Thank you AG, as well as everyone else who has commented on this post. I really don’t have anything profound I can say in reply to any of this. I just hope a sincere “Thank You” is enough.

I love you guys! :~)


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