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Saying Hi To Old Friends October 3, 2018

Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.

I suppose it’s only fitting that I was there yesterday. In the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church, October 2 is the feast day which honors guardian angels. And no, I’m not Catholic; as far as I know, I’m not even Roman. But it’s hard not to notice that it’s on such a date, that I was in such a sacred place.

For those who’ve never been down this way, the area around the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs seems to have every conceivable way to separate tourists from their money, packed into less than a dozen blocks. It’s a fun day trip, if you ever happen to be down in Tampa Bay Lightning country.

Yesterday, though, the waterfront didn’t interest me. I was there on more personal matters.

Tucked away into a residential neighborhood, close enough to the touristy parts of town to reach on foot, yet far enough away that you won’t find it by accident, is a shrine, dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel. It’s affiliated with the Greek Orthodox Church, and part of me has to wonder if that is just the Big Guy’s idea of a practical joke. I mean, I’m not Greek, and I’m sure as heck not orthodox, regardless of whether or not it’s capitalized.

But when you walk in there…you really do feel something. It’s ancient, it’s powerful, and to me, it kind of feels like an old friend giving me, for want of a better expression, a buddy hug. You know, kind of a sideways hug, friendly, sort of playful, and usually accompanied by a great big grin? That’s what I always feel in this place: like I’m being welcomed back by an old friend. And Archangel Michael and I do have a bit of a history, but that’s another story, which few will want to hear.

But, well, as long as I’m on the subject of old friends…

Tonight is going to be grand. I wish I could be there. Heck, I wish I COULD have been there…for all of it.

Does anyone remember where we were at this point, a year ago? Alzner, MoJo, Justin Williams, and many Capitals players that we thought would get us there, gone…after yet another second-round heartbreaker. Window closed; it’s a rebuild year in Washington, or so the thinking went. Oh, wait. The Caps made the playoffs, in a putative rebuilding year.

Then came the first round against Columbus, and two home losses to open the series. Oh no, we’re doomed. Oh, wait. The Caps won the next four straight, with three of them IN COLUMBUS, for good measure.

Then came Pittsburgh, and so much history that, on no, was simply certain to repeat. Oh, wait. No smart-alecky observation needed here. Heck, I might still have John Walton’s call of that historic series-clinching goal in some subdirectory somewhere.

And then came Tampa Bay, and surely their experience and goaltending would win out, right? Oh, wait. Game 7, on the road? No problem. And DC, you REALLY ought to hear how often the Bolts’ radio analysts have been talking about that series during the preseason.

And then it was on to Vegas, whose inaugural season was in so many ways the mirror image of Washington’s own freshman campaign, lo those many years ago. I’m not even going to attempt to top all of the well-earned superlatives that have been said and written in the months since.

But with a win in that glorious Game 5, suddenly, all our “somedays” became our “today.” All our “next years” became our “now.” And if winning the team’s first Stanley Cup is the Caps’ idea of a rebuild year, I’m dying to see what they’ve got in mind for an encore.

The victory celebration was a long time coming; I followed the festivities as best I could, despite being, you know, nine hundred some miles down the pike. I was glad to see the streets of Washington filled, for the first time in a long time, with so many people, united in joyous celebration.

But I can’t deny that there was an undercurrent of wistfulness for me, in seeing all of this from such a distance. My God, how I wish I could have been there.

On the right-hand wall of this shrine, is a large painting of Saint Michael, standing in the air over a cityscape. It’s an old piece, or so it appears; I’d guess it’s an oil painting, but art critic I’m not, so yeah, grain of salt. It takes up just about the entire wall between two stained-glass windows. The window to the right depicts the prophet Elijah; to the left, is Saint George.

All three of those represent, at least in part, a victory of some kind. Saint George had a victory over the dragon, which, for the present discussion, I take as defeating an evil that you can’t control. For Elijah, what I remember most about that, was his showdown with the idolatrous priests of Baal. (And please, bear with me, Caps fans; I know this part sounds dry.) Idolatry is something it usually takes a human to do; so here, Elijah represents defeating an evil you CAN control. And Saint Michael represents the Divine defeating all evil, forever. I’m going to come back to this; make sure you know what’s where.

Just inside the door to the shrine, though, is the reason I was there. It’s a sand-filled box, with a lot of burning candles in it. I added my own yesterday. I needed to offer some prayers of my own. Some were personal, and even though this blog was (and may again be?) a personal project, there’s only so much of that which I will commit to print.

But I was praying for the Capitals, and for Washington, while I was there. And…okay, what I’m about to say, is as close to current events, as I hope this blog EVER gets.

Look, if you’re a Caps fan, I don’t give two figs in Friendship Heights what your politics are. If you’re cheering for the Caps, that’s all I care about, because frankly, it’s all I SHOULD be caring about. Never mind the water’s edge or the arena entrance; for me, politics always stopped the second I put on my jersey. It HAS to.

But then, I look back at the celebrations for the Caps this summer, and contrast that with some of the more recent underhanded plays from some of the competitors in DC’s never-ending, non-athletic blood sport. The latter, I trust, are mostly coming from out-of-towners? It’s that kind of stuff that makes a DMV expat think twice about coming back…let’s just leave it at that, okay?

But back to my theme: the way I see it, there are things you can control, and defeat (here represented by Elijah); there are things you can’t control, but can still overcome (St. George); and there are just some things in life that are beyond your control, and that you just have to leave to something larger than yourself (St. Michael).

The Caps won all three of those battles, by giving their best on the ice (Elijah); by overcoming a history they couldn’t control, and it’s concomitant expectation of defeat (St. George, slaying arguably the biggest dragon in DC sports); and by taking every obstacle in stride, all year long, and trusting, nay, KNOWING, that they had what it took to win the Stanley Cup (St. Michael).

And tonight, that victory will be immortalized, in our house, for (symbolically) all time. I’ll find some watering hole or other down this way, and watch, and try not to get misty-eyed. I won’t be there in person; but you can be certain I’ll be watching.

I know there are some who will want to know if I intend to ever come back to DC, and pick up where I left off with the Capitals. I’m not going to rule that out; I mean, come on, I never belonged anywhere like I belonged at 7th and F Streets. And I have yet to get too cozy down here in Bolts country, so if the right opportunity came up, I’d definitely need to give it some serious thought.

Yes, I’ve been to a couple of Lightning games, none involving the Capitals. The energy in the building definitely has a different feel to it. DC is usually rollicking from puck drop to the final horn; and as an aside, seriously, Caps fans, you have no idea what walking treasures we have in Goat and the Horn Guy.

The crowd down here, from my limited experience, is apropos of its team’s namesake: quiet intensity that can explode in an instant. It’s a markedly different flow/vibe/current, one I would need to adjust to, were I to remain in this area.

But in my case, there’s a lot more of St. George and St. Michael down here, than there is of Elijah. There’s a lot I’d need to observe and absorb, if I seriously wanted to create something new down here. I couldn’t just swap out a couple of pieces from my old outfit in DC, and call it done. It just doesn’t work like that.

Then again, I’d still have to do something similar if I return to DC; the visual aspirational prayer that was my old outfit, is obsolescent, now that aspiration has yielded to attainment; an attainment which I didn’t get to experience.

So, for me, the single Stanley Cup banner in the rafters of BOTH buildings, may as well be as mythic as the iconography in Saint Michael’s shrine, just in (obviously!) a much different way.

Anyway. I’m alive and well, for whatever that’s worth. Yes, I do miss the Caps. Yes, it was bittersweet watching history from a distance.

And no, I’m not sure where life will lead me next. For this one special day, though, that doesn’t matter.

So, lift the banner high tonight, Washington. You’ve all earned it. I wish I could be there in person; but at least I can be there in spirit.




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