The trip to the 2014 Eastside Thaw started like any other trip I’ve taken: with me starting late, getting somewhat lost (maybe that’s over-exaggerating, as I was still in my own county and state at the time. It was more like sidetracked), and altogether happy to reach the hotel which apparently every other polo player was staying.
I traveled alone, however, which was new and required me to build up a 3 hour long playlist just to make sure I had something to entertain me. It seems to have worked, as by the time I reached the hotel The Final Countdown was just finishing up and I walked into the hotel feeling like I was going to knock it over.
After dropping off my bags and bike I went through the normal routine of going to pickup on the courts (it was late, and cold, and I didn’t much feel like bringing my bike and changing clothes in the hope that I’d get thrown once in the hour that was left before the lights turned out over the enormous Frederick courts) and meeting those who were already checked in.
Alias was there of course, looking aware and nervous. I drew from the deck which signified what my team would become. I probably enjoyed getting the Jack of Hearts more than perhaps I should have, if only for the little writerly quirkiness of getting one of the mustachioed face cards and also one in which the heart played a role. Still, I had no idea who my team-mates would be as I was the first JoH to draw.
So instead of making clever, self-serving deprecations to my team-mates, I helped out where I could. Troy and I (mostly Troy) helped get a gate shut on the B court, I talked a little to Alias, and I said hello to the players I knew who were taking in the full size of the courts and wishing they had changed their gearing a bit.
But, like I said, the cold was creeping in on us so Troy and I decided to abandon the courts and get to the hotel. By this point Kyle and Yeager were in the vicinity and we eventually all found ourselves in the hallway with other polo players, drinking Hylon’s home brew, watching Squid do his best Nacho Libre impression, and generally trying to seem interested-but-not-interested in conversations.
I was then informed by Troy that my team-mates would be Ben Quigley from Raleigh (who I met almost immediately after) and Alexis.
Alexis “The Means” Mills.
And I think it’s safe to say that was the first time my heart gave me trouble over the weekend.
I’m not necessarily star-struck by any player in bike polo–it’s a goofy sport, after all. But I am perpetually worried about letting people down. I assumed that Alexis was quite used to winning, and seeing as though I wasn’t necessarily, that caused me some alarm. And then, on cue, Alexis stepped out of the elevator and I extended my hand to let him know I was his B player. He nodded and smiled and if he had any regret in his bones he didn’t show it. Still, I felt flustered, so I escaped the floor.
I went outside to find Russo enjoying a cigarette and decided to join him as he is, more than likely, one of the most interesting people I’ve come across to talk with. Soon we were joined by a few other players and conversations got deep and not altogether correct to report here, so I turned off my reporter memory and switched on my “enjoy the moment” memory, which worked. I found it funny to recognize every single person who came in or out of the hotel. Read more