Friday, September 25, 2009

A horse is a horse, of course, of course...

...And no one can talk to a horse of course
That is, of course, unless the horse
is the famous Mr. Ed.

Go right to the source and ask the horse
He'll give you the answer that you'll endorse.
He's always on a steady course.
Talk to Mr. Ed.

People yakkity yak a streak and waste your time of day
But Mister Ed will never speak unless he has something to say.

A horse is a horse, of course, of course
And this one'll talk 'til his voice is hoarse.
You never heard of a talking horse?
Well listen to this.

I am Mister Ed."

Aaaaahhhh - Horses. Such beautiful, graceful animals. Such power and might. Horses are my wife's first true love (next to her kids of course, and I fall somewhere in there - I think right after the horses - and that's ok). And while my fiancially concervitive mind shuttered at the thought owning such majestic creatures might cost us, there are things that you just let your spouse "do". After all, Jen allows me the freedom to play music and ice hockey and golf. Besides, a relationship becomes smothering if all of your time is consumed with each other.

Not long after we were married, Jen started to get the "horse itch." Jen grew up on a farm, and had ridden, cared for, and competed with horses for most of her young life. And just before she was to leave home, the horse that she had cared for and grown up with was sold out from under her. So it was no supprise that Jen jumped at the change when the opportunity for horse ownership presented itself.

Welcome Bonnie.

Bonnie was one of a pair of equines - Bonnie and (of course) Clyde. Bonnie is a head strong but very loving (much like her owner) quarter horse, which probably explains why the two of them get along so very well - at times. :P Jen has worked with Bonnie for quite a while, but over time the question was asked of me, "Would you be interested in riding at all?" To which I stated, "well, sure it would be fun I think - but we'd have to find a horse big enough to carry me."

WARNING: Men and Women do not speak the same language. I mean, it SOUNDS like english, but the meaning of words take on a completely different meaning depending on whether those words are spoken to a man or a woman.

For example, when a women says, "Do I look fat in this dress," she is not asking for an opinion on how the dress looks. It instead means you should say something nice about her appearnace. When a woman says, "We need to talk," it means, "you need to listen, but don't fix my problem." Therefore, when I said to Jen, "I think riding with you would be fun, but we'd need a large horse," she heard, "Sure hon - we need to get another horse, but make it big enough for me to ride."

Aaaahhhh - communication is wonderful, isn't it?

Enter Rosie, or "Whole Lotta Rosie" as I have named her.

Rosie is a Percheron/Belgium cross mare. She is 5 years old, 16.4 hands tall and nearly one ton. You can see me walking with her in the picture above - keep in mind I"m 6'2", and if you'll notice Rosie's hoof is about the size of my head. Plenty of size and mass to hual my fat @$$ around, if I can get the confidence to stay on her back while she deals with me.

I've been on Rosie's back once - once... ("My mother hung me on a hook once - once...") It was a frightening event for me, and probably one for the horse as well. My wife was very understanding and did a good job of instructing me during my first 5 minutes of "horsing around". I plan on getting back on her time and again until I can go on some trail rides with my lovely wife.

Stay tuned - It's likely I have much more time to blog if the horse throws me and I bust my butt. ;)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Puck Stops Here - Pt 2

The Puck Stops Here - Pt 2

OK - so I can stand up on 2 blades - move forwards, turn (with some difficulty) and stop (snowplow style). But there so much more to ice hockey than putting on a pair of skates.

Back to Play It Again Sports - Shin Guards, hockey socks, hockey shorts, hockey jock with protective cup (manditory), chest protector, elbow pads, gloves, helmet (extra large - oh man this hair has got to go...) and a bag to carry it all in. Gota have a hockey stick too... Now what?

Lessons maybe?

Northen Kentucky Ice Center was giving all adult lessons - Northland and Sports Plus combined their adult lessons with kids, so this seamed to be a better option for me. I hate to be upstaged by a kid. ;) So 8 lessons were paid for, and I showed up for each one of them dressed in full hockey gear (the only person mind you). It actually worked to my benefit because it doesn't hurt so bad when you fall in hockey gear. The other adults wern't so lucky. After 8 lessons, I could get around the ice pretty well - even started to learn the hockey stop. Not bad...

So what now - adult hockey lessons?

My friend said I should contact this guy named Don Biggs. Don is a hockey star of note. I won't get into his career here, but I will refer you to his stats page at One thing that is not addressed in his stats was the fact that he was a scrappy player who wasn't affraid to drop the gloves. And when he did, holy cow watch out!

My first meeting with Don went something like this:

DB "Hi there - Don Biggs."
Me "Hi - Jim Questa"
Don looks at my jersey - game worn Kansis City Blades (IHL) jersey.
DB "Ah - Claudio Scremin - want to be a defensmen do you?"
Me "I just want to be able to skate up and down the ice and not hurt myself."
DB "Claudio and I had some tumbles in our time."
Me "Great - just don't have any flashbacks..."

Don was a hell of a nice guy, and someone who I would get to know on a somewhat personal level as well. I took Don's adult hockey classes for 5 years - even after I was able to get on a team. His drills and instruction really gave each player an edge and helped elevate their game after each 90 minute workout.

The first team I managed to connect with was Lemen's Lemons. We played at Cincinnati Gardens in their "C" league. I knew next to nothing about the sport, and even less about playing (except what I could pick up at Don's clinics), so having someone who would understand this and work with me during the games was very important. The Lemen brothers were great people, and helped guide me to making good plays, yet having a good time. I scored my first goals with them, scored a playoff goal during the finals, and we even won the C-league championship that first season. It was VERY cool - I still have the trophy. ;)

Next was team Biohazard. Played with them for a couple of seasons until - all of a sudden - they never called me back. Hummm... So I was nominated to start my own team - team "No". Why team No? Well, the guy running the league asked if he wanted to name the team, and he said "No". It stuck, at least for 2 seasons. We would later become the Wolves, complete with jersey's, socks and helmet stickers! Even a website that we still use -

And I continue to play today. Not very well mind you, but much better than when I started. I've earned a few hat tricks, played nearly every position except goalie, and I continue to have a blast with my friends every time we hit the ice. Weve won a few championships, and we've lost our share of hearbreakers. But all in all, it's a GREAT time playing the coolest sport on ice. :)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Puck Stops Here - Pt 1

Let's travel back in time to 1974. I was 10 years old. I've been playing the organ on television, shopping malls, Junior Achievement conventions - you name it - for nearly 5 years. Obviously, opportunities for organists were few and far between. But one place were the organ was a historical staple was the ice hockey arena. So when my parents saw a newspaper ad for an organist for the Cincinnati Stingers, they jumped on it (on my behalf of course).

The Cincinnati Stingers of the World Hockey Association were playing at Cincinnati Coliseum in downtown Cincinnati. Mark Messier - who would go on to win the Stanley Cup with the New York Rangers - played for the Stingers, and would play against Wayne Gretzky and the Indianapolis Ice (also in the WHA at the time). The WHA was a competitor of the National Hockey League, outbidding the NHL for top talent like Gretzky and Messier, but with much lesser known (and lesser skilled) players who would rather rough it up than play the skilled game we know of today.

I auditioned and was granted a 1 game appearance - the Singers against the Quebec Nordiques. This was my first exposure to the awesome sport of ice hockey.

Cut-scene to 1990, when the Cincinnati Cyclones of the East Cost Hockey League appeared at Cincinnati Gardens. I was in Florida at the time, playing music professionally with Danny Morgan, and when I came back from the road people were talking about this "cool hockey experience" over at the Gardens. I attended a few games - thought it was great fun - but I didn't really get hooked.

Fast Forward ten years to 2000. Cincinnati was now a two hockey team city - the Cyclones (now in the International Hockey League - a AA minor league and a step up from the ECHL) downtown, and the Mighty Ducks (of the American Hockey League - also AA minors) at the Gardens. Local Cincinnati radio personality Wildman Walker was not only a loudmouth on the radio (and at the clubs where he would see Bad Habit play), but he was also the on-ice announcer of the Cyclones. Since we were "friends" as such, he would forward some free tickets to me as often as I wanted to go. THAT was when I was hooked.

I finely "understood" hockey. The precise grace of ice skating with the power of football and the non-stop action of auto racing - all wrapped up into a package that was interesting and exciting. Additionally, the spectators were "encouraged" to participate by chanting and otherwise taunting the opposing players. You can't do that in Baseball. No one can hear you in a Football stadium or on the race track. This was FUN!!!!!

So I was hooked on the sport, but it became so much more one evening during an exchange with a friend I met at the Cyclones games.

Rick: "Well - I better get going"
Me: "What do you mean - it's nearly the middle of the 2nd period?"
Rick: "Yeah - but I've got a hockey game to get to..."
Me: "But your AT a hockey game..."
Rick: "No - I have to go PLAY a hockey game..."

What??? "PLAY" a hockey game - as in, put on skates, pads, helmet, stick? Go out on the ice and actually PLAY the game???? Yeah - that's what he meant.

So one evening I head out to Sports Plus in Evendale and watch my friend play a game. It looked like so much FUN!!! This was something I HAD to do. Let's see - 300 lbs, out of shape, 36 years old, haven't had ice skates on for 26 years - Yeah, I can do this!
So off to "Play It Again Sports" I go. I pick up a pair of used skates, try them on, they feel OK - what do I know??? Then off to the book store for a book on hockey skating. Laura Stams "Power Skating" filled will all of the basics and advanced techniques for ice hockey skating. Then it was off to Sports Plus again for open skate.
Skates laced, walking to the door to the rink - confident (or am I defiant?) - "Power Skating" book in hand. I step out on the ice... Holy $#^!!! This is HARD!!! It speaks volumes as the 5 year olds skate backwards circles around your 36 year old fat butt. But alas, success. At the end of 90 minutes, I was able to skate forward and snowplow stop rather well if I do say so myself.

Next: The Puck Stops Here - Pt 2