60 Books In 2019 #38: Check Please: Book 1: #Hockey By Ngozi Ukazu

I don’t consider this comic Very Serious ArtTM at all, but I do consider it to be something even better: fun. – Ngozi Ukazu Foreward to Check Please

As a woman who has a complicated but deeply loving relationship with fandom, sports and bro culture, I was kind of nervous about reading Check Please. I was raised by a bro, and lived my life surrounded by them. I speak their language fluently, I understand that toxic bros have hurt and broken many people, but I knew only rowdy love and kindness from them all my life. No bro has ever made me defend my love of the Manning brothers or quizzed me about Zac Brown Songs I prefer. They did not say I was wearing that Hawaiian shirt to a Jimmy Buffett concert “for the attention” or scoffed when I couldn’t keep the plots of The Fast And The Furious sequels straight.

Bros are my brother, and future brother in law, and cousins and friends. I will drink PBR and defend Sublime in their honor against nerds for always. (In turn, I will also defend my nerd loves to the bros. I walk between worlds.)

Check Please is a warm bro-ey hug and I was so grateful for it. (I have gotten many of these hugs over the years, they’re great!) The comic is based around the experiences of Erik Bittle, a college hockey player who switched from figure skating for scholarship reasons. Bitty, as his teammates call him, comes to Samwell College in Boston from a smal town in Georgia, with a love of baking and pop songs and a deep fear of being checked.

Bitty’s also gay, not quite in the closet, but not quite out, really into vlogging and has a SUPER crush on his captain, the broody, mysterious Jack Zimmerman.

Bitty is, to use a fandom term I’ve never been particularly fond of, a total cinnamon roll. All I want to do is hug him and tell him he’s wonderful and perfect and deserves love. Luckily, this is what his teammates and friends, Shitty, Ransom, Holster and many others shower him with all the time.

And then there’s Jack. *SWOON*

This first volume ends with Bitty and Jack’s first kiss and it’s adorably well earned, but mostly, I just devoured this book like one of Bitty’s sweet pies, because of the healthy warm masculinity it models. There’s so much talk about toxic masculinity but less talking and modeling about the aspects that are good. The weird bonding rituals and group hugs and SO MUCH BEER DRINKING, that’s largely harmless and delightful and fun.

Ngozi Ukazu didn’t set out to make VERY SERIOUS ART with Check Please but I think she might have anyway.

Also, the book is so stinking cute, and volume 2 isn’t available yet! Which AHHHH!!!!

Up next is Party Of The Century: The Fabulous Story Of Truman Capote And His Black And White Ball by Deborah Davis. Showbiz bios are fun for everyone!

What’s Next?

If I had never met my friend Crystan, my entire life would be different. That’s true of many of my friends, but Crystan changed my life in one of the most tangible ways possible. I chose my college because of her.

Go Royals!

Go Royals!

See, when I was a senior in high school, I didn’t get into my first choice school. It was a blow, because I’d been dreaming of going there since I understood what college was. I’d applied to several other schools that were in the same vein, of course. Smaller cities, liberal arts focused but not exclusive, Jesuit. I’d gone to visit Scranton that summer and liked it, but wasn’t sold.

Crystan sold me. I stayed with her when I did an overnight visit, and it was there that I learned that social life in college wasn’t all drinking bad keg beer, and avoiding getting date raped. (I mean, I did plenty of that too, when the time came.) Crystan and her roommate Sarah were like me. We talked about Newsies and Dawson’s Creek, we watched Grey’s Anatomy and ate junk food. It was a transforming experience.

My friendship with them always continued. We took Shakespeare courses together. I had my first legal drink at their apartment. I am endlessly grateful for their friendship

So on Wednesday when Crystan asked me if I wanted to meet her in the city for a West Wing Trivia Night, well, that was it. I went. We didn’t do so well at trivia but it was a fun night none the less. We giggled remembering fun moments about West Wing, and other things that we love. We talked about life.We talked about Scandal and Veronica Mars, and how despite the fact that we’re working and trying to live we still want to write, and create the next “thing,” that girls will sit in dorm rooms and talk about.

That’s kind of the deal when it comes to old friends, a lot of the time when you’re around them you become the best version of yourself that you were when you first met them. When I’m with Crystan, I’m an idealistic 18 year old, who wants to write the next great teen soap.

I mean, I still want to do that, but back then I thought it was an actual possibility.

Of The TARDIS and Old Friends

Last night I had dinner with my college roommate Jen. I’ve talked about my relationship with Jen before, and last night she summed it up even better, “There was just no filter in that room. We just talked about whatever ridiculous things came into our heads.”

Usually, it was about this.

Usually, it was about this.

Dinner was about twenty minutes of us catching up, (Jen is working for the New York Public Library, I’m at the hotel. We both live at home. We both kind of can’t stand it, but can’t afford to change the situation at the moment. Hooray!) and then five minutes of reminiscing about a trip to Florida we took sophomore year, and then an hour and a half of talking about Star Trek and Doctor Who.

Jen was not happy with the way Star Trek Into Darkness turned out. “But I did go to see it…twice.” We chatted about the things that annoyed me, and she agreed with most of them, (She also thinks that bring Spock Prime in was pandering. HOORAY! I had a correct Trekkie response to this. To me this is like when “The Rain in Spain,” minus the dancing.)

There might have been some dancing

There might have been some dancing

Then we moved into Doctor Who. I always love talking to people about Doctor Who, because even among geeky people, it’s like having a secret password into a club. And that club is bigger on the inside.

We talked about Davies VS Moffat. (We prefer Moffat episodes, but Davies story archs.) Why 10 is better than 11. (He just is.) And God almighty, was there ever some Rose Tyler love being passed around that table, our distaste for River Song, and how weird it is that even though we don’t really care either which way for Martha Jones, all of her episodes are great. This may just be because of Captain Jack.

Always being on the same page with Jen about so many things has been what keeps the fact that we’re not on the same page about so many others from getting in the way of being friends. (I won’t get into those other things, I love her so much, that’s the important part.)

What strange about my friendship with Jen is that she doesn’t have a facebook. So when we see each other, the catch up time isn’t nominal. I actually had no idea what was going on in her life for the past year, because except for the occasional text or email we didn’t have much contact. So these dinners, lunches and quick attempt to reconnect are actually amazing.

And being around people you can just pick up with is always great.

Like, always, always.

Of The USS Enterprise and Old Friends

Going in to college I definitely had a little bit of the nerd thing going on. Mostly concentrated on my love of musical theatre and the bizarre Mighty Ducks fanfiction thing, but extending into the mainstream nerd-fests of Harry Potter and Lord of The Rings, and obviously Batman.

But I was deeply closeted. Like a midwestern Baptist gay kid on a Ryan Murphy show, I was about to discover my true self. Because for the first time in my life I was spending my time around other nerds almost exclusively.

Because generally speaking, “cool kids” don’t attend small liberal arts colleges in North Eastern Pennsylvania and join the choir and student theater group and the yearbook. Do you know who does do those things? Nerds.

But it was mostly because of Jen.

Jen was my freshman year roommate. Jen owned her nerdiness in a way that completely awed me. She didn’t scribble fanfiction in her journal in the middle of the night and hope no one found out. She just laughed when I finally admitted to it and talked about playing Redwall RPG’s. Jen didn’t silently thank the TV powers that be that The West Wing ended our senior year of high school because then she didn’t have to admit to her new college friends that she loved it. No, Jen owned and displayed her West Wing box sets proudly. (Only the first 3 seasons, anything post Sorkin was not worth her time or attention.)

Jen and I sat around late at night talking about C.S. Lewis or Arthur Conan Doyle. We watched Futurama reruns and introduced some of our favorite things to each other. (Jen to Me: Quantum Leap, Me to Jen: Kevin Smith and Orlando.)

Pictured: Me feeding Jen to Jaws at Universal Orlando. The girl looking away is our other friend, Jenna.

Pictured: Me feeding Jen to Jaws at Universal Orlando. The girl looking away is our other friend, Jenna.

Then, one night, we watched a Star Trek marathon on TV Land. I’d never watched Star Trek before. Basically, everything I knew about it was from Futurama. One of the episodes that I clearly remember, was the episode “Mirror, Mirror.”  In this episode Captain Kirk travels to an alternate universe where everyone is evil, except Spock, who is Spock with a beard.

I don’t know. It made an impact, because I thought it was pretty stupid but still gave a crap. Also, I understood the premise as it was the same as Bizarro world from Superman. Anyway, with the switch of Good Kirk and Evil Kirk, of course Good Kirk had to have sex with someone, a character that Jen and I still refer to, to this day as “Bizarro Space Whore.” I wasn’t hooked on Star Trek. I still didn’t love the show. It was too slow, too cheesy, I came to it too late in life. But I understood now, I got why people did love it. And I found my own things to love.

When the first J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie came out, we were both wary. Jen because she loved Star Trek and me because I didn’t, but loved Lost.

We went to go see it multiple times the weekend it came out. We loved it. It had it’s problems, but we loved when Kirk found Old Spock on Hoth (I mean, that other Ice Planet, that was totally not Hoth.) we loved Karl Urban as Bones, we loved Anton Yelchin as Chekov.

With Star Trek: Into Darkness coming out next week I was just thinking about Jen, and how lucky I was to have someone who was so at home with herself and didn’t care if I was just myself. She’s a great friend and I miss her very much.

Live Long and Prosper, Jennifer. I’ll always think of you when I notice a red shirt. And of course I’ll be thinking of you next weekend when I go to see Into Darkness.