My mom’s friend Fran has Penguins season tickets. I’m not sure if she couldn’t go one Friday night a little over a week ago or if she didn’t want to–her husband recently had surgery and is walking with a cane–but either way, she offered my mom tickets, who in turn asked Brandon and I if we were interested. Brandon couldn’t go, but I was all for it, so Fran had them waiting for me at the arena’s box office and I took Paul to his first Pens game.

The Pens haven’t been doing well. In fact, two guys behind us spent much of the game accurately commenting on things like their careless shots and sloppy passing, and although it ended up being a pretty exciting, close game that went to a shootout, we lost. And for the Pens’ management, it must’ve been one loss too many, because they fired the coach the next day.

So I just so happened to get tickets for what ended up being the former coach’s last game, which is kind of a cool thing to be able to say. And the team is still looking rough, but the last time we fired a coach mid-season, we won the Stanley Cup.

As traffic and construction in Pittsburgh get increasingly frustrating, I’ve decided to use public transportation more. There’s a T stop at a mall 30 to 45 minutes from my apartment–depending, of course, on traffic–that runs all the way into the city, and it started to look more and more appealing. I didn’t want to mess with trying to take it for the Pens game since the timing would be kind of tight, although in retrospect it probably would’ve been easier, but we did try it the next day when we went to our annual “Nutcracker” trip with Brandon and Kelly.

It was a godsend. Finding the actual stop and parking took some time–we’d missed the train we’d been aiming to take, and we weren’t sure until we grabbed a map just how often they ran. But when Brandon and I were coordinating, I’d allowed for a good bit of time, and he was under instruction to get a table at Burgatory if we were running late and just wait for us.

A few weeks ago, I had my dad pick up a card you can load with cash to use to pay on the T rather than needing exact change. I found out I couldn’t use it to pay for both Paul and I, so we bought him a 10-trip pass that’s good for a month and actually used his trips on both of us and were able to work it out so we can use the 10 perfectly by this weekend. So we got that figured out and got on the subway.

Really, it’s a longer commute to take it. If traffic is clear with no road closures due to construction, we can be in the city within 45 minutes. Taking the T just about doubles that, but unless you’re absolutely positive there’s no traffic, it’s so worth it. It’s much less hassle, and depending on where we’re going, it’s cheaper than parking. Plus the small bits of walking do me good.

We were only a little late for dinner with Brandon and Kelly, and they’d dug into appetizers and milkshakes anyway. I’m a big fan of Burgatory, or anyone who does a nice, flavorful veggie burger. It’s a surefire way to get me as a loyal customer, really. You offer me just about any burger on your menu with the option to swap for a veggie patty and you’ll never lose me.

Of course, “The Nutcracker” was beautiful as always. I’ve seen it every Christmas for three or four years now, and I’m not tire of it. I still get excited. I still love watching it.

And this isn’t something I really think about, but it is pretty cool that Brandon, Kelly, Paul, and I have our own little annual tradition.

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