Tuesday, November 24, 2015


 No hockey talk today, actually this is a serious piece, or as serious as I get anyhow. So if you don't want talk about terrorists and the world today (and I wouldn't blame you one bit) then come another time. I won't hold it against you. ;)

 Last spring I was out for pints with my good friend. Jenn was in the middle of a whirlwind of trips, some business, some personal, and she had said to me that I should probably do something, it had been a while for me and she felt bad.

 So I was talking to my pal on the back patio of the Only Cafe, I am pretty sure that's where we were, we had kicked this around a bit and so he mentioned that he had a work trip in the fall and the conference was being held in Frankfurt. Now Frankfurt held no interest for us but he said that Budapest was not that far away and it was supposed to be a pretty cool place and so maybe we could figure something out there.

 As it turned out his show ended up actually taking place in Hamburg. No regrets there, I flew in and we hung out in Hamburg and Berlin and we had an amazing time.

 So this year Jenn ended up lucky enough to go to Cambodia to do some volunteer work (a cause that we were astounded to have many of the folks who regularly come here generously contribute to) and so I floated the idea that I might also like to hit the road once again. She agreed and when I spoke to Higgins I found out that one of his company's shows was going to be held in ... you guessed it, Budapest.

 So Jenn booked the time off and I began to research it. It's funny, I don't think of myself as well travelled but of course that is more my circle of friends than reality. I never thought of Germany or Hungary as places I would visit but Germany was fantastic and it became clear that Budapest might be really amazing.

 As early November neared though a snag hit and my friend could not make it. Jenn's only caveat for these trips is that I have a travelling companion and so it looked like my plans were scuttled and I might end up going back to Dublin where I have friends who could put me up, keep me out of trouble and put my body on a plane home if shit went awry. No complaints, I love Dublin, but I've been a few times and was hoping for somewhere new.

 And then my inlaws, bless them, suggested that as they were coming at the time that Jenn and I, planning to travel next year for our fifteenth anniversary, take this opportunity to celebrate a bit early. And not knowing what tomorrow might bring we thought why the hell not.

 Jenn would say 'Why Budapest, what is there' but when I put alternatives to her she said no let's go, it looks interesting and this has been the plan all along. So we flew direct into Vienna, spent some time there and then took the train to Budapest.

 Vienna was lovely and I don't want to sell it short but Budapest. Oh Budapest. Man I would go back tomorrow if I could. Beautiful and vibrant and gritty and elegant and we walked through the markets and spent the afternoon at a bath and hiked the hills of Buda overlooking the Danube and ate and drank on patios and in bars hidden down alleyways in the old Jewish Quarter and when we left we looked at each other and we could barely believe our good fortune at having experienced it. Lovely Budapest.

 And shortly after our return Paris happened.


 I talked to Mom and Dad last night, checking in, planning our trip up in a few weeks to see them and celebrate the holidays. My parents aren't fearful folk but Mom said oh I was glad to know that you were back home and it's not even safe to travel anymore and we talked about how horrible these events were.

 And it's frightening of course. I think of those poor people minding their business and what happened and I am sad and I am scared. We were in Paris two years ago in late October, us and the kids, and I cannot even imagine it, the terror, the sorrow, the heartbreak.

 But we'll go back. As I said I'd go back to Budapest tomorrow and if you said hey Pat here's the money and the time off, go to Paris, I would go in a heartbeat.

  I stay away from the big picture in this space. If you come here at all then you know that to me the big picture is my family and friends and our neighbourhood, good food and drink, some laughs, enjoying what life brings that is good, enduring the inevitable sorrow.

 But our world is a horrible place in many ways. It always has been, humans have been slaughtering each other since they came down from the trees. Things are better than they have ever been, I truly believe that, but people will always do awful things until there are no people left to do them.

 The longterm fixes to what is going on are complicated and difficult and you know what is scary? You could resolve Syria and resolve young men, the sons of immigrants, feeling alienated and angry and you could fix all of these problems somehow (and believe me I am aware that there may not be the political will power or smarts to do so) and we will still see what we saw a couple of weeks ago.

 Guns are easy to get a hold of and there are no shortage of young men who are willing to use them. Call them crazy or fanatical or bigots or whatever you will but you can arm half the populace and still get Columbine and Sandy Hook and theatres and parks and restaurants and churches shot up in the States.

 So it's going to happen. It will happen again in Paris and it will happen in London and New York and in cities in Africa and Asia and Australia and South and Central America. It will happen here in Canada some day too and just pray (or if you don't pray, I'm not one for prayer, then hope) that you are not around when it does, unluckily in the wrong place at the wrong time, like poor Nathan Cirillo was.

 I guess that sounds like a horrible thing to think, a dark and pessimistic way of looking at things but I look at it as a simple reality.

 What do we do? Well I'm not smart enough to answer that regarding the big picture and I'm not getting into the politics of it but unless you intend to deport every person you think may be a threat to the citizens of this country (and for some people that is, well that's a lot of people including millions who are citizens of this country) and have soldiers on every street corner then you're not going to prevent awful things from happening. And even then awful things would happen, It's sad but true.

 So I intend to travel and go to cafes and restaurants and pubs. I intend to think the best of people and to try and make my corner of the world better and to teach my kids about what is right and what is wrong. I can see some of you sneering at this, it's airy-fairy shit you are thinking, but the truth is that it's all I can do and really it's all that most of us can do. Try and make your little corner of the world a better place. Try and be kind. Try not to let hatred and fear rule the day. Live and enjoy what you can.

 That's all.

 Anyhow it's been nearly ten years here and I have never written anything like this before, probably for good reason. Back to our regularly scheduled posts about beer league hockey, my kids and those Oilers, I promise. :)


Loxy said...

I believe in not living in fear. There is much of which we can be fearful, and more each and every day. There's too much in this world, in this country, in your community, to experience.

Also, I can't say enough about Slovenia where we visited in September. What a beautiful country with people who were incredibly friendly. https://www.flickr.com/photos/loxy/albums/72157658890189288

Stephen Sheps said...

I'm with you, Loxy re: not living in fear. I think back to my own experiences doing research in Israel/Palestine back in 2012 and getting caught in the wrong place at the wrong time and rockets falling out of the sky. But life has to go on, as normal and without fear. It just does, and for the most part, the people who live in the places where this kind of thing is unfortunately normal (whether it be terror driven or drone-based violence, the results are the same), finding and maintaining normalcy in the midst of shit is all we can hope for.

As to Budapest, I'll be going in June for an academic conference - Pat, you're gonna be proud of me... I'm finally starting to write my book on racism and nationalism in hockey, and the sociology of sport people were dumb enough to let me come to their congress and talk about it. I'd love suggestions...

Black Dog said...

Great stuff Erin and yes thanks to you Slovenia is on my radar now.

Great comment Stephen and congratulations on your work, put me down for a copy.

I will email you suggestions on Budapest, you will love it.

Stephen Sheps said...

don't congratulate me yet, Pat! I still have to land a book deal and actually write the thing, but it's starting.

looking forward to your suggestions.