Istanbul, Turkey It was another great day on the European side of Istanbul, but twilight was quickly descending, and I feared that I wouldn’t be able to stave off the burning urge to run back to my hotel and check in on all online things NHL, for the first time in too many hours, for much longer. That was when a menacing figure appeared by my side…
Creep: I have seen you three times today.
Me: Oh… umm… really….???
Creep: Yes, and I said this time I am going to talk to her. I think it is a sign that you have a good heart for me.
Me: I don’t know about that. My heart belongs to another. (Kinda, sorta. Goes by the name of Hockey)
Who knows if the guy really did stalk me all day or if this was his attempt at being romantic, but, for what it’s worth, the creep would later add that I also had a good body for him too, whatever that means. Anyway, he wouldn’t leave me alone, so finally my friend pulled me into a random Turkish kebab shop, and loudly exclaimed that we were meeting our friends there any minute. What was most disturbing about the whole thing was that the creep actually took off with a guilty and criminal demeanor about him once he heard that other people were on their way.
The two of us waited around in the kebab shop as three confused kebab chefs ignored our strange-man plight, and kept trying unsuccessfully to take our order instead. Once we decided the coast was clear, and had officially lost our patience with men trying to stick their kebabs in us, we took off down the road toward the hotel. We started to laugh about how something like this would never happen in Saudi. If a strange man started talking to us on the street for more than a minute, you can bet your ass a half dozen cars would have stopped to shoo him away, or offer us a ride to safety. However, just as we were about to walk up to the hotel doors, our laughter was stifled when the most disturbing sound emerged from the shadows…
“Hellooooooooo, my loveeeeeee!”
The creep was literally singing these words in a tone that would come off as extremely unsettling in even the lamest horror flick. I had no idea where he had come from. No one was behind us as we were walking down the well lit road. I made sure to check periodically, as I am not stupid enough to lead guys like that to the place I sleep at night. It was like he had reappeared out of thin air.
My friend hadn’t realized that this was the same man who had confronted me a couple blocks away. So, thinking this was yet another creepy guy, she immediately hightailed it into the sanctuary of our hotel, dragging me along with her before I could tell her to keep walking. As she pulled me through the doors, the creep quickened his pace to avoid the penalty of getting caught by the hotel staff. But before he vanished into the night, he cocked his head towards me and grinned in a manner that was more of a threat than a smile,
“See you tomorrow.”
I never did see the creep again, but the following afternoon, while having lunch with friends on the other side of town, a bizarre little black and white cat would make me question if this was actually true. We were on the second floor of a cute little cafe, when one of the innumerable Istanbul strays darted in from the street, charged up the stairs, and dove straight into my lap. I wasn’t sure what to make of that, but within a couple minutes our waitress picked him up and tossed him out of the restaurant. Not 10 seconds later, that overly determined feline snuck in behind her, rushed straight up the stairs, and pounced right back into my lap again!
We all thought this was funny, but we couldn’t figure out what the cat was after. We thought he must have been hungry, but he refused all of our attempts to feed him. It seemed all he wanted to do was sit in my lap and purr. I joked that the creepy guy from the night before must have been some sort of sorcerer, and that he had transformed himself into a cat to finally make his way between my thighs. Perhaps, blending into the sea of stray animals in the old parts of the city would explain how he had been watching me undetected, and how he managed to sneak up on us out of nowhere the night before. Maybe if we had listened a little more carefully, we would have heard a voice emerge from his unwavering purrs, “I told you I’d see you again.”
I’m joking about the cat thing, of course, although that bizarre incident did actually happen. Istanbul is such an old and mystical city, though, so it’s fun to make up crazy, unexplainable theories. Anyway, I guess the textbook stalking (read: this is what a real stalker looks like) just reinforced what I already believed to be true. Whether it’s creepy stalker cat-men, random ass grabbers shouting, “I want you in my bed,” or a leather shop owner offering me free coats in exchange for my phone number and agreeing to be his girlfriend (I PAID for my coat, thanks), no good can come from traveling for non-hockey purposes!
Originally I had looked into going to Prague for my November vacation, but only the KHL club was playing in town over the break. And, although a KHL game would be more than incredible, it just doesn’t seem right to go to the Czech Republic and not see a Czech League game. With an NHL adventure slotted in for my January vacation, I still remain hopeful that I can conquer Czech hockey on either my February or March vacation periods. We shall see.
Anyway, since Prague was out of the question, I decided to check off Istanbul from the list of places I wanted to visit while in Arabia. When I left NHL Land this summer I knew what needed to be done. I had to find a way to finally cut the hockey cord. But, as to be expected, doing such things were easier said than done. In my time abroad, hockey seems to have become even more important to me than it was when I was actually living in the NHL’s biggest hockey hub. Hockey vacations have become my lifeline to career happiness and longevity, and I will admit I did experience withdrawal embarking on this particular hockey-less journey.
For me, hockey is real life. It gives meaning to the places I travel. Hockey ensures that I am always a fan and observer, and never a tourist. I feel like meeting the fans and watching the game from rinks all over the world, gives me a more authentic glimpse into local culture and customs than any museum or tour guide ever will. I’m Canadian, so I guess, to me, hockey is the only culture I can truly understand. Truthfully, my addiction has reached a point where I feel both lost and unmotivated when I am in a new place and I don’t have the promise of a 7PM puck drop to propel me through the day, as I roll out of my hotel bed each and every morning.
Yeah, I have issues, but you knew that already.