Not Pittsburgh, PA Today I was supposed to get on an airplane that would take me to the Philippines for two months of “work.” There are worst things in life than spending the winter on a tropical beach, that’s for sure. However, it was not to be, and I’ve started to realize that I have too much unfinished business in the hockey world to be able to start something new and not be tempted to look back. I set a goal for myself a couple years ago to experience the game at all thirty of the National Hockey League cities. The reason for this was simply that I loved hockey so much that I wanted to see what the other lovers of the game saw from their seats at rinks across North America. I wanted to meet the fans, eat the food, and watch their teams go into battle if only for one night. Before I left for Korea, I had been to twenty-three out of the thirty arenas, and those last seven rinks are like a storm cloud hanging over me.
During my first post-Korea hockey road trip, I started to have second thoughts about being back in North America. If there was one good thing about Korea, it was that life wasn’t real. Now that I’m back, I wake up every morning and I’m faced with reality: family, friends, finances, responsibility. Every day is like a nail in the woodworking of my future. It’s just so… real. I started to experience a lot of regrets while I was in New York. I started to feel like I had made a bad decision, and that now I was going to have to live with not only the consequences, but the reality that there is nothing better waiting for me on this side of the world.
I had to leave Michelle’s house at 3AM that morning. So while she was sleeping, I had a lot of time to kill with the wi-fi. For some reason a bunch of my Korea-based friends decided to message me all at once. They all complained about how their lives have been boring since I’ve left, and how miserable they are now. And if that didn’t make me feel guilty enough, I was informed that my boss in Korea died suddenly a few days before. I know my disappearance caused a lot of unnecessary stress on the higher ups of the organization, so a part of me wonders if that stress contributed to his untimely demise. He was only in his fifties. He, like most of us, lived alone, and so by the time they found him it was too late. Although, I’ve seen and heard stories of foreigners suffering all sorts of illnesses and untimely fates while in Korea, I wasn’t any less shocked to receive the news that night.
I found myself on yet another monumental quest. I had to somehow find my way from New Jersey to LaGuardia. This trip was hard. I like having my car with me. Waa! Between bus rides, and wandering around Manhattan in the middle of the night, and in the freezing cold, I was pretty quick to accept a ride from a hotel limo while I was contemplating giving up the shuttle option. I was headed back to Buffalo to pick up my car and head back home. I had been on the fence all weekend about heading to Pittsburgh for the Coyotes game. I haven’t been to the new rink in Pittsburgh yet, obviously, so I have to give Steel Town another visit to complete my mission. However, touching down in Buffalo only to hit the road again was all too familiar. “Don’t go down that road again. You don’t need that bullshit.” I stopped myself from going, and did the mature thing and just went home, but not before my driver that night gave me something to think about.
The driver was a bit of a strange one between asking to go for coffee with me, and his various bits of advice, but one thing he said really made my ears perk up. Out of nowhere he starts giving me a lecture on happiness. I found this very bizarre as this advice was prompted by nothing. He told me that no matter what I do, I need to make sure that I’m happy. Jobs, money, everything should be second to my happiness. He told me that my mandate should be to make the person I see in the mirror happy each and every day. What was stranger still was that two more people would randomly give me the same advice that day.
This was very relevant advice. All night I was having second thoughts and regrets that I had done the wrong thing when I decided to fly home, but the truth was I was really unhappy in that final stretch in Korea. And in terms of hockey, hockey does make me happy, and sadly the team that I like to follow the most is Phoenix. Remember what I said about not being able to go back? Sometimes you get exposed to something, and suddenly everything else just isn’t as good. The Phoenix experience, for me, is always really amusing. Whether it’s good or bad, I don’t experience that kind of drama with any other team, and so, sometimes, the other teams just bore me. I still wouldn’t go to Pittsburgh that day, I wanted to give myself some time to think. It took days before I decided the fate of the Phoenix Coyotes in the Psycho Lady story. Now, I’m not stupid. There’s some drama and bullshit I’m not willing to put up with for the sake of entertainment. So, I’ve decided to give Phoenix one more shot, one final game to determine if they are the team that I’m still willing to follow. If so much as one thing goes wrong this time, I will take it as a sign, a sign I arguably should have processed years ago, that it’s time to move onto the next one.
See you in Minnesota.
Top Photo: I’m not really a fan of this pic, but one thing that always struck me about it was how happy I looked. Philadelphia Flyers @ Boston Bruins March 3rd, 2009.