Which leads me to my WTF? tale of the week. I went to Be'er Sheva last weekend. It was a great time; I saw an old friend, met his wife and newborn baby girl, drank some beer, and ate a little too well. The highlight of course was having a big bed in room of my own and access to a clean shower, one that didn't require wearing sandals while using it. The trip was the best part of my time here so far, other than meeting a couple of really great professors who actually seem to want to help me. But I digress, as I often do. The point was that such a trip necessitates bus travel. Israel actually has a very effective and efficient network of buses and other forms of public transit. Credit must be given when credit is due after all, except for one key point: bus arrival and departure times are very fluid in this country. In case anyone was wondering whether Jewish Standard Time was nothing but a myth or based on a trope that everyone has for their own cultures, it's actually institutional practice here for public transit.
Soldiers and civilians alike travel by bus all the time, and sometimes its hard to tell who is whom. I saw a few plain-clothed types who were armed, but with semi-concealed handguns. That's normal-ish, didn't really give me cause for concern. And Be'er Sheva is also home to a rather large base, so a couple of standard issue soldiers in uniform were also on the bus with their familiar companions on their shoulders. Nothing out of the ordinary. Fine, guns, what of it? Well, it seems that it isn't just soldiers who are allowed to carry these incredibly power tools of death. Who knew? I was sitting on the bus minding my own business when the bus stops in the middle of the desert, one of 3 stops between Jerusalem and Be'er Sheva (I was smart enough to take the "express bus") when a fellow in plain clothes and wearing a white knit Kippah gets on the bus, armed with one of these really big guns. It's standing room only at this point and he comes towards me, stops right beside me and calmly just hangs out for the duration of the trip. I was then face to face with an M16 for the next 45 minutes. I can assure you I didn't like it.
When I arrived in Be'er Sheva, I asked my friend if off-duty soldiers were allowed to carry those weapons, at which point he asked me what the fellow was wearing, intentionally asking about the knit Kippah. Turns out this guy wasn't army but instead a settler-I don't know if it's a "behind the green line illegally occupying a space according to the UN and international law" settler or a "living in the seam zone or ridiculously close to the wall" settler, but they're all allowed to bear arms. Remember, this is the weapon of choice for all in this country. Kingdom of fear indeed.
I really can't put up a post today and not talk about the magnificent play of the Oiler Hobbit. I remember only vaguely the sorts of hockey wizardry the old boys club used to be capable of, but I never expected to see anything like this in the post-dead-puck-bettman point-shanaban-goalies wearing pads bigger than the net era of hockey, but sure enough, it happened. It happened and it was absolutely incredible. The chemistry between these three players, at least for the last 40 minutes was incredible, especially on the final Gagner goal, where Hall, Eberle and Samwise looked like they were playing catch on a baseball diamond, but with the puck. It was ridiculous. 16 points between them, 8 points for Sam alone, and back to back exclamation points on a chicago team who shelled these Oilers 10-2 in their own barn a couple seasons back. Patrick Kane wanted revenge for the "we want 10" chant from the 9-2 game (repeated last night), yet he forgets it was these same frustrated fans who were chanting "we want 10" when the Hawks were wiping the floor with the Oilers, a chant filled with vitriol and bitterness that was fortunately turned back upon itself this season not once but twice. Let's enjoy these moments when they happen, but try not to dig too deep into the Oilers mythology or create a narrative about this being the turning point that launches boys on the bus 2. RNH isn't Gretzky, neither is Sam. Sam however has the incredible fortune of being able to share a record with 99. Last night we were able to see an amazing achievement for a player who might just be turning a corner. And from where I am sitting, that's good enough for me.