It’s so strange… the duality of trying to experience normal things… in this (for now, at least) not-so-normal (NSN) world.

Three months behind schedule, Hastings Park finally opened for racing. It’s been more than 30 years since I’ve missed the opening day at the track. And to miss it on a day where we have horses running is off-the-charts inconceivable. But… no fans – not even owners – and only 25 days of racing… but it’s something. And… might I add… our first horse of the year… running in the very first race of the year…won! Way to go, Molesley. So… for at least 20 minutes, we were the leading owners, and we owned the best horse here. I can also say with certainly, by the time you’re reading this, “It was nice while it lasted.”

Also this morning, in this NSN world, I went for a haircut. I wrote about that experience a few weeks ago, but what hit me this time was the emptiness of the place. I was missing the external chatter that I’m often trying to filter out… especially one of the other hairdressers that’s sometimes there (certainly not today), who speaks Hungarian. I grew up around Hungarian as all four grandparents spoke it, and it was the language my parents spoke to each other when they wanted to discuss something not for childrens’ ears. As a result, of course, I learned to understand a fair bit. What also helped was my grandmother and her sister and their friends, all of whom spoke it to each other, and it especially helped that they always talked about the same things…. like food.

If you want a discussion about food in Hungarian, I’m your man. Where’s the food, what’s the food, bring the food, eat your food, this is great food, this is too cold, this is too hot. Actually, wait – “this is too hot” has never been uttered by an older Hungarian person. They will consume soup that is bubbling and boiling and will peel the inside of your mouth… and insist it needs to go back on the stove a bit longer.

On a few occasions at the hairdresser, I’m treated to overhearing a discussion in Hungarian, and it’s wonderful. Hungarian is a ridiculously unique and bizarre language, easily distinguishable from others… and it’s popped up in the strangest of places… including the racetrack, where a small group of old Hungarian guys used to hang out and yell the most incredible profanities at the horses, the trainers, the jockeys… and each other. It was great fun hanging out near them, overhearing it.

And at the hairdresser one time… a Hungarian couple, the older lady getting her hair done, her husband who’d gotten dragged along complaining about how long it was taking, the hairdresser telling him to shut up and let her work, he complaining to his wife that she promised they’d go elsewhere after but there won’t be time, the wife telling him to shut up and let it get done right, the guy saying that’s it, I’m never joining you here at the hair place again, both women telling him to shut up and stop being such a crybaby. Best haircut ever. Back in the non-NSN days… which will be back, one of these days… small steps, but surprised and delighted to announce this… in Ontario today, zero COVID deaths. Zero. First time in ages. And Quebec, just three deaths.

Like Molesley, Canada was out of the gate quickly and took control of the situation. Unlike Molesley, we haven’t won this race yet… still a half-mile to go… but we’re looking good. I think I’ll go cook some scaldingly-hot Goulash and round out a really good day.

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