Saturday, August 19, 2017

Morning in Barcelona

“It could have been worse” is a phrase we’ve all heard and most of us have probably used. Usually after something bad happens.

(Actually, as I try to start out on that foot, I can’t avoid noting how we have a president in the United States right now who appears intent on proving nearly every single day that yes, it can be worse. But I’ll avoid that digression just now.)

Depending on the context, the phrase “it could have been worse” can have different connotations and thus produce different effects.

In certain circumstances, it can be genuinely comforting to recognize that whatever bad thing has happened, it wasn’t as bad as other possible events. You leave your wallet behind at a restaurant, but when you return an hour later they’ve kept it for you and gladly return it. It could have been worse, you say.

Sometimes, though, it feels trite or hollow to make such a remark, especially when the bad thing that happened is much, much worse than some mundane, easily handled inconvenience. That said, as I sit in my hotel room here in Barcelona this morning catching up with the latest details regarding the terrorist attack that occurred Thursday about two miles from here at La Rambla in the city’s center -- and the subsequent attack occurring in Cambrils about 70 miles away -- it’s hard not to shudder at the thought of how much worse it could have been.

Still, like I say, that rings hollow. Such senseless, deranged horror perpetrated on so many innocents, and for no reason whatsoever other than to serve some mindless, indefensible, inhumane cause. (And frustratingly reprising several other attacks here in Europe, as well as another deranged and deadly decision made for similarly stupid reasons in Virginia a week ago.)

You’re following the coverage, too, so I won’t rehearse all of the details I’m learning both through various news sources and via conversations here where I’ve come to help cover the PokerStars Barcelona Championship series already underway. Suffice it say, the circumstantial evidence strongly suggests more ambitiously cruel plans by the perpetrators failed to be realized for various reasons (including some swift action on the part of Spanish police).

It was sickening to follow the story two days ago from the farm while I was packing for the trip, the chest tightening more than a little at the thought of my many friends and other familiar and friendly poker folks who were already here. Brad Willis provided a thorough and sensitive explanation of this feeling yesterday for the PokerStars blog in a post titled “On terror, fear, and perseverance in Barcelona.”

That post includes a photo my friend and fellow reporter Alex Villegas took yesterday, as well as some by another friend and colleague, Neil Stoddart. (That's another of Neil’s up above.) Catalan officials have declared three days of mourning, lasting through the weekend.

Alex arrived in the morning on Friday, and since our check-in wasn’t until later in the afternoon he spent that time over at La Rambla as we’ve done before on past visits to this beautiful, inviting coastal city. I came a little later (though still too early to get a room), and he and I spent much of the afternoon talking about various things, including those many memorials now dotting the pedestrian path.

We begin work today, the first of what will be nine straight days of reporting. There is some cloud cover this morning, though the usual deep blue is nonetheless gamely starting to peek through up above.

It’s my fourth trip here, and before coming I had plans once more to get out when I can to see the city and its people. I still plan to do so, and will likely get over to La Rambla at some point as Alex and Neil have already done.

It’s good to be among my many friends who like me have been here many times. It’s also good to be among the always friendly and inviting people who live here. I’m glad to be back.

Photo: courtesy Neil Stoddart / PokerStars blog.

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