A few summers ago my wife and I were in Canada and we stopped in Montreal. They had a week-long event called the “Festival of Laughs.” We were advised by a friendly woman to take the subway to the Place de Arts. The train was clean and people had contented looks on their faces.

When we got off the train, we discovered blocks and blocks of fun. Yes, it really was a novel and enjoyable event.

A stage had been set up on one street and people were invited to come out of the audience and participate in skits and competitions. Two young people jumped on stage and raced across the floor on their hands and knees while balancing a big rubber ball on their backs. The large audience laughed amiably and cheered them on.

Around the corner a whole block was devoted to games. I don’t know who created them, but they were all quite unique. In one section about 100 games had been set up on the sidewalk. They were all on legs, waist high, for two people to play. One game involved using rubber
bands to shoot ping pong balls through a hoop. Another game had people balance blocks on moving wheels. All games were made of wood.

Across the street was a large cage in which people were playing hockey. People were lined up down the block to play this game. It was a life-sized version of a miniature hookey game, with six bars where people stood and kicked a soccer ball towards the opponent’s goal. Two people acted as goalies. A referee made sure people only kicked the ball from their bar, and didn’t reach back to kick a ball that belonged to the bar behind. Players, who were mostly strangers, were laughing and having a good time. Nobody seemed to care what anybody’s politics was.

As I watched the game I couldn’t help thinking about New York, where I have lived and worked for many years. I had never seen anything like a festival of laughs in New York and didn’t think I would see one there in the near future, though it was greatly needed. This thought made me doubly appreciate what I was experiencing.

We did have the “hippie era” back in the late 1960s in the USA, but that was basically a rebellion. It was not accepting or unifying. Anybody over 30 was suspect and hence this era was not inclusive of all. And so I reveled in the friendly spirit of the Festival of Laughs and went with it.

When I returned to America and got on the subway, I saw the usual unhappy faces and people were reading newspapers with the usual headlines. There was not good news. Democrats were calling Republicans names and Republicans were bashing Democrats. And there had been another school shooting, the second in a month. As usual, people were calling for gun control.

Reading about the new shootings put me into a foul mood. I was no longer in the mood for a Festival of Laughs. I was no longer in the mood to relax and play. Oh Canada! Where are you now.

For some reason mass killings are rare in Canada. I can’t imagine why.