A Momentary Reverie

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Perhaps it is no coincidence that Proust started his famous work with a memory triggered by the aroma of fresh baked bread. (I could be mistaken because, despite my literary bent, I have not tackled the book yet. I am going to have to someday because I made a promise to my French teacher….)

Back to triggering memories because today, at the end of a long day of tests, a moment in the subway triggered a whole cascade of memories of my early twenties. Let me explain.

I took occupancy of a space near the left had door. It gave a good view of most of the train car and was one of the few places available as other commuters had taken up the seats.  I was buried in my latest book, making no eye contact.

As I said, I became aware of two passengers having what appeared to be a very polite conversation. I am not sure whether I keyed in on the visual or the audio first.  I suspect it was the visual because I could barely hear them.  They were speaking in low tones that could only barely rise above the rattle and hum of the subway making its way home to a northern terminus.

One of the women was wearing a traditional Japanese Kimono and lugging around a large case. I immediately suspected a musical instrument of some kind.  The other lady was dressed in elegant clothes befitting her age.  I heard Japanese words and phrases come tumbling out of their mouths and instantly I was back in Japan.

I was back there on the platform of Hashimoto station waiting for the train to Osaka.  The tiny platform kiosk offered interesting snacks and drinks.  The people were reading newspaper headlines that were unknown to me.  The station announcements elusively giving information that I couldn’t understand at first but grew to understand in my time there.

I remember the bakeries, the vending machines, the sound of the kindergarten kids walking in my neighbourhood, the sound of the pachinko parlours, the clop of the waterfall at the Japanese garden. I remember the sushi aisle in the supermarket.  I remember driving on the left hand side of the road.  I remember the sticker of the radio station Funky802 that adorned my car.  I remember the quiet and loud moments that made up my existence. I remember my students struggling with English and I remember their triumphs.

My reverie was cut short when we pulled into the station. I let the ladies exit first, automatically saying どうぞ  (“douzo” :Japanese for please go ahead).  It seemed normal to her and she didn’t even do a double take.  Secretly, I am hoping it hit her later on in the evening and either made her ponder or smile.

Posted in Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, commuting, ESL, Japan, Japanese, memory, public address, public transportation, subway, vending machine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lies MY Bus Stop Tells Me

Modern technology has come a long way.  My bus stop can now tell me when the next bus is coming.  It certainly beats trying to figure out a confusing schedule written by a some sort of cryptographer or exotic language specialist.  However it doesn’t always work.

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I arrived just in time to catch my bus.  Oh wait.  Did something happen when I wasn’t looking?  Was there some sort of temporal shift?  In the time it was suppose to take to get to me, it actually hadn’t moved.  Maybe it went backwards.

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This is no big deal in the relatively balmy Autumn weather.  I don’t think I will be so amused come winter time.

Posted in Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, bus, commuting, public transportation, transportation, TTC, Viva, winter | Leave a comment

Moonlighting

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Apart from not being centred well, I have finally figured out what is wrong with this picture.  I am no expert, but I am pretty sure I shouldn’t have to start and end my commute under moonlight.

Since this will continue until spring, I will stop complaining now.

Posted in Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, bus, commuting, complaints, public transportation, subway, transportation, work | 2 Comments

Lacking Context on the Crowded Side of the Street

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Looking west on Eglinton Avenue

 

When leaving the subway station, I turn left and head to work. Like in all things, linear or not, there are options.  My option my not be another route, but I do get to choose the side of the street I walk on.  It might only be the north or south side, but it can make all the difference.

The south side begins with the remains of the bus platform which was “temporarily” relocated under some other buildings ten years ago. Now it is a rundown piece of expensive undeveloped property.  If you have been following Toronto real estate prices, you can imagine how expensive this is.  It does give way to some rather nice old apartment buildings whose rents are probably sky high.  It has a great view of the north side’s more impressive view.

The north begins with a brand new Sephora cosmetics store which hides a high end European coffee shop, which gives way to a bank which then gives way to other less spectacular, though useful, enterprises.  It usually has more people and I have often dubbed it the crowded side of the street.  There is no view really and you have to pass a whole lot of smokers sitting on architectural features of the new Sephora cosmetics store.  I wonder if they anticipated that when they designed the building.  They aren’t benches, but the serve a purpose like one.

I wonder when they will enforce that no smoking next to building rule.

Today, owing to the light being green, and perhaps desiring to see the crowds up close, I ventured down the crowded side of the road. It wasn’t faster but it did provide me with a moment that I had to share.

I passed two women saying goodbye to each other as they exited the shopping mall between the bank and the cosmetic store. They were young, urban and attractive.  I glanced at them and kept moving towards my destination when I heard this snippet of their conversation.

“Come with me.”

“I can’t.  I am really busy now.  I have to make a salad.”

I repeat their conversation here, not to belittle them or mock them, but rather to wonder about context. Things heard out of context can certainly be confusing.  I always tell my students that context is important, but if I am stumped, how could they possibly handle it.

As I walked to work, I thought about the exchange. I asked myself many questions hoping to decipher the riddle.  How big a salad was it?  How complicated was it?  She just came out of a supermarket that sells pre-made salads.  If it is making you busy, you could just buy one already made, couldn’t you?  Had I missed the intonation clues that would have indicated that salad making was only one of many tasks?

While I was pondering this, I noticed that the two of them were both behind me a block after they had parted. I was tempted to ask them, but as I turned, I realized that one of them was even more attractive than I thought when I passed them.  In the time I took to process that, the two were hugging and saying goodbye again.  I didn’t want to interfere in their moment, so I kept walking.

Rather than write this, I should be sleeping…but I have too many unanswered questions.

Posted in Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, bus, commuting, constructions, conversation, cosmetics, Eglinton LRT, listening, questions, subway, talking, Toronto, Toronto Real Estate, TTC, Yonge and Eglinton | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Epiphany on a T-shirt

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The only problem with taking books out of the library is that you’ve got to read them before somebody else wants them. My books were coming due and I had two more to read.  I tried renewing them, but one book had a hold on it.

So, I trundled off to the library to return my books and search for some others. As it was a glorious day, perhaps the last one of summer, I decided to walk to the library.  I didn’t even bother to plug in some music.  I wanted those last sounds of summer.

I took a chance on a bunch of authors I had never read and headed back home.

Out there on the street, on a rather linear route home, the Perfect Moment happened. As I was passing under a covered sidewalk section in front of some construction, my eyes temporarily shaded from the sun, I cam upon a child with a T-shirt full of epiphany.

Don’t Just Dream It

Do It!

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Maybe I am just too obsessed with epiphanies. Maybe it’s all those times I read Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man.  I think James Joyce would agree with me.  Epiphanies are out there, and a lot had to line up to put me in front of that t-shirt.  A few metres earlier or later, I would have been squinting and maybe not seen the sign.

Either way, I think that the message is a pretty clear.

 

Posted in Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, epiphany, James Joyce, librarian, library | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Thanks for the Thanks

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Today’s Perfect Moment is in recognition of my students. After seeing my haul of Swiss Chocolate and other goodies, it might be obvious to you, but I sometimes forget that my students can be rather appreciative of my teaching efforts.

I certainly enjoy the foodstuffs they share with me (especially the chocolate and occasional bottle of real tequila) and I express my thanks personally. However, from time to time, I would like to do it more publicly.

A little background first.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am not really a card person. On my birthday, I would rather you not bought me a card from the expensive card store.  Getting one from the dollar store is certainly better.  Best of all would be putting that dollar towards my gift or buying yourself a drink.  I appreciate the card, but I am not going to hold onto it forever.

In the past couple of weeks, I received a number of thank you cards from students. What makes this better is that I know the composing of the message in English was more challenging than when I send Christmas cards.  It takes me very little time to scratch out a Merry Christmas or Happy Holiday message, complete with flowery adjectives and wordy wishes for the future.  For my students, they have to work pretty hard to express themselves and sum up the time we have spent together.

Much appreciated

 

Posted in appreciation, Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, dollar store, greeting cards, students, thanks | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Taking a Ride on the Niagara Escarpment

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On Sunday I participated in the Epic Tour Halton, or the GTA Gran Fondo. Despite the name confusion for me, it was the same event I took part in last year.  If you recall, last year’s event took place during a rather windy and cold day that I was unprepared for.  For those looking to revisit that post,  and relive my foolishness please click here.

I signed up early for this event…probably in February or March. Having survived the 125 kilometre route in 2015, I had high ambitions to take on the 140km route.  I figured that a second solid season of group riding would prepare me for such a ride.  Fifteen kilometres would only add less than an hour to my journey; less if I improved my fitness over the course of the year.

Well….the summer was great for my riding. I didn’t get out nearly enough times.  I could blame the club for starting earlier, or for dropping me a few times, but the truth is that I made some choices.  I opted for Friday nights out trying to meet people and not getting back on a sensible food regimen.  As early as a month before the big ride, I was starting to regret my choice.

The event started the longer distances earlier and staggered the starts. The idea was for everyone to finish about the same time and have a real festival atmosphere at the end.  (Last year the rain seemed to kill that plan)  This meant that I should get there at a particular time to do the route.  Owing to my typical lack of get up and go this year, I did not make it in time for the early start.  Fortunately, I had decided the night before that I would just do the 80km ride.

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There were, according to the announcement I heard at the finish line festival, 3600 people signed up for the event. I have no doubt that was true.  There were so many people on the course and the weather was fantastic.  It was perfect riding weather.  It also meant that most of the people were wearing their jerseys.  Last year, most people except myself had on lots of cool weather and rain protection.

The event went off without a hitch. The rest stops were well equipped and had lots of food, snacks, drinks, and lip balm (raspberry/chocolate) to boost the riders.  All of the organizers and participants were very friendly.

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Unlike last year when I met some people to ride with, I didn’t manage that this year. I couldn’t find anyone going at my pace until the end when a gentleman called me by my name (it’s on the back of my jersey) and explained that I had been ahead of him the whole route.  We got to talk while they were cleaning my bike at the end pit stop.

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I did manage to meet someone at the food festival. Since a meal and a beer were included in the ticket, I took the opportunity to sit down at a vacant seat at a picnic table.  Being alone, I just took a spare seat.  Fortunately, I was joined by a lovely woman who had joined the event last minute but had really enjoyed herself.  Her enthusiasm was quite powerful and really helped put the day in perspective.  I wish I could have sat there for a few more hours drinking beer and chatting…but then I would have had to reapply my sunscreen.

Top Speed

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Last year, I set my all time speed record going downhill in the rain racing against a much better female cyclist. I was motivated to cruise down that hill quite fast.  This year, I came upon the same downhill slope again and incredibly bested my speed from last year.  I think I could have gotten up over 80, but there were people I was coming up to and was afraid they might swerve.  I didn’t brake, but I changed my posture to absorb a bit more wind resistance.  It was still an incredible feeling, and I would probably drive to that hill to do it all over again.

 

Posted in Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, bicycles, bicyles, cycling, cyclist case, epic tour, Gran Fondo, GTA, Halton, maximum speed, Niagara Escarpment, preparation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

When a Young Woman Weeps

This could hardly be called today’s Perfect Moment, but it was indeed a moment.  I chose to write it here because its effect was startling.

While riding the bus, I have to make a conscious decision to either read or listen to music. This is unlike many other people I know who seem to have the ability to combine both of these passions at the same time.  As for me, music that washes over me without making any impact is boring and has me searching for other music.  And music which does catch my attention draws it away from books.

Today I was reading a book about Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises (see my books page). I was coming to the end and was slowing down to savour the last bunch of sentences.  I became aware of the young woman sitting in the seats in front of mine.  Despite rocking a leopard or cheetah print ensemble (matching hair clip) she seemed to be in a bit of distress.  She was weeping and trying desperately to staunch the tears with her bare hands.  She started a phone call which had a very unhappy tone.  I didn’t want to listen, but I could hear gasps of conversation that came between the tears.

Although I wanted to respect her privacy, I wanted to be of some comfort.   I scoured my bag to find some napkins from a recent fast food stop.  I shyly tapped her on the shoulder and offered her the napkins, lamenting loudly that they probably weren’t as soft as she deserved.

It was at this point that I finished the last paragraph and searched for the solace of my MP3 player. I wanted to something to distance me from the scenes around me.  You see, the bus, despite being a communal vehicle, is a playground of stories told and untold.  Rather than participate in them, I wanted to ruminate about the weeping lady in front of me and possibly write some paragraphs for this blog.

I chose the Velvet Underground’s Heroin to separate me from the masses. It definitely gave me some space and gave the proceedings an air of unreality.  I had created a soundtrack for a great mime performance.  There were couples fighting, young women trying to get noticed or at least get the attention on young me on the other side of the bus.  There were people playing games on their phone and their were people texting voraciously with one or more people.  I could only imagine how things were proceeding.

When I left the bus, the weeping woman thanked me again for the tissues. I explained my wish that her day (despite only a couple of hours in it remaining) would be much better.  Her valiant attempt at a smile conveyed otherwise, but I was already stepping off the bus.

 

Posted in Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, bus, commemoration, commuting | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

A Gospel Choir of One

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Not what I got on my bus, but I just liked this picture (and reuse was permitted)

 

In truth there is no shortage of characters on my bus route. I have written about the ballerina, the balloon carrier, the two fisted energy drinker and dozens of others.  They were somewhat mysterious and invigorating.  Others, like the shouting woman and the obnoxiously loud couple recently released from jail, I have not found a way of capturing with enough sympathy to make them worthy of reading about.  They would be merely caricatures, rather than real believable people.

Today, I think, I find myself in the middle of both of these literary worlds. I seek to describe someone who may be hard to believe, and also causes me some distraction for the implications of her behaviour and our response to it.

Onward

I boarded the bus, not unlike countless mornings before. It was the older of the two bus models, meaning there were no single seats for me to sit in and I risked later sharing my bench with a whole host of uncomfortable people.  Nevertheless, I took the one to the left, which would afford me the better view of storefronts and eventually the railway tracks.  To my left sat a diminutive woman slightly bent over a book.  She was dark skinned and dark haired, though I suspected her hair should be quite grey.

I paid only a little attention to her as I was either absorbed in my book or quietly meditating on something positive (a bus ride is a good place for this). I probably wondered what book she was reading, if only because I am always looking for book recommendations, but left it at that.  I might have forgotten her entirely if not for what followed.

I wasn’t looking at her, but I could hear her saying something. It was indistinct and I thought that she might be speaking softly on the phone.  Though this is rare; speaking softly on the phone, not talking on the phone–you’d be amazed at how little privacy people require when talking on the phone in a public place.  It is shocking really.  I digress.

I glanced over to confirm my phone hypothesis, and discovered she was not on the phone. Her fingers were following something in the book she was reading.  It had a rather solemn tone and I guessed she was reading from a book of scripture.  It was barely audible, but the woman sitting in front of her changed seats across the aisle to sit in front of me.

Suddenly, she looked up from the book and started singing. At first it had the same low hum from the moment before.  In time, however, the volume grew and we made our way to the next stop.  The volume continued to grow.  The voice was not continuous and strong, but scratchy and grating.  The lyrics rather repetitive.  I was impressed by the power of her faith that made her want to share this…but it wasn’t that pleasant an experience.

I could imagine a whole gospel choir bursting into song on the bus. There are probably hundreds of fantastic examples on YouTube, but this wasn’t going to be one of them.  This was going to grate on me the whole trip if she could sustain it.  I searched for my headphones and was already mentally picking something that could counter this–Velvet Underground, Metallica, Public Enemy…early Zeppelin…..Evanescence….

I could see the strain on some of the other passengers, but like myself, no one said anything. It got me to thinking, would the people have been so willing to put up with this if it were done by someone of a non-Christian faith?  Would we have been so willing to endure it if it had been someone reading from the Koran in a loud voice?  Those are tough questions, and I can hope that our legendary tolerance would prevail and the bus wouldn’t be swarmed by a “tactical police team” but I could imagine other scenarios of confrontation.  Granted it was music….musical, but I am not sure the reaction would have been the same.  There was definite tension, but nobody approached her to reproach her (a little internal rhyme for this piece).

She got off a few stops later and the tension in the bus seemed to ease.

Posted in Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, bus, characters, choir, commuting, faith, gospel, public transportation, tolerance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

In Need of Recommendations

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Last Thursday I wandered around the library, somewhat aimlessly.  I was there to pick up a book I put on hold and I am now reading titled “Everyone Behaves Badly”.  Every other book I had intended to pick up was either checked out or non-existent.

I checked with the librarians, as they have often recommended some fantastic books in the past.  However, they were very non-committal this time.  Perhaps they hadn’t read anything good lately.  Perhaps they were tired of me.

I ended up grabbing a bunch of books for the next couple of weeks, some at random, some because their pictures or titles struck me as cool.  I even read a few of the blurbs at the back–though the placement of the library bar code foiled this on  a few occasions.

As wonderful as that was, it took time away from my dinner and a dozen other things I could be doing.  Also, I might add, it was fraught with danger.  I might have picked up a bunch of duds.  While I hate quitting books midway through, I am getting better at cutting my losses these days.

So, I am asking you readers and WP followers for some recommendations.  You can see what I have been reading this year by clicking the tab at the top of this page if that will help you.  You can also recommend your favourite book of all time or your current favourite.  Don’t worry about stretching my boundaries, I will be making my own decisions.  And don’t worry, I won’t hold you responsible for bad choices….though I have every right to.

 

Posted in Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, books, help, librarian, library, recommendations | Tagged , , , | 15 Comments