She Would Accept a Smile

Walking from A to B and then back to A can give you two different perspectives. All the places that were on the right on the trip out would be on the left for the trip back.  You would see the right hand sides of store windows before the left.  This would be completely opposite for the trip back.  I suppose driving would do the same thing, but somehow I doubt it, hoping that you’re keeping your eyes on the road.

This all sounds pretty obvious, but Today’s Perfect Moment happened because of this.

My bank is a farther walk than most people would like to undertake on their break, and would give people ample justification to use their interact card or cash back options and suffer whatever fees were associated with that. However, this combination of financial frugality and the need for exercise make this journey seem worthwhile to me.  Besides, there are lots of construction projects underway along the route.  I am still have that little boy inside who likes to peer at construction projects.

After crossing the biggest intersection on the route, I passed what could be described as a person down on their luck. I noticed it was a young woman and in the current “fashion” was not audibly begging for money, but had a written sign in front of her.  Owing to crowds and my own (perhaps selfish) concerns, I didn’t get a good look at the sign.  I assumed it was a plea for money.

On my way back, owing to thinner crowds and the tendency to walk to the left of people, I got a better look at the sign as I walked past. It read

  • Unemployed mother
  • Will take anything
  • Spare Change
  • Food
  • Baby Clothes
  • Toys
  • A Smile

The first two things on the list made very little impact on me. I have given food to people on the streets, but I don’t think I have ever given money.  Maybe I have become numbed.  The last three, and specifically the last one rocked me a little.  Obviously, I would have to be a cold hearted bastard not to warm to the idea of giving a child some clothes or a toy.  After writing about my experiences in the toy store, I could really understand those things.  The smile, though, really said something.  Maybe that’s now on all the signs that I often fail to read, but it changed my perception of this person.  The line was brilliant. That one line told me that this person wanted to be looked at and acknowledged, even if you weren’t going to give some material goods.  This person, who was probably ignored and avoided or worse( snarled and gawked at) by people, was inviting someone to look.

I did look back and smile, but I can’t be sure she caught it or that it made anyone except myself feel better. Maybe that was the point. All I know is that I haven’t stopped thinking about it.

This may not sound like Today’s Perfect Moment, but I hope you will understand why I think it was. Being forced to challenge your assumptions, to confront your prejudices and biases so poignantly might be uncomfortable, but might also be neceesary.

Posted in Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, help, sadness, smile, Toronto, Yonge and Eglinton | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Just A Kid In A Toy Store

Alternatively, I could have called this finding a passionate salesclerk.

fisherpricetelephone

I had already bought this as it is considered my go to gift.

 

My niece’s upcoming birthday afforded me the opportunity to browse the toy store. Yes, I could have bought her clothes, but those years aren’t upon us yet.  She is still very much interested in toys and picture books.  Besides, I want to be the cool uncle.

The best and worst thing about the toy store is that there is so much to look at. I wonder which toy she’ll enjoy most, while also keeping in mind that I’ve got the birthdays of two young nephews on the not so distance horizon.  I wonder which toys will make her eyes light up.  I also wonder how much I should spend because sibling and cousin parity is rather important.

I’ve been pretty lucky in the past. Most of my gifts have been winners, and I certainly don’t want the streak to end. I spent much more time browsing that I would have done for anyone else I bought for.  I even went so far as to ask one of the clerks.

And that’s when it happened. I found a clerk in a store who was passionate about his job.  He had lots of recommendations.  He asked about my budget and showed me things that I had not seen.  While finding an interested store clerk can be miraculous, that wasn’t the Perfect Moment.

It was when he started to wax lyrical about the “classic toys” that I could see things brighten up.

“Now everything is electronic and has to have noise,” he said. “When I was a kid, I made my own noises.”  He stopped to examine the Fisher Price pull along telephone. “Look at this one.  It hasn’t changed in fifty years.  They designed it right the first time and didn’t need to change it.”

I have written about passionate people before (the Woman Who Loved Chopin comes to mind), but mostly they were confined to art spaces. This was a person working at a toy store; A big heartless chain toy store , in fact.  His enthusiasm was quite infectious.  Unless you’ve come into contact with people who like what they do, you may never experience this phenomenon.

That encounter made shopping a lot easier and allowed nostalgia to make an appearance. I checked out the latest version of Risk.  I thought about buying a new version of Trivial Pursuit.  I craved a new scrabble board with real tile holders.  I spied an awesome chemistry set.  I lusted after a Lego train set.  For a few moments at least, I was a little boy in a toy store.

Posted in Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, nostalgia, passion, service, shopping, toys | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Appreciation for Bloggers and Readers

Vietnam 2017 081

There was a real danger of there being no perfect moment today.  It wasn’t the worst day of my life, or even the worst day this year.  Nevertheless, it did have its low points;

  • a drunk on the bus was rude and threatening to other passengers, my current bus crush,  and myself
  • it was rainy day
  • the cat woke me up earlier than I would have liked
  • the song I desperately wanted to listen to was not on my MP3 player, despite my belief
  • my tax refund still hasn’t arrived
  • I found out the Robert M. Pirsig of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance has passed away.
  • I didn’t have time to watch the GCN show

However, the day was redeemed by you.  I had many good interactions with  other bloggers and people reading the blogs.   I don’t really get as many comments as I would like on my blogs, so today was special.  You made me laugh (especially Donna), you made me smile, and some of you made me think.  Thank you.

Posted in appreciation, Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, blog, blogging, blogposts, books, commuting, positive comments, public transportation, reading, transportation | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What Summer Smells Like

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I had to ask her to pose for this because I had my back turned initially

One of the things I do moderately well as an ESL teacher is monitor. While the students are talking in groups, or pairs, I can usually pick out their errors over the din of the crowd.  It could be grammar or pronunciation.  I can also hear when they are talking about something completely unrelated to the task I set for them.  It’s hard to believe, but sometimes these students are unable to stay on task.  They get distracted or sidetracked.  Like I said, hard to believe.

Today, while monitoring, I stumbled across Today’s Perfect Moment. Maybe it stumbled across me.  Either way, it was perfect.

I was turned away from the student when she said “It smells like summer.”

There were no grammar problems with what she said, but it struck as both odd and oddly beautiful nonetheless.  Spring has only just begun and it definitely didn’t smell like summer to me.  Also, my classroom doesn’t have any windows, so I was perplexed as to where this smell of summer was coming from.  However, the sentence was uttered with such complete conviction that I had to smile.

Think about Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. It was smell that triggered that long diversion that became a novel.  Smell is such a powerful idea that as I imagine song lyrics in my head, I can bring up the smells.  She smells like rain.  Smells like Teen Spirit.

I turned around to try and figure out what my student was waxing lyrical about and I caught her smelling her own hands. I did my best to raise a questioning eyebrow.  Fortunately they have been trained to respond to my facial expressions, and clearly she understood me.

“It’s my hand sanitizer,” she said.

I continued to look puzzled.

She picked up the small bottle on the desk in front of her and raised it to the air. “Do you want to smell it?” she asked.

Who wouldn’t want to smell summer? Who wouldn’t want a preview of the season that will soon (eventually) be upon us.  Who wouldn’t want to experience the depth and breadth of an entire season in an inhale.

Sadly, all I smelled was grapefruit.

Posted in Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, cosmetics, ESL, students, teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

On Phonebooks

phone book 003

While rummaging around, looking for things to purge, I came across an old personal phone book. I don’t know where I purchased it, because dollar stores didn’t exist back in those days.  It could have been some other discount chain, maybe BiWay or something like that.  Based on some of the names inside, I know I started using it in high school–though I only a smattering of names from that time.  This is not surprising as I knew my best friends’ and family member’s telephone numbers by heart, and was probably too shy to ask the girls I had crushes on for their phone numbers. Luckily we had a big white telephone book for my somewhat small town.  One did not have to be Encyclopaedia Brown to figure out who was whom.

A few months ago my mother asked me to look in my local dollar store for a phone book. She is big on the “scraps of paper” method, which sees her constantly rummaging around in a piles of paper on her coffee table, desk, kitchen table, drawer–you get the idea.  I guess she was going to finally start putting them in some kind of order (though I doubted she would then throw out the scraps of paper).  Nonetheless, I came up empty handed.  I guess most people are using their phones these days and have no need of a paper based phone book.   My mother has a Smartphone, but hat doesn’t stop her from making piles of scrap paper.

I looked through this phone book that I haven’t used in more than a decade, and decided it was time for it to go. It was being held together by cellophane tape and rubber bands.  I guess I wasn’t in my MacGyver phase, or didn’t have any duct tape. I note that I had phone numbers under all the letter except E,F,X and Z.  With the advent of cell phones, I doubt anyone’s phone number is the same.  Sadly, there are a couple of people who I would like to contact out of nostalgia–yeah, yeah.  Lost loves and missed chances.

I had obviously taken the phone book to Japan.  It had a bunch of Japanese names, and locations of stores and businesses I used frequently.  These included my travel agent Siobhan, the names of the various movie theatres with crude maps (addresses being somewhat difficult in Osaka and Japan as a whole),  the address of where I worked,  some restaurants that I loved, students and acquaintances.

So, the phone book joins the list of relics along with pagers, VHS cassettes and 35mm film cameras. Though there might always be purists who want these last things, perhaps the phone book is gone forever.

 

Posted in Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, decluttering, memories, memory, nostalgia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Out for a Walk

It’s such a beautiful day out, I heard many people exclaim. Then everyone of them got in their car and drove somewhere.

Before you run away from this post, this isn’t going to be ranty. People have places to go and cars take them there.  I understand that.  I have my own car.

Back to the point. It is a beautiful day out and I went for a walk to the library.  I put the music on but I didn’t need to.  There was nobody about except for a couple of people walking their dogs.  The road was busy (or course, but I am still not ranting) but the pathway through the park was blissfully empty.  It is way to early to start declaring this Today’s Perfect Moment, but I know it is a moment worth sharing.

 

Posted in Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, beauty, library, nature, walking | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Unexpected Redemption

pizza4

On this rain soaked, missed bus, unmotivated student kind of day the need for a Perfect Moment is keenly apparent. The whole purpose of the Perfect Moment is to rescue this rather blah day from itself.

On the other hand, I could just let it go. I could write the day off and never look back.  I could forget about it and go to bed.  I could wake up tomorrow and start fresh.

The thing is, what if that happened tomorrow too. Soon, there could be a string of those days and that is definitely not something I want.  I need to break the string here and now.

Thankfully, I arrived at work to find pizza leftover from some meetings that had been held. Could there be anything better than pizza when you weren’t expecting it?  Okay, maybe some beer to go along with that pizza…but that’s an event for another day.

 

Posted in Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, bus, business, commuting, ESL, food, pizza, weather | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Postcards from Vietnam

vietnam postcards 006

My mother asked me to send her a postcard from Vietnam.  Though she has Facebook and gets email updates about this blog, she specifically requested I send her a postcard.  I can’t fault her for that.  When I lived in Japan, I regularly sent out postcards.  In fact, I think my family and friends still have them.

Postcards seem to have fallen by the wayside for me. Other than this one, I can’t remember sending any in the last 10 or 15 years.  For this last trip, I thought Facebook posts and the blog would be enough.  Not for my Mom.  She wanted a postcard.

I felt like I owed it to her. I didn’t do a good job with Christmas cards this year and have spoken openly about my lack of desire to receive cards for holidays like Easter, Christmas, and even my birthday.  I like the sentiment and the thought, but I don’t need the clutter.

While in Hoi An, I bought some postcards. This is something I do regularly.  I buy them not to send to people, but for myself.  Sometimes postcards capture things that I cannot. They are good professional photos of things I want to capture, but owing to crowds and camera equipment, usually can’t.

I bought a bunch of them and was able to buy appropriate postage at the same time . This was convenient.  I quickly scrawled a parent appropriate message on the back (no swear words, no references to sex or partying) and went in search of a post box.  I probably passed dozens of them, but didn’t really know what they looked like.  On the advice of our guide, I left it at the front desk of the hotel to be mailed out.  This was around the sixth of March.

The postcard arrived today. (April 19th)

Question:  Do you still send postcards when you go on vacation?

 

Posted in advice, Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, Exodus, Exodus Travels, postcards, travel, Vietnam | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

On Friendship

I want to write a few words on Friendship (yes, with a capital F) . I want to revel in one of the things in life with I consider important.  I want to speak like no one has spoken before on the subject.

That’s a tall order. I may have bitten off more than I can chew.

Tonight, I went out with one of my best friends. The list of best friends is quite short, and I won’t bore you with the particulars.  We went to two places.  One was new.  It had shiny rails and was spotlessly clean.  There was an abundance of TVs showing tonight’s basketball game.  Our waitress (Danielle) was incredibly efficient and the food was decent.  It being Tuesday, the beer was a decent price and arrived with the already mentioned efficiency.  The fact that I am writing this post after one o’clock in the morning should make that abundantly clear. The second place was a bit more familiar as it had been the scene of our university drinking days.  Sadly, I don’t think anything has been done to the place since then.  If I were being romantic, I would wax lyrical about its downtrodden charm or its bohemian atmosphere.  If I were doing a reality show, I would point out structural flaws, dated decor, and grime.

Whatever our take on the surroundings, the truth is that I could have done anything with my friend. We could have met at any number of places (sometime fondly remembered as scenes of the crime….or crimes) and our reactions would have been the same.  We had nostalgia tempered by reality.

We discussed present day topics and things long past, but never forgotten. We laughed at our drunken misadventures, romantic misadventures, and academic misadventures.  We searched for updates among lost friends.  We wondered about what if.  We made tentative plans for the future.

We asked the questions only friends can ask. Tonight’s included, after your dead, if you could press your ashes into a vinyl LP, what would be your ten tracks?  If you’re doing a double take, you aren’t alone.  Allegedly, I had heard this last summer but seemed to have no recall of it whatsoever.

Morbid thought it might be, for the record, my tracks would be

  • Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd (studio or live version)
  • Wild Flower by the Cult
  • Heroin by the Velvet Underground
  • Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes
  • Solitude Standing by Susanne Vega
  • Babe I’m Gonna Leave you and Dazed and Confused by Led Zeppelin
  • Inside Out by Crash Vegas
  • Are You Experienced by Jimi Hendrix
  • Clash Du Temps by Constance Amiot

In other friendship news, this past week, I connected  with a long lost friend. No, it didn’t happen through social media, thought that seems to be the way things happen.  Oddly enough, most of the people in my life that I would like to reconnect with seemed to have eschewed traditional social media and cannot be stalked by me in this way.  It was great to catch up with this friend and hopefully in the month of May, we will be able to meet and exchange stories of our lives over the past 7 or 8 years to fill in the gaps.

If only I could do that with Christina, Joyce, Sandra, Deborah, Laurie, or Constance.

 

Posted in Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, friends, friendship | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Perfect Saturday

My sister, perhaps jokingly, perhaps not, remarked that my blog about Perfect Moments has seemed to have veered from its initial premise. I am perhaps over articulating her words.  “Your blog hasn’t been about Perfect Moments lately,” is what I think she said.  While I have not worries about where this blog is becoming, I do want to stay true to the title of the blog when appropriate.

Yesterday would be a good place to search for Perfect Moment. As cliché as it may sound, yesterday was full of worthy moments.

  • Despite the protestations of the cat, I had a little bit of a lie in.
  • The early morning rain cleared up and the sun came out and warmed up the day.
  • I took a drive northwest and although I don’t live in a huge city found myself in a rural area.
  • We celebrated Easter a day early with turkey, salads, some delicious dinner rolls, and a very tasty beer.
  • For dessert we had the choice of two pies (apple and lemon meringue) and an accompanying scoop of ice cream-I have to admit it, I had a slice of both.
  • I still have some Cherry Pepsi around. It isn’t as good as Cherry Coke, but since that isn’t available in Ontario right now, I settled for it.
  • I got a chocolate bunny and a chocolate egg. This hasn’t happened in about 20 years.  I took a chunk off the ears first.
  • The Toronto Maples Leafs were playing a playoff game and they won in overtime. Pretty fantastic from where I sit.
  • I had a chance to relieve my Vietnam trip by showing my photos to the family.  I can’t believe they sat through all 900 pictures.  Though my Mom did say I should print them and put them in an album–A pretty radical old school idea.
  • A peaceful late night drive home.

Rather than try to figure out which one is best (Probably the Leafs winning), I will just call all of Saturday a Perfect Moment–though twenty-four hours seems like an awfully big moment.

Happy Easter, for those that celebrate and Happy Sunday for those who don’t.

 

Posted in Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, beer, cherry coke, chocolate, drinks, driving, hockey, seasons, weather | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment