On the Bus with Siddhartha


Maybe I’ve written too many posts about encounters with people and their books. While this blog is not Today’s Perfect Books, it isn’t surprising that literature so often creates perfect moments for me.  My degree is in English Literature (all prepared for life in the 16th Century as Jim Croce put it) and I have loved reading since I first learned how to do it.

When I looked over at my seating partner, I immediately recognized the book she was reading was Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha without even reading the title–the cover picture is that memorable, or distinctive…or iconic.

We briefly spoke about the book. I mentioned that I had read it over 30 years ago.  She explained that she was going to read Demian next.  I saw that look of someone who had felt they discovered a great treasure–and indeed they had.  I could see how absorbed she was in her book and I let her get back to it.

What makes this encounter different from the others that I have written about is the age of the person. She was a high school student.  It triggered a memory of my reading books in high school that were different from what so many people were reading.  There was Hesse, Camus, Salinger, and Pirsig.  There books on Zen Buddhism, reincarnation, altered consciousness and the afterlife.  There was Heinlein, Asimov, and Ellison.  There was a bigger world I was only just discovering.

So, sitting there on the bus, I admired this young person and the journey she was on. It also made me wonder about my reading choices of late. Perhaps, I should be exploring more.

Is there a book you wish you could read again for the first time?


Posted in Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, books, bus, commuting, literature, public transportation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cameraderie on the Commute


I frequently write about my commutes because they are often filled with interesting characters, (beautiful, frustrating, or weird) or they are composed of somewhat undecipherable random events. Though this might give you a rather skewed view of my ride to and from work, I think Today’s Perfect Moment will present a completely different side of it.

Today, like many days in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area–Not Grand Theft Auto, or Great Teacher Anthony) it rained. While not unexpected, the students groaned loudly enough to disturb my wandering thoughts and drag me back to the lesson at hand.  And though they complained that their weather app on their phone hadn’t predicted this, I merely shrugged, but, at the same time, felt pretty convinced that the news broadcast on the radio this morning called for rain in the late afternoon.

Normally, this would make for quite a few disgruntled people on my commute.   They would be holding their umbrellas far from their bodies, hoping not to drip on them.  They would be tugging at their damp clothes with no longer fit right, and they would be tense and pushy when the bus arrived.  All of it seen before and all of it somewhat expected.

The funny thing was that it didn’t happen that way at all. Nobody pushed at the doors, and most people observed the gentlemanly rules of the previous century and gestured for the women to enter first.  The teen who brought his really cute dog on the bus didn’t annoy any passengers, and in fact inspired more than one of them to approach and pet the creature.  The somewhat thuggish bunch, bragging about their arrest records, were friendly, peaceful and funny.

Maybe it was because of the rain. Maybe it has worn us down.  Maybe we’ve all realized that there really isn’t anyone to complain to and even if there were, there wouldn’t be much point.  Maybe we were too tired to put our shields up.

Whatever it was, it certainly created a sense of camaraderie and a convivial atmosphere on the bus. I, a person who usually gets buried in a book or spends most of the ride looking out the window listening to a weird mix of music (folk, heavy metal, New Wave, punk, rap and French folk music),  talked to 4 different people and smiled at 4 others, who also smiled back.


Posted in Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, bus, commuting, public transportation, transportation, Viva | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

When it Rains…..

Today’s Perfect Moment is the smell of rain. In my somewhat tired and sore state, I will do my best to explain it to you.

By some mysterious grace of the universe, I was spared the drenching that accompanies the almost daily downpour. I was in transit when the worst of it fell and would have gotten soaked because I had been in no mood to root through my bag searching for my umbrella.  On both my bus and subway trips, I emerged to find soaked ground and that telltale odour that indicates a storm has passed.  Needless to say, the second such adventure when I neared home and had to walk past a park was much better than that of the bus terminal where the smell had to compete with greater human odour and greater caused by human odour.

When I got off my bus and started my limp home (yes, I am still limping) the humidity had all but disappeared and the water droplets still clung to the grass like early morning dew, while the water on the pavement had long given up the fight and evaporated back to the clouds. There was a freshness.  There was that feeling of clean.

Maybe I only noticed it because I had to stop on the way home a few times to give my leg a chance to uncramp, but that doesn’t make it seem any less Perfect.


Posted in Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, bus, public transportation, subway, transportation, weather | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

My Horoscope Suggested Recklessness Would Be Rewarded

I had been admiring the tattoo on one of my fellow long distance commuters for quite a number of rides. I had never gotten a good look at it because she was usually sitting quite far away.  I did sit next to her once, but I couldn’t see the tattoo as it was on the hand farthest away from me.  I hadn’t talked to her on that occasion because:

  1. she was absorbed in her phone
  2. her Luis Vuiton handbag brought up a lot of red flags and nurtured my inferiority complex
  3. her attractiveness made her seem a bit out of my league
  4. all of the above.

Today, perhaps fuelled by a horoscope that encouraged recklessness, I managed to have a conversation about her tattoo and its significance. Needless to say, all the assumptions I made about the woman (ethnicity, friendliness etc) were completely wrong.  She was quite friendly and explained her tattoo quite calmly and authoritatively.


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We Will Rock You

Let’s cut right to the chase. Last night’s Perfect Moment was getting to see and hear Brian May of Queen’s mini guitar solo (this isn’t the right word for it, but I am not particularly musical in nature and don’t have the correct vocabulary.  If you do, please provide it for me) during We Will Rock You.

There are some great guitar moments that I wish I could see and hear live. The one’s I have been witness to are Pete Townsend on Pinball Wizard, Slash on Welcome to the Jungle, and Robert Baker on New Orleans’s Sinking.  The ones, I wish I could have witnessed would have been  Jimi Hendrix (on almost anything) but Are You Experienced jumps out at me. Or Jimmy Page on Whole Lotta Love and Dazed and Confused.

The concert was great and despite leaving me a walking zombie today, I am so glad I went.

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One Perfect Sound


When I think of Perfect sounds, naturally (a slightly unintended wordplay), I think of rain and wind. Those are sounds that are beautiful and powerful.  Out in a tent or cabin, maybe because they are both immediate and possibly disastrous, they even become personal.  Being Canadian, the sound of loons speaks to me of camping trips and watching movies outside on those same camping trips. For artificial sounds, I love the sound of trains, the clack of a puck on a hockey stick, and the sound of my bike chain spinning on a fast descent.

I am not a huge fan of cell phone noises, but maybe that is a generational thing. From time to time, as a conversation warmer, I ask my students what sounds they use for their ringtones.  These days, most of them keep their phones on vibrate.  Not to be deterred, I ask them what sound they wake up to–since I know that most of them use their phones as an alarm clock.

As for me, except when traveling, I use a standard clock radio to wake up. I used to have it set for the radio, but being woken up by terrible static or interference a few times, I set it to alarm and haven’t gone back.  For every day of work that sound is the bane of my existence.  That alarm, which is a horrible, incessant beeping sound, is not what I mean by a perfect sound.

The click as I shut it off because the weekend has arrived and I do not need to be a slave to it is.


Posted in Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, blog, blogging, blogposts, ESL, morning, students, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Grace Amid the Pain

Somehow, I have managed to injure myself. The calf muscle on my left leg and the sole of my left foot, at strange intervals, throb.  I assume this has to do with my cycling, but I don’t know why?  I probably should go to the doctor.  And I will.  I just suspect that it is going to end up in a referral and basically take enough time for the problem to work itself out.

Please don’t worry. I am not writing the above to elicit sympathy.  I just want you to understand my state of mind and the physical stress I was under when Today’s Perfect Moment happened.  They say everything happens for a reason, that minor events somehow choreograph the big events in life.  In my own way I believe this is true.

I left work and started on my trek to the nearby subway station. On most days this is a jaunt, a lark, a hop skip and a jump if you will.  For the last three days this has been anything but.  My legs and sole (not soul) were fine while I worked, clocking in 6000 or so steps.  When I hit the pavement outside, with a purpose, things changed and it became a trek.

I was considering stopping off at a local book reseller (not all of it is used, some of it is overstock), but after those agonizing steps, it just didn’t seem like a good idea. So I headed to the subway entrance.

Just at that moment, a pale waiflike figure appeared. Perhaps she came out of the subway entrance I was heading for.  Perhaps, she came from the Italian cafe.  Perhaps, she came from somewhere else. (No, no cheesy and cliché perhaps she came from heaven sentences).  I must confess that in my agony, I missed her entrance.

She walked with grace, her back straight. Her eyes were shielded from the world by reddish orange tinted glasses, forcing me to imagine them.  Hr head, held high covered in a hat that Audrey Hepburn would have approved of.

Before you grumble and point out that there are a vast number of beautiful women out there, and that my singling out of one is rather unfair, I will agree to the supporting points of your argument. On a given day, I cross paths with hundreds of attractive and interesting women.  Therefore, there must be something about the few who grace these pages.  If I an unable to do that, blame my writing, not the event.  Rest assured, I do not take Perfect Moments lightly.

As for this woman, who crossed my path while I was grimacing from the pain and needed to stop and wait for it to subside, there was indeed something that I find hard to describe. What struck me most, and what made the rest of the world, with its cacophonic eruptions and multicoloured lights and patterns fade into the background, was her black dress, adorned at the waist by a red sash.  It was not the garish sash of a bridesmaid’s dress, but more like a ribbon on an elegant gift.  The effect was mesmerizing.

I reached down to massage the spasm out of my calf for a brief moment… and she was gone. I craned my head, hoping to catch one last glimpse…. but she was gone.

I trudged down the stairs one painful step at a time. By the time I reached the subway platform, I was no longer sure she had been there at all.


Posted in Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, beauty, commuting, grace | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Cycling, Meeting Triathletes, and Other Encounters

Today’s Perfect Moment is a bunch of short things that I will elaborate on.

After a week’s hiatus, I was back on the bike bright and early Saturday morning. It looked like it was going to rain, but luckily did not.  In fact, it turned out to be bright and sunny.  I cannot say I was great on the bike, but I had a couple of good moments.  I had a few bad moments as well, but overall things are getting better.  I think I am going to have to lose a few (at least ten) pounds before I see a difference in my pedalling skills.  Somewhere during the ride we came across three very attractive  and friendly women from the city who had decided to cycle up our way.  I only had a brief moment to talk to them before they glided away in a fantastic burst of speed.  I found out that at least one of them was a triathlete.  The only bad thing was that despite turning around and going back exactly opposite to the way we had come, the headwind that we encountered at the beginning of the trip stayed with us both ways.

My post ride chocolate milk was delicious.

I visited the Pacific Mall in the late afternoon. I hadn’t been there in more than seven years.  Somehow I managed to find a parking spot, which used to be a complete hassle.  I used to go there in search of Japanese products and there were even more now than on my last visit.  The prices weren’t as good as they used to be…but that could be said for a lot of places.

The Toronto Argonauts eked out a win against the Ottawa Redblacks.

I had some pizza left over from yesterday.


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Elegance in Simplicity


From time to time, I have featured some of the tattoos my students are sporting. Since they come from a variety of countries and backgrounds, they sport a variety of tattoo forms and shapes.  I find some of them very interesting.

Today, upon meeting a student for the first time, I noticed that she had a rather modest tattoo. She explained that it was an homage to her dog.  Obviously, I was moved, though I merely smiled.  I really appreciated the simplistic design, which captured deep feelings.  It was a Perfect Moment.


Posted in art, Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, cat, dogs, students, tattoo | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From the Author


Having read my blog, you might have noticed a section listing what I have read so far this year. While it is not a particularly popular part of the blog, I have maintained it until now because I saw value in doing that.  I had hoped to get some recommendations of what I could read and maybe even discuss books with some people.  I have had some great conversations in bookstores and on public transport talking about books.  Sadly this really hasn’t happened.

In the previous year, I merely listed the books and included a picture of the covers for the month. This year, until quite recently, I wrote something about the books I read. I wouldn’t call them book reviews, but rather, musings on the books I read.

Last week I read Running with Raven by Laura Lee Huttenbach. I grabbed this book from the new pile at the library.  I read the back and thought it was worth a read.

This time, rather than write anything about it, I sent a message to the author on her website. I am a big believer in feedback.  I am feeling pretty encouraging these days.

Today, she wrote me back. Mostly, she asked me to help her promote her book on Amazon and Goodreads.  The thing is that she ended with a comment about enjoying my comment.  I could be cynical and see it as just a form letter and all part of the grand marketing scheme.  However, I am choosing to see it in a more positive light.  A Perfect light, if you will.

As for the book, I enjoyed it.  I would also recommend it for its inspiring message.


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