Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

Montreal hr637

I wish I could live in Montreal. That’s the thought which frequently enters my mind. Yet I don’t know why it should be Montreal for myself. As a person who was born and grew up in Japan, I had had only a little vague knowledge of it as an Olympic venue of ancient before until I first visited it. I even didn’t choose it as my travel destination for the city itself. I’m an avid Formula One race fan and had been looking for an alternative race to go to see other than the one held in Japan that was too costly and poorly managed. The circuit with the most convenient access from a downtown hotel was located in Montreal, that was the simple reason I chose to go there and a start of my love for the city.
Twenty hours later after I left my apartment in Tokyo, I got off the airport bus in downtown Montreal past midnight. I was headed with my partner for the hotel I had booked that was a 10-minute walk away. My Japanese acquaintance has once told me that he got mugged in downtown Los Angeles and was robbed of his wallet, shoes, and even a tooth capped with gold. I recalled it and thought I was doing the stupidest thing to walk pulling my big suitcase in a strange city, in the witching hour of night. Then I saw someone while I was waiting for the traffic lights at a quiet crossing. A teen-age girl wearing a mini skirt appeared from nowhere and crossed the street humming merrily and dancing ballet. The sight of her gave me a sense that Montreal might be a safe, relaxing and enjoyable city. And it proved true.
I had lived in Southern California for four years before and I imagined that Montreal was quite alike since it was also in North America. But actually, it turned out to be a totally different place. Virtually everything – people’s appearances, values, the way of living and a cityscape – was far from alike. When I lived in California, I believed that life is a competition and that a happy life can’t be attained without success. I had been all worn up with that belief. My work as a singer-songwriter didn’t go well accordingly and I ended up moving back to Japan for a financial difficulty, broken-heartedly. But Montreal’s beautiful cityscape and its fashionable locals who enjoy life not with caring about money but with a laid-back attitude healed me. I fell in love in this city deeply enough to stay for a long period of time repeatedly.

Photo by Ella Wei on Pexels.com

Of course familiar flaws and problems existed since it’s not heaven. I too much often received a wrong change when shopping. One shop clerk surprised me when he gave me a handful of change without counting. He saw my dubious face and added one more handful of coins. I was also surprised that ordinary-looking people begged for small change. A young woman who seemed to be an ordinary house wife asked me to spare change while she was pushing a stroller with a baby in it. Or a bunch of young decent boys asked for change casually while they were having fun talking and laughing on the street. I glared at them for caution when I passed by, and they apologized to me. It seemed like it was their custom or routine to ask for money in passing. I wondered why they would do so in the city that didn’t look jobless nor degenerate. Come to think of it, I had spotted people idling and just sitting on the steps to an apartment in the daytime so many times. Commute traffic jammed at as early as 4 p.m. which looked so odd to a Japanese in whose country the train around midnight is running full with commuters. While I appreciated the city’s peacefulness with no tension of racism or success, its too-easy-going atmosphere sometimes irritated me. But it was probably too much of a luxury to ask for more. Before I was aware, I wished to settle in Montreal and work on my music there. My wish was to be crushed afterwards however, because reality was harsh.
I remember my happy days in Montreal every time I watch Canadian GP on TV. The city’s skyscrapers over the circuit ask me through the TV screen if I can come back someday. I desperately cheer myself up, telling myself that I can, I want to, I’m supposed to. On one Canada Day in the future, while I’m watching the mega-sized fireworks at the head of the Old Montreal pier with my partner, my eyes will be filled with light and shed tears of joy.

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Some Remain, Others Disappear hr582

Once a year in autumn, a road race of classic cars is held in Japan. The race starts in Tokyo, runs through five prefectures in four days and finishes back in Tokyo. It stops for the night at a certain checkpoint during the long journey and one of the checkpoints is a hotel in a small town where I live. On its way there, it passes through the desolate main street of my town. I look forward to this event and go out to see it every year. More than one hundred beautiful classic cars like Fiat, Bugatti and Alfa Romeo, some of which are about ninety years old, run past right in front of my eyes one after another on a narrow street almost within my reach. I can also get to spot a few Japanese former Formula One drivers and celebrities who participate in as proud owners of the cars. The promoter hands out small flags for this event to spectators along the street. They wave the flags to the cars and the drivers wave back. This year, I left my apartment a little early for the race to stroll around the main section of my town where I hardly visit. When I shop or eat, I usually travel to the city far from my town that is too small and forlorn to hang out. I walked around the center of the town for the first time in a year and found it more desolate. A small grocery store I have shopped for several times had been out of business. A bookstore in front of the train station was closed along with a restaurant across it. There was no sign of any new tenant at those locations. More and more stores are gone, as a small population of my town is getting even smaller every year. I sat on a bench at the best spot to see the race along the main street that also had more shuttered shops than before. I was waiting for the cars to come while looking through a race brochure with a flag in my hand, both of which I’d gotten at the town’s empty tourist information office. As it was about the time the cars were scheduled to pass, I was prepared with my smartphone camera. But not a single car appeared. I waited more and there were still no cars. And I noticed there were no spectators either. I made sure the date and the time in the brochure again, and they were correct. Since an unpredictable incident can happen in the race and a delay sometimes occurs, I waited patiently. No cars and no people showed up. It was getting dark and cold. I went back to the info office and asked about the race. The clerk said, “Hasn’t it come yet? It should be here, I think.” Because she sounded she knew nothing about the race, I assured that her info was false, which meant, the race shouldn’t be here. I must have gotten the right time, but the wrong place. I left the main street and hurried toward the checkpoint where the cars would eventually arrive. On the way, I started smelling a strong odor of exhaust that came from nothing but classic cars in these days. The race must have been near. I hurried on, and finally saw a classic car turning the intersection with an explosive engine noise at the bottom of a steep slope toward the checkpoint. The race did come to my town but used a different route. It had dropped down the main street as its route this year and the info office didn’t know that. With only few spectators even along the main street every year, the new route was outside the town center and there were literally no spectators. I managed to see the last one-third cars in the dark while I missed the most part of the race, especially fast cars. Like this, my town is gradually declining with fewer people, fewer shops and less information. I will watch the whole race next year near the checkpoint not along the main street. Unless the race excludes my town from the route altogether, that is…

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