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.


The Flight to Japan hr562

After I checked out the hotel in Laval, I was waiting for the Uber in front of it. Snow of the day before brought a bitter chill that made me shiver while I enjoyed a breathtaking view of a clear sky in the early morning. I was going to the airport where I would take a flight to Japan via Toronto. No matter how often I travel overseas, I feel extremely nervous on the morning of a flight every time, fearing that I might miss the flight. I was lucky, as it happened to be Sunday this time. If it had been a weekday, I would be crushed by an additional worry of a traffic jam. While I usually plan anything carefully, luck is an invincible helper in the end. The Uber driver was a man from the Middle East, who knew a few Japanese words since his son learned judo. It was his third day to work as an Uber driver. Because both my partner and I had wished for something like Uber for a long time and we have been impressed with its convenient service since we began to use it, my partner said to the driver that he had a bright future in his new job. He thanked my partner with deep gratitude and pure joy in his words. At the airport in Montreal, my partner suddenly claimed that he was very hungry. I told him to wait until we got to Toronto as we had gotten the ticket to use the lounge there. He wouldn’t listen and we ended up paying $25 for the overcharged airport sandwiches. And the airline company I frequently use, and have troubles with, did it again. Although I made a reservation and chose the seats well over four months ago, they had handed the seats to other passengers. If they boast about the advance seat selection, they need to learn how to hold it. During the seventy-five-minutes’ crammed flight to Toronto, my partner and I had to sit separately, and I got water when I asked for apple juice for some reason. Other than those small incidents, the flight to Japan took off without any troubles, fortunately. Thirteen hours later the plane would land and my trip to Canada would come to an end. I was surprised that there was no Japanese family with noisy children this time that I usually encounter on the plane. Instead, quite a few Canadian tourists were on board. Their trip to Japan had just begun and they looked so happy and excited. I couldn’t understand why they had chosen Japan for the destination of their trip and how they could be happy about it like that. I was sitting behind them feeling so depressed to go back to Japan which houses and buildings are tasteless, which historical spots are gloomy and dark, which cities are jammed with too many people, and which families with kids behave obnoxious. I wanted them to tell me even one charm they found about Japan where I would be stuck again from now. I suppose every one wants to get out of their daily lives, but of all the beautiful places in the world, why Japan? In there, I will spend every day waiting for the day to get out and escape to Montreal and Laval again, figuring out how to do it…

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A Shopping Mall in Laval hr561

Near the hotel I stayed in, there was an indoor shopping mall called Carrefour. I walked on the bridge that crossed a 10-lane highway and caught a glimpse of the glass ceiling of the mall up ahead. As I came closer, the mall got bigger and more splendid. It was my first visit to this mall which beauty made my jaw dropped. Although it was a one-story complex, its ceiling was about three-story high. The passageways are wide, and in the middle of them, there were cafes, kiosks, shop wagons, trees, and life-sized decorations that looked like a park. A classic car-shaped cart was running around to help shoppers who had difficulty in walking. I felt as if I was strolling around an elegant European town rather than a mall. It was undoubtedly the most gorgeous, fashionable mall I’d ever seen. I passed high-class brand shops and bought accessories on sale at Old Navy. To have lunch, I was headed for the food court that was the fanciest one I’d ever been. Sunlight came in through the glass ceiling high above. Glittering chandeliers were everywhere. The restaurants weren’t just for fast food but for steaks and seafood as well. I had a Chinese dish at a cozy, clean table with a gleeful grin all over my face. After lunch, I strolled about the department store Simons that was on one of the wings of the mall. I couldn’t tell whether it had to do with a French-spoken region or not, shoppers there were all fashionable and somehow good-looking. I was embarrassed that I wasn’t pretty enough for the place and felt the need of more serious dieting. The merchandise the store carried was colorful and stylish, which was the kind I rarely found in Japan. By the reason that I couldn’t get any of those in Japan, I talked myself into impulse buying of a bag, scarves and gloves. And I took a rest on a bench in the mall having ice cream. I had never been in such a pleasant mall like this. Of course Japan has big modern malls in suburbs too, but those are crammed with idle housewives and noisy kids. Restaurants are chronically too full with them to get in. Remembering how uncomfortable life in Japan was, I was impressed by this town Laval afresh. People were nice and kind. The town was safe and relaxing. And it had this beautiful and gorgeous mall. I couldn’t believe a place like this existed on earth. I craved to live here and wished I had money to do so. I had liked to live in my apartment back in Japan since I moved in five years ago, but that life seemed miserable now that I knew Laval. Time is limited. With each passing day, the remaining days of my life decrease. That thought pressured and threatened me. I was assailed by a strong urge to move to Laval as soon as possible…

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It Is Laval hr560

On the sixth day of my trip to Montreal, I moved to a different hotel in a Montreal suburb Laval from downtown. The hotel rates there were a little cheaper, and I also wanted to visit Laval that I had never been to even when I lived in Montreal a long time ago. I looked out the window at the lounge in the hotel. A vast 10-lane highway ran straight through a wide stretch of plane land covered with greenery as far as the eye can see, which reminded me of Orlando, Florida. Across the highway from the hotel was a new building of the space camp attraction beside which a tall replica of a rocket stood. Right next to them, there was a movie complex which building had a futuristic, UFO-like shape. Looking at all of them against the background of twilight, I felt as if I had traveled through time to the future or I had actually arrived at Tomorrowland. I thought I should have known and come to Laval sooner. It was kind of an exquisite mix of openness in Anaheim, California and chic in Montreal, which added up to an ideal place for me. I wished I could live here someday. Just before leaving Japan for this trip, I saw the biggest, clearest rainbow I’d ever seen from my apartment window. Since I watched a movie ‘The Muppets’, I’ve always felt like there is a dreamer’s place on the other side of a rainbow as the song in the film says whenever I come across one. And one morning in Laval, a rainbow appeared. I was in the bathroom when my partner shouted, “Here’s a huge, beautiful rainbow!” Although I quickly came out, it had vanished already, and only my partner’s ecstatic face was there. He had taken a photo of it and proudly showed it to me, as if he was the chosen one to have seen it. For some reason, I extremely resented and kept wondering why I was in the bathroom at that moment. I was grumpy all day long, thinking that meant I wasn’t good enough to live in Laval, Laval rejected me, I was disqualified, all of which was merely because of one missed rainbow. I returned to the hotel room exhausted and still sullen early in that evening. I casually stood by the window, and saw what was in front of me. It was a gigantic perfect arch of a rainbow against an orange sky. I felt awed and relieved at the same time. As the way and the look of the rainbow that appeared for the second time in one day were quite mystical, I even thought the rainbow was trying to tell me something. I may have passed through the big rainbow that I had seen in Japan and have reached to the opposite side of it. This place could be that one on the other side of the rainbow. Or, more possibly, three biggest rainbows ever in a few days simply occurred by sheer chance…

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