Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

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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Casino de Montreal hr559

I visited the casino in Montreal for the first time in seven years. It had been remodeled into an even more gorgeous, glorious place than before. I arrived there before noon and had an all-you-can-eat buffet lunch at a fancy restaurant. I enjoyed the splendid buffet at an incredibly low price. Compare to the amount of money I was about to spend for gambling, everything seemed cheap. Every time I lose, I always try to calm my anger by thinking the money I spend here somehow serves to make the city better since it’s a public-managed casino. The city is so beautiful that I regard what I lose in the casino as an entrance fee to a theme park called Montreal. I used to live in Montreal but had to leave as I became short of money for life abroad. When the time to go back to Japan drew near, I seriously thought of gaining money to stay in Montreal, by gambling. I determinedly sat at the slot machine of a high progressive prize for a couple of days. On the last day, it happened. As the slot I had played kept gobbling up my money, I moved over to another slot machine and a middle-aged woman came to the one I just left. She turned it for only five or six times and hit the jackpot unbelievably quickly and easily. If I had continued for five more quarters on that slot, I would have won. She snatched $100,000 away from me right before my eyes. While she screamed for joy, the lights flashed, the sound blared and the casino workers scurried toward her with papers, I was running into the bathroom. I couldn’t help crying in there. I was trembling with chagrin. I cursed my bad luck and my coming life in Japan. A long time ago, my mother asked a fortuneteller about my future. She told me that according to the fortuneteller, I would often come close to big money, but it would slip away each time. “So, you will never be rich,” my mother said to me. I remembered that and I thought I saw proof that she was right. After I returned to my apartment, I wailed out loud like a baby. My former self was that stupid. Now, I play the slot machine just for fun. I sat at the minimum bet slot with a low prize. If I was lucky and won a little, it meant that I could play longer with that money. The band started playing at the stage on the casino floor and I enjoyed soft drinks that I took from the free drink bar listening to it. I won a little, which let me stay and play there longer than I had planned. As fatigue from the long flight began to kick in earnestly, I got back to my hotel room and fell into bed. It was an excitingly fun day at the casino that cleaned me out yet again, as usual…

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Back to Montreal hr558

A trip to California I took in May changed my mindset. When I found bargain fares online, I quickly decided to go to Montreal for the first time in seven years by using my emergency savings. I felt it was ridiculous to keep money in a bank although we are mortal and we don’t know when our time is up. I once lived in Montreal for about a year in total. I wanted to stay there, but I had to leave and come back to Japan as my money ran out. Since then, I have always hoped to live there again or at least to visit there as a tourist. What I like about Montreal are its beauty, a relaxing atmosphere and people there who seem to live to enjoy life rather than achieve success. I’m not sure if it’s because of their ways of life or the French-spoken region of Canada, but they are fashionable with excellent taste. For that combination of the city and the people, just walking down the street is fascinating enough. I took on a 12-hour flight to Toronto during which I happened to find ‘Tomorrowland’ among the in-flight movies, saw it twice and cried yet again. I went through immigration where an immigration officer gave me lengthy, irrelevant, even harassing questions including about my pin I was wearing on my jacket. It was a pin from ‘Tomorrowland’ and she almost made me begin to explain the whole movie story. The airport system in Toronto was somewhat odd. I was just in transit en route to Montreal, but I needed to pick up my luggage, carry to the distant counter and check it in all over again. Although I had already been through the security checkpoint before I got on board in Japan and had never left the airport, I had to do it again. I ended up gobbling a whole bottle of water in front of the security gate, which was exactly what I did on the last trip to California. After the security checkpoint, I saw an information screen for departure to make sure the gate number for my flight to Montreal. The flight was missing. There was no information about my flight, no cancelled, no delayed, no nothing. Among the long list of departing flights, my flight itself didn’t exist. I was close to panic. And I realized we don’t have anybody around for something like this nowadays. There is no information counter, airport workers don’t know about flights, and airline personnel at the gates don’t know other flights’ status. I had no one to ask. The only place I came up with as where the airline personnel with flight information were working was an executive lounge. I went up there and asked about my flight. She glanced at her computer display and said, ‘It’s on time.’ My flight did exist, but for some weird reason, the airport screen showed information only for selected flights. I had scurried around the terminal for this absurd system. I finally arrived at Montreal after a one-and-a-half-hour flight. A cab ran on the freeway at 75 miles per hour through the night and downtown Montreal appeared in 20 minutes. It was the same freeway on which a cab carried me in the dark before dawn seven years ago when I was leaving for Japan. I remember I wished upon the moon that I could return here someday, as I had no way to find the money to come back. The moon satisfied my wish, I supposed. I checked in a hotel and looked out of the window. Beneath the window was Sherbrooke Street where many people were still passing by. Above the town lights of the city, I saw the cross on the Mont-Royal that was lighted up and floated in the dark sky. It was a view that I felt like I was strayed into a dreamland. I thought my bold decision to spend money for this trip was right. It would be a big loss not to come to such a beautiful place like this when it exists. I literally fell down to bed to sleep since I was completely exhausted from the 24-hour trip from home to here and the turmoil at Toronto Airport. Next morning, I woke up early because of jet lag. The first thing I decided to do in Montreal wasn’t to get a rest in the hotel room or to take a walk in the city. It was going to casino to win back all the money I had spent there in the past…

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