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.


An Earthly Paradise hr596

When I lived in California, the apartment I rented had an outside Jacuzzi. I liked taking it at night, seeing the sky above. Under the palm trees, I watched an airplane’s small dot of light blinking and moving through the stars. It was the moment that I felt like a winner who obtained a life in paradise by getting out of not only Japan but also my family to which I had been a bound successor. Prices in the U.S. were extremely low compared to Japan back then because of the strong yen. It seemed to me that everything was on sale and I literally lived in a bargain country. Sadly, my life in paradise didn’t last long, though. The Japanese economy crashed and yen turned weak. Inflation had edged up in the States as well. Price hikes assaulted me in all directions. I became unable to pay the rent even if I had moved into a cheap motel. I was practically kicked out of the States and the plane brought bitterly-discouraged myself back to Japan where I returned to a life of reality in a teeny-tiny apartment. Time went by, and I had benefited from technological advances like the Internet and computers, and also from the fall of housing value in Japan. Those benefits let me live in a condominium that has a communal spa. I take a Jacuzzi there watching a beautiful view of the mountains with lingering snow out of big windows. One day, I felt so euphoric that I thought this wasn’t real. I thought I may have already died from that northern Japan’s severe earthquake or from the subsequent meltdown of the nuclear plant, and must be in heaven now. That reminded me of the sensation I had felt in a Jacuzzi in California. I had never expected that I would experience an equally enraptured life here in Japan when I parted with it there. If I traveled back in time with a time machine, I could talk to my other self who was in despair on the flight to Japan from the States. I would say to her, “Years from now, you will get another chance to live in paradise!” I would tell her that she wouldn’t give up music and would have completed two songs back in Japan that had quality she had been craved for and entirely satisfied with. How easier the flight would’ve been if I had heard those words there. I was too hopeless to imagine so much as a speck of the possibility. I always find myself foolish in hindsight whenever I look back later. There are tons of things I have to say to my past self beforehand. The question is, what would my future self tell me now if she looked at me taking the Jacuzzi here. Would she say, “Embrace the moment. It’s the pinnacle of your life”? Or would she say, “Prepare yourself. It’s just the beginning”? I desperately hope for the latter…


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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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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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Hidemi’s Rambling No.553

The frightening experience that I almost lost my precious wristwatch at LAX exhausted me but I had to wait for five hours for my flight because of the cancellations. I was allowed to use the executive lounge for the compensation and stepped in there for the first time. It was located on the second floor of the terminal and a totally different world. It was a quiet, spacious place with large sofas and sparse people who all looked rich. I was afraid that a person like me might be kicked out. There was a buffet that laid out a wide variety of expensive hams and cheese that I wouldn’t reach to get in my daily life. Since they were free here, I mounted them high on my plate and repeated it as much as I could. High-end gourmet coffees and teas were also free. It wasn’t the time for me to care about embarrassment of my devouring. Out of the huge window of the lounge, I enjoyed the view of planes taking off and landing. Out of the opposite side of the window, I saw the downstairs of the terminal. It was under construction and the walls were temporarily boards of wood. The passengers were waiting in the crammed gate area and some were sitting on the floor. Usually, that was me. Now I was looking down from above. I felt sorry and guilty. But at the same time, I found myself gloating. Five hours flashed by and I went down to the gate for boarding. Although the gate was packed with passengers, I got on the plane without waiting in line because I had gotten a free upgrade to the business class as the compensation of the flight cancellation. I was thrilled to sit in a full-flat seat for the first time in my life. Numerous buttons were all around the seat and it looked more like a console rather than a seat. As soon as the plane took off and the seat belt sign was turned off, I eagerly pushed the button for a flat position. With a subtle machinery noise, the back of the seat lowered and my feet were drawn beneath the table of the seat before mine. It slowly became completely flat. Because I’m short, there was still surplus space and I lay down without touching anywhere. It was felt like flying in a coffin, but for a person like me who had flown only in a tiny little seat, it was unbelievably comfortable. Probably because the flight time was less than three hours, nobody else made the seat flat. I was the only passenger in the business class who was rolling over and chuckling in the coffin. After I spent a night in Vancouver, I took an international flight to Japan the next day. This one was a long-haul flight of eleven hours. Quite a few Japanese families are usually on board on the flight to Japan, and they are almost always in a bad mood somewhat. The atmosphere on the plane is accordingly not nice. As I had feared, there was a Japanese family with ill-mannered children this time. The kids were noisy and disorderly, romping all the way. The flight attendants often came to stop their dangerous behaviors, but the parents ignored as if they were strangers, which is too much common in Japan. I remembered how things were going in Japan and started having a feeling of gloom. When the plane landed in Japan and I stepped out of the plane, the first thing that crossed my mind was a strong desire that I had been dreaming the whole thing and the trip hadn’t started yet. I wished I got back on the plane and set off a trip all over again right here, right now. The noisy family was walking ahead and the mother said loudly, “Finally, it’s over! I’m so happy to be back in Japan!” I wondered why they should have spent a lot of money and disturbed others by taking an overseas travel in the first place if they liked to be in Japan so much. Worn-out as I was, I already wanted to find the money to go to North America soon again. I meant, I was supposed to go there…