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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Hidemi’s Rambling No.548

After I landed on Los Angeles, I took a bus to Anaheim from LAX. It was playing outdated rock music on the stereo and running on a patchy freeway that had eternal traffic. Out the window were rows of shabby houses along the freeway. Everything was so familiar that I felt as if I had been here last month, not ten years before. It seemed that I had just awoken from a long dream of ten years in Japan and actually never left here. I thought nothing changed after all, but realized I was all wrong about it afterward during my stay. The biggest change that surprised me most was people. Until ten years ago, I had lived or visited regularly here, and people weren’t nice. At a fancy beauty salon, when a receptionist was about to lead me to a seat, a manager stopped me and asked me to leave. I was told that the seats were full although the salon was apparently empty. At a deli, a salesperson ignored me and wouldn’t take my order. She took an order of a white man who was standing behind me in the line instead. I used to encounter unkind people with horrible attitudes and racism almost every day. For those experiences, I had braced myself for similar bad treatments on this trip. As it turned out, what awaited me was a miracle that I never had them at all during the whole trip this time. Every single person I met was nice and kind. When I took a local bus and was standing, a man offered his seat to me, saying his stop was next. I have a storage unit here and went to open it for the first time in ten years. Because I paid late a couple of years ago, the lock had been changed. I explained the matter at the office and the man with a Southern accent pleasantly came over to my unit. He didn’t mind extra work inflicted by me and cut the lock with a circular saw for free while burning his fingers a little, smiling and laughing all the way. I was wearing a pin of a movie ‘Tomorrowland’ during the trip, and seven or eight people who spotted it talked to me. Everybody was smiling and friendly. I’m not prettier or richer than I was when I lived here. While I remain the same, people’s attitudes toward me have dramatically changed. I wondered where those then-mean people had gone. They might as well have been abducted by aliens who in turn put down new nice people. As the trip went on, I had been getting more and more in high spirits. It had seemed silly that I spent months ahead of the trip worrying so many things. I was elated enough to get a lot of souvenirs. At the checkout, a salesperson, who needless to say was polite, said to me smiling, “It seems your card can’t be processed. Do you have a different card?” Everything in my eyes suddenly went black. My charge card was maxed out, which meant I completely used up my entire budget for the trip. I paid with my emergency-only credit card and my shopping spree came to an abrupt end. A new worry that I would manage to cut and contrive expenses when I returned home grasped at me. I felt an urge to be drunk…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.546

The flight to Vancouver where I stopped over on the way to Los Angeles was unexpectedly comfortable. The plane wasn’t crowded and the flight attendants were all nice and attentive. In my old days that I had traveled between Japan and U.S. back and forth every three months, I used to fly an awful airline that I chose for its cheap fare. That airline’s flight attendants were generally terrible. They were chewing gums and walking with stepping on the back of their pumps. They threw a bag of peanuts at a passenger and a requested drink was often off. I once witnessed they crammed a large number of cans and bottles of drinks that they hadn’t given out the passengers into their own bags right before landing. They must have had a spree with them in a hotel room that night. When I asked for a small bottle of brandy once, I was told it had been all out. A man sitting behind me asked for it right after that, and the same attendant pleasantly handed it to him. I asked my partner if it was racism. He told me that it wasn’t a grave thing like that but the attendant simply couldn’t lie twice in a row and had to give it unwillingly. That airline no longer exists after it went bankrupt several years later and was taken over by a rival airline. The flight I took this time was completely different. Adding to the good service, it wasn’t a bumpy flight and I didn’t feel sick as I had worried before. The only glitch I had was when dinner was served. Although I had requested beef beforehand, an attendant said to me, “We have extra chicken, too. Would you like it?” I reckoned that I could have chicken added to my beef and said yes. And I ended up having just chicken, not beef. Beside that small thing, I had enjoyed the flight all the way, which was quite rare to me. It almost blotted out all the unpleasant happenings before departure and I even got to like this low-cost carrier. But as always, nothing goes so well without an incident when it comes to me. It happened when the plane landed on Vancouver. The seat belt signs were turned off and the attendants were preparing for the doors. The passengers were standing on the aisles with relieved expression on their faces and their bags in their hands, waiting for the door to open. As the door opened, instead of the ground staff, half a dozen men and women dressed in black rushed inside the plane. They were wearing bulletproof vests on which the letters POLICE were written and carrying weapons that seemed firearms and others. The air inside the plane instantly froze. The flight attendants looked surprised too. One of the police shouted “Everyone, go back to your seat and stay there!” We all sat in our seats again, with a straight back for some reason. No one was talking and they were just looking ahead with shifty eyes. The plane was filled with extreme tension in a complete silence. I remembered a news sequence I watched on ABC World News a couple of weeks ago. It eerily looked just like this situation. The police rushed inside the plane aiming guns and it also occurred in Canada. I began to feel panicky, imagining that a shootout would start in any moment or a plane would explode. I thought I knew something bad would eventually happen. I would have never set my feet on North America with this trip after all as troublesome preparation had hinted. As I was being swallowed by fears, a young woman appeared from the back of the plane. She was walking with both her arms held by two policemen, accompanied by another policeman who was carrying her bag. After they left the plane, the rest of the police asked some questions to the flight attendants and got out. Then all the passengers were allowed to get off the plane. My partner and I finally reached North America and took in air of Vancouver. I wasn’t sure what happened to the woman, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t easy for me to get here…

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