Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"Hometown Hobservations"

A Bumpy Beginning

We flew to Toronto Business Class, using our Air Miles. The lunch entrée choices were shrimp, or chicken garnished with ham. I immediately came up with a new company slogan:

“American Airlines – We Don’t Care What Jews Eat”

On The Way To The Hotel

I directed Dr. M to a street that I knew would showcase the Canadian incarnation of current season. It was a magnificent display, an autumnal wonderland – Halloween trees, dressed in pumpkin-colored leaves. Also lemon yellow, flaming orange, and Bordeaux red. Plus a myriad of others I lack color adjectives to describe.

The street, a semi-major thoroughfare, featured two lanes in each direction. The right lane was blocked by (legally) parked cars. The lane beside it was designated for left turns. We spent the duration of the drive barely moving at all.

Which gave us more time to check out the leaves.

Memorable Excursion

We drove to Niagara Falls. I had visited there years before with my brother, sister-in-law and their (at the time) infant son. I remember lunching at a revolving restaurant. I recall someone throwing up. I do not believe it was the infant.

Or his parents.

Niagara Falls is a rightfully-earned “Wonder of the World.” Especially the Canadian version: Braided waters of gray-green and white, cascading downward with a bone-chilling intensity. Not far away are the American Falls, powerful but smaller, and comparatively less impressive. You can almost sense the confusion. American waters with knitted brows, going,

“Aren’t we supposed to be better at everything?”

Not at falls.

The Purpose Of Our Visit

The straight and slim Bar Mitzvah boy, who on our last visit had seemed truculently resistant to the obligatory Rite of Passage, faced his liturgical challenge with confidence and a capability, born from countless hours of practice. Being both baseball fans, I was certain he would immediately get my analogy describing his performance:

“A can of corn.”

He didn’t. I explained that, in baseball, a “can of corn” is a routine fly ball lofted to an outfielder whose preparation for that moment made its execution look entirely effortless. I told him that’s exactly how he’d come off, reading his Torah portion.

And then he smiled.

The Weather Show

The sky kept changing. At first, it was a no-nonsense layered gray, signaling, “There’s a storm a’brewin’.” (And, in fact, it snowed really hard on Halloween.) But at sunset, you’d look out from your hotel room window and see a darkening sky with pinky-red streaks, or a Technicolor purple sky, a light blue sky with puffy white clouds, or a return of the ominous, layered gray.

I like a sky that provides options. Every day in Los Angeles, we are greeted with the same cloudless, pastel blue, bringing to mind a monochromatic “Paint By Numbers” picture, its upper area designated:


As for the frigid temperature and gusting wind? Well, the first day, it was a giggly novelty. The second day – silly ,but that’s what it is. By the third day, however, suited up in layered clothing, a heavy coat, a scarf, a hat and gloves – you totally remember why you moved.

Canadian Crossword

Dr. M enjoys doing the crossword puzzle in the newspaper. I discovered one in the morning’s National Post, handed it over, and she immediately went to work.

After ten minutes of exasperated effort, she put down her pen and gave up. “Is it too hard?” I asked. “It’s weird,” she replied, reading me a random clue as an example of her difficulty.

“Who is ‘The eighth premier of Nova Scotia’?”

I had no idea. And it’s unlikely they know in Nova Scotia either.

A Moving Memorial

Our visit also included a trip to the cemetery, where a reworked headstone was unveiled, now featuring both my parents’ names and significant data. There were wiped-away tears, warming reminiscences and a Prayer for the Departed, the event, a sobering yang to the celebratory bar mitzvah yin. Or maybe it’s the other way around. I’m not exactly an expert in that department.

The “unveiling” was once again presided over by the extremely youthful rabbi, who had also conducted my mother’s funeral. When we were originally introduced, I had greeted the kid rabbi with the considerably less than respectful, “First day?”

Today, the rabbi was searching to infuse the proceedings with some memorable “Sign From On High.” Moments earlier, he had spotted a fox skittering across the cemetery grounds. Hoping to use the sighting as a reassuring “Heavenly Wink”, the neophyte rabbi inquired, “Did you mother like animals?” Hesitating barely an eye blink, my brother replied,

“Well, she liked us.”

A Canadian News Story

A fed-up storekeeper, the contents of whose convenience store was continually being pilfered, had detained a notorious, serial shoplifter, by tying him up and incarcerating him in a van until the police arrived. When the cops showed up, hours later,

They arrested the storekeeper.

For kidnapping.

“You can’t just tie people up,” an officer explained, as they hauled the storekeeper away on a charge of “assault and forcible confinement.” They did not, however, delineate what the complainant was supposed to have done with the shoplifter during the period between their detainment and the arrival of The Law. Previous experience had demonstrated that if you don’t somehow confine the shoplifters, rather than waiting around to be arrested, they simply get up and walk out of the store. Only to return later, and shoplift again!

Before announcing his verdict, the presiding judge warned the gallery against either cheering or booing the verdict. He added, however, that once he closes the door behind him, it’s amazing “how quickly I can lose my hearing.”

The storekeeper was acquitted. There was an explosion of applause. But only after the judge had exited the courtroom.

A five-star home cooked dinner, an invitation to lunch where, upon our arrival, we were met with a tabletop strewn with red and golden maple leaves, courtesy of our hosts, an always bittersweet farewell to family who, very sadly, live too far away,

And back on the plane.

I looked out the window. It was, by far, the most beautiful day of our visit – sunny, not at all cold, and virtually windless.

And we, of course, were going home.


Anonymous said...

George H. Murray

Anonymous said...

That shopkeeper had apprehended shoplifters (including this guy, I believe) several times before and sat them down in the store or a back room to wait for the arrival of the police-- which is how you are supposed to detain someone who is under citizens' arrest. Unfortunately, previous experience showed that the police don't really have the time or resources to charge everyone who gets caught lifting five five bucks worth of produce, so they tend to let them off with a warning.

That's understandably frustrating. So this time he decided to tie the thief hand and foot with an extension cord and the cops showed up just as he an two other guys were throwing him in the back of a van.

Now, honestly. You think he was getting put into that van to wait for the police that the shopkeeper knew would just let him go with a stern talking to? Or do you think it's possible they were going to drive somewhere secluded to teach him a lesson about stealing from them? Note that the grocer had not called the police-- a neighbor called 911 when she saw three guys tying someone up in an alley.


PG said...

The shopkeeper story has lots of layers, as these things often do. The press played up the humility and reluctance of Asians to stand up for themselves in their new land, hence the easy victimization of this fellow and his wares. The police, demonized after the big show of fascism at the G-thing, were characterized as not caring about the ordinary, law-abiding hard- working stiff and the public were up in arms about his seemingly reckless prosecution using the very thief who repeatedly stole from his store as the main witness for the prosecution. Very exciting for Toronto!
It was great to see you all and i was personally very happy that my little Ginko clung so tenaciously to its bright yellow leaves for your visit. The day you left, they all fell off at once!
Come again soon.