The first day of our vacation was allotted to visiting my brother, his wife, Nancy (who is seemingly ageless), their children, Bill, Shauna and Jennifer (and their respective spouses, Gail, Jon-Eben and Erik), and their children, Adam, Amanda, Josh, Owen, Miriam and Shane.
This is my family, and I rarely get to see them. Our reunions, therefore, are always somewhat bittersweet. I am reminded of the price I paid, leaving to seek my fortune in the States. But the shared history, the warmth and the connection remain.
And they actually seem to like me. As I most sincerely do them.
We brought presents for the young ‘uns. I was excited to present the three older boys with Yasiel Puig t-shirts. Then, the inevitable ripple of insecurity set in. Two questions jangled disturbingly in my easily arousable nervous system. One: Would the t-shirts fit? And two: What if they never heard of Yasiel Puig?
The answer, to my relief: They did, and they did. (Sudden New Insecurity: What if you never heard of Yasiel Puig? Exemplifying the one exception to the Terminally Anxious Person’s Litany of Concerns: You will never run out of things to worry about.) (Noyr: Yasiel Puig is an electrifying rookie Dodgers baseball player.)
The next morning, we had breakfast at the hundred year-old – though not at the same location – United Bakery, which, is what, in the Hebraic tradition, is called a “dairy” restaurant. No meat, only bovine bi-products.
The waitresses at the United are habitually personal. Ours explained to me that the bagel I had ordered was so fresh, there was no need to toast it. My face said, “I don’t need you to be that personal”, and my mouth said, “Toast it.” As I recall, it was delivered to the table somewhat burnt.
We took a postprandial stroll around the Lawrence Plaza Shopping Center, a mall located a few blocks from where I lived as a teenager, midway and walking distance, even in the winter where it didn’t actually get further away it just felt like it, between my home and my High School.
Everything was different. All the familiar (from decades past) Lawrence Plaza landmarks had entirely disappeared. Little Jack’s, where I consumed illicit (read: non-kosher) hamburgers – gone. Maynards Ice Cream Parlour, where I enjoyed chocolate nut sundaes, imagining the company of the girl of my dreams but settling inevitably for “Cuppy” Taichman (a male buddy) – replaced by a discount sneakers outlet.
The Health Bakery, that sold my favorite type of Gingerbread Boy – a bank. The barbershop down the alley where there were eight chairs each manned by a haircutter named “Tony” and I was always shuttled to the eighth and least experienced “Tony” – not there. In fact, the alley was gone too.
And so, for that matter, was my High School.
It is a funny kind of cognitive dissonance, afflicting only the “rapidly advancing in age.” You see the place. You know the place. But it’s not the place.
It’s a frustrating feeling. You have this hunger for nostalgia. But there’s nothing to nostalge.
On our way back to the car after this less than satisfying meander down “Memory Lane” (now changed to “Erased Your Past Avenue”), we pass a large department store called Winners (formerly The Bay, before which it was The Hudson’s Bay Company, before which it was Morgan’s), where I spot a giant poster plastered in the store’s window that reads:
“60% Off –Every Day.”
I ponder that announcement. Sixty percent off. Every day. And I think to myself,
“Why don’t people just wait?”
“Sixty percent off.” “Sixty percent off.” “Sixty percent off.” In not long a time, that stuff’s gonna be really cheap!
Perhaps not the funniest observation, but it’s how I cheer myself up when they detonate my history.
Wherever we travel, I like to scan the local newspapers, to get a sense of what the metropolis I am visiting finds newsworthy. Consider this article, billboarded on the First Page of the Toronto Star concerning the recently completed Tour De France:
“Canadian Svein Tuft, a 36-year-old Tour rookie, earns the Lantern Rouge as the cyclist who finished last. Folio, Pages A6-7.”
Imagine that. Two full pages of coverage, in the First Section of a major newspaper, chronicling a Canadian cyclist who came in last in the Tour De France. I imagine in an American newspaper, that story would appear, I don’t know…
Another story – this one headlined prominently on “Page 4” –
“Thieves cart off hospital’s baby grand”
“Toronto Police are hunting for three men in connection with the brazen daytime theft of an expensive baby grand piano from Toronto General Hospital.”
In a follow-up story – this was like a “multi-parter” heinous “Hospital Piano Theft Saga”; it ran over four days – it was reported that when hospital personnel confronted the thieves rolling the purloined instrument out on a dolly – “Where ya goin’ with that piano, eh?” – they were informed that they were taking it out to be tuned, an explanation the hospital personnel accepted, unaware, apparently, that the piano tuner generally comes to the piano.
Tomorrow: Headin' North.
Just Curious: If “Missing Children” is “Amber Alert”, what color is “Missing Pianos”?