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.
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.

Despair and Hope hr631

It happened a long time ago when I lived in Tokyo. My partner and I had dinner at a restaurant one night after we hung around the mall. We came back to our apartment that we had rented on the top floor of the building as our home and the office for our record label.
When I tried to turn my key on the front door, I noticed the door had remained unlocked. It was weird. I may have forgotten to lock the door when I left, which was highly unlikely since I was fussy about locking and couldn’t leave without making sure that the door wouldn’t open by trying the knob for a couple of times. I got in feeling dubious, but our apartment didn’t look unusual. Then my partner suddenly said, “Why is the cabinet open?” My heart began to beat fast with overwhelming uneasiness and I hurried into the bedroom that had a balcony. The tall window to the balcony had been smashed broken. It was a burglary.
I called the police right away while my partner was gingerly looking into the bathroom, the closet, and behind the drapes to see if the burglar wasn’t still hiding. Those minutes were the scariest as too many movie scenes flashed back to me. Thankfully, there was nobody. The police arrived quickly since the station was ironically only a block away from my apartment. Such a location apparently wasn’t safe enough to prevent burglary.
The policemen came in and looked around. As they saw the messy rooms, they showed sympathy saying, “It’s played havoc, huh?” It was funny because my apartment had been messy as it was long before burglary. But probably thanks to it, the burglar didn’t notice an envelope that held a few thousand dollars for the bills and was mingled with scraps of paper on the table. Instead of cash, a dozen of Disney wrist watches that was my collection, a cheap wrist watch that was my partner’s memento of his late mother, an Omega wrist watch that I received from my grandparents as a souvenir of their trip to Europe decades ago, and one game software were missing. Actually, those items had been the only valuables in my office apartment. Other than those and litter, my apartment had been quite empty. The reason was simple. I was near bankrupt at that time.
I had started up my music label with my partner and it had grown steadily as business. A person I had trusted offered substantial financial support and I took it. I rented this apartment and hired staff with that money. Then the financial supporter tried to take over my label and threatened to suspend further finance if I refused. Amid horrible disgusting negotiations, money stopped being wired into my account. The label came to a standstill for lack of funds. I laid off all staff and saw what took eight years for my partner and I to build from a scratch crumbling down. The blow was amplified by anger and self-loathing from the fact that I was deceived by a person I had trusted. Despair and emptiness led to apathy. I stopped doing or thinking anything and had played a game every day.
In hindsight, if there hadn’t been burglary, my partner and I would have kept paying the costly rent for the apartment and playing a game until we spent all the money that was left. But something clicked when I saw the very game software I had played every day picked among other many games to be stolen, and the glass window of my dream penthouse apartment smashed. It marked the point where I hit the bottom but also was a wake-up call. We moved out the luxurious apartment immediately and rented a cheap studio apartment in a small two-storied building.
That move left some money in my bank account. The deposit of the penthouse apartment was returned, too. Also, I received an unexpected insurance payout. The expensive rent of my former apartment included a damage insurance. The insurance company assessed the damage based on the report I submitted to the police. For some reason, they calculated the payout more than the total price of what were stolen. I discussed with my partner about what to do with the money. We decided to go to California. A new start form zero. And that was to be the beginning of all these, everything that I do at present. My works have been taken to the world by that decision, made by the burglary.

the smell of the U.S.

I went to Costco again today. I had a hot dog and a slice of pizza at the food court there for the first time. They had incredibly low prices and had the exactly similar taste to the ones I used to have in the U.S. The store also has the smell of the U.S. I think people living there don’t ever notice but supermarkets of the U.S. have unique smell, which is very different from Japanese supermarkets. I could tell instantly by the smell which country’s supermarket it is even if I entered blindfolded.

While I was eating at the food court, I felt back in time when I lived in the U.S. The similar taste and smell gave me an illusion that I still lived there. But one big difference reminded me that this was Japan. The clerks have good attitudes. The hot dog came with an all-you-can-drink soft drink that Japanese food courts don’t have, and I didn’t get how to draw a straw from the container. While I was confused in front of it, a man standing next to me nimbly pushed down the bottom receiver and a straw came out. Now I recollected the American way after being embarrassed…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

Every time, I lose.

What is the sweetest sound for you? Mine is the sound of a credit card having been successfully processed and of a slot machine ringing for a win. I watched ‘Ocean’s Thirteen’ today and heard the latter in the last scene. I have never been to Vegas, but have been to the casino in Montreal. Every time, I lose. For consolation, I persuade myself that the money is deposited for a future jackpot. While keep depositing, I doubt if the day I withdraw from that account ever comes…

You’re number one

When I lived in California, I would often visit Disneyland Hotel, as it was only a few blocks away from the place I lived. One day I had a meal there and went into the rest room. There was a cleaning lady working at the washbowl. I have the habit of thanking and nodding to them and I did so to her at the time as usual. Our eyes met and she gazed at me. I was about to wash my hands but her gaze stopped me. I was puzzled and watched her. She said, “You’re number one.” It was one of the most perplexing experiences of my life. That has mystified me ever since. I’m number one of what? When? I haven’t seen any sign of number one concerning me…

What kind of threat is she posing to me?

I’m poor at recognizing people’s faces. Sometimes they’re all the same – sometimes I can’t remember my acquaintance’s face. When I lived in California, I had rented a room in a hotel where a long-term lease was available. The rent included breakfast and supper and I had eaten with other tenants or guests. One day, I went into the lounge where the supper was served as usual, after coming back from a vacation in Florida for a couple of weeks. A woman came up to me and asked, “How was Florida?” I was frozen with terror. How could a total stranger like her ever possibly know I was in Florida? Is she a CIA or FBI or whatsoever agent? Why is the US intelligence after me who am the least important human being in the world? What did I do? What kind of threat is she posing to me? What does she want? With all those thoughts, the tongs in my hand were trembling while holding my favorite Chaw Main. I managed to squeeze my voice out of fear and asked her how she knew I was in Florida. She stared at me with a look of surprise and said, “You told me so yourself.” She was my acquaintance. Although we had had a meal together for several times, I didn’t remember her face…