My new Kindle has been published! ‘Montreal: One on The Other Side of The Rainbow / Hidemi Woods‘

Back to Montreal

 A trip to California I took in May changed my mindset. When I found bargain fares online, I quickly decided to go to Montreal for the first time in seven years by using my emergency savings. I felt it was ridiculous to keep money in a bank although we are mortal and we don’t know when our time is up.

I once lived in Montreal for about a year in total. I wanted to stay there, but I had to leave and come back to Japan as my money ran out. Since then, I have always hoped to live there again or at least to visit there as a tourist. What I like about Montreal are its beauty, a relaxing atmosphere and people there who seem to live to enjoy life rather than achieve success. I’m not sure if it’s because of their ways of life or the French-spoken region of Canada, but they are fashionable with excellent taste. For that combination of the city and the people, just walking down the street is fascinating enough.

I took on a 12-hour flight to Toronto during which I happened to find ‘Tomorrowland’ among the in-flight movies, saw it twice and cried yet again. I went through immigration where an immigration officer gave me lengthy, irrelevant, even harassing questions including about my pin I was wearing on my jacket. It was a pin from ‘Tomorrowland’ and she almost made me begin to explain the whole movie story.

The airport system in Toronto was somewhat odd. I was just in transit en route to Montreal, but I needed to pick up my luggage, carry to the distant counter and check it in all over again. Although I had already been through the security checkpoint before I got on board in Japan and had never left the airport, I had to do it again. I ended up gobbling a whole bottle of water in front of the security gate, which was exactly what I did on the last trip to California.

After the security checkpoint, I saw an information screen for departure to make sure the gate number for my flight to Montreal. The flight was missing. There was no information about my flight, no cancelled, no delayed, no nothing. Among the long list of departing flights, my flight itself didn’t exist. I was close to panic. And I realized we don’t have anybody around for something like this nowadays. There is no information counter, airport workers don’t know about flights, and airline personnel at the gates don’t know other flights’ status. I had no one to ask.

The only place I came up with as where the airline personnel with flight information were working was an executive lounge. I went up there and asked about my flight. She glanced at her computer display and said, ‘It’s on time.’ My flight did exist, but for some weird reason, the airport screen showed information only for selected flights. I had scurried around the terminal for this absurd system.

I finally arrived at Montreal after a one-and-a-half-hour flight. A cab ran on the freeway at 75 miles per hour through the night and downtown Montreal appeared in 20 minutes. It was the same freeway on which a cab carried me in the dark before dawn seven years ago when I was leaving for Japan. I remember I wished upon the moon that I could return here someday, as I had no way to find the money to come back. The moon satisfied my wish, I supposed.

I checked in a hotel and looked out of the window. Beneath the window was Sherbrooke Street where many people were still passing by. Above the town lights of the city, I saw the cross on the Mont-Royal that was lighted up and floated in the dark sky. It was a view that I felt like I was strayed into a dreamland. I thought my bold decision to spend money for this trip was right. It would be a big loss not to come to such a beautiful place like this when it exists. I literally fell down to bed to sleep since I was completely exhausted from the 24-hour trip from home to here and the turmoil at Toronto Airport.

Next morning, I woke up early because of jet lag. The first thing I decided to do in Montreal wasn’t to get a rest in the hotel room or to take a walk in the city. It was going to casino to win back all the money I had spent there in the past…

 

Montreal: One on The Other Side of The Rainbow / Hidemi Woods

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.

I met him in person

Jacques Villeneuve is my favorite racing driver alive. I saw him racing for the first time on my first ever visit to a circuit in Suzuka, Japan. Before the Formula One race, there was a Formula Three race as a pre-race event. Jacques was racing in it. I hadn’t known him until then, but when I saw his driving, I predicted that he would be a Formula One driver someday. After that, he went on racing in North America, and won Indy 500. Four years after I first saw his race, he came to Formula One just as I had predicted. Because he realized my prediction, I became a big fan of his and cheered him ardently every race. He eventually became the world champion.

Seven years ago today, I met him in person. I was in Montreal and happened to drop by a restaurant for lunch while running an errand. He was there. What are the odds that you bump into someone whom you have wished to meet so badly for a long time? It was a pure miracle to me. I knew he wouldn’t like to be bothered his private time but I couldn’t help approaching him. He listened to me kindly, patiently, smiling, while I was spouting about how much I admired him. We shook hands. I usually wear nice clothes to eat out but on that particular day, I didn’t expect to go into a restaurant. At the happiest moment of my life, of all the clothes, I met him in a $5 jacket, a $7 skirt and with a necklace I had picked up on the street…

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…

met Jacques Villeneuve 6/9

I met him in person. I was in Montreal and happened to drop by a restaurant for lunch while running an errand. He was there. What are the odds that you bump into someone whom you have wished to meet so badly for a long time? It was a pure miracle to me. I knew he wouldn’t like to be bothered his private time but I couldn’t help approaching him. He listened to me kindly, patiently, smiling, while I was spouting about how much I admired him. We shook hands. I usually wear nice clothes to eat out but on that particular day, I didn’t expect to go into a restaurant. As the happiest moment of my life, of all the clothes, I met him in a $5 jacket, a $7 skirt and with a necklace I had picked up on the street…

Jacques Villeneuve 6/8

Jacques Villeneuve is my most favorite racing driver alive. I saw him racing for the first time on my first ever visit to a circuit in Suzuka, Japan. Before the Formula One race, there was a Formula Three race as a pre-race event. Jacques was racing in it. I hadn’t known him until then, but when I saw his driving, I predicted that he would be a Formula One driver someday. After that, he went on racing in North America, and won Indy 500. Four years after I first saw his race, he came to Formula One just as I had predicted. Because he realized my prediction, I became a big fan of his and cheered him ardently every race. He eventually became the world champion.