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Something in the Way We Move

A couple of days ago, with time to kill in the vicinity of the Decarie Expressway, I found myself wondering what would come of standing above it and watching the traffic for a while.

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Immediately, I felt a rush in seeing the cars and trucks below shooting away as if blown from a supersonic cannon.  I marvelled at how exciting the simple, everyday pace of our lives can be.  And desperate, too.  So little time given to us, so much to do.  Everyone with different destinations day to day, in vehicles that mark our individuality with make and colour and price tag.  Everyone with the same ultimate destination.  We ride alongside one another.  We choose or are given space from one another.  And most of the time, we occupy ourselves with the day-to-day, and postpone thoughts about the ultimate.  As it should be, perhaps.

The video clip below runs a minute or so.  Perhaps you too might experience the rush, and find your own reflections in it.

And then, later that day.  I’m riding the 161 bus out of Mile End, the old world meets new world neighbourhood where I’m living.

“Go!  Canadiens!  Go!” says the sign on the bus.  And well it should.  The Habs will be going into game seven that night against Boston (and, ultimately, pull off an upset with grit, goaltending and classic Montreal Canadiens speed). 

But the exclamation points are a marked contrast against the bus ride.

It’s a warm day, the bus is full, not moving very fast, and I feel my nostrils habitually, almost involuntarily, making an aperture adjustment to filter out the odour of a day’s worth of jostling humanity.  And then I stop.  I want to feel this in my nose.  It’s not a pleasant smell, but it’s the smell of shared experience. 

At the front of the bus is an Orthodox Jewish man with a black kippah, and closer to me, a younger one with a beatnik’s beard and a designer variation on tie-dye.  There’s a black man in front of me in a jean suit (kind enough to defer to me when a seat becomes available) and another, not far behind him, in a glistening, silver suit, while towards the front, a young black girl in pigtails conjures associations with Norman Rockwell’s civil rights paintings.  A woman with a beautiful profile; a man across the aisle distractedly keeping time to an imagined drum beat with a water bottle, slapping it again the place where neck and shoulder meet.  A young woman who I think is Russian can’t help from laughing at the antics of a couple of pre-adolescent schoolmates.  I want to tell the girl with the blue hair, out-of-season woolen socks and a knapsack with an “Are you dead yet?” decal that she is beautiful, because I suspect she has no idea. 

And we are without our masks.  We are not acting for colleagues or friends or family.  We are just ourselves, pensive, contemplative, not wearing exclamation marks.  We don’t seem to be especially happy or sad, but we are reflecting at the end of a long day, which may be falling upon the end of a long week, a long year, a hard life.

I don’t only want to see what I’m seeing, though.  I want to do something with it.  So I tell myself that, when in the future, the conduct of people is other than I would like and I am tempted to act with impatience or indifference, that I will try instead to remember this shared journey.

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Taken to the River

I’m living in Montreal for the next while; an opportunity to spend more time with my family here, and to better know the city in which I grew up but left in my early twenties.

It also seems to be an opportunity to interact with my intuition a little more.  For instance, yesterday when I awoke, I spent a while starting at the parallelograms of early morning light on the wall.

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And for some reason, the song “Take Me to the River” came to mind.  So I decided – or it was simply decided – I would make the five-mile walk along Clark Street down to the St. Lawrence River.

Doing my best to pay attention to the details, I noticed sunshine on my chest and birdsong in the air, the pleasure brought by a gradual downhill slope and the subtle discontentment that accompanied the uphills, my irritation with some people and my willingness to exchange it for curiosity about their behaviour.

And more people than were probably interested, were exposed to my spontaneous vocalizations of “Take Me to the River,” along with finger pumps accompanying the trumpets inside me head.

Also, oh yeah did I see stuff.

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If interested, you can check out the entire web album (30 images in total):

https://plus.google.com/photos/105048799489063157726/albums/6013001022224491937?cfem=1

And finally, for good measure, here’s a version of Take Me to the River I’ve always liked, from The Commitments movie:

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Rambling, Judging, Seeing Occasionally

Rambling through the day – to, through, and out of High Park – I noticed a father guiding his daughter across an intersection with his foot while chatting on his cell, and a man walking in the park and texting, and two women in the park with buds in their ears, missing out on the birdsong – and I was inclined to judge them.  What happened to being in the world when in the world?  Then, remembering I have my own kind of expertise with non-presence, I pulled back on judgement and felt a little sadness for us all; the pressure we feel to always plug on, the diminished ability to ever plug out.  But watching a swan protect its nest by chasing a goose through Grenadier Pond, I was reminded that it’s not necessarily supposed to be easy.

Also, I saw some stuff:

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Please forgive the absence of snow…

Normally I ascribe a theme to what I post here.  The best I can come up with for this one is…

Hey!  Look at all these pictures without snow in them!

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Mile End, Montreal

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Balmutto and Charles, Toronto

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Yonge Street

I know, I know…I should get with the program and give up my preference

of old and dilapidated over new and behemoth.  Just doesn’t seem to be in me.

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Black and white aren’t colours? 

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The March of March: Fire and Ice and Whimsy

In watching the transition from winter to spring, I’ve been taking turns enjoying it and negotiating with it to happen faster.

(So far, I don’t seem to be calling the shots.)

Along the way, I’ve gotten to see fire and ice and whimsy…

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What these images don’t quite capture was the adventure my afternoon companion and I enjoyed today in “progressing” along the ice in High Park.  But Paul Simon’s “Slip Sliding Away” does.  Plus it has this beautiful and heartbreaking verse:

And I know a father who had a son

He longed to tell him all the reasons for the things he’d done

He came a long way just to explain

He kissed his boy while he lay sleeping

And he turned around

And he headed home again

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Just When I Thought Attention Was Overrated…

Darned if it didn’t happen again.

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Winter. February. Who needs it?

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Let’s go shopping instead.

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But on the other hand, isn’t the way of getting the most out of winter to step into it instead?

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Apparently so, at least this afternoon.

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Outing Colour

Okay, so it’s been trying to hide, but seen in downtown Toronto the last couple of days…colour! 

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Question: are we required to offer gratitude to the browns, beiges and grays for helping us enjoy the reds and the blues?

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Popcorn Surrogate

Wanted out badly this afternoon.  Tempted to go to a movie, and use a big bag of popcorn as a hand warmer.  Reminded myself that there’s a decidedly finite amount of sunlight to be had this time of year.  Went instead, almost against my will, to the meeting place of the Humber River and Lake Ontario, and got to see this:

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Loss Meets Gain

So often we think of winter as an occasion of loss – there goes the green grass, there fall the leaves, and the birds have left for their timeshares down south.  But lately, when I remember to lift my shoulders from their seasonal hunching, I’m noticing what the “loss” reveals:Image

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And this morning, this has me thinking, “One Man’s Ceiling is Another Man’s Floor” 

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And Now I Know

So this is what happens during an ice storm…

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O Sky Full of Funkiness (or thank you, bus of fullness)

Good thing the first bus that came along was full.  Gave me a chance to look up:

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Any Given Sunday

Show up at Grossman’s Tavern at the right hour of a sunny Sunday, and watch the light do its thing….and, oh yeah, catch some really fine trad jazz while you’re there:

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Green Not Gone, Auburn Didn’t Get the Memo

Nuance to this autumn day….

…some green that’s in no hurry to go…

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….and some auburn that didn’t get the memo about the approaching “dullness”

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Toronto Beltline Meets Bleecker Street

Since taking this shot while walking Toronto’s Beltline Trail a couple of days ago

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I’ve found myself thinking of a line from Simon & Garfunkel’s Bleecker Street

“…I watched a shadow touch a shadow’s hand…”

Here’s the song:

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Cold and Wet, with a chance of Real Pretty

Of course, it helps that Montreal has a knack for wearing “inclement” with panache:

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Giving the Grey A Hug

So if I understand all this mindfulness propaganda I’m practicing (and valuing), I’m to embrace the arriving greyness, even if I am not required to love it

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Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to require being inattentive to the non-grey

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Holy Hangover Refined: self-medicating in New Orleans

[Prelude: Life is good, real good.  Figured out how to embed the video that I hadn’t been able to add to the previous version of this blog post.]

Well if you’re going to get seduced by something, it might as well be the restoration of your soul.  Didn’t know I needed it, but a light breeze is coming in through the front door of the double-shotgun where I stay when in New Orleans (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/71624), giving me a view of a weathered fence beside a more weathered house, and behind it a more freshly painted purple and burgundy job, and I am enjoying just the right kind of hangover.  The kind where I got drunk on one beer and a six-pack of New Orleans vibe.

Started with Amanda Shaw and the “Cute Guys” electrifying the crowd at the Louisiana Seafood Festival at City Park (not such great quality video, but Ms. Shaw and company’s sound makes up for it)

Continued at the Spotted Cat on Frenchmen

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where a fusion trad jazz-funk band got a bunch of us on our feet and kept us there.  Before I knew it, a young hottie was flirting with me while the band played “I’ll Fly Away.”  She ditched me, though, for someone twenty years my senior.  Can’t blame her; he was a better dancer.

And then, it was John Boutte across the street at dba doing:

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and Halleluyah

Somewhere, it dawns on me that I’m having a religious experience.  In the way that happens here at its best, it’s not just about performing, it’s about connecting.  So Boutte gets a “young cat” onstage for a duet on “At the Foot of Canal Street,” and tells us whatever stories are on his mind about his day and his life.  Next thing I know, a young couple have pushed their way in front.  I’m annoyed at first, but admit to myself that it’s sweet the way he really wants her to be close to the stage.  Then I notice their wardrobe.  He’s in a tux, she’s in a wedding gown. And Boutte tries to get the back of the house to hush (“that’ll never happen,” someone shouts out….dba is long and narrow and if you’re far away from the stage, you can’t see the performers) so he can sing a love song for them.  And then he ends the show with his Treme theme song, the newly married couple leading in the joy of it all:

When all’s said and done, he signs a couple of CDs for me, tells me about the time he saved Massey Hall in Toronto from going down in flames when a fellow performer tossed a cigarette in a trash can, and I talk about the connection I saw on stage and with the audience, and how it had the quality of a religious experience.  This weirds him out, I think, but I also think he can take it.

Oh, plus I discovered a delightful lyric in another song by someone I now know was named Little Milton:

If I don’t love you baby

Grits ain’t groceries

Eggs ain’t poultry

And Mona Lisa was a man

Coming soon to a blog post near this one…my tale of stepping out at the Prince of Wales second line…

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Newsflash

Important discovery the past couple of days.

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Turns out fall is a beautiful time of year.

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Spread the word.

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Waiver-Free Gift

Next to actually getting to see this, the best part was that when I asked if I could take this picture, no one demanded I sign a waiver first.  Thank you, young woman who served me at the Hot Oven Bakery this morning:

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And next to actually getting to see this, the best part is that the moment lasted a while:

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A Point in Here Somewhere…

Well, sure, the beauty of the leaves is ephemeral.  But at least the sky is eternal.

Oh…except that it’s not always that blue.

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Or filled with interestingly shaped clouds. 

 

So what was my point again?  Oh, yeah!  No matter what, there’s surely going to be something interesting going on.  Even when the leaves call it a season…

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Be Gentle, Natural Selection

So you know that thing about how the only constant is change?

Here’s what I’m wondering.  Assuming the theory of evolution is correct, I’m wondering if natural selection allowed our particular brand of hominoid to survive because we have a capacity for seeing some changes with joy as well as dread:

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And here’s what I’m also wondering.  If natural selection has any say in the matter, what will happen to those of us who can manage the changing leaves, but are made to shudder by the pace of broader societal and technological transformation?

For now, though, I’ll try to satisfy myself with, “Hey!  Look how pretty the leaves are.”

That, and the pleasure of walking under a building I normally regard from a distance, to take time for a closer look:

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Century Hopping

And so, what I’m wondering is, who stuck all that 19th century behind my 20th (and early 21st) century?

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Just asking….

(with apologies to those who know enough about architecture to correct my time stamping….I like to think the “point” holds in any case)

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Bikes and Bombs and Rivers of Life (with guest appearances by Moses and Creation)

We seem to have reached that time of year when the light is always bouncing off of things.* 

Since taking this shot a few days ago

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and seeing metal pipes meld with bike melding with an imagined cyclist with the key to the lock, I’ve found myself thinking of these lyrics from Paul Simon’s “Love is Eternal Sacred Light”

How’d it all begin?  Started with a bang

Couple of light years later, stars and planets sang

Fire warmed the cold, waves of colours flew

Moonlight into gold, earth to green and blue…

Earth becomes a farm

Farmer takes a wife

Wife becomes a river and giver of life

Man becomes machine

Oil runs down his face

Machine becomes a man

With a bomb in the marketplace

As Mr. Simon seems to do so often, he finds room for the ominous, spiritual and playful almost in the same breath.  Later in the song, there’s a lyric: “I’m driving along in my automobile.  It’s a brand new pre-owned ’96 Ford.”

It’s Simcha Torah today, when Jewish tradition has celebrants reading the end of the Torah, with Moses’ death, then starting over with the creation of the universe.  Death gives way to rebirth, as hopefully (and effortfully) bombs in marketplaces will one day give way to rivers of life.

Here’s how the song goes.  Be sure to tell Paul I sent you:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdrrEpYhATM

 * (or is it that we’ve reached that time of year when we’re more likely to be outdoors when the sun is low to the horizon….I think it IS this time of year, but anyone who knows otherwise is welcome to leave a comment)

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Let’s Give That Metaphor a Stretch

Time to risk stretching a metaphor….

I think of this flotilla of clouds (last seen a year ago on Lac St. Louis in Quebec) as a reminder of the moments of our lives.  Each unique, each likely to command our attention as though they represent something eternal, but nonetheless moving along to be replaced by other apparent eternities.

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Brought to you by Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and my ongoing mission to walk the walk, talk the talk, and sit the sit…

 

 

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Sneaky Texture

You just never know when the world will sprout behind your back…

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….or in front of your face

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Seeing Red

So is finding these hues of red amidst the concrete of the city an act of mindful attention or just camera gimmickry?  Of course, I know what I’d like the answer to be…

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Note to self…sometimes the light is there to be found…

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One-and-a-Half Trick Pony

Yes, I know.

I seem to be a one-trick pony of late.  To which I can only say…when the sky gets less interesting, I’ll start taking pictures of something else.  In fact, I have – take a look at the other side of these sky pics

In Toronto a few days ago:

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In Toronto during the magic (freaking hour) two days ago:

 

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In Montreal, a week ago:

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And finally, in non-sky-related news….also in Montreal, at what is fast on its way to becoming my favourite greasy spoon:

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Look! Up in the Sky! It’s…the sky (and its urban friends)!

Here’s a Hasidic tale that has more to say on the topic:

One day a rabbi gazed through the window of his study which looked out upon the marketplace.  People were hurrying to and fro, each attending to his or her own particular business.

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Suddenly the rabbi saw a familiar face.

“Hikel!” he called.  “Come in, I want to speak with you.”

“Shalom, Rabbi, how are you?”

“Thank God, I am fine.  Tell me, Hikel, what were you doing in the marketplace?”

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“Oh, I’ve very busy today.  I have a lot of business to take care of.”

“Hikel,” asked the rabbi.  “Have you looked up at the sky today?”

“At the sky, Rabbi?  No, of course not.  I’m too busy to look at the sky.”

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“Hikel, look out the window and tell me what you see.”

“I see people and horses and carriages, all rushing around doing business.”

“Hikel,” the rabbi said, “in fifty years there will be other people in other carriages, drawn by other horses, and we will not be here.  And, Hikel, in a hundred years, neither the marketplace nor this town will even exist.  Look at the sky, Hikel, look at the sky!”

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Trading Irritation for Attention

I suppose I might have given in to irritation when my buddy Jamey texted me a couple of days ago to alert me he might be late for the start of the baseball game.  Especially since he had the tickets.  On the other hand, given that he was attending a memorial service, irritation would have been bad form.  Not that I’m always above bad form where such things are concerned, but on this occasion I instead managed to remember to pay attention to my surroundings on the way to the ballpark, and take note of…

…the collage of shapes to be found in the cityscape…

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…and the bounce of light off Roy Thompson Hall onto a building I’ll have to learn the name of one day…

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…as it was, we ended up in the ballpark in sufficient time to pay ridiculous sums at the concession stand and still catch the first of R.A. Dickey’s knuckleballs.  The good guys won, and the not-so-bad guys got to celebrate…

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...clearly it was a tense game, though.  Our beards were jet black when it started.

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Winter Green Grace

Yesterday, I confessed to mind drift towards the green of spring and summer.

Turns out there’s some green to be found in winter, too…

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