September 30, 2014

I Know What We Did Last Summer Pt.1

Anticipation was high. It was Aug. 6, and we arrived in Ottawa for our summer visit approximately the same time we’d left Japan. Family was tired but made the air journey intact. Flight connections and layovers were optimal; note that economy class aircraft seats in a Dreamliner 787 are not very dreamy. Lady E. had a seat armrest imprint on the side of her face while we were in the Toronto airport as we shuttled between lines. Immigration officials there are dressed in menacing black military-style uniforms and cargo pants. We feel slightly welcomed to Canada. Such are the times.

Exhilaration as we egress into the departure area. Canada! Grandpa warmly welcomes the girls, enveloping them with all that is good about coming home. That first night they sleep contented, but with a bewilderment fueled by jet lag and language disconnect.

The first week’s days pass quickly, spurred by shopping, park visits, riding around in the comfortable Nissan Rogue loaner (the curious magic of a sunroof) and so much delicious food. The Bulk Barn is a sugar-induced hit, shopping for Disney “Frozen” T-shirts and stickers high on the “must-do” list. Local parks are warm and tantalizingly free of mobs, all the better to acclimate to the space and the crisper temperature.
Naomi and I celebrate our anniversary downtown. This fete enabled by Grandpa’s new job as babysitter, putting my slightly nervous wife at ease so she can relax for about 18 hours. Parliament Hill’s façade at night becomes a canvas for the government to portray our idealized selves to foreign tourists, and I feel neither local nor a tourist. It’s a curious limbo, amplified by ample amounts of vino and the glow of a night out by ourselves.

We meet family after two years’ respite. Laugh and catch up, marvel as we note the extended family has transformed into a more Benetton-esque global version.
We remember my Mom and her legacy, evidenced by family members all around thinking of her and basking in each other’s company. Elena and Marina meet their distant cousin(s) and chase each other around the backyard before the grand feast of BBQ and kind words.
Pulse was raised the next day at the Aviation Museum. E & M are perplexed why we are there and the various vintage airplanes and fighter planes fail to captivate them. Sunshine had reigned the last few days, but the turbulence created by a sudden rainsquall only deepens the “spirit of adventure” felt by Stephen in an open-cockpit aircraft. He joined Dad in a triumphant flyover of downtown Ottawa. Watching this produced my own earthly high!
I hang out with my brother. We catch up. He spends ample amounts of time with his nieces, chasing them around outside and they defy the grey skies and unexpectedly cool temperatures. Cheap water pistols from the Dollarama (our store of choice) enable this gaiety.
The neighbors enjoy the girls, too. A little extreme youth brings smiles to faces with chalk faces and hopscotch boxes drawn on the driveway. Little girls’ bikes thoughtfully purchased by Grandpa offer speed and parental admonishments to “slow down!” and “use the pedal brake.” Ignored with glee. They survive the bike rides nevertheless. We reluctantly see Steve-o off to home courtesy of Via Rail. Hopefully not another two years before we all get together again.
Dad takes the girls so my wife and I can shop without distraction at WalMart. This is a truly a treat for us, now a ritual we perform for capitalism when we visit home. Naomi shows her appreciation by preparing Japanese-style curry that evening. This mild curry evening marks the mid-way point of our trip.

September 2, 2014

Crafty Catch-up / Reality Avoidance Therapy

The horrors we have seen in the news every day over the past month are disheartening: more shootings and racial unrest in the US; plane crashes in Mali and elsewhere; Russian cross-border attacks on Ukraine; the grim aftermath of the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17; Israelis and Palestinians at each other’s throats again in Gaza, ad nauseam. August is supposed to be the peak of the silly season! More than ever, world affairs are enough to drive a man to drink. There is a collective snap and hiss of beers opening around the globe whenever CNN is on the screen. 

So, during a visit to Ottawa last month, I decided that if the world is in flames, I’d prefer to douse them with suds imbibed in company of old friends. One evening, still somewhat jetlagged and therefore pliable, I thoroughly enjoyed an evening at a local tavern with “G” and “M”, of which details still remain rather fuzzy—but a pleasant fuzziness.

Then two other compadres, “M” and “L”, informed me that the National Capital Craft Beer Festival would be held during my stay…and did I want to go? Since I do partake of the occasional social I forced myself (only for old time’s sake, of course) to go. I mean, they had to drag me there, kicking and screaming.
As it turned out, the weather was less than good, but the variety and plethora of beers made up for that. 30 craft brewers plying their wares...hmm. Plus, a crowd of Ottawans drinking…means “polite” trouble.

Being responsible young-middle-aged pillars of society, we caroused just the right amount, kept our wits about us, and avoided any interaction with our esteemed law enforcement officers.
And thus did a night of many mini-beers take my mind away from the troubles of the world. Thanks, boyz.