Oh Germany

imageI forgot how much I enjoy Germany.Β  If this was my final destination I’d be excited.

I even wore my gazelles, so they don’t hate me for my Nike and UA gear. Sorry in advance.

But what is so intriguing about Germany?

They are stoic and it amuses me. I tried, I couldn’t keep a straight face.

There is just something when people are so serious that their face might crack if they smile, I can’t help myself and when they smile back it’s a beautiful thing.

It’s a small triumph when I get a smile, a wink, a “have a happy Easter”, out from underneath the quiet sterness.

Now, I am curious is this advertised book about smiling and immediately facing disaster? Because if so, that might explain my life!

I am kidding,  half kidding, no I am fully committed to having just made a joke ☺

The Gear

  Yes I did, and maybe I will.  

This trip feels really bitter-sweet for a few reasons, some work, some personal and I’ve been struggling to get excited about it.

Milano. Come on! I know right?  Well wrong. From having to pack, yuck, to realizing my curated schedule is going to be dramatically disrupted to missing my hour long morning commute when I get to think – I am working on getting  excited. 

So in my attempt to make things a little more “normal” while I am away I googled and found the highest-star rating Muay Thai gym I could find close to my hotel.  Awesome.

Emmanuel is on the ball.  He replied sometime at 2am his time to welcome me to his club.  And then it started sinking in.  I was what?  Going to randomly show up at some gym where I don’t speak the language and from the photos on their website, they are serious.  Never mind that this is the first time in the country, being sent by work to an office where I am not so sure they know what to do with me when I arrive.  

Let’s add on some more unknowns while I am at it and commit to meeting a group of what looks like a hard-core Muay Thai group.  

And so I spent the better part of the day Saturday and all morning Sunday stressing about whether to pack my gear.  If I don’t pack my gear I don’t need to show up.  If I pack my gear, I might be lugging it around three airports for no reason.  

If I don’t take it, I might be royally disappointed and be getting ansty for my flight home.

In the end I packed the gear.  Emmanuel, I am one step closer to setting foot in the gym you proudly call your own.  

And now it begins again, should I have brought my shin guards, my chest guard, what about a mouth guard? Am I still going to have teeth in April!

If it was linear, it wouldn’t be my life πŸ™‚

Sunday Coffee

An afternoon at the coffee shop while procrastinating on my future is helping me….procrastinate.

There is a couple on a first date. They sound as though they are both on interviews. Each taking their turn talking about the “year’s” they’ve spent honing their professional crafts. They are maybe 30 so I wonder how they’d describe these same stories in 10, 20 years from now. These young adults are our future.

What does life do to us? Experience shapes how we tell a same story from one decade to the next.

What was funny, or smart, or classy or important in our 20’s, isn’t so funny, smart or classy and important in our 30’s and as I imagine our 40’s, 50’s or 60’s – I have yet to arrive!

We mimic. We observe. We try on other people’s stories. We jump into life and we learn. Our beliefs sometimes shift or become more entrenched.

We learn to take ourselves a little less seriously.

Life is good.

Coffee is great πŸ™‚

On Packing

 
 It’s almost time. I’ve begun digging through my closet, making myself a list to pack the perfect away-bag.

I didn’t call the tailor to follow-up on the pants. I haven’t even picked out fabric! Way behind and I am resigned to piecing together a work appropriate wardrobe with what I own.

I like dressing up.

What I don’t enjoy is hauling around 10 pairs of shoes to fit 10 different outfits. I exaggerate however when attempting to pack for in-cabin luggage, space becomes a premium. Shoes become the first thing to get cut from the bag and hence my burning desire for well tailored pants that keep their shape and only require one pair of shoes.

My room becomes a war zone of shoes, boots and clothes strewn about.

In between trying things on, humming and hawing I distract myself with reading the news. Then I decide to dig up my small bills of foreign currency. You know, 1’s, 2’s and 5’s for tipping and paying road tolls.

Ah, my passport. Let me have a look at all the entry stamps I’ve received so far…Munich, Barbados…the list goes on and I smile at the memories. Maybe I’ll do a day trip to Salzburg, a jaunt down memory lane.

Then I flip to the picture page.

Oh, ha, I had a cold, my nose is red, my hair messy. Bah.

Then I look at the issue date….then the expiry date….

Suddenly my anxiety over my wardrobe, the lack of fancy tailored pants is replaced by sheer panic…it expires in less than 25 days!

I check this website, that website, I fill out my replacement passport form.

I convince myself I am going to be ok.

And I will be ok the moment I am holding my new passport, where as a reminder of my neglect I’ll continue to be sporting messy albeit unwashed hair for 10 years.

Post-Valentine’s Day 2016

“Puberty destroys Valentine’s Day.” Unknown man said to the barista. “I’d rather be single than be in a bad relationship. And I think most people if they thought about it would prefer that too.” He continued, “When we are mature and we find someone is nice but we realize that there isn’t a connection, we then can make the decision to be friends instead.”

Amen to that, unshaven, dishevelled man who clearly lives on his own. And I mean that in the most endearing manner. The same could be said for me, in my high top kicks, flannel shirt, and 5 year old faded jeans. I can’t remember if I washed my face in the morning. A-T-T-R-A-C-T-I-V-E!

I was struggling to focus on reading my book, the conversation behind me diverted towards the philosophy of changing political beliefs, “Often time as people age they become more right-wing rather than changing their beliefs from right-wing to left-wing.”

I nod to myself, according toΒ Pew Research, the older generation today in the US is certainly more conservative on the extreme.

But not to get political, that was the start to my Valentine’s Day 2016. I can pretend to dislike Valentine’s Day but the fact is I rather like it. It is the one day out of the year that complete strangers are compelled to talk to one another about their beliefs on love and relationships and … politics.

There is that undertone of love gone wrong, a memory of a past relationship not quite reconciled, a little baggage here and there and it’s ok to share in riddles.

We are connected through our experience of pain?

I’ve yet to overhear complete strangers on Valentine’s Day discuss relationship stories of great love and gain.

But perhaps I simply need a new coffee shop! πŸ™‚

Italy, here I come, don’t let me down.

The Cannonball

I’ve been in my job a year, it feels like it’s been 5. Work is good and I’ve managed to avoid the 15% per month work travel that was part of my contract. I didn’t think I’d get so excited about not traveling, but I managed to find things to do, like see my family more often, join a dojang and a running group and become addicted to all three.

I built a routine. Something I hadn’t done ever and you know what, those feel-good books are right. Routine is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G and oddly grounding :-P. It’s a breakthrough perhaps only for me and +30 years late but there is no time like today.

So I escaped work travel and I was sad about that, but now that 15% travel in my contract is coming at me full force, “You missed a whole year of work travel so we are bumping your travel up to 90% for this year. How d’ya like us now!”

Ok so they didn’t really say that to me and it’s not 90% but for now there is a “plan” where I’ll have to be packed for 5 weeks straight.

That concerns me slightly – WHAT DO I PACK!

A uniform, I’ve decided. Black dress pants and fitted dress shirts. Boring and functional.

And that is how I ended up on Queen Street East.

After a futile shopping experience where the kids in the Retail shops ignored me and what I did try on just didn’t fit, I resorted to the Internet.

Tailored clothes!

Ok so it feels a little like I am back in the 30’s but I’ve also done my research and the price difference that I am paying between something off the rack that sags in the wrong spots, that will to rub to shiny within months and something that is fitted to me and will last year’s, is minimal.

What has The Cannonball Coffee and Bar have to do with Tailored pants?

Nothing really except it is a Toronto GEM and happens to be just down the street from the Tailor. It has great music, the yummiest breakfast bagels (served after 5pm even!!) I have ever tried, plus their coffee is pretty good.

And the only reason I am here is because work asked me to travel, I need pants, I found a tailor and am enjoying an impromptu evening at one of my favourite coffee house’s in the city.

The Book Club

Where do I start. At the end perhaps.

I was walking quickly towards my car. Down the one way street.

The man standing on the patio, smoking his cigarette called out to me, “You look cold.”

“Yes, I am but I suppose it’s winter!”

“True,” he responded and I kept on marching.

I was shivering, I was cold even though my feet continued to sweat from being in my boots and indoors for two hours, having participated in a book club.

I can’t quite say I actively participated. I participated to the point of laughing when things were funny, shared small talk with the person on my right and on my left, when appropriate (only pre-book club, during break and post-book club) and typed tidbits on my iPad.

I was the only one typing and I am sure that was obvious. I noticed other people jotting things down in their note pads, but no typing. Just me. Typing, smiling, laughing, sometimes looking serious (or at least in my head I was serious) and enjoying my time in a circle full of strangers.

Strange. I know.

The discussion around the book was lively with many different ideas and insights shared. I particularly enjoyed the diversity of the group. This is not a “group think” club. At times it was so academically informed that I was having difficulty keeping up with the concepts that, thankfully, were then followed by light-hearted jokes.

And real funny jokes. I always got the jokes!

I arrived a few minutes early. There was a small group of people waiting outside of the auditorium. The librarian was rustling with the keys, finding the one that fit the lock to open the door. Inside the room I sat down on a chair in the circle and willed myself NOT to pull out my phone. The point of a book club is to be social, no place for my phone. It felt awkward (really, I know) so I rationalized with myself that my iPad would be acceptable – I needed access to Google Books in any event!

The man two seats away leaned over towards me.

“DId you read the book?”

“Part of it,” I replied

“It didn’t like the book. I don’t know who picked this book. Look how big it is,” and he pointed to another book club member who had brought along a library copy.

I nodded towards him not sure what to say to keep the conversation going, but no worry, he continued, “They could have at least picked a book about relationships and marriage. EVERYONE likes reading about THAT,” he emphasized.

I didn’t know how to respond. I clammed up. Of course everyone likes talking about relationships and I imagined in my head what the next bits of conversation would be like and I shyly turned away to my open iPad. All of a sudden I couldn’t bring myself to be social.

Shortly after a second gentleman arrived and sat between us. It didn’t take long before the two strangers were talking up a storm.

“There is a woman I know,” the first man was saying, “She met a Canadian man and moved to Canada. She’s a widow now.”

“Oh yes,” replied the second gentleman

“I can, you know, set up a date for you but she’s older,” and then he stated her age.

The second gentleman nodded and I didn’t catch his reply but I’d like to think he said yes to a set-up to the man who likes talking about relationships and marriage!

πŸ™‚

Favourite lines of the night:

  1. “Life is random.”
  2. “We tend to blow things out of proportion.”
  3. “If you want to be happy, join a book club don’t buy a fancy car.”

I enjoyed my night and recommend joining a book club even if only to be a smiling typist.