Off The Wall, the VANS

It all started in Milano. The obsession.

We were sock sisters. Sharing the same, mostly free adidas sport socks. They were peaking out over the tops of our shoes.

All the cool kids were wearing hideaway socks and adidas Stan Smiths. Were we even allowed on the street?

Sitting on the curb of Piazza deal Duomo we discussed our sneakers, our unfashionable socks and what we’d buy if we were to replace our well-loved, well-worn kicks. She, Originals, Green trimmed Stan Smiths. Me, VANS all the way baby! It’s all about the 80’s and Penn putting them on the map, forget about the 70’s 😉

That is when it started. The obsession of finding the perfect VANS.
————–
Imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon a store, close to home, full of VANS!

I tried on this pair, that pair, the other pair, the sales girl obliged. We talked about Italy, about my age-inappropriateness of shopping for skater shoes and then I bought two pairs, I was feeling lucky.

Back home, I took the garbage down wearing one pair of my new VANS.

Maiden voyage in my new kicks – garbage room. Nice.

That is when I realized perhaps I should have tried on the 1/2 size larger.
————–
Shoes packed back in their boxes and the next day back to the store I went hoping that a new day meant new staff.

How embarrassing would it be, “Hello I’d like to return one pair of shoes and exchange the other pair for a 1/2 size larger even though you asked me yesterday and I said no.”

Nothing from that dialogue screams, intelligent, well thought through purchase decision!

Turned out, new day, new staff!
—————
Exciting – one return, one exchanged pair 1/2 size larger.

But the excitement was short lived replaced by disappointment, my ankles were falling out of my shoes.

Back in their box and the next day back to the store for an exchange.

Turns out different day, not always new staff!
—————-
“Hey,” I greet the sales guy, “I am back again!” There is only one way to treat this situation with dignity and that is to play the bouncy, absent-minded, 30-something who has no business buying skater shoes to begin with.

He’s busy behind the cash, uncomfortable with his attempt to dress a male mannequin in board shorts. He makes a comment about it and to distract himself he’s given the mannequin a name. He may be more embarrassed about his work related predicament than I am about returning a 3rd time to the store 3 days in a row.

I crack a joke to get him focused off his awkward mannequin dressing and onto my much more important embarrassment.

“I’m the girl who simply buys things and finds an excuse to come in to the store each and every day.”

He laughs and adds on to the joke, “And instead of actually returning anything, you’ll just keep exchanging between the 8’s and the 8 1/2’s, back to the 8’s…always in the same style!”

His mannequin is no longer a point of embarrassment, he is 100% engrossed in mine!

My Nieces and I

Spending time with my nieces and nephews is always an adventure, from hearing about my car being too small, letting me in on their “family secrets” (dad farts…) and explaining their “big” complaint about life not being fair (…not always getting their way…).

Today was spent ferrying around two of my nieces, 11 and 9.

We were discussing something super important, I don’t remember the topic! The littlest, in the back seat being obtuse and making broad snappy sweeping statements directed at her older sister.

And then my eldest niece said something so unexpected.

Growing up she loved listening to adults share stories. I’ve told my fair share of stories. One story in particular has evidently made its mark. The story involved an old boss of mine and the go-to-question he’d ask us when challenging the statements we’d make when we wanted his support.

So as we were travelling along the highway at break-neck speed (faster than walking), the littlest niece was goading her older sister into an argument.

That is when my eldest niece quietly pulled out my old bosses favourite challenging question and asked her little sister, “Would you bet your future house on that statement?”

BOOM!!

(Artwork from when they were “kids”, before they started saying adult-like statements, can we stop them from growing up!!)

The Crew and I

image

The two Lufthansa flight crew stood like statues, only their faces showing their amusement at watching me walk from the gangway onto the plane.

At the very step where I had to cross the threshold I decided to multitask and turn the data off on my phone. While doing this I lost depth perception and I made a very large, albeit graceful step onto the plane.

I realized what I had done and looked to see if the flight crew had noticed and of course they had!

Busted.

I laughed my boisterous North American laugh, they shared their well structured German laughs and that just made me laugh more.

The one flight member asked me if I’d do the step again, it was so well performed, natural even! 

As I made my way past them one crew member made a comment about the need for laughing.

I turned, smiled, laughed and said, “I am good at laughing!”

To which he replied, “Well in that case, Welcome Aboard!”

Did I mention how much I love zeGermans and their quiet, direct humour!  Can I stay on Frankfurt!

The Old Man And I

Do you need a laugh? Maybe a little creep-out?

I had a nervous uncomfortbale laugh and then immediately washed my hand five times.

This evening I stayed again at the hotel instead of going out, which meant I was dining alone.

My Waiter (I really should get his name), gave me the option of sitting in a back corner tonight, thank you! As it is getting close to the end of my trip I decided I might as well go all out and try 3 of the 5 courses available on almost every Italian menu. How does anyone stay thin? I ordered an Appetizer, First Course and Dessert with a coffee.

I managed through the Appetizer and the First Course when two older gentlemen entered the dinning room and sat at the table beside mine. They were sharing a news paper and seemed to be discussing it’s contents.

My Dessert arrived and as I finished up reading an email, noticed out of the corner of my eye one of the old men getting up from his seat and making his way towards me.

He arrived at my table and asked “Are you Italian”, in what seemed like Italian. I shook my head no. That pleased him and he continued by listing off a bunch of languages I might possibly speak, “French, English etc.”. I stopped him and responded “English and some French.”

Ahhhh, and he reached down for my hand, picked my left hand off the table. His the palm of his old hand was fleshy, soft and warm, the top of his hand was veined, hairy and rough. He raised our hands together and kissed the back of my hand and I pulled my hand back.

He pointed to my waiting dessert and asked in French, “Is it good?”

“I Haven’t tried yet,” and I took my spoon and a small bite and gave him the thumbs up. He was pleased and asked me to point out which dessert it was on his Italian language menu.

Before he left my table he took my hand a second time, held it slighly longer than the first, kissed it again, looked into my eyes to said Ciao.  

I looked away. Uncomfortable.

I am slightly frazzled, but I have this and I focused on my dessert and my coffee.

The wait staff dropped off a dish of complimentary biscuits on my table. I ignore the biscuits, how do they do this? Pre-appetizer rolls, sliced dried baguette, three course meal AND Biscuits! 

The old man noticed and again got up from his table. He asked if I minded if he had my biscuits. He didn’t try to take my hand, I didn’t look at him and I gestured “Go ahead”.

I am completely involved in my email, but I noticed movement to my left and I took a little sideways peak over. He was sitting, staring at me, jiggling his legs giving me the impression was waiting for an opening, a reason to pop back over to my table. I went back to my email and focused, focused on not looking up. I felt trapped. I desperately wanted to leave the room but I feared he’d follow me, so it became a little game of whom can out-sit whom!

He managed to stand up. He waited. I did not look up but I could sense the movement as he made his way back to my table. I cringed. He leaned in much closer than before and in his broken French he asked me, “Do you want to have breakfast with me tomorrow.”

I wished desperately for my invisibility cloak.

I shook my head no and said, “That will not work for me.”

He is not detterred and repeats in earnest his question, “Will yo have beakfast with me tomorrow.”

I shook my head no, more vigorously than before.

He is an old man, he’s been told no many times, he isn’t going to give up and he tried a new route, “Give me your hotel room number and I will call you.”

MY HOTEL ROOM NUMBER AND HE WILL CALL ME! I wanted to die.

This time I left out the shaking of my head and the verbal no’s and I pulled out my arm gesture that I’ve picked up while being in Italy. The arm gesture that gets in your face and is the ultimate go the F*ck away. I had tried the nice Canadian approach and it clearly did not work.

I pulled my right arm up from my lap and I shook it firmly from side to side in front of his bent over nose.

He knows I am not Italian and doesn’t believe my agressive arm gesture and he simply said, “What time are you planning to have breakfast.”

I ignored him. I was out of material and he shrugged and left the dinning room.

I am ready to come home thanks.

The Waiter And I

It’s day 8, the city away from the tourist core is alive with city culture, groups of friends and food which reminds me of home. Finding a little restaurant on a side street that is playing 90’s hits and churning out dinners to write home about. I love that part of Milano, but I miss my people, I miss my home, I miss my coffee shop and I miss my dojang.

Tonight I stayed in the hotel to dine and broke down and ordered the Burger off the dining room menu, comfort food. The hotel dining room was quiet with a few fellow guests and for the first time in 8 days I found myself dinning Milano time – fashionably late, after 8pm.

The waiter has been here all week. Maybe he sleeps in the hotel? I can’t escape him. He servers me breakfast, I see him flitting around at lunch and he is always there in the evening. They know my last name and my room number. I enter the room, they nod, circle my name on their list of hotel guests and I find myself a seat.

I won’t lie, that’s a nice feeling. They know who I am or at least HE knows who I am.

He’s been watching me and I take blame for accidentally initiating it the first night I arrived.

Not hungry after my flight I decided to do some grocery shopping and picked up fruit, granola, yogurt and other easy snacks for my room. It wasn’t until I was settled into my room when I realized ‘how was I exactly planning on eating the yogurt?’

I showed up in his dining room well after closing time asking for a spoon. He looked at my quizzically, walked over to his sidebar, opened the drawer and pulled out a serving spoon.

“This?” he asked in uncomfortable, broken English.

I gave a little laugh wondering why he would choose to pull out a serving spoon of all spoons, why would anyone want a serving spoon? He was confused. I was confused. He looked at me then back at the spoon in his hand, ‘I’d asked for a spoon, what was the problem?’

Desperately wanting to eat my yogurt and feeling panicked I reached out, “Yes, perfect” and I took the serving spoon and immediately thanked him in Spanish, “gracias”.

Right there I made my impression. Who was this bizarre North American entering his dining room at 10:30 in the evening, asking for a spoon, laughing, accepting a serving spoon and thanking him in Spanish!

And so it began. Standing at the elevator bank, mindlessly playing on my phone, waiting, I’d get the feeling of being watched and instinctively I’d look to my right. There he’d be, far off in his dining room, sporting a most serious face, his dark rimmed eyes boring into me.

I’d shiver, was I in trouble for borrowing the serving spoon?

I’d imagine him thinking, “What is that girl doing with the spoon? Something sinister?” Followed by him requesting the cleaning staff check my room while I was out.

The elevator doors would open and I’d dash into safety.

Yes he was my server tonight and as expected he was watching me, not out of the corner of his eye, he was looking at me squarely. I felt uncomfortable. I didn’t know what to do with his seriousness. It was freaking me out. If you know me at all, I prepared myself to do what I most often do when I feel uncomfortable….I prepared myself to crack a lame joke in hopes that I’d get an eye-roll, an annoyed smirk and then he’d leave me alone. From experience it works and it was a good plan.

What I wasn’t prepared for is to be one upped by an seemingly super serious Italian waiter.

“Can you put it on my room please,” I asked after I finished my meal and then for good measure added my last name as he was walking away from me.

He stopped, turned slightly, a hint of a smile on his face and he said in his broken uncomfortable English that made it difficult to understand, “You are the boss then!” And his hint of a smile went to a full-on smile, I could see his teeth.

He just cracked a joke!! A lame joke!! Maybe he’d been preparing it all week and he finally had his chance!! I should be so proud, but unprepared to be outdone I replied in the most serious businesslike voice that I can muster, “No, not the boss.”

Immediately I saw my mistake as his face went from beaming to ultimate disappointment as he quietly acknowledged that I didn’t think he was funny. Not wanting to disappoint the waiter who had lent me one of his many serving spoons and who had spent the last 8 days glaring at me, I smiled broadly and quickly recovered, “Oh but I pretend to be the boss.”

This pleased him and off he disappeared behind his counter, giant smile on his face.

The Italian man had made a joke!

I am good to come home now.

P.S. Over the next few days when I catch him glaring at me with his serious face and piercing eyes, I am going to imagine him thinking up his next lame English joke. So pleased 🙂

Oh Germany

imageI forgot how much I enjoy Germany.  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 🙂