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.
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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.
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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!
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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!
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“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!

The Crew and I

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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 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 🙂

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.

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.