I’m living in an exquisite hotel room, all white and maroon, with a rain shower (square 7×7″ head) that I love standing under. I’m sitting on the comfy couch, tapping out the words while the downtown sun splashes through the sheers behind me. I have a sanctuary.
Yesterday I had fish. I went to Ripley’s Aquarium to see a lot of swimming life. The best scenes for me were:
- A huge cylindrical tank of small fish, all hovering in mid-water until some unknown leader suggested a course change and the school responded
- One little fishy person who seemed to tread water, sitting vertically in place, its mouth doing deep breathing exercises
- A gaggle of blue eels, wrapped around each other, with each head looking shockingly like a human face, complete with a variety of expressions
- Standing in a tube with sea creatures meandering by to my left, my right and above. For a long while, I stood in place, waiting for a toothy shark or the flat mass of a manta ray to pass right over my head
- The “Ray Bay”, a huge aquarium full of rays. Some would approach the wall of glass and climb straight up, their undersides apparently revealing a big smiling mouth
I rode the subway here and there, remembering my daily trips from home to the downtown campus of the University of Toronto. 90% of my fellow passengers were connected – that certainly wasn’t part of my memory cells. I reminisced about how I used to watch people by gazing at their reflection in the window beside me, and I followed suit. Such stealth!
I was also jolted by the speed at which most people walked … definitely a sprint. Oh yes, and then there’s escalator etiquette. Stay on the right side if you want to stand, and watch the flow of humanity beat you to the destination. A fellow told me yesterday about climbing a narrow escalator in a Toronto mall, just room for one person at a time. He had chosen to stay still. The woman behind would have none of it, apparently. It must have been an effective body check as she squeezed past him. (Sigh … and no thanks)
One subway station had two large posters that saddened me:
Don’t want to make eye contact? Read a subway poster
Thinking of suicide? There is help. Let’s talk
My second concert in two days was a pretty loud affair, featuring four brilliant musicians: lead guitar, bass guitar, piano and drums. I enjoyed seeing them express their craft. But I wanted more quiet stories about life … my definition of folk music. The highlight for me was when a woman joined them on stage and sang of a place – Aille, I think – and the love that happened there. The song and the voice were haunting. It was far and away the highlight of the concert for me.
I wanted to tell the artist how her performance had moved me. At the break, I looked for her and saw that she was engaged in conversation with the pianist the whole time. After the whole shebang was done, I sought her out again. She was talking at the bar to a woman who had sung a song with the band during the second half. And they kept talking. I kept standing in the background. I wanted to thank the Aille inspirer but I didn’t want to share my appreciation with the other person being there, because that woman’s performance didn’t reach me. How strange. I was determined to contribute to the first lady without diminishing the second. How much of my desired contact was the ego speaking? I don’t know. Finally, as they continued chatting, the voice inside me said “Let her go, Bruce.” So I did. And off into the night …