Bus Ride Reading (Ignorance is bliss)

In 2009, my parents visited us here in Vancouver. Somewhat unexpectedly I realized an issue that had bothered Yohanan, my dad, for years. In one of our morning walks he mentioned the advantage we’d had over him. Being Israeli born to immigrant parents, he always felt that his exposure to language was compromised. He expressed awareness to the fact that we, his children, grew up in a Hebrew speaking household. That confession provoked layers of thought in me. I could sense the frustration in him, the envy as well as appreciation and respect. We are sometimes blind to the complex reality we live in until the person with us shares their own. My drive to improve and distil my own process of expression and writing is already established. However, my skills are deemed futile without an audience.
As I am writing these words, the irony in my dad’s state of mind has not escaped me. I have never considered his level of expression as missing much. But our chat in which he managed to express his awareness to that perceived fault, keeps me alert in my encounters with other people. From those I appreciate the level of expression as superior to mine I try to learn. With the ones whose level might be lower I try to be careful, on the one hand with patience and on the other - support; being patient in listening and supportive of the effort to try.
This memory came back to me as the thirty days from my dad's passing away (on 21 November 2015) approached. I was just about to complete a piece of commentary following a few days of commuting on bus to work. The link between the opening above and my commentary seems natural to me if not immediately obvious.
Bus Ride Reading (Ignorance is bliss)
What do we occupy ourselves with? I am reading a book, named ‘Non-required Reading’ (initially introduced to me in Hebrew as ‘Optional Reading’). One day I might remember its author’s name and manage to pronounce it. The question above rolls in my head as I am reading and beyond. I wonder what it is that attracts me to it and what turns me off.
Later I read snippets of information about Wislawa Szymborska. This quick exploration throws me back to the first ‘Campers’ I have purchased.
In the streets of Milan, 1999, I passed by a window where a pair of shoes made me stop. It was as if I found something I had been looking for my whole life. They were beautiful in an almost unnoticeable way. And yet they were waiting for me. When I tried them on, their comfort was only surprising in light of past experiences, where what looks comfortable turns out to be less so or even not at all.
Szymborska’s writing, translated into English, feels familiar yet still foreign. Maybe because of the translation, maybe due to its syntax. She “sounds” a bit like a new comer from Russia who’s already been away from homeland for many years. The language is fluent and flawless with a screech here and there in its music. When I speak English, occasionally my vocabulary fails me. I invent expressions that explain my ideas in combinations that are new to my listeners. From the reader’s point of view, my impression of Szymborska’s language is probably similar to that of my audience, in the place where I am. From where I am, I re-connect with Wislawa.
When I returned from Italy to Israel with my new Campers, I realized that they had been a hot Spanish brand in the European fashion world including that of Israel. I was wondering how I would have treated the shoes had I known about that in advance. Not that I am worried about being dressed in a brand name. I am simply averse to buying a brand name just because of it. Oded, my friend who introduced ‘optional reading’ to me, read one of the book’s pieces in Hebrew. He had spared me the irrelevant knowledge of Scymborska’s being a Nobel prize for literature winner. Still, when I considered buying the book I asked myself whether I was buying it just because of my meeting with Oded or thanks truly to the strength of the book’s text.
Wislawa, who died at 89 in 2012, was a well known Polish poet. She was asked once how come she hadn’t published more poems. Her response draws me back to her “non-required” essays: “My room already has a recycling bin.”


Embracing death as a joy of life

On my recent visit to Israel I had the honor of escorting my dad through some of his last days in life. I’d shared my thoughts and insights with my family, as part of our daily updates. The first one below was written early one morning following a few days of traveling and social encounters. About a week after my return to Canada my dad embraced the hold of death and passed away seven days later, Saturday, November 21 2015. My eulogy below was written in response to our last conversation.
I am grateful to have family and friends supporting us in this process of growth.
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Each of us carries an invisible load of baggage. This includes what I think of the other and what I think people think of me. My conversation with Gali, my niece, raises the notion that some issues might not require discussion. Tamar, my sister in-law, knows in advance what would offend her. We face a daily effort of dismantling this baggage of landmines and firebombs.

In one early moment of the Sterns’ visit to Vancouver last year, I waived a threatening finger in front of Yohanan. His response made me wonder what exactly happened there. My parents’ stay with us, transformed into a realization, that we can all enjoy it. With my raised finger I’ve exclaimed “If you don’t trust my good intentions and Yardena’s good intentions, we have no communication.” Yohanan jumped from his spot at the other side of the table. He then charged into the bedroom. A few seconds later we could hear him screaming at the tenant in Israel to pay his rent.

I am fascinated by our use of the comic in relating to life. Laughter relieves our breath and introduces a healthy dose of oxygen to our brain. In embarrassment and hardships it seems like laughter gives me a break. Instead of sliding into depression, laughter allows me to remove the tough issue from its threatening context. It doesn't always succeed. But a small story from my acquaintance with Gerstman, one of Yeheskely Clothing's suppliers, keeps inspiring me to employ laughter and insist on it.

Yoav, the designer I used to work with, was Gerstman's tenant for a few years. He's told me that they'd always had pleasant conversations. Some of them even included stories from the landlord's past as a Holocaust survivor. The man, bearing a smile on his face, was always happy to share amusing anecdotes. In one of Yoav's encounters with Gerstman the gentleman had confided: "So, in the concentration camps have I stopped laughing? Of course I had laughed." This was enough for me.

Yohanan Stern has been collecting clown figurines for years in a variety of forms: paintings, dolls and other creations. Some of them are sad, some are smiling. They all, in my view celebrate the light hearted side of our personality; the part that helps a healthy perspective of life. The sad clown might be mumbling "What's the point in being pessimistic; life's hard enough." The happy one is saying "Every situation entails a glimmer of bliss; the joy of life stems from that." You can notice the two clowns manifested in my dad. Occasionally I cringe embarrassedly from his fooling around. In the rest of time I tell myself that I am the same.

So where is Yardena in all of this? Let's not talk about Yardena. Taking care of Yohanan is currently top priority. She chunks a couple of pain killers in the morning and the day is settled. Never mind that their influence is receding. Just make sure they are Extra Strength. My effort in finding out how I might be the same gives me a headache. There you are, I made it! Now I can relax. We agreed that with all the difficulties we have a history and present of cooperation. In all of us, the good intentions overcome our frustrations. True, I know how to be turned off by Yohanan. And the point is that I am the one who is turned off. The other side in the story is not guilty of my being turned off but, alas, he is part of it.

So here is an idea for a scientific research in sociology: our life is built upon reducing our amount of turn off from people, especially those closest to us. Once I have already told mom that my success in life results "thanks to you as well as in spite of you." And then, doesn't Meni turn me off? Sharon? Erez? Ah,… Erez doesn't turn me off. And Yardena understands immediately. At the same time she is dead wrong. Erez doesn't turn me off because we hardly speak to each other. Yardena counts the ‘hardly’. YarOn counts the ‘speak’. Sharon comforts us in saying "that's OK." And Meni? He stopped reading in the first paragraph. And that too is OK.

This update has no immediate concrete implications. It is an intermediate summary in my line of impressions from what's up in the family. I am trying to bring to light some thoughts in hope that they allow a small window into space and a breath of fresh air. In the tough and serious situation we are all experiencing, the suffocating feeling of hopelessness might sabotage the delightful effort we are all involved in. My aspiration is that these words manage to amuse the moment a bit, until the next day.
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Indeed we ate the last of the humus on your last day. Like some kind of a Hanukah miracle where you were the sacrifice. And we will continue to make humus and bake pitot (pita bread) and think of Nablus Gate, the falafel that we had to bring from the adjacent stall and the coffee that the guy poured from the boil. Much of what I could know about you came to me indirectly. Like a side observation. Something I had said off hand turned out months later to be significant to you.

Your lust for life has always entailed a measure of frightened, somewhat childish concern. As my ability to express my impression in words improved, your desire to give and nurture overcame any insult. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn something out of this. Looking from within, our life feels almost boring. Why even my effort to extract family stories for your fiftieth anniversary confronted a variety of objections from its members.

But life goes on and the memory will play its part. Much of what I will hear about you will fill the void. “I am the strongest dad in the world,” I told the impressed boy one day. At the same breath I continued “and my dad is even stronger.” Every joke has a component of truth in it. I am grateful for the opportunity to continue the joke.


Is the 'Grouse Grind' a reflection of Vancouver Culture?

If my first impression of the Grouse Grind was of a touristy experience, it still held a charm that allowed me to occasionally go back and enjoy it. The intensely corporate context of the site is still physically challenging and socially compelling.

In 2003 I took a photo that managed to capture the magic of that year's climb. The first time we took our daughter with us in 2006, she bravely slept most of the way up, sitting on my shoulders, her head resting firmly on mine.

In 2009 my parents visited us from Israel for the first time. Our relatives from Portland joined us to spend some family time with them. We all went out to enjoy the place, most of the pack taking the cable car. Phyllis, my relative's wife and I took what turned out to be the bonding experience of walking up the hill.

A few years later, my in-laws were seriously injured by a car on a visit to Germany. This happened just a month before we were scheduled to have a family vacation in Israel. The timing was such, that sticking to plan was the most helpful choice. They were helped back home by Anat's brothers. We kept on with preparing the now slightly changed context of our visit. Just two weeks before flying to Israel, we took Inbal for her first on-foot Grouse Grind. Inbal, then nine years old asked me after completing the course: "do you think grandpa would manage the climb?" "Sure." I responded. "Even grandma could." Inbal, in surprise: "You think so?" "Of course." I continued. "She might not want to, but she definitely could."

It is an atypical warm summer in Vancouver this year. Still, nothing compared with other regions in the world. Again, in a few months we are scheduled for a visit in Israel. Anat's parents are planning their vacation in Tanzania a few days from now. Inbal's second climb to the Grouse was an uneventful, enjoyable weekend experience.

However, my impression is that the place has become even more touristy; even more corporate. The socially compelling side of the physical challenge looks to me now a bit like an anthropological observation opportunity. I enjoyed walking along a family whose daughter, younger than Inbal, patiently waited for her parents, guiding her even younger sibling. The effort makes for talking to be minimal, but the occasional exchange with others gives a curious sense of community.

While my leisurely pace is still that of a fit person, the many competitive climbers make me think of the diversity of participants in this venue. In the past I was amused to think that although walking up the path is not for everyone, it could sometimes feel like you're in the middle of a downtown sidewalk. I was reminded of that thought while braving one of the narrower sections of stairs, close to the top.

Some people were a step or two in front of me, a few behind me. Not a lot of room for passing or letting others pass. You just wait patiently for the next widening of the path to make your move. If at any point someone lets you through, a quick thank you is all that is exchanged. Then the breath and steps of a quicker climber were getting closer until I hear from behind an impatient "excuse me". There isn't a lot of room to move sideways so I continue climbing. When she asks again and passes the pack I am with I'm not sure whether I'm amused or irritated. As a newly minted Canadian I probably should have said "Sorry". Being who I am I'm happy to have avoided a confrontational "Excuse me!"


Just Watching

Since my previous post, Marylee and I have shared a few interesting experiences. At the Burnaby Public Library I saw her talk about "Life from the Land". Then came Balcony Tales by Helle Windeløv-Lidzélius. Marylee saw it in DOXA. Anat and I watched it at home. Birders: The Central Park Effect by Jeffrey Kimball made me take the DVD from the library and have a home screening for the lot of us, Marylee, Anat, Inbal and I.
Our day in North Vancouver. Monday, May 18th 2015
Monday, May 18th was a bright, partly cloudy day. Inbal was handed a spare pair of binoculars and we headed towards a small pond where the ducks were doing their job caring for a bunch of ducklings that were past the chick stage. It is truly magical to watch the view magnified several times through the binoculars. It's not a bad idea to remind a ten year old about some safety issues such as removing the binoculars from the eye while walking and such.
Heron waiting patiently for its catch.
Between the four locations marked on the map there was much walking and watching. We didn't return home as fanatic birders but the fun of watching birds and hearing stories about them will stay with us. One of the highlights was the reminder that birds are everywhere in the city. Marylee wanted to show us a hanging nest she's seen the other day on 5th. When we got there she realized that the tree must be a block or two away. But then Inbal noticed another hanging nest on a tree beside us. We got there just as the parents were feeding their chicks, which were probably just a little more excited to be fed than us observing the excitement.
Robin pecking the grounds at Harbourside.

Still, the presence of humans in the environment and their influence on it always raise the awareness of the challenges wildlife face in their survival. Our own passive form of watching movies about nature and wildlife is just one step in caring for a balance in ecosystems. Some of the Central Park birders of New York express an awareness to how bizarre they might look to "outsiders". I think we should keep in mind that there would always be someone watching us and considering to join. This is the audience that should interest me. The engagement with uninterested people can come in other ways.
Pigeon Gillemot on its way from one side of the pier to the other.

Urban wildlife flock to the city because of the opportunities to feed, breed and have shelter. Our ways of building and maintaining the city are not geared towards the well being of wildlife. And yet there are many who find the benefits of our systems. Observation, one of humans' core skills responsible for the achievements of our society allows us to notice the effect of our environment on the one we grew out of.
Bushtit rushing away to find more food.

It always intrigues me to find connections. From the walks with Marylee I am reconnected to the discussion of wildlife in urban settings. Our discussion waves through endless other topics that allow me to weave another set of thoughts into the quilt of a larger story. And it doesn't end there. What remains is a fleeting moment of beauty.


Talking about sex and sexuality in school and at home

I grew up sensing that sex is not a topic of discussion. A tension between fascination and secrecy surrounded any mention of words related to sex. More than shame, embarrassment was the basic reaction I remember noticing around me. You just don't talk about it.

When I was in grade 4 the nurse came to talk with us about puberty. The most that she managed was to ask the class to be quiet and listen. The content of her talk has never registered in my memory. Kids around me were giggling and poking each other. I remember myself as a naive and curious boy. I wanted to hear a bit about this process that I already started to feel happening in me. The nurse never covered any topic of significance. If anything, she might have been just as nervous as the rest of my class.

My only claim to knowing better than when I was in grade 4 is having a grade 5 daughter. When she told me about the nurse that was about to talk with them about puberty, I thought "What is it about that poor nurse having to talk with kids in school about sex?".

There seems to be a social cloudiness surrounding issues of body, sex and sexuality. Talking about our intimate body areas involves … intimacy; the emotional journey our kids are going through or are about to go through is different with every kid and family; the availability of information today is both a blessing and a risk. In light of the layered difficulties surrounding the topic, the formal delivery of education relating to sex and sexuality is probably not enough. It's not that I have anything against the nurse talking with kids about puberty. From the handout I saw, it all looked pretty useful.

Then it struck me. Sex is fun. Sexuality is all about life. The school nurse usually deals with injuries and emergency. This ties too well with the apparent difficulty we have in society to discuss the intimate issues of life. I think we are capable of delivering a much more positive message to the audience we care most about.

We don't have to force that message upon them. Usually kids don't talk or don't want to talk much about what's going on in school. But when they do try to engage in conversation it looks to me like a good idea to be prepared. A workshop with a professional sex educator is one way of having a healthy discussion that can also be fun. We all have different ways of raising kids. We all have questions and advice. But when it comes to sex, a professional educator can help in dissolving the cloud surrounding this topic. The workshop is a stepping stone in a journey that can be exploratory yet safe.

How much practice does any of us have in life to talk about sex in a serious yet fun way? A sex educator has exposure to the experiences of many people. This exposure allows for uniquely individual questions to be addressed based on the wealth of a broad reference.

As I was thinking of raising the issue at our PAC meeting, a quick search resulted in a variety of options. There are many books out there and also web pages that provide reviews of such books. When I typed 'sex educators BC' I didn't have to sift through endless porn sites as I had anticipated.  But then, as the days went by, "my topic" became a news item. One weekend I read an article by an awarded journalist. The next weekend covered the Ontario clash around the new Sex Ed curriculum.

Here in BC, there are already calls to revisit and possibly review it. But until that happens, parents of kids who are currently in elementary school need more immediate solutions. We can employ available resources as a group for the benefit of our own family as well as society at large.

Instead of worrying, I observe life as it presents itself to me. My own past is merely a reference point. When it comes to providing a healthy launching pad for my daughter, my observations turn into insights and guidance. Our school and its PAC provide an extended opportunity to nurture a broader connection. That connection itself provides the base for the healthy sex ed we are all hoping for. 

The books we have at home:

From the Media:
Why improve rant (Elizabeth Renzetti)
My sexual education (Sierra Skye Gemma)

Ontario Sex Ed (Globe&Mail Editorial)
Comparison between provinces (Global News)
Improve teache training (Globe&Mail)

Videos for discussion at a future PAC meeting:
Marnie Goldenberg (< Click to reach website):

Saleema Noon (< Click to reach website):


The U-turn guy

As the car suddenly swerved towards me, I realized the guy driving it hadn't noticed me.

Cycling south on Shoken Street, a median separated road, between Salame Street and Glilot Way, used to be a typical morning commute for me. The street rises and descends in both directions. My apartment was located in the low rent but lively South of Tel Aviv. The ride was a seven kilometer stretch to the design school in the adjacent city of Holon.

There wasn't much time, neither a lot else to do but kick my way to safety. I lifted my left foot straight into the back right door of the car. This stabilized my violent change of direction. At the same time the driver got a clear signal that something wrong was happening.

His U-turn maneuver was a legal one. His neglect to notice me - the cyclist with the right of way - probably was not.

However, as soon as he heard the crashing sound of my shoe bending the metal of his car, his head turned and he saw me. He stopped. But I was still pedaling uphill, a few inches away from the right side of the car that had almost killed me. I was partly startled, partly happy everything was OK and mostly annoyed by the disruption.

When the man saw that I continued my ride, he accelerated beside me and cut me again to make me stop. At that moment the last thing I wanted was to be bothered with him. I changed course and kept going uphill, this time to the left of the car. But now he jumped out and latched onto my handlebar.

Driver: "You kicked my car!"

Cyclist: "You almost killed me..., what d'you want?"
"No, come with me. You kicked my car!"
"Nothing happened. Let go of my bike."
"No! You come with me first."
"You almost killed me. Nothing happened to your car. Let go of my bike and I'll show you."
"No! If I let go you'll run away again."
"You almost killed me. Let go of my bike first."

At that moment a passer by was beside us. He told the driver that he saw him almost run over me. The look on the driver's face changed in realization into a gaze of fear. He let go of my bike and I joined him to look at the spot where I'd kicked his back door.

The crashing sound of my kick was that of sheet metal bending in and out again. As much as I was focused on surviving an emergency, seeing that was amusing. My confrontation with the driver gradually added to my sense of comedy.

"You see? Nothing happened. Have a good day."

Driver: "You,... you speak like someone with a ring in his ear!"

I smiled and continued with my ride.

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Walking and biking in the city has its merits as well as its challenges. All journeys have a story. It is either immediately evident or only reveals its beauty years later when you pull it out of your memory. I was reminded of the story above, from 1990, as I brushed against a moving car here in Vancouver last year. I was crawling with the traffic down Main Street when the car to my left tried to pull right into 6th Avenue. As soon as the driver noticed this, he slammed the brakes. We quickly and peacefully parted ways as nothing happened to any of us.


Time for walking, time for talking

Marylee and I were discussing a jog one day. In her interest to show me some of the lovely birds you can notice anywhere you go in the city it was just a matter of finding the right day. At about 8 am it takes a while until I manage to board the Skytrain. Then another fifteen minutes pass and I am at the Lonsdale Quay where we get together on a sunny April morning.

Apart from birds, Marylee takes photos and videos of urban action of interest. She is a storyteller, who is busy living her life to the fullest. I have recently helped her set up a blog dedicated to documenting those jogs she takes. Gradually we are going through the various tools in WordPress that allow you to share your stuff out in the world.
A wide variety of landscapes can be experienced when you let yourself wander without constraints of time.
Using the path making tool in Google Maps is not perfect in terms of interface but it works. The first walk we had together turned out to be about 5.5 KM long. Strangely there is a bridge spanning the Mosquito Creek's flow into the bay that is inaccessible to the general public. The Squamish Nation Reserve has private property signs along its roads. As pedestrians we take the liberty to use them instead of the noisy streets surrounding the reserve. We later walk beside the heavy traffic on our way back to the Quay.
If you have patience, you might get a shot of the heron shooting at a stray fish. Not much luck this time for me.
Many ducks can be seen in and out of the water. In the sky you can notice seagulls, crows and ravens. Within the Vancouver Shipyards territory, an eagles' nest can be seen high up atop one of the massive cranes. How well the birds are faring is hard for me to know. Some of the challenges for urban wildlife are documented by organizations such as the Vancouver Avian Research Centre.
At least when this guy moved, the spread of its wings was magnificent.
Our walk continues on the Spirit Trail that has steadily evolved since the first decade of the millennium. The lovely pedestrian bridge over the train tracks takes us to 1st street west, where we head back east. We take one of the patterned crosswalks to get to the north side walk. The traffic is pretty heavy now. We grab a coffee and a tea to chat a bit about Galapagos and Darwin. Marylee is working on the third edition of her book. I am in the middle of reading a biography of Darwin written by Janet Browne.

We called this a Jalk. Marylee is the one of us jogging. For me the pace is quick walking. The point is having a good balance of exercise and companionship. Along the way we enjoy the scenery that is changing as we move in space. Our memories and projections notice the changes that the scenery is going through in time as well.
I got to know of the Spirit Trail through one of my submissions for public art in North Vancouver. The patterned crosswalks are another feature of this city's care for the public realm.


Skytrain Express

I pretty much hate these ads, but they reflect real life experiences
The plebiscite is round the corner and the discussions around it seem to excite or frustrate everyone involved. However, whether you vote YES or NO, my hope is that the pressure to fix the systems that were made to serve us continues. The current debate, as irrelevant to the issue as it sometimes seems, raises our awareness to the ills that plague public institutions and governance.

I really enjoy riding the Skytrain. I don't enjoy buses as much but they have their merit. Public transport is just another tool within a complex array of services that sustain our society. It's up to our elected officials to best maintain and develop this tool. It's up to us to use this tool for our benefit.

At times, we need to take responsibility, whether it's a vote or unexpected interaction with each other. When I see the posters calling people to say something when they see something I have mixed feelings. I agree with the message but it's just a lot more complex than that. The following story, I'm sure, is just another drop in the endless examples for choices we face. Whether you say or do something, nothing can promise you - in the moment of action - that you're doing the right thing.

Young man eats sandwich.

He is sitting close to the Skytrain floor.

His portable piano's case serves as a bench.

The case stretches from side to side in the passage of the articulated cabin.

People are hesitant.

The moving train is full of them.

Tall guy asks young man "are you waiting for someone to ask you to move?"

Young man explodes "can't you see I'm eating?!"

Tall guy looks him in the eye considering the exchange.

"What?!", the young man continues, "the train is full. Can't you see I have nowhere to sit?"

Tall guy responds in a calm voice "you're blocking the way".

The exchange escalates asymmetrically: young man shouts and yells - tall guy stays calm until,

Young man exclaims "what are you, a security officer?!"

Tall guy picks up on the opportunity: "No, but I can call one for you if you like".

Young man picks up his piano in rage and stands beside the wall.

His beverage is left in the middle of the floor; his sandwich paper bag drops off. "Why are you bullying me, taking advantage of your age over a younger person?"

Train stops. People rush out the doors. New passengers board the train.

"Happy now?!" young man continues his charge. "It's all about you, isn't it?! You feel better with yourself, now that you’re a hero?"

Tall guy looks him in the eye and says "Not really, do you need a hand with your cup?"

"What is it with you, I need to eat before a practice session with my band" young man whines. "Now look what you've done! I'm shaking all over. Because of you I'm going to throw up"

"Sorry I'm making it so hard on you. Do you need a hand with your cup and paper bag?"

Train stops. People rush out the doors. More passengers board the train.

Young man realizes it's his stop.

He reaches the doors just before they shut.

Tall guy picks up disposable cup and paper bag and follows young man.

Young man barely squeezes out onto the station's platform.

Tall guy stretches his hand out the gap.

Young man asks in disgust mixed with fear "Now what do you want to do to me?!"

Tall guy, now on the platform, avoids him.

I walk to the nearest garbage bin. Through the open lid, I slip the paper bag into the bin and place the paper cup on top.

"There you are", I point to the cup, then turn back to the edge of the platform and wait for the next train.

Young man picks up his cup of coffee and rushes away.
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A few days later, I am on the Skytrain heading out of Downtown Vancouver. The car is filling up quickly. I stand beside the single seat right by the sliding doors. On one side a half curtain - partly opaque, partly transparent - separates the seat from the sliding doors. Its other side is just a few inches away from the bench arranged perpendicular to the car’s wall. It is conveniently inviting to rest your feet on it even if your shoes will no doubt soil it on a rainy day.

On a crowded train like we are now on, a young woman is diligently texting on her device. Her shoulder leans on the car’s wall. A couple enters and stands beside me. The man looks down at the empty single seat. He budges closer to the chair hoping to signal his desire to sit down. The young woman continues to text. The man’s accomplice, possibly younger, encourages him to sit. As he bends backwards, the young texter slides her feet ever so slightly but not enough to allow the man to fully lean all the way back.

He sits at the edge of the seat. A few seconds later he leans his head on the divider. Not knowing whether to say something to the texter I decide to approach the guy. I crotch so that our eyes make contact and say, “you can feel free to ask her to move her legs”. He looks at me, then at his accomplice. I realize he doesn’t speak English. I tell the young woman the same thing, then, “I can ask her to do that if you like”. She translates this to him and they both smile, somewhat embarrassed, a little grateful.

The texter, not at all oblivious to the exchange removes her legs from the seat. “He didn’t seem to care”, she says. The man slides all the way back to comfort. “You didn’t seem to care either”, I say and stand up to continue my ride. My time to get off comes and I'm out of there.

It’s a strange sense of relief. I can’t help trying to exist. I don’t feel that I want or need that kind of being in my life. But it does make a positive difference. "So be it!"


The Age of Walking

In  a high end fashion shop in Tel Aviv I am curiously browsing through items that seem pointless to consider for my then bachelor condition. Even in my current marital status I would probably avoid spending the amounts marked on the labels in that shop. This happened sometime before my moving to Canada. A man approaches me dressed up in a suite and tie and asks me for directions to a place that is a fair distance away.

I ask the shop attendant whether they have a phonebook so that its map will facilitate my response. As I show him our location and point to his destination I ask him whether he intends to ride or walk. Each decision would result in a slightly different route. The guy takes my question as an implication of a different kind and asks “Why, do you think I’m too old to walk there?” I smile and say that even people my age occasionally take a car or a bus for that distance.

“How old are you?” he asks in a politely confrontational smile.
“Thirty three” I say.
His smile changes into a gaze of recognition.
“Oh. I’m ninety...” he says.

We greet each other farewell and the man steps out to continue his walk.