Please explain what just happened.

I am sitting on the tarmac at LAX and was just told that my already two-hour delayed flight to Hawaii was going to be delayed another hour.  Try explaining that to a six-year-old.

 

What is your earliest memory?

My memories pre-five are spotty, but I can remember my first day of kindergarten. It was like being offered an adventure that I had no interest in participating in.  I recall watching in terror as one boy was forcibly dragged into the classroom by his parents while he was clawing at the walls and screaming at the top of his lungs.  I thought to myself, “What kind of horrible world am I being dropped into?”

Okay.  I am not an orderly, neat-freak sort of person.  Though I have an inexplicable, longstanding repulsion of bathtub drains, as in if I accidentally touch one I will spend at least ten minutes convincing myself I’m not going to vomit by thinking happy thoughts about polar bear babies with my eyes scrunched shut.  There’s just something about a bathtub drain being the equivalent of a bathtub’s anus, maybe, that implies it will never, ever be clean no matter what you do to it.  But I am not neurotic nor fastidious nor particularly organized. I mean, you should see the rest of my bathroom.  Maybe once a year, we chisel into five inches of residue to remind ourselves the bathroom countertop is white.  Things stick to it.  Cotton balls.  Band-aid wrappers.  And stay there for months like bug carcasses in a barnyard web.  I should be repulsed by the toothpaste tumor amassing in the bottom of the toothbrush cup.  My friend showed me an animation of what happens when you flush the toilet and your toothbrush is nearby.  Think nuclear fallout in a bathroom-shaped radius.  Think fecal matter instead of ashes.  I should be repulsed by that.  My bathroom says it all:  I’m a mess, but there’s a small, bathtub-drain-sized chance I could completely flip out and be anything but.  I am an O.C.D. time bomb.

Victor is all excited. He finds a deal on the net for an Air Canada trip to Toronto for only $68! He buys our tickets and we’re all set to go June 24th and come home on June 28th. We have never been to Toronto before.

He finds a great deal on a motel. We don’t waste money on hotels; you just sleep there, after all.

So we’ve got a king-sized bed, non-smoking, in the Super 8 above the Chinese Cultural Center in Chinatown.

On the airplane, the flight attendant asks me where we’re going. I say we’re going to Toronto, thinking it’s obvious, since that’s where the plane is going. She says, “You mean you’re not traveling through Toronto, you are going to stay there? Now?”

“Sure,” I say, “why not?”

“Well, the G-20 is there at the same time, and those meetings are known for outsiders causing violence,” she says.

“Seriously?” I say.

“Oh, yeah,” she says, shaking her head.

Well, I think, we’ll be in Chinatown; we’ll be out of the trouble.

When we get off the plane the airport is like the Tower of Babel.

 

So many people in all kinds of strange clothes speaking so many different languages, all of us walking back and forth and back and forth and back and forth, the snaking line that lasts forever to Passport Control.

(When we get to Passport Control, the officials are all wearing Kevlar.)

Then we go to pick up our bags. We have the only suitcases which are not fully sealed in pink saran wrap. We are not pushing carts full of taped over boxes and bags. We’re just rolling two small suitcases.

(The baggage handlers are wearing Kevlar.)

Then we enter the mayhem of an octopus-like line which feeds many lines into one long line to Customs.

(All the customs agents are wearing Kevlar.)

Taxis are not yellow in Toronto! We finally line up for a taxi and got a taxi driver who didn’t speak English, just like home. Toronto doesn’t look any different from a biggish city in the States, except there are Moose everywhere.

 

(The taxi driver was not wearing Kevlar.)

When we get to the Super 8, we find out that we have to wear special yellow bands around our wrists to prove we are bona fide tourists.

 

The museums and many tourist sites are closed, as well as the whole lake area of the city, for the sake of the muckety mucks.

Well, not a problem, I think, we can just walk the city and see what it looks like and see what is open. There are lots of interesting people around and about like Mr. Peru:

 

 

The next day we

Walk.

All.

Day.

This is what Victor likes to do on vacation.

(The meter maids are wearing Kevlar.)

We stop for a latte and the Frenchy French guy asks us if we heard all the commotion. There was a bomb scare on the corner. There wasn’t a bomb, so we didn’t hear anything.

Everywhere we walk there are people gathering and police gathering, with piles of apples, for energy.

 

 

A police car is on fire down the street. We go the other way. Many policemen are on foot, running up the block. We hurry across the street.

Some group — an offshoot of the peaceful financial Luddites — has a name with “Black” in it. They are not peaceful. They all have backpacks and blend in with the crowd and then apparently change into black. When they wear the black clothes, they put on their balaklavas and start swinging heavy objects at the glass windows. Starbucks, banks, record stores, Foot Locker, random small businesses, are all getting trashed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

We go back to the hotel. On the news there is yet another police car on fire. The police do not have permission to do anything. They just keep backing up. These are the most polite policemen on the planet. Canadian policemen don’t want to bother anyone, even evildoers. Police on foot, police on bicycles, police on motorcycles, Police in vans rented from Budget, police in school busses, in Greyhound buses and, my personal favorite: The MOUNTIES!

 

 

(All the police wore Kevlar, but the horses didn’t appear to be wearing any.)

Firetrucks are wailing down the streets, one after another. Ambulances are wailing down the streets too. People stop us and say, “These are not people from Toronto, or even Canada, doing this, you know.”

They seem embarrassed. Canadians are really nice.

Take a look at this store and tell me they are not the cutest!

 

 

 

There is a commotion up ahead.  Paramedics are taking a stretcher out of an ambulance. A huge, Canada-size white guy is comatose on the sidewalk. His legs are in shorts and the skin you can see is covered with weeping sores.

“Anyone know this man here?” says the ambulance lady.

All the vagrants walk away as though they never saw him before.

“You just left him here like this?” she says.  She is disgusted with people. She’s obviously seen too much of this sort of thing.  Even in Canada, it happens.

On the third day it’s pouring buckets out, but off we go on our 8 to 10 mile forced march. Luckily it stops raining for a while and is just spitting until later in the afternoon.

In case my kids are worried because they happen to see the news, I email them.

This is my email:

 

Dear Kids,

We’re fine.

Been quite a day.

Tell you about it when we get home.

Love, MOM

 

This is what Sara writes back:

 

Oooh! Drama! Can’t wait to hear about it. I hope you were charged with civil disobedience along with the anarchists! It’s about time the authorities were alerted to the societal hazard that you two represent. I’m just saying.

–smz

 

This is what Victor emails to all the kids:

 

Subject: Mom’s day of rage

Sara, et. al.

Mom was not charged with civil disobedience but….

Here’s what happened:

We were walking down College Street where some of the largest gatherings were taking place. There was a large crowd of young folks full of energy (no black clad thugs, just kids with honest, if misguided, ideas.) Before I knew what was happening, Mom had ripped off her shirt, fashioned her bra into an ersatz headband and was running down the street yelling “Freedom now” harkening back to the protests of yore. Well, with all the violence, the police were not amused. She was charged with “public indecency” rather than civil disobedience, taken into custody for several hours and the released after being fingerprinted, photographed and made to pay a substantial fine. I believe she was released because the authorities felt that seeing herself on the local evening news was punishment enough. At least she stuck to her principles and feels she “has made a real difference.”

An interesting vacation.

Dad

 

The next day, round about LA waking up time, we get a call on our cell phone from Lenore.

We told the kids to email us if they needed us, and only to call in an emergency because it is 71 cents a minute to call Canada from the States. We think something is wrong with Lenore.

 

“I got your email,” Lenore says, quiet and serious.  “Does mom have a record now?”

Lenore, my sophisticated child, (with a doctorate,) is completely taken in by Victor’s joke.

Please take a moment to read Victor’s email again.

My daughter believed this of me.

This is me:

 

 

Do I look like an anarchist to you?

I have nothing more to say.