The Past Reaches Out
Funny how things strike me ...
I have a Google Alert out for “Yilgarn”, the shire in which I lived for 6+ years.
Here’s a notice that the Bakery is up for grabs. The Bakery was a store like any other store on Antares Street. I forget the baker’s name in 1956-1968.
I know that when I stopped off in SX in 1993, Bill Wesley was the baker. Bill’s dad was the milkman in SX in the 50-60s, and Bill was in my class at Primary School.
So Bill was ten when I was ten, eleven when I was eleven, and so on.
He would be 71 now.
If he is alive.
I read this notice and wonder if he has just died, and has been the baker for at least the past 25 years.
Of course, perhaps he sold out years ago and retired to Augusta!
Nonetheless it makes me wonder who else is dead. Eric Bozo died when he was but 55, as I recall, and Billy Mincham, a year behind me, I think it was him applied an oxy-acetylene torch to a 44-gallon fuel drum ...
A Statistical Tale
My friend Joy, of Japanese parentage, telephones me and says “I have this Japanese friend who wants to improve her English and loves music”. Joy knows that I trot off to Free Music Shows in Toronto, so here I am, Saturday morning, sitting at the Dundas Street Grill waiting for my blind date to show up. I am early, by nature, and figure it won’t be difficult to spot the Japanese lady amongst the crowd of eighty to a hundred noisy diners in this all-day-breakfast diner in the heart of Central Etobicoke.
Toronto is a multi-cultural city. Fifty percent of the residents were not born here (me included!). We have a Little Italy, a Portuguese Town, a Greek Town, Little India, Three (!) China Towns, and that’s just within Toronto, not the Greater Toronto Area.
But I lived in this part of Etobicoke for thirty years, and know it well as an enclave of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Bank-Manager folks. A Japanese lady about my age is going to stand out like a sore thumb when she arrives. Providing that she is taller than the partition that runs alongside the entrance corridor.
At ten to ten she arrives. Before I can get to her, she has spoken to the greeter (no doubt “I’m here to meet someone who I won’t recognize ...”) and been ushered to a seat. I wait for the greeter to disappear than approach her table, dressed as I am in my dark green freshly-dry-cleaned pants and my newly-laundered dark blue shirt.
“Excuse me, but are you Seiko?”
“No. My name is MaSako”.
Well, of course. We already know that her English is not so good, and perhaps Joy has called her by the diminutive or familiar form of “MaSako”. Could happen.
I seek confirmation “Do you know Joy Kogawa?”.
“Ah good. I am here to meet you.”
Some little confusion reigns. She assures me that she is not here to meet anyone. She says she is a writer, and that is how she knows of Joy Kogawa. I apologize profusely (please see “WASP” above) and back away.
I think about this. What are the odds that a Japanese lady about my age will walk into the Dundas Street Grill at ten of a Saturday Morning when there is probably not another Japanese lady within three miles of here. I mean three miles. Not even driving north or south on Highway #427 at this time.
What are the odds of that lady knowing my friend Joy?
I retreat to my booth and I brood.
Brilliant Idea! I will phone Seiko’s number and ask her “Are you in the Dundas Street Grill?”. I dial. No answer.
Brilliant Idea #2! I walk back to MaSako’sbooth with my cell phone and ask “Is this your number?”.
I blush while apologizing profusely (please see “WASP” above) and back away. I can feel my face redden.
Too late I realise that my dark blue shirt matches every shirt of the wait staff. Perhaps she thinks that I am The Manager.
Or worse, a sleezy pick-up artist looking for a hot date for Saturday Night. They probably still have Disco dances in this part of Etobicoke.
My phone rings. Seiko is driving, close by, but lost. I direct her to the Six Points Shopping Plaza and walk over there to walk her back to the diner. I explain briefly the situation, show her my table, then take her to meet my OTHER other Japanese lady friend. I somehow want the other lady to know that I really was here to meet someone called Seiko, that I am not a sleezy pick-up artist looking for a hot date for Saturday Night.
“Speak to her in Japanese” I beg, so that they can discuss me without embarrassment. I retreat to my booth.
Some ten minutes later Seiko re-appears. Turns out she and MaSako met each other twenty years ago, and have been playing catch-up ...
What are the odds that at 10 a.m. on a Saturday morning, two of the hundred people in the Dundas Street Grill in Central Etobicoke will be Japanese women who know Joy Kogawa well. Not just “heard of her”, but know her well? And who recognize each other?