As you have probably already learned from Rawbean's Rant I was in Winnipeg this past weekend. I was thinking about posting about my travels earlier in the week, yet found myself without the time to sit down and actually write it all down. This has been my first moment since returning home with the time and energy both to give a faithful account of my travels. So, without any further ado, here we go.
Outside of stories, one's life doesn't so much work in circles. Granted there are cycles that occur in life (as we all know history does repeat itself), but I am speaking more in lines of the circles one finds in works of fiction. The fact that I can bookmark this story, giving it a strange circular quality, both pleases and concerns me.
Regardless, it starts:
Seven fifteen Friday morning at LaGuardia airport I saw a woman who shouldn't be allowed to dress herself and then go out in public. Maybe five feet tops, wearing bright pink, yellow, blue and purple socks with "cute" cats and dogs sheathed in black rubber sandals. Her black pants, seemingly Capri, would fit like regular pants had she not worn them pulled up to her ribcage (thus making her ass seem as if it was the same length as her legs). Into the those pants she had tucked in a light pink cotton shirt. She was skinny, with short cropped grey hair, no older than sixty-five, no younger than fifty, with a very severe face - as if she was both frustrated and confused, not so much by anything specific but by the world around her - and all the time. I'm guessing she was a hippie back in the day and is now frustrated that the world has passed her by and who has yet to learn how to dress like a person.
This woman, who was taking her sweet time trying to figure out how to use the electronic check in machine, bothered me to no end. Each time she touched the electronic screen she hastily withdrew her fingers to her bosom, as if the machine would bite off the tips of her fingers if she lingered too long.
I just wanted to check my luggage and sit down. It was an early flight, and I'd been up since six thirty. I was already in a bad mood as I had been the day previous; J_ was already up in Syracuse for school having left Thursday morning. I figured this to be the start of a very long, long weekend.
The trip itself is uneventful otherwise. From LaGuardia to Toronto, and from Toronto to Winnipeg. We land (we = me and my mom) and we walk over to a different gate to meet up with my friend Jason. Then we (we=the three of us) walked over, picked up our rental car, and drove into the city.
Then the eating commenced, and it didn't end until my departure from Canada. First there was a dinner at the bride's house hosted by her parents. It was a small affair, the bride's immediate family, the groom's immediate family, and any other out of town guests (said out of town guests consisted solely of myself, Jason, and my mother). Dinner consumed, we realized it was time to drive to the Rabbi's house before the Sabbath started (my mother is more religious than I am and won't drive on the Sabbath).
Brief interlude: I was scared I'd be spending more money than I had on travel and accommodations. Luckily, however, there is a bond among Rabbis. My father was in the same graduating class as the local Rabbi in Winnipeg back when they both graduated from rabbinical school. Though they weren't ever really close, and though they hadn't really spoken in about twenty years or so, after receiving an e-mail from my mother he said "Of course you can stay with me." End interlude
The Rabbi's house was a bit of a mess (by bit read "extremely messy") but it's understandable, as he had just returned home from vacation and his children were both in the midst of getting ready to go back to college. In any case it was but the Rabbi and his eldest son home that weekend. They waited until the Sabbath to start the Sabbath meal and once again we ate dinner (that's two dinners on Friday night).
Saturday we went to services at the synagogue for the ufroof (a Jewish tradition where the groom - and now our more egalitarian times bride and groom - are called up to the the torah and say a special blessing on the Sabbath before their marriage) and stayed for the luncheon afterwards. It was nice, a few salads: egg, tuna, and Caesar; with of course the needed (it was a Jewish affair) bagels and cream cheese. I don't want to insinuate that I'm some sort of bagel snob, but I was very disappointed with Winnipeg bagels. They tasted less like bagels and more like regular bread just cut to look like a bagel. Still the bread they tasted like was good bread and I enjoyed my lunch. Unbeknownst to Jason, and me the Rabbi was having a lunch afterwards at his house and invited over a few more guests.
So back we went to the Rabbi's for a second lunch. I ate less of this lunch being it was Chili with Italian sausage. This second lunch ran long. The rabbi, a very friendly man, is also a man who enjoys a ritualistic formality. Before the meal we made kiddish (the traditional Jewish blessing over wine before Sabbath meals) over scotch instead of wine and took our time sipping our drinks and shmoozing. Then we moved onto a course of turkish salad, humus, and pita and Challah (a jewish egg bread which if you've never had, you're missing out). From there, when we finished those appetizers, we moved on to the main course, the previously mentioned chili and salad.
Lunch was a good two hours long, if not a bit longer, when my mother and I had to excuse ourselves early. The rehearsal dinner was at the Old Spaghetti Factory in the Forks, about three and a half miles away, and being that my mother won't drive on the Sabbath we decided to walk there, leaving at 3:30 an hour before the event was scheduled to start.
We were all warned that to walk from the Rabbi's house to the Forks we'd be walking through the bad part of town. The "dangerous" part of Winnipeg. Jason claims this is just me and my mom being NY snobs (something I took to offense being that I haven't even lived here a year, and regardless how long I live here, I will never really consider myself a New Yorker) that we thought comparatively, how dangerous could Winnipeg really be? I can't speak for all of Winnipeg all the time, but this particular "bad" area on main street through which we walked, was not dangerous at all - at least not at three-thirty in the afternoon under a clear blue sky and bright hot sun.
We got there a little late, but still before many people who were only staying in the hotel across the street, and about two hours after we finished our second lunch, began to eat our dinner.
After dinner we hung out in the forks until sunset (when the Sabbath ends) and then drove my mom back to the Rabbi's so she could meet up with friends she has in Winnipeg. At the Rabbi's house I then, feeling a bit nervous and awkward called Rawbean. And so we met at the Second Cup coffee shop in Osborne village. Osborne village = the small hipster area of Winnipeg.
For the record (specifically to those who do read Rawbean's rant): My name is pronounced pretty much how she said, only it isn't a soft H but a hard one, as if you had something caught in your throat. A bit guttural, very hebrew/arabic sounding. It's not that I prefer "Ami" (Ah-me) rather it's much easier for people to say. I can't really think of a single person who calls me by my first name, family included. I just generally sign my name "Amichai" because too often if I just write "Ami" people think it's a strange spelling of "Amy" and assume I'm a girl. I am not a girl (though I do enjoy watching "The Gilmore Girls" and "Grey's Anatomy"). And I don't have an accent, everyone else has an accent, I speak just fine. And I'm living in Queens, not Brooklyn, but that is really neither her nor there (well it's actually Here and not There, but you know what I mean).
Rawbean was nice, and it wasn't strange meeting her. Every so often it was odd realizing that this very nice Canadian girl behind the blog I read so often. But other than that it was a very pleasent evening, and a very chill way to spend my time after doing so much the previous two days.
The wedding the next day was nice, though Jason and I were seated and the strange cousins table. The wedding and reception both were held in the synagogue and was about 96 people total. There wasn't a lot of dancing going on and most people there were family, the bride's family to be specific. The groom had his immediate family there, an aunt, and me and Jason and my mom (and two of the groom's mother's friends who were also friends with my mom, all from the same town I grew up in).
And again we ate. And ate. And ate. There was a lot of food going on. We hung out, felt strange at the awkward cousins table, made more polite small talk than we ever felt we'd be capable of, and then retired to our hotel room. The Rabbi was off driving his son back to college so for our final night in Winnipeg we stayed at the Hampton Suites hotel on the recommendation of Rawbean (and it was very nice, so for that I must take this moment to thank Rawbean for her advice).
Jason and I were exhausted and we just dropped into our respective beds and watched Canadian television. Well actually we stopped on TBS and watched the Mummy, but it was in Canada so I'm gonna say it was Canadian television.
Four hours pass and it's time once again to head to the bride's family's house for a smaller after party for those who couldn't make the wedding (ie. weren't invited due to monetary reasons) and the out of towners who were still in town. We knew left overs would be served, but said left overs turned out just to be the desserts. Not so bad, so we ate dessert with out a dinner. It was a very nice time. The Brides' father grew up in some small farm in Saskatchewan and his whole family's idea of a good time is to sit around, pull out their instruments, and play bluegrass and country music. I'm told someone even yodels in Yiddish, but either it never happened or it only occurred after I left.
Still, for some reason feeling we needed to eat some more, Jason and I went back out to Osborn village and got some food at the Billabong.
Again, woke up early the following day to catch my flight. Delayed transferring in Montreal and finally arrived home around five o'clock on Monday afternoon.
There I stood, next to my mother waiting for our luggage to go around the little carousel at LaGuardia. My mother on her cell phone telling my father that we finally arrived. Bored, tired, cranky, lacking the constant flow of either food or activities thus reverting back to the missing of J_, I turned around. Who did I see standing behind me? None other than that strange woman who started the whole thing.
This time dressed far more sensibly. I couldn't help but smile and wave hello.
A Letter from a New Friend
3 weeks ago