Monday, August 24, 2015

#wokeuplikethis #blessed

    Unless you live in a sorority or a glossy magazine you have no visibility into what the real world for perpetually put-together women looks like. Which is why you can scoff at those Insta bed selfies of girls with perfect hair and luminous skin that are tagged with ‪#‎wokeuplikethis‬ and ‪#‎blessed‬

    Here I am, 9 hours into my long-haul, overnight flight from North America to Europe, looking like I'm ready... to commit a heinous crime. Sleep hasn't exactly been an ally on board and that's the kindest thing I can say about it. Add to it the incessant kicks (I know I'm supposed to love these) from a tall kid who optimized the surface area of all three sequential seats and turned it into a comfortable bed and you have a woman who's sleepless and in pain aka routine mommy life. The man of the house meanwhile slept like a baby and can potentially easily do justice to a #wokeuplikethis and #blessed bed selfie but let's not go there.

    We're an hour away from landing. So although it's some ungodly hour in SF it's breakfast time in air as is conveyed to us subtly with the invasive smell of scrambled eggs and skillet potatoes being warmed up. Co-passengers wake up, rubbing their eyes, yawning, opening the overhead compartments. I'm grateful for some activity around. Little mercies. It's the first time I take notice of the fact that there are more women (mostly blonde, mostly light eyes, mostly with a tan, mostly wearing tank tops and printed pants) than men on my flight. I take a closer, incredulous look with my bloodshot eyes. There's mascara that has stood the test of a transAtlantic flight time. Then there's ironed, subservient tresses (yes, tresses, because the usage of hair here seems trite and insufficient) that is ready to face the lens in record time. Photoshop won't be necessary, no ma'am. And there's an appalling lack of oily patches on the nose or forehead.

    I'm not at the age where superfluous aspects of my tribe would make me insecure. I've safely left that phase two decades in the past. But out of sheer curiosity I continue to assess and am soon on my way to eating humble pie, or humble jabelis, if you will. The flight has not only robbed me off my precious slumber, it has also robbed me off my prerogative to judge Insta pics that make outrageous claims. Because now I know, more than ever before, that there are indeed many, many women who do ‪#‎wakeuplikethese‬. Guess they are really #blessed.

    Meanwhile I'm left with bigger fish to fry, which essentially means looking an immigration officer in the eye and convincing him I'm not about to commit a heinous crime on his turf regardless of what my face may suggest. It's a cruel world out there.

Monday, August 10, 2015

City of my dreams

My heart must be replenish-able because I seem to leave them in too many cities and somehow I still feel one beating inside. Toronto is my latest city crush. It’s one of the more eclectic, bustling, diverse and chic metropolises I’ve been to. It’s got a New York veneer to it but scratch the surface a tad and you know it instantly; it’s far more welcoming, laidback and cheery. And it knows how to play that elongated seduction dance with its old world charm.

What is it that makes a city vibrant and memorable, I often wonder. Toronto boasts of French, British, Irish, Portuguese and other influences given its war heavy history so diversity is deeply rooted around here. Its little surprising then that you see these cultures interspersed and manifest through architecture, food and languages. At the end I remember it as a melee of voices and opinions, angles of face, twists of mouth, vagaries of accent, of a single behemoth with a myriad tongues. A blur, still distinct in its own right.

The downtown is resplendent, filled with beautiful buildings, both colonial from the yesteryears and the modern ones. There’s no pattern there. The old and the new sort of just get along. No surprises then that when Toronto Star, a paper known for hard-hitting journalism per a local fellow, did a survey on the ugliest building in Toronto downtown, it turned out to be the building of Toronto Star. That’s a valuable lesson; be careful what you set out to discover.

Not many can claim of being unaffected by aesthetics. And boy this town knows how to make a grand first impression. Going bold rarely fails and bold it does with color. It’s a bit of a challenge to find two adjacent shops/homes/buildings painted in the same hue. Believe me; I looked before I gave up.
You know the city has a colonial hangover when busy, prominent streets have names like King St. and Queen St. Queen Street by the way is flanked by flamboyant boutiques and people in trendy attire strutting through it ceaselessly. Vogue magazine called it the second most fashionable street in the world I was told. I am yet to look up which street aced that noteworthy contest.

If there’s anything that can top diversity and aesthetics it’s attitude. For if everyone looked at the world with the same lens, it’d make for one dreary realm. Summer ain’t called summer here; they call it The Patio Season. That’s one way to romanticize it I’d say. And patios are aplenty, decked up with cheerful blooms everywhere you look. So sought after are these settings that the city has even set up colorful wooden lounge chairs on certain streets, little happy places if you will, where you can chill and feel blessed with a book or a drink or whatever rocks your boat.

I gathered the city is on the brink of an organic (and raw pressed juice) revolution, something that’s very reminiscent of San Francisco. And when that happens, can hippies be behind? When you have all that organic goodness running through your bloodstream, your veins need a hint of melody to jam to. In a day and a half, I caught bits of 3 concerts and a jazz fest. The concerts were all around office buildings or in parks or at public squares, playing tracks from Imagine Dragon to folk songs of Native American tribes, covering all sides of the spectrum.

If you’re anything like me you probably get startled when the duplicate is just as good or better than the original. Toronto is so versatile that Wall Street, the movie about Wall Street, was filmed in Toronto downtown and so was Chicago, that movie about Chicago. For that matter my favorite show Suits gets filmed here as well. They say if they’ve stolen your essence they’ll robbed you off everything. Oh well.
Anywhere you turn in downtown be prepared to run into an art installation. You’ll also run into hot dog stalls that sell everything from halal to veggie dogs, ice cream trucks and a super chic bicycle with a pink-striped box with pretty girls who ride it and sell confectionary goodness. Speaking of food, Toronto mirrors NYC in food options. Countless options, everything just as good. I had to end my last meal on a local note—poutine. Poutine is French fries topped with brown gravy-like sauce and cheese curds. It definitely set off a few happy hormones running amok through my body.
It’s a pity then that I had all of two days here, large parts of which were spent working. But it’s helped me define what I’m partial to and savor the flavor. They say traveling is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown; it’s pretty much the only reason I do it.