Returning from visits to Toronto and Paris I have the urge to describe my joy in experiencing those places. The main thing that makes them so wonderful is how different they are from my usual milieu, Jerusalem, Israel.
Everything that I experienced in the last year or so are unusual for me, although things like these happen to everyone.
Things began last year, already, after returning from Irena, Ettie’s friend, who
stays some months each year in her house in Brittany, I suffered a pain in the small of my back caused by a kidney stone. Temporary relief was achieved by a stent to keep my urinary tract open. Then I had three enjoyable months guiding Dutch tourists and returned to hospital to have the stone smashed.
After that Bernard, my brother from Australia visited and we went to Sharm e sheikh to see the corals,
spent a night in Netanya by the beach, and visited family.
The dinner of smoked brisket at Lynne’s cousin Alan in Katsir was a highlight.
Then we spent a week in Saloniki, eating and swimming.
Then my intestines were struck with an infection. This kept me out of action for about two weeks and I recovered my energy in time to travel to Toronto to visit Ittamar and Anat and Noga and Alona.
Jody’s house, where we were staying, consisted of three floors. She allotted us a comfortable bedroom on the middle level. The bathroom is on the top level and the kitchen on the ground level. Sojournings involved regular traipsing between the three levels. Jody’s welcome was so warm and gracious and our accommodation so comfortable that I loved the up and down.
My imagination, as always ran away with me and I envisioned myself slipping and losing my grip on the balustrade and going tumbling down.
Returning from a day’s outing in Toronto I took off my shoes on entering the house, as is the custom in Toronto. The floors are of shiny beige wooden strips and the good householder does everything in her power to prevent scratching that beautiful strip floor. Shoes can mark it with the dirt they collect outside and so must be removed and changed for slippers that are in house footwear. On entering, footwear that has been worn outside, in the streets and on the sidewalks, is removed and slippers or some other footwear which is only used when one walks inside the house, on the beautiful, shiny beige coloured wood strip floor.
Toronto is a city that calls the visitor to explore. The long streets, like rivers, have their origin in some unknown, distant place. No ammount of walking along Yonge, Bathurst or Eglingtone could ever bring one to the source, probably thousands of kilometres away somewhere in the North, perhaps even near the Arctic circle.
Balfour Books, on College Str. or the other one, whose name escapes me, the coffee place where I couldn’t resist temptation and had a doughnut filled with custard, the shop that looked like an old time movie house, with glittering lights and the names of film stars set in gold on the sidewalk, with the biggest variety of beer I’d ever seen, but I drank a ginger ale, reminding myself that alcohol was forbidden to me by Etti, are really only the point where the long road pours out into the sea, represented by the University of Toronto, on Spadina Rd, where Jody lives.
Etti was off to the aquarium with Noga and I took up Jody’s invtation to show me the synagogues in her neighbourhood, leftovers of the 1920’s and 40’s when Jews from Europe came to settle, perhaps fleeing from persecuton and wars. Those days Jews were crying out to the world to allow them to settle. Canada could have taken in many more than she did. The country is even today terribly underpopulated. A mere 38 million people live there, in an area greater than the USA with a population of more than 200 million. About 10 million live in Toronto, others scattered throughout this vast land. The call for skilled labour goes out in posters on the trains showing men, incongruously attired in white shirts and overalls, wearing thick black framed spectacles, and carrying tools like drills, hammers and pickaxes, equating skilled manual labourers with intellectuals.