Thursday, June 14, 2007

Spying on the Neighbours, Part 2: Return of the Limp

This time the weather was much nicer, so I headed south east for about 2.5 km and no matter how many times I walk the same route, it never gets boring.

FYI: between this walk and this one, there are
27 barber shops\beauty salons
48 places where you can be served alcohol

Does this not seem excessive to anyone else?

1. Besides the mice @ work seen on my previous outing, this particular walk yielded: internet c@fe, web st@tion, and web fusi@n.

2. A bar\eatery that advertises "pub and grub" - not sure if this is honest, or unappetizing, or both.

3. The first of many murals, this one oddly depicting a bank vault that is raining money into the waiting people's hands. There are 3 banks within spitting distance of this mural. Does this not make them nervous? Do we really need enormous artwork to incite lawlessness? And why this particular building? It houses a Mac's Milk convenience store (for all your slurpee and cigarette needs) and Curves, one of those pussy "gyms" wherein you never break a sweat.

4. This neighbourhood is lined with tiny, family-owned stores that seem to sell nothing and everything all at once. One such store advertises: helium balloons, satellite installation, fresh kiwis, change watch batteries. It's closed on Sundays and Mondays, never open before 10 or after 5. Kind of makes me feel like I should get into the helium\kiwi\battery business.

5. As usual a bunch of old men have brought rusting vinyl-covered chairs from ancient dinette sets into the middle of the sidewalk, and they all sit there, congregated, always finding something to gesture madly about. Not only do you have to step around this mass of pot-bellied men, you have to step out into oncoming traffic just to give them a wide enough berth - these men are spitters, and the area around them is a no-walk zone.

6. Another store that sells: cleaning supplies, antique handicrafts, baked ham and raw almonds. I like that. Sounds almost poetic, until I note the other sign that says Indian groceries upstairs, Mexican groceries in basement, and I feel bad for the segregated food, the salsa and tortillas that are made to hide in shame downstairs, victims of culinary prejuidice. I rage against the injustice until I can justify it: mexican food has a lot more cheese and beans, high fat content, so having to go up and down stairs to retrieve it is probably just heart-healthy. Right?

7. Then, another mural, this one depicting movie scenes. At first I think it's just as random as the first, but then I see more clearly. This one is cleverly placed between a grocery store and a blockbuster. When you come out of the grocery store, glad to be alive despite the tomato-squeezers, you look at the mural and think it might be nice to treat yourself to a movie. But once you get the movie, you realize that you won't want to watch it snacking on the arugala in your shopping back, so you go back to the grocery store and buy a vat of chip dip and a family-size bag of ruffles, which is enough food for at least 2 movies, so you go back to the video store and rent a second one. So you see the mural is a conspiracy to get you to consume, driving the economy but emptying your wallet, and all you wanted to do was make a nice salad and maybe hit the gym, but now you're bound to go home and sit on your fat ass, shovelling well-seasoned lard into your mouth via deep-fried carbohydrates, and pretty soon you have no energy to go to the gym, even if you could get your wobbly thighs into your yoga pants, so instead you rent more movies and swallow more salty snacks, and the Evil Mural People cackle greedily to themselves.

8. Anyway. The next store I hit sells blinds, draperies, and bras. But mostly bras. They were having a sidewalk sale, but bra sales always make me depressed. The A-cup bin overflows with pretty bras, all lace and eyelets and bows. The B-cup bin does likewise, not needing to bother with support straps and underwires. But by the time I get to my bin, the C-cup, the bras in there are dowdy in comparison. The vast majority of them come in white or beige. And don't even get me started on the sorry contents of the D bin. But, in the back of the store, in a dusty pile, sat a tangled mass of mini blinds. This made me absurdly happy.

9. Another human obstacle: an old lady who stood pointing towards the sound of a piano. She pointed very fiercely, but I'm not sure exactly what she expected me to do about it. Did she want me to enjoy it? Hate it? Investigate it? Or was she just looking for confirmation that she wasn't crazy and someone else could hear it too? I kept walking, and for all I know she might still be there now.

10. A store called Lit - I look inside and it appears to sell clothing. I am confused. "Lit" is the french word for bed. Why would a clothing store be named Bed? Not for another 3 blocks do I remember that Lit is also an english word, as in "to light", which makes me embarrassed for a minute, but then, it's still a rubbish name.

11. An aging couple stops me for directions, but clearly no one has told them they're getting on in their years. They're both dressed in their version of "hip" clothes - skin tight, of course, that seems obligatory when you're fat and over 60 but in denial about both. Absurdly, they are both wearing matching belts that dip below their matching bellies. They ask me for the Boom Boom room, and I wonder if they've recently escaped from the 60s, and all I can do is shrug. Much later I recall a breakfasty place simply called Boom, but it's wayyyy down the street so I feel confident that I won't have to sheepishly run into them again.

12. This happy place usually has dozens of warm bodies lined up outside of hit on the sultry summer evenings. You can tell it's happy just by looking at it, but I think anything you can put sprinkles on top of is happy by default. I've never been in there myself, but I delight in it just by ice creamy osmosis. On the other side of it is a Tibetan buddhist temple, so I believe this corner has a lot of good karma going for it.

13. Walking by a restaurant that makes "Seoul Food", I walk by a green van with an elderly man in the driver seat who yells something mangled at me, and my earphones firmly in place, I pretend not to hear. So he follows me. Of course. The van pulls up beside me and slows to match my walking pace. The driver yells at me, asks if I want a ride. It's a gorgeous, if melty, kind of day, and I tell him so and move on. But he follows. And yells So you like exercise? By which point the many cars stuck behind him are now honking impatiently. He beckons me over, and I shake my head no. I am grateful there is a lane of traffic between us. He won't give up, though. He wants me to come talk. He wants to go out for coffee. He wants me to get in his van. What the hell is an old man in a mini van doing chasing 20somethings? This man could be my grandfather. And then it hits me: my grandfather has recently purchased a minivan. So this guy keeps following me and I'm getting to really not like it, and I decide that rudeness be damned, I'm cutting through someone's backyard, where vans cannot follow because I need another stalker like I need for my eyebrows to catch fire. I decide to get home before van man can find me again, but all the way home I think of the letter I should compose to my grandmother along the lines of Pa might be trolling for more than just fish.

14. Safe at home, but bothered by the heat, I take off my pants and sit in front of the fan until I feel I've cooled down. I stay inside for at least half an hour, wanting to hide from van man, but the sun is irresistible and I have some errands to run. So I head out towards the grocery store and I don't see any green vans, but a guy on a bike does stop me and mentions something about me and a man and almost causing an accident...I assume he is referring to van man, but I don't care to hear anymore so I wave as if I'm an idiot and move my feet in a hurry. I pass the movie mural again, and this time I concede that the conspiracy to have me in front of the television might not be such a bad idea after all.

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