Rideau Street Borders
Rideau Street is a border between the Ottawa I live in and the Ottawa I visit. The Byward Market sits on the opposite side and my story migrates there.
The Bluebird Cafe on Dalhousie, has a medium roast - ideal with the right amount of sunlight pouring through the window. As I write, each sip is ink. Painted yellow walls give the impression of a vintage cottage kitchen during summer. The bar along the wall and window as with all other tables are full with regulars and strangers. We sit with memories ingrained into the wood.
We participate together in a creative act that lasts only as long as we stay.
On one table, open books are covered with notes scribbled down in haste by students discussing a professor’s lecture. The books, perhaps on literature or philosophy are in a state of total deconstruction. The dialogue or debate sounds fierce as they hurl difficult to pronounce names or theories at each other. Was that Husserl - did I hear phenomenology? Phenomenological. Phenomenal.
Back to my space. My vintage canvas shoulder bag is on the bar. I type this article and revisit (reread) earlier pieces from my own planet-walking. My smart phone blinks - a notification - what has Trump done? Then in sequence - another Trumpism flashes and dies.
One guy’s elbow rests nearby to support his chin as he looks down. His fountain pen sails over journal pages leaving a black track of words that resemble poetry. Alert from ordering a triple cappuccino, he continues in his inner-quest. An hour later, he closes his diary. The contents are now frozen on paper unless he uploads future Instagram photos.
Large and wonderful oatmeal cookies wait on the baking pan. I adore cookies but I’m all about the brew and the banter floating about. “Lattes are my life,” she said. And mine?
Espressos. 2 shots at least. 1 every hour. Even when asleep. Tweet-able tale.
I have freedom to document Ottawa but I am uncertain in this city of opportunity. I adapt to nomadic wandering. Along the Canal, on the bank of the Ottawa River, on a side street I haven’t been, a question storms - what can I do? Nomadic writing. True. But beyond the joy of a cafe table and a now second large, Dark Roast, there is still that issue - of work.
The word unemployed sounds and feels hopeless. If I say, on sabbatical - there is some respect. What if I say temporarily retired or I’m freelancing? The latter has glitter. Whatever I say, my movement through this city feels as if I don’t perfectly belong - yet. As if not having a full time job means that I live in an abandoned, boarded-up town - alone.
However, I am content. I am unbound and free - to travel over borders.
I don’t want to interrupt the flow of this article but the traces of biography you read, reveal more about me. Unlike the No Name brand in shocking yellow available at local grocers, I want to have a real name - to be remembered and have more than a single color.
I’m Adam and my multi-local colors are O-Town’s streets when not painted white during winter.
Around Ottawa, pizza places and shawarma eateries give way to all you can eat sushi buffets and restaurants offering eclectic cuisines. On Bank into the Glebe (a historical namesake alluding to Church Lands), an Ethiopian restaurant appears, Hareg. This place is one piece of the multicultural fabric of Ottawa. I have never tried Ethiopian food before. The owner’s hospitality was sincere - genuine. While having lunch, a large group enjoyed the preparation of coffee being roasted. They sipped from small cups.
In the ethnic-ambient mood of the interior, I realize that I am now placed in Ottawa. I don’t belong to Seoul or Korea any longer.
On Preston, an Italian bakery, Simply Biscotti serves up scrumptious sandwiches and pastries. The Easter special is Cannoli stuffed with exquisite ricotta cheese. The Starbucks across the street offers choices. 3 drips are prepared and waiting, piping hot. In Seoul, (where I have lived - the past tense is still sometimes sobering) there is a 5 minute wait and 1 drip.
Choices are essential in Canada. Harvey’s and Subway offer unlimited fixings and umpteen sauces while pizzas here are super-sizable and give new meaning to the word, diverse or divine. Frozen pizzas are just divine except those thickly crusted. Beers and craft beers, especially, create a potent mix of confusion and rapture upon drinking. The multi-colored Monsters (on special) waiting in the supermarket fridge are plentiful but not scary - some scream Orange, others pack Punch.
Watching the Juno Awards and checking out the various winners assaulted my musical tastes. Living outside Canada, I had no idea who most of the musicians were but listening to A Tribe Called Red transported me to awareness on drums and vocals. Canadian musicians captivate. Spellbound by this awesome collection of Canadian talent, how did I survive without this musical umbilical cord in Asia?
Truth be told, I don’t know. Social media shared the latest trends but I followed local music and bands - getting lost and absorbed in the place I was, with Korean and Indonesian beats and mixes. I lived and listened - there. Canadian content slipped by under the red banner of YouTube. No Spotify. Wired to Canadian sounds is my current audio flow.
Art hangs at the Bluebird. The title is Random Happiness by an artist named Luminita Serbanescu. When I read her first name I imagined light - illumination - luminous. This piece reflects how random happiness can be, since the dominant reds contrast with a depressing blue. There is an indistinguishable image in the centre of dark and light - could be a city, could be Ottawa. Is this city on the border of joy and despair - or desperation?
Besides the non-stop cool of places around the Byward Market: Anytime Fitness, Dunn’s, The King Eddy, Zac’s Diner, homeless people mill around, 24/7. They remain placeless, dispossessed and are refugees in our city.
I observe that people are content and confidant in their status. They (or we) sit at tables in front of fabulous meals or tuck into warm Irish-themed pubs when a chill passes. How did each of us find this particular station or place?
Why do people live on the street with a concrete view while others live on the 20th floor of an adjacent condominium with a sliding balcony door open to a gunmetal sky?
Maybe it’s not happiness that is random - but life.
Another piece from Luminita is all reds and reminds one of a phoenix engulfed by flames. I contemplate art and feel grateful to have this glance into someone else’s visual landscape or world. Art comforts and soothes. Art pierces the viewer with reality. The abstract art here is far from abstract. Each artist has placed time into their work while viewing takes mere seconds. I don’t see paintings. I see artists looking down from the walls, fragments of their thoughts tumble into my empty cup.
I need to leave but want to linger here longer to enjoy a few more delightful minutes with the scent of the familiar. What meaning does a cafe serve? What does a neighborhood cafe represent? What qualities converge to make it the ideal place? How does the timbre of new accents or conversations spice the flavor of world coffees?
A man sings, the cash register ching-chings, a barista laughs with the sound of coffee being ground -music to dance to.
I depart. The Bluebird blends into street scene and my steps head to Rideau or the border. I run to make the light changing from green to red. I don’t make it. I wait.
My story has migrated. The lines form borders.
Everyone I met, will cross with me.
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