Kobi Oz in Toronto, Part II

January 6, 2010 by

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Toronto in the Cold 

Like any bunch of post-army Israelis as soon as we landed at the hotel we got our act together, like a top patrol unit, mapped out Toronto and apportioned combat shopping missions. We put on our warmest clothing and set out for the street. Wow! The cold was simply scandalous! I tell you, the moisture in my eyes froze solid. But we didn’t despair and we found ourselves on a mission, like an alpine troop squad, checking out Toronto’s Chinatown. I looked for noodles, Johnny looked for a good camera angle, Gal looked for presents for the family and Noam looked for whisky.

Toronto’s Chinatown 

When I saw the English Toronto from above I couldn’t conceive of such a wild bleached armpit. Their Chinatown was a blast, like a Purim carnival. Everything glittered like sukkah decorations. You make your way through strange fruits, honeyed ducks on a hook, all sorts of trifles from cheap stones and aromatic magic shops. Everyone was sucking noodles out of hot soup and I was the only one who was put off by the thought of eating at a restaurant which had a pig in the display window hung up from a nostril. Chinatown gives you the feeling that, at any moment, you’re might meet a long bearded prophetic old man in some hidden store, who’ll try to sell you a cute rare animal called a “mugway”.

The Electric Percolator 

I decided to get some noodle soup from the supermarket near the hotel, and to heat it up like some poor wretch. When I get back with the chicken flavored Magic I see in front of me the sworn enemy of all Israelis in America – the electric percolator. It’s a repulsive appliance and stinks of dirty coffee. Maybe I can use water boiled in it to make the noodle soup edible?

Those barbarians, couldn’t they give us an electric kettle instead of this uncultured horror? I rip off the filter, fill it up with water and wait for the drips to drop into the glass jug. Now the percolator starts to sound like a criminal suspect smoking a nargila right there in my room. The water collects, I pour the water into the disposable container – not enough water. The noodles stare at me with a pained look.

“Damn those Americans!” I say and try to coax uncooperative coffee-flavored noodles out of the container with a plastic fork. “”There’s no way they’re going to run the world until they learn to drink coffee (black Arabic or frothy European coffee) like cultured people.”

AGO – Art Gallery of Ontario 

The next day I went to AGO, a cheeky wonderful arts museum full of old and new works, post-colonialist and colonialist, from Africa, the snowy lands, America and Europe. Two pictures caught my eye. The first: Edmund Montague Morris, an Ontario-born landscape and portrait painter who was commissioned by the Canadian government to paint the leaders of the Native Indian tribes in Canada. The painting shows a leader called Night Bird. Yes, there were real leaders back then.

A Riddle in Black and White  

I look at my life like a riddle. From time to time there are hints. This time the whole trip was marked by black and white:

As I said, on the flight there I watched Caesar and Cleopatra (white and black).

In the enormous shopping center I looked for normal coffee and, suddenly, from behind an escalator I heard Ethiopian music like they have in Israel. I went down and met two energetic Ethiopian Canadians who were making toast, and I asked for a cappuccino. They smiled sheepishly and filled a cup with filter coffee, produced a French vanilla drink from an automatic machine and poured it into the filter – black and white. Then I went for a walk and the only think I fancied buying was a pair of knitted gloves that looked like a zebra, in white and black.

What does the riddle mean? I know, but I’ll keep it to myself.

An Evening with the Madar Family 

Adam Madar is a great musician who plays all sorts of instruments with us. His brother Gershon lives in Toronto. Adam wasn’t with us at the hotel, nor on the flights. He stayed with Gershon and Naama during the whole trip and on Saturday evening we were invited over for a meal. What a wonderful family, may they be blessed and be protected by all the guardian angels. They are all charming and good natured. It was fun and the food was magnificent – Tunisian cutlets and more… We drank good wine, excellent whisky and finished off with some ice wine made from grapes which froze in the weather, so they ripened in the cold and came out sweeter. It’s hard to make ice wine and it’s an expensive and delightful wine they make in Germany and Canada.

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