My friend and I went to Little Italy in Edmonton to see a friends choir concert and the craziest Catholic church I've ever been to (I've been to a number). It was distinctly catholic and distinctly aboriginal. Jesus status with eagle feathers and an Inuksuk on the alter. Maybe that is common in Canada I don't know. It did give me something to look at during the program though.
They are a very good choir, but it was a 2.5 hour one. A bit long. I'm not much for extended choir singing even if I know its good and used to sing in a choir myself. Since the concert took a bit longer than expected we ran out to try and catch our bus after it finished. We should have made it. However, in Edmonton buses only time at specific timing stops, which mean that the bus can and does come 10 to 15 minutes early sometimes. So, we ended up waiting at the stop. There is a older middle aged gentleman sitting inside the booth so we wait outside.
Before going any further I should note that I attached crazy people and drunks. Not violently dangerously crazy, but people who are a little off kilter like to talk to me. And not like the casual drunk, but professional drunks. They don't harass me, they just tell me stories or give me advice or ask me to explain the bus schedule to them. I'm pretty ok with it, which is probably part of why they talk to me . . . it is quite possibly cyclical. My friends are also aware of this phenomena, so they are prepared when stepping into public with me.
So, there is an older gentleman in his 60s somewhere sitting patiently in the booth. He's dressed pretty nice, so I figure we are in the clear. When it becomes apparent that we have all missed the 10 pm bus, we settle back in to wait. Our friend in the booth is now standing in the doorway. I hear "mumble mumble mumble mumble." I respond as my friend is texting and knows better, "What? Sorry?" He repeats that "Everything closes too early here. Like 8 - 9 o'clock." Head shake. Which is when I realize he isn't mumbling he's Italian and that his eyes are bright bright red.
Yes, that is correct and Italian in Little Italy! Who would have thought? Unlike Chinatown, most ethic neighborhoods in Edmonton are no longer ethnic. They just retain the groceries and bakeries that made them unique.
I say "Things do close early here." "Ontario is much better." Insert medium sized soliloquy on Ontario. "You been?" I say no. I actually have been, but I find the conversations get less weird if one doesn't add too much and we have 35 minutes before the next bus. He continues to talk about provinces for awhile and I shake my head when I'm suppose to agree or disagree. "You ever been to that store?" He points to the Italian Centre (which is an Italian grocery store). "No, but I hear its the only place in Edmonton to get good cheese."
Another note. I'm from Wisconsin and a snob about cheese. Most of the US and Canada doesn't have any. It all has too much oil in it not enough milk and they not let it age long enough. I'm not talking about super expensive stinky cheese either (though I enjoy it) just a descent cheddar. Canada has the additional problem of they apparently don't know how to make or package Mozzarella. It all tastes like cheap string cheese. Its too hard and too dry. And don't get me started on the fact that they don't even carry Mexican cheese. What am I suppose to do for queso dip?
"Yes, the Italians make good cheese" I don't point out that he is Italian as I assume he knows. He talks about the price of rooms to be rented in Edmonton and that most places are a rip off (I kind of agree though we probably aren't looking at the same places). "You girls got a room to rent?" "Nope Sorry" both of us this time. "Well keep me in mind if you hear of anything." I say "Sure I will" though I don't know you and will probably never see you again. Unless I find myself stuck at this particular bus stop again.
Now we start weaving our conversational threads together. "I had a woman I lived with in Winnipeg. You been to Winnipeg?" I said no. "She didn't want to wash dishes or anything just sit around the house. I told her to get a job, so she left me for another man. He was mean though so she came back." Big Smile. A couple of women about my age walk by and one waves and says "Hi Mike." He smiles. I take this to mean that Mike is this stations drunk and therefore known and excepted by the locals.
Mike carries right along. "Was with her for 40 years. No good though, you girls shouldn't settle down." I said I wouldn't. "You been to Manitoba?" I said no. Feeling that maybe I should add something to the conversation. I decide to add something and to include my dear friend who is texting and pretending I'm the only one there. "Actually neither of us are from Canada so we haven't been that many places here." "Well its good to travel. I love traveling. Italian cheese is too salty I don't like it. But, you . . . you like the ricotta." I do like the ricotta, but I didn't mention it.
He shakes his head and decides the bus has taken too long so crosses the street to stare into the Italian Centre's window and then stand at the bus stop going the other way. My friend magically no long has anyone to text and begins talking to me about my good friend Mike. Actually, I probably had more fun talking to Mike than I did at the choir concert so no big deal really.
Finally we see the bus coming at us. Mike does too and leaps across the street to walk get on with us. In leaping across the street he leaps in front of a cop car, which slows to let him cross and then drives on. Because in Canada you can leap in front of a cop car on a busy road in the downtown at 10:30 in the middle of the block and nobody minds. All the cars just stop.
We all get on the bus. I pick a seat. Mike is a bit slower to pay, but he manages to locate where we are. He walks up and says "hello again." I smile and say "hello." He then sits quietly across from us the entire trip to our station and politely lets us exit the bus before him.
So, on this trip I met a friendly Italian drunk and learned the following. 1- Ontario is better then Edmonton. 2- It's always better to be single. 3- Italian cheese is too salty.