Wednesday, September 9, 2009

My first....

So, it’s 09/09/09 – the ninth of September in the year 2009 and it’s 23 C. I’m sitting outdoors at a Starbucks, here in the most European of cities in North America – beloved Montreal. There is not a cloud in the sky…only pristine blue as far as the eye could see

I’m doing this for my friend Arzee. He’s someone from my glory days at McGill U. We were there 20 years ago. Arzee no longer lives in Montreal, having returned to Malaysia upon graduation. However, mention McGill and Montreal and it is as if his own personal silver screen that is made up of memories comes immediately to life. Sights and sounds of days gone by. Feelings experienced whilst in one’s youth: the insecurities of a young adult ... the burden of doing well at school ... the freedom to party whenever you wanted to ...the responsibility of paying one’s own bills... the thrill of one’s first relationship ... the sorrow of one’s first break up ... he loves me, he loves me not ...the regret of never having loved while in the prime of life ... the privilege of having experienced more wonders than money can buy ...

Many years have passed.

Arzee and I are still the best of friends. At least I think so. Girl and boy, one in the West, the other in the East. One forever cautious, the other larger than life. One Christian, the other Muslim. One reads, the other dances. Sometimes polar opposites but always caring friends. He is like the big brother I never had. More like twin brother as we are the same age.

Back to Starbucks, I am here mainly of my own volition ...partly coz I received a gift card for Christmas. Otherwise I could never afford such visits on my teacher's salary. One coffee could cost as much as a whole lunch for one adult! What amazing new vocabulary to learn – mezzo, grande (pronounced "grun-day"), venti….(why can’t they keep to small, medium and large?) I am outside of my comfort zone but I press ahead. RZ said – try everything once.

I had to do some research before I came…can you imagine? Such a sheltered life. I actually asked around what people’s favourite items were AND I even googled the Starbucks menu so I could make the best choice with my little gift card. Odd? Weird? No problem. I still love myself no matter what you think.

Seeing as it was a beautiful summer day in September, of course I had to go with something iced – specifically a Mocha Frappucinno – an iced blend of espresso, chocolate, and milk. I tried to be responsible and take the “light version” and asked for skimmed milk ... but I was so quiet and unsure with my ‘demand’ that the waitress…wait…I think the word is “barista” (LOL!) heard it as ...wanting “whipped cream” with my order.

So instead of repeating my request for “skimmed milk” (did not want to draw attention to myself now, the virgin Starbucker), I just smiled and nodded. I pay with my gift card and about 12 seconds later, after some whirring sounds, she twirls to the other side of the counter and announces loudly, “One Mezzo Mocha Frappuccino with Whipped Cream…bla bla bla” ... I did not catch the “bla bla bla” coz I was horrified she was telling the world of my order ... and coz she “twirled” to the other side of the counter, I was no longer in the right line of coffee lovers (not that I am one, as you can see from this posting). Loser!!!

Anyway - I picked up my drink… I could see I got a domed cover thanks to all that Full Fat Whipped cream (hey – my friends told me to live dangerously and so I am!)…went to look for a straw and napkin ....and wow ....found more things to learn. Nestled in between napkin dispensers were 4 little what looked like salt and pepper bottles ...only they held what I assumed were toppings for one’s coffee.

Aha! See?... See?... I’m not all that backwards! There were 2 powders I could not identify and the other two were cannelle (cinnamon) and mocha…so of course, I chose mocha.. Hellooo!!??? I was having a Mocha Frappuccino, remember?

So, a nice sprinkling of mocha and I have to now look for somewhere to sit. Wow…what a place. Coffee houses have changed since I was a kid. This one had clusters of comfy armchairs as well as traditional warm, rustic chairs and table. Of course, the terrace was open ...guess where I went? Arzee – just for you, I took my precious drink outdoors. You see, I do not enjoy being in the sun as most Canadians…but hey…some things are worth doing for the sake of friendship!

The terrace was sprinkled with bistro sets, little round metal tables with metal chairs. Most of them were taken as Canadians take every opportunity to be in the sun. There was one left and that is where I installed myself, opened my laptop, took out my camera and began recording this first meeting with Mr. Starbucks.

For what reason, I am unsure. One may be that I felt I should enjoy the road I am on, here in Montreal, for my friend who is not here but wishes he was. So ... my dearest Arzee, this afternoon is for you ...for encouraging me to take time for myself ...for teaching me that I am fortunate, exactly where I am, ...for reminding me that sometimes, life’s little pleasures can come in clear plastic glasses with domed tops ...especially if enjoyed in the outdoors underneath the bear hug of a sunny, summer sky.

Je’ t’aime, mon ami.

PS – that Mocha Frappuccino was so sweet...and coupled with the whipped cream, probably took half of my entire day’s worth of calories. Thankfully, I have just a “humble-sized” gift card – I can only afford another one and a half of these decadent drinks :-D