Sunday, April 20, 2008

Encounters Of An Older Kind

Twice now it's happened. Twice. 1. 2.

First time I was around the age of about 22, shooting hoops at North Lake Senior High's outdoor basketball courts, the school where I ended up graduating from, having both outdoor courts to myself, again. From memory it was a cool spring day, I had rode to the courts using my father's bicycle minding my own business trying best to score as many points as possible against my hapless imaginary opponents whilst moving enough around the court to try and keep warm.

Unfortunately the North Lake school and it's hardened bitumised basketball courts bordered Coolbellup which meant the school contained the same riff-raff and thugs it's neighbouring suburb had. Personally I never really cared. I mean I grew up here. I was of the attitude that if you kept away from crowds like that you weren't likely to get sucked in.

So playing on my lonesome wasn't anything new to this area. And seeing someone walk through the school grounds was even rarer. It definitely wasn't a place one stayed around once the sun set.

It was therefore a little strange that on this one particular day an old man walking his little Jack Russel terrier came over and began chatting. It was odd, but not solely because someone was walking the school grounds as it did happen (just rarely) but odd because at that stage of my life I was uncertain about a direction I was taking. I had just started investing in the stock market and I was enjoying the dynamics of it, and wanted to take advantage of learning it some more, but felt restricted because of my full-time studies at university with accounting.

It wasn't until after the bloke and I exchanged some small talk that he began to open up about his life and the life of his son.

I can't recall exactly how the conversation went, but I do remember the meat of what he spoke about: investing. Stuff I was contemplating at the time! Apparently this man's son was quite wealthy. He had invested in the stock market, property market and had done quite well through the last 5-10 years.

Wow, I thought, how uncanny.

And yet I never discussed anything about my views or experiences on anything about investing.

When the old man and I parted ways I ended up changing a few of my units at university and did some more finance based courses. It helped me get through the rather bland accounting units and made university that little bit more enjoyable.

But yes, even to this day I have never forgotten that incident. I think the timing of it, the things that were said without prompting, the place, and the surrounding circumstances made it something that was truly unforgetable, weirdly unforgetable... kind of like yesterday...

Yesterday I decided I had to either get started on the four assignments I have due next week, or... some exercise. It was a hard decision. But exercise won in a fierce battle. After suiting up and shooting around at the local outdoor courts in the area a small old man was jumping up and down and pushing his hands in the air.

Does this man have that weird Toronto Blessing?? I thought.

Initially I didn't think he was talking to me, so I looked around for someone who he was maybe trying to communicate with, but being the only one on the court and nobody else around I stopped what I was doing and placed a hand up to my ear asking, "What??"

Again he jumped up and down and did a hand motion like he was pushing a haystack or something.

"I can't hear you?" I yelled.

And with that he walked over the street and I too began heading towards him.

I hope he's not going to be annoying and say something stupid like, 'Can you please keep the noise down as I'm trying to sleep!' Well it was 10:30 in the morning and the guy was in boxers and a singlet!

When we had come within a couple of meters of each other he said with a deep Italian accent, "You shoot like Michael Jordan!"

Oh, was that what you were saying?

I reassured the bloke that I had maybe popped a couple of lucky ones in but I was certainly no Michael Jordan. It was all the guy needed to begin giving a dissertation on his life story.

I think that maybe I have the face for it... or should that be the ears for it?

He began talking about how he was a butler and how he worked around Europe before moving to Australia 20 years ago, how he started a few popular restaurants around Perth, how he was going through a bitter divorce and how he was coping living with his daughter.

It was an interesting talk. He had a thick Italian accent, so most of the time I was trying to piece together what he was saying, but one thing I found interesting was how he was able to know my heritage just from my face.

"You born here?" he asked.
"Yes, born and bred here," I answered.
"Parents born here?"
"Yes, they were too. I think I'm a 5th or 6th generation Aussie, or something like that."
"You're heritage Scottish?"
"Yes, it is actually," I answered surprisingly, as most people assume Irish descent upon seeing my surname, yet I don't have a drop of Irish blood within me.
"I can see it," he said pointing to my face and stating some of my facial Scottish features.

But I guess it was the topic of food that united us. (I know, fancy that, eh? Two blokes talking about food! lol)

Luciano, as he introduced himself to me, said the big difference with Italian food compared to the rest of the world is the "secret" ingredient of passion and love.

"As it should be with anything," he said.

We continued talking for about an hour more before he went back to his daughter's house to do some cleaning. We shook hands as we parted and he left with a beaming smile, "Whatever you do in life, be sure to do it from your heart and you'll have great success."

I agreed and shot a few more hoops before heading back home.

Reflecting back upon both instances if there was one thing I found interesting about both accounts it'd be that with the first old man he didn't seem too happy. He was proud that his son had achieved such grandeur, but I think such success had come at a price where his son had now become a distant object. I don't recall ever seeing the first old man ever smiling or laughing.

Whereas Luciano was opposite. He was always smiling, and laughing, even amidst all the crap that was happening around him. If there was anyone worthy of being unhappy it was Luciano, but strangely he wasn't - he saw through the struggle and it didn't seem to sour his passion for food, and his love for his daughter.

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