Emergency Gathering In My Hometown

My hometown, in which I have resided all of my nearly 62 years, thinks of everything. Today as I strolled home from the supermarket I noticed a sign in the park. I was momentarily taken aback.

The sign indicated an ’emergency gathering point’. During this pandemic we have all been spending way too much time on our own. From COVID-19 confinement for those who have, or may have, the dreaded coronavirus, to voluntary avoidance of others, we have all gotten to know ourselves a whole lot better than perhaps we ever wanted to.

Evidently, when the time comes that one can take it no more, when they just absolutely must socialize, these gathering points have been made available

What a grand idea. Evidently, when the time comes that one can take it no more, when they just absolutely must socialize, these gathering points have been made available. While the one I passed today seemed empty, I suspect that should someone come to the end of their tether, they can meet with a person at one of these points.

No doubt standard COVID-19 precautions – masks, distancing – will be in effect, but if you’ve gone without bitching about the weather with another human, here’s your opportunity. If you just have to pass the time of day with someone, not to worry, these emergency gathering points will allow you to shoot the breeze about anything BUT Covid-19.

I imagine emergency gathering counsellors will be available to coach socially ham-fisted people on the finer points of social interaction

In addition, as we slowly start to ease back to normal, or something like it, these points will allow for a ‘toe in the water’ approach. An emergency point to try out your social skills before meeting up with friends and family. I imagine emergency gathering counsellors will be available to coach socially ham-fisted people on the finer points of social interaction.

Sadly, when I contacted the City Hall to make myself available to volunteer at one of these emergency points, it was made clear to me that these are standard ‘disaster protocol’, and have nothing to do with COVID-19 at all.

Oh well, maybe they don’t think of everything.

10,000 Steps in Montreal

In an effort to combat COVID-19 confinement languor, I’ve been trying to get in a 10,000 step stroll most days. Today I went to downtown Montreal. Even with its scofflaw sidewalk cyclists and scooter users, its lack of parking spots, its sad ghost-town appearance, given the huge number of permanently closed businesses, it’s still a great place.

Why Use Risky Vaccine When Alternatives Exist?

I did not know Francine Boyer. The Quebec woman passed away recently from cerebral thrombosis, a blood clot, some time after having received her first shot of the AstraZeneca Coronavirus vaccine. A rare but devastating side effect of the AZ product.

People are quick to explain that the chances of this are infinitesimal – 0.001 per cent (1 out of 100,000) – and that the vaccine is safe.

I’m all in favour of vaccines but it seems to me that if one product poses a risk, regardless of how minimal, while there are risk-free alternatives, the use of that product should be put on hold.

What makes Ms. Boyer’s passing significant is that it could have been avoided. Regardless of how slim the risk of blood clots is, there are other vaccines – Moderna and Pfizer – that have, so far, shown no signs of clotting problems.

I’m all in favour of vaccines – I’ve had my first jab of Pfizer, and will get my second in July – but it seems to me that if one product poses a risk, regardless of how minimal, while there are risk-free alternatives, the use of that product should be put on hold.

The key is the fact that alternative vaccines exist. If the AstraZeneca vaccine was the only game in town, then one could easily discount the low risk of clotting. But that is not the case. There are two other vaccines that are being administered without problem. Why would anyone take the risk, even one so miniscule, when two other vaccines exist? Why would any government allow the continued distribution of the AstraZeneca vaccine when other safe products exist?

The key is the fact that alternative vaccines exist. If the AstraZeneca vaccine was the only game in town, then one could easily discount the low risk of clotting. But that is not the case.

Let’s switch it around. If you had the choice of being given a lottery ticket for one lottery that had a one chance in 100,000 of winning; or either of two other lotteries that had zero chance of winning, it’s not difficult to figure out which is your best choice. One in one-hundred thousand is not great, but it’s better than none.

The availability of alternative vaccines makes the very slim chance of clots from AstraZeneca something that should not be risked.

Hooligans Besmirch Montreal Protests

People have always protested. To publicly express one’s objection to an issue, law, or decision is one of the most important elements of a democracy. Assuming it is done peacefully and in accordance with proper regulations. Even those who would protest said regulations – the securing of a permit being chief among them – must adhere to them prior to and during protesting.

It seems that public displays of protest are the bailiwick of youth. Not to imply older folks don’t take to the streets from time to time – just try to float a trial balloon about pension reductions and you’ll see who’s not too old to get their Ya-Yas out.

These demonstrators have not only protested the curfew, but have flouted it by commencing their gathering at 8:00 p.m.

In the sixties young people in their millions protested the US involvement in the Vietnam war. Of course they had a vested interest as it was their generation being shipped to the fighting.

During the last couple of nights, young people in Montreal chanting ‘freedom for youth‘ have made known their displeasure with government-imposed COVID19 restrictions. In particular the 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. curfew has come under harsh criticism from many sides, not just the young.

These demonstrators have not only protested the curfew, but have flouted it by commencing their gathering at 8:00 p.m.

… on both evenings things turned out poorly, degenerating into waves of vandalism, looting, and destruction, reducing the cause to a mass of thugs and thieves.

But worse, whereas a peaceful (i.e. not violent; make all the noise you want) march would have made the protesters very valid point more than adequately, on both evenings things turned out poorly, degenerating into waves of vandalism, looting, and destruction, reducing the cause to a mass of thugs and thieves.

Those who hold a similar opinion regarding government imposed curfews have had their position sullied by these hooligans.

In addition, how could destroying and robbing businesses that have already suffered great COVID19 losses possibly strengthen your anti-curfew cause?

For anyone who wants to protest the curfew, the way to do so would be to obtain a proper permit, this allows the authorities to provide proper police protection, carry out the protest prior to 8:00 p.m.

If everyone chose to break laws with which they disagreed, we would soon deteriorate into chaos.

Canadian singer/songwriter Garnet Rogers wrote a ballad called Break The Law, the refrain includes the phrase ” Break the law…before the law breaks you”. It’s a great song, but it is just that, a song. If everyone chose to break laws with which they disagreed, we would soon deteriorate into chaos.

Waves: Good and Bad

The usual use of the word wave in popular culture has a positive twist to it. Harnessing the power of a big wave on a surf board. Or riding a wave of good luck. But when it comes to yet another wave of the Coronavirus, there is nothing positive about it. As if to emphasize the insidious nature of the virus, the third wave, which was always on the books, is more brutal than the preceding two.

Next phase, new wave, dance craze, anyways
It’s still rock and roll to me
– Billy Joel

Now that the first waves have killed-off many susceptible people – the elderly and those with compromised immune systems – the variant-driven third wave has taken aim at younger, healthier victims. If there is an upside to this third wave, it’s the administration of vaccines.

Catch a wave and you’re sitting on top of the world
– Brian Wilson, Mike Love

But it is a race like never seen before. Governments, particularly mine in Canada, are struggling to get adequate vaccines, then get them poked into arms. The anti-vaxxer, anti-masker, flat-earth adherents would have you believe this rush to jab is all in keeping with the upcoming Great Reset. Some would liken the urgency to lemmings sprinting to the cliff’s edge, as people flock to have their dose, or doses, prior to the third wave getting its grip on them when what they are ‘really’ getting is a microchip so Bill Gates can control them.

New Wave

We’re having a Heat Wave,
A tropical Heat Wave
– Holland/Dozier/Holland

Meanwhile most of us have already voluntarily agreed to be trackable at all times by carrying a mobile phone with us. No need for a microchip in the arm when you’ve got one in your hand. If only they could figure out a way to distribute and administer the vaccine by way of cell phones, we’d have this thing licked in no time.

Language And Acceptance Culture

Let me vent. While I understand that languages evolve over time (if not we would be speaking English as Shakespeare wrote it) but sometimes I have difficulty with the current usage.

However, perhaps diametrically opposed to cancel culture, a movement that applies today’s values to historical events and calls for cancelations (see Le Pew, Pepe), we have accept culture . This I use to refer to the acceptance of “words” based on repeated usage.

… perhaps diametrically opposed to cancel culture, a movement that applies today’s values to historical events and calls for cancelations (see Le Pew, Pepe), we have accept culture

I discovered this insidious caving in while I was once writing a post about what I find an egregious misuse of the English language. To wit, That’s a whole NOTHER thing”. Just for the hell of it, I checked to see if nother is a word. Sure enough, when I looked it up I found that, according to Merriam-Webster at least, it now is acceptable. Egad.

Evidently, as was the case with the baseball park in Field of Dreams, if you build it they will come, well, if you use it enough, it will be accepted. When I was a boy, they taught us to say “The woman/man WHO built the house. The house THAT was built”. Not “the man/woman THAT built the house”. Yet, it has now become commonplace to hear that particular usage. I hear it so much that I guess it’s accepted now.

So, like, thanks for allowing me to, like, get this off my chest, I feel better now.

Please, don’t get me started on the ridiculous use of the word “like”. As for starting sentences, almost every sentence with the word so …..

So, like, thanks for allowing me to, like, get this off my chest, I feel better now.

From Fine Scotch To Espresso

As the old adage goes, “When life hands you lemons, make … err … coffee”. If there is a positive element to the current pandemic, it’s that it has caused many of us to be creative and adapt to very different circumstances. That’s what one downtown Montreal bar owner has decided to do.

Natasha Geoffrion-Greenslade

Natasha Geoffrion-Greenslade is the owner of N sur MacKay, a popular bar that has hosted many a star-studded event, not least of which was this blogger’s sixtieth birthday. Like all bar owners, Natasha was faced with an extended closure due to COVID19. The government of Quebec has maintained its position that bars cannot reopen in red zones such as Montreal.

Rising to the occasion, Natasha set to retro-fitting her popular scotch-lovers bar, turning it into a coffee emporium

However, cafes, under strict restrictions, can open.

Rising to the occasion, Natasha set to retro-fitting her popular scotch-lovers bar, turning it into a coffee emporium. The bottles of fine malts sit untouched on shelves behind the bar. The beer taps are on sabbatical until such time as the government gives the green light to reopen. The addition of an espresso maker has given new life to N Bar, if only until a full reopening is permitted.

“It’s great to see people again, even if they we are all wearing masks,” said Natasha. “Even though they can’t stay inside, just the process of ordering and paying gives me a chance to catch-up with them.”

“Even though they can’t stay inside, just the process of ordering and paying gives me a chance to catch-up with them.”

A number of regulars have been dropping in since the N Cafe opened last week; folks more used to savouring a peaty scotch or dry white wine are now sipping coffee while practising social distancing outside on the sidewalk.

“It’s given me a new routine,” continued Natasha. “Up early to be here for the 8:00 a.m. opening, making sure supplies are in order, it’s a whole lot different from the hours a bar owner usually keeps.”

Bravo Natasha, and I wish you the very best of luck!

N sur Mackay,1244 MacKay, Montreal

Texas Drops COVID Restrictions

I don’t know what it costs to have an election. All the organization, staff, and equipment certainly does not come cheaply I’m sure, but if we are to live in free democracies, this is part of the price. Yet if what Texas Senator John Cornyn says is correct, his state can save a bundle by not having elections.

The senator said: “People in Texas don’t really like governments telling them what to do. And I think they’ve tolerated it for as long as they feel like they had to.”

. Not because the virus has been eradicated in the Long-Horn State, but because folks are getting fed-up.

The senator made these comments in response to Texas dropping almost all COVID restrictions. Not because the virus has been eradicated in the Long-Horn State, but because folks are getting fed-up. They are tired of masks, social distancing, closed bars and restaurants and all the other safety measures that have been in place during the pandemic.

According to The New York Times: “At least 65 new coronavirus deaths and 2,852 new cases were reported in Texas on March 7. Over the past week, there has been an average of 6,083 cases per day, an increase of 36 percent from the average two weeks earlier.”

What part of those statistics would indicate it is a good time to call off the restrictions?

As for Texans not really liking to be told what to do by governments, it seems to me that the whole idea of electing governments is precisely to rule the electorate. Certainly if a leader has come to power in a non-democratic fashion they should be ignored, but I did not hear anything about a coup in Texas.

… it seems to me that the whole idea of electing governments is precisely to rule the electorate

I like to think of the democratic process as one that operates along the same lines as a large company. We, the electors, are the board of directors. It is up to us to select the best person to be the CEO, then let them run things. It’s not a perfect system (see Trump, Donald J.) but it becomes infinitely more problematic when the elected officials’ authority is ignored.

Movies Without Popcorn

While the government of Canada warns people not to travel during the upcoming spring break, threatening strict quarantine measures upon returning to the country, the government of Quebec is attempting to provide some activities for kids during the week-long March break.

What can reopen, beginning this Friday, are movie theatres. However, the selling of food – popcorn included – will not be allowed. This has caused some cinema owners to decide not to reopen. It seems that without food sales, it’s not worth reopening. They point out that money from snack sales offsets the admission fees. Without popcorn revenue, cinemas would have to charge $25 admission.

The goodies we brought to the theatre were most welcome, after all you had paid your admission. It was a movie theatre, not a restaurant – it was a Bring Your Own Food establishment

When I was a kid we used to go to the movies. Montreal, as was the case in most cities, had its share of movie theatres – we Anglophones didn’t call them cinemas, to us they were movie theatres. These often elaborately designed single-screen theatres showed films every night and had matinees on the weekends and during school holidays.

I recall the price being 75 cents before seven o’clock at which time the cost of admission shot up to a whopping $1.25! For that princely sum you were treated to a cartoon – usually Blake Edwards’ Pink Panther which could be used in both French and English theatres as there was no dialogue – in addition to the main feature.

But that’s not the issue, the price of everything has gone up over time, it’s just what happens. As I recall things, the admission fee got you into the theatre to see the movie. There were, of course, snack bars where you could buy soft drinks, popcorn, candies and chips. But these were just for convenience because many people, perhaps most, brought their own snacks to the movie.

There were, of course, snack bars where you could buy soft drinks, popcorn, candies and chips. But these were just for convenience because many people, perhaps most, brought their own snacks to the movie.

I’m not talking about smuggling in contraband Twizzlers or Reese’s Pieces, sneaking past ushers who look like they want to pat down movie goers. The goodies we brought to the theatre were most welcome, after all you had paid your admission. It was a movie theatre, not a restaurant – it was a Bring Your Own Food establishment

Many’s the time we would bring in, openly and honestly, a box of a dozen Dunkin’ Donuts and  Dairy Queen milkshakes. Others brought submarine sandwiches or even hamburgers. Some folks even made special snacks at home and, along with a thermos of coffee settled in to enjoy the movie and munch on a ham on rye.

These days the film is almost an afterthought; once you get past the vast array of food on offer at exorbitant prices and run the gamut of the umpteen video games in the lobby, you can finally settle down to watch the feature.

Long gone are the days when movie theatres were in the business of selling admission to films and providing convenience snack bar counters, but were BYOF!

Stay Home – Buy Local

There’s an old saying that when life hands you lemons, make (and sell) lemonade. An appropriate variation on that old adage, during these times of COVID-19 confinements and lockdowns, might be when a pandemic keeps you from greeting friends, make (and sell) greeting cards. And that is just what the folks at Bina’s Greetings did.

Custom Fridge Magnet

Founded in 2020, Montreal based Bina’s Greetings creates personalized custom greeting cards, notebooks, magnets, puzzles, coasters, business cards, blankets and wall art using any image or text the client desires. All without the need for personal contact. Don’t get me wrong, under normal circumstances human interaction is a wonderful thing. But during a pandemic it is frowned upon. So, online is the safe way to go.

Don’t get me wrong, under normal circumstances human interaction is a wonderful thing. But during a pandemic it is frowned upon. So, online is the safe way to go

I first became aware of Bina’s Greetings through my friend Brandy, who is now part of the team at Bina’s.   I asked Brandy for a short explanation of what they do and she told me. “We take and process orders, designing unique products and being creative is what we love to do.”

She explained, “The company came to be one day during lockdown in November a little over a month before Christmas when we didn’t know what to do for gifts for our friends and families, so with a little bit of creativity and research we came up with this concept to make it easy to be able gift our loved ones with personalized meaningful gifts and memorabilia without having to go through extensive shopping and searching during the pandemic and lockdowns.”

St. Patrick’s Day

She elaborated on how, with Christmas approaching, they quickly chose design software and printing partners, strong, durable and quality materials to work with and then set up the business where orders can be placed through their Facebook page. Not only will they accept images sent by customers but they will take it one step further and, if the customer is not sure exactly what they want, they will, with customer permission, go through their social media profiles and find photos related to the theme they desire and create a few samples of the product.

With a bit of online correspondence with the client, they finalize the design, send out a proof for the customer to approve and then they create, print and ship off the final product all within a reasonable timeline.

If you are looking to bring a little luck of the Irish into someone’s life, check-out Bina’s array of Irish themed products.

Brandy was pleased to let me know that so far the reaction has been very positive. “We have gotten many comments from happy customers who were able to make their loved ones happy with a collage of their family, best friends, favourite pet…etc. even if they have not been able to physically see them in quite some time.”

Personalized Birthday Card

With St. Patrick’s Day on the horizon, one that is sure to be observed under pandemic restrictions (Montreal’s United Irish Societies have already announced the postponement – not yet cancellation – of the 2021 version of the big parade) means of celebration are limited. If you are looking to bring a little luck of the Irish into someone’s life, check-out Bina’s array of Irish themed products.