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Bruins, Leafs and Scorpions

Bruins-Leafs

It’s NHL playoff time. Much like The Masters and the Kentucky Derby the playoffs are a true sports-themed harbinger of spring. The weather is getting more pleasant, the snow has just about all melted under the warm sun. Bars and restaurants open their terraces and make sure that there are adequate big-screen televisions to accommodate hockey-loving patrons. Will this be the year the Montreal Canadiens finally snap their too-long championship-less streak?

No Canadiens in the playoffs and we are anticipating the arrival of a late-season ice storm. I’m not sure about Mudville, but there’s certainly a lack of joy in Montreal this year.

Well, no it won’t be. That is a certainty as the team failed to qualify for the postseason. No Canadiens in the playoffs and we are anticipating the arrival of a late-season ice storm. I’m not sure about Mudville, but there’s certainly a lack of joy in Montreal this year and lots to crank about.

On the other hand, all is not lost. You see, part of being a fan of the Montreal Canadiens is a deep-rooted dislike for their two old rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins. It just so happens that these two clubs are facing each other in the first round of the playoffs. Like scorpions in a bottle we, Habs fans, can sit back and watch the on-ice clash. Personally, if I have to select one over the other, I have to go with the Bruins.

Except now the hated-Bruins are up against the hated-Leafs. So, for perhaps the first time in my life, I find myself being able to side with the Boston skaters 

I like the city of Boston; I root for the New England Patriots (and have been doing so for many years, not merely jumping on the recent bandwagon) and in the absence of a Montreal MLB franchise I cheer on the Red Sox. But of course, the Bruins are a different kettle of clam chowder as they are usually in direct competition with my Canadiens. Except now the hated-Bruins are up against the hated-Leafs. So, for perhaps the first time in my life, I find myself being able to side with the Boston skaters as they take on Toronto. It’s a bit weird at first, but I’m getting used to it.

I’m even thinking of dropping my Rs when I speak, and debating the correct pronunciation of Faneuil Hall (does it rhyme with manual or Daniel).

I can’t say that I really care which team wins the series, but I have found a different angle from which to partake of the annual spring playoff viewing. I’d much rather be watching the Canadiens play of course, but for the next little while, I’ll have to make do with being a Boston fan. I’m even thinking of dropping my Rs when I speak (Pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd), and debating the correct pronunciation of Faneuil Hall (does it rhyme with manual or Daniel).

But before tonight’s game in Toronto, I’ll be cheering on all the participants in the Boston Marathon and hoping for a safe race.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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God Have Mercy on Montreal Drivers

Turcot

Recently Quebec Transport Minister André Fortin was interviewed on television regarding the massive Turcot interchange work being carried out in western Montreal. He mentioned that work was, for the most part, on schedule. He understood that the last two years have been very hard on motorists with numerous detours and closures, and was honest when he pointed out that there is still much to be done.

It was then explained to viewers that once the project is completed there will be no additional lanes, in fact in some areas there will be fewer.

It was then explained to viewers that once the project is completed there will be no additional lanes, in fact in some areas there will be fewer. This had me totally flummoxed. Have we endured this construction nightmare only to arrive back at the same place or less?

Boston undertook a massive project that lasted 20 years. The Big Dig as it came to be called was fraught with cost overruns and problems as is almost always the case with huge infrastructure updates. But at least when Boston buried its roads it increased the number of lanes from six to eight or, in some cases, ten.

BigDig

A ten-lane – five in each direction – segment of I93

Prior to the start of work in Montreal the number of cars and trucks had already exceeded the standard three-lane Turcot configuration; the city had grown, the roads had not. The concrete was in need of repair which afforded an ideal opportunity to not only replace the aging structures but at the same time add a lane or two to ease traffic. With time the number of vehicles using the interchange is only going to increase, why not be ahead of the curve and provide adequate lanes. To replace an inadequate stretch of highway with the same configuration strikes me as wasteful if not absurd.

… more and more electric cars are going to be on the roads in the decades to come. They will need adequate roads to ease traffic, but it will be too late then.

The minister stated that the way to reduce congestion is not to accommodate more vehicles, but to improve and encourage public transit use. To believe that is pure folly, but even if an environmental approach is taken, more and more electric cars are going to be on the roads in the decades to come. They will need adequate roads to ease traffic, but it will be too late then.

So in about ten years people will still be sitting in clogged traffic on the Turcot albeit in electric cars on nice shiny new roads. This is a solution how? Isn’t the idea to ease the flow of traffic? God have mercy on Montreal drivers!

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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Ontario’s Highway 407 Billing Scam

etr_407_sign

A bit of Internet research and I found the above pictured sign, the location of which I do not know.

A couple of summers ago we went to Boston for a few days. We went over the Tobin Bridge and

What if you ordered a steak and when the bill came it had an $11 plate fee?

were informed by a clearly written sign that it was a toll bridge and that those cars without frequent use passes would be invoiced in the mail. Sure enough several weeks after our return we received an invoice for US$3.00. It cost US$1.20 to mail it so I have a feeling it is not a big payer as many folks from out of state will no doubt ignore it. I gladly paid it.

Last July with the Canadian dollar taking a beating we went west and visited Ontario. We were using a GPS app called Waze and were only concerned with reaching our destination. During our stay we evidently drove on a highway numbered 407. I do not recall seeing any signs indicating it was a toll road, however a bit of Internet research and I found the above pictured sign, the location of which I do not know. Then a couple of weeks ago we received a bill for $28.09!

etr_407

Okay, so we somehow were directed to a toll road, that is not the big problem. What irked me was the breakdown of the charges. $14.24 for 50.2 kms (31.1 miles) is not too bad – about $0.28 per kilometre. Even the $1.00 per trip fee I can live with.  But what gives with the camera charges? How else are you going to send invoices? That is a given. What if you ordered a steak and when the bill came it had an $11 plate fee?

It gets more annoying; they also charged us a $3.75 account fee… That is extortion. I never asked to open an account.

It gets more annoying; they also charged us a $3.75 account fee. I assume this is a one-time charge so that next time our invoice will be $3.75 less. That is extortion. I never asked to open an account.  What if there is not another time? My experience with Ontario’s highway 407 so far does not really leave me wanting to use it again. (To say nothing of the fact that Ontario drivers are terrible.) So please cancel my account and refund me the $3.75 and we can call it even.

I guess it could have been worse, at least it was Canadian currency

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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The (Possible) Future of Baseball in Montreal

Stadium

The following appeared in the Montreal Gazette today.

Another very successful baseball weekend has taken place in Montreal. One that, upon reflection, speaks volumes about how the city has evolved. Over one hundred thousand fans ponied up to watch two games between the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox. The nostalgia was thicker than pine tar, as heroes of yesteryear, former Expos stars, returned to the site of their salad days, and ours.

While all Montrealers are faced with the harsh question: is this what we have become?

These weekends are bittersweet, not only for Expos fans, but for all Montrealers. Baseball fans once again get an opportunity to reminisce and experience a major league game, albeit just an exhibition between two out-of-town teams. While all Montrealers are faced with the harsh question: is this what we have become?

Each year the popular Kraft Hockeyville competition selects a winning community – a small town, not one with an NHL team – from the many entries. The sponsor gives the winner cash for local arena upgrades and the next season the town gets to host a televised preseason NHL game. North Saanich, British Columbia is the current Hockeyville. Has Montreal become the baseball version of Hockeyville?

The city of EXPO 67 and the 1976 Summer Olympics now, once a year, plays host to exhibition baseball games, in which teams from other cities compete

The city of EXPO 67 and the 1976 Summer Olympics now, once a year, plays host to exhibition baseball games, in which teams from other cities compete. Have we morphed from the once proud city that welcomed the world to major events into a town of bean counters? At least we still have the annual Formula 1 visit and of course the International Jazz Festival to exercise our once renowned world hosting skills. While I applaud Mayor Denis Coderre’s unbridled enthusiasm for baseball and his plan to pump money into amateur baseball, I cannot help but think that  somewhere Jean Drapeau must be shaking his no doubt haloed-head in sadness and disbelief.

I would love to see Major League Baseball back in Montreal. I have never doubted that this is a baseball city. I can recall with a warm heart the magic of the early eighties version of the Expos. A time when the much-less-than ideal Olympic Stadium was packed to the rafters (I can verify this, having sat one row from the top on several occasions). The success of the team on the field vastly outweighed the venue’s inadequacies.

I do not know if these weekends play any role in determining Montreal’s baseball future. I do know that Major League Baseball belongs in Montreal. Not as a once a year exhibition featuring other cities’ teams, but as the once and future home of the Expos.

DCS_Grad_2 DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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Toronto Blue Jays and the Curse of the Gloat

Goat

The Toronto Blue Jays and Kansas City Royals begin the 2015 American League Championship Series tonight in KC. The Jays have been rolling along nicely since dropping the first two games to Texas in the ALDS, only to come back and take three straight. But did they overdo things in their celebrating?

An alien just arriving would have been forgiven for assuming the Jays had won the World Series.

I don’t mean the cocky, unwritten rule-breaking, bat-flipping after a home run swing. Pitchers may compete fiercely against each other, but there is also a degree of camaraderie among the pitching brotherhood, what you do to one of them you do to all of them. They have ways of dealing with that nonsense. What I am referring to is the Jays champagne swigging and spraying in a plastic-protected clubhouse, complete with media sporting protective goggles. An alien just arriving would have been forgiven for assuming the Jays had won the World Series.

Will the Blue Jays be burdened with the Curse of the Gloat? Only time will tell.

It is easy to point out that Toronto is a city that is itching to celebrate the winning of something (insert Maple Leafs joke here), the city’s sports fans’ finger is twitching on the trigger of the confetti gun. But methinks they doth Jubilate too much. It was just the first rung on the ladder. By all means celebrate, but within reason. Dare I say it is a case of premature exhilaration? Will they regret this down the postseason road?

The Boston Red Sox suffered the Curse of the Bambino after shipping Babe Ruth to the hated Yankees, going decades without a championship. This year much has been made of the Chicago Cubs trying to shake off the century-old ‘Curse of the Goat‘; a hex being placed on the team when they refused a tavern owner’s Billy goat entry to the park. Will the Blue Jays be burdened with the Curse of the Gloat? Only time will tell.

DCS_Grad_2 DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DC on Twitter @DCMontreal and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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Boston’s Tobin Bridge: Untolled Thousands Owed by Motorists

Tobin Memorial Bridge Boston Globe

During our recent jaunt to Boston we crossed the Tobin Memorial Bridge. The last time we did so, a few years ago, there were real people taking real cash at a real toll booth. But no more. The bridge is still a toll road, but no more toll booths. Instead regular users obtain an EZPass subscription, and occasional users are charged using PayByPlate and receive an invoice in the mail a few weeks later. While I lament both the loss of jobs and the human touch – giving directions etc. – I am impressed with the technology.

Tobin_signWith just a couple of reservations. The image below shows the envelope that arrived yesterday containing my $3.00 toll fee and instructions on how to pay it. No problem, I crossed the bridge, I will pay the toll. But could they have done a better job of making the envelope look like disposable junk mail had they tried? A simple white or brown envelope, with appropriate warnings, seems more likely to make it up from my letter box, and less likely to be immediately dumped in the recycling box.

Could they make this look any more like junk mail?

Could they make this look any more like junk mail?

I also wonder if it is economically viable to spend $1.20 on postage – and I assume some handling costs as well – to collect a $3.00 fee? According to the Boston Herald, in the first two months of use the City is owed $700,000 in outstanding tolls (that can now be revised downward to $699,997 with my payment)!

DCS_Grad_2 DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DC on Twitter @DCMontreal and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

 

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Canada and the USA; Some Subtle Cultural Differences

Bartenders_BW

On our recent visit to the US, my significantly better half and I were discussing the various cultural differences we had encountered. No doubt we Canadians share more commonalities with our southern neighbors than differences, but there are some subtle variations that are an armchair sociologist’s delight!

I am not implying that the waiters and waitresses were poor at their job. But merely pointing out the different approach to the task found in the two countries.

During our trip we dined in several restaurants; none was ultra-expensive, none too cheap. While we had no complaints about the food, the service provided us a reminder of one long noted difference. Many Canadians who have not been to a US restaurant for some time often find themselves saying “Oh yes, service is slower here”.

Not that I want a waiter or waitress to hover, but once seated and the drinks delivered, a reasonable amount of time should elapse so I can scan the menu and place my order. Reasonable. On several occasions the wait staff member assigned to our table seemed to disappear, while at other times they were clearly visible talking with their colleagues. I am not a difficult patron, but four or five minutes is ample time before returning to your customers to see if they are ready to order. I should not have to wave-down a waiter to place my order. Yet that is what happened – often; as though the waiter or waitress was actually there for some other purpose, and waiting tables was a side job. I am not implying that the waiters and waitresses were poor at their job. But merely pointing out the different approach to the task found in the two countries.

The author looking very touristy!

The author looking very touristy!

These are the little nuances that, over time, I am sure I would adjust to (it would probably be better to take things easier). But the one that got to me was when it came time to pay, or at least try to pay! Once our dining experience had been completed, and the check presented, it was sometimes a real chore to get the staff member to come and take my payment. I have never been one to ‘dine and dash’, that is, to run out on a bill, however there were a few occasions when it crossed my mind, if only as a means to get the attention of my waiter so I could pay.

Sam_AdamsWe dropped into a pub in Boston on a Sunday afternoon to take a break from the heat and humidity with a cold beer; maybe two. A place we have been to several times before. The beer was indeed cold, but so was the bartender. As I have written, I have great admiration for bartenders, particularly daytime bartenders, as I get older and spend much less time in bars at night. The young fellow behind the bar in Boston’s Beantown Pub on this Sunday afternoon clearly gave the impression he wanted to be almost anywhere but there. A good bartender monitors his or her customers, checking if they want a refill, making small talk, and being pleasant – all while carrying out the standard chores such as mixing drinks, pulling pints and settling bar tabs. I am certain this guy would have walked by me and my empty glass all day had I not asked for another. As a departed friend of mine used to say when confronted with this situation, “If the bartender comes down this way, tell him I stepped out for a drink”.

“If the bartender comes down this way, tell him I stepped out for a drink”

The Beantown Pub is located directly across the street from the Old Granary Burial Ground on Tremont Street. Many famous historical figures are buried there, including Samuel Adams, a patriot who inherited a brewing interest from his father. The Beantown Pub serves Samuel Adams beer, leading to their slogan “Where you can have a cold Sam Adams while looking at a cold Sam Adams”. However current restoration work to the front retaining wall of the Granary Grounds has blocked the view. Could this be why the staff seemed a bit churlish? I wonder.

DCS_Grad_2 DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DC on Twitter @DCMontreal and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

 

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