R.I.P. Bitter Welshman

Many of us who frequent certain downtown Montreal bars have lost a friend. His name was Marc Williams and he was just fifty-years-old. Often referred to as the Welshman, or more appropriately the Bitter Welshman, Marc was proud of his homeland. In my first Christmas poem, I made the egregious mistake of spelling his name Mark. He thundered at me “…there’s no f*cking K in the Welsh alphabet”. I responded that is was OK as I had written the poem using the Canadian alphabet.

Marc worked in bars, owned bars and generally loved them. He was known to hundreds if not thousands of people. Often someone would come up to him and ask how he had been keeping. He’d respond politely, then turn to me and shrug, pointing out he had no idea who that was.

He had cheated death on several occasions: strokes, heart attacks, and even a medically induced coma. Just when you thought he was down, he would show up grumbling about the hot weather or bright sunshine.

We will miss Marc. I don’t know if he believed in an afterlife, although he did claim to have been there and back once, but wherever our friend is now I just know it is always a dull day, that there is a never-ending supply of flat, warm beer. And of course, more teddy bears than you can count.

Records and Concocted Records

Early morning snow clearance in Montreal

Montrealers awoke to 36 centimetres (about 14 inches) of snow that had fallen overnight.  With another five-to-ten centimetres expected during the day, weather reports have been trumpeting this as a “record snowfall”. Well, it is and it isn’t.

But it’s only the record for February 13! This is not an all-time record snowfall at all; it’s merely a record for this day. 

By exceeding 35 centimetres in one day Montreal breaks the old record set in 1993. But it’s only the record for February 13! This is not an all-time record snowfall at all; it’s merely a record for this day. Who cares?

I call this a concocted record. Sports announces and their statisticians are notorious for concocted records. “So-and-so has the best record for stealing third base on Sundays when the temperature is above 85F and there are less than two out and the umpiring crew ate a buffet breakfast since Bobby Bunter in 1987.” Big deal.

If you massage the provisos, the conditions attached to the record, then the number of record-breaking feats is a) countless and, b) useless.

If you massage the provisos, the conditions attached to the record, then the number of record-breaking feats is a) countless and, b) useless.  So all those weather channel hosts and radio weather reporters are touting this most recent snowfall as a record breaker, but what is most important is what record has been broken.

In fact the all-time record for most centimetres of snow falling on Montreal in any 24-hour period is 43 during the Eastern Canadian Blizzard of 1971. All other records are concocted for sensational purposes.

Banks and Change

I live in an apartment building with a room containing several washing machines and dryers. Good industrial machines that do a great job. There are enough of them that you only have to wait on rare occasions for a free washer. The building is only three floors so there’s no need to wait in the laundry room to switch your clothes from washer to dryer. Sounds darn near perfect doesn’t it?

But no.

I have gone weeks without having actual cash in my wallet. The convenience of electronic payments is not lost on me.

In what is often referred to as a cashless society with the proliferation of online payments, debit and cash cards, you’d be forgiven if you figured my building’s washers and dryers operated similarly. But in fact these machines take coins: quarters and dollar coins. Seven quarters or one “loonie” and three quarters to add up to $1.75.

I have gone weeks without having actual cash in my wallet. The convenience of electronic payments is not lost on me. Until, that is, laundry day rolls around. (Roll being a key word in that sentence.) 

Last week  I noticed I was low on quarters, I would not have enough to do the full washing – whites and colours – and drying. So while I was going about my day I dropped by a bank, withdrew cash from the ATM, got in line with my nice crisp twenty dollar bill in hand and waited. And waited. 

Evidently others were carrying out complex banking transactions while all I wanted was change. A couple of rolls of quarters so I could wash my skivvies. Patiently I stood there, following the arrows on the carpet as I moved ever closer to the one teller on duty at lunch-hour (I guess electronic banking has taken a toll on human tellers as well).

Finally I arrived at the teller. I popped my twenty on the counter and asked for two rolls of quarters please. She looked at me, apparently exasperated that I didn’t want to negotiate a mortgage, and said “Do you have an account with the bank?”.  I assured her that I did, even showed her my bank card, still hot from the nearby ATM.

While she was gone I started thinking: what does my having an account with the bank have to do with getting change?

She took my twenty bucks and off she went to some sort of main cash located out of sight. While she was gone I started thinking: what does my having an account with the bank have to do with getting change? It’s a bank for God’s sake. Where else would I go for change? I used to get my quarters from a bartender friend, but the large place he worked in has since burned down. 

When she returned with my rolls of coins I gave in and asked her what would have happened had I not had an account with this bank. She replied straight up: “I would not have given you the change!”

But it’s a bank I reasoned, it goes with the turf. You make gazillions of dollars from customers and in return you provide simple services like flimsy wall calendars and making change.

A little research turned up the following:

Under the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA), banks are obligated to get a person’s name, address, occupation, and date of birth when producing records about the following, among other items:

— A large cash transaction.

— Account opening records.

— Certain records created in the normal course of business.

— Certain records about transactions of $3,000 or more (upon receipt of amount from an individual for the issuance of traveller’s cheques, money orders, or other similar negotiable instruments).

It seems I got off easy, at least I didn’t have to sign my life away for a couple of rolls of quarters. But c’mon, it was only twenty bucks!!

Arse Over Kettle on Montreal’s Icy Sidewalks

Hudson Avenue in the Cote-des-Neiges area of Montreal. Sidewalk has not seen salt or abrasive a week after snow and ice. Leaving the sidewalk impassable.

Okay, now it’s personal. I’ve fallen: I’ve fallen in love, fallen for silly practical jokes, fallen off bandwagons when my team didn’t measure up, even fallen from grace. But for the last few days I’ve been just plain falling.

It all started last week when we had a significant snowfall with a forecast for rain the next day. Sure enough the snow fell, then the rain arrived turning the city into a lagoon. Schools closed as driving was deemed dangerous. (Ironically the hope for a quiet day that would allow clean-up to proceed was dashed when many workers who would have been doing the cleaning called in sick because they had to stay home with their children as the schools were closed!)

Close up of icy sidewalk with thin layer of snow to make it even worse.

Not surprisingly for January, the next day the temperatures plummeted and everything froze. 

Hudson Avenue west-side sidewalk.

Last Friday evening I was strolling along a sidewalk in the Cote des Neiges area when my feet decided they were going to go in a different direction, and I went arse over kettle. No damage done other than to my pride. 

Then last Tuesday while downtown there was a gas main rupture that closed off several streets. I was walking through a lane when I once again encountered sheer ice underfoot and, like they say in NASCAR racing, I got sideways, and before I knew it I was on the ground.

Finally on Wednesday I once again found myself trying to get up from an ice-coated sidewalk. Three tumbles in less than a week. All because of poor, or no sidewalk maintenance. But I was lucky. I did myself no harm. Others were not so fortunate as the overcrowding of hospital emergency rooms testifies. Some were operating at 170%

I’ve put the boots aside and turned to trusty running shoes until something is done about the poor state of Montreal sidewalks this long after a snowfall. 

A properly maintained sidewalk.

Major Glitch With Gutenberg Editor

I little while back I sat down to write a blog post and was faced with the chance to switch to the new WordPress.com editor. Thinking erroneously that I could take it for a test drive then switch back if I wanted, I went ahead and agreed to give it a try.

At first I thought it was the biggest blogging mistake I had made, and wanted to go back to the old version. Alas, I have yet to be able to figure out how to do that. Then I thought perhaps it’s just a bit of a learning curve. I can figure this out.

Changing my theme was helpful.

So there I was cruising along, getting used to the new editor and its quirks and differences when wouldn’t you know it, it went seriously strange on me. 

For reasons not known to me the new editor often refuses to use the title I give my post, opting instead for a number. No matter how many times I edit the post to include a title, the editor refuses to cooperate.

I have tried using the WordPress help boards before – and will again regarding this matter – but have never really received a satisfactory reply. 

So if anyone reading this knows the solution please let me know.


You know it’s cold when your thermometer freezes!

You know it’s cold when your thermometer freezes!

The temperatures in Montreal have been on a roller coaster ride over the last few days. As I write this it is above freezing and raining, but last weekend was a different story.

It was so cold a week ago that our indoor-outdoor thermometer froze! As you can see from the photo above, when the temperature dropped to -25C and the winds made it feel more like -38C the outside sensor refused to function. Yet a few days later it was back on the job and registering a much more seasonable -5.9C.

You know it’s cold when your thermometer freezes!