Montreal Fifty Years After EXPO 67; Sorry Mayor Drapeau

Fifty years ago this week , Thursday, April 27, 1967 to be precise, was the opening day of Montreal’s EXPO 67 World’s Fair. It was a General Exposition of the first category as decreed by the  Bureau International des Expositions (the first fair of this magnitude ever to be held in North America). The theme was Man and His World; the fair was open until October 29th and welcomed over 50 million visitors from across Canada and around the world. The city was on top of the world.

 It was Montreal at its best. Will new generations of Canadians and Montrealers ever see anything the likes of those days?

Ah nostalgia! That word, the etymology of which is often said to come from the Greek for “a painful yearning to return home” is just about all that remains today of EXPO. However I imagine other Montrealers have felt the pang of pride when overhearing tourists marvelling at Moshe Safdie‘s Habitat 67 which, along with Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome are among the few remaining EXPO buildings.  I was seven-years old in the summer of 1967 and spent many days with various family members visiting the numerous pavilions and soaking up the international environment. A half-century later, when I look back, I do so through the eyes of a child.

Habitat 67

Halcyon, salad, glory, or just plain ‘good old’, those days are indelibly etched in my memory. I suspect some of the warm fuzzy feelings of that year’s Summer of Love in the United States made the trek north with the many visitors to the fair.  It was Montreal at its best. Will new generations of Canadians and Montrealers ever see anything the likes of those days?  I fear not.

I cannot deny that I am out-of-step with what appears to be the general consensus of my fellow citizens today. Concerns about costs, noise, corruption, you name it, have exceeded our once prevailing desire to be host to the world. The late Jean Drapeau, who as mayor of Montreal was responsible for both EXPO 67 and the 76 Summer Olympics, planted the roots as he set out to make Montreal the “first city of the 21st century”. Alas financial and political insecurities during the eighties and nineties scuppered the mayor’s dream forever.

… projects of world-class proportions have been relegated to mere memories for most of us. That is a pity, but thankfully many of us of a certain age can think back to those days with pride and reflect on what grand memories they are.

As Canada marks its sesquicentennial this year, which sure does not roll off the tongue like centennial (I can’t imagine there will be too many Sesquicentennial High Schools or Sesquicentennial Bridges named), and Montreal celebrates its 350th anniversary I cannot help but feel saddened that the events planned are not on par with EXPO 67. With our current state of affairs, ranging from an ageing infrastructure to gentrification concerns (investment in neighbourhoods was once seen as a positive thing, if broken shop windows and graffiti are any indication the opposite is now true), projects of world-class proportions have been relegated to mere memories for most of us. That is a pity, but thankfully many of us of a certain age can think back to those days with pride and reflect on what grand memories they are.

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+

Common decency just ain’t all that common anymore

I am slowly coming to the realisation that as I age I may well  be less suitable for community living. Perhaps the time has come to find a nice cave – one with all the amenities I am used to of course – and start living as a hermit. Why am I contemplating this you may well ask, the answer in a word: people.

I can become enraged when an ATM refuses to do what it is supposed to,  but have infinite patience with a teller who cannot find my file.

I am, much like the cartoon character Underdog, mild-mannered by nature. In fact it would be fair to say that I don’t do anger well, unless it is aimed at an inanimate object. Anger consumes me, eats me up, encroaches on my every thought. I can become enraged when an ATM refuses to do what it is supposed to,  but have infinite patience with a teller who cannot find my file.

However, recently I have found myself, on two occasions, being faced with the possibility of losing it. On Palm Sunday it was a lovely warm sunny day in Montreal. My wife and I decided to drop by a downtown pub we frequent for a bite of brunch. As I drove up the street looking for an elusive Montreal parking spot I noticed a free one immediately across the street from our destination. When I say the spot was free, I mean there was no car there. Mind you there was a man standing right smack in the middle of it while talking on his phone.

Sarasota, Florida

We approached the man, my wife opened her window as he was on that side, and politely asked him to move aside so we could park. He ignored her. She tried again and he told her he was keeping the spot for his wife. Oh no Sunshine, that’s not how it works. Humans do not ‘hold’ parking spaces for cars. No car, no parking spot. Overhearing him talking allegedly with his wife on the phone in Spanish, my wife was able to discern that her arrival was anything but imminent.

My wife then spoke to the man in Spanish, explained that it is not acceptable to tie up a parking spot in this manner. The guy claimed that once his wife arrived they would have a car to put in the spot. I pointed out that I had both a car and a wife already in position which to my way of thinking gave me priority. Perhaps he was from a parallel universe in which the human-holds-parking-spot method is the norm, but not here.

By now his arrogance was annoying me big time, a not so slow fry, so I decide to just back into the parking spot, thereby forcing him to the sidewalk or running him over – the latter option was becoming increasingly more appealing as the incident progressed. Finally he moved and we parked, but not before some choice words were slung in both directions. And it had started out as such a lovely day.

Fast forward to last evening. While my wife waited in the car while I ran to the supermarket to pick up three items. It was about 5:30 and the store was jam-packed with shoppers. I beetled about, got my items and headed for the express, 8 items or less check-out.  There are two such check-outs, but for some reason, at the busiest time of the say, one was closed.

Now I have this theory that no retail outlet should ever have closed cashes when there are lines at open ones.

Now I have this theory that no retail outlet should ever have closed cashes when there are lines at open ones. It defies logic and is just plain bat customer relations; paying your inflated prices is bad enough, waiting in line to do so is over the top.

While waiting at cash two, and having determined that there was no one ahead of me with more than the limit of eight items – yep, I’ll rat you out quick as look at you – a voice was heard to say “cash one is open”. At last. I make a bee-line from the line at cash two to the newly opened cash one only to have this asshole elbow in front of me and knock my items to the floor! Did he offer to help? No. Did he apologize? Only after I pointed out his ignorance. At which point he accused me of trying to jump the line. Evidently he seemed to have come from yet another parallel universe where one’s position in line at one cash dictates their priority at a newly opened second cash.

Sorry, it just doesn’t work that way.

Newly opened check-outs are virgin territory. It makes no matter if you were 846th in one line, once that new cash opens it’s every man woman and child for himself. But it is a race, not a wrestling match. Knocking a person’s groceries from their grip isn’t cricket.

Until we can live in harmony I wonder if it may be time for Underdog to head for the hills?

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+

 

Madison Round Garden?

I have always liked the fact that the building is called Madison Square Garden, but it is clearly round!

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+

There’s got to be something Anthony Bourdain does not like

I enjoy watching Anthony Bourdain on CNN. His travel/food show is well done and he is a fine host. His sense of humour is subtle and witty, and his appreciation of fine food is second to none.

He is the opposite of Mikey in the old Life cereal advertisement who does not like anything (except of course Life).

He travels the world for his Parts Unknown series bringing interesting and exotic locations to the homes of everyday folks. While on his treks around the world he mixes with the locals and has no qualms about trying absolutely any food that may be presented to him. He is the opposite of Mikey in the old Life cereal advertisement who does not like anything (except of course Life).

The problem, I find, is that this detracts from his persona inasmuch as no matter what he eats, he always finds it wonderful, exquisite, superb. But – you knew that was coming – just once I would like to see an episode in which he tries a local delicacy and blurts out “Sweet jumping Jesus, that tastes Christ awful!”.

… just once I would like to see an episode in which he tries a local delicacy and blurts out “Sweet jumping Jesus, that tastes Christ awful!”.

Sooner or later,if only to give credence to the authenticity of Bourdain’s culinary acumen, they have got to air a show where he tries something that really goes against the grain. The show, and the host, would grow in my opinion if he were to bite into something, grimace, break out in a cold sweat, turn away from the camera and spit. Then, being the quintessential host, turn back to the camera and state unabashedly “Wombat testicles in a canary sauce seem to be an acquired taste”. Just once. I know I would be a fan for life. Although I do feel a little like the old Happy Days character Ralph Malph who would write in asking a particular TV program to feature a human sacrifice!

Instead he continues to globe-trot and eat whatever is put in front of him then rave about it. But one of these days …

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+

Rolling Rock©: The Official Beer of Easter Morning

Stone

Happy Easter!

 

 

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+

Good Friday: Lord Of The Dance

The Lord of the Dance

I danced on the Sabbath and I cured the lame
The holy people said it was a shame!
They whipped they stripped they hung me high
And they left me there on a cross to die!

I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black
It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back
They buried my body and they thought I’d gone
But I am the Dance and I still go on!

They cut me down and I leapt up high
I am the Life that’ll never, never die!
I’ll live in you if you’ll live in Me –
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!

Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said He!
(…lead you all in the Dance, said He!)

Sydney Carter

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+

REPOST: World War One Centenary – Family Lore and Family Loss

My grandfather on the far right with the Piche brothers
My grandfather on the far right with the Piche brothers
I often wonder what those men who managed to survive the “War to end all wars”, my grandfather among them, felt when twenty-odd years later they watched their sons go off to the battlefields of Europe once again.

With countless media reports and background pieces regarding the centenary of the start of World War One this year, I have on numerous occasions found myself thinking about a story that has been in our family for, well, about a hundred years. In early August of 1914 my maternal grandfather, like thousands of other young men, decided to answer the call and volunteer to go overseas and fight for King and country.

He had two very good friends, brothers Randolphe, a warehouse clerk, and James Piché, who was a millwright. They didn’t live on the island of Montreal as did my grandfather, but off the western tip. However their family home was a farm just north of Montreal in the foothills of the Laurentian Mountains, in what was then called Saint-Canut. This area is now part of a larger community called Mirabel. How my grandfather came to befriend these brothers is unknown. Regardless, one day in August of 1914 the three of them made their way to the Black Watch armoury recruiting center on Bleury Street in downtown Montreal and volunteered to join the 13th Battalion. Although the civic number on the building  has changed to a four-digit version, the  armoury  is still there and very active.

BlackWatchPosterOn August 6, 1914 then Prime Minister of Canada The Right Honourable Sir Robert Borden  announced that Canada would send troops overseas to fight. The Black Watch began accepting recruits the next day. Once signed on, men received daily training at the armoury in various aspects of combat until they left for Valcartier, Quebec on August 24, from whence they would sail for England.

Having signed up, and while waiting to go to Valcartier for yet more training before embarkation, one day my grandfather and his pals visited the Piché family farm. While there, so the story goes, Monsieur Prospere Piché, father to Randolphe and James, planted three trees – one for each of them. I suspect there was talk of strong roots at home to ensure their safe return and the like.

On August 24th the battalion left Montreal and headed off to Valcartier. Following a brief stay they then set sail and arrived in England in October of 1914 and continued training on Salisbury Plain. It was in February of 1915 that they saw their first action upon arrival  in France.

Black Watch Armorry. The address has changed from to 2067
Black Watch Armoury. The address has changed from 428 to 2067 Bleury Street

Fast forward a mere seven months from the call for recruits, and just weeks after their arrival at the front, to April 24 of 1915 and we have the death of Randolphe. Sadly this would be followed by James’ death just weeks later, sometime between the 20th and 23rd of May. Two brothers killed in action within a month.

Basil Randolphe Piché Killed in Action
Basil Randolphe Piché Killed in Action
James Piché Killed in Action
James Piché Killed in Action
James Harland Piché inscription on Vimy Ridge Memorial
James Harland Piché inscription on Vimy Ridge Memorial

 According to a newspaper piece from June 4, 1915, just days after Mrs. Piché received word of  her second son’s death she received a letter from him in which he outlines the heroic circumstances of his brother’ tragic end.

Gazette

My grandfather managed to survive the war, although he did lose the sight in one eye from a gun shot wound and suffered from emphysema due to being gassed (no doubt exacerbated by years of smoking).

However the truth is that whatever became of those trees is unknown, not nearly as romantic as a Hollywood ending I’m afraid.

Now about those trees. If this was a Hollywood screenplay instead of a blog post no doubt I’d be writing that two of the three trees had been struck by lightning, or died suddenly and mysteriously for no apparent reason at just about the same time the sad news was arriving at the Piché home. However the truth is that whatever became of those trees is unknown, not nearly as romantic as a Hollywood ending I’m afraid. Perhaps they are all still going strong, or maybe they were among the many trees that were hacked down to make way for Mirabel Airport.

I often wonder what those men who managed to survive the “War to end all wars”, my grandfather among them, felt when twenty-odd years later they watched their sons go off to the battlefields of Europe once again. Frustration? Anger? Waste?

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+