Montreal Traffic Snarls Could be the Things of Legend

If you have been in Montreal recently or have read this blog post, you are no doubt aware that the city is in the midst of a huge infrastructure replacement project. This is the sort of thing that many cities have to undergo as roads and highways age and crumble. Inconvenient for sure, but necessary to ensure public safety and improve transit.

… owing to the infrastructure work BOTH entrances to the highway are closed. For two weeks? Two months? Nope, two years.

Poor road conditions and the Montreal Canadiens are the things of legend around here. Tonight the Canadiens host the New Jersey Devils at the BELL Centre. When the team moved from its beloved Montreal Forum, recognizing the need for a significantly larger building, they took up residence in a brand new arena that was then called the Molson Centre. I assume that prior to putting a shovel in the ground, many factors were taken into consideration by planning commissions and various government agencies, including easy access to highways without having to drive across town.

Upon leaving the indoor parking at the BELL Centre, and paying the king’s ransom they charge, motorists are a mere block from an entrance to a major west-bound highway. Should you be fortunate enough to have found a parking spot downtown, a drive of four or five blocks will get you to another entrance to the highway. Well planned indeed.

Except for one thing; owing to the infrastructure work BOTH entrances to the highway are closed. For two weeks? Two months? Nope, two years. For the next 24 months both entrances will be closed to traffic. A single temporary point of access to an interim highway is located a few kilometres from the arena.

…but a whole whack of them will attempt to gain access to the west-bound highway amidst snow removal operations and major road re-construction. The mayhem could be epic in proportion. Stay tuned!

On Tuesday the city was blanketed with the first significant snowfall. Some 20 centimeters (about 8 inches) of snow fell over a 24-hour period; then today the temperature has plummeted to – 25 degrees turning the fluffy snow rock-hard and making driving tricky.

So sometime around 10:15 tonight, 23,000 fans – hopefully very happy, celebrating a home team victory – will emerge from the BELL Centre. Many will hop on the Metro or take a bus. Some will make their way to a bar or restaurant, but a whole whack of them will attempt to gain access to the west-bound highway amidst snow removal operations and major road re-construction. The mayhem could be epic in proportion. Stay tuned!

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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Season’s Greetings Bonjour-Hi

Weil

It’s the funny season again. As in the Season’s Greetings debate. As fellow blogger Marilyn Armstrong at Serendipity has pointed out, it was never illegal to say Merry Christmas. Some folks, myself among them, find the all-inclusive Season’s Greetings or Happy Holidays phrases work well when addressing a group of people comprised of a variety of religious backgrounds. But saying Merry Christmas really can’t be construed as negative; I don’t celebrate either holiday, but if someone wishes me Happy Hanukkah or Happy Diwali, I certainly am not offended.

They felt that by allowing this bilingual greeting some may sense that Montreal is a bilingual city, (shhh, don’t tell anyone, but it is) not a solely French one.

Here in Québec, we have our own silly debate taking place in the form of Bonjour Hi. In the city of Montreal, it has become something of a tradition for store employees to address customers by saying Bonjour Hi as a means of determining in which language the conversion should proceed. Couldn’t be simpler, could it? What could possibly go wrong?

Well, the pro-sovereignty Parti Québécois (PQ) opposition party got its hackles up over the use of the English word Hi. They felt that by allowing this bilingual greeting some may sense that Montreal is a bilingual city, (shhh, don’t tell anyone, but it is) not a solely French one. Perish the thought that a storekeeper should want to provide good customer service.

The PQ went so far as to introduce a motion, not a law, to encourage the use of the single French Bonjour greeting. The motion passed unanimously, including those members who represent primarily English-speaking constituents. Many of those constituents were less than pleased that their elected officials voted for a motion that evidently pointedly omitted their language.

One such representative, Kathleen Weil, who was recently named Ministre responsible des Relations avec les Québécois de langue anglaise – the minister responsible for relations with English-speaking Quebecers – said we had all misunderstood the vote. Given the backlash on social media, I suspect it may be more accurate to suggest the elected officials did not understand their constituents.

Evidently, the gorge between linguistic groups is narrower than the one between the English-speaking community and its elected representatives.

Regardless of motion, legislation or advertising slogan, why would those elected to represent large numbers of English-speakers think that voting in favour of something focused on the eradication of their language would be met with anything but piles of scorn, calls for resignation, and disgust?

Fortunately the store employees in Montreal, and I bet a few in Quebec City, stores are still using Bonjour Hi. Evidently, the gorge between linguistic groups is narrower than the one between the English-speaking community and its elected representatives.

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+

Poppy Harlow Has Patience of a Saint

Poppy

Yesterday CNN’s Poppy Harlow had an interesting encounter with Roy Moore’s – spokeswoman Jane Porter. I use the word encounter instead of interview because Porter refused to actually be interviewed, preferring instead to ignore Harlow’s questions and say what she wanted. This is not a new tactic, but it has become overused to the point of being infantile.

… journalists are going to have to start informing interviewees that if they continue to evade and ignore the questions asked the interview will be terminated

Sooner or later, and I hope it is sooner, journalists are going to have to start informing interviewees that if they continue to evade and ignore the questions asked the interview will be terminated. It is a journalist’s job to ask tough questions. If the person being interviewed does not like a question they can tell the asker that they will not answer it, but to have them ignore the question and drone on about a different topic should not be tolerated.

Responses to questions that begin with:

What I think you should be asking
The real issue here
What’s more important

Should be cut-off immediately as they are clear indicators that the interviewee is not going to answer the posed question, but is going to go off on a different tangent entirely.

In yesterday’s encounter Harlow, who evidently has the patience of a saint, spent most of the time asking Porter if she was going to answer a specific question, but she never got a simple yes or no.

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+

IKEA Swedish for Common Sense – Sometimes

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Recently we made our annual trek to IKEA to purchase our Christmas tree – contrary to yesterday’s post.  I understand IKEA isn’t everybody’s cup of Glögg, but I enjoy the occasional foray into the madness that is a Saturday in the big yellow and blue building. I don’t want to relocate to Sweden, but IKEA is a little taste of their traditions that I like.

ikea-showroom-floorI know personally a number of people who will not go to IKEA mainly because of the method they use of herding you through every inch of the store to get to the exit, just in case you might pick up a dozen more items on the way. Following those light arrows on the floor can be very annoying if you have made all the purchases you want. There are, of course, emergency exits throughout the store, and if you know the short-cuts you can get out much faster.

Our visit often involves a bit of shopping, the traditional hotdogs and lingonberry drink, a package of cinnamon buns then the tree selection. But there have been several years when we have not gone into the commercial maelstrom, but merely enjoyed our feast, paid for the tree and gone outside to claim it. This was just such a year; upon entering the store my wife made her way to the food line while I approached an employee to pay for the tree. For the first time in all the years I have been doing this I was told I would have to wait in line to buy a tree.

I looked back into the area where the line ups formed and could not see the end for people with carts and buggies chock-a-block with items. You want me to go all the way back there and wait just to buy a tree, I asked her perplexed. She confirmed that she did indeed mean for me to do that. I explained that I had never waited in line, but would just ask an employee to process the purchase and give me the coupon and receipt. She told me those workers were wrong!

…a store-wide conspiracy. One that lacked even an iota of common sense – which is rich for a store with the motto “IKEA-Swedish for Common Sense”

I made my way along the row of check-outs and tried my luck with another employee only to get the same response. I was now convinced it was not one person’s power trip, but a store-wide conspiracy. One that lacked even an iota of common sense – which is rich for a store with the motto “IKEA-Swedish for Common Sense”

Defeated I found a five items or less check-out that only had half a billion people in line and waited like a good customer to buy my tree. Just my luck, it was the same woman I had encountered originally from whom I bought the tree. It would have been so much simpler twenty minutes ago thought I.

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+

Nothing Like Cutting Your Own Christmas Tree

Tree_Forest

The author’s wife deep in the forest with the freshly hewn tree

Usually, my wife and I go to a market or municipal lot, perhaps a charity site, for our Christmas tree. But this year I put my foot down and said we should go out into the forest and cut down a tree. No fancy cultivated shrub for us this year, no sir. No store-bought patina.

So off we went, out into the wilds of nature to select the perfect tree. The air was crisp and the snow underfoot squeaked in the cold. Farther into the wilderness we went, often taking cover from moose or savage bears trying to scare us off. I lugged my trusty ax with me, honed to a sharpness that would make hewing our tree child’s play. Soon we became hungry and stopped to enjoy a couple of hotdogs and a glass of lingonberry juice that we brought for the trek.

At last there it was, the ideal tree for our needs. Not too tall not too short; full but not overwhelming. Just right. Above is a photo of my wife taken deep in the forest just after I, with but a few swings of the ax, felled this beauty. We dragged the tree back through the trees and moose and bears to our car, hoisted it on the roof, bungee cabled it into position and headed off back to the city.

Now I’m not saying I want to do this every year, but it was certainly a fine experience communing with nature.

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+

 

An Ode to Bars and Those Who Tend Them

Bar

Not that I’m a lush, but I like bars. Not just the establishments known as bars, pubs or watering holes, but the actual bar itself. I find much comfort in sitting on a comfortable stool – with back if you please – and sipping a cold beer or two, on tap or cold in a bottle while taking in the goings on. Perhaps engaging in idle chitchat on one side and a more serious conversation on the other. The smooth top, either shiny wood or metallic, is cool and pleasing to the touch. The glasses and bottles sparkle in the lights.

Before too long I’d find myself traipsing through a stranger’s house in stockinged feet in search of a bathroom, hoping against hope that there would not be a lineup. Certainly not my idea of fun.

I recall as a university student having friends who lived out in the suburbs and for whom ‘house parties’ were the socializing mainstay. I was never a big fan. Upon arrival I would seek out a comfortable spot near or even in the kitchen, because that’s where the fridge was, the one cooling the beer I brought that very mysteriously seemed to disappear faster than I was consuming them. Before too long I’d find myself traipsing through a total stranger’s house in stockinged feet in search of a bathroom, hoping against hope that there would not be a lineup. Certainly not my idea of fun. Worrying about finding my boots and coat when it – thankfully – came time to leave was yet another annoyance to be borne. (I used to threaten to take the best coat I could find; this usually brought much assistance in securing my coat from the giant pile on the bed.)

For me, as an urbanite right down to the bone, bars were the way to go. Coat safely checked (assuming of course you didn’t lose the chit and have to wait until all the coats and jackets were claimed, hoping yours would remain), and a place at the bar and I was set. Back in the day people plunked themselves down at the bar and, much like a tiger peeing in the jungle, set up their turf, they marked their perimeter, by placing their cigarette package, lighter and ashtray within easy reach. With smoking now verboten in public places. the main tool for staking your spot at the bar is the placing of a mobile phone.

Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway statue in La Floridita, Havana

I’m not alone in my preference for bars. Dylan Thomas and Brendan Behan were fond of the occasional foray into a cozy barroom to recharge and energize their creativity. Ernest Hemingway spent so much time in La Floridita in Havana that there is a life-sized statue of him standing at the bar.

Now in my late-fifties I rarely find myself in a bar at night, preferring the comfort of home and a bit of telly, maybe even an early night. Yet I’ve not abandoned my ways entirely, I have discovered the pleasure of the afternoon bar session. Devoid of the social jockeying that renders the night bar experience unpleasant after the age of about forty, the atmosphere in the afternoon is a much friendlier one, conducive to conversation.

I could go on, but frankly I think it’s time for me to conduct a bit of research on my topic. Cheers!

When it comes to proprietary rights at a bar, while patrons may have their usual spot, the real ‘owner’ of that bar is the bartender. Regardless of whether that man or woman is in fact the legal owner of the establishment or not, when they are behind the bar it’s theirs! I have had the pleasure of knowing several bartenders over the years (lest you think I’m displaying symptoms of dipsomania, rest assured many of them were friends of mine before they became mixologists). In my younger days a good friend of mine explained that while he very much liked having regulars spend the evening sitting at his bar, it was the three of four rows of standees behind them that were his bread and butter. Passing drinks and payment and change over the heads of those seated at the bar was were the money was.

The afternoon bartender not only mixes drinks and pulls pints, but he or she also assumes the role of cruise director or animator. Making introductions where suitable, while  directing regulars away from seated customers who are less than a match, smoothly including others in conversations, and leaving to themselves those in search of thoughtful peace, keeping places at the bar for regulars running late, all while remembering regulars’ usual tipple, these are just some of the skills required to be a successful daytime barkeep.

I could go on, but frankly I think it’s time for me to conduct a bit of research on my topic. Cheers!

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+

In Montreal It’s Bonjour-Hi

Hi

You might think that a city that can and does function in two languages would be a benefit. Particularly when that city is located less than 100 miles from the United States. Montreal is just such a city, offering tourists a real taste of a French-speaking city with the comfort of being understood in English.

Just about perfect you might say. Who could possibly find fault with the concept of store clerks, wait staff, cab drivers and just plain folks greeting one another with Bonjour-Hi? This little couplet has become an unofficial motto for Montreal, one that some see as a welcoming means of determining in which language to continue the discourse, while others deem it an irritant.

The opposition Parti-Québécois wants to pass a motion declaring the use of Bonjour-Hi an irritant. This party would like to see English usage in Montreal eradicated. Instead of embracing the bilingual nature of the city, they push their heads into the sand and refuse to see the positive side of the coin. When it comes to the language debate, Quebec politics turns zoo-like in a hurry.

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+

 

Take Back The U.S.A.

TakeBackUSA

A snippet of observation from the safety of my armchair sociologist’s lair. It is not news that in the last US election Hillary Clinton garnered 48.2% of the popular vote to Donald Trump’s 46.1%. A not insignificant difference of 2.1%. However the Electoral College system gave the election to Trump based on the distribution of votes. That’s the way it works, frustrating as it may be.

… those in the majority appear to be taking a weather approach; as in, everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything.

But Electoral College aside for a moment, the fact that more people voted against Trump, in a two candidate race – more people voted against Bill Clinton than for him 1992, but Ross Perot split the Republican votes – cannot be swept under the carpet. However those in the majority appear to be taking a weather approach; as in, everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything.

Immediately following the election and inauguration there was a flurry of activity in the form of marches, protests, and demonstrations.  What happened? I’m not seeing on CNN wall to wall coverage of peaceful expressions of dissatisfaction not with the system, but with Trump. Evidently the 65,844,610 electors who voted for Hillary Clinton have opted to leave their plight in the hands of Robert Mueller and his investigation at best or with billionaire Tom Steyer and his www.needtoimpeach.com movement at worst. While I believe Steyer hits the nail on the head with his ads, I cannot quite see his venture being successful.

Trump once said: “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters”. At first that sounded totally absurd, but conceivably he may be onto something. Did he understand before others that his base, his peeps, were with him through thick and thin?  No matter what he says or does, for all the outcries and editorials, he just coasts right along. Everyday he tweets or comments something that tests the strength of his people; most recently calling Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas at, of all place, an event honouring Native veterans.

I think the 48.2% need to start a Take Back the Country, movement, the one that has been wrested away from you,  before it is too late.

Watching all of this play out from north of the 49th parallel makes me wonder if the majority, those who cast ballots not for Donald Trump, comprehend the damage this man is doing to your country as seen from the outside. Trump claims he is working to make America great again, as a neighbour I would suggest the country has never not been great, but is now in serious peril of becoming a laughingstock.

There is a movement to expose and end violence against women called Take Back The Night, make it safe for women to walk at night again. I think the 48.2% need to start a Take Back the Country, movement, the one that has been wrested away from you,  before it is too late.

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+

Bees Denied Protest Permit

Bee

One bright sunny day last summer I looked out my window and there was a large bumble bee repeatedly flying into the glass. Clearly he was trying to get my attention for some reason. I moved to the window and tapped on it. He motioned for me to open it but, being leery of bee stings I was hesitant. Glomming on to my apprehensiveness he made a point of showing me that he was without stinger by rolling on the window to expose all his fuzzy angles.

I expected him to come zooming into my apartment, but instead he ducked his head and lifted his legs in over the window track like a prizefighter entering the ring. 

I decided to take a chance and open the window and just a pinch. I expected him to come zooming into my apartment, but instead he ducked his head and lifted his legs in over the window track like a prizefighter entering the ring. He mentioned that some years ago I had interviewed his uncle Basil regarding the use of bees in landmine detection.

Of course I recalled that post and asked about Basil. My guest informed that Basil was now retired and “Living in a senior bee’s hive”. I asked if he saw him often.

“I try to drop in a couple of times a month or so,” he said. “But he sits there with other old bees droning on about how good things used to be. Pollen was plentiful, people had yet to catch on that male bees have no stingers, the honey was sweeter, and the prices better.”

At this I informed him that I was one of those who was unaware of the stinger-less nature of male bees. But then I remembered how Basil had made quite a to-do about sheathing his stinger while talking to me.

“Ya, he used to pull that one all the time,” he told me. “A lot of the older bees did that to maintain the fear factor. Then along came the internet and now everybody know they were being duped.”

He went on to say that his parents loved all kinds of music and composers including, of course, Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov but that their favourite genre was bebop.

Getting back to my current guest I asked him his name.

“Branford,” he answered.

“Oh,” I said. “Your parents must have been jazz fans. I assume you were named for Branford Marsalis.”

He confirmed that I was correct, he had indeed been named after the great Jazz instrumentalist. He went on to say that his parents loved all kinds of music and composers including, of course, Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov but that their favourite genre was bebop.

With the formalities out of the way I asked Branford if he wanted anything, as I recalled his uncle enjoying a cool sip of water. “No time for that” he told me.

“Fine,” I uttered. “What can I do for you?”

“Well, you are no doubt aware of our diminishing numbers. Bees are disappearing in droves.  The problem in a nutshell is climate change. We used to arrive in the late spring, hang around all summer then bug out in the fall. But now the seasons are overlapping and the temperatures can be hot in October and cool in May. A bee doesn’t know what to wear. Many of my fellow buzzers have succumbed to heat exhaustion or hypothermia.” he explained.

I knew there was a lack of bees, but had never had it brought to my attention by an actual bee.

He continued, “I am here not on behalf of my uncle, but as a senior member of the ‘Bees’ Lives Matter’ movement that we have formed.

I congratulated him on the organization. He elaborated that the movement was all about informing people about the dangers of climate change. I told him he had his work cut out for him if the current president is any indication.

“You see, a large group of people protesting is called a crowd, or a manifestation, or a mob, or but a mass of bees is called a swarm!…”

“Exactly what we are up against,” he said heaving a sigh of frustration. “But it gets worse. Other movements apply for permits to hold demonstrations. In Washington, Ottawa or any city really. We believe this would be an effective tool to get our message across. But we can’t get a permit.”

“Why ever not,” I asked.

“You see, a large group of people protesting is called a crowd, or a manifestation, or a mob, or but a mass of bees is called a swarm! To amass a huge group of us and descend on a city would quickly result in the spraying of insecticide and would wipe out millions of us. It would be a one-way ticket to extinction.”

I understood his conundrum, but I was not certain how I could be of assistance to him and his cause. He told me it wasn’t really me he was relying on for help, but rather my pit bull friend.

“We have watched and read with great interest how your pal and his fellow canines stood up to the pit bull ban, first by skirting it, then by political means. We would like to meet with him.”

So I was to be a go between. I’ll keep you informed.

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+

WordPress, Google and Knitting a Conspiracy

BlagStats

Steady decline since 2013 with an uptick this year.

I fear the people at WordPress have been fiddling with the numbers once again. I’m not a huge analyzer of statistics, but once every so often I take a gander at the number of visits I get. Lately I have looked more often because I get a notification from WordPress telling me my stats are booming. Sure enough when I check the numbers are way above the average. But damned if these surges don’t take place on days when I have not posted. Are they trying to tell me something? Just shut up and all will be fine; start posting and you’re on your own,

A few years ago I posted reporting a theft of blog readers. I don’t think it was a coincidence that the drop started when Google introduced something called the Hummingbird Algorithm. I’ve always been kind to birds, feed them out of my window all the time, so I am at a loss to explain why this particular hummingbird should not like me.

Perhaps I’m just being too sensitive, and I’m not trying to weave, crochet or knit a conspiracy theory here, but just maybe there are some shenanigans at work.

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+