With the month of March upon us, not coming in very lion-like here in Montreal I must admit, can spring be far behind? Another harbinger of better weather to come, something that restarts the soul after a long winter, is the annual Montreal St. Patrick’s Day parade in a couple of weeks. This year there has been a spanner chuck into the works with the shifting of the long-used parade route. However, When I came across the news release below I felt relieved.
Once again this year members of the Montréal branch of the International Brotherhood of Little People – the Leprechauns, will be present for the St. Patrick’s Day festivities. With just over two weeks until St. Paddy’s day we are pleased to confirm our role in this year’s activities.
With the traditional route of Montréal’s St. Patrick’s Day parade unavailable due to road work on Ste. Catherine Street a new venue has been announced. Not only will the parade be moved one block north to Boulevard de Maisonneuve, but it will also move in the opposite direction, from east to west.
This will no doubt confuse many, so to ensure the smooth flow of the parade as well as help spectators find their way to the new route, our members will be present in the downtown core getting out the message. From Friday, March 16 to parade day on Sunday, March 18 we Little People will be in attendance at various Irish drinking holes (and let’s face it, that weekend they’re all Irish), and on street corners passing out maps and telling stories. While these may well be free, of course, a wee nip is never unappreciated.
When it comes to Leprechauns, some of you reading this may not be believers – yet. However, I can assure you that not a year passes without several revelers swearing they have seen one or more of us, often in places where, according to the LPS (Leprechaun Positioning System) we use, no record exists of a brother having been stationed. We understand that the taking of drink is often to blame for this odd phenomenon. Further, we stress that searching for pots of gold while intoxicated will be fruitless at best, and potentially dangerous.
So come St. Paddy’s weekend don’t be a stranger, when you see one of us introduce yourself and remember, mine’s a Guinness.
Dear Mayor Plante,
In the months since your election last fall I think it fair to say things have been a bit rough for you. Not because you canceled the Formula E race and not because you axed a few big projects that would have cost millions (frankly the way climate change is affecting our city heated sidewalks seem outdated anyway). No, you took a lot of heat – citizen, not sidewalk generated – for increasing taxes after saying you would not. I’ve got a hunch you are not the first nor will you be the last elected official to do this.
But in light of your rocky start, I thought I would try to give you a heads-up regarding another issue. During your campaign, you mentioned that you would like to extend the Metro system by adding a pink line. Before we embark on that pricey undertaking, my concern is a much cheaper line: the green line. No, not the existing Metro Green Line, but the green line that is usually painted down Ste-Catherine Street marking the route of the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
This year because of a multi-year major project on Ste-Catherine the parade has been moved one street north. And just to further confuse both parade goers and marchers, the direction has also been changed. After many years of moving from west to east on Ste-Catherine this year the parade will travel east to west on de Maisonneuve.
I understand that you have many things on your plate, and I realize that small details sometimes fall through the cracks. I am not suspicious about the line being omitted to cut costs, so with over a month to parade day on March 18th I am calling upon you to take this issue to heart and see to it that the green line is duly painted on de Maisonneuve. This is not only a long-held tradition but a harbinger of spring for thousands of Montrealers as well.
Made famous a second time by Tom Cruise in Risky Business, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band’s Old Time Rock Enroll stands the test of time, if not spelling!
Permit me to rant. Montreal’s weather patterns seem to be changing. Call it climate change if you want, but we have experienced ups and downs like never before. Snow then rain then back to freezing again has made for more than a few sidewalk wipe-outs. A friend of mine who works at a large hospital told me that one week in January saw three times as many broken bones from falls on icy sidewalks.
The process of clearing snow has a pattern as well. Based on my observation, the main streets and adjacent sidewalks are cleared first, followed by secondary streets. The secondary sidewalks is where the problem arises. Evidently municipalities deem these less than essential and therefore get around to clearing and sanding them later.
That’s understandable given they cannot clear everything at once; they have to prioritise. Make the lost of the available labour force. Keep buses and heavy traffic areas – both vehicular and pedestrian – cleared of snow and ice.
One side effect of this is that when pedestrians do find themselves on side streets with impassable sidewalks they are left with no alternative but to walk on the cleared street. This has been true for years, and for years drivers and walkers co-existed on the street. Cars would slow down when passing pedestrians, often exchanging a smile or wave. When possible vehicles would move over allowing the walker a wide berth and feeling of security.
In my experience those days are, for the most part, gone. Today the sidewalks on a street I take were knee-deep in snow, necessitating the use of the road for cars and pedestrians. I was passed by about five cars, not one of which slower or moved. Zero. Nil. What happened to common decency? Logic? Basic safety?
Drivers maintained their usual speed as they zipped by me and others who had been forced onto the road. Are they insane? I can’t blame the entitled millennials for this as a straw poll showed me the drivers were both men and women and of varying ages.
So to any of you who may find yourself driving on a snowy icy day in Montreal please bear in mind that when the sidewalks are not suitable for walking, we both must share the road. Got it?
As the walrus said, the time has come. Not to talk of many things, but to rejig the calendar so that Groundhog Day makes sense in Canada.
The day when we North Americans turn to the highly scientific method of weather forecasting, namely the actions of a sleepy rodent, is observed on February second. If he sees his shadow and scurries back into his hole, there are six more weeks of winter. If he does not hightail it back to bed, but stays out, signs a few autographs, poses for a bunch of selfies, and does some interviews, then an early spring is in store.
The six weeks outcome, the ‘bad’ one, has many Canadians puzzled. It would bring us to mid-March or almost the end of ‘calendar’ winter. In Canada this would be a most welcome time to see spring. Considering that realistically mid-April is when things start to warm up here. There are places I suppose where the February second date works, but not here.
So I hereby suggest we move Canadian Groundhog Day to a later date. Just like we do with our earlier Thanksgiving. Both Canada and the USA celebrate Thanksgiving; a way to give thanks for a bountiful harvest. But here in the north our harvest time is much earlier than in the south, so we celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October, not in November. If we had Groundhog Day on March first, it would reflect a more accurate reality. And let’s face it, when you are forecasting weather via a furry beast, it’s all about the accuracy!
Even after fifteen years, my wife, who hails from Caracas, Venezuela never ceases to be amazed by some of the small cultural differences she observes here in Montreal. She has finally become used to seeing people in downtown Montreal dressed for the hot summer weather. Evidently in Caracas, where it is much hotter more often than Montreal, one does not wear ‘beach apparel’ other than at the actual beach.
For our first date lo those many years ago, we arranged to meet at an outdoor cafe. It was August; it was hot and humid. Given the conditions, I wore a golf shirt, sandals, and shorts. It was only some years later when she had observed several summers here, that she admitted that she was somewhat taken aback by my garb that evening. She was apoplectic when I pointed out that at one downtown office I worked at there was a group of women who would, weather permitting, wear bikinis under their business attire and strip down to take some midday sun in a park across the street during lunch.
Another of the idiosyncrasies that conflicts with her view of things is the notion of not speaking to strangers as they get on an elevator. Evidently, the thing to do in Venezuela is to greet folks as you enter an elevator. I have come to realize that Latin Americans are much more social beings than are we North Americans. Now I don’t mean to stifle sociability, but here we tend to employ the look-at-your-feet-ceiling-or-floor-only rule. I’d like to think that this comes from a respect for women who, finding themselves in a small enclosed box may feel uncomfortable with a man greeting her or staring at her.
We men have an advantage with this look at your feet tactic as it greatly resembles the urinal look-at-the-ceiling-rule. No matter how interesting the conversation with your co-urinator may be, keep those eyes upward or, if the establishment has been kind enough to tape a newspaper to the wall, straight ahead. It’s all about peeing, not peeking. If your eyes stray downward they better be trained on your urinal; better to look ceiling-ward.
Not only has this public bathroom etiquette given men a leg-up on elevator decorum, but it has also provided us with some practice of the look-at-the-mother’s-eyes only rule when in close proximity to, or conversing with a breast-feeder. Once that boob comes out it is eyes up fellows. Of course the more mature among us will explain that a breast with a wee one latched onto it is somehow less of a breast. That breasts being used for what they were intended for are not at all titillating (a great word in this context). Ladies, a word in your ear, next time a man tells you that, boot him in the cojones. He’s scamming you. A boob is a boob is a boob; whether your bikini top falls off at the beach (or downtown park), or you’ve got a pair of twins on the twins, it’s all the same to us!
The definition above, from http://www.dictionary.com, sums up nicely the concept of an appointment. If only the medical profession could get a grip on this. Yesterday I dropped by a local medical imaging place to see about making an appointment for my mother. At 89 and with mobility issues just showing up and taking her chances on getting in quickly is not an option. I could have phoned, but as I was passing right by I thought I’d throw a little human touch into my quest.
Upon entering the place I immediately noticed two things. The first was a large waiting room full of people hacking, wheezing, and sneezing all over each other (if they were not sick when they went for their x-ray, they sure as hell will be when they leave). The second thing that caught my eye was one of those ticket dispensers like they have in pastry shops and delicatessens. I applied some simple logic and concluded that those folks waiting were there without an appointment, and had taken a ticket and awaited their number.
As I looked at the dispenser I saw three different kinds of tickets: 1) for those with an appointment, 2) for those without an appointment, and, 3) for those wanting to make an appointment. This had me more than just a bit confused. If you have an appointment, why would you need a ticket? The idea behind making an appointment is to eradicate the need to wait. Make a reservation at a popular restaurant and you stroll right past the line. Make an appointment for an x-ray and you still have to wait. something is wrong with this system.
But it gets even more idiotic The third option is to take a ticket so you can wait until called, then make an appointment, then when you arrive for the arranged appointment you will sit and wait again as per option one. While making an effort to avoid waiting, option three would have you wait twice; once to make the appointment and again when you arrive for the appointment.
If nothing else I am a punctual person, never tardy. When I make an appointment or reservation I am always early out of respect for the other party. Why does the medical profession seem to think appointments only work one-way? When I agree to an appointment and I have to wait, I always feel my time is being stolen.
A word often used to describe the population cohort referred to as Millennials is entitled. Somehow many of those born around the turn of the millennium, and therefore in their twenties and thirties now, have a sense of entitlement. I must admit I don’t have much interaction with this age group, so I was at a bit of a loss to understand the concept.
Then along came the drive-sharing app called Uber. Essentially a taxi service, Uber uses GPS to put people looking for a lift in touch with drivers willing to take them. No money exchanges hands as the passenger’s credit card is charged automatically. But buyer beware, prices can “surge” if demand is high as many Uber users found out on New Year’s Eve a couple of years ago.
Sounds all fine and dandy doesn’t it? Only one problem. Montreal, like most cities already has a taxi industry. To be a taxi driver here you need a taxi permit. Once paid for and obtained, and assuming you pass the police and background checks, you can legally drive a taxi, whether you own it or rent it from an owner.
To own a taxi is something a little bit more complex. This requires a taxi license. These were originally sold by the government to prospective owners for something in the neighbourhood of $20,000. With such a plethora of cabs on the road, the authorities stopped issuing new licenses, which help create a market-value system. As the ad below from Kijiji shows, current prices are in the $130,000 to $150,000 range (keep in mind, that does not include a car). So purchasing a taxi license here is akin to securing a mortgage. With tough competition making a living in the taxi industry is difficult at best.
Along comes Uber, a source of direct competition with taxis but without the license and other requirements. Whenever I ask an Uber user, or driver for that matter, if they perhaps feel any sense of guilt for undercutting taxis they inevitably sa no. As far as they are concerned they can do what they want when they want: they are entitled to do so.
I had a discussion with a Millennial bartender one day. He was all in favour of Uber and had no problem with the issue of bypassing the license and gouging clients during busy periods. I explained to him that in Quebec bar owners must obtain a liquor permit to be allowed to sell alcohol. The price is significant and varies depending on your establishment. In addition bar and restaurant owners must sell only liquor purchased from the Société des alcools du Québec outlets dedicated to such establishments. The price per bottle is significantly more that a regular consumer would pay, given the mark-up by the restaurant or bar. Run out of Jameson’s on a busy Friday and just nip up the street to the local store to buy one in a pinch and you face sever fines.
My bartender pal understood the system, no doubt better than do I. So I asked if it would be acceptable for me to concoct a strategy whereby I buy a bottle of whiskey at the regular price, skip the liquor permit altogether, and set up a card-table outside his bar selling shots for $2 instead of the $5 he charges inside. Because to me this is exactly what Uber is doing.
He could not see the parallel. From his point of view taking money out of his pocket by flouting the regulations was a bad thing. Yet he seemed to have no trouble screwing some taxi driver by Using the Uber app on his phone. I guess he was entitled to do so.
The concept of debating or discussing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin has a very long history. It goes way back, but no matter how far into its past you delve it still means the same thing. It refers to people wasting time pondering a topic of no real value while other more germane issues go unchecked.
Yesterday many in the media provided a prime example of the counting angels canard. They devoted hours to the investigation and analysis of whether President Trump asked why the USA has to have immigrants from shithole or shithouse countries. Various talking heads appeared along with in-studio guests to get to the bottom of this most pressing issue.
The fact that the president swears is not the problem. I am sure he is neither the first nor the last to do so. That his statements were racist is of much more concern.
The crux of the matter is that the president spoke in a derogatory manner about Haiti and the entire continent of Africa. The actual words are, frankly, irrelevant. Had Trump referred to these two places as filthy cesspools it would be no less egregious. I can’t help but think that the major networks are devoting so much time to this because of the shock value of the word: call it the shit factor.
As was the case when Turks invaded Constantinople while scholars were distracted debating the angel puzzle, with the media enjoying a feeding frenzy over Trump’s strong language, they are not pressing him on the real issues. Shit house or shit hole, Trump’s presidency so far has been a real shit show. I implore the media to step back and look at the big picture and not be thrown off kilter by sensationalism and minutiae. Don’t open a loophole for the Trump administration to jump through.