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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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+

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+

 

Feedback or Feedforward

Feed-Forward

I was talking to a friend the other day and he mentioned the concept of ‘feed-forward’. His wife had received an internal email from her faculty that concluded with a request for feedforward. Evidently good old feedback is deemed to be negative, even hostile at times.

Having never heard the term before I did a little research and found that according to JISC or Joint Information Systems Committee: “While feedback focuses on a student’s current performance, and may simply justify the grade awarded, feed forward looks ahead to subsequent assignments and offers constructive guidance on how to do better. A combination of both feedback and feed forward (sic) helps ensure that assessment has a developmental impact on learning”.

Kevin Kruse writes in Forbes “The time has come to stop giving feedback and start giving feedforward. We must become leaders of people not just managers of tasks. Feedforward Coaching has the power to turn everyday workers into engaged workplace super heroes, whose discretionary effort will drive extraordinary business results”.

And what would Jimi Hendrix have been without feedback? Of course, one must always put one’s best feed forward as well.

Suffice to say I’m dubious. That could be because none of the experts can agree on how to spell it: feed-forward or feedforward or feed forward are all found. Sounds like six of one half a dozen of the other to me. And what would Jimi Hendrix have been without feedback? Of course, one must always put one’s best feed forward as well.

When I think of this apparent over-sensitivity to others, my mind travels back to when I worked as a student employee during university. The city I lived in hired numerous local students to cut grass, maintain tennis courts, tend flower beds, and umpteen other simple tasks. The general foreman was a real straight shooter, an honest, no-nonsense kind of man. He gave feedback – sometimes very loudly. He had the ability to, when confronted with someone who had done something not to his liking, ask the usually rhetorical question, Are you crazy? in such a manner that you wondered if you should be answering. He’d repeat the question, getting louder with each repetition until it was out of his system.

Playing a country song backwards means you get your wife back, your truck back, your dog back. All good things.

Why is back seen as negative to forward’s positive? “Get back from the burning building” can be a lifesaving statement. Playing a country song backwards means you get your wife back, your truck back, your dog back. All good things. Sir Mix-A-Lot’s hip-hop classic Baby Got Back is another testament to the positive nature of the word back.

What’s next? Throw down instead of throw up? I assume up to be upbeat and uplifting yet I find nothing positive about the act of vomiting. Not one of those to ease nausea by inducing vomiting, I would rather walk on hot coals than upchuck (downchuck?). Will we start hearing phrases such as Stop the car, Lenny’s gonna throw down or Look. the dog threw down on your sweater?

BabyBackPush-ups should really be push-downs as the effort is exerted downward causing the body to rise from the floor, and believe me no amount of positive naming is going to make them any less miserable. Now chin-ups are on the right track.

I’m off to have some baby forward ribs; I’m sure I’d choke on baby-back ribs. Please feel free to leave feedback, sideways or forward below!

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+

Pit Bull Plays Key Role in Election

Plante

Last Sunday Montrealers elected a new mayor. Unseating the incumbent and electing the first woman mayor in the city’s history caused an upheaval at City Hall. The mayor-elect is an animal lover and therefore many pit bull owners will be pleased with her election as the contentious breed-specific ban must surely be doomed.

The photo above is from Tuesday morning when the mayor-elect and her team posed outside Montreal city hall. Behind her are several councilors and advisors from her party. I was surprised to notice that over the mayor-elect’s right shoulder is a familiar face. Yes, indeed, none other than my friend and pit bull contact. Seeing him there, I just had to meet up with him for one last interview.

I tried contacting him in our usual manner, but with no luck. So I decided to take the (pit) bull by the horns and show up unannounced. When I arrived the atmosphere in the campaign room was palpably different – downright positive, none of the nervous tension that I had experienced before.

I walked in and was ready for the customary frisking as one of the larger dogs checked me for wires. But no, they just waved me in. No more fear of being exposed. I waited until a large Doberman ushered me into the little office with the snout-level table and one chair and there he was.

He seemed to have a large cigar in his mouth and pointed with his paw to the chair. I sat down as instructed and he removed the cigar from his mouth.

“Welcome writer guy,” he greeted me. “I meant to get back to you but things have been crazy around her for the last few days as I’m sure you can imagine.”

 

While he was talking I had my eyes glued to what I thought was a cigar but was now clearly a well worked over rawhide chew stick.

“Thank you for agreeing to see me,” I replied.

“No, it is I who must thank you,” he explained. “I have no doubt our interviews in your newspaper helped our campaign greatly.”

“I don’t write for a newspaper. I have a blog.”

pitbull

“Huh? You mean you’re not with the Times of Globe or some such publication.”

“Nope, sorry,” I said. “You should have figured that out when I agreed to pay you for our interviews. Journalists don’t pay for interviews.”

“Not even Milkbones,” he said dumbfounded.

“No sir, nothing, nada, zippo”

At this, he stood and left the room for a moment. Upon his return, he had what looked like a cigar box in his mouth. He dropped the box on the table and returned to his spot opposite me.

“There you go,” he started. “Now we’re even. Open up and enjoy.”

I obeyed and flipped the lid up to reveal about a dozen perfectly rolled rawhide dog chew sticks. No being overly keen to take him up on his kind offer I delayed and stammered a bit. Then, for the first time since I met him several months ago, he barked. A real deep-down full-out wall-shaking big dog single arf.

Once my heart returned to a normal pace, I got up off the floor, regained my seat if not my composure and … well … stuck a rawhide chew stick in my mouth. At this he did something else for the first time, he chortled. I did not know dogs could chortle, be he certainly did. For a moment or two, we sat in silence chewing our rawhide (I must come clean and admit I have had beef jerky that was worse).

I told him that I had seen his picture on the front page of the newspaper and was surprised to see that he had evidently played a role in the election campaign. I knew from our previous interviews that he was intent on lobbying both candidates, dancing with both devils, but I was curious about how he became part of the winning team.

He enlightened me saying “One day I attended a rally for the challenger. As you know at that time we pit bulls had to go about incognito, so I was wearing a labrador retriever pelt.  She made the usual fuss over me like all politicians do, but then when she scratched me around the ears she inadvertently undid the velcro and exposed my face.

“But she didn’t get huffy or angry, she just slipped me her mobile number and asked me to call her. Needless to say, I did and explained our plight. She listened patiently then asked if I could help her get out the vote. Let’s just say that there was more than one voter who was pulled – with an arm in the mouth of a dog – to the polling station. Voter turnout is essential to the democratic process.”

 

So you are confident that the pit bull ban will be done away with, but what about the required muzzle?” I asked.

“Firstly the mayor-elect has promised to allow her party members significant freedom. No muzzles for them, no muzzles for us. Secondly, the provincial government has recently passed Bill 62 banning face covering, what could be more face-covering than a muzzle I ask you?”

It would seem my pit bull friend has all the political angles covered, no need to resort to violence. Alas, if only people could be this sane.

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+

 

Swimming Pools by Oceans: Why?

The ocean is a mere pitching wedge from the pool!

I am not a swimmer. I don’t mean I am a weak swimmer, or an odd swimmer. But I simply cannot swim. People seem hard put to accept this for some reason completely alien to me. When I mention it they insist I must be referring to my inability to swim well, or maybe a dislike of chlorine. Nope. I cannot swim.

Swimming pools, lakes, ponds, and lagoons are giant vats of death in my world.

Swimming pools, lakes, ponds, and lagoons are giant vats of death in my world. Why, with the number of accidental drownings – usually involving very young children – it is within the law to have these giant vats of death in suburban backyards is well beyond me.

That having been stated I must admit to a great respect and admiration for the ocean. I was once a big fan of sitting on a beach, but with the years, and warnings of harming rays, I have curtailed my beach sitting considerably. However to sit and watch the ocean roar and pound the shore still fascinates me.

You could use a putter on this one.

We live about a five-hour drive from the US northeast coast, and like many Canadians we try to make it to Maine or New Hampshire once a summer. Although the current exchange rate made that less attractive last summer. Many folks come from even farther away to get a whiff of salt air and pay exorbitant prices for local lobster.

Why in the name of all things blue, with a vast ocean right in front of you, would you insist on a swimming pool?

Sometimes on HGTV they will air a show about the process of buying an ocean-front property. These people, usually from some distance away from the ocean, look at available houses, cottages or condos with an ocean view. No four-minute walk for them, it must be right on the ocean. It must be within their budget and it must – here’s where I become flummoxed – have a swimming pool.

Why in the name of all things blue, with a vast ocean right in front of you, would you insist on a swimming pool? Perhaps, in fact no doubt, it is the non-swimmer in me, but I’m certain these people could save a bundle of money by just going to a swimming pool in Ames, Iowa or Toledo, Ohio, or wherever they are from. Aerial views of coastlines illustrate this phenomenon well; surely the land on which all those pools sit in backyards, less than a pitching wedge away from the ocean, could be put to better use. To these ocean front buyers this best of both worlds is some sort of swimmers’ panacea, while I think it defines the word redundant. But then, did I mention I can’t swim?

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+

For God’s Sake Stop Texting and MOVE!

Recently the Québec highway safety code was tweaked to make it an offence to text while driving. I wouldn’t have thought that would be necessary, considering the level of stupidity required to attempt to look at and type on a mobile device instead of concentrating on driving. But the new law makes it an offence not only to text while the vehicle is moving but also when stopped at a red light. This should cut down on drivers who do not pay attention to the traffic light and therefore do not move once the light turns green. They seem to rely on the horn-tooting of those behind them to put down (hopefully) the phone and start driving.

According to the law:

No person may, while driving a road vehicle, use a hand-held device that includes a telephone function. […] [A] driver who is holding a hand-held device that includes a telephone function is presumed to be using the device.

Simply holding a cell phone in your hand, for any reason, while driving a road vehicle is illegal.

What does “while driving” mean?

  • If you are at the wheel of a road vehicle in a traffic lane, you are driving.
  • Even when you are stopped at a red light or stuck in traffic, you are driving!

If it is such a danger to text while driving; and I agree wholeheartedly that it is, what can we expect when all cars, not just fancy expensive ones, come equipped with wi-fi enabled dashboard screens?

Car_Google

I believe the time has come for a similar regulation for pedestrians. Montrealers tend to be scofflaws when it comes to crossing against a red light. When there is a group of people waiting for the light to change to green, it usually means a) there are too many passing cars to cross, b) it is the annual police cash-grab crackdown on jaywalking or c) those waiting are out-of-town tourists.

Harpo

Harpo Marx and his horn

While waiting for the green light many folks take advantage of the chance to check their mobile devices. I have noticed that the same phenomenon found while driving is now common at street corners. When the light does turn green, many people do not notice and therefore do not move. On several occasions I have bumped into a person who is standing and staring at their phone instead of walking, putting into possible peril my nose and front teeth. Some have the gall to imply that I have done something wrong!

I have considered carrying a Harpo Marx style horn to politely toot when those in front of me zone out and tie up pedestrian traffic. (To be honest, I wanted to get one of those aerosol can air horns, but feared the potential for cardiac arrest, leading charges of homicide.)

I am all in favour of pedestrians leaving their cars at home to go downtown, but for God’s sake walk when you’re supposed to or stay home!

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+

 

Watching Baseball with a Hall of Famer

Walter “Big Train” Johnson

This year’s version has been an exceptionally entertaining World Series. Some late nights due to extra innings, but very enjoyable. If you read this blog regularly you may know that I have a difficult time with fantasy and time-travel, yet even I can appreciate the greatness of 1989’s film Field of Dreams.

So it was a shock to my system to have my own baseball fantasy experience just a few nights ago. There I was all set to watch the Astros and Dodgers when I heard a knock at my apartment door. As we are in the middle of an election campaign I figured it was some candidate seeking my vote, yet when I opened the door a man stood there saying nothing at all. He seemed pleasant enough if a little quiet. Finally, he put out his hand and introduced himself as Walter Johnson, Hall of Fame pitcher.

Needless to say, I was gobsmacked. I stammered “But aren’t you .. you know … dead?”

“Details, details,” he replied. “They told me I could see the game here.”

“Of course, you are most welcome. Come on in.”

He walked in and made straight for the living room window. ignoring the television.

“No ballpark out that window,” he said. “How are we gonna watch the game from here?”

I explained, “No Mr. Johnson, we’re going to watch it on the television.” I pointed out the large flat-screen HD set.

“What in the hell is that?” he sputtered.

“I tell you what Mr. Johnson, I won’t ask you how you got here if you won’t ask me to explain television.”

“Sounds fair enough to me,” he said.

We sat down to watch the game and I offered him a beer.

“Thanks, Schlitz please.” he agreed.

“That could be tricky. First Pabst bought Schlitz about 35 years ago, and it’s an American beer. We’re in Canada. “ I pointed out. “Will a Molson do?”

“Fine, just as long as it’s cold.”

There we sat sipping our beers and watching the national anthem. I thanked my lucky stars that MLB players have not decided to take a knee during the anthem as I don’t know how I would explain that to my guest.

As soon as the players took the field I ask him for his initial reaction. Without too much thought, first impression.

“There sure is a whole lot of hair on that field. Long hair, beards. What’s with those long shaggy beards anyway? Must be God-awful hot.”

I told him about the latest fad among professional athletes, namely the growing of facial hair. I even admitted that my beloved hockey may be partially to blame having started the ‘playoff beard’ tradition several years ago.

With the first pitch, my guest was already wondering what was going on. “Tell me, do they now start the inning with a runner on first?” he asked.

I assured him they did not and asked what had given him that impression.

“The pitcher is pitching from the stretch. He didn’t take a full wind-up. No high leg kick. He looked like he was throwing a dart not a baseball.”

I told him that kinesiologists had determined that all those movements were wasted, adding nothing to the velocity of the pitch, but increasing the fatigue factor. For a guy nick-named the Big Train, I was not surprised when he looked at me skeptically, not for the first or last time that evening.

“What’s that thing stuck to the back of the pitcher’s mound?” he asked.

“It’s a device for cleaning the mud out of your spikes,” I answered.

“Huh … we used a popsicle stick. Worked just fine. And another thing,” he went on. “Didn’t the voice coming from that picture box say it was very warm at game time?”

“Yes, it was supposed to be around 100 degrees at game time. All part of climate change I guess. Why do you ask?”

Walter Johnson and President Coolidge

“Well,” he said. “Most of the batters look as if they’re cold. They’re all wearing gloves. And they must be new because after every pitch they take them off and put them on again. Slows the game down. But I am pleased to see that most of these fellows have been in the service.” he commented.

Curious, I enquired “What makes you say that?”

“Most of them have tattoos,” he explained. “As far as I know the only place to get a tattoo is in the service or in prison, I’d like to think it’s the former.”

“Actually many people get tattoos these days”

“Good God why would anyone other than a serviceman want to permanently mark their skin with a tattoo?” he exclaimed.

I could only tell him that along with my inability to explain television to him, I was also at a loss to expound on the tattoo phenomenon.

After a few innings, and some great insight from my guest, there was a close play at second base. The umpire called the runner out, although the replay showed otherwise.

“The umpires are making a telephone call in the middle of the game. Why would they do that?”

“They are speaking with a replay official who will watch several different angles on a tel …er … picture box to determine if the call on the field is correct.”

“Never.” he erupted. “The game is played by humans. Let humans umpire it as well. Mistakes and all.”

He pointed out that after almost half the game we had yet to see a pitcher at bat. I spoke about the Designated Hitter rule as best I could, only to see by his face that he was astounded. The thought of having one player hit for another, not as a pinch-hitter, was beyond his comprehension. If you’re in the line-up, you bat, he contended. I agreed.

When the manager removed a pitcher from the game after six innings having only given up one run Mr. Johnson was beyond confused. He wanted to know if the player was injured. I told him that he had done his work and now the bullpen relievers would take over. He muttered something about being able to add ten years to his career if all he had to do was pitch six innings.

Then with runners at second and third the batter approached the plate. With first base open, they decided to walk him intentionally to set up force plays around the diamond.

“Whoa,” my guest said. “Did I nod off? Sometimes beer makes me sleepy. How did that guy get to first base so fast?”

I pointed out to him the new rule that allowed a pitcher to inform the umpire of his choice to walk the batter intentionally at which the umpire sent the batter to first base without a pitch thrown.

“That’s ridiculous,” he exploded. “There are runners on second and third. The pressure is on the pitcher and catcher not to screw up and cost the team a run. It’s all a game of nerves. What’s the rush? Are there two more teams warming up under the stands to play next? Aren’t these the major leagues?”

Again I agreed with him.

Looking downcast he turned to me and asked: “What have they done to my game?”

I had to admit I sometimes ask the same question.

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+