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+

 

Cocker Spaniel’s take on Pit Bull Ban

Quebec has introduced a law that would see ‘dangerous’ dogs banned.

“In addition to strictly regulating dangerous dogs … (the bill) allows the government to ban, by decree, certain breeds,” said Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux. “The government is intent on banning pit bull type dogs.”

No wonder they are a bit cranky.

I have been privileged to interview a Pit bull regarding this law. Today I received the statement below from him; he told me a Cocker spaniel had sent it to him. Clearly the spaniel is an admirer of Martin Niemöller.

First they came for the Pit bulls, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Pit bull.

Then they came for the Boxers, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Boxer.

Then they came for the Doberman pinschers, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Doberman pinscher.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

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+

Toronto Maple Leafs Playoff Bound; CBC Hones Bias

Toronto Maple Leafs win Stanley Cup in 1967 (Bob Olsen/Toronto Star) – I did look for a colour photo but …

There won’t be any need for Viagra or Cialis in Toronto today. The beloved Maple Leafs have secured a spot in the National Hockey League playoffs. This will have the folks at the CBC in absolute raptures as post-season play returns to Canada’s largest hockey market. Big audiences mean big bucks.

I am happy that the long-suffering hockey fans of Toronto can get their hopes up; as they say, anything can happen in the playoffs. But what I am not looking forward to is the irksome pro-Toronto bias of the CBC.

The fact that the Leafs are marking a half-century since their last Stanley Cup victory makes their appearance in the playoffs just a wee bit sweeter. One good playoff run leading to a Cup and fifty years of futility will be erased. Never happened, a mere blip. Hockey will have been invented in Toronto on that day.

I am happy that the long-suffering hockey fans of Toronto can get their hopes up; as they say, anything can happen in the playoffs. But what I am not looking forward to is the irksome pro-Toronto bias of the CBC.

Let me state clearly that I harbour no belief that the NHL itself is in anyway biased towards the Leafs or any other team. Many will make that assertion but it is just silly. The NHL is a major business entity that would never stand for it. The officials are professionals who call ‘em as they see ‘em, both ways.

Tony Kubek (L) and Curt Gowdy

That having been said, the CBC most definitely proudly wears a huge Toronto tilt on its sleeve. Note that the broadcasts of hockey on the ‘national public broadcaster’ (i.e. the one supported by all Canadians tax dollars) are supposed to be neutral. Think back to before the current days of sports specialty channels when NBC’s Game of the Week was the only national baseball broadcast. Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek would pop up on our black and white television from a different city each week, depending on the importance of the game. They provided play-by-play and colour commentary from a neutral perspective. They were NBC announcers, not Yankee or Red Sox or Dodger announcers. Hired guns if you will.

Sometimes watching a Leafs game on CBC can give the viewer the impression that the announcers are watching a different game altogether … It borders on the infantile

Sometimes watching a Leafs game on CBC can give the viewer the impression that the announcers are watching a different game altogether. A Leaf player bumping an opponent is described as a ’massive blow’, a Leaf player down must have been tripped, almost every Leaf goal is highlight reel worthy by their standards. It borders on the infantile. Like Gowdy and Kubek on NBC, the announcers of Toronto Maple Leafs games on CBC are NOT working for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Toronto Blue Jays announcers Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler work for Sportsnet specifically to do Jays play-by-play and colour commentary. Sportsnet is a private business. It is a whole different situation, even if the games are broadcast nationally.

However as a Montreal Canadiens fan perhaps I should keep schtum; who knows, maybe the Hockey gods don’t like the homer approach of the CBC and have been taking it out on the team and fans for fifty years!

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+

Montreal: Not Car Friendly In Summer

As summer-like weather arrives in Montreal, the last dregs of snow are being washed away by several days of rain. Flowers will soon start to bloom, overcoats will be replaced with shorts and sandals, and a sense of relief at having made it through another winter will descend on the citizens. Oh, and just like the old Pac-Man arcade game, the installation of Bixi stands (public bicycles that can be rented) and sidewalk terraces will eat up parking spots. Montreal, like any city of a certain size, has a shortage of parking spots.  This is exacerbated during the summer not only by Bixi and terraces, but by the many street closures for construction or festivals.

Many of Montreal’s much-loved terraces straddle the sidewalk and road. The metered parking spots that are taken up by the structure are paid by the establishment. The city loves these things as they are guaranteed the maximum return on the parking spots, but if you are looking for a place to park it can be extremely annoying!

 

Bixi bicycle stands also take up many parking spots – five in the photo above – the revenue from which one assumes is made up in rental fees. But again motorists are left out of the equation. Montreal in the summer certainly cannot be called a car friendly city.

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+

 

 

Montreal Pit Bulls Take Action Against Ban

This week Montreal’s controversial pit bull law goes into effect. By the weekend the long arm of the law will be extended to the canine world. When the law was first announced I took it upon myself to interview a pit bull. Now that we are about to see how the law works once put into practice I thought it might be a good time to follow-up with my interlocutor once again. But before I could do so he contacted me.

He told me he and many of his fellow pit bulls have gone into hiding.  He wanted to talk with me before the law takes effect.

He told me he and many of his fellow pit bulls have gone into hiding.  He wanted to talk with me before the law takes effect. In an effort to keep his whereabouts secret he informed me by anonymous text message where I should go and when. He told me to wait and one of the members of the resistance would meet me.  

I arrived at the appointed place on time and had waited for just a few moments when I almost jumped out of my shoes as seemingly from out of nowhere a large German Shepherd arrived and leaned against me, almost knocking me over. He was wearing a harness with a handle, hanging from the handle was a pair of sunglasses that, when I put them on I realized were opaque, and a white stick.

The glasses acted as a blindfold and the white stick and “guide dog” completed the effect. These dogs were organized.

The glasses acted as a blindfold and the white stick and “guide dog” completed the effect. These dogs were organized.

After a difficult 15-minute stroll during which, while being led blindly, I tripped over my guide dog several times only to be helped up by good Samaritans, we arrived at our destination. Once I was allowed to remove my blindfold and my eyes adjusted to the light, I could see we were in what appeared to be an abandoned warehouse. As I looked around I could see several pit bulls checking me out. Just as I was getting nervous I noticed my host ambling over to me.

We went through the same process as last time; he patted me down to make certain I was not wired (this time I did not assume he was going to maul me) then he asked to see the biscuits I had brought. It then dawned on me that last time I used the Milkbones as a bit of a bribe to get the interview, but this time he had asked me, so shouldn’t he be giving me something? I guess it doesn’t work that way in the dog underworld.

Once he was pleased I was not wearing a recording device, and he had crunched a few dog biscuits he motioned for me to sit at an old kitchen table under a single naked light bulb.

“So you got here without too much trouble I hope,” he began.

“At least you sent a service dog;  I couldn’t see a thing,” I replied.

“…  in one door as a Pit Bull, out the other as a Doberman or Poodle, perhaps a Great Dane if the dog happened to be big enough.”

“Service dog? Don’t kid yourself,” he told me. “He’s not a trained service dog. He was only playing the part. Frankly I’m a bit surprised you didn’t end up in the canal…. If we were close to the canal…. Which we are not. Understand?”

“Okay, so tell me why I’m here.”

“Look around. We’ve been working very hard since the law was announced,” he explained. “This place is full of dog pelts of every breed known to man except of course for one. Our fellow pit bulls have been dropping by for several months; in one door as a pit bull, out the other as a Doberman or Poodle, perhaps a Great Dane if the dog happened to be big enough.”

I was certainly taken aback by this news. “But where are you getting these various pelts?”

“Dog cadavers,” he said.

“Cadaver dogs!” I exclaimed.

“No stupid. Cadaver dogs search for cadavers when there’s been a disaster. We use dog cadavers for our pelts.” he told me with a smirk.

“Oh, and just where do you get the dog cadavers?”

“Many dogs sign a ‘Pelt Donation Form’ that, once the pooch passes on, gives a moulting or balding dog a second chance. In this case we feel justified in using them for our cause.”

“That’s amazing! The authorities won’t be able to enforce the law because there won’t be any pit bulls.” I said.

“Many dogs sign a ‘Pelt Donation Form’ that, once the pooch passes on, gives a moulting or balding dog a second chance.”

“Exactly. Once this discriminatory law takes effect most of us will have to lay low at least for a little while,” he elaborated.  “Considering what they will do to us – microchips, castration, permits –  we are going into hiding. But right under the very noses of those who would have us banned.”

At this point one of the pit bulls who had been working away came over to me, barked and put his head in my lap. If the bark didn’t put me away, the proximity of his teeth to my flesh was making me edgy.

“That’s Carl’” said my host. “He’s apologizing for tripping you on the way over here. Remember he is not a real guide dog. We all have to do what we can these days.”

“He didn’t trip me.” I said “The dog who brought me here was a German Shepard. I saw him.”

My host merely grinned and nodded his head, stating “Not a bad pelt job eh?”

While there are plenty of pelts of all breeds – thanks to the kindness and generosity of our departed canine brothers and sisters –  we need something else.

I was gobsmacked when it dawned on me how effective these camouflage pelts were. I asked why he wanted me to meet with me.

He took a piece of Milk-Bone and chewed on it for a moment, then said: “We have a wee bit of a problem. While there are plenty of pelts of all breeds – thanks to the kindness and generosity of our departed canine brothers and sisters –  we need something else. You see, we have run out of Velcro. This has to be purchased, and we have the money – don’t even ask – but we are not welcome in stores.”

“I see, so you want me to buy you some Velcro. That’s easy, they have it at the dollar store.”

At this his right front paw came up like a traffic cop stopping cars. “No’” he said emphatically. “Lives depend on these pelts staying on. What if the cheap imitation Velcro came undone and exposed a pit bull in a Black Lab pelt? Huh, how would you feel then Chief?”

I had to admit he had me there. So I promised to purchase only quality Velcro. I told him I would go to a local fabric store. He suggested I find several such stores so I didn’t raise suspicions as I had a considerable amount of Velcro to buy. He pushed a fat envelope stuffed with cash across the table to me. 

“Get the receipts please, we have bean-counter dogs too,” he told me while rolling his eyes.

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+

Montreal Police Dampen St. Patrick’s Day Revellers’ Spirits

An Irish pub doing better in 2016

There has been much grumbling heard over the last week in several bars in downtown Montreal. Particularly, but not limited to, bars with an Irish theme located a mere shillelagh’s toss from the St. Patrick’s Day parade route. It seems the police put a damper on what is usually the most lucrative day of the year for these establishments.

Despite all the madness of amateur once-a-year drinkers over imbibing (think New Year’s Eve with more beer and less champagne) bars and bar-staff stand to make a pretty penny on parade day.

On parade day many bars have significant line-ups from pre-parade breakfast through the parade all evening and into the wee hours. Given this onslaught of Irish and Irish wannabe revellers most bars alter the house rules a little. Often bar-stools are removed to allow for easier access; there are no glasses, just plastic cups; no running tabs and it’s cash only, no credit or debit cards. Clients are requested to pay for their drink when ordering it, not when it arrives as many folks think nothing of ordering a round of drinks then deciding to move on to another place, leaving the waitress or waiter to foot the bill.

Despite all the madness of amateur once-a-year drinkers over imbibing (think New Year’s Eve with more beer and less champagne) bars and bar-staff stand to make a pretty penny on parade day. But this year the Montreal police decided to throw a spanner into the works.  They had agents, armed with counters more aptly seen in an usher’s hand, making the rounds and calculating the number of patrons in each establishment to make sure they had not exceeded capacity. Of course the police number was the one that counted, not the house tally.

But in one pub the total number was well within the capacity, but because many patrons were crowded around the band, the police told management they could not allow any more people in until 75 had left. Many parade-goers look forward to this day all year, so it is not surprising that it took nearly two hours for 75 of them to leave during which no new guests were allowed in and the line-up dissipated as folks were made aware of the situation.

As it is all about turn-over, that’s two hours of prime parade day business down the drain.

Other bars were emptied completely if they could not provide proof that the doorman was ‘accredited’ (degree from Bouncer U?) or if they had no one keeping count.

Of course living in Quebec it was not long before people started wondering if the police will act as over-zealously on June 24 when the bars on rue St. Denis will be packed with Fête nationale parade-goers.

I am not suggesting that packing bars beyond capacity should ever be tolerated on any day of the year, but the police seemed a bit heavy-handed in their demands.

I have to believe that, ironically, some time ago when many cops were either Irish or descended from Irish, they may have looked the other way on St. Patrick’s’ Day. But this year Irish pubs felt they had been targeted.

Of course living in Quebec it was not long before people started wondering if the police will act as over-zealously on June 24 when the bars on rue St. Denis will be packed with Fête nationale parade-goers.

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+