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+

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+

 

God Have Mercy on Montreal Drivers

Turcot

Recently Quebec Transport Minister André Fortin was interviewed on television regarding the massive Turcot interchange work being carried out in western Montreal. He mentioned that work was, for the most part, on schedule. He understood that the last two years have been very hard on motorists with numerous detours and closures, and was honest when he pointed out that there is still much to be done.

It was then explained to viewers that once the project is completed there will be no additional lanes, in fact in some areas there will be fewer.

It was then explained to viewers that once the project is completed there will be no additional lanes, in fact in some areas there will be fewer. This had me totally flummoxed. Have we endured this construction nightmare only to arrive back at the same place or less?

Boston undertook a massive project that lasted 20 years. The Big Dig as it came to be called was fraught with cost overruns and problems as is almost always the case with huge infrastructure updates. But at least when Boston buried its roads it increased the number of lanes from six to eight or, in some cases, ten.

BigDig

A ten-lane – five in each direction – segment of I93

Prior to the start of work in Montreal the number of cars and trucks had already exceeded the standard three-lane Turcot configuration; the city had grown, the roads had not. The concrete was in need of repair which afforded an ideal opportunity to not only replace the aging structures but at the same time add a lane or two to ease traffic. With time the number of vehicles using the interchange is only going to increase, why not be ahead of the curve and provide adequate lanes. To replace an inadequate stretch of highway with the same configuration strikes me as wasteful if not absurd.

… more and more electric cars are going to be on the roads in the decades to come. They will need adequate roads to ease traffic, but it will be too late then.

The minister stated that the way to reduce congestion is not to accommodate more vehicles, but to improve and encourage public transit use. To believe that is pure folly, but even if an environmental approach is taken, more and more electric cars are going to be on the roads in the decades to come. They will need adequate roads to ease traffic, but it will be too late then.

So in about ten years people will still be sitting in clogged traffic on the Turcot albeit in electric cars on nice shiny new roads. This is a solution how? Isn’t the idea to ease the flow of traffic? God have mercy on Montreal drivers!

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+

No Strutting on Snow Leaf Mixture

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of strut is:

intransitive verb
1    to become turgid: swell
2   a: to walk with a proud gait
     b: to walk with a pompous and affected air
*****
This is the time of year when Montreal’s seasons overlap; this morning’s dusting of snow mixed with fallen leaves. The wet leaves are enough to make for some pretty slippery walking, the snow and ice on top just added to the fun.  Rest assured there was no strutting done this morning!
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+

 

Leonard Cohen Tributes on Anniversary of His Passing

On the first anniversary of his passing, Montreal is making good on promises to fete and remember Leonard Cohen. Last night’s star-studded tribute concert titled Tower of Song was, by all accounts, a great success.

From Sting to k.d.lang and Elvis Costello the program was fast paced and well produced; enough to make a Cohen fanatic faint with delight. The concert will be broadcast tonight on CBC Radio 2 at 8 p.m.

Montreal will remember Cohen all through the month of November with various events. As the photo above shows, people arriving at Trudeau International Airport are reminded that Cohen was a true son of Montreal by the inclusion of his Fedora hat perched appropriately at a rakish angle atop the letter O.

 

Leonard Cohen mural on Crescent Street by El Mac & Gene Pendon. Photo  by Maria Merlos

Several other tributes have been placed around the city including at least two murals. The one above has Cohen looking down at one of Montrealer’s busier restaurant and bar streets, Crescent. While the one below by artist Kevin Ledo is located in Cohen’s neighbourhood.

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+

 

Canadian Prime Minister Prefers a Pint

Trudeau

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau checks the quality of a selfie with an admirer.

From time to time I like to drop in for a pint or two at a downtown Iris pub here in Montreal. Rather than rotting my liver, I prefer to think of it as carrying out a civic duty since, as the photo above shows, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also likes to pop into the Irish Embassy Pub and Grill.

Although I was not present when the PM arrived unannounced, I have been told he stayed for a couple of pints, offered to pay but was told it was the pleasure of the house to have his company. He was approachable and open to a few selfies.

Had I been there I could have mentioned the time I was stuck in an elevator with his father, the late Pierre Elliott Trudeau. No doubt the former Prime Minister must have told that tale countless times at the dinner table as the kids were growing up. I like to think it makes up part of the Trudeau family lore. Mind you I also like to think there is an Easter Bunny. Oh well…

By the way, there was some very discreet security present, lest you think our PM sneaks out alone at night to quaff beer and chat up pretty women.

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+