Montreal Fifty Years After EXPO 67; Sorry Mayor Drapeau

Fifty years ago this week , Thursday, April 27, 1967 to be precise, was the opening day of Montreal’s EXPO 67 World’s Fair. It was a General Exposition of the first category as decreed by the  Bureau International des Expositions (the first fair of this magnitude ever to be held in North America). The theme was Man and His World; the fair was open until October 29th and welcomed over 50 million visitors from across Canada and around the world. The city was on top of the world.

 It was Montreal at its best. Will new generations of Canadians and Montrealers ever see anything the likes of those days?

Ah nostalgia! That word, the etymology of which is often said to come from the Greek for “a painful yearning to return home” is just about all that remains today of EXPO. However I imagine other Montrealers have felt the pang of pride when overhearing tourists marvelling at Moshe Safdie‘s Habitat 67 which, along with Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome are among the few remaining EXPO buildings.  I was seven-years old in the summer of 1967 and spent many days with various family members visiting the numerous pavilions and soaking up the international environment. A half-century later, when I look back, I do so through the eyes of a child.

Habitat 67

Halcyon, salad, glory, or just plain ‘good old’, those days are indelibly etched in my memory. I suspect some of the warm fuzzy feelings of that year’s Summer of Love in the United States made the trek north with the many visitors to the fair.  It was Montreal at its best. Will new generations of Canadians and Montrealers ever see anything the likes of those days?  I fear not.

I cannot deny that I am out-of-step with what appears to be the general consensus of my fellow citizens today. Concerns about costs, noise, corruption, you name it, have exceeded our once prevailing desire to be host to the world. The late Jean Drapeau, who as mayor of Montreal was responsible for both EXPO 67 and the 76 Summer Olympics, planted the roots as he set out to make Montreal the “first city of the 21st century”. Alas financial and political insecurities during the eighties and nineties scuppered the mayor’s dream forever.

… projects of world-class proportions have been relegated to mere memories for most of us. That is a pity, but thankfully many of us of a certain age can think back to those days with pride and reflect on what grand memories they are.

As Canada marks its sesquicentennial this year, which sure does not roll off the tongue like centennial (I can’t imagine there will be too many Sesquicentennial High Schools or Sesquicentennial Bridges named), and Montreal celebrates its 350th anniversary I cannot help but feel saddened that the events planned are not on par with EXPO 67. With our current state of affairs, ranging from an ageing infrastructure to gentrification concerns (investment in neighbourhoods was once seen as a positive thing, if broken shop windows and graffiti are any indication the opposite is now true), projects of world-class proportions have been relegated to mere memories for most of us. That is a pity, but thankfully many of us of a certain age can think back to those days with pride and reflect on what grand memories they are.

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+

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+

 

Montreal’s Snow Woes

A woman shovels snow from around her car following a winter storm in Montreal, Wednesday, March 15, 2017. (Graham Hughes/CP)

As I mentioned Montreal was hit with a large late-winter snowstorm last week. As a city that tends to take great pride in our ability to deal with these things, this most recent storm has been a bit of an anomaly. First there was the fiasco of hundreds of people stranded on a highway for many hours behind two stuck trucks. The truck drivers refused to be towed because of the $2000 fee. They wanted to wait until their company tow-truck arrived which was not going to be any time soon.

If there is an up side to the highway snafu it is that not one of those marooned in their cars took matters into his or her own hands and attempted to throttle the stubborn truck drivers.

You might wonder why these two were not arrested, taken away and their trucks towed. But that would have required the intervention of police and it seems they had wrong information and did not think the situation warranted their presence. (Yet a few days later six cars and a dozen police officers convened on the scene of a 26-year old driver who danced outside his car to cheer up his girlfriend at 2:00 am. He was also eating ice-cream. And he was Black.)

If there is an up side to the highway snafu it is that not one of those marooned in their cars took matters into his or her own hands and attempted to throttle the stubborn truck drivers. My faith in humankind remains firm.

The mayor of one affected borough posted a photo on Twitter illustrating the problem. An immense amount of fallen snow was exacerbated by contractors having dumped snow from driveways.

In yet another snow related situation there has been a vast problem with Montreal’s usually efficient snow removal. Sidewalks in some areas had not been ploughed several days after the snow stopped falling. One of the contributors to this was scofflaw private snow removal contractors placing snow in public places. They would arrive at a client’s place, shovel the walkways, plough out the driveway, deposit the snow on the street and off to the next client. In my part of town contractors must pay an annual fee for a license that allows them to do this BUT there are many restrictions. They cannot put the snow where it will block traffic, nor can they put it on sidewalks. With such a huge amount of snow in no time already massive snowbanks had been transformed into walls.

The mayor of one affected borough posted a photo on Twitter illustrating the problem. An immense amount of fallen snow was exacerbated by contractors having dumped snow from driveways.

If there is a lesson to be learned from this it is that contractors in general tend to cut corners in an effort to make money. These contractors were privately hired by residents, but over the years there has been a trend to cut back municipal employees, or at least not hire more when retirements occur, using attrition to save money. The work that was once carried out by full-time employees gets farmed out to contractors – gardening, refuse collection, road work – through a bidding process. If the only thing you are concerned with is the bottom line – the bean counter method –  then this is the way to go. But if the ‘bang for your buck’ approach is taken, then municipal administrators should think long and hard about what they, and their constituents, getting for the money.

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: There Was a Whole Bunch of Snow, Someone Must be Fired

Earlier this week Montreal was smacked with a late winter snowstorm. On this occasion the meteorologists’ predictions, forecasts and warnings were bang on as the city was blanketed under some 40 centimetres – almost 16 inches – of snow. There was a whole bunch of snow.

Others are parking the blame (pun fully intended) squarely with the motorists for not heeding the requests to stay off the roads.

The snow began falling in earnest about midday Tuesday and by rush hour had developed into the forecast storm. Perhaps the recent near misses and close calls that saw called-for big storms just miss the city influenced people, as many ignored suggestions to leave work early. The resulting mayhem on one highway caused numerous motorists to spend hours, some overnight, in their stranded cars. Now there are calls for the Minister of Transport to resign, as many of those who were stuck feel the situation was poorly handled. Did I mention there was a whole bunch of snow?

Others are parking the blame (pun fully intended) squarely with the motorists for not heeding the requests to stay off the roads. Why should they have skipped driving? Because there was a whole bunch of snow.

On March 4, 1971 Montreal was hit with a spectacular snowstorm that dumped 43 centimetres in one 24-hour period. I was just a kid, but I recall my father being stranded on a bus as he and fellow passengers tried to make it home from work. He, and many of the others spent most of the night on that bus. It can’t have been a very enjoyable experience, yet I don’t recall people looking to allot blame. It seemed to have been understood that, there being a whole bunch of snow, these things can happen.

Today we live in a litigious society in which there are no accidents, no chance occurrences. Everything is somebody’s fault …

Today we live in a litigious society in which there are no accidents, no chance occurrences. Everything is somebody’s fault and therefore legal action must be threatened or actually pursued. There was a time when if a kid rode his toboggan down a hill and struck a tree it was an accident. If there was any fault to be ascribed it was his fault, and his parents would deal with any care required. If that same incident occurs today the parents would be irate, threatening to sue the owner of the hill, for not having appropriate padding around the tree, or proper signs warning of trees.

There really was a whole bunch of snow.  

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+