Back when I was young, Canada, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Humor, Marketing, News, Uncategorized, Weekly Writing Challenge, Wordpress

The sacrilege of going back to school in August

August Blues indeed …


“Will I get that marine-wannabe lunatic for phys ed?” “Will Mrs. So-and-so be sober this year?” “Is he back, I thought he had a breakdown?”

Back when I was young the new school year started on the Tuesday after Labour Day. “Summer” consisted of those days between the last day of school and the day after Labour Day; this was a school-free period – sacrosanct. Even after many years the thought of attending classes in August still just doesn’t seem quite right somehow. There was a clear definition of the end of summer; Labour Day Monday. Back to school sales were not seen until mid-August, certainly in not mid-July, something that both teachers and students now find repugnant. I’m no longer at school, haven’t been for some time, but the return to school affects many more than just students. Traffic picks up and even the business world gets back to normal operations with the vacation season over.

JerryEdThat holiday Monday was spent preparing yourself mentally for another long school year – or just being plain miserable. The soundtrack to this day of preparation and pain, playing in the background, was the annual Jerry Lewis Labour Day muscular dystrophy telethon. Jerry and Ed McMahon anchored the event in Las Vegas that, along with raising millions of dollars, eased us out of the lazy summer days and into fall. Even if the weather continued to be warm, perhaps hot at times, once Jerry had sung “You’ll Never Walk Alone“, and cried, and Ed announced that a new record amount had been raised -“timpani” – you knew it was all over. Now Ed has passed away, and Jerry’s been given the heave-ho for some reason and school starts in August. What the hell went wrong?

Continue reading

Standard
Blogging, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Montreal, Sports, Weekly Writing Challenge

Weekly Writing Challenge: Health and a millennial coincidence.

The Weekly Writing Challenge this week focused on “Fit to Write”. My piece is about my attempt to stay fit by running, as well as a millennial coincidence.

Sometime during the late winter of 1997 I decided it was time I started doing some physical exercise. I had for many years been a pitcher in a local fast-pitch league which gave me a pretty good work-out a couple of times a week during the summer, but I figured I needed something all year round. I’m not a big fan of gyms or joining in general, so the YMCA up the street didn’t appeal to me.

This seemed to naturally bring me to running. It has all the elements I was looking for; I could do it on my own, when and where I wanted and for as long as I liked, or could last. The only problem was  I’d tried running in the past and hated it!  But this time I was determined so I started out small, a few minutes each day – Monday through Friday. I did stick with it and was soon running 30 – 45 minutes each day before going to work (I still can only run in the morning). Five days a week with recovery on the weekends.

… December of 1999 when it seemed the world was abuzz with Y2K fears and predictions of total anarchy once all the computers fried simultaneously and plunged us into darkness …

During December of 1999 when it seemed the world was abuzz with Y2K fears and predictions of total anarchy once all the computers fried simultaneously and plunged us into darkness I did some figuring of my own. I had kept a small journal of my running so I knew the exact day I had started, I also knew I had not missed a day. When I did a bit of math, going back to day one and counting the weeks through 1997 and up to December 31, 1999, a Friday, it became eerily evident to me that on that day I would be undertaking my one-thousandth consecutive daily run!

Y2KSomewhere along the way, back in February or March (I’ve mislaid that journal, and am not inclined to do the math again) the millennial gods and the running gods teamed up and pushed me out of bed at precisely the right moment to set me in motion on a journey to the new millennium (or maybe they just wanted me to run off some beer).

All those fireworks at midnight around the world; I like to think they were for me and my 1000 morning runs.

I have to admit that, being completely taken aback by the coincidence, I did the calculations again and sure enough came to the same result. All the millennial hoopla took on a different meaning for me, I started to take it personally. All those fireworks at midnight around the world; I like to think they were for me and my 1000 morning runs. I’m probably wrong on that, but a guy can dream!!

Standard
Back when I was young, EXPO 67, Humor, Montreal, Nostalgia, Weekly Writing Challenge, Wordpress

Weekly Writing Challenge: I Remember

 

John Bull Pub ad from The Gazette October 1972

John Bull Pub ad from The Gazette October 1972

This week’s Weekly Writing Challenge: I Remember calls upon bloggers to think back. Here’s a freestyle memory piece.

I remember…

… during the mid-seventies,  it seemed Montreal was awash with Anglo/Irish Pubs. There’s still a good number of them today including Hurley’s, McKibbin’s , The Irish Embassy and the Old Dublin to name but a few, but when I was cutting my drinking teeth there was a circuit of pubs in the western downtown area. They all had similar décor; after all, there’s only so much variation you can have on the theme. There was lots of brass and nt much plastic,  easily cleaned concrete or tiled floors (no carpets, thanks), wood paneling and large tables for large groups (remember, this was a time when people bought drinks in “rounds” and managed to do so without having to mortgage their homes). The requisite dart boards, and very small stages, often just a raised area in the corner because floor space was at a premium.

Maidenhead Inn ad from The Gazette in March 1971

Maidenhead Inn ad from The Gazette in March 1971

Not only was the appearance similar but the entertainment was pretty much the same, at least in style. Usually a duo playing what North Americans considered traditional Celtic pub songs including Farewell to Nova Scotia, Whiskey in the Jar and The Black Velvet Band (and I hope they got those seven old ladies out of the lavatory). The main house act played Thursday through Saturday nights but other acts filled in the rest of the week so there was never a night without live music.

Starting this trip down memory lane, moving east from Atwater Avenue, the first pub you came to was the Maidenhead Inn in Alexis Nihon Plaza featuring the piano magic of Goa, India’s own Ferdie Fertado who would leave Montreal after several years and move to Laguna Beach, California where he passed away about three years ago. The Maidenhead waitresses wore low-cut “wenches” outfits while serving bottled beer and mixed drinks.

That was another shared feature not only of the Anglo/Irish places, but all Montreal bars at that time; beer came in bottles. Draft beer on tap was served only in taverns (and later brasseries) and was a cheap lower quality beer produced by the breweries for the express purpose of taverns.

Site of former Clover Leaf and Molly Maguires

Site of former Clover Leaf and Molly Maguires

Cock 'N' Bull Pub today

Cock ‘N’ Bull Pub today

Moving along, on the south-east corner of Ste. Catherine and Lambert-Clossé streets (then referred to simply as Closse) adjacent to the Shell Station, was the Clover Leaf that would close and, for a very short time, become Molly Maguires. I’d let you know what the décor was like, but I don’t think I was ever inside.

Next up is the Grandfather of Montreal Anglo-style pubs, the Cock ‘N’ Bull. It is still a going concern today although its red-roof entrance is gone and the inside is slightly different as well. In its original state the bar, complete with embedded British coins, was located halfway along the  east wall, about 15 feet toward the back from its current position, placing it smack in front of the “stage”, which is now the darts corner.

The stage was an area about 5 square feet that would give any claustrophobic performer a fit as it was enclosed on three sides by patrons hooting, hollering and singing. (A strict “no dancing” rule was enforced to cut down on accidents.) I also assume they have gotten rid of the sign that read: “Free drinks for anyone over the age of 70 and accompanied by a parent”. In these days of increased longevity that could become expensive!

Late Sunday morning was brunch time at the Cock ‘n’ Bull and Sunday nights were Dixieland Jazz nights. But one of the most popular events was Monday’s Amateur Night. The late Ted Blackman wrote a great column on the amateur spectacular in The Gazette in May of 1974

On de Maisonneuve right across from Sir George Williams University’s (now Concordia) Henry F. Hall Building was the Fyfe and Drum (neither Anglo nor Irish but clearly Scottish). The building was torn down to make way for the Concordia Library, but in its day the Fyfe was, not surprisingly, a hang-out for students.

The old entrance to Finnegan's Irish Pub

The old entrance to Finnegan’s Irish Pub

Just a bit further east on de Maisonneuve in what has most recently been an entrance to Wanda’s Strip Club was Finnigan’s Irish Pub. It had been located on the top floor of the building, but by the time of the 1976 Olympics was a rowdy packed basement pub.

That summer of 1976 saw many bars filled to capacity and beyond as the world once again came to Montreal for the Olympics as it had in 1967 for EXPO 67. When I think back to evenings in Finnigan’s what comes to mind are the words fire trap.

Until a few years ago the Downtown YMCA building extended out over half of de Maisonneuve from Drummond to Stanley Streets. On the north side of de Maisonneuve not actually under the Y overhang, but in its shadow was the John Bull Pub. It was more of a Rock ‘n’ Roll place than traditional pub music. Except as the ad above shows they ran an amateur night on Monday’s as well, hosted by the ubiquitous Ferdie Fertado who clearly made the rounds.

Irish Lancer Pub ad from The Gazette September 1975

Irish Lancer Pub ad from The Gazette September 1975

On Drummond Street below Ste. Catherine Street in the basement of the Lasalle Hotel was the Irish Lancer. The Lancer’s bathrooms were outside the pub itself in a sort of lobby and were shared with guests of the hotel who were often confronted by drunk pub patrons.

On Peel Street just above Cyprus Street and the Windsor Hotel was the Hunter’s Horn. Given its location in the heart of downtown Montreal it attracted a more businessperson clientele – more suits than the other pubs. The upstairs lounge, or Parlor as it was called, was a bit up-market being carpeted and nicely appointed. It hosted the Montreal Press Club for several years.

Ah … youth!

HuntersHorn

Standard
Humor, News, Politics, Weekly Writing Challenge

Weekly Writing Challenge: U.N. turns to chefs to solve problem of Turkey

This week’s Weekly Writing Challenge is another 1,000 words, it asked for a story to go with the photo below. So here goes!

Chefs

The news has been full of the problem situation regarding Turkey. Headlines scream “Riots are making Turkey dangerous”; “FAQ: What the heck is wrong with Turkey”; “Turkey makes me sick”. Hungarians feeling for those affected have started a support group called “Hungary for Turkey”

Hungarians feeling for those affected have started a support group called “Hungary for Turkey”

In an effort to solve the problem the United Nations has turned to some of the world’s greatest chefs. In a secret laboratory located several stories underground, allegedly somewhere in the southwestern United States, work is carried out on a top-secret project. Security clearance is next to impossible to obtain for journalists wanting to cover the story in the aftermath of the  leaking of the secret ingredient used in Coca-Cola.

Not since the whole how do they get the caramel into the Caramilk caper have we seen this sort of interest in a culinary secret at this level

Not since the whole how do they get the caramel into the Caramilk caper have we seen this sort of interest in a culinary secret at this level. Not even the search for the recipe of the eleven secret herbs and spices used by Colonel Saunders to flavor his Kentucky Fried Chicken had the frantic level of interest experienced currently.

All we can report is that the two latest efforts to resolve the Turkey issue, which has been narrowed down to dryness, both come from the mayonnaise family of condiments.

In the picture above, smuggled out of the bunker kitchen in the apron pocket of an unnamed  sous-chef , two chefs work diligently on Agent 9/22, having exhausted Agent Peach, in an effort to solve the Turkey problem. All we can report is that the two latest efforts to resolve the Turkey issue, which has been narrowed down to dryness, both come from the mayonnaise family of condiments. It is hoped a solution will be forthcoming in the next few days, and that people will no longer complain of dry turkey sandwiches.

Please note that this post in no way means to trivialize the troubles facing the Turkish people in their struggle. It merely plays on the name of the country. I hope that peace and democracy will be longtime friends of the Turkish people.  

Standard
Blogging, Boston bombing, Crime, History, Montreal, News, Politics, Sports

Results: After the Boston bombing, are you more careful about attending public events?

This week’s Weekly Writing Challenge focuses on the use of forms. I took a recent post, and added a form for feedback at the end. I had never used a form before, but will certainly consider doing so. The comments were lengthy and often heartfelt. As for statistics, 100% of those who responded said they were not more concerned about attending public events after the Boston bombing.

I was pleased with the comments I received, but was surprised they arrived by email, and were not displayed the way comments usually are. Perhaps I didn’t set the form properly!

Here is the form I used, and below a selection of the comments.

Comment: I don’t really attend many public events, but there is one that I’m planning to attend: the Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk taking place in Washington, D.C. on June 1st. It helps support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, a cause that is extremely important to me. There is no way I’m letting some idiots keep me from attending an event that is meaningful to me personally and has the potential to help make a positive difference for people whose struggle with suicidal ideation is even harder than my own.
After the Boston bombing, are you more careful about attending public events?: No

 

Comment: Having served in the armed forces stationed in London during the height of the IRA bombings you just got used to the signs about unattended bags, the warnings on walls and on the tv and radio but if you watched every bag or allowed the warnings to get to you, your life would be nothing, if you allowed the terrorists to get in your head then they have won, life is more then worrying about something that may not happen. So get out and prove that you cannot be beaten.
After the Boston bombing, are you more careful about attending public events?: No

 

Comment: One of my believes is that I do not want to be lived by fear of what might or might not happen. I guess the safest place to be is at home. However, if you stay home indefinitely, never going anywhere out of fear of what might happen, you will miss out on a lot of fun, love, magical moments, and so on. So no matter what happens, go out and live!

After the Boston bombing, are you more careful about attending public events?: No

 

Comment: I try to forget the bad things like that!!
After the Boston bombing, are you more careful about attending public events?: No

 

 

Standard
Canada, Crime, History, Montreal, News, Politics, Sports

After the Boston bombing, are you more careful about attending public events?

Boston

This week’s Weekly Writing Challenge focuses on the use of forms. Here’s a recent post of mine with a form for feedback added.

Dear Boston,

On behalf of all Montrealers let me express my sincerest condolences for the tragic events at your esteemed marathon. For as long as I can recall, the passage from winter through spring and on to summer has been marked by three sporting milestones: the Masters, the Boston Marathon and the Kentucky Derby. Sadly, henceforth, your marathon will evoke memories of a different nature as well. But I have no doubt whatsoever that you will rebound from this horrific nightmare; after all you’ve withstood fires, the British and even molasses.

But I have no doubt whatsoever that you will rebound from this horrific nightmare; after all you’ve withstood fires, the British and even molasses.

It has often been pointed out that our cities share much in common: our populations are similar, but we have an edge in actual city residents; both historic cities are chock-a-block with universities and colleges, giving them liveliness and character, but are also delightfully working-class; we both have a strong Catholic base; the two cities have shown an expertise in creating modern architectural masterpieces yet maintaining the historical splendour not only of the waterfront, but the entire urban area.

Montreal and Boston are also sports cities; prior to the Expos arrival, and in the wake of their departure, many of us were and continue to be loyal Red Sox fans. In addition the Celtics and the Patriots have many followers here. You will, of course, understand that this appreciation for your sports teams does not extend to the Bruins. C’mon, you didn’t really think we could go that far did you?

You will, of course, understand that this appreciation for your sports teams does not extend to the Bruins. C’mon, you didn’t really think we could go that far did you?

So when your marathon was marred by an egregious and despicable act of violence we felt for you. Naturally we were concerned about our own who were participating in the race, but it was as though a small part of us had been touched. The 9/11 attack on New York affected people around the world to varying degrees, but your tragedy seemed to hit home.

Your strength of character, from Southie to Beacon Hill, will see you through this calamitous day and on to better times.

I don’t doubt for a moment that next year’s Boston Marathon will be bigger and better than ever, if a little sad. Your resilience as a city is etched in the many monuments and statues that dot your downtown core. Your strength of character, from Southie to Beacon Hill, will see you through this calamitous day and on to better times.

Godspeed Boston.

Standard
Canada, History, Humor, Montreal, Weekly Writing Challenge

Don’t ask for the subway in Mun-tree-all unless you’re hungry

This week’s Weekly Writing Challenge: A Manner of Speaking may have been devised with Montréal in mind. Montréal is the largest city in the Canadian province of Québec, and a hotbed of mispronounced words, words borrowed from one language to another and local slang. If you ask the federal government about official languages they’ll tell you Canada is officially a bilingual country; English and French. Ask the same question of the provincial government and you’ll be told Québec has but one official language, French. But that’s a topic for another post at another time.

… locals call it Muntreal, never Mawntreal

Historical language make-upFlag_of_Montreal.svg

Throw into the mix a whole bunch of immigrants from all over the world and you have a real linguistic mishmash. Although Montréal is a predominantly French-speaking city, a large portion of the population functions in English. There is an influence, albeit not as strong as it once was, from the English-speaking early settlers of the city.  As the municipal flag indicates, there were four founding groups: The English (rose), Irish (shamrock), Scottish (Thistle) and French (fleur-de-lis). Of course as part of North America English has, and always will, play a major role in the city.

Local pronunciation

The first linguistic twist you encounter here is the pronunciation of the city’s name in English; locals call it Mun-tree-all, never Mawntreal. By all means say it in French, Mon-royAL but the half-way, drawing-out of the letter o will peg you as an outsider right off the bat. I understand people from Missouri say Missoura, and Cincinnati say Cincinnata and I gather residents of Baltimore are fond of Bal’more. So this civic slang isn’t unique to Montréal, but it is an excellent indicator of who is a native, and who is visiting or a newly arrived resident.

… if you ask someone where the subway is they will probably point you in the direction of a restaurant specializing in long sandwiches

There was a time, about a generation ago (maybe two), when many things were anglicized.  Now that most people are at least comfortable with the French pronunciations things are different. However, I have relatives who, years ago, lived on a street called de L’Epee which was always called de leppy. My mother was born on rue de saint-vallier which was known by most as Decent Valley Street. A manner of speaking indeed, the pronunciation of these streets was purely phonetic to an English ear. Back when these bastardizations were in vogue even French-speaking locals used them when they were speaking English, as though the street had two names.

Borrowed words

Depanneur-ville-emardIn Montréal, whether you’re English- or French-speaking, the underground transit system is called the Métro,  never the subway. If you ask someone where the subway is they will probably point you in the direction of a restaurant specializing in long sandwiches. We don’t have corner convenience stores or 7-Elevens here, well we do, but they are referred to as dépanneurs, or deps for short, by most people regardless of language.

Mind you it works both ways; an English-speaking person looking for a place to leave their car may ask for stationnment. While a French-speaking person will ask for le parking. 

But it’s all part of what makes Montréal tick; a little Europe in North America. The evolution of two languages living cheek-by-jowl and influencing each other.

Standard
Advertising, Humor, Hurricane Sandy, Weekly Writing Challenge

Weekly Writing Challenge: Image vs. Text – Viagra advertisement

The Weekly Writing Challenge offered the theme of Image vs. Text this week. This brought advertising to my mind. The concept of what is called direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs differs greatly in Canada when compared to the United States. In the US these ads provide details on what the drug treats and then go into chapter and verse about potential side effects. They usually end with a phrase such as “ask you doctor if (insert drug name here) is right for you”. The goal is to have people arrive at the doctor’s office with their requests for these drugs, before they have even been diagnosed by the doctor.

In Canada the ads are much stricter and simpler; the product can be displayed, but you can’t say what it’s for. According to the Health Council of Canada (emphasis is mine):

Direct To Consumer Advertising is prohibited under two provisions in Canada’s Food and Drugs Act, which is enforced by Health Canada. Despite this prohibition, Health Canada currently allows two forms of advertising:

• Reminder ads: these include only the brand name and no health claims or hints about the product’s use. No risk information is required. In the US, reminder ads are prohibited for products with “black box” warnings of serious risks on their label.

• Disease-oriented or help-seeking ads: these do not mention a specific brand but discuss a condition and suggest consumers ask their doctor about an unspecified treatment. No risk information is required.

In an effort to stay within the Canadian rules I propose the following three-step concept for a very popular blue pill:

BEFORE

Viagra

AFTER

Standard
Blogging, Books, Humor, Weekly Writing Challenge

Weekly Writing Challenge: Hope I’m not paid by the word

This week’s Weekly Writing Challenge: the Devil is in the Details gives me an opportunity to defend my tight writing style. So let me come at the theme  from a different angle. It’s a matter of degrees, in fact about 180°. I’m not a big fan of lengthy, flowery, detail-laden writing; I’m economical with words – maybe even cheap. I much prefer Hemingway to Dickens and Simenon to Proust. However, in keeping with the theme I will try, using as many details as I can, to illustrate why I’m not a detail writer.

“A woman walks into a restaurant” – okay, I’m good with that – next. I‘d rather the author got on with the narrative than spent several paragraphs describing things. I like to think readers have their own imaginations and for each of them the restaurant will be different based on their own experiences. For this same reason I don’t like when authors, or anyone for that matter, read from a novel. I understand it is a great honor to have so-and-so read from their best-selling work. But I already have the characters’ voices in my head. I don’t want to be thrown a curve by an author who uses a different accent for a favorite character of mine when reading from his or her book. I believe the reading of books is a personal thing. But I digress.

“Outside the temperature is below freezing, and the restaurant is overheated and crowded, a victim of its own recent success due primarily to a glowing review in a local newspaper. The steam on her glasses renders her blind as she attempts to find her husband who is waiting for her. She stands still hoping her glasses will clear before she walks into someone or worse, knocks over a tray of drinks. Suddenly she is taken aback as her glasses come off and now her vision is blurred not by steam, but by her severe myopia. Before she can react a kind voice says ‘Let me rescue you darling, I knew this would happen’ as her husband wipes her glasses, hands them back to her and leads her to their table.”

I’d prefer:

“A woman walks into a hot restaurant on a freezing night and because it is so hot and crowded her glasses fog up. She doesn’t want to bump into anyone so she stands still before looking for her husband. But he is a step ahead of her and takes her glasses, wipes them off and shows her to their table.”

That’s 125 words in the first version and 60 in the second. I realize that if I were paid by the word I’d be in a pickle, but that’s just me!

Standard