They Came, Ate, Shopped, Ate, and Left

The day trip to Halifax today by my Mom, Dad and Sis went very well. Like last year, Mom and Sis came bearing gifts. 🙂

Unlike me, they love to shop; like me, however, they’ve got a knack for finding bargains. They also both have an eye for the kind of clothes I like: a little loud, a little edgy, but never lapsing into stuff a guy my age shouldn’t be wearing. (I melt in embarrassment for those guys my age who insist on wearing stuff that’s intended for the early-20s market.) In short, they got stuff that I can wear while visiting clients, that is respectable but not stuffy. I don’t see how, in my line of work, wearing a tie makes me look more “professional.” (By the way, one of my linguistic pet peeves in to declare anything as “looking professional.” But I won’t get into that right now.)

Sis, who’s a physiotherapist and very healthy and youthful at 49 — Poupoune agrees just a bit too strongly on that point 😛 — pointed me to a few links online on the Montignac “diet” method. She’s no fanatic about the method; in fact, her point to me today was, “The bottom line is how you feel comfortable with yourself.” My bottom line is that I want to look as good as she does.

Meanwhile, as I think of how low Dad’s health reached in 2001, I’m so impressed that he made it to Halifax two years in a row. In fact, he drove most of the way this time, handing over the wheel to Sis only to drive into the city. These days, driving is one of the few activities Dad can do and take pleasure in.

And of course, no visit by Mom would be complete if she didn’t bring me some of her (what ought to be) world-famous sucre à la crème (fudge). When an older French Canadian lady decides that she’s going to make some of this sweet stuff, get the hell out of her way! You’ll never be able to beat her. Never.

I Like Subways Even More

About two months ago, I wrote about a particularly memorable train trip to Montreal in 1974. But I believe that my first trip to Montreal was in October 1972 — I would have been in Grade 2 — and that would have been the first time I got to travel in a subway. And being so young and impressionable and from tiny little Moncton, the subway impressed me so much that it remains a simple but efficient mode of transportation that still fascinates me to this day.

I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to subways than le métro de Montréal. Inaugurated less than a year before the start of Expo ’67, the métro was the world’s first entirely rubber-tired underground system, and among the first (along with Stockholm’s) to include public art in all stations. I distinctly remember the smell of rubber in the Bonaventure station, then the western terminal of the orange line, a few tunnels away from Gare Centrale where our train from Moncton had just arrived.

Today the métro has more than twice as many stations as it did back then. In ’72, there was only one point where the lines met. The orange line ran between Bonaventure and Henri-Bourrassa (still the eastern terminal to this day, although a three-station expansion to Laval is currently in the works — the first expansion to the system since 1988). The western terminal of the green line was Atwater, whereas it is now many miles further at Angrignon, and was extended far to the east for the 1976 Olympics. The blue line simply didn’t exist yet, but the short yellow line to Longueuil did and has never been expanded.

The name of some stations have changed — mostly unfortunate changes. The originally unique hub station went from the rather poetic Berri-de-Montigny to Berri-UQAM. And some time after the death of former mayor Jean Drapeau (who presided over the realization of the métro, Expo ’67 and the ’76 Olympics), ÃŽle-Sainte-Hélène was renamed Jean-Drapeau.

beaudry.jpgWhen I go to Montreal, I mostly travel on the green line from Charlevoix. One station east of Berri-UQAM is Beaudry, which is in the heart of the gay village. You can’t miss it; when the STCUM renovated the outdoor portion of the station, it had no qualms in displaying the colours of that part of the city. I guess that’s just another reason why I like Montreal as much as I do…

I Like Street Names

I like to take note of cities’ and towns’ street names. It’s a nerdy thing to do, but I’ve always done it.

Few are the cities and towns that don’t have their Main Street. Halifax is one of the few that doesn’t. There’s a Main Avenue in a mostly residential part of the city (off the peninsula), but no Main Street. Halifax’s main downtown street, arguably, is Barrington Street. (I say “arguably” because the main thoroughfare on the peninsula is probably Robie Street, which the town of Truro, 90 kilometres north, also has.

As well, few are the cities in English Canada that don’t have a King Street and a Queen Street. Prince and Princess can also be expected in these towns. Halifax has ’em all; I know Toronto has King and Queen; Moncton has King, Queen and Princess. In Saint John, New Brunswick, King Street is officially the main street. It’s also known as the shortest main street in Canada, and it’s in a city whose “downtown” is uptown.

I particularly like street names that are unique to a town or city.

¤ Toronto has its Yonge Street (pronounced “young”) and the oddly named, I-don’t-know-what-I-am Avenue Road. Bay Street, while perhaps not unique, is the Canadian equivalent of Wall Street.

¤ Moncton has Mountain Road. Additionally, some Moncton planner with dillusions of grandeur or a deranged sense of humour managed to make Hollywood and Vine intersect in a comfortable residential part of the city.

¤ Halifax has Barrington Street, Hollis Street, Spring Garden Road, Quinpool Road, and Gottingen Street.

¤ Montreal has Boulevard de Maisonneuve, Rue Sainte-Catherine, and Boulevard René Lévesque (formerly Rue Dorchester).

¤ As a kid, I used to spent a week or two each summer in Rivière-du-Loup, whose hilly main street is Rue Lafontaine. (One of my aunts, who has lived all of her 65 years in Rivière-du-Loup, still calls her town of residence “un maudit trou” [“a friggin’ hole”].)

Finding street names interesting: You can’t get nerdier than that! :->}

Saddam Now Runs a Convenience Store

Two Lebanese brothers run a modest convenience store in my delightful Hydrostone neighbourhood of Halifax. One a particularly frigid day early this winter, Indiana Jones dropped by to buy a pack of smokes. He was wearing a heavy coat, sporting a red star on his lapel — a leftover prop from K19: The Widowmaker, filmed in part in Halifax a few years ago — and one of those fur hats we’ve all come to associate with the Russians.

The brothers know all their regulars and speak to all of them — all of us — as though we’re long-lost friends. They’re wonderful, warm, funny and friendly. On the day Indiana went to their store decked out as he was, one of the brothers laughed and started to refer to Indiana as Mikhail Gorbachev. And without missing a beat, Indiana greeted him as Saddam, and the other brother as Mu’ammar.

So you heard it at aMMusing first: Saddam now runs a convenience store in Halifax.

And, for the record, they still call me Maurice, a name they like because they have a brother back in Lebanon with the same name.

Disclaimer: There is NOTHING about the brothers to suggest they’re in any way a threat to anyone’s security just because they immigrated to Canada from the Middle East. In fact, I believe they’re Christian, not Muslim, if that really matters. Still, I doubt their dark hair and olive skin would make transit through U.S. airspace very easy…