What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Part 2

I left Québec City the next morning for my lunch date in Montréal with CoCo, my day-job colleague whom I’d not yet met in person. Originally from Egypt but living in Montréal for 40 years now, CoCo is a quintessential Montrealer — a classy, multilingual woman in her early 60s who loves to laugh and has a deep but unassuming understanding of what savoir-vivre is about. The drive into the busy city earlier provided my first sign that I’m destined for Montréal: although I had only consulted a rudimentary map the day before, I was able to navigate my way without problem directly to our rendez-vous spot in the heart of downtown.

After lunch and meeting other colleagues in offices at Place Ville-Marie, I found my way to the B&B where I was staying and had a nice long chat with the friendly and hospitable owner. After a little nap and a shower, I had supper in The Village and eventually, taking advantage of the sultry night air, sat among the people gathered in the little park across from Saloon on Ste-Cat and sipped on orange-flavoured coffee from Starbucks. Summers were made for Montréal, or perhaps it’s the other way around, but it doesn’t matter. It is simply a delight just to be there on such an evening.

That’s when a slighter, younger and bespectacled Naveen Andrews lookalike sat on a marble block diagonally from me.

Given that I have repeatedly failed Cruising 101 and, as a result, live in constant fear of having my gay membership card revoked, the best I could muster after a while was a smile when our eyes locked but for a few seconds. I quickly convinced myself that the smile was reciprocated only out of politeness and refused to believe that I, and not some other younger character near me, was the object of his occasional nonchalant glances in my direction. So convinced was I that when I began to have a headache, which I assumed was due to the heat and eating too late, I merely got up, smiled as I walked by him, and left the park.

Later I learned that he followed me until he lost me in the crowd on Ste-Cat.

What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Part 1

I turned 42 at 1:25 this morning. And my vacation ends today, too. That first statement is banal, but the second refers to a rather extraordinary event. For although I was only gone for a week, I feel as though I packed in much more than a week’s worth of everything.

On Day 1, I drove out of Halifax shortly before 7:00 am and reached Québec City in what seemed like a flash. It was rather grey and miserable when I left, but by Moncton I could see a clear delineation of the cloud line to the west: I was driving into blue skies and, indeed, by Fredericton, I was privied to a marvelous summer day that persisted right through to Québec City.

I had no trouble finding the hostel where I was staying, although I must say that referring to it as a hostel is extending the meaning of that word. It was very clean and the outside of the building was promising, but it’s really more of a sauna where the hotel section was an afterthought. Not that I have anything against saunas, but the accommodations weren’t up to the standards of the B&Bs to which I’ve become accustomed in Montréal. But on the bright side, it’s located just within the walled city which makes QC — in my opinion — the most historically and culturally amazing city on this continent.

The same cannot be said of gay life in QC, though. Although the population of the metropolitan area is more than twice Halifax’s, it is quite possibly more provincial. There is precisely one club worth mentioning, and drag queens are the big thing there at the exclusion of other “gay things,” plus I found the people remarkably standoffish. I had heard that about QC, but it was very apparent to me this time. But there’s always a bright side: I found that a delightful restaurant, Le Hobbit, still existed at the corner of St-Jean and Ste-Geneviève. I had a memorable supper there 17 years ago with Poupoune and her partner at the time, so while I waited for my meal on the sidewalk terrace, I couldn’t resist calling Poupoune from my cell phone and leaving her a voice-mail message.

My last stop before turning in that night was at Porte St-Jean to listen to a small group of Latino buskers. I had no idea how prescient that moment would be.

Yes

— The laundry’s done, the cell phone’s charged, and I’ve put out several work-related fires today. I only have one more e-mail to write and pack some clothes in my suitcase.

— At this rate, I should get about 6 hours sleep for my drive to Québec City tomorrow.

DC was over late this afternoon and early evening, and he really is delicious.

— For the TMI file: I think I could easily turn into a little piggy. 😛

I’m off and I’ll probably not be writing again here until late next week. So, see ya!

Always More Complicated Than Expected

On the plus side, I’m making progress with my work. On the down side, as always, it’s taking a lot more time than I thought it would.

When I decided to postpone my departure for Québec City to Thursday morning, I knew that I wouldn’t complete what I started. But I postponed anyway because I know that if I didn’t solve a particular puzzle with which I’m struggling, I would be haunted by it all the time I’m away but unable to try out my latest “bright idea.” I’m glad I booked those accommodations in QC and Montréal, for if I hadn’t, I could see myself cancelling my trip so that I could finish. But that would be really bad, because my next extended vacation won’t occur until well into 2008. I only get 16 vacation days at the day job and we’re not encouraged to take them all at once.

I’m not sure how much more work I’ll get done today, for I also have to do some laundry and generally get ready for my trip. Plus DC (i.e., “delicious character”) may be paying me a visit sometime today. So much to do! Ah-hum! 🙂

What’s the Use of the Penny?

An in-depth article has just appeared on the cbc.ca website arguing the pros and cons of abolishing the Canadian penny and eventually the nickle, as Australia and New Zealand have done in the early 1990s.

I recall in Halifax in the early ’90s, several years after the replacement of the $1 bill by the “loonie” and shortly after the replacement of the $2 bill by the “toonie,” the Barrington Street branch of the Toronto Dominion Bank tried to do its bit to get rid of the penny by accepting it but not giving it out. The argument went along the lines that it costs more to handle the little dark coins than they’re worth. But then it seems that initiative petered out and pennies are as plentiful today as they were back then despite some claiming that each penny costs as much as 4 cents to produce.

I have a little container full of pennies on my kitchen counter — probably a few dollars’ worth. I also try to separate my nickles, dimes and quarters, and often I think of ways of offloading my accumulated quarters. Nickles and dimes are trickier, although I suppose I could burn through them quickly enough by buying a few cups of Tim Horton coffee with them. I try to use my pennies when I’m carrying them with me, but that’s not often because I methodically empty my pockets when I come back home and throw them in that penny container which by now is almost overflowing.

I’m just one of 32 million Canadians with a container full of pennies I don’t recirculate, and the Desjardin Group estimates in that article that each Canadian on average is holding on to about six dollars’ worth. That’s $192,000,000. Given that one can hardly make a full purchase with a dollar coin these days, I think it may well be time to get rid of the penny and start using the “Swedish rounding” method described in that article.

And I wonder when, if ever, the Americans will replace all $1 bills with $1 coins in their currency.