I Wish Summer Never Ended

By all accounts, with the exception of one canicule (heatwave) at the beginning of June, it hasn’t been very summer-like in Montréal. Well, from what I’ve been gathering by checking the weather back in Halifax or Moncton, it’s been better here than there. But despite this not being an idyllic summer yet, Montréal is definitely in full summer mode and it’s an especially fantastic place to be from May to October.

As Tornwardo mentioned in his blog post today, the city is trying something new this year: closing off Sainte-Catherine from Berri to Papineau from June 17 to September 2. I was walking in the Village last night around midnight and the street was a beehive of activity (and “beehive” doesn’t just refer to the drag queens’ hairdos). In addition to extended patios at numerous establishments, the city also parked several “green cars” along the street — sculptures resembling cars but covered with green plants. It could be that it was busier last night than it will be through the summer because it was the first weekend of the street closure plus Tuesday is la St-Jean (the “national” holiday), but still, it was really cool. More than usual, though, I really wished last night that I could have been soaking it all up arm-in-arm with Esposo.

While at Club Sandwich for a heart attack on a plate poutine, a group of six sat at the table next to me. Three were older transsexuals, with one in particular being quite convincing as a plausible, strong-featured Québec woman of a certain age were it not, upon closer observation, for the manly arms. Sitting next to her was a man who was subtly yet unmistakenly affectionate towards her. At one point he declared (in French), “Well, I’m 72!” Several people at the other tables turned around and I think we all agreed he didn’t look a day over 60, if that. I returned my attention to my poutine, thinking once again how a scene like this — people of all ages comfortably out and about late at night — is what makes Montréal such a great city to live in.

In a few minutes, I’ll be heading to the airport to pick up Hiker (a.k.a. Brad) and Bello (a.k.a. Jeff) who are coming here for a few days to take in some of what makes this city so great. There seems to be a comedy of errors on whether or not I should bother going to the airport to taxi them into the city, but since I got their messages too late, I’m going to stick to the original plan and go. We might have a drink downtown if they’re up for it.

The first week I’m in Mexico, one of my brothers and his wife will be staying at the apartment. And late in the week, the Queen of Sheba confirmed that she’ll be coming for a long-weekend visit on August 7. Others may be reserving a spot, too, which is great. I chose to be part of this city after several visits, so I understand what draws people here. The jazz festival starts in a few days; summer here is one long festival, it seems; and, the museums and culture generally are wonderfully vibrant. What is there not to love about this place, especially in the summer!

Just Another Busy Week

There have been times in the last three months when it seemed that the reunification with Esposo, although again temporary, would never come — a state of affairs that would get both of us down at times despite my propensity to put a positive spin on things. But finally, now it’s just around the corner. Indeed, by this time next week, I’ll be rushing around to pack and get ready for the trek back to Mexico City on the 29th. This time I’ll be flying Continental with a long layover in Newark on the way over, but that inconvenience is well worth the more than 400-dollars savings over what the other airlines, particularly Air Canada, had to offer.

The day job has continued its hectic pace. At some points this week, I became quite frustrated with one of my colleagues. But now it’s Saturday and I look back and think, “It’s just an effin’ job.” Moreover, I’m just days from being away from it all for two weeks. That helps me put things in perspective again: work is the means that allows one to live.

When I listen to the news the least bit, though, I can’t shake the feeling that living is becoming really tough economically. The price of fuel is reaching the stratosphere, which is dragging upwards the cost of just about everything else, especially foodstuff. I shake my head in disbelief each time I pay over $3.50 for a very ordinary loaf of whole wheat bread, yet at the same time I recognize that, with the global food crisis, things are so many times worse elsewhere in the world. At least here we still have access to a vast variety of food and it still doesn’t cost something unsustainable like 70 percent of monthly earnings.

This week was the week when I can say I wrapped up my Québec residency. I finally have the car’s license plate and proper insurance coverage as of Thursday, as well as medical and prescription coverage from work. Formally establishing my residency here was the essential component before stepping forward with everything else. State medical coverage is the centrepiece of proof of residency which, within Canada, only starts on the three-month anniversary following a move. So, technically, I’m still a Nova Scotian until July 1.

On this beautiful sunny Saturday in Montréal, which finally feels like summer again after nearly a week of autumn-like weather, I have to admit that I’m feeling a bit dazed. So much has been done — much of which I didn’t think would be so damn difficult — yet so much is left to be done. They say patience is a virtue, but there comes a time when I get sick of being so damn virtuous!

No wonder I’m so looking forward to the 29th.

A Far More Successful Week

Women Wearing HijabMy dealings this week with the RAMQ (Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec) have restored my hopes with bureaucracy in Québec after my pull-your-hair-out frustrating experience with the SAAQ (Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec).

One thing that really bothered me at the SAAQ is that three out of the four people with whom I had the most dealings at that agency, in addition to being arrogant, somehow managed either to make an inappropriate remark about non-Québécois or to demonstrate that stereotypical narcistic view francophones here are often accused of having. At the RAMQ, on the other hand, I spent a lot more time than everyone else in the waiting room, as my request was clearly more involved and complicated than seeking some kind of reimbursement. However, when my number was finally called and I sat down at the assigned wicket, I was somewhat surprised but pleased to be greeted by a lovely, smiling young woman wearing glasses and a hijab.

She was in the advanced stages of training, so another woman about my age sat next to her and verified that she was doing everything correctly. The thing is, she was! She was utterly competent, always two steps ahead of her mentor, explaining everything to me clearly as if she had been doing this job for years. Her French accent was neutral: not overly Québécois, but certainly not European, either. She was a pleasure to deal with, and she set me on my way in 15 minutes. (Of course, it helped that I had all the necessary documents.)

I needed to take a leak before leaving the building and heading back home, but before entering the washroom, I realized I had forgotten my bag at her desk. I turned around, went back to her desk, to find she was already serving someone else …in fluent English. Although I suspect she is not first-generation to Québec, in my eyes she perfectly illustrates the benefits of “reasonable accommodations”: the public service has a stellar employee who’s a net asset to our society, and her hijab is, as it should, as banal as someone wearing a discreet gold chain with a cross. Whoopy ding!

Cleopatrick also had a successful, productive week, and directly and indirectly, his encounters within the cultural mosaic of Montréal have provided him with renewed energy in his endeavours. He came back with an interesting factoid about this neighbourhood (Côte-des-Neiges), namely that over 110 nationalities are represented within its boundaries. My sister who was visiting last weekend noticed the difference between now and when she lived in this neighbourhood 30 years ago. At that time, the neighbourhood was still predominently Jewish, but today, within a few blocks of the Snowdon metro as we went on a quest to find her a hair brush, we surely came across people from every continent, yacking away in their native tongue as well as French or English while paying for their new wares. It’s wonderful!

Next Wednesday I hope to have some time to go downtown to take a Spanish placement test. If I can’t make it on Wednesday, I can go any other day but will have to pay $20 for the test. I may just do that if I have to, because getting into a class in September is more important to me than a lousy $20.

Shocking, Sad, Unbelievable

I just came back from the Village. I was sitting in the park at Panet and Ste-Catherine having my first coffee of the day — there’s a reason it was so late, but never mind for now — when I noticed a dog climb on the ledge of an opened window at the top of a three-floor building across the street. I was in disbelief in what I was seeing, and yes, the dog kept going and jumped. He (I’ll assume it was a “he” for the sake of this story) hit a passing pedestrian on the head, but didn’t fall directly on him — not enough to buffer his fall in any way. And then he laid still on the sidewalk, with everybody gathering, slack-jawed and looking at him, not really knowing what to do.

Eventually, what seemed like the dog’s master came downstairs and carried away the limp dog whose legs, mind you, seemed to be sticking straight out. I was too far away to tell if he had survived the fall, though I doubt it. About ten minutes later, we saw the dog’s master carrying him away in a car.

That prompted one of the guys in the park to speculate that the master was getting rid of the evidence: “Leaving a dog unattended with an open window like that, that’s a crime,” he said in broken French suggesting English is his first language.

Funny how, once again, I don’t assume the worse of people. When I saw the visibly upset master take away the dog from the sidewalk and then by car, I assumed he was rushing it to a vet, although, as I said, I couldn’t tell from my vantage point if he was still alive. And prior to the dog being taken away, I sat in the park wondering to myself what would ever provoke a dog to jump like that. It’s not like the building was burning, so this act seemed extremely counter to a dog’s instincts. It’s not even like he seemed to be chasing anything and “forgot” that, as a dog, he couldn’t fly or land on his feet as a cat might have been able to do.

One thing’s for sure: When Tadzio moves in, the screens in this apartment are going back in the windows. He may be a cat but he’s not a young thing anymore, and I don’t want us to find out if he could pull off landing three stories down should he take the notion of giving it a whirl.