Tag Archives: Montreal

A Year Already

It was a year ago exactly that Lucy and I finally reached Montreal after a fine car ride full of excitement, anticipation, and Boston Pizzas.

One that began in Powell River, 120 km up the coast from Vancouver, and about a million miles from Montreal in almost every other sense.

I had retired from BC Ferries, about to begin an entirely new thing with Classic Auctions in Montreal, and now suddenly, like the snap of a finger, it’s been a year already.

Classic Auctions, if you’re not aware, is the world’s biggest and best hockey historical auction house. My job is to write descriptions of the auctions pieces and go on about players and teams related to the pieces.

When we got to Montreal we didn’t have a place to live and spent a week in a hotel until we found one. It was stressful. I like hotels but when you feel you might be stuck in one for weeks, the novelty wears off.

In Montreal, apartments don’t come with fridges and stoves, which I think is unusual. And it didn’t help that we didn’t have any furniture.

Wherever I’ve been in the past, apartments have been labelled as one bedroom, or two bedroom etc. In Montreal, and I suppose throughout Quebec, they’re called 2 1/2, or 3 1/3 etc.

I still haven’t got it perfectly straight. I think a 3 1/2 is a two bedroom. I could be wrong about that. (update – I just learned from a waitress that 3 1/2 is a one bedroom.)

We finally found a lady looking to rent her furnished condo, she happened to be Russian and her and Lucy chatted away, and now it’s where we live.

About 12 minutes to the Habs rink in Brossard.

I’m not getting as lost now. My French has improved only slightly. Traffic sucks and my middle finger is getting worn out.

If some drivers knew what I was saying about them, I might be sleeping in a shallow grave right now. Tailgators, stop the madness. I already drive over the speed limit. What more do you want?

Often I think about how much I’d like to live in downtown Montreal with a cafe on the corner, but can’t because I work on the south shore and the traffic on the bridges is completely insane.

And there’s the thing about affording to live downtown which I never really considered.

I’m thinking I won’t be living downtown.

It’s been exactly a year of adventure. Hard to believe. It seems like just a few weeks ago we were packing up the car and heading to the ferry where I used to work but now was traveling on for the first leg of a long journey to a completely different job.

Maybe you think it’s unusual for me to do this. Just drop everything and move across the country. I think so too. I could be retired. I could be living on the coast where it doesn’t get very cold.

But I think those who know me well aren’t all that surprised.

 

 

For Whom The Bell Tolls

Bell

Terrific review of the Bell Centre and the area in Montreal around it, from a monthly publication, Stadium Journey Magazine, which publishes reviews of sports stadiums from around the world.

They’ve been busy. To date they’ve reviewed 1,729 different stadiums in 37 countries.

That’s a lot of stadiums.

Here’s the link – Stadium Journey. They break down the Bell, including the beer, food, atmosphere, some obstructed areas in the nosebleeds, prices, the great fans, and lots more.

And a small sampling of their review:

Montréal is a city that truly knows how to embrace the joie de vivre; the joy of living. It is a city that has so much to do, and for hockey fans, seeing the Canadiens play should be high on the list. Don’t be put off by fans who lament the new arena in comparison to the old Forum. The Centre Bell is a rarity in the modern world of sport in that it is truly home to the Canadiens and to no other team. This is an arena that has worn off its new-arena smell and has worked its way into the magnificent history it does so well to showcase.

A New Year Comin’ Up Fast

Canada plays the U.S. today in World Junior action, and it’s the Habs in Carolina this evening to meet the Hurricanes.

It’s a good hockey day, and even better if both Canada and the Canadiens win.

But before all this action takes place, I’d like to wish everyone a very great 2014. I hope it becomes a terrific year for you and yours.

2013 was a big year for Luci and I. I retired from B.C. Ferries, packed up things in Powell River, and we drove across the country to start anew in Montreal. And even with the frosty air and slippery streets, we both agree that it’s been just great and we’re excited about the new year.

Again, from me to you, happy 2014. Be safe and have fun.

Happy Grey Cup Day

The 101st Grey Cup goes today in chilly Regina, with the hometown Roughriders going helmet to helmet with the Eastern Champion Hamilton Ti-Cats.

It may be cold in Regina but it’s not exactly sunbathing time in Montreal either. It’s freaking freezing. A cold wind a ‘blowin.

Winter’s beginning. The real hockey starts.

How did I get away from the Grey Cup like that?

Go Saskatchewan.

Hoping for a high scoring affair with a last second field goal to win it.

I was at a Grey Cup game at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa in the 1980s. We sat in temporary end zone seats way too far from the action. I felt like I was sitting in west-end Ottawa and the game was in the east end.

There should be a law against bad seats at any sporting event or concert. In a perfect world, everyone would see the action just like being in front of a TV, only live.

Why don’t they make male store mannequins with beer guts? The mannequin looks like a million bucks in the store window, even without a face. But when I put on the same shirt, it’s pretty bad and it’s giving me an inferiority complex.

How’d I get away from the Grey Cup again?

Go Hamilton!

 

Letter To Them

Dear Players’ Wives,

I’m picking Luci up at the airport on Tuesday and I wanted to let you know before you become sick with worry about where I am and whether I’m okay or not.

Everything’s fine so don’t fret. Get some sleep if you can.  Once Luci and I and the cat get settled and get a few things done, I promise I’ll let you know and we can carry on trying to make you comfortable in the big city after you’ve been away all summer and are finding it difficult to adjust and need a friend while hubby’s in Philadelphia killing penalties.

I know what you’re thinking and stop, you’re embarrassing me.

More Tour, More Lunch

Went for lunch at Bar B Barn, a ribs place on Guy St. just below Ste. Catherines that my buddy Mel St. Onge in Orillia recommended. I thought it was important to go because Luci loves ribs and I decided to scout it out before she gets here.

That’s the kind of guy I am.

Are there any bad restaurants in Montreal?

Bar B Barn was down a few steps, the walls had plenty of Habs pictures, the tables had candles and red and white checkered tablecloths, and the plate had lots of food.

I felt like I had a bowling ball in my gut for about six hours afterwards.

It was good though. The $10.95 special was three big ribs, the obligatory fries (although you can get mashed or onion rings instead), along with a little dish of rice in tomato sauce, a big roll, and coffee. I had beer too. I needed to test it for temperature and freshness in case Luci decides to have one. :-)

I was in the bar area, but apparently there are two other rooms that they don’t open for lunch, so there’s lots of space. The waitress told me you don’t need reservations.

And the room I was in had a nice, Greenwich Village-type feel to it. Maybe a fine place for you to take a date.

The ribs were great. Sticky and plentiful. You might want to think about a long walk later on though if you want your pants to still fit.

Bar-B Barn

But before I went for lunch, I decided to visit McGill University. I walked the grounds and tried a few doors, but they were all locked. How’s a guy supposed to enroll as a mature student or just sit in on a class if it’s all locked up?

I though the McConnell Engineering Building would be good to visit but it was locked too. Which is too bad because I always wanted to learn how to drive a train.

McGill

McGill 2

McGill 3

After being denied entrance to McGill, which I’m going to complain to the newspapers about, I walked along Sherbrooke St. and came to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, which, as Wikipedia tells me, is where the Rolling Stones rented the entire 6th floor but weren’t allowed to eat in the dining room until they went back and got jackets.

Rolls

Ritz

Then it was down to Bar B Barn for ribs.

You’re Never Too Old

habs

For the past few day I’ve been working with a ton of game-worn Habs and Canucks jerseys. Maybe about 25 or 30 of them. I’m helping prepare them for the upcoming fall auction at Classic Auctions by describing the condition of them, giving information about the players who wore them and their teams, and making sure I mention all the marks, team repairs, unrepaired holes, board paint etc., because jersey collectors like lots of game-wear.

I photo-match many of them, I mention letters of authenticity, I work hard, not just with jerseys but with some of the most unimaginable and amazing stuff, and I learn and feel more comfortable as the days and months go by. And Luci is rejoining me in a couple of weeks and she’s bringing Teesha, the world’s most loveable cat.

If you’re reasonably healthy, never feel you’re too old to do something new and different. I started a new job 3000 miles across the country, and I’m almost 63. Believe me, the older you get, the faster time goes. Time is flying by for me now, everyone my age says the same thing, and I need to have full days while I can.

I think if you do something out of the unusual, something that makes you proud, you’ll get your blood going. Your chest will swell. And you’ll find the fountain of youth.

 

 

 

 

Two Months Now In Montreal

It’s been two months exactly since arriving in Montreal, and you bet it’s been a big change. Coming from a city of 20,000, up the coast from Vancouver, where I could bomb around town, stop at the grocery store, get some gas, go to the dump, stop at the license bureau, make my dentist appointment, and buy socks at Walmart, all in an hour or two.

That’s not the case in Montreal. We’re talking a couple of days for this kind of thing. It took me most of one day just to get my driver’s license and new plates here.

In Powell River, traffic jams mean five cars at a traffic light. Montreal isn’t quite like that. Not by a friggin country mile.

You hardly ever see a detour sign in Powell River. In Montreal however……….

I used to get upset with slow drivers on the Sunshine Coast. In Montreal, I want to slam my brakes on the next person who tailgates me when I’m already 20 kms. over the speed limit, get out and pound his or her windshield with a crowbar.

Montreal has sports talk radio, which is the first such thing I’ve heard since I moved to Powell River from Calgary 18 years ago. I listened to CBC in Powell River.

It was 99% English there. I’m living in St. Hubert now, which is 99% French.

Most Powell Riverites cheer for the Vancouver Canucks. In Montreal, it’s another team. :-)

The view’s better in Powell River, with the ocean and Vancouver Island just across the way, with fishing boats and tugs going by. However, if you’ve ever seen some of the Montreal women walking around, you might ask yourself what’s better.

From my deck in Powell River I could hear sea lions barking. I’ve yet to hear one sea lion in Montreal. Although I saw a deer on Cousineau Boulevard recently.

More often than not, strangers walking past each other in Powell River smile and say hello. Not so much in Montreal.

I’ve noticed that some shopkeepers in Montreal aren’t overly friendly. Then I remembered that some in Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, and yes, even Powell River, aren’t either.

I’ve yet to see any loggers or fishermen in Montreal.

It would be ridiculous to compare smoked meat between the two places. But the prawns in Powell River are sensational.

Beer’s slightly cheaper in Montreal, but taxes are higher.

Montreal’s downtown is fabulous and I’d love to live in the heart of it. Powell River doesn’t have a downtown. Just some shops here and there. And of course the Walmart in the mall, which isn’t really the downtown but probably is.

Luci and I grew palm trees in our yard in Powell River. Ain’t gonna happen in Montreal.

Everyone in Powell River talks about not being able to live away from the ocean. I can, and the St. Laurence suits me just fine.

Montreal gets some serious winter. Powell River dips a few degrees below zero, but it rains non-stop for four or five months. I’m not afraid of Montreal’s cold and snow. I grew up with it in Ontario. And I drove semis in it for 20 years.

The bottom line is, both places are great. I have an excellent hockey-related job. And I’m living in the home of the Montreal Canadiens, the team I’ve loved for about 57 years now.

Maybe Luci and I will end up back on the West Coast, in beautiful Powell River. But right now I’m focused on my job at Classic Auctions, which is a big learning curve to be sure, and also on living in Montreal, which I’ve wanted to do for much of my life. And Luci is embracing the whole idea.

You might ask yourself, why would he do this at his age, leaving a tranquil place with everything pretty well under control, and just take it easy instead? It’s because I’m restless, always have been, and if I turned down a chance to work at the best hockey auction house on the planet, I’d regret it for the rest of my life.

Two months now in Montreal. I can’t believe it.

 

 

 

 

Lunch At Reuben’s

Reuben's

Reuben's 2

Following my magical mystery tour yesterday (here if you want), I stopped in at Reuben’s (established 1976) for their $9.95 smoked meat special. Mike Williamson had suggested I try Reuben’s, and I was starving after roaming around looking at nearby hotel doors and glorious hockey sweaters all day, so in I went.

There are two Reuben’s, about a block apart on Ste. Catherines, just west of University. I was at the one downstairs, where for some reason, it had this nice downstairs feel to it. I like that. There’s too many restaurants out there that feel like cafeterias. So a nice, clean, dark downstairs with booths and some stained glass in the ceiling was a good place to eat smoked meat, I thought.

Reuben’s gives you the choice of lean, medium, or fatty smoked meat, which I appreciated and what sets them apart from Schwartz’s and Smoke Meat Pete’s. I chose medium, because that’s the kind of guy I am, while Schwartz’s automatically came lean and Smoke Meat Pete’s fatty. Pete’s had better french fries than Reuben’s. And they have live blues. So it’s a tough one.

I didn’t like the cole slaw at either place, and at Schwartz’s, all I had was the sandwich. So I don’t know how the fries and extras are there. But it doesn’t really matter, because I go to these places because I’m on a quest. And the quest isn’t to put on four hundred pounds.

All in all, when it came down to the nitty gritty, I feel Reuben’s smoked meat was just as good or better than Pete’s, but in my heart, not as good as Schwartz’s. But Reuben’s has kind of a old-school, downtown, downstairs Montreal feel to it, which is a real plus.

I wonder how much the leases are on stores and restaurants in areas like downtown Ste. Catherines. How many thousands a month it must be. How many smoked meat sandwiches must be sold to pay it. And how do little shops do it? That’s a lot of gum and postcards.

My meal came to me not even five minutes after I ordered. And the male server in my area serenaded the next table and continued to sing as he left and went elsewhere.

One thing I don’t have a handle on yet is how to hold a smoked meat sandwich. All three places pack nearly two inches on three tiny little pieces of rye. Picking it up means it falls all over the place. I don’t think there’s any other way. All I know is, this smoked meat thing isn’t helping my stomach.

The scoreboard reads so far – A-plus for Schwartz’s, A for Smoke Meat Pete’s and Reuben’s.

 

 

Why Some People Drink

pissed_off

Got my car license switched from B.C. to Quebec today. It only took four hours. Not counting the previous two-hour car inspection, the insurance crap, and the 400 bucks the switch cost.

I haven’t been through this much bullshit since I ran around St. Petersburg, Russia, getting papers in order so my wife and I could get married.

I was ready to pull the pin today. Get in the car, and drive back to the West Coast. I can’t handle the bureaucracy. I’m too old for this.

I did everything they asked. I got my car inspected a couple of weeks ago. I began the insurance steps. I made an appointment for 10:30 today in which they’d previously told me to bring proof of residence and ID, but when I got there this morning the guy said he needed more. He said he needed my passport. He needed proof of employment. He needed more proof of residency. What’s he think, I was living in a tent?

I’ll give all of them proof. Proof my boot fits up their ass.

So I left my appointment, drove home, got my passport, printed up my cell phone bill for proof of residency, then drove 25 km. to work to get a letter saying I worked there, then drove back to the license place, whereupon I presented myself at 1 pm and he said he’d see me at 1:15, even though no one was in line.

Then a customer showed up and was promptly served ahead of me, and I finally got to see this dude an hour later.

On top of everything, he said I have a class 1 and I’d now need a medical and have to take a driving examination, which I declined because I have no intentions of ever driving tractor-trailer again, and I promptly got rid of my class 1 with air brakes and have just a normal license now. First time since the mid-’70s.

While he was studying my class 1 (class A in some parts), he said it didn’t say anything on it about manual or automatic transmission experience. I told him I was a semi driver for 20 years, but do you think that mattered? Nope. It didn’t say anywhere on my license if I was capable of using a manual shift, and he was all screwed up because of this.

Apparently in Quebec a class 1 license specifies how you’re able to change gears. Who cares about the transmission. As long as you can go frontwards and backwards. Gawddamit.

I felt like telling this person I was shifting 18 gears when he was shifting in his baby seat and he can shove his freakin paperwork up his ass. Then I’d go home, throw everything in the car, and head back west. I came very close.

But I didn’t and it’s done. Now I’m rattled, and if you don’t hear anything from me in the next days or weeks, it’s probably because I’ve dropped dead from anxiety.