I'm not all that thrilled with the whole "Christmas decorations go up right after Halloween" commercial greedfest. At least in the US, there's Thanksgiving to break up the two month stretch. Christmas Carols I divide into 2 groups: traditional ones, which I love until I've heard each one for the 100th time that year, and which point they annoy me; and newer ones, which annoy me from the first time I hear them. Did I mention "bah humbug."
After the parade, we went to the nearby mall to have a bite of bad food and pick up a couple of items we needed. They had some entertainment, which was good because I was watching the kids while Nom braved the lines. By that time, Wallstreet had fallen asleep, but Hedgefund enjoyed the juggler dressed as an elf (complete with Spock ears). As jugglers go, he was kind of lame, but for a 4-year old, it was great.
Okay, a good start to the Christmas season; I'll see if I can keep my (limited) holiday cheer attitude for another 6 weeks.
Pastel,currently thenew 'in' restaurant in Montreal. We went there last night courtesy of MTL à Table, which as mentioned previously, is like restaurant week most other places, but with l'accent français(*1).
'Cheap Chic' is our term to going to classy restaurants on the cheap: luncheon specials, late night specials (well, before we had kids), or restaurant weeks. Usually have their best dishes at a fraction of the price. Usually, we don't have drinks or coffee there, so they really make no money on us.
Nom made the reservations. Initially we were told they were full up the day(s) we wanted. She called back with a different plan. Eventually they saw reason. Which is to say, the 6thtime she called, I heard someone in the background say, "It's heragain. Give her a dang table or she'll keep calling!(*2) Contrary to the cliché of Asian women, she is about as passive and submissive as the average mule. Make that 2 mules. Or 10. Anyhow, she can be rather persistent.
Been there when it was something else. Even in a city with as many good restos as Montreal, there are still just so many venues, and fancy restaurants rarely last that long. When we walked in, Nom introduced herself, and the hostess turned the manager, and said, "it's that annoying Vietnamese woman who kept calling, seat her quickly(*2)." They found us a place in the far corner where the kids wouldn't disturb the other dinners.
Avant garde food. Avant garde is French for "overpriced, tiny portions, and totally awful." In this case 2 out of 3. The portions were filling, only if you were a squirrel ("Hey Rocky, watch me pull a dinner out of my hat"). And only overpriced if you went on a regular night, something like 50$/course. Very involved food. I confess I'm a little tired of overly-involved, pernickety, lets-see-how-many-weird-ingredients-I-
The kids were largely well-behaved. They had wanted to blow out candles. At the resto we went to the other night, they amused themselves by blowing out the little tea candle on the table. We thought we'd be clever and bring some extra candles (found some spare birthday candles in a drawer) that I could repeatedly light for them from the tea candle and they could then repeatedly blow out. Curses, foiled again! They didn't have tea candles, or any other candles, on the tables. Kids were disappointed, so when we got home, I found some matches, set up 2 candles, and let them take turns blowing them out(*3).
*1 Which is to say the waiters speak through their noses which are tilted in the air.
*2 Perhaps a slight exaggeration for comedic effect. There will be some of that in this conte.
*3 If I'd let them keep going, it would have been hours of fun for them, seconds of fun for me. Did have a dozen turns each, and felt satisfied at that.
Further on the list of mis-timed events, Hedgefund's swimming lesson was supposed to be tonight. As we were en route, got a text, first from a friend whose daughter takes lessons at the same time, then from the teacher, saying it had been cancelled because they were doing maintenance on the pool. Grrr. We had already planned on going out for dinner after, so we stopped at a park near old condo (both the swimming and the restaurant were near there) so the kids could play a bit. Well, Hedgefund played, Wallstreet is his mother's son (and especially his late paternal grandmother's grandson) and doesn't like cold, so he and Nom hung out in the car.
The dinner was part of Montreal à Table, an annual 2-week event with specials at different restaurants to encourage people to try them. The one we went to, called Asado, was in the same location, and under the same management, as another place Nom had wanted to try, but had closed before we could try it. Would rate it, "glad we went, but no need to go back." Asado is Spanish for "roast." Not sure I thought the food was very Latin American, but the atmosphere (including the music) was. For some reason, the décor tickled some memory of someplace I once was eating or drinking (or wenching?) in Chile, although I don't remember it well enough to say why.
SEA… well BEACH anyhow: Yesterday, we took the kids to the beach. Was supposed to be Hedgefund's swimming lesson, but it got cancelled. We got the call when we were already en route, with bathing suits under our clothes. We tried to think of something else to do, and Nom remembered she always wanted to visit the beach/nature preserve at Cap St Jacques. My usual feeling about beaches is "have a nice time, I'll pack you sandwiches and sunscreen," but it was a family outing. There was an organic farm, which had some animals that you couldn't pet; and lots of flies, which were quite happy to pet you. Then we went to the beach. Pristine water, sparkling sand… okay, not even close. North shore of Montreal Island is a very far cry from a Caribbean island in more than straight-line distance. Murky water and more mud than sand. Still, it was a beach, and the kids enjoyed wading and splashing.
SUSTENANCE & SOCIETY: (Wanted something closer to ethno-cultural identity, but "society" was the best I could manage that would alliterate. Hoisted on my own petard by that alliteration thing.) Yeah, anyhow, for Breakfast had lox and bagels, for Lunch had poutine, and for Dinner had bún thit nuong. Somewhere in there had some tea, even if didn't have Tea. Yup, touched all the ethno-cultural culinary bases in one day.
Were going to go to the Granby Zoo, which is a large, well-regarded zoo over an hour from Montreal, but we had other things to do, and since doing anything with small kids takes 2-3 times longer than planned, we checked and found a smaller one right on Montreal Island, the Ecomuseum Zoo. (Not entirely sure what is with Quebec's "Ecomuseums" but they are small, specialized "museums" scattered around the province.) It was much closer, much smaller, and much cheaper admission.
Birds (ducks, turkeys, eagles, crows, ravens)
Mammals (deer, martens, fishers, lynx, otters, coyotes, wolves, bears, racoons, porcupines)
The kids more-or-less enjoyed it, probably enjoyed the playground area more than the exhibits. (The bear was sleeping, and the lynx were hiding, but the otters were being playful as usual. I like otters.) I think they would have enjoyed a petting zoo more. Birds and turtles not good for petting, and frankly even some cuddly-looking animals like racoons tend to bite if you get close to them. Wolves, coyotes (outside of a Mercy Thompson novel), and bears are right out.
I've never been big on amusement park rides. The concept of paying good money for something designed to evoke sensations a normal person tries to avoid (nausea & overwhelming fear - they're there for a reason) makes no sense to me. If I wanted to do that, I could more simply and cheaply walk through a bad neighborhood with 20$ bills hanging out of my pockets. As a teenager, I once or twice went to an amusement park near me, called Adventurers Inn, but I don't recall much about it. I doubt I went on any of the rides. I've been
We bought a season pass, because they were on sale for only 2$/person more than single entry. (And before you scoff, Nom has scheduled us to go back tomorrow.) First thing was going on the mini-rail, an elevated monorail that loops around the park. Well, it was supposed to loop around the park, but due to the installation of the fireworks launcher (they have a twice weekly international fireworks competition in summer), it only went halfway around, and we had to walk back. Then we had overpriced lunch (tomorrow we're bringing our own food) and went on the kiddie rides. That's about my speed (literally and metaphorically). Hedgefund really liked the carrousel ponies that went up-and-down. I rode next to her, and Wallstreet, being the sensible tyke that he is (takes after his papa), rode on one of the fancy, fixed benches with Nom. I think the waiting times to get on the rides were longer than the rides, but not outrageous like at Disney Land/World/Universe. They had fun. Hedgefund really enjoyed the rides, and Wallstreet tolerated them, plus just enjoyed looking and people and things (which he could have done just as well on a crowded downtown street). Surprisingly, I enjoyed it too. Obviously enjoyed being with my family and seeing them having such fun, but kind of directly enjoyed it.***
*It was built as the amusement park for the Expo 67 Worlds Fair. I dimly remember coming up here with my family as a child for Expo 67. I was kept open as a stand-alone for quite a while, went bankrupt, then was bought up by Six Flags. It is the largest amusement park in Quebec, second largest in Canada; I don't know where it stands on world rankings, if there is such a thing. It is on one of the smaller islands near Montreal (which itself is actually on an island in the middle of the St. Lawrence River, so technically I live on an archipelago).
** Simulates being in a vehicle that rolls over, to train you how to get out of an darkened, upside down armored vehicle. It is the cabin of a vehicle attached to a frame that can roll it. The windows are blacked out, and there are a bunch of empty plastic soda bottles that bounce around to further disorient you (in a real vehicle roll over, there would be lots of things bouncing around, many of them heavy and metal). You strap in, they roll over the vehicle 2-3 times. The first go-around, they stop it on its side; the second time, they stop it completely upside down. Then you have to unstrap and extract yourself.
*** I have a bit of memory of being very small and going on some kiddie rides with my mom. I think a local dinner had a little play park on the side. I can see in my mind's eye a carrousel, but our riding on the fixed bench instead of the horses; and a bright green caterpillar with a happy face that went around a track. I wasn't scared going on the rides, but for some reason, up until now, every time I remembered that scene, I found it terribly sad. I don't know why, but every time I'd flash back to it, I'd get very sad. After taking the kids to La Ronde, I look back on that scene with something resembling happiness.
Started off the vacation with a great show. Montreal is big on festivals. Trying to prove we're a first-ranked megacity. We ain't, but we have fun. All summer there are different festivals: jazz, comedy, movies, etc. This week is Montréal Complètement Cirque ("Montreal Completely Circus"), and last night there was a free show of Phénix (https://montrealcompletementcirque.com/
We went via Metro, which was a first for the kids. They handled it well. Good. They're urban kids, they should be comfortable on the Metro. More comfortable in Montreal than NYC, because Metro here is rubber tired and therefore doesn't hurt the ears. (That's one of the things I no longer appreciate about NYC. I don't mind the bigness and crowds, I don't like noise to the level of phyically painful. Put dang rubber tires on the subways, or otherwise engineer them better.) Not all the Montreal Metro stations are stroller friendly, but I find strollers do fine on the wide escalators. For the stations that only had stairs, we just looked around for some young man looking friendly and reasonable strong to help me carry it up or down the stairs while Nom herded the kids.
Commuting: the garage door on my office building jammed (again) the other day. I was going to go home for lunch, but couldn't drive because couldn't get my car out. The concierge told me there was a taxi office just up the street. Went there. Long story short, "you have to get the app to call us." Jerks. I'm standing right there, you have drivers and taxis just sitting around, but you won't take my business because I don't have the "app." Fortunately there was a taxi from another company nearby so I went with them. Borrowed Nom's car to go back to work, then back home at the end of the day to get her and the kids. The next morning took the Metro to work. Not really bad, but just that little bit longer and more annoying which reminded me why people usually don't take mass transit when they have the option to drive: walk to the Metro station, wait for the train, (fortunately didn't have to change lines), go 2 stops, walk from the Metro station. Three times longer than point-to-point driving. In nice weather, if I'm feeling energetic, I might walk to work some days, it would be 30-40 minutes.
Cappuccino: The commercial unit across the hall from my new office had their "soft" opening. That is to say, they were sufficiently moved in that if you walked in, they would accommodate your business, but not fully up and running. It is a bicycle rental/repair shop, convenience store, and café. Not as weird as it sounds. They are on the side of the building that fronts the scenic bike path along the old Lachine Canal. The owner has bike repair/rental place about further up the bike path, but this is meant for higher-end bikes. Also, being on the path is a good location if bikers, joggers, or strollers want a cold drink, a snack, or a coffee. I'm happy to have a place in my building that offers same. I have a fridge and a coffee maker in my back office, but they have cappuccino. Frankly, not the best cappuccino, but it is there. They will have a terrasse outside. Montreal is big on terrasses during our - limited - good weather. Their main entrance is from outside along the path. However, if you live or work in the building, and have key fob for the front door, it will also let you into their store directly from the inside hallway. Very clever on the owner's part, as it makes him the convenience store for the building too.
First memory was Mom using a flour sifter. It must have been a then-modern labor-saving gizmo, you pulled a trigger on the handle, and a sifter blade swung back and forth over the screen. She also had a Mix-master, precursor of the Cuisinart, which was big, heavy, klutzy, a pain to drag down and set up, and took up half the kitchen table. The odd part, is I remember these things, but don't actually remember her doing much baking (other than later from mixes). My older sibs insist she did bake a lot at one point, but my clearest memory was of her brownies, which she modified from a mix. During one of my deployments, she sent me some of them (and my sister sent "a salami for your boy in the army" from Katz's Deli).
Later she also got cakes at a local place called Garden Bakery (at the local shoppping area/strip mall on Union Tpke, if you care). What impressed me most was they way they'd wrap string around the box of cake. A dozen times one way, then a dozen more at right angles. Always wondered why they did that. I think bakeries always did that back then, less so now, but it seemed cool to me as a small boy. Also remember next to Garden Bakery was Hamburger Coach, a little restaurant where everyone sat around a giant U-shaped table that had a Lionel train track on it. Your plates of food came out on a train of flat cars The waitress stopped the train in front of you and took the plate off the train for you, then sent the train around back to the kitchen. I suppose the U-shaped table was actually a giant O-shape with the other part behind the wall into the kitchen. Totally fascinating to a small boy. I wonder what silly little things my kids will have fond memories of.
Green stamps. Certain stores (I think mostly supermarkets) gave you these stamps for xxxx dollars in purchases. They were actual stamps, like postage stamps. They were all the same size, but different colors for different values (eg green for 1 "green stamp", up to I-forget-what-color for 50). You pasted them into books which could be brought to a redemption center for merchandise. As a kid, pasting them into books was rather fun. I suppose “loyalty cards” and points-back credit cards are a similar idea updated. Occasionally claim I'm going to have loyalty cards using a little syringe-shaped punch for Botox injections, get 9 injections and the 10th is free. (Not serious about that, way too unprofessional, although some doctors do give a freebie after xxx injections, but without the cards.)
Bagels. I think NY bagels were different when we were growing up, less puffy and more flavorful than they are now. Montreal bagels are still like that, and I don’t like NY bagels as much any more. Don’t know if NY bagels really changed over the years, or if it’s my tastes that have changed, or memory playing tricks about "the old days." (And yeah, those danged neighborhood kids need to get off my lawn when I shake my cane at them… oops, those are my kids.)
Although it was article of faith among us growing up that mom was a great cook, in fact she mostly only did very standard fare. Only after I was with my now-ex, who was really a great cook, I understood that. Nom has developed from "can't boil water without burning it," to right decent, to heading towards gonna-be-really good. For a while I did a lot of cooking, and was decent at it. Now, Nom does almost all of it, except oddly enough, pancakes and waffles for breakfast are my domain (Nom doesn’t care for same, but Hedgefund likes them.) Made French Toast once or twice, but have lost my taste for it, and no one else in the household likes it.
Parents did a lot of entertaining when I was very little, but for most of my childhood hardly ever. My memories - or rather my impression - of them are of their not at all being sociable. Maybe it was lifetime phase-specific, or maybe they never really enjoyed it later got tired of going through the motions, or maybe society changed and middle-aged, middle-class people did less entertaining in larger groups.
When I was a resident, one of my teachers said, "my patients are so loyal they'd stay with me no matter what… unless someone else opened up 10 feet closer to them." Sort of how I'm feeling right now. I've moved all of 10 minutes away from my old office, and some of the patients are whining that it is too far, or just started looking around for someone else. This is counter-balanced emotionally by those who find it much easier to get to and are happy, but they were already coming, so it's a net loss of patients. Evil Secretary is filling in as much as possible with new patients, but winter is always the slow season for us.
Montreal area is interesting in that people can be very parochial about their little municipality. In the US, people are far less concerned about driving somewhere, including to see their doctor. Frankly, I loathe communiting, and prefer everything within a short walk, whether or not I actually walk. That's the urbanite in me. Also, I logically consider transportation time to be dead time. I'm neither at work, nor at home, nor getting things done. Montreal goes beyond that. Like many cities, it was agglomerated out of smaller municipalities. Some wanted to join up, some were shotgun marriages by the province. (Too much history to blog about here.) Even saying "Montreal" is not precise, because it could refer to Montreal City proper, or the Island of Montreal (which has an over-government/counsel for certain functions). And yes, Montreal actually is an island in the middle of the St. Lawrence River, the largest of a number of grouped islands, which I suppose technically makes it an archipelago, but I digress.
So, anyhow, some of the municipalities actually are separate cities, and some are "arondissments" in Montreal City, and some are former cities which emotionally keep their identities. Maybe it's the Canadian conferation-ist mentality, but people often are resistent to going to "another municipality," even if it's only 10 minutes travel time. I think overall that feeling is less than when I first got here, but it's still there. Years back, the big divide was St. Lawrence Blvd, which officially divided East and West on the island and city. (That is, civic numbers on the longer east-west streets were something like 1234 Avenue ABC East/West, like 5th Avenue divides Manhattan in NYC.) Overall more English west, and French east, with maps in each langauge showing blank space labelled "here be monsters" (or "voici des monstres"). A secondary divide was the Decarie Expressway dividing out the WestIsland from DownTown (for a West Islander, crossing the Decarie really did imply a risk of being eaten by monsters).
When I'd moved to my old office from where I'd worked for/with another Derm, a percent of the patients didn't follow me because it was "so far away." Which is to say, 10 minutes by car, maybe 20 by metro. Now, same thing has happened. I mean I don't claim to be much, but I think I'm worth an extra 10-minute drive. I'm not really annoyed (although Evil Secretary is), more faintly amused by the whole thing. I'm not suffering from lack of patients, and we'll see how fast they can get an appointment with another Derm.
Steak for the main course for me, of course. Although Nom had lamb chops, which I think were even better. (SIL had fish. What was she thinking?) For appetizers, I had chopped liver for the first time in ages. Very heavy, but yummy. Everything at Moishe's is very heavy but yummy. Not the place if you are on a diet, especially low cholesterol diet. The cole slaw, pickles, and rye bread that served before the meal were absolutely perfect. Deliciously stuffed by the end of the meal, ended up taking dessert home.
Þ I wonder how long until: (a) I run out of synonyms for miscellanea, and (b) I have the time and energy to write a serious post.
Þ We are going to have a White Christmas. Meanwhile, have to find my heavy gloves! Had our first real snow fall 2 days ago, then today the temperature dropped to below zero on that archaic scale used south of the border (i.e. below -17 Celsius/real degrees). Actually there is one aspect of Fahrenheit I appreciate: below freezing (32º F) is cold; below zero is !☁︎&⚔☔︎&*#-ing cold.
Þ Montreal urban highway planning strikes again. Was my monthly visit to Ste Anne's (former- and still-partly, veterans hospital), which is in west end of the island. The entrance I usually take was closed, with a detour to the east. Got to the next entrance, which was also closed, with a detour back to the west, via a narrow street, which was having construction.
Þ One of the patients had a problem on her toe. Understand that she, as so many of these patients, was infirm, wheelchair-bound, & rather demented, who didn't have to go outside to see me. The floor staff dressed her in tights.
Þ We've sent out the letters for the change of address (the move will be next month). At least 5 people called Evil Secretary to ask, "so are you moving?" ("Uh, no. We only sent those letters out to patients we don't like, so in future they will go to the wrong address and stop bothering us, but since, darn it, you caught us, you can continue to be seen at the old address.") Over the past 20 years or so that we've been at this address, we've had patients who went to the wrong address blame us because: (a) we gave them the wrong address, and/or (b) we moved the building. ("Uh, yeah, it has wheels on it, but darn it, you caught us.")
Þ Finished reviewing the files for our residency applicants for next year. As promised (to Nom), I've started putting away the last boxes of stuff (with a slight detour to post this).
Eating out again tonight. (I'm such a boulevardier.) Tomorrow is our Cutaneous Lymphoma Conference and we're taking the visiting speakers out for dinner. I've been working on this conference for almost a year, but somehow feels like it snuck up on me. I'm also a bit annoyed that half our team isn't attending tonight; that's not very gracious, but the show will go on.
Griffintown is an old part of town that is becoming the new "in" neighborhood. Part was industrial and working class houses, part was just never developed until now. At one point I was thinking of moving my office there, but limited mass transit and worse parking. It's an interesting mix of old, 2-3 story brick buildings, and new medium-rise, soulless looking new condos.
( New Yorker )
( Soldier )
( Doctor )
( Family Man )
New Yorker, Soldier, Doctor, Family Man. Not a bad CV.
( (Footnotes) )
This weekend is the Grand Prix in Montreal. Grand Prix racing is even more boring than NASCAR. At least in NASCAR you can see the entire circuit as cars go 'round and 'round in an incredibly boring and predictable fashion. And if there is that one moment of interest (aka a life-threatening car crash) you will certainly see it. In Grand Prix, if you are there, you only get to see your one little corner of the track… as cars go 'round and 'round in an incredibly boring and predictable fashion. And if there is that one moment of interest (aka a life-threatening car crash) you will only see it if it happens at your one little corner of the track.
In the week leading up to it, there are various festivities designed to stimulate interest (you can see how well that works on me) and snarl downtown traffic. There is also the predictible moralists and feminists complaining about the increase in prositution (as opposed what happens during any other sporting - or rather "sporting" - event or convention that comes to town).
Yeah, so downtown was snarled yesterday by displays of cars with pretty woman standing next to them. Fortunately I was walking, so wasn't frustrated by the traffic jams. Unfortunately, I was walking, so I had to see the displays. Maybe I'm elderly and jaded, but I know what cars look like, and I know what women look like. If I really feel the need to see the one standing by the other, I'll ask Nom to come down to the garage with me. At least that's a woman I care to see.
They drove up Saturday, did some stuff during the day while I was at the conference, then met us for dinner at Gibby's, a steak house (well, lots of different foods) that's in an historical building. Great atmostphere, great food, great company.
The next morning we had brunch at Spanel, our fav crepe place that I've mentioned before. Nom and MIL took the kids to the park, while Bob & family & I went to the Chagall exhibit (see post a bit ago). Nom didn't have much interest in going, Bob and I really enjoyed it, and his family at least tolerated it After that, we went for a walk up Mt Royal. Despite Montrealers pride in it, it's really more of a large hill, formed by a (we hope extinct) volcano. First we went to the tamtamjam, then hiked up the mountain. Due to my poor land navigation skills, we spent more time going up than we should have, and due to my lack of exercise these days, my calves were sore for days afterwards. When we move, I swear I'm going to start exercising regularly again.
It was good seeing them. Would be nice to get together semi-regularly, but we live relatively far apart, and don't have any reasons to be in the same area anymore. We'll see what happens, but I suppose there's a lot of that in life. More in active duty military, but a fair amount in the reserves when you've gotten up to a higher level.
It is the 375th Birthday of the founding of the now-City of Montreal. On May 17, 1642, the city was founded by Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve, who led French missionaries and settlers onto the island. (The First Nations would disagree with the term "founding" in this sense.)
There are all sorts of celebrations today and all year, none of which I'm going to be attending. I'll wait for the 400th anniversary, because (a) I like round numbers, 375 is lame, and (b) the kids will be old enough to go see the shows.