Thursday, November 30, 2006

A round for all my friends!!

I was going to respond to comments from my previous post in the comment section, but decided my idea warranted a whole entry.

I believe I’ve unlocked the reason why Montrealers are perceived to be friendlier/ chattier/ warmer than Vancouverites.

Add up the “facts” from comments to that last post, including information that was sent to me privately, and I think the reason will be obvious to anyone:

Randy extended “more friendly” to everywhere else in Canada, not just Montréal. **

SMM commented on the car culture in Vancouver, which is very, very different from Montréal’s transit culture.

Severen, who is one of those old friends I made in my first year in Montréal, and who still lives in the city, said (in an email, rather than as a comment): “I wonder if Montréal feels more like home to you because of how intense the years were. There was so much going on all the time. I just say that because, while Montréal feels like home to me, it doesn't feel "friendly".”

Massawippi, another one of that 18-25 year old gang, and who made the move to the Lower Mainland commented that “Montreal feels like home… because they sell beer and wine at the corner store.” (Which MVL challenged, but I have to agree with Massawippi, which should become clear in a minute).

Doug, who has lived in pretty well every major city in Canada, said in an email, “I love Vancouver. I have great friends, a great life, and it is certainly beautiful. But compared to Halifax or Winnipeg... well, it doesn't.”

MVL said, among other things, “as a native Vancouverite, I don't find this city unfriendly at all. My neighbours all chat, I have conversations with strangers, I find meeting people easy.”

Here’s how I add this all up.

When Severen says that my years in Montréal were “intense” and that there was “so much going on all the time” what he means, if my memory of those years is the same as his, is that we spent an enormous (probably unhealthy) amount of time drinking at pubs and going to see live music (which involved great amounts of alcohol).

Massawippi’s comment reflects the fact that the alcohol culture in Quebec is very… progressive. Kids can buy beer from the corner dep for their dad… or for themselves as long as they say it’s for Dad. And all my friends started drinking with their families as children… my brother got his own beer stein at age 5 or 6.

I don’t know Doug very well (never met him), but I know that he was born in Halifax and grew up in Winnipeg – thus his younger years were spent in the two cities he says don’t compare to Vancouver, where he now resides as an over-40 adult.

SMM’s comment can be linked to drinking and driving issues. If you’re driving everywhere, you can’t be drinking to the same degree as you can when you have a friendly bus driver to take you home at the end of the night.

And MVL, despite being 40 or older like the rest of these commenters, manages a pub as his job, and reviews live music and theatre as a hobby… and he experiences Vancouver as friendly.

Can you see where this is going?

D’uh! Cities are friendlier when you’re consuming copious quantities of alcohol and surrounded by others who are also three sheets to the wind!!

Which is why I’m going to be going out to the Whisk(e)y pub behind the Irish Heather in Gastown next Tuesday night, gettin' friendly with the locals!

** Randy I tried to find some statistics that would support (or refute) Vancouver having lower per capita alcohol consumption than other cities, but came up dry!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Vive le Quebec Libre!

Not sure this warrants epiphany classification, but I had one of those a-ha moments I so enjoy mulling. Your opinions, informed or otherwise, are encouraged – especially if I’m dissin’ your hometown.

I’ve lived in Vancouver since March 1992. That’s close to 15 years. I try to get home to Québec every year. After all this time, Québec, and Montréal specifically, still feel more like home than Vancouver.

I’ve thought long and hard about this for the last decade. Why it’s been that every trip to Québec since I left Québec, I’d arrive at Dorval/René Levesque airport and have that overwhelming sense of being in my place… of being home. And why Vancouver has never made me feel that way.

The language? Je suis Québecoise. Je suis fiere. But, I don’t think so, being an Anlgo who was raised in a family that had no love of the French language or culture. I was different from my folks (surprise!) and did become bilingual and do love the French culture, but the whole language politics drove me insane. (French must be the dominant language on all exterior signs… whatever! Depanneur… casse-croute… are there even English translations for these signed places?)

The architecture? Sure I love the brick and stone in la vielle ville, but that doesn’t explain why I feel like Montréal is home from the moment I step off the plane in that butt-ugly airport.

The air? Yes, I do feel my lungs fill more easily and more deeply in Montréal than in Vancouver. But I’ve always thought that was an emotional, rather than physical, response.

The landscape? Absolutely not. Even in autumn, when the leaves are at their most glorious in southern Québec, I still think Vancouver is geographically superior to la belle province.

Could it be that the people of Québec are the reason I’ve held on to this feeling that Montréal is my home, despite the fact that I’ve now lived in Vancouver for twice as many years as I lived on the island of Montréal?

The majority of my closest friends are still those I made when I was a Montréaler. I’ve often thought this may have to do with the age at which I made those friends – 18 through 25. Maybe making friends is harder after 25? But I don’t buy that.

My opinion: Montréalers are simply friendlier than Vancouverites.

I’m a friendly person. Friendly people, who smile at and talk to strangers, are looked upon with caution in this city. Friendly people, who smile and talk to strangers in Montréal are typically met with a return “Allo” or “Bonjour!” But why?

Today I think I figured it out part of the equation: extreme weather.

Montréal summers are unbearably hot and humid. People die as a result of the extreme heat. Montréal winters are unbearably frigid. People die as a result of the extreme cold. And those weather extremes, which Vancouver so rarely experiences, bring people together. Strangers share something in common that allows them to talk to each other on the street, on busses, in cafés… how the weather is impacting them.

And why this epiphany now? Because for the past several days my natural smiles and hellos to strangers I pass on the street are being met by more than just a head shrug. A lovely four-block conversation with an old Italian man, who has lived here for 55 years, and, despite the treacherous sidewalks, is still doing his daily walk… A three-minute grocery store conversation with a new Canadian who loves this unexpected weather and is glad to have a break from the rain… and countless openings to potential conversations with people I’ve passed on slippery sidewalks who have returned my hello with, “crazy weather, eh?” and “so this is global warming? Better do something about it!” and “cold enough for you?”

Cold? Maybe the air is. But I’ve never felt such warmth from the people of Vancouver in all the years I’ve lived here. Maybe if the snow stays long enough we’ll reach a tipping point and Vancouver will begin to feel as homey as Montréal…

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

*&#%@ you! And your mother, too!

Child of mine came home from school today and asked if I knew how to speak Spanish.

A few words. Why?

“Meag (the after-school babysitter) slipped on the ice and when she did she yelled, “Chingada!” She won’t tell us what it means, so it must be bad.”

Liam and I sat down together and googled it.

The first mention that caught our eye, “Chinga a tu madre.” And then the translation in brackets beside it. Great! (And thank you Wikipedia!)

Although I’m not pleased that he just learned this new expression, I was quite impressed with his accent. The kid's got linguistic talent.


In a similar vein, while googling “Commercial Drive” on the weekend to find the phone number of a store, I came across this wonderful link that sums up the neighbourhood I live in. Like me, the friends I shared it with who live in the ‘hood, recognized a few of the characters described. We all shed tears of laughter… but, maybe it’s an inside joke… special place, Commercial Drive.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Only in Vancouver does six inches make headline news

It’s insanity.

I may be making this entirely up. It may be a whole load of crap. But here’s what I think.

People – make that drivers – in Greater Vancouver Regional District, are for the most part, idiots.

Excluded are all the drivers who have driven in the winter in any other part of BC, in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and maybe Prince Edward Island (but I’m not sure about winters on PEI).

How many people would that be? I have no idea. And I’m not going to try to figure it out. But watching the cars slipping and sliding around my own small neighbourhood, you’d think it was significantly fewer than half the residents of the area.

Anyone who has driven on a snowy winter road knows that “all season” tires do not mean that they are effective in “all seasons” (unless the seasons you’re tracking are spring, summer, autumn and flu season…).

What a dangerous misnomer.

“All season” tires are fine in a winter season that does not have snow. But they’re useless on snowy roads. And in our fine city, the majority of the roads are not just snowy, they have not been plowed or salted. The days get warm, the snow turns to slush. The nights get cold, the slush turns to ice. And all those spinning “all season” tire drivers slip and slide all over hell’s half acres.

Which is why, despite the fact that I have ten Quebec winters’ driving experience; despite the fact that I have proper winter tires on my car (thanks to Liam's dad!); and despite the fact that I love driving in winter conditions, my car will stay put, safe and sound at the very top of a hill that no car without winter tires can climb.

The most fun to be had on a snowy weekday morning on my street? Walk two blocks down to the bottom of the hill and watch car after car after car turn up the street… spin their tires for five minutes.. and finally give up, backing down from whence they came – and, as I’ve seen one year, sideswiping every parked car as they slide backward… idiots!

Side note. This cracks me up. Head to the Vancouver Weather Page to check on road conditions and this is the note you get for Monday at 10:00 AM:
Current Road Conditions
Road reports will be offline until further notice.
Damn, I love this city!! If I were in charge, I would have done exactly the same thing! Tee hee!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Punk Rudolph, by Liam, age 6 (2002)

New neighbours asked me what our tradition is for decorating the house at Christmas.

Christmas? Not yet! No way!

I went to the hole under the house to pull out the lights… in 8 years living in this house I’ve never gone down to the hole before.

In 8 years I’ve never put up the exterior Christmas lights… but I have the 30 foot extension ladder… and the 40-year old hammer my dad gave me… I guess I’ll put up lights tomorrow…

If I don’t post for a few days, I’ll likely be at Vancouver General. Send flowers. I like daisies.

Snow! Hey, oh!

As much as I’ve grown to love Vancouver over the last 14 years, the summers will never be hot and humid enough, and the winters never white enough. I guess you can take the girl out of Montreal, but you can never take the Montreal out of the girl… or something like that!

So, days like today make me feel like I live in paradise! Vancouver is under a whack of snow!* Woo-hoo!!

Liam came back from his dad’s at noon and the first words out of his mouth were, “I want to make some money. Where’s the shovel?”

He shoveled our back deck and stairs and then the front walk. He asked me how much he’d earned.

“Well… you’ve just done a chore that contributes to your allowance.” (He gets $20/month).

I was fully expecting him to complain or try to negotiate, using “special circumstance” as an argument. And I would have offered him $5. But he didn’t. He asked how much I thought it would be worth if he shoveled our next door neighbour’s walk and sidewalk.

Five bucks.

He started working. I suggested that if he hoped to be paid, he should find out if she was willing to pay him before he did the job. He looked up at her house and said, “I can’t ask Angela for money. She can’t do the work herself. I think I should just do it to be nice, like you rake her leaves to be nice.”

God, I love my kid.

While he was doing Angela’s walks, I did the sidewalk in front of our house, and the walkway of the duplex attached to us. (I could claim to have been being nice, since they’re young, first-time, home-owners who own nothing to maintain a yard. But that would be a lie. I did it because I love being in the snow in this city.)

Liam "caught" me.

“Excuse me, Mommy, I hate to be rude, but before you do any more shoveling, could you please ask if I was planning to do it, first?”

Oops. There I was thinking about me, and my needs, forgetting that Liam had a goal to earn money so he could buy some books at the school Book Fair this coming week.

“Hey, how about I pay you for doing Angela’s walks since I would have had to do them if you hadn’t. Good enough deal?”

“Great. I’m going to see if Ross wants me to do his walkway and stairs.”

Ross negotiated Liam down to $3 since the city sidewalk had already been done by his duplex co-owner.

An hour later. We’re now sitting drinking hot chocolate. Liam is making a gingerbread house (a kit… I’m not that good a mother), and the snow is still coming down! If school is cancelled tomorrow, there will be lots of opportunity to re-shovel everything that was cleared this afternoon. What fun!

* MVL, also a Vancouver resident, called to challenge me on my assertion that we had a "foot" of snow. Fine. Maybe it was a little bit of an exaggeration. Although there is much more snow at the top of the hill where I live than at his place near the water, I stand corrected.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Smooth and creamy, spicey sweet with the dewy freshness of autum fruits

Alan, my “date” for the HopScotch Festival tasting event, arrived at my house right on time… in his spanking new Dodge pick-up… black… shiny… a V-8... a BIG truck for a BIG man.

(Alan: 6’4”; singlemalt-lover; funny as hell (partly because of his British accent, giving everything he says a Monty Python-like ring to it); and astrologically… September something… I have to look this up… a Virgo or a Libra. Despite being very happily married to my best friend, Alan is a perfect date, as per the guidelines MVL has suggested I follow in his comments to this post).

I, however, was 20 minutes late and arrived home with four, wet 10-year olds in tow. I could have sworn that I’d started the day with just one Gremlin. This insane Vancouver rain caused the multiplier effect thing to occur…

Thankfully, oh-so-thankfully, I found homes for all four of the singing, dancing, “Happy Feet” Gremlin-penguins, and Alan and I set off to have one bourbon, one scotch and one beer… or two… or seven.

One bourbon: Maker’s Mark. It was actually the last thing I drank before going home, so my judgment may be … mmm… a bit off? But it was forgettable compared to the scotch and whisky I tried.

Dewar’s 12… Aberlour 10… Bushmills Black Bush… the Macallan Fine Oak 10… Auchentoshan 10... Danfield’s Private Reserve Canadian (I had to try a local whisky. Next year I won’t!).

And that’s it. I loved all but the Danfield’s. I wanted to try so many more… An Cnoc 12… Glenmorangie Port Wood Finish… Ardbeg Uigeadail… Bowmore 12… but the combination of my light-weight drinking abilities and the fact that many of the distilleries ran out of elixir by 10:30 (what terrible planning for an event that ran until 1 AM), left me wanting more.

I did save room for a couple of beers at the end of the night.

The Dead Frog nut brown was great. And I love their branding. Their tag-line is “there’s more hops in a dead frog.” Brilliant! And their beer coasters cracked me up. One of the women who was pouring - well, pulling - said her 12-year old son helped develop some of the sayings. My favourite was done by her kid, “This is one dead frog that ain’t donating its body to science.” (I did wonder, but did not ask, if they’ll be marketing Dead Frog in my home province… la belle provinceje me souviens… I find the idea tres amusant).

The Red Truck ale wasn’t to my taste at all, although the branding was clever and the young women serving were smokin’! They were wearing red mechanic coveralls, but with the tops folded down around their hips… one of these beer babes had dimples on her lower back that could hold an ounce of scotch each… damn! Her t-shirt said, “Truck me!” Poor girl… 600+ drunk men and women… an invitation like that on her chest… I can imagine the pick-up lines she had to endure all night…

Four hours of standing, sipping, talking, laughing and people watching - meaning Alan helpfully pointing out all the men who “look single.” Jesus, I hope nobody ever surreptitiously nods in my direction, saying to a friend, “Joe. The tall one. She looks single.”

The night ended without event. Not even a drop of spillage to offer an opportunity for conflict and a story. But a good, fun, boozy night none-the-less. And I already have my date for next year. It will be our third annual. And I'm saving my tasting booklet, so I can be sure to start with the scotch I missed trying this year.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Hallelujah! There is hope for sanity in the world!

Now, until a couple of weeks ago when my two lovely and talented blogosphere pals, Greg of Bastard of art and commerce, and Geoff of Geoff’s Periodic Inanities, blogged about videos they’d seen at YouTube, I’d never heard of the site. (Yes, yes, I live under a rock, but it’s a conscious choice that I’m good with).

Today, the best news ever from CNN:

NEW YORK (CNN) -- YouTube, the video-sharing Web site, can now add "Invention of the Year" to its growing list of honors this year, Time magazine announced Monday.

The publication chose YouTube over inventions such as Merck's Gardasil, a vaccine that prevents a cancer-causing sexually transmitted disease, and CrustaStun, a device that electrocutes a lobster in five seconds, and is touted as a humane alternative to boiling.

Long-time readers know of my visceral hatred of the vaccine industry. If you’re new to my blog and want to see spitting and cussing, check out anything I posted in 2005. My blood pressure is going up just thinking about it.

Now I have a mission: make some short, clever anti-vaccine videos and post them at YouTube... with more than 70 million video views every day at the site, my informed and informative ranting will likely find a couple of people willing to watch, listen and learn about the evil vaccine empire (and yes, Bill Gates is behind a lot of that evil, too!).

Oh - and did you know it was now officially "Flu Season?" Yessiree. Spring, summer, autumn, flu, winter.

What does Flu Season mean? Vaccine promotions to encourage every freaking, breathing biped to get a flu shot kick into high gear.

Don't buy the hype. And if you're inclined to buy the hype, read these flu posts from last year first. (My goodness I can get excited...can you spell breathless hyperbole? I need a pill.)
  1. I think my head is going to explode
  2. You say pandemic, I say fear-mongering
And for fun, check out this very funny flu vaccine news story from YouTube! The circle is complete... Oh, except for the lobsters... YouTube... vaccines... lobsters... I'm sure someone could do something with that! Not me. Not now. My rock is calling me. Rock... Rock Lobster... B-52s... isn't there a game like this? Someone play with me??