February 19, 2019

This Montreal winter is a hard one, mainly because it has the hallmarks of an on-again off-again relationship. Things freeze over and everything seems solid. Then, out of the blue, there is a big thaw and everything melts. Then, reassuringly, it freezes over again. But then, it melts. Repeat. Each freeze is more treacherous than the last as there is an ever growing number of thaws to account for, manifesting as large frozen bodies of water covering the streets and sidewalks. 

Three types of footwear are now necessary to make it from morning until dusk, including your ugly winter boots, your cheery rubber ones, as well as flippers – the latter to...

December 4, 2018

My grandfather, God bless his soul, used to shout, when he was upset about something that we children were up to: “You donkey! You bear!” This was reserved for serious offenses only, such as when we tossed lettuce into the stove or climbed upon a pile of construction material pretending we had been ordered to do so by Marshall Tito (heroic Yugoslav games of yore). Relying on his sixth sense, he would then awaken from his slumber in the kitchen chair (lettuce) or storm out of the house (construction heap) and roar at the top of his lungs: “You donkey! You bear!” and we would retreat immediately. 
 

The donkey was understandable. If such language was dir...

August 8, 2018

You must have seen them peering at you from windowsills graced with lace and from old storefronts on Boulevard St-Laurent. You’ve seen them at the barbershop in Hochelaga and at garage sales in Verdun. You nearly knocked one over at a cool café on Bernard, where it was delicately sitting next to the water jug. In fripperies, they mingle with the vintage dresses and old leather bags, and at the second-hand bookstore they do who knows what. 

At your grandma’s house, they sat on the mantelpiece or in the living room vitrine behind glass, where they were to be seen and never to be touched. But you probably secretly touched them, maybe even dropped them,...

June 26, 2018

Today I stood in what I truly hope is the last life-altering queue of my life: the one in front of 1035 St-Jacques, for people waiting to take their Canadian citizenship exam. As is always the case in life-altering queues, as opposed to say, the queue at McDonald’s, those waiting were on high alert, craning their necks and perking up their ears each time a representative of officialdom stepped out into the street to offer some instruction – things like: have your convocation notice and your permanent residence card ready. Also, as in other life-altering queues, people had arrived way ahead of time. Although I turned up half an hour before the appointe...

June 8, 2018

Last week, I left Montreal to go on vacation. Although I was heading to what some would consider a dream destination, I felt a little pang the night before departure: the city was bursting with the promise of summer and all sorts of hospitable little mushrooms had sprung up all over town. The Village au Pied-du-Courant - a community project that had transformed a decrepit industrial area/snow dump on the banks of the St-Lawrence River in Hochelaga into an urban beach resort (complete with an astronomical station) – had rolled out its red carpet, and Station FMR, an art and design (and food and music and beer) project hosted in four old metro trains ha...

May 18, 2018

After six enchanted years in the Plateau Mont-Royal, I recently moved to literally greener pastures where I will graze more and probably eat out less. I used to live underneath the city’s famous cross and now glimpse it only from afar. It hurts a little, especially after seeing the Fringe Festival’s program come out this week featuring its trademark bee perched on said cross above the Plateau’s rooftops, seemingly electrified by its energy.

Here, then, is a little homage to the city’s bestest quartier and the things I especially loved about it:

The little green market in front of Metro Mont-Royal: This market is the neighborhood's harbinger of sprin...

May 4, 2018

I wrote back in December that spring was just around the corner and, sure enough, here it is. Two nights ago, as I was walking home from work, I heard a cat howling somewhere on the corner of Marie-Anne and St-Dominique: that springtime mating howl that gives you chills and goose bumps because it sounds like the cries of Rosemary’s baby.

Speaking of babies, I also witnessed a moving spring ritual unfolding between two toddlers in a café in the Mile End last Sunday. Like cats and dogs, toddlers are quick to recognize one another as members of the same species – the toddler species– and to display keen mutual interest either through repeated furti...

April 20, 2018

Commenting on Montreal’s landscape during a visit to the chilly metropolis in 1881, Mark Twain observed that it was the first time he’d ever been to a city where one couldn't throw a brick without breaking a church window. Indeed, if the number of churches were any indication of piety, there would be more Montrealers in heaven than residents of any other city in North America (and rightfully so, because all those other cities suck).

Times have changed since the Twain visit, however, and so has the city's official religion which is now of the devil may care variety. Here, then, is a slew of the secular and immoral purposes to which various city...

March 22, 2018

One of the principal reasons I moved to Canada was to be able to line up in a queue. A queue permits one to read a book while waiting as opposed to having to shove one’s way through a crowd toward a scarce resource while secreting stress hormones and maneuvering one’s way around other people’s elbows. In the Darwinian world I had previously inhabited, only the fittest managed to board the bus – or to get off it - and only the strongest made it all the way to the teller before the bank closed for the night. The bus in particular was a daily source of agitation as its arrival inevitably saw two hordes – those wishing to penetrate inside and those hoping...

March 9, 2018

There are people with newspapers scattered around the city, usually at metro stops, usually outside if the weather permits and sometimes even when it does not, and this is most of the bloody time. On these non-permissive weather days, they are dressed in green and orange space suits provided by their patron paper – usually Métro or 24Heures - and endure the wind chill and the snow and hail in order to: hand out their newspapers. Some of them are temping, only passing through. For others, it is a permanent work station. For the camelots of L'Itinéraire, it is nothing short of salvation. But for all, it means integration, for to be standing in the traff...

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© 2017 Éli Bloom & Leslie Morgan 

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