Coming to you from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – shows you how busy I have been
“Bloom where you were planted.” The idea had been haunting me for some time, since the fires of 2017, to be exact. I believe in global warming, and California’s perfect weather could get pretty hot in fire season. When our 2017 fire, Tubbs, which was the biggest on record, lost its title, the very next year to the Paradise Fire, I started thinking about getting out of there while I still could.
I came to Montreal this last summer, with the idea of maybe looking around and seeing what was available, in no rush. Then I saw the cranes and I knew the time had come. Around 1970, Montreal went through a period known as the FLQ crisis. French Canada had been lobbying for its language rights for years. It did not seem right that 20% of the population (The English) controlled 80% of everything (at least). But that’s the way it was. The FLQ crisis consisted of protest marches, the kidnapping of British Diplomat James Cross, and the kidnap and murder of Pierre Laporte, Quebec Deputy Premier. Pierre Trudeau, Justin’s father, invoked the War Measures Act, apprehended the perps and all should have been well. The Partie Quebecois, a legitimate way of handling the situation, was formed and rose to power, with its first premier of Quebec, René Levesque. The English establishment was not amused. It picked up its marbles, which included almost all of Canada’s financial institutions, and moved their head offices to Toronto. What did you think that would do to a city?
I watched all that happen and was never very happy about it, but I understood. The city was impoverished, property values sunk to new lows, fluctuating with the fortunes of the political parties. It evolved and filled in the office buildings with more creative enterprises and festivals. It’s the world capital for French language entertainment. Le Cirque du Soleil was invented here, and the first circus schools in North America. We have the biggest jazz festival in the world, not to mention comedy, and a number of great music festivals. I wouldn’t be surprised if we had the most Michelin starred chefs for one city, too. Tourism is at an all time high, and…the cranes. They mean rebirth and growth, and I wanted to be part of it. I also wanted to pick up a little piece of prime real estate while I could still afford it.
I had my eye on Cours Mont-Royal, an elevator ride to the first and largest underground city in the world, smack in the middle of downtown, but still part of Montreal’s Golden Square mile. A safe urban neighborhood, where a woman can still walk home alone at midnight. I scored big time. I am on the top floor of the old Sheraton Mt-Royal Hotel, looking out at Peel and Ste-Catherine. I have a two-bedroom apartment, where I have parked just a little more money than I had in Fountaingrove Lodge and it will appreciate handsomely, I’ll wager. Well, I have wagered. In the meantime, I am paying less than half of my monthly fees at the Lodge and in Canadian dollars, no less. I still have to eat. If I give myself a budget of $1000 a month to do that, I can eat out a couple, three nights a week, more, if I don’t pick the most expensive places.
Ritzie Cracker came in on November 17th and 18th to help me sort things out, as only she can. They were pretty intense days. Ritzie doesn’t let you waste a lot of time. Once I was ready for the packers, I packed myself on the 19th, for Montreal and my upcoming trip to Asia.. The packers came on the 20th, the movers on the 21st and the car transport on the 22nd. I had been planning to give Babar, my 1998 Mercedes, to KQED, and had it all arranged. Then I slept on it and I couldn’t do it. So Babar was towed to a vehicle truck and off he went on the 21st.
Then Steve Harrold drove me all over Santa Rosa, to negotiate with T-Mobile, return the video and Internet boxes to Comcast, mail the Fastrak transponders back, etc. Thanks, Steve, love you. Around five, Eric sent Chris to drive me to SFO and I took the first red-eye I have ever taken in my life. It wasn’t so bad. By 10 am I was in Ginger’s kitchen on Redpath, having scrambled eggs. Ginger makes wonderful scrambled eggs. She learned on her prom night when she spent the wee hours in the kitchen with the hotel chef, rather than getting drunker and drunker. I can make them too, now, and did most every day for my two-week stay with her. No toast, jam, or anything else but a bit of ketchup. They hold me longer than an Atkins shake or yoghurt and a croissant and don’t contain any ingredients with 10 letters in them.
Montreal has already had snow. It had left the streets and sidewalks, but some of it was sitting on a table on Ginger’s patio. Welcome home, Helen. I went for a nap. That night I walked up the hill to Linda and Bev’s condo on Dr. Penfield. It’s wonderful having good friends so close I can walk to them. Yes, I know FGL provided good friends, too, but this is the real world. Bev made wonderful hamburgers. I don’t even like hamburgers, and I thought these were super. Wendy was there, too. We talked about things to see and do, and I’ll be signing up for the McGill Community for Lifelong Learning, that Paul Terni was so involved with, these last twenty years. I am going to learn about Modern Warfare, Pity, and Performance in Montreal. The latter will involve going to a lot of live heater, which I love, anyway. Wendy offered me a lift back to Ginger’s, and I took it because it was 28 degrees out and I wanted to stay warm and cosy.
The next day, I put my nose to the grindstone and turned out a party invitation in franglais:
I was still pretty tired, so Ginger and I ordered from Chalet BBQ, who were to be the caterers for this grungy party, in an empty condo, I hoped.
Sunday, November 23, I went to church with Ginger at the A & P. That’s what the locals call St Andrew and St Paul. It’s a rich Presbyterian church with some of the finest stained-glass windows you’ll ever see and a whispering arch. It’s just across the street from Ginger’s, terribly convenient. They had a visiting preacher and, if it hadn’t been for Ginger being so well known there, I might have walked out during the sermon. He was preaching about Jesus’ trial and time on the cross and the mockery he had to endure from government, the people and even the thieves. That was all well and good until he drew a parallel with what is currently happening in the States. He went so far to say he wasn’t being political, but I take exception to DT being put in the same category as JC. This is very dangerous preaching, and if I’m hearing it in Canada, you can imagine what’s spewing out of the pulpits of middle America. But I digress…
I spent the afternoon catching up with email, and joined the Symansky family dinner at 63 Chesterfield. I walked there, too. That was a bigger challenge, as it was more than two miles and it was something like 24 degrees. My trusty mink-lined raincoat kept me warm, but it was the only one I saw. Montrealers have adopted down coats, big time, and everyone looks like the Michelin Tire man. The whole Symansky family was there, with all the grandkids. It’s such a nice tradition. After dinner, I hung around longer with Judy, cleaning up and discussing a cruise they wanted to buy, while Adam ran some of the family home and came back for me. One 2 plus mile walk was enough for one day.
Monday morning, I walked to my Notary’s office in St. Henri, about a mile and a half away. I signed for my mortgage and bridge loan and took the Metro, first to my bank in Westmount, then to its central station to be photographed for a Seniors’ card, allowing me to ride anywhere in the city for $1.75CAD. The Metro is fabulous here, similar to Tokyo’s and Hong Kong’s, clean, safe and really covers the territory. I took it back to Ginger’s, too. We went to ShoDan that night for some nice Japanese food.
Tuesday, December 26, I worked on Adam and Judy’s cruise and other travel business, cleared my email, started this blog but didn’t write enough to send. Later in the day, I went out with Ginger and we explored a new Provigo (supermarket) that had opened in the Bell Center, something else I will be able to reach, without going outside, I think. They had great Teddy Bears for $15, so we bought three, for the Christmas parties we were going to, that asked for Toys for shelters. We also bought a couple of decadent rib-eye steaks for dinner, and went back and cooked them.
Wednesday, the 27th, I walked to the offices of the Regie des Assurances Maladie du Quebec, to sign up for Canadian Medicare. Apart from having me wait almost two hours, they were very nice to me, and I’ll soon be a part of the Canadian Medical system. I rewarded myself with a hot chocolate and a doughnut at Tim Horton’s, on the way home. All of this walking would be so healthy, if it weren’t for the tempting shops along the way. Ginger and I ate left-over warm dead bird and had a lovely evening together. Our days are really intense, but we are a couple of old shoes in the evening.
I don’t remember where all I walked on Thursday, but you can bet I did. Ginger had left at 3:30 am to go to Minnesota for Thanksgiving with her family. I went to Molinaux, a Greek restaurant, with Adam and Judy. Again, I walked there and back. I will thank you to remember I am doing all this walking in below freezing temperatures. Ginger lent me a Michelin Tire man coat, of which she has about six. It’s lighter to walk in and I am loving the walking. One of the nicest things about it is all the young people you walk among. McGill is near my place and Concordia is near Ginger’s. There are only eight blocks between them, along Sherbrooke, which runs between our houses.
Adam picked me up the next morning so I could do a Costco run for the party. We ended up leaving my considerable purchases at 63 Chesterfield, to be brought to the party on the 3rd. With the house to myself, I had Linda and Bev in for dinner. It was lobster and shrimp penne, which I had bought at Costco, and it was very good. I had procured pastries earlier in the day, on another walk, at Christian Faure, the new fancy pastry shop in town. They were $6.75 each and they were nasty, compared to our beloved obeserie, the Patisserie de Gascogne, which failed last year. I have a new theory. They failed because they weren’t charging enough. Christian Faure has seen the first and last of me. I have to find a new pastry shop. They were pretty, though, and you should have seen the box before it opened up to that flower. Bev was amused:
On Saturday the 30th, I took Ginger’s car out and hit the Dollar Store, the pharmacy and the liquor store for my boxed party wine and some decent stuff for Ginger’s house. Then I changed and took the Metro to Place des Arts to see “Come from Away” all by myself, because all my Canadian friends had seen it. It was great, and the audience was most appreciative. I’ll be able to visit this fine concert hall all I want, without putting a coat and boots on, once I am moved in.
Dee Wescott said:
Sylvia Klenz said:
Love your update, Helen! Great to travel along with you, as always
Saw Pat Gustafson last weekend- she was in Napa for a Xmas music event. She mentioned how much she misses you
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, too!
Sent from my iPhone
I’m so happy that you are so happy…. Well done !
Je me souviens,
Peter Aglaganian said:
Welcome home !
Glad you have found your home for the next chapter. Hope to see you at some point.
Marlene Rosenberg said:
Hi Helen: Congratulations on your new digs and everything that goes along with it. I was wondering where to send our Holiday card to you. I will send it via email for this year. It sounds like everything is going very well for you, and that you will enjoy being back home. We miss you here, but think about you every time we go by 301. Have a wonderful holiday and new year. We know you will. We hope you get a new Sylvia!
We miss you and love you, Marlene and Stan
Holiday greetings! What a lovely long letter. I am amazed that you are able to remember all those details for each day. When people ask what we did on our trip going thru the Panama Canal, I am hard pressed to remember each day.
I think you are very lucky to live in a building that you never have to leave if you don’t want. Keep cruising! Love, Lottie
Ulla M Brown said:
You saw my daughter today in KL. And also JOhn and I are very happy that you seem to be very content and pleased with your move, good luck to you Helen and good vibes your way, we will all miss you, with love, Ulla
JACK PARKER said:
Hello Helen. Sounds like you really enjoy snow, over fires. BTW. The health cares system in Canada is a provincial matter. Hope that Hong Kong is more peaceful when you get there. Our two cruises had: great music on Celebrity because we took our own musicians. Great food on Oceania. Good weather and smooth seas. Enjoy the holiday season. S&J