Friday, September 19, 2014

How to succeed as an immigrant in Montreal

 Immigrants come to this glorious and seductive island city on the St. Lawrence with big dreams and old suitcases but all-too-often end up in hellish oppression, pushing broom, trying to cope on a paltry income.
   Those immigrants - and I'm not talking about those who moved here because they were offered excellent jobs - are faced with a system rigged against their big dreams of success.    
  While native Montrealers might be perfectly courteous towards you, they don't want you as their child's boss ordering them to scrub harder.
   The deck is stacked but you could still beat the house with some crafty approaches.
    Here are my tips on how to overcome the odds and rise to your level.
   1-Be enthusiastic about being here. Immigrants often think that they need to be discreet and modest. But you're missing a chance to score points. Show some flamboyant enthusiasm about this city. Build a ridiculously over-exuberant 30 second speech that excites people about your narrative. For example: "I saw Montreal on TV as a kid and immediately said I wanted to be there. I read books about Mayor Drapeau and Pierre Trudeau and the Olympics and Expo and the Canadiens and was determined to move here and I love it. All I need now is that dream job to really contribute."
 2- Don't fight the power. Many immigrants are suspicious of authority because there's a lot of douchebaggery atop the pyramid back home. So you see immigrants at the rental board and small claims court fighting for tiny ridiculous victories,  Don't fight the power, impress the power, engage, inquire, befriend. Don't side-eye your landlord, ask him how he created such an empire and how you can do the same.
 3- Don't be ghetto, don't be a sell-out. Immigrants need to find a balance between how much time they'll spend with fellow ex-pats and native Canadians. Your countrymen will provide comfort and possibly open doors to good gigs. Canadian-born Canadians can also be a pathway to the top but not if you bond so much that others see you as a sell out.
4- Travel in dynamic circles. Your time is limited. You can't join every club and social circle, so you'll have to spot the fastest ponies. There are plenty of wealthy, successful and upstanding people who are kind and generous but they are ultimately time-sucks because they're not involved in any exciting projects and don't have it in their minds to help you. Find a new crowd if those around you are bringing you down.
5-Be noble about your origins. You need to talk lovingly and specifically about how you are from a noble civilization that has, in turn, infused you with greatness. But don't go on about the old country all day either.
6-Figure out the job market. Have a good look at where the best jobs that you can do can be found are and follow that path and yes move to Alberta if required. You can always return to Montreal when you bank a few dollars in a less-romantic burg. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Covering the Ville Marie, an exciting project that's boring everybody to death

Mayor Denis Coderre has aggressively pushed a campaign to cover the Ville Marie trench and it looks like this project might actually be on the rails.
   It's an exciting project but hasn't caught fire, in fact I too am inexplicably bored by it.
   By rights this should be a real interesting deal because it'd actually create land in the downtown core which would conceivably be most desirable considering that there's a massive French superhospital complex being built nearby.
   It would also allow for a new beginning to an area that was probably pretty cool before it was demolished.
    But in spite of its logical appeal, there seems to be little excitement over this idea.
   It might be because the area is somewhat overrun by panhandlers wandering around until their rooms at the nearby Old Brewery Mission shelter are open.
   Maybe we've lose the impulse to think of Old Montreal and the St. Catherine St. area as nearby areas, so connecting them doesn't' seem like a priority.
   Indeed Coderre seems to be more enthusiastic about this than most, possibly because his office at City Hall overlooks the current eyesore. 

Claremont restaurant-bar autospy, why a once-thriving joint went bust

   Autopsy time for the once-popular The Claremont restaurant, which had once promised to revive a chunk of Sherbrooke at the border of Westmount and NDG.
    According to legend, the Claremont was hampered by an oversight. 
    The restaurant did not have a liquor license when it opened about a decade ago and so customers had to comply with the rubber sandwich rule and buy token plate of olives or something in order to acquire a cold and tasty alcoholic beverage.
   Management would frequently ring up the provincial booze authorities and inquire about getting a dedicated booze license but were inevitably told to call back some other later. 
   Well during one of those lulls, a booze license was indeed made available but a neighbouring interloper in the form of the Crossroads, now Liquid Lounge, grabbed it first. (You snooze, no booze - Chimples)
   There was some rule about not allowing two bars in close proximity so the Claremont was doomed never to get their long-desired liquor license.
   Nonetheless for quite some time the restaurant was packed with booze-drinking clients, including some well-heeled anglos, some of them members of the nearby Mount Royal Tennis Club, no doubt discussing kinks in their backhands and their plans to move out west.
  But the clientele slowly started dwindling. 
   I walked by a few evenings back and saw not a single patron inside. 
   The last time I went there was for lunch about five years ago. 
   Everything on the lunch menu was like $17 and the guy I met got a parking ticket.
   My lunch company suggested that next time we meet, it should be at a place with parking. 
   And on the visit prior, one of the owners - a high school friend - shopped his ownership share in the restaurant to me, which I politely declined. 
   The nearly-adjacent Liquid Lounge - far less posh - is still in business, suggesting that NDG has won this border war with Westmount. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Jacket of the day Defend Hochelaga

Photos from NDG

 Veteran photojournalist Ian Barrett snapped these three photos of the West End, where he compulsively snaps pictures, many of them quite excellent.
  The top pic is of buildings painted black, possibly in anticipation of their impending demolition.  The buildings at Girouard and Cote St. Luc were to be demolished as part of the Beaumond condo project.
 Barrett has an exhibit of 220 NDG photos at the Gryphon Cafe on Monkland, whose owner Peggy I used to know a bit.
   The second picture is of the Dad's Bagels joint on Sherbrooke which is closing in order to facilitate the expansion of the adjacent dollar store, while the third is a tattooed kid at the Honey Martin bar further west.

New Concordia dorm in building where 31 died in fire, but it's not haunted, no way

  Concordia has finally completed a long process of transforming the Grey Nuns Convent at Guy and Dorch into a student dorm.
   Not to incite panic but the last time that the joint devoted itself to young people ended up in disaster as 31 babies were killed in a fire there on Feb. 14, 1918.
   The electrical fire started on the fifth and sixth floors in the St. Matthew wing. It spread up curtains and onto the wood floor of the dormitory where tiny children, many newborns, were caught in the fire.
   Thirty-one of the 170 small children at the scene died of smoke inhalation.
   About 285 war veterans getting treatment one floor below managed to flee the flame, as did another 85 other sick folk and 105 elderly women.
   The 20 nuns and 20 assistants were unharmed as well.
   Mayor Mederic Martin was hit by a car while hanging around the scene but suffered only bruises to the ribs.
   So, is the old convent building safe after all of those babies died? Can you hear haunting children's screams?
   I was given a tour several years ago after being repeatedly turned down to visit as a journalist.
   I eventually just showed up without identifying myself as a writer and was graciously offered a fantastic tour of the place.
   It's a fancy place indeed. Most impressive.
   But haunted? I don't know. Safe? I don't know. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Montreal clean-up squad

   Don't have much of a background on this Montreal picture shot on Clark South of Dorch but it's epic. Amazing that Geoffrey Rush once swept our streets.  

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Why the city turns a blind eye to parking lot-owning scofflaws

Viger and Pap, one of Montreal's countless illegally unpaved parking lots
   Although you wouldn't know it, a strict set of rules dictate how a parking lot is supposed to look in Montreal.
  Parking lots are expected to be paved, landscaped, have lines separating spaces, the minimum size which is dictated in a city bylaw.
   But of course that bylaw has largely gone ignored.
   A few years back I hounded the city until they gave me access to someone from the inspector's office who said that owners are able to skirt fines by switching official ownership.
   It seemed slightly hard to believe.
   In recent years the city has put massive pressure on parking lot owners to build on their land, with a carrot-and-stick strategy dreamed up partially by Robert Libman when he served under Mayor Tremblay.
   So the secret reason that inspectors turn a blind eye on parking lot transgressions?
  The city would rather these lots remain unpaved with the hope that they'll be turned into condos or office buildings than to force owners to invest big money to pave and organize these lots, which would then likely enshrine their flat and vacant parking vocation for a long time to come and ultimately hinder their eventual transformation into something more useful and ambitious. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Newly-completed intersection remains closed because officials can't figure out dumb traffic lights

   I'm told that a big factor in the ongoing delay to finally open the now-completed intersection at Decarie and Upper Lachine/De Maisonneuve is that officials can't figure out how to get the traffic lights to work with the various directions of traffic trying to through the interesection.
   Not to insult anybody but Montreal's traffic planners might think about taking their pensions and leaving the job to somebody whose practices methods are not from the 70s as the answer is about as clear as day: roundabouts.
   As we've stated here repeatedly, roundabouts greatly diminish accidents by slowing traffic and eliminating left turns, which are the most dangerous maneuvre in driving.
   We have already urged this very thing two years ago but the senseless perpetuation of the old-fashioned and outdated traffic light system - which is massively unpopular among drivers - shows Montreal to be a backwards-thinking place that can't commit to improvement.
   Traffic lights cost $200,000 to purchase and about $2,000 a year to operate, according to an interview I conducted about five years ago with a local traffic bigwig.
   Traffic bigwig Ottavio Galella, who has major influence in such issues, doesn't seem to like roundabouts.
   Here's what he told me five years back: "For traffic volumes which are limited it makes sense but we cannot modify tens of thousand of existing intersections with roundabouts , financially it doesn't make sense. There are situations that warrant such geometric designs which work very well by the way yet it is not a miracle solution for all the users and it is actually a problematic design for the handicapped for the visually impaired and for other vulnerable users so generally the generally the design is appropriate in low density areas or some industrial park and it certainly constitutes a good solution under specific circumstances but should not be used as an overall tool or approach to solve the issue of traffic."

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Park Ave cafe crime - help get this Macbook back

Montrealers surely know the phrase "nothing good ever happins on Park Ave." (Did you just make that up or is that real? I'm not from here - Chimples).
   So when a creepy young thief stole an expensive laptop from the errant bag of a female customer at the Cafe Elmundo  at the corner of Milton it doesn't come as a total shock.
   It won't knock the Cafe Reggio Violi hit off its number one perch as all-time cafe crimes committed in Montreal but it's still awfully gross.
    Thankfully those same cafe cams that catch you in compromising positions, also spotted the bangs and polo-shirt-wearing twenty-something thief full on.
   His lack of sombrero, hat, cap, or even shades and beard have exposed his face for all to see. Anybody who went to a reputable theft school would see that as a rookie error.
  We say, "hey guy just return it and apologize."
A couple of days later a McGill prof tweeted me to suggest that there might be even larger problems at the El Mundo Cafe.

Monday, September 08, 2014

'40s Montreal brothel trial re-enacted

   Lucie Delicanto Bisanti of 847 Stuart in Outremont was a 38-year-old veteran of the local prostitution business by 1944 and whose court hearing has been immortalized in a YouTube video re-enactment made by the local history museum.
   She says that at the brothel, hookers would wear bathing suits whereas the women who organized the brothel would wear white aprons and often be quite fat.
   The brothel on St. Lawrence was more upscale than the one on de Bullion, the woman explains.
   We know that in 1950 there were two brothels on De Bullion between Dorch and St. Cat (one on each side), another one block east at 1244 Berger and another one just a stone's throw away on Charlotte Lane. They would be shut down but simply reopen at another place, with the knowledge of the police. One hooker said that she was arrested 85 times.
And here's another re-enactment.

  If you disliked that, well ..hell.. it sure beats this popular video of a girl burping in prominent spots around Montreal, which is getting an amazingly bad 2-1 ratio of likes to dislikes.

Man disappears in West End

  Troubling story about young Matthew Kustra, a 26-year-old father of a three-year-old, who disappeared from the West End last Thursday.
     He hasn't been seen since last Thursday at 10 p.m. when he was at the PJ's Pub, a sports bar on St. James St. W, owned by Peter Sergakis.
    Kustra, who stands 5'6", was clad in a dark grey T-shirt, blue jeans and Nikes, according to a Facebook page created by his girlfriend Sarah Sisti.
 Kustra was reportedly a former co-owner of the Liquid Lounge, a bar on Sherbrooke just west of Claremont.
   He is an avid hockey player who often plays in night leagues.
  The Liquid Lounge was previously known as the Crossroads, which had a reputation for being a coke bar but frankly, I've been several times and always found it just like any other place, although, admittedly it was firebombed in May.