Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Getting away

There is an interesting contrast between the vacations people take here in Montreal and in the US. Back home, a good number of the people I know would go to another US city or Europe for vacations. Or go on a cruise or some island in the Caribean. There would also be get-aways to local vacations spots like Door County or Galena. Sometimes camping, but mainly in hotels. Here, the vacations tend to remain local. People generally stay put in Quebec during the summer staying in summer homes, cabins, or camping. In the winter, people generally fly south. They go to Cuba, the Caribean, on cruises, sometimes to Florida. There are some stay and go snowmobiling, skiing, or other winter activities.

It is more difference in the summer vacations I find interesting. I think one reason Quebecers stay put is the language barrier. Not that they cannot speak English, but more so they don't have to. Another reason may be because the weather is finally nice, so save your money, stay here, and sleep outdoors. It is also quite a nice countryside, a bit more scenic than the Midwest prairies.

I'm still not completely sure if some of these observations is due to a difference in the people surrounding me. In general, there were more young urban professionals around me in Chicago instead of more working class people here. But I still think the observed difference is correct. An interesting note is that the outdoors camping and local vacations here is another aspect that reminds me of my childhood in the 70's. Almost all of our vacations were by camping until I reached my mid teens.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Sweet Home Chicago

There is one thing outside of my family and friends that I am most proud of (not the stadium above, but it's up there). This is being from Chicago. I identify with that more than being American, from Illinois, the university I graduated from, and even my high school (though that might be next). I just love the city. I love driving around checking out what's going on. What has changed and stayed the same. I love the different festivals in the summer. Beach volleyball, 16" softball (with beverages), and the Air & Water Show. And the lake... I seem to have this odd affection for large bodies of water that must be due to growing up near it. Funny thing is I like being near it and not necessarily on it. I have done my best to learn as much as I could about the city and it's history. I used to be able to name all the streets from Addison to Touhy and the Lake to Harlem. I even had delusions of becoming mayor, but realized I'm not enough of a people person to do the job justice. So many memories. When my wife (girlfriend at the time) came to the city, I would constantly be pointing out places from my past or where notable things happened. For the first 18 months here in Montreal, I read the online version of the Tribune everyday. I still check it out 3 or 4 times a week along with an occasional WGN evening news.

I've answered it before but, "Why leave Chicago then?" Well it was a case of place and time. Having a kid and the choice of moving here in Montreal, it seemed that Montreal would be a better and easier place to raise a family. It still has many of the advantages of a big city that Chicago has, but without some of the big city disadvantages. I have been pleasantly surprised so far discovering what it is really like to be here. Part of our move was a leap of faith. It has also been fun to discover a whole new city and society.

But we will always cherish our visits back to Chicago. We'll be back soon.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


Here is what I hope is a welcome break from my soap box posts regarding the current administration.

When I would visit here before we moved here, my experience of the people was limited to the suburban mall 'Promenade St Bruno' and the downtown strip on Ste Catherine. St Bruno tends to be not very different from Woodfield mall in Chicago. But the people on Ste Catherine (teenagers I later realized) always had a very forward looking and European sense of style.

After moving here, seeing the people in the Mont Royal distict that was comparable to the yuppie enclave of Lincoln Park/Lakeview where we recently lived, I started to think they had a more conscious sense of style. It seemed almost like it people paid attention to get dressed up. Collared shirts on the guys, the tops that women wear are fitted. T-shirts are not as prevelant, but they seem to be stylized or be more personal. Not free advertising for a beer company. Oversized sweaters and clothing is rare to see. Sports jerseys are also much less common.

Recently, I have come to a conclusion, which may change. I don't think that people pay more attention to fashion. I think both the fashion is different and it is more of a standard to dress a certain way. For instance, I guy here would wear a certain shirt to work, that someone back home would only wear in a night club. What I am trying to suggest is that it is not that people actively say, I am going to or must dress up. It is that the standard is different. It's an accepted part of society as far as I can tell.

During our trip to Chicago the upcoming weeks, I hope to verify some of my observations, the differences, or recollections of the way things are back home. I plan to keep posting, but it is possible that they may stop while we are there.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Another Montreal Sunset

This is the picture that I had wanted to post earlier. It was taken last summer after the remnant of Hurricane Ivan passed overhead. I took about a dozen photos and you can actually see the bands of clouds moving past at different speeds when you flip through them. I did not modify the color, it really did look like the sky was on fire. Hurricane Cindy passed overhead today giving us a constant rain. We may end up flying through Hurricane Dennis when we go to Chicago next weekend. We lived at the apartment where the photo was taken for a year and a half, so I have no shortage of good sunset photos. I may post more later on.

London, follow-up

Watching CNN this morning and learning more about the attacks made me realize a few other things.

During my last visit to London, I stayed in a hotel across the street from Russell Square and down the street from Tavistock Square. Having a connection like that always makes it of more interest and easier to relate to it. Unfortunate it takes something like that, but I guess it's human nature.

The other thing is that I was very impressed by the news conference given by the London authorities. Straight forward and matter of fact. Plus their level of coordination and the organization in place was refreshing. For instance, having people ready, to support, and designated to be liasons with families affected. They were unapologetic about holding back information, taking the necessary time to process the crime scenes, and it all seemed very orderly. It probably has to do with the fact they have been through this before along with the public and the media. Everyone seems to accept that the process takes time and there is a level of trust that the authorities will release relevant info when warrented. That was my impression and I don't think it was because of their accents.

Friday, July 08, 2005


Although I was not planning on it, my friend Jason suggested I share my thoughts, observations, or whathaveyou regarding the recent bombings. Sorry but this rambles on a bit.

I have gotten to know London pretty well having visited there on three separate occasions. Interestingly, they are probably one of the places the most accustommed to events such as this with the history of the IRA. It happened more often though probably not on this scale. The event reminded me of the bombings in Paris by Algerians in 1995 when I lived there. I was trekking through the city by metro or by foot dropping off my resume at every architecture office listed in the phone book that seemed like they might hire an American. I also was one of those annoying people handing out pamphlets at the train stations for a couple weeks along side military personnel keeping watch. So I criss-crossed the city regularly. The spooky part is that I was at the St Michel station the night before a bomb went off there. I was on a train passing through Maison Blanche station shortly after a bomb went off there. And lastly I was on train that passed through the Orsay station the night before a bomb went off there early the next morning.

One point to be made is that a good number of countries in the world experience or have experienced terrorism on a regular basis. It is something new in the US, though two unrelated domestic incidents (OK city & WTC) do not make a trend. 9.11 was a large event, but the lack of frequency should suggest that not every corner of the country needs to be security concious. Does the Cedar Rapids library really need an armed guard and security drills. I would also like to say is that although terrorism is not something that should be accepted, it is something that should not be feared in daily life. I feel it has become an overpublisized topic. The war on terror, added security measures, more airline checks, 'can they get to our milk supply?'. Is it a real fear or a real danger? Does everyone really need to be reminded about it by the president and the media on a regular basis?

I think Al Queda has always thought small as shown by all their attacks save 9.11. The airline hijack was a coup and even they admit that there were many more casualties than they had planned for. The government keeps saying that we are safer now than before by evidence of no attacks since 9.11 (at least on US soil, Iraq is different). I think that the possiblity of anyone, not just terrorists will always be there, and we should accept that possiblity. But saying the possiblity of terrorist attack is the reason for this or that is starting to get out of hand. Safety checks have been in place and some logical ones have been added. We have government agencies dedicated to our protection. Let them do their job as long as they do it correctly and within our civil rights.

Part of my thoughts may be attributed to the fact that I don't trust the motives of the current administration. After seeing Fahrenheit 911, I feel they are using the war on terror in order to keep the country in a state of fear in order that we follow their direction and judgement. Fear in the US society is another topic that I will discuss in a later post.

So how does all of what I have written relate to the London incident? Terrorists are out there and they will sometimes be successful, probably most times not. There are people working on stopping them. The attacks are sensational, but the fear we should have about it happening to us should be less than our fear of experiencing a car crash or a heart attack.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Da Purdy Picture

Sorry, but this is a link to test a few things.

First my friend John (whose website you can reach if you click his name) suggested I post some pictures.

Second, here is a picture.

This is an photo of the Montreal skyline at sunset last summer. John suggested adding photos to illustrate my points, which I will try to do if I have an appropriate photo. Meanwhile, I may post cool shots from time to time.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Moving Day

Whereas May 1st and October 1st are the traditional moving days in Chicago, in Montreal it is July 1st. There are a couple benefits to this. First there will not be any snow or cold temperatures to worry about. Second, July 1st is Canada Day so everyone has the day off anyhow and can help everyone else move. Plus it can be easier to coordinate people moving in and moving out.

There are some interesting aspects to this. The popular method of moving your stuff is by open car trailer. It's about six feet by 9 feet (2m x 3m) with a 18" tall sides (500mm). There are a flurry of them on the road that day. The disadvantage of everyone moving on the same day is that every other street is blocked by people filling up their trucks or trailers.

This thing is intense. I saw four trailers packed with furniture and moving blankets Thursday night at 1am coming home from our softball game.