Posts Tagged ‘notes from the author’

So…I am very pregnant right now and we are in the process of moving to a different part of the city, to a slightly (only slightly) larger apartment with a slightly (alas) smaller kitchen space with far fewer cabinets and drawers. So it will still be a while before I post again about cooking.

However, we will be eating out quite a bit over the next week or so, and checking out new restaurants in our new neighborhood, so perhaps I will recommence reporting about our restaurant experience in the city.


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I’ve been swept up with the student unrest in Montreal, and also a change in my job status, so I haven’t been posting. Like many New Years’ resolutions, this one has probably bitten the dust. But it shall go on, perhaps with fewer pictures.

I’m not a student, though I do feel sympathetic to student fears about rising tuition, despite not fully grasping the number crunching. My parents covered the majority of my college expenses, but I still struggled to scrape together the money for text books, which at the time I went to school, could have been between $200-$600 per semester easily, depending on how many science classes I was taking. As a full-time worker, this amount doesn’t sound like that much, but as a student transitioning from fully-dependent teen to dependent student to (at the time) hopefully independent adult, this was a significant amount of money, which I worked hard during all of my school vacations to muster. I was a drug store cashier, I waited tables, I helped with a research study, I proctored practice MCAT and LSAT exams. I even threw in a few practice SAT exams, but those high schoolers were total monsters, so I only did two of them before calling it quits.

Still, I’ve found the general unrest at McGill and in Montreal to be very distracting at work. Helicopters hover over the campus, loudly beating their propellers as they take footage of marching students. One day, I received a computer alert, followed by two automated text messages, followed by an automated phone call warning me of protesters on campus. A few minutes later, the cycle repeated itself, warning me that it was once again ok to leave campus buildings. My office is far enough away from the main campus that I don’t mind the actual protesting or the noisy protesters making their way to the protest meeting points. It reminds me of my own time as a striker and those long hours on the picket line, hoping and hoping that it would soon be over. And even that fight is still droning on, since the union and University haven’t yet agreed on a collective agreement. It just keeps going on and on.

But that’s life in Montreal. As a suburbanite from NJ, I would never have imagined myself to be caught up in strikes or to be marching through city streets. NJ students don’t go on strike. They get their parents and extended families and whomever they know who knows someone to lean on those in power to make changes. The story will wash over the NJ Star-Ledger, the regional news channels, and may eventually end up as a couple of paragraphs on the fourth page of the NY Times, by which time it would all be over. Here, these issues seem to simmer for a long time and they don’t really go away. It’s hard to imagine that the students, no matter how organized they are, will be successful. Soon their classes will start the countdown to finals, and some will be trying to graduate.

Anyway, that’s a long way of saying that there will be more on food soon.

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I don’t know what’s wrong, but for some reason Firefox has been acting strangely. I’ve been having trouble viewing WordPress and even CNN as they should appear. Instead, all I see are lines and lines of text. I tried working past it, but as you can see with the lentil soup post below, that didn’t work out very well. I’ve updated some of the outdated plugins, so perhaps that will help.

Suggestions would be appreciated.

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Old Montreal is certainly one of the quieter sectors of Montreal, especially that magical time when the tourists leave in September. There is little street traffic at night and most of the noise comes from exuberant tourists at night and over-zealous buskers during the day. However, this summer seems to be filled with inconsiderate half-deaf hooligans who enjoy blasting loud music off of the historic stone walls at all hours of the day and night.

One odd phenomenon I’ve encountered this season has been the drive-by party, in which someone will park, crank their car audio system up to its maximum, and blast whatever inane beating drivel they are listening to through the streets and the surrounding buildings. These drive-bys are generally conducted by youngish males wearing bagging clothing, driving moderately flashy cars – perhaps as an ill-considered attempt at attracting a mate. Because they are in their cars, they can quickly pick up and go if spotted by a cop. One night, I was awakened at 3:45am by what sounded like a Big Fat Greek Wedding party outside my window in the street, with a dozen adults dancing to some kind of Big Fat Greek Wedding-type music pumping from an idling car and talking, laughing, and cheering loudly (I don’t mean to say that they were Greek, but the general scene certainly could have been taken directly from the wedding reception dance from the movie). I sleep like the dead, so believe me when I say that they were being very loud. I called the police, but after fifteen minutes, they dispersed like a flash mob, and I had to call the police back to tell them not to bother coming. I was not able to go back to sleep.

Unfortunately, it’s not clear what is the best course of action to take if your neighbors are being noisy. There’s an apartment near to my house which seems to be crammed with young people partying loud enough to cause vibrations in the glassware in my own apartment, and a dull aching throb in my own head. This is the first experience I’ve had with inconsiderate neighbors. After calling several different numbers for the Ville-Marie borough, and the Montreal police, I was actually told to dial 911, which apparently is used as a sort of switch board. When our neighbors partied just a little too hard, I would call 911, report the general direction of the noise, wait, hear the music get turned down after ten minutes, and then have to call back to tell them not to bother coming because the noise was gone. I waited a few minutes before calling 911, and after about ten minutes of silence would call back to call off the calvary, as I didn’t want to turn into the neighbor who cried wolf. If the noise was gone, then there was nothing the police could do about it.

I started making a detailed record of their noisiness the other night, along with my actions in response to it. It went like this, which is typical of the average noisy night:

Somewhere between 10:15pm – 10:30pm – loud music started blasting from their apartment. I kept hoping it would go away or get turned down. I hoped someone else would call the police or would lean out their window and yell at them to turn it down. I hoped their landlord would beat down their door and evict them for being lousy neighbours. No such luck.

10:40pm – called 911 to make a noise complaint. Couldn’t tell them the exact apartment number since I don’t live in their building.

10:53pm – music stopped, still clearly heard people talking loudly and laughing. False alarm – music started up again.

11:17pm – got a call from a private number saying the police would send someone to “check it out” as soon as they had an available vehicle. I figure it must be a busy Friday night and cops have better things to do with their time than to tell rowdy youths to shut up.

11:25pm – music got a little softer, but still loud

11:27pm – music turned off

11:39pm – called 911 to tell them that the music was off so they didn’t have to come

Aside from that festive drive-by party example, my complaints have all been about the same two neighbors who enjoy partying to loud music at night, and sometimes at 4:30am. I remember the latest 4:30am incident very clearly, because I was too busy rushing to catch a flight to worry about calling the cops that morning. As I waited for my taxi, I noticed that the noise was slightly lessened from the street level than from my apartment, so reasoned that not all of the neighbors might be sharing my audio aggravation. As our apartment lacks air conditioning, we cannot close our windows to dampen the sounds or we would not survive the summer. Perhaps they share the same problem, as their windows are often open as well.

These noisy incidents are very disruptive, and aside from the ensuring headaches, they also severely affect my concentration and ability to relax in my own home. I cannot enjoy watching movies or listening to my own music. My husband and I get irritable trying to decide how to respond (call the cops vs. yell obscenities at them out the window and have them turn the music up even louder and yell bilingual obscenities back – note to self: brush up on francophone curse words). My husband actually works quite a bit at home, and cannot concentrate. Even the cats occassionally cower under the bed when it gets especially loud. What else can a resident do?

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I was quite gung-ho about learning French during my first year in Montreal. I was determined not to be one of those anglophones who live in a little anglophone bubble in Montreal, refusing to speak a word of French. But then my temporary contract wasn’t renewed in the department I was working, which had had an even mix of anglophones and francophones, and I was hired permanently into a unit where my only colleague was an anglophone. Which meant that I was totally screwed in the language department. With little external exposure to French, as my place of employ is predominantly anglophone, I find my grasp on the language slipping, and my motivation level to achieve bilingualism plummeting. It’s becoming harder for me to even practice what little French I know at restos, as my pronunciation is becoming less precise and it’s harder to remember the appropriate questions and responses. I’m having increasing trouble in French class, as I understand only part of what the instructor is saying and my grammatical and conversational skills are by far the weakest amongst my current classmates.

It could be that this is natural phase of all incoming anglophones to Montreal, and indeed I hope it is merely a transient funk out of which I will soon ascend.

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It’s only fair to report that I think that the oysters I had on Friday were contaminated in some way. Perhaps it’s my own fault for not thoroughly rinsing each before prying them open, but in any event, I’ve felt like I have had a touch of the stomach flu/Norovirus since yesterday. The salmon and lobster, on the other hand, were just fine. It’s a good thing we have a long weekend.

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I’ve been tied up with work and intensive French classes since May, but I should be back on track with the blog shortly.

Munch on!

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