Sunday, March 12, 2017

Jarring Fun

I had finished my news shift Sunday morning and, once home, was chillaxing contentedly on the couch, watching sports on the television.

At one point, I happened to hear my wife in the kitchen, marveling at how the smell of freshly-made strawberry jam had remained in the mason jar she dug out from under the kitchen counter.

Listening, I thought to myself, I love the smell of fresh strawberry jam!

When my wife returns from a shopping trip to Bath and Body Works, I usually manage to mooch a bottle of strawberry-scented hand sanitizer to stash in the car!

Much as I enjoy the smell of strawberries, I confess I was too lazy to get up and go to the kitchen to smell the inside of the mason jar.


Moments later, lo and behold, the mason jar was making its way toward me!

My son, having chimed in his own endorsement of the allegedly intense strawberry smell, offered to let me sniff the fruit-scented jar.

Jar containing intense strawberry scent
It occurred to me that my son’s willingness to bring the jar to me was generous, if not slightly unusual.

He helpfully twisted the top off and held the jar under my nose. I didn’t take a huge sniff, but I didn’t take a cautious one either. The whiff I took was, admittedly, unguarded.

My brain immediately and unmistakably labeled the smell “sewer”, so I was puzzled.

In the milliseconds that flowed past, I was also disappointed I didn’t smell the sweet strawberries I had expected.

Not my wife, my son, nor his girlfriend, could explain the drastic olfactory discrepancy, because one of them had slipped to the floor in hysterics, the other was standing but keeled over, and my wife was sitting at the table, trying to keep from falling on to the floor.

They call themselves family.

The devious, nauseating nature of their scheme had yet to be revealed.

Oh well, they duped me, I concluded. They told me the jar would smell like strawberries and it smelled like soaked socks that had sat forgotten for far too long.

I wasn’t sure the gag was worth the tears streaming from their eyes, but their uncontrolled laughing and gasping continued.

I went back to watching ski cross on the television, deciding, with some indignation, their laughter was strangely intense for a prank that, on the surface, seemed fairly lame.

The laughter continued.

I eventually looked back at the collection of clowns, when one of them, probably my son, managed to explain, rather proudly I might add, that he had cut the cheese earlier in the day and bottled it.

My brain quickly recalled the odor and, for a moment, I had to suppress mild revulsion. Then, I pragmatically decided it was already over and done, and it was time to allow my nose to move on.

I gave the group the stinkeye and, I cannot lie, I longed to make their eyes water in the passing wind.

Alas, it appears my destiny is to carry this twisted experience along with the rest of my baggage.

Unfortunately what the prank lacked in sophistication it more than made up for in outrageous inanity and silliness.

Still, for me, the world has changed radically.

Now when I hear Jim Croce sing about “Time in a Bottle”, I think about a far less mystical feat; flatulence in a bottle. Christina Perri may be singing the words, “Jar of Hearts”, but, trust me, that’s not what I’m hearing.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

One Good Apple

The ticket-checkers who work on AMT commuter trains can be egotistical power trippers. The same goes for some of their metro workers and bus drivers.

I’ve heard stories and, in some cases, they’ve made headlines.

I learned last Wednesday that not all of them are moronic clowns. Bad apples don't spoil the whole bunch.

On Monday and Tuesday of last week, my son loaned me his train pass. Monthly train passes don’t need to be scanned at the validation device. Last Wednesday, I used my own Opus card, which consists of individual train tickets that must be validated for each train ride.

Opus validation device
I forgot to validate my card. I only realized as I climbed aboard the train for the ride downtown. 

I was suddenly awash in sweat and hyperventilation, not necessarily in that order! 

The ticket-checkers are not on every train; it’s a spot-check system.

What were the chances they would be aboard my train in the middle of the afternoon?

For the entire trip, I twitched nervously with each loud voice I heard around me, glancing up and wiping several millilitres of burning sweat from my eyes every time the train door rattled open.

It was only when there was one stop to go that I began to relax, and that’s when the door slid open and they walked in, calling to passengers to prepare their proof of payments.

I couldn’t believe it; of all the putrid luck!

The ticket-checker finally stood at my seat and I, wallet in hand, simply admitted I had forgotten to scan my Opus card.

I spoke in English, the official language typically ignored by the AMT in its announcements and publicity.

He took the Opus card from my hand, asking, in English, if I took the train every day. I explained that I did not take the train every day and that Monday and Tuesday, I had borrowed a train pass from my son and, perhaps taking for granted I had the pass again, I had forgotten that my card needed validation.

I don't normally take the train on Wednesdays.

Placing my card on his hand-held verification device, he said he could see that my card had been scanned the week before and then he proceeded to ask me for some ID. He took out a pad and began jotting down my information.

In the end, he very kindly gave me a warning, reminding me the fine for taking the train without a valid ticket, or pass, was $120.

I thanked him repeatedly, assuring him I would not forget to scan my card in the future. He smiled and said, “It happens.”

No joke, the rest of the day, my inner Canadian felt terribly guilty about not getting a ticket! It stupidly nagged at me. It’s as if I feared the AMT employee might be doubting my honesty, thinking I had pulled the wool over his eyes.

His kindness, considering the reputation and stories I’ve heard about AMT ticket-checkers, seemed exceptional.

Will I give other AMT enforcement personnel the benefit of the doubt next time? No, but I’ll always give that particular ticket-checker the benefit of the doubt.

I got lucky that day, not because I didn’t get a ticket, but because I got the only AMT ticket-checker who is a decent human being.

I haven’t seen him since; perhaps Agence metropolitaine de transport has detected his decency and are taking corrective measures.

If and when I do see him again, I plan to thank him once more.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Kitchen Bumpkin

I’ve admitted here before, the grocery store is like a second home to me! The fact likely points to some serious organizational failings, along with possible compulsion issues and undue budget strains, but I’m good with it.

I’m there every day, so when there are promotional stamps, or gas discounts to collect, my Air Miles card is perpetually poised for a swipe.

We redeemed grocery store stamps for a frying pan last year (See “Teeny Stamp Nonsense” January 6, 2016). At least now, the stamps are digital, and not actual flimsy physical stamps you have to stick on a card!

Last night, Susan and I redeemed the latest stamps I’ve been collecting for three Zwilling J.A. Henckels knives.

We redeemed stamps, but still had to cough up cash for these knives, which I take it, are special.

Susan chose the 4 inch paring knife, the 6 inch slicing knife, and the 8 inch Chef’s knife.

I’m not sure I have the necessary permits to drive these things, but whatever.

On the website of the German company, there are knives for carving, slicing, paring, skinning and peeling, as well as special purpose knives for tomatos, vegetables, bagels, boning, bread, sandwiches, steak and sausages.

Who knew?

There are also Honesuki, Gyutoh, Kudamono, Santoku, Shotoh and Sujihiki knives available on the website.

I still know nothing about knives, but what I just wrote is already more than I’ve ever known, need to know, or care to know.

Dismiss me as a kitchen bumpkin, I can handle it.

There is an 8 inch bread knife on the website, regularly $575.00, available for $459.99 right now. Don’t just sit there, add to cart!

A couple of days ago, a grocery store cashier remarked on the number of stamps I’d collected. The telltale total appears on the bill. She helpfully pointed out the deadline for the stamps-for-knives swap was January 25th.


I was sure the deadline was sometime in February, hence the decision to redeem our stamps last night, before they, possibly, run out of stock.

Our newly-acquired knives, according to what’s printed on the blades, are ice hardened. How high-brow! The internet explains that’s the Henckels term for cryogenic tempering, which involves immersing finished knife blades in liquid nitrogen. Apparently, it’s common in the knife business and maximizes the hardness of stainless steel.

As we surveyed the choice of knives in the grocery store last night, Susan pointed out that with two more stamps, we could get the sharpener.

I’d better get back to the grocery store today to get those two missing stamps!

I guess that’s the point.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Air Miles To Go Before We Sleep

Whew! We made it.

Susan and I dashed off to our local grocery store yesterday and quickly racked up more than $70 worth of groceries, so we could get an extra 20 Air Miles before December 31st.

It was a coupon I had received. 

I was glad to hear earlier this month, the company behind Air Miles had scrapped plans to let accumulated miles expire at the end of this year.

Loyalty One had warned Air Miles collectors their first miles would expire December 31st 2016. There was a huge backlash and a class action lawsuit was filed by an Alberta man.

A lot of people hurriedly cashed-in their Air Miles after hearing that Loyalty One planned to let them expire. Now that Loyalty One has changed its mind, those people must be even more ticked!

I can remember years ago, going into my boss’s office to ask for a raise. I asked if I could have more money. He said no. I asked if I could have more vacation time. He said no. I asked if I could have a parking space in the garage. He said no. I asked if I could have a radio station coat. He said he’d see what he could do. I got the coat.

Stand back! When my claws come out, I am one scary tough negotiator, right?

In 2000, after being told by the same boss that budgets were frozen, I left his office with a pile of Air Miles points. As a result, I’m sentimentally attached to Air Miles.

I believe we got a flight for one person to western Canada out of those Air Miles.

Here we are, on the verge of 2017, still doing that Air Miles thing, hoping to reach some ever-elusive goal.

You got it Puck, what fools we mortals be…

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Life In Our City

I know when I’m standing at the lookout, gazing out across the city where I was born, raised, educated and employed, I feel a lot of things, including a great affection for Montreal. I often wonder whether other Montrealers feel the same things? How do they spend their time in Montreal? What do they know about Montreal that I don’t? 

I was able to ask those questions of Sam Roberts, Nikki Yanofsky, Stefano Faita, Valerie Plante and Dori Yeats, to name a few. I’m curious to know what our city means to well-known Montrealers.

That’s one of the fun things I get to do as host of “City Life”!

Just as fun, is getting to talk about the issues that are percolating in our city. Our panelists are Montrealers, commenting on Montreal issues. There were some gigantic issues to discuss over the fall season, including the city spying on journalists, the city legislating against pit bulls, the PQ’s identity politics, honoring Leonard Cohen, and whether Trump’s election win might have an eventual impact on our city.

Journalists and commentators Martin Patriquin, Christopher Nardi, Ann Lagace-Dowson, Toula Drimonis, Ethan Cox, Marlene Jennings, Paul Gott, and Nakuset all have insightful and compelling things to say. Certainly, we cannot overlook what Christopher is doing for the resurging bowtie; the man fearlessly worked a wooden bowtie frame on our eighth show of the season!

Olympic wrestler Dori Yeats is a pit bull owner
The reports put together by our editorial team are weighty and intensely relevant. “City Life” reporter Dan Spector has taken raw looks at rape culture in our city, radicalization, gentrification, police investigating police, and whether the Charbonneau commission made a difference in the level of corruption in our city. 

We gave Mayor Coderre a report card, and in another report, we learned Montreal pimps do their most effective recruiting in the homes of young girls. We have highly relevant guests on “City Life” to discuss the reports we air. With their experience and expertise, they shed light on what we can do and where we’re going.

Every show I host, I learn something about the city I love. That’s got me hooked!

We have passionate documentary filmmakers on “City Life”, who share the stories they’ve found of homeless violin players, Montreal’s jazz history, Mohawk ironworkers, and a man who exuberantly, or over-exuberantly, preaches the Bible on the metro.

Juno-winning blues singer and guitarist Steve Hill shared his favorite Montreal burger joint, Nikki Yanofsky shared her favorite place in Montreal to shop and Projet Montreal leader Valerie Plante talked about what she wants to do for Montrealers.

Opposition leader Valerie Plante on our last show of the season
I had a lot of fun hosting the fall season and I’m chomping at the bit for the winter season, which begins in January.

Thank you to our guests, our panelists and our viewers!

The show makes me a more complete Montrealer. It can’t be helped; it’ll make you one, too.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Knotty and Nice

I was toasty warm this morning, laying lazily in bed under a heavy pile of blankets with a large and wonderful dog at my feet, and a small and wonderful dog near my face.

I could hear the sound of the city plow rumble past and groaning tractors clearing driveways of freshly falling snow.

I hadn’t started my day yet and could hear my son moving around the house, preparing to walk to the train.

I asked if he would like a lift to the train station, but he declined.

The next thing I know, I’m an unwilling contestant on a high pressure game show!

He came into the room with a winter boot in his hand and exclaimed, “I need this knot undone in the next minute, otherwise I’m going to be late!”

Good parents want to be there for their children, whatever the situation, but I’m usually the one crankily dropping frustrations like this on my wife.

I got out of bed and scurried to the kitchen in search of more light. Reeling somewhat, I put on my glasses and quickly pulled a fork from the utensil drawer as Tristan muttered, unhelpfully, “I’ve gotta leave now!”

I was faced with a daunting task; I had the will to resolve the puzzle; I was on the clock; and apparently, I was the next contestant on “Knotty and Nice”.


This was not how I had planned to start my Monday!

I am unable to open any sort of package the way product manufacturers expect me to open them. I inevitably lose patience and rip things apart. 

I’m also terrible at untying knots!

As I attacked the knot in his boot, I hoped I could deliver an unfettered lace in time.

I’m not sure how, but with focus and strategic prying, I got the knot undone with uncommon efficiency and handed my son the boot. He tugged it onto his foot, laced it, and hurried out the door.

Good deed done. Nerves shot. Prize secured.