far too much writing, far too many photos

[continued from entry of August 18]

I began writing this entry in a B&B in Montreal, seated on the bed in my cosy rented room, rain falling outside, the faint sound of vehicles passing on raindamp streets drifting in through the open window — me back in this sweet city two weeks after the jaunt I’ve been slowly (so painfully slowly) describing in recent entries.

Back in part because it’s a lovely city that strikes a chord with me — an interesting, liveable, homelike place. And in part because things went so nicely with I., the woman mentioned in the previous part of this narrative.

It’s a bit wacky, the B&B experience. You never really know what you’re in for. At this one — operated by a friendly, older Québécois woman — I found myself alone at breakfast, being served sugar, starch, caffeine. Fruit, fruit juice, bagel, english muffin, tea. Just as I finished with the small plate of fruit, turning my gaze toward the kitchen (hoping to see some protein gliding my way), two older women stepped in the front door, calling out Boujours. Friends of the owner, both looking to be in their 60’s. They entered, laughing, removed shoes, appraised me, interested. The owner introduced us, they came over, each gave me a firm handshake, seemed to lose some interest at my lack of ability with French. Moved to the living area right outside my room, sat down, shrugging off light jackets. The owner lay a small plate in front of me (containing bagel/english muffin), told me nicely to ask if I wanted something more, then sat down with her friends, began chatting. My room contains an alcove with a sink, but no shower or toilet. To get to the loo, I’d need to pass through their get-together, not exactly how I was looking to start the day. Settled for shaving in my hideyhole and decamped with laptop to a nearby café to wake up, pull myself slowly together.

Which is where I am now, slowly swimming toward what passes as full consciousness, the air full of French being spoken by attractive women, James Brown cranking out Hot Pants Pt. 1 on the in-house stereo (not my typical wake-up soundtrack).

Montreal is positively heaving with places to get a decent meal, with caffeine peddlers pushing good coffee, with all kinds of people (excellent for high-quality people watching), at least half of whom are female people (excellent for high-quality female people watching).

Which brings me back to a big part of why I’m back in Montreal: the sweet female type person I spent time with during the visit two weeks ago. The one who waded through two hours of crossed wires to have dinner with me, then carted me around far too much of the city the following day, showing me neighborhoods I’d never been through, showing me the Oratory (complete with flight after flight of steps that pilgrims can ascend on their knees if they’re so inclined, and rack upon rack of crutches/canes left by pilgrims — post spontaneous healings — along with sweeping views of Montreal).

Meals, cups of high-octaine joe at sidewalk cafes, plenty of conversation. A nice time. Nice enough to get me back there two weeks later for more.

[continued in next entry]

España, te echo de menos.

Morning, late August, northern Vermont:

España, te echo de menos.

[continued from previous entry]

Stumbled into the B&B, spewing aplogies re: being late, waving the item to be returned. Was met with a mystified stare and an assurance that there was no rush, no problem, not even any real need, apparently, for the item to be returned. I shrugged, handed over said item, disappeared into my comfy hideyhold to prepare for the evening.

The activity for the evening: a real live date. Before heading north, I’d taken out a craig’s list ad, seeking platonic-only fun with a nice woman during my stay. A woman — I. — had responded, the connection had turned out to be fun, interesting, and we decided to go ahead with a 3-D rendezvous. I. would come to Plateau, where I was staying, find parking, call me. We’d take it from there.

Her ETA: seven o’clock, give or take. That hour arrives, slips past — no phone call. I wait patiently. (After all, who in their right mind would pass up an opportunity to spend an evening with my humble self?) Around 7:30, I send an email expressing concern, me hoping nothing bad had happened to her. Called the number I had for her, couldn’t get through. Time passed, I continued with the occasional email, im and phone call. Nothing, my concern growing with each failed attempt. At some point, maybe around 8:30, an email from I.’s teenage daughter arrived, wanting to if everything was all right, supplying I.’s number (the one I’d been calling, unable to get through). An attempt to answer that produced a message notifying me that the address was not valid.

By the time the two-hour mark loomed, I’d begun to grapple with the possibility that I might have been blown off. (So flattering. So much fun.) I tried I.’s number one more time. It rang. Someone answered. And I heard a female voice, a nice one. We each cautiously spoke the other person’s name, we waded cautiously into a dialogue, each of us stressed, unhappy. Turned out she was close by, a few minutes later I was walking quickly through neighborhood streets to meet her. I reached the appointed intersection, saw a woman diagonally across it, waved, made my way across (careful to avoid passing vehicles). A very attractive woman, turned out, with long, wavy brown hair, wearing a black dress that showed a fair amount of leg. We exchanged cautious hellos, began discussing the previous two hours of pure joy, both of us sounding mystified and frazzled re: the massive crossing of wires.

Somewhere in there it came to light that this lay at the root of the mess: a few days earlier, when I’d given this woman my number, I’d apparently supplied my home number instead of my mobile number — the first and only time that’s ever happened. She’d arrived on time, parked her car, and when she tried to call, she got my answering machine back in Vermont (because, you know, I wasn’t at home). Two hours of hilarity ensued.

I absorbed that, mystified, then took the only possible course of action: apologized. And appreciated the fact that this woman had hung in there, hadn’t gone home, spewing foul things about me to everyone she knew.

We found a restaurant that looked promising, waded inside, secured a table by windows. Talked, ate. Talked more. Two hours later, we walked along the crowded sidewalks of the nearest main drag. Found a café with tables outside, glommed onto cups of coffee, sat and talked. Four hours after we’d finally connected, the night began turning cold, we finished up, deciding it had gone so well (after the disastrous first two hours) that we’d try it again the next day, herself offering to show me The Offertory (big church, big dome, big view of city).

[continued in entry of 8/24]

España, te echo de menos.

[continued from previous entry]

The door opened, there stood Himself, waving me in. We exchanged hellos, I stepped inside, pausing to lavish attention on the family dog (the result: big doggy smile, happy doggy groveling). T. and I began catching up, him with some big-ticket items to report (gratifying well-paying work with a respected cable channel, excellent-sounding fraternizing with a member of the opposite gender), at one point we stepped out onto his back porch where he slipped into parental mode to deal with something his younger son and a friend were up to. I saw a large sword in a scabbard laying on a table to one side, turns out M., T.’s son, has been studying martial arts, meaning ways of fighting, maiming, killing. Eek!

T.’s older son came home soon after, T. herded us all out to the car. A short time later we were parking on a main drag in another part of the city, the sun dropping in the western sky, a cool breeze blowing. A short walk — along stretches of sidewalk festooned by election campaign ads that older son found hideous — brought us to a Vietnamese restaurant, packed with a short wait. While T. and the boys talked, I scoped out the clientele. All kind of people, including two Montreal police officers, the usual big, bulky male and a very cute female, in full regalia: guns, walkie-t’s, what looked like bulletproof vests.

A table in the rearmost corner opened up, we sat, perused menus, ordered. A lot of food, turned out, the boys also ordering drinks composed of red beans, mung beans, coconut milk and something else. They arrived, top half milky white, bottom half milky red. T. prodded one of the boys to allow me a sip, I sipped — extremely sweet, turned out, the bean and coconut flavors harmonizing better than I expected. (Mmmmm…. the oversweetened goodness of beans and big, hairy, hard-shelled fruit) I could see some might find it pleasing and handed it back, mouth still evaluating the strange concoction that had just passed through.

Food arrived, course after course, the main attraction being big tureens of soup, replete with noodles and meat. Good, but next time I’ll go for Indian.

The drive home: darkness falling, conversation turning to music, T. slipping an old Lou Reed CD into the player, cueing one tune I could only agree with. Once back home, the boys headed inside, T. and I walked a few blocks to a café, joined the crowd seated outside, talking more, sipping at espresso. Somewhere in there, talking about my plans for the next day, T. suggested me making a trip to the city’s botanical gardens. Beautiful, he said — an agreeable hike of maybe 25 minutes from the B&B

Sounded like a nice idea. Next day, with a free afternoon stretching out ahead, I pulled on hiking boots and got walking. The gardens are on Sherbrooke, I zigged through local street until I emerged on that major avenue and followed it east. And followed it. And followed it some more. Went through all kinds of neighborhoods, some seeing good times, others looking sad and neglected. Passed parks, lots of them, some large, some tiny, all welcoming, all well taken care of. Realized all over again as I walked how green this city is in the warm season. Passed old-age residences, big buildings with old folks ranged around outside on benches, sitting quietly. Passed shopping centers, passed big boulevards, passed train tracks. The 25-minute mark slipped by, I found myself far from the gardens. An hour-plus after starting out, I arrived, the sleek, slanting, slightly surreal spire of the Olympic Stadium visible first, followed by the stadium dome, then finally by the green of the gardens themselves across Sherbrooke.

And the gardens were lovely, extensive, intense with color. And crowded, with all sorts of people: tourists, gardens staff, arty camera types.

I wandered. Down wide blacktopped ways, passing groups of people waiting for shuttle carts (seated, silent, staring around). Through pavillions. Through garden areas — some austere and spacious (packed with people), some lush, overgrown, fragrant with flowers (nearly empty). Spent an hour drifting like that, then saw the time, realized I needed to return something to the owners of the B&B. Pulled myself together, headed back out into the world of concrete and traffic. Hopped the Metro, made the return trip in 15 short minutes (my feet giving thanks the entire way).

[continued in next entry]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lily pond, Botanical Gardens, Montreal:

España, te echo de menos.

Woke up yesterday morning during the wee hours to the sound of rain drumming on the roof. Outside: gray skies, mist cloaking green hillsides — Vermont looking primeval.

A drive north to Montreal was on deck, yours truly fleeing the States for three days and nights of wholesome fun. I’d avoided packing bags the night before, leaving me no option but to drag adorable ass out of bed and stuff clothing into wheeled duffel as I gradually came to, gray, weak daylight gathering outside. Surprised myself by working efficiently, surprised myself more by getting underway on schedule. Spent the morning in Montpelier (caffeine infusion, gym, errands) where gray clouds gave way to hazy blue sky, humidity high, air soft. And found myself on the interstate — on schedule once more — miles slipping past, green mountains looming.

Had expected a more difficult experience crossing into Canada than in years past, given all the talk there’s been about intensifying border control. And traffic in the other direction was lined up like I’d never seen it before, lanes of vehicles stretching away from the customs booths and well into Canadian territory. Canadian customs slowly came into view, I saw… nothing, essentially. The customs version of ease and tranquility. Two lanes open for business, each with one car, mid-processing.

Pulled in as the car ahead moved out, no waiting. The customs agent took my license/passport, firing questions at me about my stay, voice softly accented. After a minute of that — him looking at a computer screen as he quizzed me — he handed me back my things, sent me on my way.

Quebec. Farms, grain silos, cornfields, the occasional house. Small villages appeared, disappeared, some featuring oversized roadside crucifixes. Reached Montreal in shockingly good time, arrived at the B&B early, dealt with changes of situation there (the room I’d been booked into had developed a water leak in the ceiling, they siphoned me off into a comfy, larger room; the downside: comfy, larger room is booked tonight, I’ll have to move into the smaller room, which will by that time be, I hope, dry). Lucked into a parking space. Called friends, hooked into the B&B’s wireless network. Headed out shortly before 5 to make the rush-hour slog to a friend’s place.

Out on the main drag, a bus had paused to pick up passengers. My bus. The driver must have seen me coming, must have seen me accelerating my pace, must have seen the expression of hope on my face — as I drew close, the doors closed, the bus pulled away from the curb, angling out into traffic and moving away. I watched it go, mentally giving a shrug. Rush hour, I figured — another’ll be along soon.

Half an hour of waiting later, bulging with people looking to get home after a long day, the next bus showed. I eeled my way inside, found a spot to stand, started reading. Around me, two or three people talked into cellphones, women in summer dresses looked casually lovely, passengers came and went with each new stop. Traffic surged, slowed, squeezed around clots of construction, pressed ahead. 45 minutes and one transfer later, I stood on T.’s front porchette, rapping at his door as swallows streaked overhead.

T. is someone I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for three or four years, via the internet at first through an online community of wackos, then in 3-D during my periodic trips north to enjoy this city. He’s a person whose life is taking off — I’ve spent time with the 3-D him on several occasions now, each time months after the last, and on every occasion he’s looked better and better. The very first time I met him in person, he looked a big, friendly bear. Now he looks sleeker, more focussed. Life is bringing him fun along with increasing possibilities, and it shows.

[continued in next entry]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Doorway, Montreal

España, te echo de menos.

Vermont, early August:

España, te echo de menos.

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