Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pow Wow, Speed & Blues

On the show this weekend, a young blues student, Graham Webb and his teacher, Vincent Beaulne, play a song in-studio. They're both part of the Montreal International Jazz Festival's 6th blues camp. I speak to John Mayo and Ray Deer about next weekend's 21st Kahnawake Pow-Wow. I also talk to the man driving this boat.

Marc Bedard, who races in the Grand Prix class, is in-studio with Anne-Marie Leboeuf, pit coordinator of the Regates de Valleyfield. Anne-Marie is a lot of fun, but doesn't at all look like the person you'd imagine running the pit area of this hugely popular speed boat event!

Marc says she gets the job done!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sigh Low Tour

I enjoy exploring caves, nature sites and old buildings! When I heard Heritage Montreal was offering tours of Silo #5, I decided to sign-up. This structure is part of the complex in the Old Port.

I mentioned it to my son and he was interested in taking the tour as well. On Saturday, we took the train downtown, headed to the rendez-vous point and were, eventually, led on to the site. It was interesting, but the lack of site access made it too classroom-like for me!

Yammer, yack-yack; where's the peering and poking?

The tour could have offered so much more in the way of exploration. They allowed us to go into the oldest of the buildings on the Pointe-du-Moulin site and that was it.

The place has a rich and impressive history. It made Montreal the grain capital of North America, not to mention master of grain elevator technology. I wish they would have allowed us to look inside a silo and go up to the top floors of the annex. When I interviewed Dinu Bumbaru, Heritage Montreal's policy director, he mentioned they were thinking about taking a group of guests up onto the roof of the structure!

The dude snapped this picture. Having typically neglected to read the fine print of the FSTAA (Father/Son Tour Accompaniment Agreement), I didn't realize until we were on-site, that I was not permitted to take pictures of him!

That's (sigh) low.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Good People

Martin Raymond, one of the Tampa Bay Lightning assistant coaches came in today for an interview. He was well-spoken, interesting and terrific with the young students who had come in for an interview of their own.

The five elementary students were from Westmount Park Elementary school. They were on the show to talk about their school's computer refurbishing program. The students take apart obsolete computers, refurbish them by loading in software and then redistribute the "upgraded" computers to families in the school who need one. Pamela Price, one of the teachers at the school and a co-creator of the program, accompanied the students to the studio.

Martin spoke to the thrilled students, encouraged and lauded them for their work and then happily autographed the t-shirts they were wearing! He posed for several pictures, including this one.

When we had done taping the show, all our staff were telling me how enthusiastic and positive he had been with the children.

I wish him continued success with his coaching career; it's nice to see good things come to good people.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Huh, Fish What

I'm officially freaked out!

There's actually an entry in my Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary for "fish wife"! Covered in goosebumps, I hesitated to read it.

Certain my wife had arbitrarily invented the phrase to drive home some impromptu, improvised and incomprehensible point, not for one second did I expect to find an actual entry in a recognized dictionary!

A few years ago, I made the unthinkable faux-pas of pulling out my wallet at the cash and offering to pay for the groceries. I'm quite sure Susan's response at the time was hissed, perhaps even parseltongue! If humans are capable of hissing responses at one another, then that particular response definitely belonged under the heading of hissing. "I don't want to look like some fish wife!", she hissed.

I remember stepping back, my mind racing. Frantically, I searched my short-term and long-term memory banks, my "obscure references" file, my knowledge of  famous phrases in literature and popular television catchphrases; I quickly ran through my mental stash of Lear-like limericks and maritime folk music. To my dismay, all I managed to produce was a little black puff of smoke that, empty-handed, coughed its way from my left ear.

What the heck is a "fish wife"?

Though intimidated, I dared to inquire and was summarily dismissed. Dangerously, I persisted and from what I was able to gather, concluded it involved being offered money to pay for things while standing at the cash register in view of store employees.

Flimsy, I know, but I had nothing else.

The day before yesterday, while walking to the grocery store with Tristan, the elusive "fish wife" concept  came up. I confessed to my son that I was not entirely clear on how it worked. To make matters even more hazy, a couple of weeks ago, while standing at a cash in view of store employees, she asked me to pay! Does the disdainful "fish wife" label not apply, I wondered, if she asks me to pay for an item?

If only there were some way to enlighten myself.

The "fish wife" conversation with Tristan fairly fresh in my head, a few moments ago, I decide, on a whim, to look in the dictionary to see whether there's such a thing as a "fish wife".

Under the "fish wife" entry are two choices; definition one: a woman who sells fish; definition two: a vulgar abusive woman.

Neither definition is helping me master the mysterious intricacies of  "fish wife" etiquette, or its situational avoidance.

If you think I'm going to raise the subject of actual dictionary definitions with Susan, you're nuts! You're welcome to give it a try, but you did not hear it from me!!!

I've managed to, rather brilliantly, avoid igniting any flammable "fish wife" exchanges. If she's at the front of the grocery basket when we get to the cash, I simply stay at the back of the basket and appear to be soaking-up magazine headlines; if she's at the back of the grocery basket, I stay at the front of the basket and chat compulsively with the bagger.

So far, so good.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Courtesy Over Ignorance

We tossed one of our game channels this week. Susan has been itching to get HGTV.

Done deal!

The reason didn't matter, I used to dread calling our cable provider. The waits were stupid and, inevitably, the exchange took place exclusively in French. Not knowing all the technical terms in French, the phone calls were rarely pleasant. Now the calls to Videotron are positively peachy! Within four minutes of my placing the call, the new channel appeared on our television and the entire exchange was done in the language of my choice. Their customer service is exceptional; not only courteous, it's downright friendly!

Any other channels you'd like, darling?

Wednesday's train ride home began normally enough, pulling out of Central Station on time. One stop later, just outside the tunnel, we were told the doors were not opening. No passengers could board the train or get off.

We sat there about 25 minutes. Every now and then, they would announce that they were working on the problem. Finally, after forcing open some doors, they told everyone to get off the train, walk to the end of the platform, climb the stairs, cross over the tunnel and go back down the stairs to the other side of the track, where another northbound train would pick us up.

The train arrived, already filled with passengers. We boarded and resumed our commute. Six stops later, the train, again, sat motionless for several minutes before we were told there was a technical problem and the train would remain at the station for "un bon moment". About fifteen minutes after that, we were told that because of unspecified technical problems, the train would remain there indefinitely and we should find our own way home.

As I walked toward an exit, I spotted one of the train employees. I asked him in French why they didn't make their announcements bilingually. He responded, casually, "Y'a rien qui m'oblige de parler anglais." The concept of courtesy never occurred to him. Having noticed at least one woman ask a fellow passenger for a translation, I pointed out not everyone speaks French well enough to understand everything that had been announced. I went on to ask, "As long as you have our money, it doesn't matter whether anglophones exist? We don't have the right, as customers, to have this situation explained to us in our own language?" He smiled and stared at me. I asked his name, which he told me was Remi Poirier. I got off and began my improvised journey home.

Remi is simply a reflection of the crappy, arrogant policies of  l'Agence m√©tropolitaine de transport. All literature handed out to passengers is unlingual French. When they do their spot checks, the self-important AMT "ticket checkers" make their annoucements and interact in unilingual French. All announcements on outdoor platforms are unilingual French.

As far as the AMT is concerned, anglos don't exist and they don't care that we might. If you, as a service provider, don't extend me courtesy, then you'll get no courtesy from me, as a customer.

When I'm walking and a lost motorist asks for directions in French, I happily answer in French.

When I sing the national anthem, whether it 's for the Alouettes, or whether it was for the Expos and Matrix, I sang bilingually. When I hear the anthem being performed anywhere in Canada, I demand  it be sung bilingually, so that it's an accurate representation of our country and to make it clear to francophones, "we know you exist, recognize, respect, value and appreciate that you exist."

A couple of months ago, AMT commuter trains were suddenly decked out with new, large, bilingual safety stickers. Whoever twisted AMT's arm, obliging them to put up bilingual stickers, thanks a bunch!

There are a few AMT conductors who make their annoucements bilingually and I appreciate it very much. It's courtesy.

I'm sufficiently evolved as a Montrealer, Quebecer, Canadian and human being that I happily conduct business in the language chosen by the customer. I wish it were that way across Canada and I believe that's what Pierre Trudeau always fought for. I wouldn't have it any other way. It's not only good business, it's brilliant business because it breeds a remarkable thing called customer loyalty - and that keeps customers from straying. These are helpful lessons the Jack and Jones store in Rosemere and the AMT could put to good use.

Perhaps our cable provider tutors.