Tag Archives: Canada

Urban Scenes: Montréal

It’s been a long time since I was last in Montréal. Decades, in fact. As a kid, I’d go at least once a month with my parents to visit my grandparents. One of my earliest memories comes from Montréal: Expo ’67. I don’t remember much about Expo ’67 except that I got my hand smushed by the monorail door. I was staring out the door’s window, hands pressed against the glass. When the monorail pulled into the station, the doors retracted into their slots and dragged one of my hands with them. I remember screaming and screaming. My parents tell me my hand was flattened and stayed that way for the rest of the day. They thought it would never be right. But young bones are resilient and by the next morning my hand had popped back to its normal size. In a sense, Expo was a masturbatory celebration of all things modern—technology, progress, future fetishism, all that sort of thing. I think my hand-smushing trauma may account for my lifelong suspicion of modernism and for my general expectation that it inevitably fails to deliver on its promises. It’s a miracle I can play the piano.

I was in Montréal during the October crisis. I remember how soldiers stopped our car at the Quebec border and questioned my father. My grandfather was a minister and one of his parishioners showed up at the manse in a panic, convinced the FLQ had a cell in her apartment building. My grandfather made a phone call and soon the manse was teeming with police and paramilitary types. I was too young to understand the issues, but I was old enough to understand in a visceral way the meaning of military authority, and the connection between fear and power. In retrospect, I think Trudeau’s War Measures Act was thoroughly reprehensible, but thoroughly understandable in light of the values celebrated during Expo ’67.

A couple years later, my grandfather retired from the ministry. As anglophones in an increasingly politicized and culturally polarized environment, they decided to leave. On his own, I think my grandfather could have adapted quite nicely to life there, but my grandmother was American and had already made one enormous cultural change when she married my grandfather and moved to New Brunswick. I don’t think she had it in her to make another major cultural change. I suspect, for her, the Montréal charge was only ever provisional. So my grandparents moved to Ontario. After that, I only ever visited Montréal on my way to somewhere else—until last week when I discovered how much I miss the city. We visited the offices of McCarthy Tétrault (my wife’s employer) and from the reception windows on the 25th floor of Le 1000 de la Gauchetière I looked out over Habitat 67 and La Biosphère where I had my hand smushed nearly 50 years ago. I looked across the river and thought I could almost see the spire of the church where my grandfather had served. I was surprised at how the view brought a lump to my throat. I need to spend more time there.

Child Crossing Place d'Armes, BMO Banque de Montréal in background

Child Crossing Place d’Armes, BMO Banque de Montréal in background

Sidewalk, Rue Saint Pierre, Old Montréal

Sidewalk, Rue Saint Pierre

Subway station on the Orange Line of the Montreal Metro rapid transit system

Square-Victoria-OACI – Subway station on the Montreal Metro

Garbage residue flowing down Evans Court, Old Montréal

Garbage residue flowing down Evans Court

View from alley onto Metcalfe St., Montréal

View from alley onto Metcalfe Street

Street Art at Boulevard de Maisonneuve & Rue de la Montagne, Montréal

Street Art thru phone booth at Blvd de Maisonneuve & Rue de la Montagne

Poster on Mill Street Bridge, Montréal - Pointe du Moulin à Vent in background.

Poster on Mill Street Bridge – Pointe du Moulin à Vent in background

Pointe du Moulin à Vent, Montréal

Shadows On Silos – Pointe du Moulin à Vent

Shadow of Stop Sign on Wall

Shadow of Stop Sign on Wall

Exterior of Centre de Sciences de Montréal

Exterior of Centre de Sciences de Montréal

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Skating at Nathan Philips Square

Today, the temperature is supposed to top out at 17 degrees Celcius and most of the snow will be gone. Thought I’d better post some winterish photos before spring officially arrives. Here is a handful of skating related photos from Nathan Philips Square shot throughout the winter. It includes a Zamboni which in my estimation is one of the most important, yet underrated, facets of the Canadian winter experience. I can’t imagine where we’d be as a nation without the Zamboni.






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Congratulations to Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberals for their stunning election victory last night. To celebrate the ouster of King Stephen, I offer a bit of nostalgia: some photos I took of Justin’s father, Pierre Elliot Trudeau. I think it was during the 1979 election campaign. Our high school orchestra was invited to a Liberal shindig to play the national anthem. The theme to Star Wars was big then, what with the Force and all, so it wouldn’t surprise me if we played that too. I brought my viola and my camera bag, so when I wasn’t bowing furiously, I was lurking around the stage trying to get a decent shot. I had a Konica T3 35 mm camera and Bushnell 35 mm lens. These aren’t great photos (made worse by the fact that they’re scanned from slides), but sometimes it’s useful to revisit earlier efforts. I can see the makings of a street photographer here.

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Abandoned Grain Elevator – Thunder Bay

While in Thunder Bay, I paid a visit to the former Saskatchewan Wheat Pool 4A and 4B elevators on Shipyard Road by the waterfront. I have no idea which elevator is 4A and which is 4B. I went in both and climbed onto the roof of the red one. It’s possible to climb the white one, too, but the owners have removed all the metal landings in the stairwell, which means you have to climb over each railing all the way up. Since I was carrying a backpack full of gear, a camera, and tripod, I opted for the easier climb.

Abandoned Grain Elevators

To be clear, the fact that the grain elevators are abandoned doesn’t mean that entering them stops being a trespass. But given that the elevators are visually arresting, trespass seems like a minor matter.

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Panamania Scrapbook

Last night saw the close of the PanAm Games in Toronto. Photographically speaking, they’ve been kind of hard to miss; they’ve formed part of the city’s backdrop for months now. I wasn’t involved in the games. I didn’t volunteer (my wife did). I did go to opening ceremony rehearsal at the Rogers Centre, & the women’s soccer final in Hamilton. But most of the time, I meandered with my camera (as I usually do) and saw what I saw (as I usually do) and traces of the Games inevitably appeared in my frame. Here are some of the things I saw:

The countdown clock in Nathan Phillips Square - 66 days to go.

The countdown clock in Nathan Phillips Square – 66 days to go.

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I Will Never Be As Good As Araki

I like to think of the Japanese photographer, Araki, as (among other things) the grandfather of the modern selfie. Photographers have been taking self-portraits since the camera was invented, but Araki makes a regular habit of including himself in his images, and was doing so long before digital photography became a thing. Maybe he wanted to underscore his assertion that the photographer’s subject is never anything but him/herself. Many of his self-inclusions are benign. Others have been racier–like the shot he took on his wedding night of his bride fellating him.

At the beginning of the month, I drove through Sleeping Giant Provincial Park on the north shore of Lake Superior & hiked the shortest trail I could find, Ravine Lake Trail. Still off-season, the place was empty. Once I got into the ravine, I decided to take a selfie. Did I mention that I was alone? I set up the camera on the tripod, took the remote and leaned against a mossy rock. Good enough, I thought, and went on my way. Not until I got home and started processing my photos did I realize that I’d been standing there with my fly wide open. If I’d been Araki, I would at least have exposed myself (photographic pun intended).

Selfie on the Ravine Lake Trail, Sleeping Giant Prov'l Park.

Selfie on the Ravine Lake Trail, Sleeping Giant Prov’l Park.


The trail to Ravine Lake.

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Victoria – Animals

The 7th in a series of 10 posts featuring photos of Victoria, B.C. This time: animals. (It was too wet for whale watching. Maybe next time.)


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Victoria’s Shoreline

The 6th of 10 posts featuring photos of Victoria, B.C.

Today: photos taken while walking alone the shore below Dallas Road between Cook Street and the breakwater. Although most of my time in Victoria involved an umbrella in one hand while shooting with the other (the rainy season is from November to February), nevertheless, the sun was sometimes kind to me.


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Victoria – Architecture, Style, Design

The 5th of 10 posts about Victoria, B.C.

Victoria is unique to Canada in that it enjoys a cool-summer Mediterranean climate. That fact is reflected in the materials, colours, and design of many homes and other buildings.


Stucco-covered house. Palm trees are common.

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Shopping in Victoria

My favourite place to shop in Victoria is Renaissance Books in Bastion Square, a used and antiquarian bookstore by the inner harbour. However, in deference to my wife, who has more “normal” shopping habits, I thought I’d share photos of destinations other than book stores.


She She Shoes on View Street.

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