Let’s learn a French phrase

Wow, my phone sucks.   Anyway, yesterday I was sitting in Starbucks waiting for R and attempted to post the following:

Pour parcourir le monde – une gorgée à la fois.

Parcourir means to cover (as in cover an area) and is related to a word used in English a great deal in the last few years “Parcourt” but the verb doesn’t imply the danger.

Gorgée means gulp or a swallow and is related to the word for throat (gorge as in ‘sore throat’ – mal à gorge)

and à la fois means “at a time.”

So, the Starbucks table ad translates as “Covering the world – one gulp at a time.”

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Cultural Secrets that I Know

This is fascinating and, in some cases, I’ve experienced them personally.

I think I’d add a few with a Canadian/American spin such as:

  • American’s feel the question “How much to you make there?” naturally follows “Where do you work?” which tends to horrify Canadians.  I’ve got friends who’ve been in my life to over 20yrs and I have no idea what they make – and wouldn’t dream of asking.  (I found this one when an American from Alabama emigrated to our community.  At a little “welcome” party we had for him at the office, in an effort to start putting names with faces, he went person to person asking what they did for the company and, at first, asking how much that paid!  Someone quickly diverted him and explained.  We chatted later and he was kind of thrown as it was quite common where he’d lived.)
  • When two Canadians bump into each other on the street, they will both say “Sorry.”  Neither is attempting to assume blame as they agreeing “Isn’t is awful that that happened.”  I’m told American’s find this very confusing as, to them, “Sorry” indicates assumed blame.
  • Briefly holding a door so the person behind can catch it, when entering a building for example,  yields a brief “thanks” in English Canada.  In French Canada, this sort of verbal thanks is very rare – in either language – but a glance and nod of thanks is common.

you don't have to read v2.0

Here are some cultural secrets that I know.  Enjoy.

  • African Americans who you don’t even know are happy to greet you on the street in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with a “good morning” or a “hello;” Often, but not always, the greeting continues through “how are you doing today?” and “fine thanks, yourself?” A friend pointed it out to me, so then I started doing it. It was wonderful. It worked for me in Washington DC, as well, but not in Madison, Wisconsin. It works only sometimes in Seattle. A friend of mine who lives in Harlem took of a picture of a homemade sign posted on a… mail box?… saying “Black people should greet each other!”
  • The asian kids sit together in the lunch room because they like each other. Also, they know that nobody at the table will “yuck” their food out loud. I grew up with the value…

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Gateway to another time

We’re staying near Square Phillip in Montréal meaning the trek home is via McGill metro out into the basement and up to street level at La Baie.   In English Canada it’s know as The Bay short for Hudson’s Bay Company.  The company has been in business since 1670 –  that’s not a typo, we canucks have been in retail for over 330 years. Continuously.   

Retail being retail, the chain has lost a lot of its glory and as you exit its ancient brass doors onto Ste Catherine St you may notice this.


A place for smokers to strike matches before the days of the ubiquitous Bic lighter. This is not to say smoking has fallen out of favour. In fact having been in Toronto, San Francisco and Montreal over the last few weeks I would say the one thing that they share in common is the everyone smokes as if it CURES cancer.

Tomorrow is our last full day before a long sleepy train ride home Sun into Monday.  We’re going to walk old Montreal. I may step into a basilica or two if my shoes don’t smoke badly.

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Strange and Vaguely Disturbing

Something happened a couple of days ago that I’m still puzzling out.

We’d finished breakfast at Lori’s Diner – the tiny, original one – and R was in a long line to pay.  I felt like a little air so I stepped outside. 

The moment I stepped out, a fellow with a twin stroller and a slavic accent said to me: “You have an honest face.  May I ask you a favour?”  I thought “oh boy it’s too early” but said I’d listen.  This is when it got surreal.

He said he had to move his car – pointing at on very near – because he was about to get a ticket. (SF must have an anti meter feeding rule.)   He asked if I would mind staying with the stroller while he drove around the block. The stroller  …  with two children in it.  I said my spouse would be a few minutes so sure, I guess.  As it was raining, he’d draped a towel over the stroller which he pulled back to reveal two children, maybe 6 – one using an iPad and the other using some sort of portable game console.  He said to one:  “I have to move the car.  This fellow will stay with you until I get back.”  I admit to being a little nervous at this point but the girl gave him a perfect ‘yeah dad whatever’ eye-roll and I felt a little better.  The girls went back to their consoles, he replaced towel, said thanks and headed for the car. 

At this point R arrived and was more than a little concerned about what we were in for.  But… the guy pulled into traffic, the parking gods smiled and he got a new spot near the end of the street.  I watched him get out, find change, feed the meter and jog back up the street  to us. 

He thanked is profusely and repeated  “I knew you had an honest face.”  We wished him a good visit and left.  

Very surreal in an age when someone my age visiting a toy store without a child/grandchild is given the stink eye.  I dunno, maybe I should have read him to filth for leaving his girls with strangers.  I’m still thinking about this days later. 

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Oh, the things we see

After finally getting so decent sleep,  we’re warming to SF. The Castro helped greatly I must admit.  Elsewhere the city seems to vary from outright seafood hostility…


… to offers to be declined with a polite  “oh, some other time perhaps.”


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Hi There! — or — Why can’t I freaking sleep????

It’s Japan all over again. Time zone change makes Jim’s brain go wonkier than usual. Tablet on last legs so briefly:

  • When the “Remarks” section of your boarding pass says “S S S S” you are in for the full scan and search. I went for the body scan as there were no hot sec guards I felt like letting touch my junk.
  • San Francisco is much like Vancouver.  Several of you know what that means. Its only a week. 
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Ready… Set…

R and I are taking a little trip to belatedly celebrate his 50th birthday.  We leave Friday for a few days in Toronto for a back-to-back production of …  Angels in America!!  We’re recreating my own experience all those years ago – Millennium Approaches as a matinee,  a light supper and Perestroika in the evening.   Ah, Soulpepper Theatre, thanks so much.


Greetings Prophet!  The Great Work Begins!

We’re recovering on Sunday – Ralph and Ansuya, don’t make lunch plans!   Sadly I couldn’t score tickets to a few end-of-the-festival TIFF offerings. (We’d like to have caught Gravity but it’s sold out.)

Monday we head for San Francisco.  I’m aware I must NOT refer to it as “San Fran”, no worries.  After hanging there for just over a week or so, it’s back to Montréal for an extended weekend and then home.

Neither of us have been to SF so we’re looking forward to doing all the touristy things – at the very least the trip will let us visit three Chinatowns in two+ weeks.

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