Sunday, April 26, 2009

Day Two in Montreal: Billy Bob and Nino too

Up at the crack of 8.30 or so! Wonderful continental breakfast to start the day in the lounge the hotel calls Suite 701.

We drag the unwilling offspring to the Montreal Science Centre, which is perhaps a ten or fifteen minute walk south along the port. We play some fun science oriented games before and after we see an amazing Imax 3D film called "Wild Ocean" about fish shoals off the coast of Africa (it was interesting - really!). Our companions are a group of eight year olds celebrating a birthday and they are adorable climbing the stairs of the theatre clutching their popcorn and drinks (even grumpy J smiles) to get to their seats.

We wander around Old Montreal but it is hot and J does not feel well. Words are exchanged, feelings are hurt - neither mother nor daughter do well in the heat. I get all Billy Bob on her and J decides to remain in our room while R and I explore the city nearby for an hour. R counsels me to chill out - her behavior is just typical 12 year old behavior and I should be mindful of that. Of course he is right.

We explore Old Montreal ... I love this city, especially the older section. The buildings, the food, the people, the ambiance, the elegance, the arts and culture, the look of the streets, it's wonderful. R swears that the women are better looking and better dressed. I think he has a point. We wander into the lower part of Rue St. Laurent which is a bit of a tourist trap with cheap souvenirs, knock off designer sunglasses, awful hand drawn prints, a Dairy Queen, we escape quickly.

I made a commitment to see the "Why I Write" panel at the Blue Met. J asks me where I am going. I tell her I'm going to a panel to listen to the writer Nino Ricci and some others talk about writing. The following conversation ensues:
J: Is Nino Ricci famous?
M: Yes, internationally famous ... he's been published all around the world.
J: Is he rich?
M: Um ... I ... have ... no idea.
J: Is he richer than us?
M: Uh - yes, yes, definitely.
J: Is he your friend?
M: Well ... more of a colleague ...
J: A colleague? (look of puzzlement)
R then offers helpfully: Well, a friendly colleague ...

That makes more sense to her and off I go. I decide to walk there even though the heat is a bit overwhelming. As I run up to Registration to get my name tag I smack right into Nino. I am covered in a slick of sweat from the walk. He is, as always, courteous and charming and dressed fetchingly in a dark suit and blue tie. The thing I like the most about him is that he is, no matter what his successes, unassuming and modest, which is very disarming.

I went to the bookstore to make sure they had my book Made Up of Arias and felt a small thrill to see a half dozen copies on the first table (more on that later). Off to the panel ...

The room was packed with some 200 or so book lovers. The panel included Daniel Mendelsohn (The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million - a great book), Donald Antrim (The Afterlife: A Memoir) and Catherine Mavrikakis (A Cannibal and Melancholic Mourning). Mavrikakis seemed a little uncomfortable and awkward - perhaps because English was not her first language?

They discussed various aspects of writing which all rang a bell - the compulsion to write, the nervousness to start and the fear that it's not good enough, the various ways one avoids writing, the idea that one could never imagine not writing, the fear of offending the people around you in your writing, and finally the need to keep writing because that is now your occupation and you have children to feed etc ....

I found Nino in the lobby and asked him to sign a book for friend which he graciously did. When I left him he was being swamped by eager females (such as myself) at the book signing table.

I zipped back to the hotel and everyone was in a mellow mood. My loved ones had gone out and bought small souvenirs for J's friends.

For dinner we travelled south again to Pasta a Piacere for some great pasta. Fazzoletti pasta (literally meaning "little handkerchiefs" for their shape) stuffed with goat cheese for J and I and eggplant parmigiana for R. Not bad for a French Canadian host and two South Asian cooks in the small kitchen.

We walked back towards the hotel. I wanted to show J the monument that R and I passed across from our hotel at Place D'Armes. The name of the square signifies "a long-used French term for a place where a city's defenders assemble. The statue in Montreal's Place d'Armes specifically commemorates Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve's defense of the young French settlement against the Iroquois, against whom sieur de Maisonneuve's allies the Hurons were fighting to regain land the Iroquois had conquered." The monument built in 1895 has four enormous statues on its four corners:
  • Paul Chomedy (1612 – 1676), cited above
  • Jeanne Mance (1606 – 1673), one of the founders of Montreal and of the first hospital in North America, the Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal. She built the hospital to help the aboriginals.
  • An unnamed Iroquois warrior (pictured above)
  • Lambert Closse (1618 - 1662) who was known for "his work in fighting the Iroquois"

There are plaques of iron on all four sides of the monument and, as R pointed out, if you look at two of them closely they show Iroquois being stabbed and shot in two of them by white colonists. A lovely commemoration of the founding of Montreal. I understand a little bit the utter rage that aboriginal people must feel at times.

We snapped some pics of Notre Dame which is bathed in a blue light at night - very beautiful. I wanted to go in but it was just closing. Back at the hotel I crash - too much heat and walking I think. J and R watch an SNL rerun and J is thrilled because she never gets to do that.

No comments: