Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Did I Mention I'm Going to Miami?

I've just finished packing (one of my least favourite things to do) for my mini Miami trip. Am I psyched? Oh yeah!

The timing is quite unfortunate though. I was finally called in to report at the local news station I've been freelancing for; it's the first call I've gotten since I returned from my hiatus. I hated turning down the shifts.  I was, however, able to grab one opening for the day after I get back. It may just be for the day but still, I'll get to be a reporter again - yessss!!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Is Montreal a Depressing City?

The Jazz Fest is officially in full swing in Montreal. Nope, I haven't been to any shows myself just yet. The hoopla of it all becomes quite redundant if you've lived here long enough.

But hotel clients are quite revved up. Some even memorised the jazz show listings prior to checking-in; others brought their lawn chairs along for the outdoor shows!

Despite the excitement, there was one family that seemed quite down each time they passed through the hotel lobby. It was an elderly couple from Delhi with their 30-some-year old daughter. The daughter wasn't friendly one bit, but her parents would come to talk to me whenever they were on their own.

They liked learning about my visit to their city and how I almost relocated there. "Can I ask you something?" the Uncle asked at the end of his stay. Oh brother! I thought. Here comes yet another match-making offer... I was wrong. 

"Why are people in Montreal so depressed?"

"Come again?" I thought I had heard wrong.

"Why are people in Montreal so sad and depressed?"

I was taken aback by his question. Montrealers are indeed not depressed, I thought in my head. The summer has just begun, everyone is happy and outdoors. I didn't sense any depression. If anything, it was the couple that seemed depressed!

"Montrealers are not depressed," I defended. "Maybe you feel this way because of the rainy, gloomy weather we've had the past few days." 

"No." the Aunty now firmly interrupted. "This is a very sad city. Montrealers are depressed. You can feel it in the atmosphere, on the streets even. You can see it in the city's use of colours, or lack of colours. Everything is gray and dull; everyone is so sad."

I see Montreal as a very vibrant city. Their views took me by surprise so I just kept at it. "Maybe you're comparing the colours to India. Any country will seem dull in comparison."

"That's not true," Aunty continued.  "We visited our daughter in  San Francisco and Miami while she was working there. Both cities were quite nice. But now she works in Ottawa. She finds it very depressing. People are not nice there. The energy is quite low in Montreal also. Both cities are depressing."   

It was clear that I couldn't change their perception of my city. Maybe they went through certain unfortunate incidents that led them to this conclusion. Or perhaps they saw something with their tourist eye that I was overlooking with my local eye. 

Quebec has the highest provincial suicide rate in Canada. According to an article on the CBC website, "suicide remains the No. 1 cause of death among men between the ages of 20 and 40 in Quebec."  There may be more to what the couple was saying.

I still see Montreal as a happy city though.  And I hope that is the image most other tourists leave with.   


Friday, June 25, 2010

All the Single Ladies

I went for brunch at Les Folies with my friend *Iris last week-end. We were discussing the shortage of good quality single men out there.

Iris is gorgeous. She's got beautiful, silky black hair; golden tanned skin; an infectious smile, is extremely toned (she plays A LOT of sports), and most importantly, has a brilliant personality. She does meet guys, a lot of guys, but they're the type of guys that come and go. The kind that're too weak for the slightest sliver of emotional attachment. So where are all the quality men is what we were wondering as we strolled down Mont-Royal Avenue. Iris was ready for a new start with someone.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a tall, bulky man with a slick black ponytail, wearing ripped faded blue jeans and a fitted T-shirt, jumped toward us, blocking our way. "Hello ladies!" he greeted enthusiastically, spreading his charming smile. He was a younger Latino version of Fabio. "Can I ask you for a big favour?" he pled with the look of desperation in his eyes.

So this was the deal: *Fabio was helping his friend host a speed-dating event at a nearby lounge, which was about to literally start in 15 minutes. It was $35 to participate. Coincidentally, the event was short two women. Fabio wanted us to give him two hours of our precious time to fill in those two vacant spots for $Free.99 (in other words, nothing!).

We hesitated at first. We had both brought our notebooks with us. I wanted to do some fiction-writing, and Iris needed to figure out how to use her new Mac book, something she'd been avoiding for two weeks since her big purchase. And neither of us were appropriately dressed to go on a date anyway. The journalist side of me though, said I'd have something interesting to blog about. The bonus would be that we were both being spontaneous. Yep, we were going speed-dating!

We walked inside the chic but half-empty lounge where we were greeted by a young, friendly female host. She seemed overwhelmed with the registration and money collection process; the line-up of singles was getting longer. When it came to our turn she said, "Oh yes, the two girls my friend found out on the street!" Yes we were indeed those two girls. She gave us white labels with our names written on them which were stamped on to our shirts. I immediately felt like I was in Kindergarten.

The event started half-hour late and seemed poorly organised. The singles nervously huddled around the bar, while others confidently walked around the lounge and scouted their future bait. Iris and I did not like what we were seeing. Some of the guys looked like they were in their 50s; one of them though had the Richard Gere thing going for him, which worked quite nicely. A lot of the younger guys looked like they just stepped out of the 80s, and not on purpose either. We had our work cut out for us.

The host finally took charge. We were 20 guys and 20 girls in total. The girls were given a number from 1 to 20; we were to sit at our assigned seats. The hostess was going to ring a bell every five minutes which meant the guys had to get up and move on down to the next woman. I'm glad we weren't the ones that had to get up!

Most of my five-minute dates were boring moments filled with awkward silences. Some of the men were really nervous to be speaking to the opposite gender. I tried to be extra nice with them. At the end of each date, I began avoiding their gruesome sweaty handshakes by grabbing for my drink instead.

Half-way down the dating list I was exhausted. It's quite draining to sum up your life situation to someone new every few minutes and have to come up with random questions to ask in return. There either is a spark or there isn't. When there isn't, you just feel like you're wasting your time. I looked up at my friend Iris to see how she was doing. She looked quite agitated and mouthed the words "I'm leaving right now" to me. Oh no she wasn't. If she was leaving I was leaving too!

One of the hosts saw us grabbing for our purses. They quickly came by to offer us another deal. If we stuck through with the rest of the event, our drinks would be on the house. I guess you could call us troopers - we stuck through it.

I wanted to spice up the afternoon. I made up stories about what I did for a living, how old I was, my hobbies, etc (yes, all these questions did come up). I loosened up with the 2nd half of my dates. I told some about how I was feeling like I was at a work interview, and they agreed. We cracked jokes, exchanged notes on some of the ludicrous things we'd seen and heard with the earlier batch of dates. One of my first dates was wearing a wedding band! I later found out that Iris had confronted him about it. He explained that he was in the process of seperating from his wife and had forgotten to remove his ring (um, sure, whatever ya' say buddy).

When I look back at the day now, it wasn't a total waste of time. I did make some potential friends. I met a tennis player, a published fiction writer and a professional photographer - all of whom will make great contacts. As for Iris...well before we left, Fabio left her his number with a cute note about hoping to hear back from her very soon.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Colour Me Everything!

I absolutely LOVE to work with colours! Each and every shade out there!

Here's a quick glimpse of what I've been working on since I've been back in Canada...

And this was completed a few months prior to my trip:

More to come!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Candi Bar - Too Sugarey

For the past few days my workplace has been buzzing with delegates from around the world who are in Montreal for the International Rotary Convention. Participants are exchanging ideas on humanitarian strategies and finding new forms of standardising processes. Most of our guests came from the Philippines, U.S. and India. They're a very peaceful, intelligent bunch.

Sadly, tomorrow's the last day of the convention. But hotels will fill up again just a few days later, this time, it will be filled with music fans. The Montreal Jazz Festival's starting June 25th!

There's always something fun to check out in Montreal. I had heard good reviews about the new Candi Bar in the plateau, and decided to see the place for myself.

The girlish decor is meant to bring women back to their more youthful days; a time consisting of slumber parties with girlfriends and of course, lots of candy! The large pink and purple Mega Bloks counter and ceiling add to the vibrant look. My group took some very colourful, frame-worthy photos inside.

But their specialty slush, excessively sweet cocktails were a huge miss. I understand that the drinks are meant to go along with the "candy" theme, but I didn't taste anything candy-like apart from the jelly candies found at the bottom of the drinks. Our cocktails tasted like pre-sweetened water, with extra sugar added to the mix, along with a spoonful of artificial flavour.

Unless they get their concoctions right, over-expensive sugary drinks are what the joint will be notorious for.

The bad taste from my Sushi cocktail is still making me cringe.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Puja Time

My parents are turning extra religious on me. It's a sunny Saturday afternoon and I'm having to get ready for a puja we're hosting indoors. My parents are hoping their wishes will be granted, one of them being that I find a good husband and soon. Oh brother!

There's so much going on in the city on days like today, like sidewalk sales galore! Here's a picture I took in the plateau last week-end.

And these are some pretty shots of my brunch at Art Java.

I love my week-ends!

Friday, June 18, 2010

I'm Going to Miami!

I'm looking for Miami Beach hotel accomodations. The prices are pretty steep even on the online discounted sites like Expedia. The ones in decent South Beach locations are going for at least $200/night. Maybe I was too irrational when I booked my plane ticket the other day. But I couldn't resist from the temptation of getting my feet back into the warm sand; I can hear the sound of the waves calling me right now!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pearl Earrings

A dear friend of mine bought me a pair of pearl earrings for my birthday one year. I had rarely ever worn them, thought they didn't suit me.

And now suddenly it's the only pair I ever fancy wearing. They're so elegant and feminine and princessey. It's a quick lift-me-up when I put them on. And it actually goes with anything I wear, I just wonder why I never noticed this before... It's one of my most prized posessions these days.

Work's been exhausting me. We're understaffed at the worst time, the tourist season is picking up. Dealing with clients one after another is tough, especially since you don't know what type of mood the person will be in. Some are quite chatty, and often ask me about my Indian background (which then leads into travelling India, etc.).

Others are just plain obnoxious. I had one flirty French-Canadian client continuously try to grab my hand from across the counter. The 40-something man was acting like a complete child.

Dealing with clients by phone doesn't get any easier. Many like to slam the phone in my face when they learn that pets aren't permitted, smoking is not allowed, or that the room price is out of their budget.

I'm missing my journalist days. In the meantime, I have my lovely pearl earrings to cherish! I've got them on right now!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I've booked a ticket to Miami for a week-end get-away...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Am quite tired... have been doing too much at once. More updates soon!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Grand-Prix is Here!

I had another senior guest to check out this morning. He loved his stay and the service. And he happily promised he'll come back to visit us in Montreal again next year, but that's only if he's still alive for another year! Honestly now, what am I supposed to say to that?

I caught the Stanley Cup Final game last night. I'm happy for Chicago, but it sure would've been a lot nicer if the Habs had won in their place.

My colleagues and I are going through Grand-Prix mayhem this week-end. The city is filled with wealthy tourists, the ones that are staying at my work establishment are extremely demanding with the staff. It's taking a toll on some. There are a few good-natured exceptions that are treating the clerks as actual people, and that's what's keeping us all going.

I don't like the city when it's overcrowded like this; it becomes way too touristy. But it'll all be back to normal by Sunday!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Last Woman Standing...

During one of my work shifts I checked in two upbeat elderly Ontarian women. They were incredibly charming and high in spirits. They looked great for their age; I guessed they were in their late-40s. But the ladies surprised me with their IDs when they asked for the Senior Citizen’s discount - both were in their 70s!

They asked me how to get to the underground mall, and I figured they must be first-timers in the city. I wish I hadn’t inquired about it. They explained that they used to be regular visitors to Montreal once upon a time, but those visits stopped several years ago.

You see, all their friends and colleagues are now dead, their words not mine. This year they decided to try something different. Rather than avoiding Montreal as their contacts no longer exist here, they were going to come anyway and do some extensive shopping.

I didn’t know what to say, and simply wished them “happy shopping.” What’s the appropriate thing to say in such a situation? They clearly were not sad, they seemed like they already got through their closure. Perhaps they’d seen so many of their friends pass away that it just became a routine for them.

The thought gave me goose bumps. Agreed death is unavoidable. But imagine being the only two left alive in your friend circle? No one to chuckle through inside jokes with, no one to reminisce with over your childhood years, no one who shared any part of your history. I feel so heavy right now. I hope those two ladies have each other’s company until the very end.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Baking Fun!

I had a lousy day at work. So lousy that I almost skipped my baking appointment with my wonderful friend *Tara later in the afternoon. Well, I'm glad I didn't!

We tried out this "Olive Oil Chocolate Sun Cake" recipe which was posted in the "Montreal Gazette" a few weeks back. The ingredients were basic, and the steps seemed rather simple - so together, we plunged into the scrumptious world of baking. It was my very first attempt at ever baking something from scratch.

The texture of our batter was nice and smooth; everything was going fine. But soon enough things got tricky. We were supposed to leave a 1/2 cup of our cake batter aside, and add 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder to that mix. In our excitement though, we both misread the quantity and added 6 tablespoons of cocoa powder instead! We didn't realise this until the very end, so all that excess cocoa guck was actually incorporated into the cake.

It was a nice experiment though. The cake had a delicious organgey taste. It was perfectly moist, so we know we didn't over or undercook it! Most of all, it was fun! I had forgotten all about my lousy day. I have to plan out more baking days with wonderful friends.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Gardening was so fun at the time. Digging into the soil reminded me of my childhood days playing in the sand. The feel of fresh soil overflowing through my fingers was comforting. I was planting new life into the ground, one can't help but feel uplifted.

But now, I'm feeling the repercussions of reaping, digging, planting and watering all in a day's work. My neck, shoulders, back and legs are incredibly sore. Kudos to all those regular gardeners out there!

Oh! I've noticed my blog readership is going up, mainly from North America but in India and UK as well! Pretty exciting. I'd love to get some feedback from readers, will set up an email account next.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My Day at Atwater Market

Yesterday afternoon was beautifully bright and sunny! I couldn't resist from taking pictures at one of the local markets during my flower search.

Despite all the floral choices, I stuck with this colour combination of petunias' for our garden. Simple yet pretty. My Dad and I haven't had the chance to plant them yet, so the poor things are just sitting in our basement. Will get to the laborious process tomorrow after work.