Montreal's senior monthly since 1986

Feb '10

Columns

What's Happening October 2009

ART
October 13: The Women’s Art Society of Mtl. presents M. Waschal Seeing the Unspeakable

October 20: Claire Holden Rothman on the Heart Specialist: Facts and Fiction. October 27: Jackie Rae Wloski on Art is my Lifestyle. All events take place Tuesdays 1:30pm at McCord Museum, 690 Sherbrooke W.

Until October 18: Of Time and Place: Works by Rita Briansky, recent and of the nineties at 4259 Ste. Catherine St. W. west of Greene near Clarke. Info: 514-658-7214.

Thursday October 15 – Saturday October 17 St. Paul’s Anglican Church hosts its annual art show and sale at 377 4th Avenue in Lachine. Works of 70 artists from Montreal. Info: 514-634-1965

‎BAZAARS/SALES

Saturday October 15 9am–3pm St. Thomas More Womens Club holds a flea market and craft sale in the church hall, 978 Moffat. Info: 514-768-4741

Saturday October 17, 10am–5pm and Sunday October 18, 11am–4pm Beaconsfield library presents their 8th annual book sale in the lawn bowling annex, 303 Beaconsfield. Info: 514-697-4662‎

Saturday October 17, 10am–2pm, 50 Plus club of N.D.G. holds their annual bazaar at Rosedale Queen Mary United Church, 6870 Terrebonne. Books, baked goods, crafts, jewellery, white elephant tables. Info: 514-872-1764

Saturday November 7, 9:30am–2:30pm the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul host their fall fair at 3417 Redpath. Donation of a non-perishable food item. All proceeds go to local charities. Saturday, November 7 from 9:00am–3:00pm the Sons of Scotland Benevolent Association will host their 39th annual bazaar featuring delicious homemade sweets and new and used items at bargain prices. The bazaar will be held at the Scottish Centre of Montreal, Champlain corner Verdun, Montreal.

CLUBS

Thursday, October 15, 11am–2pm, The Helvetia Seniors Clubs invites all to a lecture on financial planning by Ernst Blaser, followed by a luncheon and meeting at Restaurant Monkland Grill, 6151 Monland. Info: 514- 481-2928

Thursdays at 2pm Centre Greene will hold Ballroom Dance Classes for People Living with Parkinson’s. Physiotherapist Ellen Rubin and instructor Malcolm MacRae provide social dance classes for those with stage 2 Parkinson’s and their able-bodied partners. Info: 514-484-2016

CLASSES

Volunteer West Island offers free beginner bridge and warm-up & stretch class at 1 de l’Eglise, Sainte-Anne de Bellevue. Info: 514-457-5445 x228.

EVENTS

Saturday October 10 at 1:30pm, Royal Canadian Legion Branch 94 will host their monthly Crib Tournament at 205 Empire, Greenfield Park. Registration: 11:30-1:00. $20 a team of two.

Saturday, October 10 from 10am to 1pm the city of Montreal is hosting a fall compost giveaway in Kent Park, at Côte-des-Neiges and Kent. Along with proof of residency, people should bring a shovel and containers for taking the compost home. Info: ville.montreal.qc.ca/environnement

October 14 and October 28 at 12:15pm the Seniors’ Luncheon Club will host a nutritious home-cooked three-course benefit luncheon in the Sunroom at Centre Greene, 1090 Greene Avenue. 5$. Info: 514-931-6202

Thursday October 15 at 7pm Yellow Door hosts a poetry and prose reading at 3265 Aylmer. Info: 514-398-6243

Tuesday, October 20 from 2–4pm Centre Greene host their Caregiver’s Tea at Centre Greene, providing support, information and resources for caregivers. Info 514-931-6202

Thursday, October 22 from 5pm–8pm, Montreal Black Resource Centre presents the launch of Shirley Small’s book of poems Tribute at 6767 Côte des Neiges. Info: 514-342-2247 or 450-465-5209

Wednesday, October 28 at 7:30pm, Legacy of Learning presents the book launch of If We Could Hear Them Now: Encounters with Jewish Heroines of the Past by Alice Becker Lehrer at the Jewish Public Library, 5151 Côte St-Catherine. $5 students + members/$10 non-members. Info: 514-345-6416

Wednesday, October 28 9am–9pm, McGill presents their annual book fair at 3461 McTavish St. (Terrace Entrance)

Saturday November 7: McGill holds an eye screening clinic at Royal Victoria Hospital in E4. Free parking available, medicare card required. Call for an appointment: 450-923-2383 9am-4pm

LECTURES

Wednesday, October 7 at 7pm Ronald Cohen discusses Churchill and the Jews by Martin Gilbert at Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom, 395 Elm. $10 Info: 514-937-3575

Saturdays, October 10 to December 19 at 3pm St.Clement’s Anglican Church will host a bi-weekly recital series consisting of six piano concerts. Free will offering. 4322 Wellington. Info: 514-769-5373

Wednesday, October 14 at 12:30pm, Atwater Library hosts a lecture by Michele Nadeau, who will talk about her grandmother, Therese Casgrain, suffragist and first woman party leader in Canada. 1200 Atwater. Info: 514-935-7344 ­­­ Tuesday, October 20 at 1:30pm Beaconsfield Library hosts a free lecture, Women Photographers: Then and Now featuring speaker Dr. Janice Anderson at 303 Beaconsfield. Info: 514-428-4460.

Thursday, October 22 at 5pm, John Molson School of Business presents Capitalizing on culture: competitiveness, sustainability and sense of place in post-boom Ireland, a lecture by Dr. Jim Kennell. Rm MB 02-210, 1450 Guy. Info: 514-848-5131.

Sunday, October 25 at 9:30am Beth Zion Congregation presents Memory and Aging at 5740 Hudson. $5, includes breakfast. Info: 514-489-8411

theatre Sunday, October 25, a staged play reading in Hebrew of Pull the Plug, the Water is Boiling will be performed at 7:30 pm at 5151 Côte Ste-Catherine. $10 members/$15 non-members. To reserve: 514-345-6416 or jewishpubliclibrary.org

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Performing here this month, Arlo Guthrie hasn't abandoned ideals

Martin C. Barry

With the autumn chill descending on Montreal, Arlo Guthrie is hoping warm Indian Summer air ­­­­­will blow through in time for his performance at the end of October. Guthrie, who shot to fame in the mid-1960s with his talking blues folk ballad, Alice’s Restaurant, is the son of legendary American singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie, who left behind a legacy of musical works, many about his experiences during the Great Depression.

It’s been a while since Arlo Guthrie, 62, was last in Montreal. From the 1960s through the 1980s he would perform regularly at Place des Arts. “Every year I did shows with my old buddy Pete Seeger,” he said in a phone interview from Washington, Mass., where he now resides. “And then the times changed and maybe the kind of music we were playing wasn’t popular.” Guthrie says the pace of his life hasn’t slowed. “I’m actually on the road more than ever. We spend about ten months on the road. If anything it’s more than it used to be.

“I took off September for the first time in my life because it’s such a beautiful time to be here in the north east.”

Guthrie was 20 when he became famous with his first album, Alice’s Restaurant. It remains his best known work. The title is taken from the record’s first and longest track, more than 18 minutes long, which is a bitingly satirical protest against the Vietnam war. It’s also based on a true incident: Guthrie’s rejection for military service because of a criminal record he got for littering on Thanksgiving Day in 1965 when he was 18. A few years later it was made into a movie.

Photo: courtesy of JP Cutler Media

Perhaps less known about Arlo is the fact that he is Jewish. Of Woody’s several marriages, his second was to Marjorie Greenblatt, a dancer who cared for Woody until his death in 1967. Another bit of trivia: Arlo was tutored for his bar mitzvah by Rabbi Meir Kahane, the controversial founder of the Jewish Defence League. Arlo, who was not yet into politics, remembers Kahane as “a very nice guy. Later in life, I wondered if it was my fault that he became crazy. I was such a terrible student.” (Kahane, who was ultra-nationalist in his political views, was assassinated in New York City in 1990.)

“I’m not religiously observant,” he said. “I made friends with so many people in other traditions and hence found a lot of inspiration in so many different places. I think that’s the challenge for a lot of people these days — how to explore and be inspired by other traditions without abandoning your own.”

During the late 1960s when the U.S. was at war in Vietnam, Arlo Guthrie’s name came to be associated closely with the anti-war movement. He was also distinctly on the left. As such, it must have raised a few eyebrows last year during the 2008 Republican Party Nominations when he publicly endorsed Texas Congressman Ron Paul, a libertarian. As it turns out, Paul was the only anti-war candidate among the Republicans.

“I joined them about five years ago because I thought they needed more people like me,” he said. They only seemed to have crazy people. I think I probably wasted my time.”

Guthrie remains as fervently anti-war as ever. “I don’t think we ought to be in Afghanistan. I don’t think we ought to be in Iran or in Iraq or any of these places. I think there’s better ways to do things and I’m hoping that the new president will see the world as I do,” he said.

Arlo Guthrie will perform Thursday, October 29 at 8 p.m. at the Outremont Theatre at 1248 Bernard Ave. with the Guthrie Family Rides Again Tour featuring Abe, Cathy, Annie, Sarah Lee and Johnny. Tickets: $55

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A personal tribute to his 75th

Barbara Moser

October, 2009

I have always been in love with him. Since I was a student at the University of Manitoba in that chilly landscape that included my dormitory cot, I have been warmed by dreams of meeting him, of having him sing to me, of going on a date with him. Of course at the time I would have had nothing interesting or intelligent to say to him. I would have just gawked, maybe swooned. Since the first time I heard Suzanne, I wanted to be Suzanne – until I saw the documentary on the real Suzanne and realized she wasn’t even his lover. Then I wanted to be Marianne, but that was a problem because of the “So Long” part. I ­didn’t want to be a Sister of Mercy, but I often wondered what he saw in nuns, this nice Jewish guy.

He is actually 15 years older than I am, but when I was 18 he just didn’t seem 33. I imagined that if he ever were to meet me back then, he would have been seduced by my extraordinary beauty and wit. Yet his city, Montreal, seemed totally inaccessible to this Edmonton girl. During the time I lived in Israel, from 1971 to 1975, I imagined him on a concert tour meeting a Canadian girl, me of course, and admiring my adventuresome and romantic spirit.

I have seen Leonard Cohen live in concert only once, in Montreal with my daughter at the Forum. We got great seats and we both sat transfixed throughout the concert. The experience seemed to mean as much to Amy, 15, as it did to me.

My dream of dating Leonard never came true, but I did run into him twice. The first time, I was standing in line at a bank on St. Laurent and I turned around and realized he was behind me. I just didn’t have the courage to say anything. I didn’t want to look foolish. I was so angry with myself afterward. Why was I such a wimp? I regretted that “non-meeting” for years. Then, when my daughter Molly was 14 (she is now 28) the magical meeting occurred. Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction. This was one of those times.

Molly and I walked into a grubby little pizza joint on St. Laurent. Leonard was standing at the counter, waiting for a young friend. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice. I walked right up to him while Molly was getting a drink. She hadn’t noticed him. I introduced myself. I was shaking. “I just want to tell you that I’ve always loved… your music,” I stammered. “I used to lay on my dorm cot at university and think of you.”

No, I thought, this sounds ridiculous. But Leonard was gracious and sooooooo charming. “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” he said, or something like that, shaking my hand. “I’d like to introduce my daughter to you,” I said. “Oh”, he said, eying her girlish stature, “she’ll never know who I am.”

“I think she will,” I said. I called Molly over. “Do you know who this is?” I asked her. “Leonard Cohen,” she replied immediately. He told Molly she was too young to know who he was. “Of course I know who you are,” she said, smiling. They shook hands. Then we left the place. I don’t remember if we bought any pizza or not. Our car was parked just in front.

We both walked out to the car. We looked at each other and put out our hands and said in unison: “I’m never going to wash this hand again.” I am 32 years older than Molly yet we had exactly the same reaction. How amazing is that?

Thanks, Leonard, for giving us that thrill. Thanks for your incrediblemusic, which I’ve memorized over the years. Start me off and I’ll finish the song.

Although we have washed our hands many times since that day, we have never forgotten that magical moment when mother and daughter bonded in our love of Leonard Cohen.

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Tremblay brothers rediscover childhood home on Décarie Blvd

October, 2009

On a recent Sunday morning, the Tremblay brothers – Gérald, who is Montreal’s incumbent mayor, and Marcel, a city councillor – revisited their childhood home. It’s the same dwelling on Décarie Blvd that is now shared by Senior Times publisher Barbara Moser and her husband, Irwin Block, a Gazette reporter.

The Senior Times office is at 4077 Décarie, below the residence. From 1950, for five or six years, the Tremblays lived in the upper duplex at 4079 Décarie. During a tour of their former dwelling, the Tremblays reminisced about the home where, at the ages of 7 and 9, they played and prayed before moving with their family to a home their parents bought on Marcil Ave.

“Michel, he was a Dominican and he had a small altar,” said Marcel, referring to their older brother who had been a candidate for the priesthood and who occupied the bedroom next to Gérald’s and Marcel’s. If Gérald and Marcel seem inseparable in politics today, consider that they spent a part of their childhoods sleeping side by side in twin beds in a tiny room overlooking the lane where they had played. Moser told them that their room was her daughter Molly’s for ten years, until she left home. A photo of Molly as a child is on the dining room wall where the brothers posed for the front page photo in front of the stained glass hutch they remembered well.

Tremblays on balcony they 'parachuted' from from. Photo: Scott Philip

They pointed out many details as they toured the upper duplex, starting with where their piano had stood in the alcove.

“Here,” Marcel said, stepping into Michel’s former sanctuary, now the master bedroom.

Marcel recalled how the previous owner of the flat had never heated it adequately. “My father in the morning around 5:30 went downstairs and put coal in the furnace so we could have warmth, because otherwise it was icy.” The Tremblays moved to Montreal from Ottawa, where they had lived on Holland St in the central part of the city.

Marcel was obviously the more mischievous of the two younger brothers, while Gérald was more serious. Marcel clearly remembers indulging in a pastime behind the home, which carried a certain element of risk. “To come into the house, we’d go up the pole,” he said, pointing to a two-storey steel staircase. From that vantage, according to Marcel, “we’d jump from there to the house.” Gérald continued, “I never did that.”

“We wanted to use parachutes to jump, so we’d take umbrellas,” Marcel added. About Gérald, Marcel confided, “He never caused problems.” “I was the quiet one,” Gérald acknowledged.

The Manoir, the community centre attached to Notre-Dame-de-Grâce church on the other side of Décarie, played a role in their upbringing. The two worked there as pinboys in the bowling alley. Gérald recalled how each evening their father would summon them into the house. “When we were playing outside, at 7 every night my father would call us and say we have to pray,” he said. “At that time, Cardinal Léger had a special prayer on the radio.”

“The Chapelet en famille,” Marcel chimed in.

“He’d say ‘come on in, you have to pray,’” Gérald continued. “It was only 15 minutes. We’d kneel here,” he said, pointing to the kitchen floor. “We did that every day except on Sundays, because we went to Mass.” Marcel called the apartment “beautiful,” adding, “You haven’t changed the way it was at all.” With a municipal election coming November 1, The Senior Times had a number of questions for the Tremblays, who are running under the Union Montreal banner. While the party’s platform makes no specific commitments to seniors, transportation issues are on the minds of many who will be voting, according to one expert we consulted. Seniors need better access to public transit. Shuttle buses are becoming more common, but additional vehicles are needed and routes need to be expanded. It has also been suggested that Montreal should follow an example being set in other parts of the world, where seniors ride public transit for free between rush hours. Montreal’s Métro stations also need more elevators for those wishing to avoid the potential hazards of the steep and excessively rapid escalators.

Barbara and Irwin are flanked by the Tremblays Photo: Martin C. Barry

In addition, the rules for using adapted transport for the handicapped need to be adjusted so that seniors have easier access. As it is now, the process for applying to become an adapted transport user is long and complex, and tends to leave out the frail elderly, while favouring those who have specific disabilities. Finally, more low-income housing for senior citizens is needed. The Tremblay administration has overseen the installation of elevators at Lionel Groulx and Berri-UQAM, and the mayor noted that Henri-Bourassa, Bonaventure and Côte Vertu are next in line. In all, there are 65 Métro stations on Montreal Island, and for each it costs as much as $15 million to put in an elevator, for a total investment of about $1 billion. “If we want to increase ridership and help the elderly, we have to give better service, more hours,” the mayor said. “That’s why in certain boroughs you have special buses for the elderly. It permits them to go downtown. We’re doing things, but we realize we have to do more.”

On adapted transport, the mayor said the city is discussing the issue with the Quebec government. “Most of it is paid by the Quebec government and we realize that we have to do more,” he said. “We just look at the number of elderly people and more and more people who are handicapped. So we’re doing that.” He said Montreal is investing more than $2 million a year to make public buildings more accessible. “We have public buildings that were difficult to access for handicapped people, but elderly also have more and more difficulty to move around.” On the need for housing, he noted the city has doubled its efforts in the last eight years to increase the number of subsidized housing units. New projects set aside 20 per cent for seniors. “Three bedrooms, that’s very important if we want to keep our families in Montreal,” he said. “We’re doing it for seniors, we’re doing it for families, we do it for people who are in need also, and we do it for single-parent families.”

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Montreal West planning for its own senior residence

October, 2009

After years of discussions among Montreal Westers about not having a retirement residence to call their own, town officials hope to sign an agreement in the next two or three years with a residence operator.

Montreal West itself is not going to build a senior residence but will encourage the construction of one through private interests. The town has tentatively designated a site for the future residence on Westminster S. near the intersection of St. Jacques. “We’re not necessarily convinced that’s the best place,” Mayor Campbell Stuart says of the location, which nonetheless has been re-zoned to accommodate a four-storey building. “We wanted to allow for the kind of density we knew would probably be necessary for it to make sense economically. But whether it means it has to be that big … all we’re doing is facilitating it.”

Montreal West is in the midst of creating a new urban development master plan, which integrates residence idea. According to town councillor Colleen Feeney, there is a will, an interest and a need for a retirement residence.

The proposed site of a new residence

“Now I think we’re really at the stage where we want to see whether it’s possible, feasible, and whether there is a place where we could have it,” she says. Two years ago, when town officials conducted a survey to evaluate the amount of interest there might be in such a venture, 76 per cent of residents said they were likely to eventually move into a senior residence. Federal census figures indicate that among the more than 5,300 residents in Montreal West, at least 20 per cent are over 65.

“There is a high population of seniors – in fact higher than in NDG,” Feeney says. “With so many seniors in the area and the fact that there are not many options for them to live within the community when they sell their houses, there’s probably a need for a whole lot of different types of senior housing here — maybe also condos.”

Besides attracting a developer, there’s another hurdle. This past spring and summer when the town held public hearings to gauge interest in its redevelopment plan, residents from nearby streets expressed concerns about a four-storey building going up behind their homes. The location itself on Westminster is occupied by the Montreal Westlibrary and a small park that was created where a gas station once stood, necessitating soil remediation.

As for alternative locations, town officials may not have many other choices. One suggestion is that an agreement might be reached with one of the three churches located in Montreal West for land they might be willing to part with.

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Silencing seniors with intimidation

Kristine Berey

October, 2009

As odious as finding the word “Jew” painted across her front door was, Suzanna Engel says she believes it was the tip of the iceberg of something much more commonplace, but no less insidious: the subtle and routine intimidation some seniors experience in their rented apartments. “It’s not about being Jewish, it’s about human rights,” Engel said.

She suspects the vandalism was committed as a warning for her to back off from criticizing the management for what she considered to be poor maintenance of her Lakeshore Road apartment building. At the time of the incident, she was in the process of collecting names for a petition asking for repairs. “One of the first warnings I got was that my bicycle was taken and a tenant warned me.” While Engel is exceptional in her refusal to be silenced – she has no plans to move – many seniors would prefer to avoid confrontation.

Adele, an eight-year advocate from Arnold Bennett’s Housing Hotline, says it’s not unusual for seniors living alone to be scared to demand their rights. “I’ve seen seniors intimidated by certain landlords. They’re afraid to make requests for repairs, things with which younger people would not have any problem. They’re told if they don’t like it, they can get out. I’m so used to hearing about it, you get to the point you know it’s a veiled threat, but the tenant doesn’t know.”

Certain problems, she says, such as cracked walls, peeling paint and miscellaneous repairs need to be taken care of over time. “But sometimes landlords want to jack up the rent when you’ve been living there for 40 years and tell you it’s you that has to take care of it.” The tenant doesn’t know who to call for assistance and sometimes they’re so shaken they don’t know what to do. “Not everybody has families to help them,” Adele said.

Cathy Inouye of Project Genesis says some landlords neglect to make repairs in the hope that a tenant will leave. “An older person living in an apartment for a long time can refuse a rent increase. If there is a continual refusal of the increase, which is a person’s right, the landlord may not do repairs … trying to get the person out of the building. The tenant feels the pressure.”

Inouye encourages tenants to write a letter to the landlord if there is a health or safety issue. “Maybe what could help people the most is the knowledge that they can’t be thrown out of their apartment if they’re paying their rents on time. Tenants have the right to maintain occupancy. … You have the right to enjoy the apartment.” There are many resources in Montreal, such as Project Genesis, Arnold Bennett’s Tenants’ Clinics and the NDG Senior Citizens Council, which can help tenants, even if they can’t come in on their own.

“Project Genesis has a home advocacy service for people who are housebound,” Inouye said. “A volunteer advisor can come, explain the tenant’s rights and help compose a letter to the landlord if necessary.”

Info: Project Genesis: 514-738-2036; Arnold Bennett’s Housing Hotline: 514-990-0190; NDG Senior Citizens Council: 514-487-1311.

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Neil and Catherine celebrate birthdays and launch book

October, 2009

click here to view a slideshow of images from Neil and Catherine celebrate birthdays and launch book

The Unitas Hall on St. Antoine was filled with well-wishers heading for the birthday buffet on Sept 20. They were there to celebrate Catherine Fleming McKenty’s 79th and Neil McKenty’s 85th birthdays. And there was another occasion — the launch of Catherine’s Polly of Bridgewater Farm: an unknown Irish story.

Before dessert was served, Catherine read from the biography to the almost 100 guests. “The book is meant for everybody in the way everybody relates to Anne of Green Gables,” she said later in a telephone interview.

“It has serious parts like how a family survives,” she explained. “A mother in her thirties who lives in Northern Ireland told me that this is the kind of book parents and grandparents could read together with older children.” Toasts were made congratulating Catherine on her achievement and Neil for being a powerful presence in the English media.

The Senior Times publisher, Barbara Moser, began her speech by cajoling Neil into sitting next to her. “Neil, I want to thank you for contributing your lefty, edgy, often provocative view of the world in The Senior Times for over 11 years,” she said. She then asked the audience: “How Catholic are we tonight?” When there was no answer, she added “...because you know you have a rebel in your midst,” referring to McKenty.

Then she shared her favorite lines and subjects from Neil’s column Pit Stop in The Senior Times, among them the line “Sexually arrested priests should be arrested.” “He has written about homosexuality, healthcare, euthanasia, and public policy,” Moser said. “His words are always full of candor and wit. He called George Bush the worst president of his lifetime, which wouldn’t be surprising if his memory didn’t go back to Herbert Hoover.”

“His writing is very personal, very intimate, and very unusual,” said Denis Biro. It’s amazing how he opens his heart to everyone. Guests commented they were astounded by the wit and liveliness of Neil and Catherine. “What’s amazing is he’s turning 85 but he’s still very active and very sharp,” Warren Allmand said. “He’s not like an 85 year old man.

“They’re not just content at their age to sit back and watch television,” Allmand added. “They are people who are committed to improving the lot of everybody.” “They deal with age extremely well,” Biro said of the couple. “This is an inspiration for a lot of people. We have to keep up with them.” “Winston Churchill once said ‘never surrender’,” said Stuart John Tigchelaar. “They bring so much inspiration to the community. [Catherine and Neil] please never surrender that zeal.”

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The Tremblay record: more to celebrate than regret

October, 2009

When voters go the polls November 1 in Quebec-wide municipal contests, the stakes in Montreal will be critical, not just for island residents but for the entire province. We are the motor force of the provincial economy, the dynamo that drives our cultural and political life. As a result of our participation, of lack thereof, we will end up with the administration we deserve — with all its broader implications.

Of the four candidates for mayor, we believe the pluses far outweigh the minuses when it comes to Gérald Tremblay’s record as mayor. He deserves wide support. Looking at the alternatives, the main challenger is Louise Harel, who took over from Ville Marie mayor Benoît Labonté to lead Vision Montreal. Harel is a career politician who built her reputation as a Parti Québécois hard-liner. She is honest, able, hard working and progressive. Having spent most of her life as a PQ activist, turned member of the national assembly and cabinet minister, we fear she will favour a bureaucratic and technocratic approach to governance – the Cartesian outlook that led to the top-down imposition of mergers that she piloted – that will outweigh her humanistic side. Her gut favours centralizing, as opposed to the compromise solution, however imperfect, we now have. Still, she will be a strong opposition leader and has attracted some interesting candidates who deserve your consideration. Former Dawson College administrator Brenda Paris running for borough mayor in Côte des Neiges-Notre Dame de Grace and urban planning professor David Hanna, for borough councilor in Notre-Dame de Grâce, deserve your consideration.

Mayoral candidate Richard Bergeron is pushing for tramways and an emphasis on mass transit. He has other ideas for a greener, environmentally- friendly city as he builds his Projet Montréal team. We support his candidacy in De Lorimier and his call for bridge tolls. We also support award-winning journalist Alex Norris, running in Mile-End.

When it comes to the Tremblay team’s overall record, we believe it is positive, responsible and ahead of the game when it comes to integrity. Yes, police are looking into five cases of improper municipal deals, but none impugns directly or indirectly Tremblay himself. And in the waterworks mega-contract, he not only got rid of the city’s two top administrators, his former right-hand man, Frank Zampino, left on his own. Looking at the positives, mass transit is efficient, affordable and user friendly. Elevators are being installed in some key metro stations to make the system more accessible to the disabled and seniors.

In urban planning and infrastructure development, the Pine-Park interchange has been tastefully replaced. The Quartier des spectacles is emerging as a jewel of urban planning.

Yes, the city is losing middle-class families to the north and south shores, but no administration can compete with cheap land, housing and green space off the island. Potholes remain a curse and snow and ice removal has been pitiful. We expect more – we demand more – from our city on this front.

Among the Tremblay team’s candidates for council with proven commitment to the public good and integrity are Helen Fotopoulos, running in Côte des Neiges and Marvin Rotrand in Snowdon. It’s going to be a close race, exciting too. We urge all those eligible to study the respective platforms and make your voices heard so the winners are as representative as possible, and can be held to account.

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Harper deserves credit for strong economy, leadership

October, 2009

If there is a federal election this fall, the Conservatives are the odds on favourites to win it. I base this prediction largely on the state of the Canadian economy. Compared to almost all other western industrial nations, Canada has had a “soft” recession. We moved into the recession in better shape and we are moving out of it in better shape.

That is a remarkable achievement, and certainly the Harper government deserves some of the credit for this state of affairs. Imagine if the Canadian economy was in the dumpster compared to other nations. There is no question that Prime Minister Stephen Harper would be getting the blame. Because we have done so well he is now deserving some of the credit.

Add our strong economy to Harper’s strong lead in the polls, and a fall election would see the Conservatives returned to office, quite possibly with a small majority. Harper has been all over the news this summer – in the north, dispensing funds from the stimulus program, attending international conferences.

Whatever you think of his policies, Harper carries himself well on the international stage. When U.S. President Barack Obama came to Ottawa for his first official visit outside Washington, Harper was graceful and eloquent. He did the country proud. At the same time, Harper has given generally competent government unmarred by scandals.

But the growing Conservative lead in the polls is not only due to Harper’s strengths. Much of it is owing to Michael Ignatieff’s missteps. For one thing, the Liberal leader virtually disappeared this summer. He went to England to give a lecture, then, apparently realizing he had goofed, wisely cancelled a trip to China.

In the Globe and Mail, Rex Murphy put in words what many voters were thinking: “What’s the matter with Michael Ignatieff?” Murphy provided his own answer: “He is cocky and uncertain almost simultaneously, aggressive and challenging one moment, hesitant and even confusing in his message the next. That message, what there is of it, is a muddle. He casts the word ‘vision’ around like it’s a talisman, but speaks in the mushy platitudes of a high-school valedictorian. He seems stranded between the two models of successful Liberal leadership, caught between the saloon and the salon.”

Here in Quebec we have seen a sad example of leadership. Ignatieff, who prides himself on party unity, appointed Denis Coderre as his chief lieutenant and political boss in this province. Coderre, with the leader’s backing, dumped several sitting Liberals to parachute in star candidates.

One of the incumbents to be dumped in St. Laurent was no other than former leader Stéphane Dion. This ungrateful manoeuvre rightly drew the wrath of the Gazette: “[Dion] deserves better than to have his back stabbed by the likes of Denis Coderre, a party apparatchik whose contributions to Canada are minimal compared with those of Dion.”

But where Coderre’s machinations really came unglued was in the riding of Outremont, now held by the NDP’s Tom Mulcair. The Liberals desperately want to win Outremont back, and Coderre thought he had just the candidate to do it: business executive Nathalie Le Prohon. Trouble was that Martin Cauchon, a justice minister in the Chrétien government, used to represent Outremont and wanted it back.

Naturally, Ignatieff backed his Quebec lieutenant and they tried to fob Cauchon off to another riding now held by the Bloc. But Cauchon would not play dead. He doesn’t like Coderre and the feeling is mutual. So Cauchon lined up some heavy hitters to back his bid, including Bob Rae and Jean Chrétien himself. As the pressure mounted, Ignatieff caved. Cauchon will run in Outremont against Mulcair, and Coderre was left out to dry.

But Coderre did not hang on the clothesline for long. He took four days to think it over, then resigned as Ignatieff’s lieutenant in Quebec and as the Liberal defence critic. In the process he blamed his leader for listening to a Toronto clique on political affairs in Quebec. All this left Ignatieff damaged, Coderre angry and the Liberals’ chances in Quebec seriously diminished.

If a leader cannot run the affairs of his party, how can he run the business of the country? Fortunately for him, Ignatieff now has time to connect with the voter. For months I have waited for Iggy to give me a reason to support his party. So far he has not delivered.

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Language evolution not always fun

October, 2009

Reader Wendy McDonald asked, “Can you tell me when ‘fun’ became an adjective rather than a noun? I suppose this is a case of the language evolving, but I must say I’m glad I’m not an English teacher these days. Where does one draw the line?”

Like Ms. McDonald, whom I presume to be over 40, I tend to cringe when I hear the word “fun” used in an adjectival sense, particularly when it is expressed in the comparative (“funner”) and superlative senses (“funnest”). The construction “so fun” also leaves me with a queasy feeling. I should perhaps explain that “fun” should not be confused with “funny” which means “amusing”; the adjectival meaning is more akin to “enjoyable.”

Having admitted that adjectivally, at least, I’m not a “fun” guy, I have to concede that there is nothing inherently ungrammatical in the use of “fun” as an adjective. One of the hallmarks, and I would argue, one of the strengths of English is its flexibility. Nouns can be “verbed,” verbs and adjectives can be “nouned,” and as is the case of the word “fun,” nouns can be turned into adjectives.

It’s often difficult to state categorically what function a word is fulfilling in an English sentence. Take the word “steel.” If I say “Steel is a metal,” it is obvious that “steel” is being used as a noun. If, however, I declare “The steel bridge rusted,” “steel” is modifying the noun “bridge” and acts like an adjective. We happen to know that in the latter sense “steel” is a noun because of its use in other contexts. If we were not aware of these other contexts we might conclude that it was an adjective.

This is how the word “fun” is used in many situations. People refer to a “a fun time” or “a fun activity.” Many of us say things such as “This game is fun” or “It’s really fun” or “This party is more fun than the last one” where the distinction between adjective and noun is rather hazy.

It is likely that this use of “fun” began playfully in expressions such as “It’s fun to travel” where “fun” was behaving syntactically like an adjective. This usage became popular in American English by the 1960s, but there is some evidence to suggest that it had 19th century antecedents. In Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, written in 1876, Huck tells Tom Sawyer, “Tom-honest injun, now – is it fun or earnest?” Here “fun” is more adjectival than noun-like because of its pairing with “earnest.”

In any case, while the original intent of the adjectival sense of “fun” may have been jocular, it is usually used in earnest nowadays. Typical of this tendency is the blurb I read recently on a book entitled Cell Wars: “This book describes in a fun manner the way the body fights off bacteria and viruses.”

Under the heading “fun” the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) lists situations where the word appears in combination forms such as “fun-filled” or “fun-loving.” Increasingly, these combined forms are being supplanted and replaced merely with the word “fun.” This follows a pattern prevalent particularly in American English where words are shortened. I noticed, for example, that the term “winningest” is accepted by Encarta World English Dictionary, published in the USA, whereas the word is not listed in the OED, published in the UK.

Although the OED, unlike some dictionaries, still does not give its blessing to the adjectival use of “fun,” I was surprised to discover that the word is cited as a verb going back to 1685: “She had fun’d him of his Coin.” Here the verb “to fun”’ means “to cheat.” I suspect the day will come when we find that this usage does not raise any elderly eyebrows, probably when today’s 30-year-olds will be using “funner” and “funnest” as octogenerians. Entering “funner” and “funnest” into Google yielded thousands of hits, and not all of them to youth-oriented sites. One online travel magazine headline announced “Cruises: Bigger, Fancier, Funner Than Ever” and Amazon.com advertises “the funnest movies to watch.”

So should “fun” be used as an adjective? My advice is that it is fine to use in informal contexts such as conversation, letters, or e-mail, but for the time being, because there are so many people “funning fun,” it is best to avoid in formal writing.

Howard Richler’s latest book is Can I Have a Word With You?

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Older tenants may need help standing up for their rights

October, 2009

When it comes to dealing with leases, some seniors become susceptible to unscrupulous landlords because they don’t understand their rights.

While an older person may have capacity, the range of capacity is wide. To fully comprehend the responsibilities and obligations of tenants and landlords one must read the detailed lease thoroughly. Some older people may be intimidated by a landlord. Seniors coping with such stresses as physical ailments, a pending move or isolation may agree too quickly to a landlord’s requests rather than checking their rights and negotiating a better agreement.

I recently assisted a 90-year-old man with his move to a senior’s residence. I was hired after he had given his three months’ termination notice to the landlord. Before the three months were up, he found an appropriate residence and moved in quickly, leaving behind the items he was not taking with him. Soon after, we returned to the old apartment with the women who were hired to organize the move and sell the remaining belongings. While we were there, a man and woman paraded into the living area, introduced themselves as co-landlords with the live-in landlord, and began questioning us as to when the apartment would be vacated. We assured them that the apartment would be empty at the end of the notice period. They proceeded to insist the apartment be cleared as soon as possible, claiming that the three-month notice period was for the landlord to prepare the apartment for renting.

They refused my request that they should leave, saying that we had no right to be there while they had every right since it was “their” apartment. Realizing we were at an impasse, I carried through with my threat to phone the police. When the police arrived they were professional and helpful – but not pleased about being called for a minor issue. However, they did clarify the law. The tenant has full rights to the apartment for as long as he paid the rent and landlords have no right to enter the apartment without the tenant’s permission.

My client was in the apartment at the time of the incident and was clearly stressed. To make matters worse, he is hearing-impaired and could not understand what had transpired. The police warned the landlords not to enter the apartment again without the tenant’s permission, stating that if they did, they would be arrested.

Had I not been there, my client, in order to maintain peace, would probably have handed over the keys and forfeited his belongings to the landlord.

Unfortunately, the ordeal did not stop there. My client handed over cash to the landlord when he asked for money to pay Gaz Métropolitain – with no bill or receipt. This was done when I was not present. To ease my client’s anxiety, I had the apartment vacated two weeks prior to the end of the termination notice and had the keys returned to the landlord. The landlord was asked to sign for the receipt of the key, and was asked not to contact my client since each contact caused him to slip into a state of anxiety. The landlord refused to sign the letter.

Had my client not had involvement from an outsider looking out for his best interests, he would have been forced out of his apartment early, would have abided by the landlord’s “rule” that there be only one garage sale – with few people allowed to enter the apartment during the sale – as well as other ludicrous requests. I tried to transfer Hydro over to the landlord, but was told it could take 10 days for the transfer, which could only be done after the key was turned over. It remains to be seen if this story has ended.

With senior residences, the leasing agent goes over the lease with the tenant. Any promises made at the signing should be added to the lease in writing. Yet it is still important to ask questions:

What is the policy in the event of death or the need for a move to a nursing facility? This should be stipulated in the lease. If a resident has a physician’s letter stating he or she is in need of a nursing facility, the law states that only one month’s notice is required.

I urge seniors who are not sure about their rights as tenants to seek assistance from family, friends, the Rental Board or community groups before committing to a new lease or any changes to an existing one.

Comments or questions? b.sandler@sympatico.ca

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Let's clear up some common landlord-tenant issues

October, 2009

The incident described by Bonnie Sandler on Page 11 concerns an elderly man who found himself in a stressful situation, was intimidated by his landlord and unaware of his rights. How does the law help him? What tools are available for him?

When landlord-tenant problems cannot be resolved amicably, they are decided by the Rental Board. The board plays a crucial role in the relationship between the landlord and tenant. For example, the board provides form leases that landlords must use. A further document used by long-term care residences that covers services offered by such residences is also provided by the Rental Board, and its use is mandatory as well.

The most frequent problems that arise concern the yearly notices from landlords regarding rent increases and the notices given by tenants when they are obliged to move permanently to long-term care residences or foster homes. It was in this latter situation that Bonnie’s client found himself.

If it becomes necessary to move to a residence, the law permits you to break your lease, but there are conditions. Sometimes the landlord and tenant can come to an agreement as to a specific date by which the lease will end and the tenant will vacate. If there is no agreement, the lease, assuming it is a one-year lease, will end three months after a notice is given to the landlord. If the term of the lease is less than one year or if there is no definite term of lease, the notice is one month. The notice must always be accompanied by an official document attesting that the move is necessary. Having given the notice and still paying rent, the tenant has a right to remain in the apartment for three months. He can move before the delay expires, but it is his right to remain.

The landlord, who is obliged to break the lease, has a right to the three months’ notice and three months’ rent even if the tenant chooses to move before the delay is up.

Bonnie’s client was obliged to move to a seniors’ residence while his lease was still in force. He had given the required three months’ notice and therefore had a right to retain possession of the premises and to leave his things there for the full three months even though he had gone to live elsewhere.

Problems can also occur with the landlord’s notice of modifications to the lease, which may include a rent increase. To modify a one-year lease, the landlord must give the tenant at least three months’ notice and no more than six months. This provision has been held to be of public order. This means that notices given outside these delays are not valid. If no notice is given, the lease will automatically renew for one year with no changes. Two problems can arise here. Firstly, is the delay provided in the notice to be counted from the day the notice is sent or the day it is received? The current law is from the day it is received. Therefore, if you are the landlord, make sure your notice has been received by your tenant.

Second, what if the notice comes outside the delay, but you answer it and agree to a rent increase which is less than that proposed by the landlord? There are two possible answers to this question. One is that the notice was invalid to begin with and the lease was therefore automatically renewed at the same rent and on the same conditions. The other is that your response means you have tacitly accepted the notice as given thereby renouncing your right to three months of notice and agreeing to a certain amount of increase, although not the full amount suggested by the landlord. In either case, if the landlord is unsatisfied with the situation, he will have to go before the Rental Board to resolve it.

Some other things to remember are that the landlord must give you a copy of the lease within ten days of your signing it. He must also give you a written copy of any modifications to the original lease prior to the beginning of any renewal period. If you are renting for the first time, the landlord must advise you of the lowest rent paid for the premises within the preceding 12-month period or of the rent fixed by the Rental Board during that same period. If the rent he has demanded from you is excessive, you have the right to go to the Rental Board to have it reduced. If you are the spouse or relative of the tenant whose name appears on the lease, you can stay on if the tenant moves out, and the lease will be transferred to you – as long as you notify the landlord within two months.

In case of a tenant’s death, the lease can be cancelled by giving the landlord three months’ notice within six months of the death. A person who has been living with the deceased can have the lease transferred to himself by advising the landlord within two months of the death. If that person fails to give notice, the liquidator of the estate or an heir can give one month’s notice after the expiration of the two months in order to cancel the lease.

A final question to be addressed is what happens when the tenant is made to feel intimidated, as in the case of Bonnie’s client. Where fear induces someone to enter into a lease, that lease can be annulled. The law is specific: “Fear induced by an abusive exercise of a right or power or by the threat of such exercise vitiates consent.”

All contracts, including leases, as well as obligations undertaken, require valid consent be given. Where consent is obtained by intimidation it isn’t valid and any act performed as a result can be annulled by a court of law.

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Weight loss secrets of the stars

October, 2009

“Did you know that it is now possible to drop up to 14 POUNDS in only 7 DAYS? That’s right … Negative Calorie Diet can make it happen!”

That’s the message that came into my e-mail inbox. First, you should know that I am in favour of negative calories – the anti-matter of the food world. I am sure that they are out there, along with the milky way (not the candy bar), the Loch Ness Monster, and really great Montreal barbecue – all things that I never expect to see. Negative calorie foods – and their evil spawn, the negative calorie diet – all promise the same thing: Eat as much as you want and lose weight.

What a great idea! I’ll just load up on watermelon (less than 100 calories for a wedge), celery (6 calories to a stalk), grapefruit (about 70 for half) or asparagus sans hollandaise (20 for a few stalks). I’ll munch until either my jaw hurts or I’m stuffed, literally. Not happy, mind you, but full. Pass the sawdust, please, and watch the salt.

Those pushing negative calorie diets claim I’ll expend more energy chewing than consuming. I’ll also be drooling over your plate when we go to dinner, but don’t let that bother you. It’s negative calorie drool.

As we head into the hibernating season, I’ve noticed that some of my professional cooking friends – chefs, food critics – have shed pounds. One told me that she ate nothing past 6 pm until she attained her desired svelte-ness. Another claimed that getting eight hours of sleep a night decreased his food intake. This isn’t as silly as it sounds. We do eat more when we are awake (duh!) but we also tend to eat more when we are tired and have to remain awake. Think of all that munching on long car trips.

Another “weight loss secret” I’ve never emulated is that of the slow eater’s society. The idea here is enforced mastication. According to Internet sources (and if it is on the Internet, it must be true) chewing each mouthful 15 to 20 times drops your calorie intake by about a quarter pound in half an hour. I liked a comment on one weight-loss site that if extended chewing is good, chewing your food 20 times and spitting it out is even better.

My favourite weight loss secret was revealed in a story about John Travolta. He claimed that when he wanted to lose weight he ate half of what was on his plate: half a salad, half a cheese-burger, half a piece of pie. In my dreams, I am in a foodie heaven restaurant in California, say, Chez Panisse or The French Laundry, which, like Nessie, I’ve heard of but don’t expect to see. I have no money, but John Travolta is at the next table. I tell the waiter “I’ll take the rest of whatever he’s having…”

Personally, I’ve given up on diets. After several weeks of self-denial I always gain the weight back. Instead of negative calorie foods, I now go for tasty positive calorie dishes: a cheese soufflé made with freshly grated Italian Parmesan cheese, bread with schmecks appeal – a crusty rye or baguette. It is surprising how little I need of something that tastes good to feel full. Oh yeah, and late at night, I like a square or two of first-rate dark chocolate. After all, I deserve it.

It’s October and time to think of soup. (Another weight loss secret – think of soup as stew-lite!) First, plan ahead. When you cook vegetables in water (asparagus, corn, peas, beets, potatoes, etc.) keep the water and freeze it for stock. This also works for meat stock, preferably made from left over beef, lamb or chicken. Otherwise, add water.

Defrost a quart of stock. Peel and then chop a cup or more of root vegetables into pieces, about the size of dice. Use whatever combination you like: parsnips, carrots and beets are all good. Put a little oil in a large pot and roast the veggies slowly. The carrots will turn a bright orange. Don’t scorch them, but cook them well. This strengthens their flavours and inherent sweetness. Put them aside. Chop an onion and a clove or two of garlic and barely brown these. Put the veggies back in. Cover with three or four cups of stock or water. Add two whole medium-size tomatoes. Bring to a slow boil and then simmer. When the skin on the tomatoes splits, remove them, but let the veggies continue cooking. Cool the tomatoes and peel them, chop them up and return them to the pot. Add more stock or water if you want. The thickness is up to you. Add a cup of diced potato, a bay leaf, some herbs (parsley, thyme, oregano and marjoram are all good), pepper (white or black) and salt. Stir, taste and adjust the seasonings. At this stage you can add refrigerator leftovers: a can of beans, frozen peas, cooked rice or pasta, that last piece of chicken. When the potato is barely done, remove the soup from the stove. Ladle it into serving bowls. Toast a few slices of bread, one for each bowl of soup. Put the toast on the soup just before serving and sprinkle on freshly grated cheese.

Barry Lazar is the Flavourguy. E-mail him at flavourguy@seniortimes.com

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Trapped in a tragedy: no plan in place for disabled vet

Jillian Zacchia

October, 2009

No one individual or institution can prepare for what happened three years ago, on September 13, at Dawson College when Kimveer Gill walked in and started shooting.

Difficult as it was for those who could walk, it was impossible for Myron Galen, a teacher at the college who uses a wheelchair.

In order to leave the school safely, one had to listen to the police and follow protocol, but Galen didn’t have the option of following the orders. He was one of a number of people with mobility issues stuck in the school.

On the day of the tragedy, Galen was in his office on the fifth floor, aware of what had happened but unable to leave the school along with everyone else. “The elevators were shut down,” he said. “They always are during emergencies. There was no way for me to get out.”

Galen waited in his wheelchair with a colleague, Aaron Krishtalka, who stayed by his side for four hours until he was allowed to leave through the Atrium. Donna Varrica, Dawson’s manager of communications, admitted that there are “severe gaps” in the evacuation procedure for those with limited mobility, “Myron being one of them. Relying on the kindness of strangers shouldn’t be the case.” Galen said he felt vulnerable because he didn’t feel protected by the authorities or the school administration. “A lot of physically disabled people were in danger and I’ve been complaining about it for years.”

“The problem is that the protocol that exists now is prepared on paper, but we found that when it’s put into practice it has some large gaps,” Varrica said. “When we practise evacuations, we don’t actually bring people with limited mobility outside. This disturbs people in wheelchairs because they haven’t actually done the exercise.”

“Nothing has been done to accommodate those in wheelchairs in the event of an emergency yet,” Galen said, and according to Varrica, he’s partially right. “We’ve set up a task force with people who’ve encountered a problem, instead of able bodied people making plans for those in wheelchairs,” Varrica said. “Galen is one of the members.

“We’re trying to come at it from different angles to see if we can create a real procedure.”

The committee will meet in the coming weeks but no progress has been made to reform the evacuation procedure for those in wheelchairs since the Dawson tragedy, Varrica said.

“You can’t plan for an attack like this,” Galen said, “but you can plan for an evacuation, and Dawson hasn’t gotten it right for the mobility-impaired.”

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To buy first or to sell first: that is the question

October, 2009

Whether or not to sell your home before buying a new one is a big dilemma for most home buyers, especially if you have not paid off your mortgage.

There is no one correct answer. Your decision will depend on several factors: the number of homes for sale in the area you are interested in; your ability to compromise; the time you have available to search; how long it will take you to sell your home; the needs of the seller of the home you wish to purchase; your financial purchasing power.

You need to know what choices are available in the area(s) you want to live. If you like several areas, you will generally have more selection. Compromise is necessary when buying a home because it is rare that you will find everything you want.

You should be prepared to spend a lot of time searching for a home. The agent you choose should be committed to your needs, while you should be committed to reviewing all the listings your agent sends you and providing feedback to increase the efficiency of the search.

Also, it is important to consider that it could take a very long time to sell your home, especially if you have a lot of competition.

Let’s assume that you found the home you want to buy and you make an offer. Your agent will advise you that you will be making an offer conditional on selling your home and that you will you will probably have to accept a 72-hour right of first refusal. This means that if your offer is accepted, the seller will continue to entertain other offers and can even accept one without telling you. Once all the conditions of the newly accepted offer have been fulfilled, you will be informed that another offer has been accepted and that all conditions have been removed. The seller is giving you 72 hours to remove all your conditions or else the new offer takes effect and yours becomes null and void. This means you have to show proof that your bank will provide you with an unconditional mortgage to purchase.

If you can afford two mortgages, which not many of us can, you can remove your conditions once you have the mortgage letter from the bank. A bridge loan is another option, but you must be able to qualify and you have to find a bank that will provide you with this letter within 72 hours.

Selling your home before looking for a new one has some advantages. It strengthens your bargaining position, especially if the home you are bidding on gets a second offer. Let’s face it: A conditional offer is less attractive than one that is not conditional.

The downside to selling your home prior to purchasing a new one is you might have to rent until you find a new home.

Furthermore, you might feel pressured into buying a home that is not what you want because you are simply running out of time.

It can be difficult to determine what to do first: buy or sell. If you need more information about this topic, do not hesitate to call and ask questions.

Daniel Smyth, Affiliated Real Estate Agent, Groupe Sutton-Clodem Inc., 514-941-3858.

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A great gift for the grandkids

October, 2009

If you would like to give a wonderful gift to your grandchildren, consider enrolling them in a Registered Education Savings Plan. The RESP is an easy vehicle to set up, with the simple condition that the child must have a social insurance number. An RESP is a unique savings account registered with the Canada Revenue Agency created specifically to help families save for their children’s post secondary education.

Some of the highlights of the plan are that all contributions grow tax-free until the child is enrolled in a post-secondary program approved by the guidelines of the plan. There is a lifetime limit contribution of $50,000 per child. When the money is withdrawn for educational purposes, it is taxed in the hands of the student, which under most circumstances leads to minimal or no tax. In addition, there is a CESG grant whereby the Canadian Government matches 20 per cent of the first $2,500 per year contributed to an RESP up to a maximum of $7,200 over the plan’s lifetime.

There are further CESG matching rates that allow the bonus to increase to 30 per cent on the first $500 of annual contributions for families who are receiving the Canadian child tax benefit.

When selecting an RESP provider, it is important to understand the differences between product and companies. Some products offer complete flexibility in investment choice and payments. Others promoted as non- profit education plans have more restrictive regimens that have financial penalties if you are unable to continue contributing. It is important to learn how to ask the right questions when selecting the vehicle of choice.

If the child named as beneficiary decides not to pursue a post-secondary education, as the plan owner you have options.

First, you can nominate a new beneficiary, provided the person you choose is under 21 and related. Second, you may transfer up to $50,000 of the earned income into an RRSP within your contribution limits. All grant money must go back to the government. Third, you can receive the earnings via an accumulated Income Payment. Finally, you can withdraw the money subject to various tax rates.

There are many choices. As with all other financial decisions, be informed and clearly understand the nature of the contract you are signing.

Remember, the greatest gift you can give a child is an education.

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Rockland County, NY, a destination for food, films and fun

As a travel reporter, when you hit an “oh-my-god” moment, you talk about it forever. My husband Stan and I were shmoozing with Greg Parseghian, owner of the Best Western Nyack in Rockland County, NY, and he let on that we could go “backstage” at Rockland Bakery (where he buys his yummy baked goods) and pick whatever we wanted. As it turns out, not only could we do this, but so can you.

First, you put on a pair of clear plastic gloves and grab a brown paper bag, then you follow your nose to the cooling racks. You can watch the breads and rolls coming off the conveyor belts. Then you just help yourself to whatever you want – raisin, pumpernickel and whole grain breads, Vienna rolls, bagels, challahs, Stan’s favourite cranberry raisin corn bread or onion boards, or my favourite seven-grain bread with sunflower seeds smothering the outside. It doesn’t get any fresher than this. You pay for your goods out front in the retail sweets bakery, where you can add: rugalach, cherry, pineapple, blueberry or cheese danish, babkas, bowties, crumb buns, doughnuts, black and white cookies, brownies, cakes, pies – and expect it all to be oversized, US-style. Beside the retail area there is a little deli where you can grab a sandwich, or you can give them one of your hot fresh rolls and they’ll pile it with cold cuts.

This 40-plus-year-old bakery has become a regular pit stop for us whenever we drive the I-87 to New York City.

Once you’re in the area, you can eat well, go dancing and watch big-screen classics in an old-time movie theatre.

For dining options you can mail ahead or pick up a “restaurant row” 10- to 15-per-cent-off discount card good at 16 restaurants along a four-block stretch of Nyack’s Main Street.

Hailing from Abruzzi, Italy, chef Marcello Russodivito of Marcello’s Ristorante has been conquering fine dining for 21 years, combining excellent service and warm hospitality. Expect him to come out to chat with you during your meal. Generous with his recipes, he shares them online and in his cookbook. The menu has heart-smart choices: There are creative ones like the ravioli stuffed with lamb, ricotta and spinach or the seafood on black pasta, and there are classics like eggplant or veal parmigiana and a to-die-for garlicky white clam sauce. For dessert, I enjoyed the panna cotta (vanilla custard) with raspberry sauce, and you can’t go wrong with the flourless chocolate cake. The restaurant offers cooking classes, or you can dine at the chef’s table in the kitchen.

Make sure you organize your eating in time to pop across the street to the Lafayette Theatre. Saved from the wrecker’s ball, this classic movie theatre, built in 1924, seats 1,000 (with original seats upstairs) and has a resident ghost named John. There are first-run movies, fine art films, live performances and Saturday matinee Big Screen Classics. The best treat is the 1931 Ben Hall Memorial Mighty organ, which played in Carnegie Hall and now booms out for half an hour before the Friday and Saturday night movies and the Saturday matinees. If you need to use the restrooms, vintage radios keep you abreast of the dialogue in the movie.

And the fun’s not finished yet. To bed down for the night, head over to the friendly, family-run Best Western Nyack on Hudson, whose motto is “where your family meets ours.” Recently renovated and 100-per-cent non-smoking, the hotel has fridges and coffee makers in every room. On Friday nights the West Gate Lounge offers free-style dancing and on Saturday nights it turns into a Latin night club where you can take salsa lessons and later on in the evening enjoy live music by bands from around the world. The best part: You don’t have to drive home – just toddle off to sleep in your bed upstairs.

Before you go

I-87 Exit 13S (NY State Thruway): Rockland Bakery, 94 Demarest Mill Rd.W., Nanuet, NY. Phone: 845-623-5800. Hours: Sun- Fri 6am-10:30pm, Sat 6am-midnight. www.rocklandbakery.com

Exit 14B: Marcello’s Ristorante 21 Lafayette Ave., Suffern, NY. Phone 845-357-9108. Hours: lunch Mon-Sat 12 to 2:30pm. dinner: Mon-Thurs 5-9:30pm, dinner Fri & Sat 5-10pm, dinner Sun 3-8:30pm www.marcellosristorante.co

Exit 14B: Lafayette Theatre, 97 Lafayette Ave., Suffern, NY. Phone: 845-369-8234, www.bigscreenclassics.com/lafayette.html

Exit 11: Best Western Inn, 26 Route 59, Nyack, NY. Phone: 877-358-8181 or 845-358-8100. www.bestwestern.com/nyackonhudson

For all the info you need on Rockland County: www.rockland.org

www.restaurantrowrockland.com

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Delectable and charming, Galo grills up Portugal on a platter

Barbara Moser

October, 2009

As many of you know, Irwin and I love to eat… out, especially when the dining establishment reminds us of our trips abroad. So we jumped on the chance to review Restaurant Galo in Town of Mount Royal, not exactly our stomping ground but as we discovered, well worth the taxi ride.

This family-run Portuguese Grill serves up, among other delicacies, grilled sardines, which are few and far between in Montreal. Fresh ones are a staple for me when I travel abroad so it didn’t take me long to decide what I’d order once we walked through the charming white exterior with its bay window into the equally charming interior that holds no more than 12 tables covered in white tablecloths. Our server is the sister of co-owner, Tanya Santos. Tanya explained that her partner Martine Meunier holds the fort in the daytime and she and her mother and sisters work the evening shift. The restaurant quickly filled up on this Thursday evening.

Alexandra was quick to offer us the specialty of the house, which comes either as an appetizer ($7.50) or a main course with home fries or rice and salad ($12.50). They are called Rissois in Portuguese. These are half moon croquettes filled with either cod or shrimp. Both were crispy on the outside. The shrimp variety were larger and stuffed with Bechamel giving them a creamy texture. The cod croquettes were my favorite of the two, with more of a spicy bread crumb consistency. Alexandra told us that her grandmother, Analia Lopes, makes the Rissois. We highly recommend her cooking.

Our salads arrived in glass bowls, very elegant, with tomato slices atop frizzy lettuce, cukes, and a slice of red pepper, drizzled with a light dressing of white wine vinegar and oil. I liked the idea that the salad was its own course, not a side on the plate with the main course.

The mains come with home-made fries or rice and salad but you can substitute grilled veggies for the carbs for $2. I chose Sardines ($14) and Irwin chose the Mixed Meat Grill ($17 for one, $27 for two) both with Grilled Veggies, which was actually an original, a grilled tomato filled to the brim with chopped zucchini, onions, and peppers, topped with a generous slice of Portugese goat cheese. Irwin ordered a glass of what Alexandra described as full-bodied Portuguese red wine ($6.50). While we were waiting for our main courses, we enjoyed the bright, friendly atmosphere with a mix of customers, lots of bubbly conversation and the joyous and lively Portuguese dance music.

Just before our mains were served, Albert and Susan Weiner approached us and asked if it was our first time at Galos. They have been neighbourhood regulars since Galo opened two years ago, September 10, 2006 to be exact, says Albert. Susan loves the chicken and fries. Albert loves the sardines and so did I. There were four big ones, about 8 inches long and quite succulent, grilled and marinated, then basted with the special house sauce, which, we were told by Tanya, includes as one of its ingredients the hot sauce that is on every table. Don’t use this stuff like ketchup though. Take it easy.

Irwin’s plate of mixed grilled meats included two pieces of chicken. a large sausage called chorizo, and a piece of pork filet, all marinated and brushed with two sauces, and all of which Irwin pronounced “delectable.”

The grilled tomatoes were a surprise. They were huge and tasty complementing the fish and meat perfectly. We cheated and ordered an extra plate of the home fries ($2) not wanting to miss out. We both thought they were “dangerously exquisite” – Irwin’s words, but I agree fully. And full I was, even before we were talked into trying the home-made desserts: a chocolate mousse, not too rich or gooey, and homemade cream “beaten by us (the family)” layered on tea biscuits dipped in espresso, and topped with strawberry garnish. The cream was sinfully rich.

Our lattes were perfect, with a light and creamy foam. What better way to end our first experience at Galo, which obviously will not be our last. So friends, if you have a car and can pick us up here in NDG, we’re ready to introduce you to Portugal in TMR.

Galo Portuguese Grill, 1970 Graham, corner Kindersley. Reservations: 514-504-5110.

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Home at Mesquìte: our neighbourhood southern BBQ

October, 2009

Michael Minorgan (chef Michel), Lauren Reynolds and Gulam T. Rahman Photo: Barbara Moser

I am at home at Mesquìte. It’s half a block away from my home and office, but there’s more to it. I don’t have to shop for groceries, prepare meals, cook, bake, or clean up! And I can enjoy Mesquìte’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week.

When I come in, I am always greeted with a “Hi Barbara” from owners Gulam T. Rahman or Michael Minorgan.

And now for the ultimate feeling of home: They’ve named a burger after me in their new menu! It’s called Barbara’s Portobello Mushroom Burger “with roasted red peppers, creamy goat cheese, guacamole and tomatillo mango relish” – all my favourite foods on one plate. The menu, of which I got a sneak preview, coincides with Mesquìte’s 5th anniversary.

I can’t believe it’s been five years since they opened on the corner of Decarie Blvd and NDG Ave, a block from the Villa Maria Metro and in front of the 24 bus stop. There is not a week that goes by when I’m not at Mesquìte two or three times with family, friends and the Senior Times team. We ST ladies are always celebrating birthdays.

Lunch specials are all served with Chef Michel’s daily soup or tomato juice and coffee or tea. The soups are exquisitely spiced. I’ve never been able to replicate one — although I’ve tried. Sandwiches come on grilled baguette with one side. It’s always hard for me to choose between the home-made russet fries, coleslaw, onion ribbons or mixed garden salad although my favourite is the black beans, which also come as a breakfast side.

Two sandwich favourites among my friends and family are BBQ Brisket and the Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese, which on the new menu, includes bacon and avocado slices.

The nice thing about Mesquìte is that they’re flexible. as my favorite server Lauren Reynolds can tell you. If you don’t want the bacon, no problem. As a matter of fact, this was the genesis of my namesake: I ordered the meat burger with portobello mushroom and asked Chef Michel to hold the meat and add goat cheese, roasted red pepper and guacamole. Sometimes I even say: hold the bread and onions. For my omelette of spinach, mushroom, and cheese on those leisurely Saturdays and Sundays (brunch is served till 3 pm), it’s like this: egg whites only, hold the toast, add spicy hollandaise (no extra charge for this) and two sides (since I don’t have the meat).

For dinner the choices are endless, even for this pesky pescetarian.

Here are a couple of sensational sounding chioces on the new menu, which by the way, is not pricier than the old one: Appetizers: Corn Meal Flash Fried Baby Calamari with Roasted Tomato Remoulade ($8.95), BBQ Chili Lime Tiger Shrimp (4) with Pico de Gallo ($8,95). Mains: Atlantic Salmon Salad Grilled or Blackened ($17.95) – one of my favourites – and Mahi Mahi Grilled or Blackened ($17.95).

I have yet to try Chef Michel’s Ultimate Country Salad of shaved pickled beets, romaine, baby field greens, cucumber ribbons, shaved fennel, goat cheese, toasted walnuts, sweet corn and fresh tomato vinaigrette ($14.95), but I will. I love the fajitas ($13.95) with a choice of BBQ pulled pork (Irwin’s favourite salad), BBQ brisket, BBQ chicken, vegetarian (my choice) or a combo of two meats served with “pit smoked black beans, sour cream, guacamole and pico de gallo.” For carnivores, Mesquìte’s St. Louis Ribs are so popular there is a rib-eating contest at least once a year, which, I’m not keen on — especially for seniors with heart problems!

If you’re not a big dinner spender, you can choose a BBQ sandwich ($8.95) with one side of pulled pork, turkey or chicken or brisket (unpulled). I’m at Mesquìte right now on a Saturday morning about to order my favourite Florentine Benedict ($9.95) with spicy hollandaise, a side of beans and an extra of tomatoes.

Speaking of tomatoes, Michael and T. have recently decorated the place in rich red tones to go with the original rich red wood bar, tables and chairs. Unfortunately it’s a bit cold to enjoy the terrace.

Oops, I almost forgot the desserts. How could I? The bread pudding and the frozen key lime pie are to die for!

Mesquìte has a full bar, featuring daily cocktail specials, and two big-screen TVs. Happy 5th anniversary to my friends at Mesquìte! Thanks for bringing Southern BBQ to NDG and making me feel right at home.

Prices start at $6.95 for the half sandwich of the day with one side, soup, and coffee.

Reservations: 514-487-5066.

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New donation means seniors can get kosher food supplements

October, 2009

For a number of years, Sun Youth has offered food hampers to low-income seniors each month. This program allows them to concentrate their limited financial resources on concerns other than food.

The food is made available through donations from the public and private sector. Monetary donations are used to purchase essential items such as meat and dairy products.

Seniors can benefit from kosher food hampers because of the generous contribution of the Nussia and André Aisenstadt Foundation. The foundation’s president, Michael Vineberg, recently dropped by Sun Youth with a $25,000 cheque.

For those who cannot make it because of medical reasons, we offer a delivery service. It will be extended and allow us to visit isolated seniors. We will offer twice as many delivery days than before with staff dedicated to this sole purpose.

Tommy Kulczyk (left) and Sid Stevens (right) accept a $25,000 cheque from Michael Vineberg. Photo: Nicolas Carpentier

André Aisenstadt played a key role in establishing the Montreal Jewish General Hospital Foundation, acted as governor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and as president of the Clinical Research Institute of Montreal. He sat on the executive of the Université de Montréal, where he helped to create the centre de recherches mathématiques. For these accomplishments and many more, he was made Grand Officier de l’Ordre national du Québec in 1991. Born in Russia in 1912, Aisenstadt moved to Switzerland for his studies. There, he befriended Albert Einstein. He immigrated to Canada in 1939 because of rising political tensions in Europe.

Sun Youth wishes to thank the Nussia & André Aisenstadt Foundation and its president, Michael Vineberg, for their outstanding generosity. For more information on the Senior Food Supplement Program (regular and kosher), contact Sun Youth at 514-842-6822.

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Angels and bagels for Generations

October, 2009

St.Viateur’s Back-to-School Bagel-O-Thon, Thursday, September 10, was the place to be.

Q 92.5 radio broadcasted live with Natasha Hall. Best Buy donated five laptops to five lucky students. We thank Nicolo Morena, Johnny Azzue, their sponsors and their customers. The entire Morena clan enjoyed breakfast. Rima Morena gave birth shortly after. Blame it on the sesame bagels.

Queen of Angels Academy, an all girls school, established by the Sisters of Sainte Anne, celebrated their 50th Anniversary on September 14 with opening ceremonies, a tea, candle lighting and speeches by dignitaries such as Kathleen Weil, Minister of Justice. Shortly after, BBQs were fired up to sizzle hamburgers, hot dogs and corn, The BBQ food sales helped enormously to bolster Generations food programs.

L to R: Adrian Bercovici, Helen Fotopoulos, Borough Mayor, Plateau District, Natalie Bercovici and Pierre Fréchette, City Counselor

Chairperson, Bernadette Grzelak, her committee, along with her family, have mastered the art of a BBQ Party. Principal Sister Joanne Dion, Dominic Varvaro, Nadya Kruk, faculty, staff, parents, students and Alumnae of QAA have much to be proud of. Thank you for allowing Generations to join your “family” in celebrating your golden anniversary.

Generations thanks the management and staff of Q 92.5 and AM 940, who pitched softball for charity throughout the summer at Trudeau Park. Our thanks to corporate sponsors Leeza Distribution, Traffic Tech, Via Rail, 21st Century Food and individual listeners from the Riverside Friendship League who rallied to help children in need.

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Discover your potential at Segal Centre's Academy

For those who have always wanted to sing, dance or play a musical instrument but never had the chance, the Segal Centre for Performing Arts is offering adult-only courses. The mission of the Centre is to entertain, educate and stimulate.

“If you would like to explore a new facet of yourself, then this is the place for you,” says Gisele Rucker, director of the Academy, the educational arm of the Segal Centre. The classes, which are based on skill level, are given in a comfortable setting.

A variety of music courses are offered. “Music for Monotones with Fran Avni, is perfect for adults who have no tonal awareness,” Rucker explains. Avni, singer, songwriter, producer, can create music with anyone, Rucker says.

John Gilbert, one of the premier musical directors in Canada, according to Rucker, will teach Who WroteThat Song?, a six week class. The Segal Centre employs “artists who teach,” not art teachers.

“We do it. We don’t talk about it,” Rucker says with a smile. “If you join Gilbert’s class, don’t be afraid to sing along.” If singing isn’t your forte, many other classes are offered.

Photos courtosy of the Segal Centre

Not all are as hands on. Jewish Life Through Music is a historical and theoretical course that covers Jewish music from the Renaissance to the present. “The sessions offer guided listening to the mosaic of Jewish composers,” Rucker says. For amateur musicians looking to join a group, the Segal Centre Concert Band is open to instrumentalists of all levels. The Home Technology Workshop is geared to those who are afraid to go near a computer, Rucker says. “This course covers the gadgets, the lingo and everything else you need to survive the current technological onslaught.”

For people who love to take videos but don’t know how to edit, MediaWorkshop offers a beginner level program on editing called Final Cut Pro. The Academy is developing a series of courses called ‘So You’ve Always Wanted to …’

Rucker hopes to announce these courses soon: ‘So you’ve always wanted to tap dance’ with Ethel Bruno, a renowned tap dance teacher. ‘So You’ve Always Wanted to Juggle’ is being developed and will be scheduled if enough interest is shown.

“We’ve expanded our adult courses in hopes of allowing everyone access to our center of discovery,” Rucker says. “Now, adults who never explored or discovered certain aspects of themselves, can.”

Courses at the Academy begin October 6 and run until the week of December 16. Registration has been extended until October 24. Prices range from $130 to $160. Info: segalcentre.orgg or 514-739-2301, ext. 8321

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Rabbi Langner honored at Beth-El

Wednesday, October 28, Congregation Beth-El in Town of Mont-Royal will honour Rabbi Allan M. Langner for over 50 years of service to the synagogue and the community.

Rabbi Langner, born in Europe and raised in Toronto, moved to Montreal at his late wife’s Nancy Stipleman’s request. Rabbi Langner attended the University of Toronto and received his rabbinic ordination at the Jewish Theological Seminary in NewYork City.

Over the years at Beth-El many historic political figures visited including Pierre Trudeau, John Diefenbaker and Lester Pearson. The rabbi has many stories to tell. He is a recipient of many awards, including the Queen’s Jubilee Medal. Family members attending the gala tribute are Rabbi Langner’s two daughters, Neima, a physician and Gilah, also a rabbi. The synagogue is creating a souvenir program book highlighting special events of past years in which the rabbi was an integral part.

Info and to reserve: 514-738-4766 or beth-el.ca

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Face to face wants you

Since she retired from her teaching job in 1996, Sylvia Haltrecht donates four hours weekly to Face to Face, a listening and referral organization serving Montrealers since 1982.

“It’s similar to Tel Aide but does many more things,” Haltrecht says. “The clientele ranges from 17 right up into the senior category. We have people who come to us with loneliness issues or other needs. Sometimes people call in and just need someone to listen to and perhaps help them set some goals to get through. We also help people find low income housing.”

Services offered by the drop-in health and social service community center include listening and referral, whether a client is experiencing personal or practical difficulties. The centre advocates for people on welfare and the homeless, helps find affordable housing and has computers a telephone and fax to help those searching for accommodations. It also offers an 8-week counseling service if needed and a Café Rencontre, a discussion/support group that offers opportunities to socialize, thus combating loneliness.

Volunteers, in particular seniors, are needed. Volunteers receive training and support while they are working.

“I felt I had a certain amount of empathy, understanding and an interest in people who were having problems,” says Sylvia, explaining why she felt volunteering with Face to Face was right for her. “I’m a good listener, non-judgmental and am prepared to spend the time [with the clients.] That being said, I also get a great deal out of it. I have this wonderful sense of gratification, that I have done my little bit to be helpful to people who are in need.”

Face to Face may be reached at 514-934-4546

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Theatre yet to come

October, 2009

In October, the season bursts upon us with some fascinating offerings.

Centaur Theatre is guaranteed sell-out nights from October 6 to November 1 with In Piazza San Domenico by Steve Galluccio, a Montreal Fringe baby who has hit the big time with the Centaur’s Mambo Italiano. Piazza is set in Naples in 1952 and promises to be another hit.

Centaur is also launching a darker piece called Rock, Paper, Jackknife in its smaller space from October 6 to 17. It involves stowaways washing up on Quebec’s shores and features several of Montreal’s fine young actors. Info: centaurtheatre.com or 514-288-1229.

Theatre Ste. Catherine is balancing its usual improvs with a dark play by Irish writer Martin McDonagh, called Pillowman about child murders aping a short story series. Running from October 21 to 31, it ties in with the Halloween spirit. Info: Theatrestecatherine.com or 514-284-3939

Paul Van Dyck produces and performs a chilling Poltergeist drama called Haunted from October 21-31, at St. James United Church, with top local actors. Do not confuse our Paul with the rock musician, Paul Van Dyk (no “c”) who has a hit song called The Haunted.

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Song, dance, humour, and a dramatic story line

October, 2009

The original impetus for the play Till We Meet Again by David Langois, opening on October 16 at the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall, was his love of the music of that era. But as the playwright began to research the play, interviewing former soldiers and civilians who remember those years vividly, he felt that the stories and emotions of that time also needed to be told.

The result is a tremendously popular show, Till We Meet Again, that has been presented five times since it was written in 2002. The play recreates two years of Music of the Stars, a live national radio variety show broadcast by the newly created CBC starting in 1940.

Director, Heather Markgraf-Lowe

“I think the key to the success of this show is that it’s so varied,” says director Heather Markgraf-Lowe. “Not only does it have songs and dance, it has a dramatic story line, the humour of the commercials and the poignancy of the letters.” While the news broadcasts and commercials in the play during the radio show are authentic, the personal letters that figure in the storyline are composites, based on various stories of the time, Markgraf-Lowe said.

The stage is set up like a radio show, complete with cue cards and lights that let the audience know they are on air. The show’s audience is called upon to be more than observers. “The MC tells the audience when to clap or be quiet. ‘When this sign is on, we’re broadcasting all across Canada.’ When the lights are on, it’s like a live show and the audience becomes the radio audience.”

In the process they also get to know the performers in the show. “There is the back story of those who are on the stage. The audience sees them as they begin the radio show and they bring along their stories,” Markgraf-Lowe said. “This didn’t happen overnight. We didn’t have the back story of the actors. As we remounted the show we worked on this. At the end of the show, the audience believes they know these people. They are real because they have a life.”

The costumes and music add to the realistic portrayal of the era. “Without the music it wouldn’t be the show. The music is so important.” The most popular songs of the time are heard, including White Cliffs of Dover, Lili Marlene, We’ll Meet Again, Goodnight Sergeant Major and Sentimental Journey.

Markgraf-Lowe, who founded and ran the Hudson Village Theatre for 11 years before she founded Theatre Panache in 2003, says the show is relevant to today’s troubled times. “We’re fighting in Afghanistan and our boys are going out there and they’re dying. Canadians are very aware of the fact that Afghanistan is not our country, not even our Mother Country. Our boys who are going out there are being killed and maimed and wounded emotionally as well as physically.”

Kathleen McAuliffe in Till we meet again Photo: Maurice Jefferies

It resonates in today’s economy as well, she says. “It was tough times then, and it’s tough today. We’re saving our plastic bags. We’re realizing we can’t just throw stuff away anymore.”

At the same time, Markgraf-Lowe says the show is free of politics, with audiences from all backgrounds responding favourably, including the director’s German parents-in-law, who “loved the piece. Japanese, Italian, German members of the audience all love it – because they sang those songs too.”

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A Moroccan Odyssey Part II: The children of Morroco

October, 2009

click here to view a slideshow of images from A Moroccan Odyssey

The children of Morocco are endearing, enchanting, sad, and in many cases very poor. A number of young children work alongside their parents in shops and restaurants. Countless others are sent out to the streets to hawk small packages of tissues, flags, and snacks. Then there are the beggars – some quite professional.

According to Human Rights Watch (2005), Morocco has one of the highest child labor rates in the Middle East and North Africa. Government stats suggest that 600,000 children ages 7 to 14 are engaged in some kind of economic activity. Of those, 372,000 are under age 12. The numbers of children engaged in rural work is higher, but we noticed a fair number of children in every city, with the exception of Chefchaouen, where children are forced to beg or sell tissues.

These photos are not of child beggars. I didn’t want the children to think I was taking pictures of them in that situation. These photos reflect children of all ages and levels of income and at all levels of happiness.

The three boys posing for us in Chefchaouen reflect the large number of teens who seem to have absolutely nothing to do but sit around and watch people go by. Occasionally they will ask to be your guide for a few dirham and will lead you to shops and restaurants who will give them a small commission for taking you there.

The photo of the young girl and her grandfather in the “cave shop” is indicative of the close relationship between grandparents and grand- children we noticed. The boy in the photo with me at his father’s jewellery shop in Essaouira knows how to create the jewellery as well and will likely take over his father’s shop. So will the boy in the tiny textile shop in the souk in Rabat. These children don’t look unhappy. It was May when these pictures were taken and these children were not in school.

In Tangiers we ate quite a few meals outside overlooking the port at family style restaurants where a chicken or fish dinner can be had for $3 or $4. Two sisters, about 7 and 10 wearing hijabs patrolled the area selling tissues. I invited them to eat with us, telling the waiter to bring them each a chicken dinner with fries and a coke. They sat down beside us without a word. The waiter then asked them to skedaddle, and sit at the far end of the restaurant. I protested and insisted they stay with us. They split one of the meals and took the second one home, probably for their parents.

A tourist couple in Casablanca, offered a young mother and grandmother with a toddler their left over food after we offered ours. I would make sandwiches for children on the street from my leftovers or sometimes just offer fries off my plate. The ones who took the bread from the basket — you knew they were hungry. It’s strange to be sitting there eating outside and have them watching you. After all these are not cats waiting for the fishbones, these are children and young adults.

A boy in Chefchaouen was the glad recipient of an ice cream cone. He approached me and just stared at me as I was ordering mine. Another boy wanted a sandwich and got one.

In Casablanca we bought a flag from a boy selling them at our café for 10 dirham ($1). Another man sipping coffee next to us had a similar idea and just gave the kid $1. Whenever we gave, it seemed to encourage others to do so.

Then there are the lucky children, who seem very attached to their parents, walking along happily, or strapped to the backs of their moms, the children helping with the shopping or at the water fountain. Many others walk alone down the narrow streets as if they owned the place, with no adult in sight, some as young as three.

The saddest scenes, and of these scenes I have no pictures, are the children born with deformities or whose parents couldn’t afford simple medical treatment that would have given them a “normal” existence. They sit on the street, often with parents, begging. One girl sat outside her house on the street all day with her hand out. She must have been about 14 or 15. What a sad look she had, with nothing to read, nothing to do all day but beg. I gave her money twice, which she barely acknowledged. In the hour I watched her, no one gave her even 10 cents.

What angers and frustrates me is that this country’s king has palaces in every city. When he is about to arrive, that place is instantly cleaned up and made to look like nobody lives or suffers there. I guess he never sees the deformed children, the street children, and child beggars. But he must know of them. He must know the statistics. The truth is — he just doesn’t care.

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The keys to youth and happiness

October, 2009

If there were such a thing as a perfect art form, surely it would be the song. Short enough to learn by heart, it only needs to be whistled or hummed to be satisfying. Its lyrics appeal to the poet, its images to the visual artist, its flow to the dancer and its emotion to the actor. But perhaps it is the composer/pianist who can most profoundly experience a song, beginning with getting acquainted with the tune, colouring it with harmonies, altering it through rhythms while enjoying it all thoroughly, in a completely new way every single time.

“I love what I do; I still perform in New York six nights a week,” says Irving Fields, in town last month for a two-day gig at Ex-Centris. “I play one note I get six months younger, two notes, a year. Any more and I’m like Benjamin Button.” The 94-year old pianist no longer lies about his age. “When I was 80 I said I was 60 to get a job over the telephone. Now I flaunt my age. I’m happy, proud of what I do and it helps my career.”

Fields gets younger with every note he plays. Photos: Scott Philip

Fields, who was born on August 4, 1915 in the Lower East Side of New York, got his first break when at 15 he won first prize on the Fred Allen Radio Amateur Hour. The honour included $50 and the chance to perform for a week at the Roxy Theater.

“I knew I wanted to be in show business. People accepted me and my style of playing – they thought it was very unusual.”

Fields went on to build a solid piano technique through study at the Eastman school of music and worked on cruise ships as headline performer. It was on one of these trips that the then-18-year-old entertainer found himself in Havana and fell in love with the Latin rhythms that would determine his musical future.

Fields’ first recorded song was Managua Nicaragua, for RCA Victor. It became an international hit, as did other songs many readers may remember, like the Cugat Xavier hit Miami Beach Rhumba. Younger readers may recognize the tune from the Woody Allen film Deconstructing Harry. In 1959, Fields’s album Bagels and Bongos, on the Decca label, became instantly popular all over the world. “I pioneered a fusion of Latin rhythms and tempos with ethnic music. It started with Jewish music, followed by Italian music (Pizzas and Bongos), French music (Champagne and Bongos) and Hawaiian music (Bikinis and Bongos). Then I thought ‘Why can’t we do this with classics and jazz and ragtime? I took Blue Danube and played it as a merengue and Für Elise as a tango. Music has no language barrier; that’s its beauty.”

Fields’ songs have been recorded by artists such as Dinah Shore, Guy Lombardo and Sarah Vaughan. Gigs at the finest hotels all over the world, television appearances and Carnegie Hall (eight concerts) followed.

Pianist Irving Fields still performs six nights a week

Despite his pianistic prowess, Fields didn’t aim to be a classical musician. “I thought about it, but with classical music you have to live with the piano eight hours a day to really play. I love every kind of music, show-tunes, classical, popular. There is more versatility and I don’t have to tie myself down to one kind of music. Like this I’m diversifying. Like a good meal.” At his Ex-Centris performance, Fields served up a well-balanced musical feast, with music from Beethoven to Gershwin, and more for dessert.

Fields is renowned for his ability to improvise on any “request” his audience makes of him. He still remembers a few songs. “Thousands and thousands and thousands” he told an interviewer on his last visit here, when he was 91. Does he worry that beautiful songs are becoming extinct? “I’m sorry that we have deteriorated from melodic, beautiful, emotional, romantic music. Kids know music by the beat instead of the melody. The beat is louder than melody, louder than other instruments. There is very little romantic music. Thank goodness for the revival of Broadway shows.”

Fields’s “No. 1 favourite” composer is George Gershwin, and his favourite song the Pearl Fishers, from an opera by Bizet, in which he makes the piano sound like a mandolin. “The piano in itself is a symphony orchestra. I trill the notes. I produce shivers.”

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