Saturday, March 15, 2008

I'll Tumble 4 Ya

(Snow falling. Again.)

There I was, just a person.

But I knew it was gonna happen, though I'd been extra careful everywhere I traversed. Coming out of the shopping complex at Avenue du Parc and Prince Arthur, I took a hard left after the exit walkway, and, the process began, in far less time than it takes you to read this.

I felt my body leaning to the left, weighed down by groceries, and I leaned back, to no avail. With no purchase from the ground, my shoes went backward. I pitched forward, coming down on my hands and left knee. A loaf of bread rolled out of my Metro bag. No one hurt, no property damage. My iPod played on, of course, and I don't think anyone saw me fall. I didn't look around to check, just picked up the bread, dusted the snow off, and walked back home, chuckling to myself. "You thought you were so cool here, didn't you, Crackerjack?"

Yes I did.

I have actually learned a few things, quickly, about winter walking. ONE: WATCH where you're walking. That's the thing, gentle readers. Plant your feet and look down when you can. That dark shiny spot? Yeah, um, you don't want to walk there.

But you need to hear this from me, like I need to hear your recipe for Carne Asada, or your opinion of American Idol. (Someone told me the other day, "Dude, do not even be joking about the snow, ha ha ha, to Montrealers. They won't think it's all that funny.")

I recognize, as do you, that I'm not from around here, in a million little ways every day. Like not being able to count in French yet. That's embarrassing in the market, but the trick is, hold out the biggest bill to the merchant. I mean, I know what everything costs, but when the sales clerk says something that sounds like, ""Qui est des dollars de thirty-nine et de vingt-six cents," I just stammer and look at the cash register screen. And invariably, as I leave with my farewells en Francais, they smile and say, "Yeah, so long, cowboy." I fool nobody.

But I was telling someone today, I still love it here; the snow, the French, the culture mix, the Canadian Way, the get the idea.

Just watch where you walk, ├ža va?

$2.75, Please

Montrealers, you don't have to watch this. I realize this makes about as much sense as showing you snow.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

From a Window

"Late yesterday night, I saw a light shine from a window,
and, as I looked again, your face came into sight....."
--'From a Window'
John Lennon/Paul McCartney

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Million Words for Snow, One Word for Ketchup

Forecast for Los Angeles and Vicinity
As of 6:00 am PDT on March 9, 2008
Today...Partly cloudy after morning low clouds and fog. Local visibilities one quarter mile or less in dense fog. Highs in the 70s to lower 80s. Through and below passes and canyons...northeast winds 15 to 25 mph in the morning.
Monday...Partly cloudy. Highs in the upper 60s to mid 70s at the beaches to the upper 70s inland.

Current Montreal Conditions:
Partly cloudy
Temperature -8°C
Wind Chill -8°C
Winds 9 km/h SW
Humidity 48%

Ah yes, the weather. Our brave correspondent travels by plane and train to a wondrous land of a foreign-ish language, where the ground is covered in ice almost 5 months out of the year. Yet he presses on, with no explanation for his friends as to why. He actually likes it.

He laughs at the ridiculous amounts of snow on the ground, at the cars buried under a white blanket of frozen everything. He leans forward into a stiff wind that pushes ice at you like shrapnel. He trudges (It's the only word that works) through an empty Vieux Montreal on a weekend afternoon, with tourists gone, and store after store shuttered and closed.

(Right now the LA audience is thinking, "WHAT an idiot," while the Montreal readers think, "What an IDIOT."

Yeah, its been eye-opening. Hey, you know that popular saying about how the Eskimos have a hundred words for snow? Well, stop spreading that ignorant rumor around, Crackerjack.

According to linguistics expert Sasha Aikhenvald, it ain't so. As she explains, "The story about Inuit (or Inuktitut, or Yup'ik, or more generally, Eskimo) words for snow is completely wrong. People say that speakers of these languages have 23, or 42, or 50, or 100 words for snow --- the numbers often seem to have been picked at random. The spread of the myth was tracked in a paper by Laura Martin (American Anthropologist 88 (1986), 418-423), and publicized more widely by a later humorous embroidering of the theme by G. K. Pullum (reprinted as chapter 19 of his 1991 book of essays The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax). But the Eskimoan language group uses an extraordinary system of multiple, recursively addable derivational suffixes for word formation called postbases. The list of snow-referring roots to stick them on isn't that long: qani- for a snowflake, api- for snow considered as stuff lying on the ground and covering things up, a root meaning "slush", a root meaning "blizzard", a root meaning "drift", and a few others -- very roughly the same number of roots as in English. Nonetheless, the number of distinct words you can derive from them is not 50, or 150, or 1500, or a million, but simply unbounded. Only stamina sets a limit."

But in Montreal, there is only one word for it, mon ami. It's "snow," and it's everywhere.

Montreal's ninth major snowstorm of the season dropped snow quietly and steadily all weekend, with another storm expected Wednesday. I watched bemused as the snow piled up all around everything, burying fences, parking meters, lots of small cars, and some household pets, I'm sure.

But then I went out in it. Sweet Baby Jesus a Go Go. Saturday afternoon, the wind ripped through Prince Arthur Square like a buzz saw, sending snow sideways across the field of vision. In the mile walk from my door to the supermarket, I watched two locals take a tumble, waited for a car to spin out of a parking space (he was still trying on my way back), and realized that this was an actual blizzard gathering strength here. (This is where Montrealers shake their head at my meteorological-ish naivete.)

But I did make some new discoveries here again:

• In Canada they sell microwave bacon. ("Cooks in five seconds!")

• They don't sell flavored coffee creamers.

• They do sell pink and green tortillas.

• There is ketchup-flavored salt for sale at Blockbuster Video.

• Apparently, there is no French-Canadian word for "Ketchup."

This just in: I might be playing the Sherbrooke Metro station tomorrow. Ssshh.