Wednesday, August 31, 2016


Time to fly south and west and say goodbye to Montreal. Au revoir to Boulevard St.-Joseph and Le Plateau. Till the next time.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Montreal is a bicycle city, at least in the warm months, and although I don't ride a bicycle, I am supportive of any idea that gets people out of their cars, using people power.

Across town, you'll find green ways, bicycle pumps, trails designed for cycles.
You'll find free bicycles you can borrow and return elsewhere.

This one is a little odd. Sort of a trail, but you can't go too fast. 

Cars are parked in the middle of the street, creating a separated bike freeway. A little scary for pedestrians though.

A bike freeway means advertising opportunities. 

How about movers that transport belongings on custom-built bicycle trailers? Including up and down those iconic Montreal spiral staircases.

There's even instruction in hand signals, in case you weren't paying attention. 

No helmets though. There have been a rash of cyclists injured or killed by cars in the past year. Everyone should slow down.

Almost makes me wish I rode a bike. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

rolling in the years

I couldn't help but notice the art and greenery on this building.
Or the awesome farmer girl mural across the street from it.

The chicks continue all the way around the back.

In front is a parklet created with an old shipping container. When I walked by later, someone was taking a nap.

But out with Chris and Dennis on Sunday at a literary reading, I learned more about the history of Santropol Roulant, an organization started 20 years ago by a couple of young chefs to provide healthy meals to elderly home-bound Montreal residents.

Today, the volunteer-led organization focuses on using food to connect young Montreal residents with older ones. They have a farm, a CSA, a bike shop where you can learn to make your own bike, and a graffiti collective. Fully half the food is delivered by bicycle. 

They also have a lot of instruction, documenting their philosophy and methods.
This is a garden designed to attract bees. I bought a jar of honey to bring home as a souvenir and support their work.

But the real gardening takes place upstairs, on the terrace and the roof. Containers filled with tomatoes, red chard, and kale. There's a farm in the country too and another on the rooftops of nearby McGill University. 
Of course there are murals.

Here's the view of Mont Royal from the rooftop, now reinforced to support tons of soil. There are beehives up here too.

It was hard to resist the string beans.

This mural of Montreal old and new adorns the stairs.

Thanks very much to Dennis for pointing me toward Santropol Roulants. I forgot to go downstairs to meet the composting worms. 

I did notice this building of luxury condos caty cornerned from 111 Rue Roy E. They're 1/4 what they'd cost in San Francisco. Tempting...with a farmers' market and fresh homegrown produce across the street. 

Glad to see a project like this feeding people and building community across generations.

Go here to learn more, volunteer, or support their work.

Sunday, August 28, 2016


This Tower was the symbol of the 76 Summer Olympics, exactly 40 years ago. Today it's a symbol of Montreal.

The indoor stadium is now a science museum. A new planetarium was added recently. There have been some noises about tearing the Tower down.

Meanwhile there are skateboarders and kids racing along the old track lines.

But for now you can still pay to go up the funicular. And it sure is pretty lit up at night. 

(Not my picture.)

Saturday, August 27, 2016


The highlight of today's exploration was a visit to La biblioteque, la nuit (The library, the night), a special virtual reality exhibit in the basement of Montreal's grand main library.
The show was conceived by theatrical designer Robert Lapage, creator of the infamous "machine" behind the Met Opera's recent Ring Cycle, and Argentine–Canadian translator and editor Alberto Manguel. It owes a lot to Borges
At the appointed hour, those of us with reservations were ushered into a facsimile  of a cozy cottage library, complete with fake books and Breugel's painting of the Tower of Babel. 
After instructions on how to work our Oculus Rift headsets, a wall opened to reveal a forest full of library tables. 
(These tables are from the special collection. Photos weren't permitted.)
That's me!
The program consists of visiting 10 mythic libraries, mostly based on real places plus Captain Nemo's library in 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. Bosnia. The Library of Congress in DC. Japan and Denmark.

The Vasconcelos Library in Mexico, complete with whale skeleton. (Not a good place to be during an earthquake.) And of course Ottawa.

It's a fantastic experience to travel the world without leaving your (not very comfortable) wooden library chair. With a big awkward thing on your head. 

One of the best segments was about Henri Labrouste who introduced gas lamps when he designed Saint Genevieve in Paris, which made it possible to read at night. Night owls around the world thank you.

Afterward I explored the cavernous space, next to UQAM and filled with people. 
It manages to be both private and communal.

The seating is playful and thoughtfully designed. 

Lots of outlets and free, fast wifi. Books aren't just paper any more though I did spot some microfiche machines upstairs. 

There were sculptures too. 
Acknowledging the role a safe public space plays when people have nowhere to go. 

I liked this weird book globe. 
Close up.

A library full of people on a beautiful Saturday night at the end of summer. In a highly literate city where you can hear a cacophony of languages. Bonne nuit.

Thanks to Jerry for recommending this exhibit.

Friday, August 26, 2016

the world's fair ball

“When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty but when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.”

Two weeks ago I went to a talk on visionary architect and futurist Buckminster Fuller with my friend Darryl.

So of course I had to visit the Biosphere in Montreal. 

Originally an acrylic and steel geodesic dome created to house the American Pavillion for Expo 67, Biosphere was the most popular attraction and was filled with art by painters like Andy Warhol (!). 

Lyndon Johnson came to the dedication. Montreal archives from Expo 67 (en fran├žais)

The acrylic caught on fire and it burned in 1976, the year Montreal hosted the Summer Olympics. 
Another horrifying photo of the fire via my friend Annie: 

The original dome was never repaired. Now the metal is open air. 
Even the subway stop has brutalist flair.

The site was neglected for 20 years until 1995 when it was reopened as an environmental museum with a focus on water. 

Today it's the only museum in North America devoted to environmental issues. Though admittedly I was mostly dazzled by the architecture and setting. 

Fuller had some radical ideas about building affordable housing and communities. 
Pull up a chair.

How often I found where I should be going only by setting out for somewhere else.”

You might also look up the disastrous Biosphere 2 project in Arizona, partially inspired by Biosphere.