I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Astronomy Tuesday

Yes, it's Mars two weeks in a row. I found this on the NASA website and couldn't resist -- I am a sucker for the selfies that the Curiosity rover sends back from Mars. All that's lacking is the sunglasses and a big smile and you have any tourist, anywhere.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sunday bird blogging

I'm sorting and cleaning out old pictures and backing things up to Dropbox, and here's one that never got processed at the time: a juvenile frigate bird in the Galapagos, looking quite haughty under more fluff than a week's worth of local newscasts.

Why am I posting pictures from 2013 when there's a park a mile away that's currently hosting thousands of migrating birds? Because apparently none of them are in a mood to be photographed, that's why. I went there early this morning, and even though many of my favorite spots are inaccessible due to maintenance work, there were still hundreds of birds around, every single one of them hiding behind leaves or sitting in the shadows. It was a lovely walk but I might as well not have bothered with the camera, as I deleted every single picture once I got home.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Saturday reflections

Here's a typical car, on a not-especially-interesting Midtown street, turning the ordinary into something wild and strange, and throwing back a crazy quilt of reflections.

It's autumn at last -- though the weather hasn't yet gotten with the program -- and I'm ready to wake up from the sluggish summer and start moving again. I'm going to Iceland in two weeks, just for a few days, then to the West Coast for Thanksgiving, and Ethiopia in January. And somewhere in there I am theoretically getting a brand new bathroom, which is a completely different kind of adventure and has required a lot more courage than a mere trek to the Simien Mountains of Central Africa.

It costs a lot more, too.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Urban poetry

Another shot from the mystery event at the sidewalk fountains in Montreal. I made it darker on purpose to emphasize the silhouette of the man in the wetsuit.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Astronomy Tuesday

A picture of what appears to be a desolate, smoggy, junk heap of a hillside is automatically a million times more interesting when said hillside happens to be on Mars.

Curiosity took this picture two weeks ago, on sol 1454 of its mission. This is the Murray Buttes area of Mount Sharp, and if I were Murray or Sharp I wouldn't be at all disappointed because my namesake geology turned out to be a place that no sane human would want to see in person. (Because -- Mars! I'm thinking that the cross-shaped rock in the mid-foreground that resembles a bird in flight needs to be called Point Kathleen, myself.)

What appears to be mountains in the background is actually the rim of the 96-mile diameter crater containing all this excitement. Gale Crater is named for a 19th century amateur astronomer from Australia, so thank you, Walter Frederick Gale! Some of us have to settle for bird-shaped rocks.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sunday bird blogging

A downy woodpecker pauses in her investigation of a promising tree trunk.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Saturday reflections

A last look at the happy colors and silly shapes of the Palais des congrès.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Urban poetry

A violinist in the rue Sainte-Catherine.

He was barefoot, and now that the weather has abruptly switched seasons and there will be few if any more days to be running around Montreal without warm shoes I find myself wondering if he's laced up yet, if his bare feet were a thing, or just a reflection of an exceptionally hot day in Quebec.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Astronomy Tuesday

This is the Lagoon Nebula, in Sagittarius, also known as M8.

Because sometimes you just want pretty.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Ton caca de chien

I saw this bus stop on my way to the airport, and it seemed to exemplify the Montreal sense of humor. (The sign says, "Your dog poop isn't nothing. Think before you leave your trash.")

I especially like the giant flies on the roof.


If I weren't afraid of heights, and had functional knees, I would totally do this: a rope obstacle course set up between two pirate ships replicas, so you're scrambling around on the masts and riggings.

At Yuleat


I'm obviously skipping bird blogging this week -- the only birds I saw in Montreal were gulls and house sparrows -- in favor of getting through most of the other city shots.

These grungy warehouses by the river were part of Yuleat, the food festival last weekend. They don't try to prettify things much in Montreal -- they just slap a sign on the old rusty doors and hold a farmers market there.

A la claire fontaine, parte deux

A la claire fontaine

The plaza alongside the museum is one huge fountain; rows of water jets cascade and subside around one central geyser.

There were children playing in the water -- it was sunny and hot -- but also dozens of adults in cartoony, uncomfortable-looking waterproof costumes posing and preening in the spray. It was clearly some kind of event -- there were a few news cameras -- but I didn't bother to try to find out what it was and just enjoyed the spectacle.

More Musee

As usual with contemporary art, I found some of it brilliant, some of it silly, some of it excruciating.

The setting was more interesting than much of the content.

Musee d'art Contemporain

Two paintings by Edmund Alleyn, a Canadian artist, at a retrospective at the museum.

I don't take many pictures of art -- you see so many people in museums snapping photos with their phones instead of actually looking at the paintings -- but I like the way these two pictures complement each other.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Overlook Hotel, Montreal

The mansion at the end of the railroad tracks -- for some reason, this has a vaguely creepy, Stephen King vibe to it, as though all kind of unspeakable things are going on behind those pretty windows.

It looks as though it's out in the middle of nowhere, but this is actually a park that runs along the river esplanade, not far from the Old City, and the railroad tracks were (maybe still are) probably used to transport goods back and forth from the port.

Saturday reflections

And Old reflected in New.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Old and new

Random buildings I saw in Montreal. 

Clockwise from top left: the archaeology museum; Notre Dame (unfortunately I was focusing on the carriage and didn't notice I was cropping the top of the tower -- Crime: Je suis un mauvais photographe); a modern outlet for modern furnishings on Avenue President Kennedy; and the Hotel de Ville (City Hall).

Urban poetry

Apparently the winos of Montreal prefer Australian vintages.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Crime: Je suis Pitbull

This woman's sign was French only, but I give her bonus points for the tear sliding softly down the face of that heart-tuggingly appealing little white dog.


That's French for demonstration -- not that I could remember that, when I was actually standing in the middle of one. I had been sitting on a shady bench in the garden of the Chateau Ramezay, an 18th century building that's now a museum, when I became aware that something more than the usual crowd sounds were coming over the garden wall from Place Jacques-Cartier on the other side. I walked out through the garden gate and found myself in a very crowded but reasonably calm protest.

At first I thought it was charming that so many of the protesters brought their dogs; it gave a mellow, Sunday afternoon picnic vibe to the proceedings. Then I got close enough to read some of the signs and realized that it was a protest about dogs, specifically pit bulls, and the dogs were there to serve as character witnesses for the breed.

Which they did, admirably. The dogs were all laid back and well behaved, and many of them dressed up for the occasion -- you so rarely see a dog who can pull off a purple taffeta skirt, as this one did so beautifully.

But my favorite touch was that all of the protest signs were bilingual. They really wanted to make sure everyone got the message.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

La Baie

It doesn't get more Canadian than this -- an outpost of the Hudson's Bay Company (or, since this is Quebec, la Campagnie de la Baie d'Hudson) in rue Sainte-Catherine. Although the name summons up visions of mukluks and seal pelts, it's basically Macy's of the North, complete with re-branding as La Baie/The Bay.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Rue Sainte-Catherine

Home again, and feeling as though I'd been gone a lot longer than a weekend. (The return journey clocked in at less than six hours door to door and was hassle-free.)

I did manage to see quite a bit of the city in my one full day and two halves, and finally understood a little of its charm, in a way that completely eluded me on my only previous visit. Yes, you can eat crepes and speak French -- and if your French is as rusty as mine, you have the option of switching to English halfway through a sentence with the confidence that whoever you're speaking to will do the same.

But Montreal is not a beautiful city. Except for a few streets in the Old City, most of the older buildings are stolid nineteenth century Neoclassical, and there's little that's interesting or eye-catching in the modern architecture. A lot of the city is a little worn down, and some of it is downright shabby. There are beautiful parks and excellent transportation, but once you've had your crepes and looked around a little, it's easy to leave without regrets.

This is a bit of the skyline from rue Sainte-Catherine, the major shopping street downtown, home to all the big department stores. It's Montreal in a nutshell: modern glass corporate towers crammed next to a picturesque old church and a topless nightclub. It's a jumble, and that kind of juxtaposition is part of what gives Montreal its very real, if elusive, charm. It's bilingual in more than language.

And maybe that sense of living in multiple worlds, where you have Rue Sherbrooke and Avenue President Kennedy and Tunnel Atwater, with your word order properly French but the words themselves often English, inspires the whimsy and sense of play that in the end makes Montreal so much fun. Or maybe it's just the long harsh winters.

I don't pretend to know, not after a weekend. But I did like Montreal, very much, this time around. I'm glad I went back.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Rue Saint-Paul

When I could tear my eyes away from my breakfast, here's the charming view I had, looking down the rue Saint-Paul.

Le petit déjeuner

My hotel is the reason I ended up coming to Montreal this weekend. It's a small boutique hotel, an easy walk from either the Old City or downtown, and surprisingly inexpensive. I had a free night's stay from hotels.com that was about to expire, so I was looking for somewhere to go; when I saw this hotel I decided it would be Montreal. But while its free breakfast is perfectly adequate -- decent coffee, yogurt, toast, fruit -- it's not very exciting.

So I had a real Montreal breakfast a few hours later in a cafe on the rue Saint-Paul: a crepe slathered with melted cheese and Béchamel sauce, and a cafe au lait served in a bowl.

As we say in English, Yum.

Inside the Palais

There's a section in the movie Bowling for Columbine when Michael Moore investigates the rumor that Canadians don't lock their front doors by simply walking up to random doors and opening them, much to the surprise of the inhabitants.

I don't know how representative a sample that was -- I'd be very surprised if most residents of Montreal or Toronto didn't lock their doors -- but it turns out that they don't lock the Palais des congrès, even though there don't seem to be any exhibitions going on. So here's a picture from the inside. I've been in a black and white photography mood lately but these colors are irresistible.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Saturday reflections

The Intercontinental Hotel in Montreal, reflected in candy colors in the windows of the Palais des congrès convention center across the street. That conical top to the hotel tower looks endearingly Canadian to me; the juxtaposition of old and new, staid and gaudy, seems very Montreal.

I'm only here for the three-day weekend, and I'm not sure how much blogging, or for that matter, photographing, will be taking place. It sounds so easy when you're planning it -- Hey, I'll go to Montreal -- it's only an hour away! It's an hour's flight, that's true, but when you throw in an airport that's under construction, flight delays, and the fact that half of the streets here appear to be closed for repairs, that one hour flight turns out to be the easy part of a seven-hour journey. (At least I didn't leave my passport lying on the kitchen counter.)

Then I walked for hours around the old town and the old port -- there was a festival, and what seemed to be hundreds of food carts along the river (the Fleuve Saint-Laurent, as we call it in these parts) and it was crowded and very hot and I'm exhausted. Dinner consisted of a very good chicken taco with fresh tortillas and ancho sauce and a squeeze of lime eaten at a picnic table in the shade while listening to a jug band play, after an appetizer of two beignets, freshly baked, one with vanilla creme filling and one with chocolate, and I will probably be asleep within the hour.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Urban poetry

Okay, maybe not urban poetry in the sense I generally use, but even after living in New York for decades, I still get a thrill whenever I catch a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty in the harbor.

So here's an old picture from her baby book -- 1884 in Paris,  when she was still in pieces and her copper skin hadn't yet acquired that green patina.

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