Friday, 28 September 2012

The Grilled Cheese

I am sick tonight. I was working late again helping my teammates fix some last minute issues when all of a sudden it just hit me. Sore throat, stuffy nose, dry cough. I swear it just happened in a blink of an eye! I have been lacking sleep this week and haven't had a lot of rest. Plus, many coworkers have been sick this past month, I guess it was just a matter of time before I caught the running cold. So, when I got home I felt exhausted and was craving soup and a grilled cheese sandwich.

I didn't want to make anything myself and I wanted to go get some air and walk just a little because my ass was hurting for sitting for so long for two whole days and I didn't want to isolate myself between the four walls of my apartment after being cooped up in an office all day until the sun came down. So, I thought about where I could get a grille cheese sandwich an the first place that came to mind was Gros Jambon on Notre-Dame. There's also the Atomic Café close to my place, but Gros Jambon sounded better and more practical since it's downtown and I could walk around after dinner.

I got there around 8:30 and they were still open. I walked in, they handed me a menu and I sat down at their counter on the wall. The place is tiny! And it's covered wall to wall with old retro signs and memorabilia. It's a quaint little place to eat if you just want to grab a quick lunch or dinner, but it's not really a place to sit down and have a huge meal.

So there I sat checking out what they had. Unfortunately they didn't have any soup. It's too bad because I really had a hankering for a tasty warm chicken noodle soup. That would've been really good considering how shitty I felt. But, I did, however, pick the bacon grilled cheese sandwich. Their menu is pretty standard diner fare and the prices are pretty good considering they are located in Old Montreal. As I waited for my food I was thinking about all the things I had heard about the place. I once talked with the owner while I was walking by and he was explaining to me what was so special about the place and it's that they make everything fresh from scracth on site. And I mean EVERYTHING. They even make their own bread. Also, during my quest for fried chicken, I learned that on weekends, these guys serve a southern American classic soul food dish: chicken and waffles. I have GOT to go there for brunch! I mean come on! Friend chicken for breakfast? It's the next big thing after Cookie Crisps!

Finally my food arrived. I was starving, but it was worth the wait. The portion was just right and the sandwich looked delicious. I took a bite and all of a sudden I was in grilled cheese heaven. I made the right choice by going to Gros Jambon. The lightly toasted crispy buttery homemade bread was outstanding. And this cheese was this ooey gooey mix of melted yellow and white cheddar cheese with amazingly delicious thick strips of smokey bacon. That was the best damn grilled cheese sandwich I've ever had in my life! It came with a small side of fries and a little cup of homemade coleslaw made with malt vinegar. Very good!

I ate my delicious food, paid for my meal and then went out for a short walk around the Plateau to help digest the food and get a bit of exercise before going home. While on the plateau I noticed this awesome vintage classic: a Jeep Grand Wagoneer with the wooden panels! That is a beautiful truck.

Other than that, there was nothing new. I was just tired and felt sick so I promptly headed home before I started sneezing and snotting all over the place.

Now, I'm off to bed to get some rest and hopefully I'll be feeling better tomorrow morning because I got a lot of work waiting for me.


Thursday, 27 September 2012

Weird day and weird snacks

I don't know what the hell was going on today but it was weird. I woke up this morning with the song If you wanna be my lover by the Spice Girls in my head. I don't know why the hell that popped up and it just stuck there. You know, I always assumed that this song must've been such a riot of a joke in the Arabic world. Simply because of the part where they go "Zagazag-Aaahh!", especially in the video with scary spice spreading and shaking her legs a little she says it. Why would Arabs find that part funny you ask? Because zag literally means shit in slang Arabic. I kid you not. So think about it. Imagine you're Arab. You're watching the If you wanna be my lover video on TV for the first time ever and you suddenly see Scary Spice squat, spread her legs apart and shake her knees like she's trying to shake one out while singing Zagazag-Aaah! Now, I don't care where you're from or what language you speak. Poop jokes are universally funny and that song must have hit the Arab world's funny bone.

I had ONE coffee today. Just one small cup of Sumatra coffee from the sickeningly dirty Keurig K-Cup machine at work that hasn't been cleaned since the dawn of civilization. (Yes, the birth of civilization is marked by the invention of the automatic single cup coffee machine.) It somehow gave me super powers today because I was able to focus so hard I could see the code behind the code in the software I was working on. The reason is probably because I stopped drinking coffee about six months ago. I was going through some hard times and I had a complete loss of appetite. I mean some days all I would have is a small glass of OJ and I'd spend my day on that. I had to cut the coffee because I was having a bad reaction to it and I would get constant stomach acid. And running on nothing but caffeine wasn't really good for me either and just increased my anxiety. So after six months of quitting cold turkey, I had the darkest coffee available in the office rack of K-Cups and I got so energized and focus I think I started seeing beyond matter and started to perceive the meaning of life. Until I hit 7 o'clock while working over-time on a critical bug and get into the worst caffeine crash I ever had. And that's when the song I got the moves like Jagger decided to lodge itself in my brain and loop at the fucking refrain. God damn this day!

When I was finally done with work I headed home, changed and immediately went out to grab the metro to head downtown for a walk. I hadn't walked a good walk in about a week. But, I was starving. I headed over to Chinatown to the Harmonie Bakery to grab a bite to eat as I walked. I wanted to try something different though. So I went for the banana-leaf wrapped rice balls since it looked like the size of a small dinner. I also grabbed a pork floss and shallot bun and a brown red-bean stuffed mochi ball for dessert.

Of all three, I was disappointed by all of them to different degrees. The pork floss bun was just bread and the actual pork was like sprinkled dry pork on top with green onions all baked on the surface. I thought the pork would be stuffed inside the bun, but it wasn't the case. Bummer. Then I followed that with the rice ball. Man, that was a poor choice for a snack to eat while taking a walk. The thing is wrapped in a few banana leaves and everything is stuck to the rice, because it's glutinous sticky rice. So here I am on the sidewalk, trying to pull these dried up leaves from some sticky rice concoction, getting all my hands sticky with what I guess is gluten and when I was finally able to unwrap the thing in a holdable & edible position I had made a mess of myself anyway. The first bite was interesting, but when I was halfway through it became unbearable. It was gross as hell. The filling is pork and some weird paste that looks like egg yolks were hardboiled or something. I got sick of it and threw it in a trash can somewhere. I would've given to hungry homeless person, but I don't think they deserve that kind of punishment. They've got it bad enough as it is.

And then I thought I'd change the bad taste in my mouth with my little desert. Well I was fucked. Because that desert wasn't sweet at all. You think that's cocoa powder covering that mochi ball? Nope. I don't know what the hell it was, but it wasn't chocolatey, nor was it anything sweet. And the filling? I swear it was god damn refried beans, man! With sugar! What kind of godawful "desert" is that?!?! If the Chinese's idea of a desert are a pasty brown nacho dip, then I agree with the idea of the Reese's Pieces Corps.

Walking along Saint-Laurent I noticed this poster on the door of the Club Soda. Looks like it's going to be fun zombie time pretty soon. Actually, a friend of mine invited me to join him during the Montreal Zombie Walk. I wonder if I'm going to go. It might be fun and, hey, maybe I'll snap a few pics and talk about it on here!

I kept on walking along, trying to digest the terrible food I swallowed and ended up walking something like 12 kilometers or about 7.5 miles. Along the way I stopped on Saint-Denis in front of this store called Montreal Images. An art and art supply store.

They sell some pretty awesome artwork and they have some cool collectibles. Most of them being themed around Tintin. They also had this cool black stormtrooper figurine. Apparently they do custom framing as well if you want to get anything framed.

So overall I walked from Chinatown, to Mont-Royal, then back to Sainte-Catherine, to Guy street and back to Place des Arts. I think that's about 12km. Just before I got back into the metro I noticed this. And it's pretty hard not to notice.

It kills me to think that the city has actually installed water counters in large commercial buildings and multi unit residential buildings to charge people for water usage in order to deter people from wasting water, when you have shit like this where small lakes form under the city streets due to broken pipes and bad road construction. Shit Montreal, get it together!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Another late walk in Montreal

These past couple of weeks have been kind of hard on me. I'm feeling mighty depressed at the moment. I think a part of it has to do with less daylight and the fact that Fall literally "fell" on us one day during a big thunderstorm and the next day all the leaves were yellow and falling and it was cold and wet and humid and everything is just going to suck from now on. I went out for a walk this week and I couldn't find my groove. Usually, walking around the city gets my mind off my troubles, but this time I was just walking around aimlessly and I didn't really know where to go. My guess is I wanted to be somewhere that I couldn't or I had what the French call Le Spleen. Also, that doesn't refer to your organ, but to one of French literature's most notable poet, Charles Beaudelaire and his collection of poems called Le Spleen de Paris. (I didn't go through two years of intense Quebec government mandated French literature classes to sound like a uneducated depressive hick, but an educated dejected professional.)

Anyway, the weather is already gloomy as it is without me bumming you out, so let me talk about a few things I've seen lately. I collected a lot of pictures, but haven't had the time to write about them as I go along. So, I'm going to write about it and try to lighten up as best I can and put that frown upside down.

There's been a lot of development in Montreal just during the past two years and it's still going on. I swear, there's not a place you can look without seeing the colour orange. Traffic cone orange, that is! Just about two years ago, before I moved back to Montreal, the Place Des Arts area was revamped. Just recently I was passing through that area to sit down for a little break and noticed for the first time that the new lights they installed look strangely like the eyes of the famous diety, the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

And thus it was written in Bobby Henderson's holy scriptures that
the Place Des Arts would be the location of the Pastafarian Holy See
where it is said that His noodly appendages gushed forth from the ground
to oversee his beloved people and blessed them through his gaze!

On the same night I was blessed by the holy Al-Dente I went through the Plateau. Again. But, not without first passing through Chinatown as I usually do. I like to walk from Place des Arts down to Chinatown to sometimes grab a bite at the Harmonie pastry shop. I enjoy their BBQ pork buns very much. This time though I noticed this one lonely neon sign buzzing on a wall west of Saint-Urbain behind the Complexe Guy Favreau.

I went closer and noticed it was, coincidentally, just a Chinese noodle place that said Nouilles Chinoises. Must be a sign from the great Ramen Lord. The place looks highly suspicious though. Maybe it's because it's at night and the street is dead on that side, but I'm willing to bet this is an underground Chinese mafia-run joint with illegal mahjong games. Then again, that's just my imagination. (Seriously, I don't know shit. If you happen to be a member of the Chinese mafia, please don't come after me! It was a lucky guess! I swear!)

I left all suspicious and crossed Chinatown to Saint-Laurent and walk the same usual path. Walking up Saint-Laurent and down Saint-Denis is good exercise, but man I need to visit other places. Still, there's always something to talk about nonetheless. For example, there's been many a times during my promenades where I heard pigs being strangled to death somewhere along the way. I thought it was odd, but I traced the source. There's this place called 3 Minots. It's a karaoke bar! No wonder!

"I cAn'T gEt nO.....SaTiSfaCtIoN!"
God! Make it stop! MAAKE IT STOOOP!!

I had to run away to save my ears, and my sanity. But, one thing's for sure, I would love to go there one night and sing my heart out. There are a few songs I'd like to sing to let out certain emotions. Don't worry, I won't song Cher's I Will Survive. No. But, it is heartbreak-related. I mean, when you have a broken heart, what better way is there to let it all out than to sing at the top of your lungs how sad depressed you are? It's therapeutic I tells ya! A song I would love to sing is The Beatle's Yer Blues. I would also like to sing Act Naturally, You've got to hide your love away and Let it be. All these songs sum up pretty well how I've been feeling the past few months. The Beatles really have it. Even though we've heard their songs a million times, their lyrics still reach out to me in a way no recent song writer ever had.

Anyway, I carried on with my walk and on my way back through Saint-Denis, I passed in front of an old vinyl store called Primitive. I stopped to take a look because they had funky looking LP covers.

One from a band named after the famous wizard Gandalf looked pretty trippy. I checked them out online and I swear you could mistake them for one of today's indie rock band. But, the 60's influence is definitely there. The music is trippy and with weird sounds and all. You can listen to their album here.

There were also two others that I found hilarious. The In-Kraut. Volume 2! So that means there is another album by that name out there with a similar concept! As it turns out, it's an album of "Hip Shaking Grooves Made in Germany". Or as Wikipedia puts it: "The In-Kraut is a compilation of records from various obscuro German pop artists released on Marina Records." There are, I think, 3 albums in the In-Kraut series. Check out this song on the 3rd album. It's The Champ by The Mohawks. You'll notice the organ part in the beginning is a part that's been used in KRS-One's Step into a world. So those In-Kraut albums are basically  popular swinging pop songs from the Austin Powers era remade by obscure German bands.

Ve arh totally cool, ja? - Ja! Ve haff svinging mussic at our party, ja!

There was also this one that made me go what the fuck? And it's called Thai Beat A Go Go. It's like Wing sings go-go songs. Here's a sample of what it sounds like. This song is called Yok Yok which means Jump Jump.

But, what really grabbed my attention in this window is the Disco Goldorak album and Goldorak Interpreted by Noam. Disco Goldorak? What the actual fuck? You know how today we have rule 66: if it exists, there is a dubstep version of it. Well, it seems back in those days, it was with Disco. By the way, Goldorak is the French name for Grendizer. Maybe you recall that Japanese anime from back in the day in the early 80's? So yeah, if it's called Disco Goldorak, it means it's French. So, before I provide a link to listen to this crap I have to warn you: it sucks. And not just a little bit. And what has been heard cannot be unheard. So click on this link at your own risk. And I'm not even going to put up anything regarding that ugly kid Noam.

The song goes: You are the grandest, Goldorak!
You, the prince of the universe!

Further down, when I got at the corner of Ontario street, I noticed a brand new place. A Mexican restaurant! Yay! M4 Burritos which stands for Mission Quatre Burritos. Is that related to the Mission district of San Francisco? No. Of course not! Why would anyone here in Montreal, Quebec know anything about that. The place was closing when I passed by and I asked the employee what's with the place and why it's called Mission. She told me it's because you pick a mission off the menu. Basically, you have four missions (duh!) where each mission is about what you want your meal to be made out of. 1: Taco, burrito, bowl or salad. 2: Pick your meat/protein 3: Pick your toppings/Extras 4: Pick your side and a drink. Looks like a nice place. It's Mexican fast food with fresh ingredients. Mexican Subway anyone?

Now walking on Sainte-Catherine I was passing in front of the Metropolis. You know, that place where I saw so many shows with my friend Fouf? The day I was walking was about a week after the election. It was also a week after a man was shot dead by a maniac who was trying to get in to kill the newly elected Prime Minister of Quebec. So there was a little display set up for the poor victim who gave his life while trying to stop the killer. May he rest in peace.

So yeah. Wow. Man, this whole post is such a bummer. I start off talking about depressed I am, followed by some imaginary pasta monster in the sky, Asian mafia in Chinatown, bad karaoke, cheesy go-go and French disco anime music, another "Mexican" restaurant and a display for a guy who got shot in the name of democracy.

I hope my next post will be a little more uplifting than this.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Piece of 3.14159265359

I have a friend I've known since high school. I've had some of my best moments with him. The first concert I've ever been to was with him. It was The Chemical Brothers back in 1999 at the Metropolis and was the first time I've ever been star struck when we met the guys in the alley in the back of the building after the show. We went back there again several times for that band and also for The Crystal Method, Amon Tobin and The Beastie Boys. Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland from The Crystal Method were the coolest guys ever. Every time after their show we would go meet them and have a talk about all sorts of things. The first time was around the time when George W. Bush initiated the war in Iraq so we had a very long political discussion about that. The second time around we met them in the back alley and I got my Vegas album signed! But, that wasn't enough. They went in their tour bus and signed us some posters and they took pictures with us and all. And that's just a SAMPLE of what kind of time I've spent with my friend. Also, a funny little anectode, the ID number our social medicare cards start with the first three letters of our last name and the first letter of our first name. In highschool, someone noticed that my friend's ID on his card was FOUF. (Pronounced foof because we're stinkin' cheese eatin' surrender monkeys.) It has been his nickname ever since.

One thing about my friend is that he gets into these phases. In high school he got into running. He would run something like 20km (that's about 12.5 miles) in one shot from the east-end of Montreal to the Olympic Stadium and back. Then he got into chess, then into boxing and probably some other stuff. Lately he met someone who was into chess and he fell back into that phase and was really eager to play with someone. He kept bugging me about it and I had some free time Saturday night so I suggested we go to Café π.

I like this place already!

Café π is a unique little café in Montréal where friends and strangers meet to play chess, backgammon, poker and probably many other games. The ones mentioned were the only ones I saw being played, chess being the popular one as the establishment provides free chess boards and pieces and even game timers. And for the serious players, there was a little bookshelf filled with books that were graciously donated by the local chess grand master Alexandre LeSiège.

Encyklopedija  sahovskih otvaranja, The Slav...
I'm starting to suspect our Friend Alexandre
might be a communist spy from the Eastern Bloc.

Sadly, the place didn't have smart, pretty young ladies looking for a partner for a quick game chess. Instead, the place was filled with nerds and older men looking for some company and a good challenge. Throughout the night there were artists of all sorts that came in. A guitarist came and played some music, later on I think there was a duo that played some of their original songs and there was even slam poetry. It's a pretty cool hangout when you want a simple evening with a good friend where you can discuss about life and current events while racking your brain to figure out your next move on the board.

Café π also featured some artwork by local artists and had newspaper and magazine articles hung up on the walls along with some puzzles. Overall it's a pretty neat looking café. And the red coloured walls gives the place a really intense vibe.

The board says Mat in 2. Can you figure it out?
Post your solution in the comments!

That picture was taken at closing time.
The place was packed when we came in.
We were lucky to even get a table.

When we first got to the café, they were advertising what I guess is their specialty: The London Fog. It's a tall mug of Earl Grey tea with steamed milk and a hint of vanilla. That sounds delicious. So we went in, sat at a table with a chess board, set up our pieces and each ordered a London Fog with a piece of meringue pie. I mean it's Café Pi. We had to order a god damn piece of pie. Otherwise what's the point. Oh, what's that? We should have ordered coffee instead of tea because it's a café? Well, maybe you should order a plastic surgeon to rearrange that ugly face of yours, but you don't see me telling you what to do! Ok, ok, I'm sorry that was uncalled for.

Ready for a night of intellectual combat!
Right after pie...

Anyway, my friend and I got there around 9pm, I think, and we played until the place closed at midnight! Just one game! Seriously, I suck at chess. But, that night I held my ground. Unfortunately, my friend ended up beating me, but I held up for the whole night and I was even surprised at myself! The game lasted so long that halfway through I got a little hungry again, so we checked the menu for some food and I noticed they served a special seasonal beer called La Cuvée by the local microbrewery Boréale. It's an apple-cranberry-honey beer and it tastes amazing. One of the best fruit-flavoured beers I've had so far. I've had apple-flavoured beer before with Unibroue's Éphémère which was very tasty, but the cranberry in La Cuvée added a little bit of acidity and was a perfect mix with a little bit of honey. As for food, they had grilled cheese sandwiches, nachos, soups, paninis and other typical café fare. But, it was past 11 o'clock and the place didn't make any more food except for what was on display in their counter. There was one grilled cheese sandwich left so we had that. It was cheddar and caramelized onions. It was like eating a French onion soup in a sandwich. Coupled with the apple-cranberry beer, it was the perfect match!

After several hours of playing chess with my friend, the place was about to close. My friend just checked me. but we decided to end the game at home. so we grabbed a picture of our board so we could reproduce it. It wasn't really worth it since I eventually lost the game in around four moves. Whatever. Chess is a stupid game anyway...

W King to H-1
B Queen to B-7
W King to G-1
B Bishop to F-2
Check mate.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Just some awesome cars I found

Wow! The past few posts took a lot of time to write. I've done my best to write them in my free time since I can't write at night like I did earlier this summer when I had chronic insomnia. And, I've also been walking around at the same time, not just to keep my sanity anymore (I think I lost that battle a long time ago anyway), but as good exercise now. I've stopped exploring for a little bit to be able to write down all the other cool stuff I've seen this summer so I've been walking around the same spots almost night after night. I got a circuit down and everything now. I take the subway or my car (depending on how late it is), get off at Chinatown, walk up Saint-Laurent street all the way to Mont-Royal, then head east to Saint-Denis, then south until I reach Sainte-Catherine and then back west until I reach Chinatown again. Sometimes, when I have the energy and the time, I'll keep on walking on Sainte-Catherine until I reach Atwater and come back  to the the Guy Concordia metro. The short walk is approximately 6.5km (that's 4 miles for all you imperials who still base yourself on the royal family's ancestral limbs) and 9.6km (approx 6 miles) for the long walk. That's a pretty good walk! Anyway, so here's a wrap up of what I've seen in the past couple of weeks.

Place Ville Marie. A Montreal Icon.

So I've been out of town almost a weekend out of two during August. I've been to Maine, California and Ontario. It was awesome. Now I'm back in Montreal and I go walk around town and this is what's going on. Oh Montreal, you will never change.

And they bill the water usage on multiple unit & commercial buildings because they
consume too much water when you got pipes leaking all over the place. What's the point?

One thing I've noticed more over this summer is the amount of cool cars I got to see in the streets, and it wasn't even during any special event. I saw a lot of hot rods and low riders and some awesome old cars. For example, I hiked up Mount-Royal again recently and I saw this great looking Cadillac. With all the upholstery in there it's literally a living room on wheels! I bet the sex is pretty comfy and awesome in the backseat of one of those cars!

That's a sweet pimpin' ride.

I can't imagine what it must've been like 
to parallel park in the 70's and 80's.

Hot curdled chocolate milk that's been standing in the car under a hot sun
makes for a tasty snack after an afternoon of trekking!

The trunk is so big, it's probably a 4.3 DH
(That's Dead Hookers. A unit of measure for trunk space)

Another example from earlier this summer, I came across this beautiful MG. I never saw one like this before. I've seen a lot of Midgets (no, really, that's what they're called) but this one was an MGA. (no not the Beastie Boys DJ, the car!) It's a great looking roadster and I would love to drive one of those someday. Just the feeling of pure driving with a roadster that has no gadgets or electronics, just pure mechanical engineering at work. I had a 1998 Honda Civic like that once. Standard. No power steering. No ABS and no traction control. It was awesome, but the engine was dying out so I got rid of it. I did many a doughnut in the snow during the winter with that car. May it rest in peace.

Such a sexy little car. Look at them curves.

Bigger ISN'T always better.
It's all about the feeling you get from the ride.

And just as I was taking pictures of the inside of the car,
a cop car has to pass by. I guess someone thought I looked suspicious.

And then, one night I was passing by the Katacombes gothic punk metal bar and I saw this hot rod. It was in fantastic shape. Except you could totally tell from the reflection on the body that about half of it was fiber glass. I don't know if the guy was done with it, but it could definitely be polished smooth and it would look out of this world. Also, I can totally picture a gothic pin up girl driving this thing. God damn that would be hot! Heck, if she ever got a flat tire, I bet I'd be able to jack up that car with my err.. urhm... well, I would certainly give her a helping hand because I'm a gentleman and I know how to change a tire.

A car like this would also be awesome in a movie where a possessed goes around killing people. Oh wait. It's been done? Twice? Actually, I'm no stranger to these movies. I remember as a kid I used to have nightmares about the car from the movie The Car. Maybe we can make a Quebecois version with this blue deathmobile. It would go around the streets of Montreal killing people to the sound of Gens du Pays by Gilles Vigneault and it's downfall would be a giant pothole. We could have different kinds of victims in different locations like hipsters in skinny jeans riding their vintage bikes on the Plateau, sweatpants-wearing white trash on welfare in Hochelaga, swanky elite millionaires in Ville Mont-Royal, etc. I don't have anything against all these people by the way. I just think it would showcase the city and it's variety of inhabitants very well. I wouldn't discriminate against anyone. Discrimination is wrong and should be denounced. In fact, I hate everyone equally.

For the record, that last paragraph was a joke.