Check out Slamtastique 2.0’s new venue tonight and tell a tale!

25 Mar
Nick Cave (left) with organizer J.D. "Hobbes" Hickey (right)

Nick Cave (left) with organizer J.D. “Hobbes” Hickey (right)

I’ve enjoyed many Slamtastisque storytelling slams since my friend John David “Hobbes” Hickey started them in 2011.

Hobbes is an award-winning storyteller whose enthusiasm for storytelling is infectious.

His slams challenge people to hone their craft. You have only five minutes to tell a  family-friendly story without any notes or props. Five judges from the audience rate the tellers on their performances. Winners compete for a prize at the end of the season.

The tellers are usually a mix of both new and seasoned storytellers and the stories include traditional tales, science fiction stories, spoken word pieces and personal accounts.

Until last month the slams were held at Café Shaika on Sherbrooke St. in NDG. On Wednesday, February 18, Hobbes debuted “Slamtastique 2.0″ at the new venue, Café Mariposa on Côte St. Luc Rd.

Café Mariposa is a great fit in so many ways. At Shaika it was often hard to enjoy the stories because other people at the café would be hanging out and chatting or you’d see students and freelancers wearing headphones as they typed away on their laptops, ignoring the tellers. The audience was often spread out around the cafe and it was hard to tell if the owners even supported the slam.

With Mariposa reserved for the slam, only people interested in storytelling fill the small venue. The owners are on board and the artsy, 60s coffeehouse vibe at Café Mariposa suits Slamtastique.

Last month’s slam included a wide mix of stories. Ian Gurudata related how he handled a group of people picking on travellers in a Montreal metro car, Greg Stroll’s spoke about an unusual hide-and-seek experience and Kym Dominique-Ferguson related a traditional tale about Anansi (Anancy), a West African god who often takes the form of a spider, this time faking his death and devouring beans. First-time teller Katharine Childs told a lover story about body image, sexuality and self-love while regular Magali Desjardins Potvin, whose stories are usually science fiction/fantasy tales, provided a first-person “anecdote for the romantically challenged.”

Magali Desjardins Potvin at the microphone

Magali Desjardins Potvin at the microphone

Laurent Castellucci’s well-crafted tale tricked the audience. At first you thought you were hearing a science fiction story but then you wondered was it a dream or a video game?

The evening’s musical guest, Sam Cave hails from Brisbane, Australia and has lived in Montreal for about a year. He’s at ease with a microphone and his soulful songs brightened spirits.

It looked like the event was wrapping up when Hobbes announced a surprise teller had come forward but she didn’t want her story included in the competition. Patricia Flewwelling, the woman who prepared the delicious food served at Mariposa, recounted a story about her army experiences. To keep up with the guys, she downed a soft drink in record time but had quite a time trying to swallow a burp.

If you’re around NDG tonight, do drop by. You’ll have fun. And you have a story to tell, you can sign up on the event’s Facebook page here. Tonight’s theme is Mad as a March Hare but you can tell any kind of story, as long as it’s by heart and five minutes  or less.

Where: Café Mariposa, 5434 Côte St. Luc Rd.(near where Terrebonne meets Côte St. Luc Rd and close to Côte St. Luc Rd. & Girouard)

When: from 6:30 p.m. on

Cost: $5 Please do buy something from Mariposa too.

On losing NDG small businesses

5 Mar
George the orangutan wears a Cartes etc. t-shirt as he sits in a chair outside in front of the store

George the orangutan returned to Cartes Etc. last fall (photo from Cartes Etc.’s Facebook page)

Yesterday I opened an email that left me saddened and shocked. Cartes Etc., a lovely card and gift shop on Sherbrooke St. West in NDG is having a closing sale this weekend. Only last month I received emails about the store’s new offerings – artisanal workshops and recently, a jewellery flea market.

The store features works by local artists – including whimsical purses, unique  jewellery and all sorts of cards (some featuring photos of landmarks in NDG and environs), paintings with whimsical images of Montreal sights, gorgeous tea cosies, handmade mugs and other pottery pieces, the list goes on. Cartes Etc.’s owner, Arlyle Waring, provides a great service to local artisans and artists by promoting and celebrating their talent. Regular vernissages, celebrations, sales and fundraisers have added to the store’s appeal as a community

I applaud Arlyle Waring for keeping Cartes Etc. going after the death of its founder, Necdet Kendir. He contributed much to NDG, fighting to revive the Empress Cultural Centre, setting up a merchants’ association for business owners on Sherbrooke St. W. and advocating for the needs of local citizens and merchants.Sure he had his detractors but what impressed me was his kind heart and passion for NDG. He was always thinking of some way to improve things in the community.

To me Arlyle has the same values and she’s given a lot to the community, even making people laugh by adding a mascot to the store, a huge (fake) orange orangutan named George. He went missing in November 2013 but last October he came back after someone told Arlyle where to find him.

I laughed when Arlyle wrote on Cartes Etc’s Facebook page just before New Year’s that she’s received complaints about George and a large stuffed animal moose named Mortimer being in “full celebration mode” and making less than tasteful remarks and Mortimer being a “negative influence on George.” As you can see in this photo from Cartes Etc’s Facebook page, they each have a martini glass as they sit in chairs in front of the store.

George the orangutan and Mortimer the moose sit with martini glasses in chairs outside Cartes Etc.'s store

Photo: Cartes Etc’s Facebook page

It made me wonder if people were taking things a little too seriously!

That’s why this news that the store is closing caught me and many other Cartes Etc. fans off guard.

Here’s what the email said:



Saturday, March 7th & Sunday, March 8th 2015

In today’s world of high rents and internet commerce, which can take their toll on brick and mortar shops, CARTES ETC has been in the process of adding workshops and an online store to create the customer base needed for survival. But financial constraints have been onerous and before being able to establish this additional artisanal showcase and revenue source, are forcing the store to close its doors.

CARTES has served as an important window for many NDG artists.  According to a study by Hill Strategies Research Inc., artists make up 4% of the population of NDG, a concentration five times higher than the national average, a creative resource of value to the community and one worthy of being more widely shared.   For the artists represented at CARTES and for many of its customers it is more than a store; it is a place for local talent to shine.

Business hours on Saturday, March 7th and Sunday March 8th will be dedicated to raising as much money as possible through sales and a silent auction of articles donated by artists represented in the store.  Proceeds will go to the closing costs for the store.  The event will celebrate the contribution CARTES has made to the community and will honour the artists who are represented there.

Refreshments will be served.    

Any and all help is welcome.


Arlyle (and George…)

Last fall NDG lost another beloved business, Dad’s Bagels, when the bagel shop’s heartbroken owner, Kashmir Singh Randhawa, when he apparently learned his landlords were not renewing his lease to make way for a Dollarama expansion. The rent increase was beyond his budget, in any case. Many businesses are seeing increases in their commercial rents as landlords up rents in the areas around the new superhospital.

Both Dad’s Bagels and Cartes Etc. are community-minded businesses that made a big difference in NDG. Both made the neighbourhood a brighter place and both gave back to the community.

I moved away from NDG a year ago and I don’t stop along Sherbrooke nearly enough. Yes, online commerce is great but we have to find ways to support our brick and mortar businesses.

So if you live in or around Montreal, please come by Cartes Etc., 5901 Sherbrooke St. W. (Sherbrooke & Belgrave) this weekend and support Arlyle (and George) and the artists.

Today in Montreal – march in honour of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls

14 Feb A mural on St. Laurent Blvd.  honours missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

A mural on St. Laurent Blvd.  honours missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. PHOTO

A mural on Montreal’s St. Laurent Blvd. honours missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.
© Andrew Belding

Since 1991 on Valentine’s Day women in Vancouver have marched in honour of missing and murdered women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. This year Montreal organizers will hold the sixth edition of the memorial march, which focuses on honouring the memories of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

The gathering will start at Cabot Square, a place organizers from Justice for Missing and Murdered Native Women (Missing Justice) and Femmes autochtones du Québec note is familiar to many of this city’s homeless, the majority of whom are aboriginal (unfortunately it’s currently being renovated and gentrified in what I consider an attempt to push the homeless out of the area).

Stephen Harper’s Conservative government dismisses calls for a national public inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls even though the RCMP reports between 1980 and 2012 there were 1,017 aboriginal female victims of homicide in Canada,  and their murders represent 16 per cent of all female homicides reported in Canada even though aboriginal women represent only about four per cent of Canada’s female population. The RCMP says 164 aboriginal women have disappeared since 1980.

Organizers of marches around this issue have long said the number of murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls is much higher than these statistics with the total number is probably as high as 3,000. Many cases are not resolved.

Making matters worse, in 2010 the Conservative government began chopping funding for local initiatives that organizers point out benefited aboriginal women, including a Sisters in Spirit database on missing and murdered aboriginal women run by the Native Women’s Association of Canada.

Today’s event is an opportunity for Montrealers to show their solidarity on this important issue.

When: February 14, 2015, 3 p.m.

Where: Cabot Square, Ste Catherine St. W. & Atwater (Atwater metro)

Kahnawake residents: A bus will leave Kahnawake Shakotiia’takéhnhas Community Services at 2 p.m.

Hey Montreal gardeners, Seedy Weekend starts tomorrow

6 Feb

If you like growing your own vegetables and you enjoy rare heirloom and organic vegetables, organic flowers, herbs and medicinal plants then Seedy Weekend is for you.

This weekend the entrance Montreal’s Botanical Garden will become a gardening trade show of sorts, with seeds for sale or for trade and you can ask for gardening advice. The 15th edition will include farmers and seed distributors from Quebec and beyond, environmentally minded businesses along with the event’s organizer, non-profit urban agriculture organization Action Communiterre and partners les Amis du Jardin botanique de Montréal, Espace pour la vie and Seeds of Diversity Canada.

If you have organic or heirloom seeds to trade with other gardeners, you may want to check out the seed exchange. There will be  workshops (they’re usually in French), a screening of Julie Perron’s film Le Semeur in the auditorium on Sunday from noon to 1:30 p.m. There will be food and beverages for sale, with the proceeds going to Action Communiterre.

It’s a popular and fun event. I highly recommend it.

Where: Main entrance (Pavillon d’accueil) of the Montreal Botanical Garden, Pie-X or Viau metro stations

When: Saturday February 7 & Sunday February 8, 2015, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Cost: Free admission

You’ll find an exhibitor list and full schedule (in French) here

fluorescent light hangs over dome-covered gardening kit in sunny window

If anyone has tips on how to grow peppers, please share them!


Use my Tangerine Orange Key and we both get $50

28 Dec

Here’s an easy way to get $50.00.

Open a new Tangerine bank account, use my Orange Key  – 42037807S1, deposit $100 or more in your new account and we both get $50. This offer is available till March 31, 2015. After that my Orange Key will net you $25 instead of $50.

I’m no fan of big banks but what I like about Tangerine (formerly ING Direct and now owned by the Bank of Nova Scotia) is they rarely charge fees. The only fee I’ve heard of so far is a fee for transferring a Tax-Free Savings Account from Tangerine to another bank, and apparently Tangerine’s transfer fee is lower than that charged at other banks. It can take a few days to transfer your money from Tangerine to your regular bank account, there are only a few Tangerine ATMs in downtown Montreal, but you can access your Tangerine account through Scotiabank’s network . For me the lack of quick access to my money works well. It forces me to plan my spending better and I save more.

Lighting up the darkness in Ville St. Pierre

22 Dec

event postcardIt’s been a little over a week since I caught the Parcours des lucioles en tête, but I’m still shaking my head in amazement.

The Saint-Pierre neighbourhood of Lachine does not enjoy a great reputation. The area was once its own city and many people still call it Ville St. Pierre. To many Montrealers, it’s a place you pass through as quickly as possible. You drive through Saint-Pierre on your way to Highway 20. Or you bike through it on your way to the Lachine Canal. But you don’t linger. Media coverage (often exaggerated) of drug problems, violent incidents and murders in the neighbourhood doesn’t help things.

I moved to Saint-Pierre nearly a year ago. As an NDG gal transplanted to an area with no full-fledged grocery store, no cafés or places to hang out, boarded up storefronts, plenty of dépanneurs, fast food joints and stray cats, I’ve often wondered whether St. Pierre’s affordable rent made leaving NDG worth it. I’ve attended security committee meeting events and I do my best to support local initiatives but I felt something was missing.

The Parcours des lucioles on tête blew me away because it showcased Saint-Pierre’s cultural side, something that’s not always obvious when you walk around. An initiative of Revitalisation Saint-Pierre and artist Nicolas Rivard, the event not only let citizens reclaim problem areas in the neighbourhood and turn them into lighted art installations, it showed me why this neighbourhood is interesting and special.

Unfortunately the evening of December 13 was bitterly cold. We waited at Roger-Richer Park for the walk to start but the bonfires organizers set up didn’t warm us up enough and we were hungry. So we headed to a restaurant for dinner and came back to see as many installations as we could on our own.

From 5 to 8 p.m. people could walk around to see all sorts of citizen-created art, lit up in different ways. People could visit 12 art installations and performance pieces around the neighbourhood.

Rivard’s video, Bulles Citoyennes, was projected on the doors of Rockfield Church so that the doors served as a screen. I didn’t see much of his piece, but from what I understand it showed residents blowing bubbles. Rivard has a photo of the video on his website.

A newly decorated bus shelter on Rue des Érables featured images that included a sun/ladybug and candy canes.

a huge street level church bell with a knitted cover

A church bell lovingly restored and on display on St. Jacques St. was “yarn-bombed” and now sports knitting created by women from the Cercles de Fermières du Québec’s Saint-Pierre chapter. Sadly, the group’s other knitwear piece, a hat and scarf placed on a monument erected in Kirkland Park in the 1960s in memory of longtime Ville St. Pierre mayor Dr. C.A. Kirkland, was stolen before anyone could see it. I realize there’s a market for bronze but I don’t understand why people steal public monuments and I wonder how the people at the scrapyard where this monument was no doubt taken reacted when they saw knitwear on a statue? Surely they knew it was stolen?!


 Frédérique Gagné-Thibault, wearing a TV on her head, explains Saint-Pierre historyFor the Joyeux téléjournal, Frédérique Gagné-Thibault wore a TV on her head as visitors sat on chairs and a sofa listening to her talk about Saint-Pierre history.






the green classroom - chairs, evergreen sprigs and a watering can lit up in greenIn front of École Primaire Martin-Bélanger,  Mélanie Castagnier placed child-sized wooden chairs in a circle with other chairs hanging in a pile above, a watering can in the mix of the piled-up chairs. Evergreen branches lay on the wooden chairs. The work’s title? La Classe Verte – the Green Classroom



children's colourful handmade flowers and landscapes lit up on a snowy lawn

Martin-Bélanger elementary students brightened the snow in front of a community garden with handmade flowers and landscapes.





a fake egg's nest in a parking lotMélanie Poirier’s bird’s nest full of huge eggs sat in a parking spot in a parking lot bordering Kirkland Park.






A colourful four-part mural depicting Saint-Pierre history

A huge mural painting hung on the side of a building near the corner of Saint Pierre and Rue des Érables. Caroline Fiset and Lyane Lefebvre told us their mural, À Saint-Pierre, Imagine!, depicts the history of cultural and other organizations in Saint-Pierre. I found it interesting to learn Saint-Pierre is the birthplace of the first Optimist Club in the Montreal area, and the neighbourhood has sprouted a number of theatre organizations, including groups where parents and children perform theatre together.


As we headed home, we saw Revitalisation Saint-Pierre founder David Marshall rocking out with his electric guitar on the steps of the Centre Fernand-Laplaine.  Marshall, whose artistic contribution was called Guy-Tare Drastique, seemed to be enjoying himself in spite of the cold.

Marking the Montreal Massacre

6 Dec

Today I lit a candle in memory of the 14 women who died in the Polytechnique Massacre (Montreal Massacre) on December 6, 1989:

Geneviève Bergeron

Hélène Colgan

Nathalie Croteau

Barbara Daigneault

Anne-Marie Edward

Maud Haviernick

Barbara Klueznick

Maryse Laganière

Maryse Leclair

Anne-Marie Lemay

Sonia Pelletier

Michèle Richard

Annie St-Arneault

Annie Turcotte

Today was the 25th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre. There’s been more media attention to this terrible event this year than I’ve seen in a while.

For instance, this week Quebec journalist and filmmaker Francine Pelletier did several interviews about the massacre and its effect on the women’s movement over the past 25 years.

Pelletier’s insights are important. After all in 1989 she discovered her name was on a list of 19 prominent Quebec feminists on gunman Marc Lépine’s suicide note, which named women he apparently wished to target.

With scandals involving former CBC Radio Q host Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby hitting a nerve, Pelletier told the Toronto Star “this year is the first anniversary when there is really something to celebrate.”

Montreal novelist Sean Michaels, who won the Giller prize recently for his novel, Us Conductors, wrote on that the massacre was not only a horrific crime but “it was also the brutal, explicit assertion of an ideology that is usually hidden.” Michaels points out the oppression of women “is one of our eldest systems,”  in Canadian society it’s subtle and we have not solved it.

I agree with Michaels. What saddens me is that 25 years later, I don’t know if all that much has changed. While I felt heartened when women came forward accusing Ghomeshi of sexual harassment and sexual assault, and I was especially impressed that some of the women making the allegations revealed their identities, we have a lot of work to do in our society to make sure this kind of abuse doesn’t happen in workplaces or in dating relationships.

Like Pelletier, I am glad tolerance for bad behaviour is dropping. Any man who thinks he has carte blanche to behave like Don Draper in Mad Men needs to know he won’t get away with it. Women will speak out and they will find support. They will create hash tags on Twitter and they will mobilize en masse. The tide is changing.

We also have plenty of work to do to prevent women from being murdered because they are women. Canada’s federal government hasn’t heeded calls for an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls. It is difficult for survivors of date rape to succeed in proving beyond a reasonable doubt that someone they knew raped them and no consent was given. Such situations become he said/she said discussions and everything hinges on who has more power and influence so in many instances the accused never go to jail and the accusers get dismissed as liars or as women who had a regretful change of heart about something consensual. There are plenty of other examples of violence against women happening every day in Canada, too many to list here.

I worry about our society’s ability to prevent violence against women. Today I thought about Marc Lépine’s mother, Monique Lépine. In an interview with Jan Wong, published in the December 2009 issue of Chatelaine magazine, Monique said her son was a “nice little boy.” She said when she learned about the massacre she couldn’t imagine her son had done such a thing. “Who was a feminist in his mind?,” Monique said about her son. “An independent woman who had a good job? I was like that myself.”

Monique Lépine never thought her son would grow up to hate women and blame women for his problems. As a mother of sons the idea that my flesh and blood would ever hurt women seems alien to me.

We need to find out how we can help young men grow up to have healthy attitudes towards women’s equality, towards their own sexuality and not see women as sexual objects, or as threats to their own career prospects. We need to offer more help for young men who have problems with their mothers or feel anger towards women in general. I don’t have a solution, I just find it’s far easier to dismiss Marc Lépine and Jian Ghomeshi as misogynists than it is to figure out how our society can prevent the next Marc Lépine or Ghomeshi from harming women.

I am incredibly touched that Vanier College students have created a video to mark the 25th anniversary of this tragedy. I don’t know their ages but I doubt any of them were even born when the massacre happened. Their decision to denounce violence against women and to team up with the CEGEP St-Laurent next door in making a human chain is inspiring.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,440 other followers