Post-Deployment Leave Ends

Well, I just got back to my barracks room. I had a wonderful time, two weeks spent in Montreal with my girlfriend and half a week spent in Dallas with my family.

In two weeks I managed to get a good sense of how life actually flows in Montreal. I got groceries, cooked a little with Julie, went shopping with her, visited Old Montreal and had ice cream with maple syrup as an appetizer for a romantic and fancy dinner, vegged out on the couch with Julie, had a sexy and lovely sleeping partner, had a 1700’s-era Quebecois dinner, played Nintendo DS with her daughter, watched plenty of people fall on the metro steps, met Julie downtown for lunch and after work, sat on a stoop and talked with Julie for a while near the docks, visited the legendary Tim Hortons donut shop, went running in Julie’s neighborhood and found a little park to do sit-ups and push-ups and chin-ups, and was generally maple-syruppy lovey-dovey with my girlfriend.

I even picked up a little of a better ear for French.

Montreal is a calming place to me. To me it seems like the French and English culture intermingle with little conflict although I know that’s not really the case. Poor English speakers were very friendly with me. I noticed a blend of many cultures. My cab drivers were from the Caribbean except for one guy who spoke very good English and who talked with me about life as American/life as a Quebecois. Riding the long bus to the metro station, I saw people of all races. The neighborhood Julie lives in seems to be a mix of all types of socio-economic classes. Old Italian men, young black girls, intelligent and hot French chicks in sexy clothes and killer hair, old Asian couples.

A lot of Montreal folks seem to have Che Guevara references on their t-shirts. I don’t know if this is particular to the geographical area or not. It was mildly popular in the U.S. a while ago. I have a red t-shirt with Shigeru Miyamoto (Super Mario Brothers, Zelda, cool games everywhere) on it, mimicking Chairman Mao (Chinese) and Che Guevara. He even has a power-up star on his beret.

The weather was bizarre. It was never warm enough that you’d think winter was completely gone. Behind every breeze was a nip of a reminder that cold still remained. On a couple days, it even snowed, but most of the time it seemed very sunny. The snow sludge that builds up from being plowed into hills during the winter still remain. They’ve turned gray, full of trash that they’ve collected. They’re like colorless katamaris.

The sidewalks are strewn with trash although when I left in a taxi, I saw a woman picking some up by the road so I guess that process has started. I came to Montreal during a transitional phase. A common piece of trash is the Tim Hortons cup of coffee, with the rim “rolled up to win” except showing a green flash of color that means the cup was not a winner. This popular Tim Hortons promotion grants good prizes, but many losing tickets are found on the street.

The houses in our neighborhood have basements built-in, and driveways descending into bottom floor garages. Most people put up synthetic tents over their driveways during the winter to protect their vehicles from getting snowed in or exposed to the elements.

In downtown Montreal, there’s a rule stating that buildings over 100 years old cannot be demolished. So what you can see is a growing blend of ancient French-style buildings in off-white brick with faded green metalwork, combined with modern European-style office buildings.

French text is required everywhere but you’ll often see English translations except for when it’s quite obvious that that’s what it is.

Montreal doesn’t believe in construction workers doing their jobs at night so sometimes the roads are messy downtown. I didn’t really see a lot of gorgeous people (besides my Julie) walking in the streets. They weren’t bad-looking or poorly dressed or fat like you’d see in an American city. The people mostly seemed like hard-working types, people just trying to make a living.

I saw a lot of couples walking together, and that was still in the city. Descending down the hill to Old Montreal, there were of course tons of couples, for all the quaint little streets and side-roads and small shops and art boutiques.

I think most of what happened between Julie and me is private but we did look pretty spectacular together, strolling and talking. The cutest part was when Julie had to get sandals to put on instead of her heels, so we stopped inside a tchotchke store and the saleswoman commiserated with her about shoes. Then we found $5/each maple ice cream cones down the street and Julie busted her new sandals’ ice cream virginity when some ice cream slipped off the side of the cone!

The water in the docks still had a frozen layer on top, and there were several large ships docked. We went to this one old-style Quebecois restaurant which looked like a tavern and which had a fat bard, a chatty bar wench, and a rascally little drunk who talked with me at length in pretty good English about how his people (fur trappers mainly) found ways to respect the British colonials. We had sausages, cooked egg, pate, and various other authentic Quebecois dishes, all topped with maple syrup. For part of dessert, we went outside and had maple syrup spun onto ice so that it could be eaten off a stick.

Then I made Julie laugh hysterically on the way to the metro.

I loved Julie falling asleep and resting her head on my shoulder on the long metro and bus trips.

The two weeks ended abruptly and I had to scramble to get a plane ticket to go home. Of course it was Easter weekend so I ended up using 25k frequent flyer miles in order to book it cheaply.

I flew back to Nashville (the best part being that I had seat #1, with plenty of leg room, the whole way), stayed a night back in the barracks, then drove back down to Nashville in order to fly to Dallas. I got to Dallas and my mom and dad were waiting there with the dog I hadn’t met yet, the chihuahua Radar. He’s super friendly and barely weighs anything and will sit in your lap or just (non-annoyingly) follow you around.

We went to an event for my brother’s computer science department and I saw my brother’s project there. We had dinner at a Greek restaurant with my best friend back home, Slavek, and his wife. My brother showed up too.

My parents and I went to the Ft. Worth Museum of Modern Art. We saw Chuck Close’s expert lithography, and Nicholas Nixon’s project to photograph four sisters over the course of 30 years. Interesting stuff. We had lunch there also.

I got to have two Frullati smoothies (strawberry-banana!), the best salsa in the world from Luna de Noche down the street, and had barbecue brisket at home, along with healthy portions of my dad’s famous pesto pasta.

I had a good time. The house looks a lot more decorative and colorful and lived-in. I enjoyed the hot weather. Before I left, I went to Bagelstein’s, an old favorite of the Turner family, with my mom.

When I got back to Nashville, I started driving my car off but noticed a thumping sound from my front left tire. I stopped at a gas station and noticed that there was a HUGE slash on the tread of my tire. I don’t remember hitting any spike strips or anything so I don’t know what caused it. I changed my tire in record-time (stud!) and drove a donut back to base. That was weird! I wonder what caused my tire to go?

Now that I’m back, I’m kind of sad. I miss sleeping next to Julie. I miss meeting her for lunch or after work. I want to spend weekends hanging out with her.

Also, someone down the hall was found in his room dead after ten days. They’re not sure what happened, but the smell got pretty bad and his parents said he never showed up on his leave. I knew the guy from when I first arrived at the unit. I saw him daily over in Iraq, too. It’s really unfortunate.

I have plenty of photos of my trip on Flickr. Please go sign up and let me know so I can invite you as a friend — my photos are all private.