Over the past weeks friends from Hamilton and Burlington and farther afield have called and/or emailed expressing condolences on the passing of my wife and urging me to “come home.”
And that, is exactly what I plan to do. I’ve already expressed sentiments of nostalgia for the Bay Area in the Observer and earlier this evening, heading home through lingering rain showers and an early evening mist, I pressed the scan button on my car radio and it stopped at, I’m not making this up, at 900. Not 900 somewhere in Quebec, or even 900 in Vermont or New York. No, 900 CHML. A sign from the heavens? I dunno, but it works for me. The station comes in very clearly at night here in QC.
It’s not my only connection with home. John Best very considerately mails off each edition of the Bay Observer and I’ll confess to two things. I thoroughly look forward to poring over stories cover to cover, and once in a while I’ll slide the Observer into the row of newspapers at the local depanneur. The local what? Oh yeah. The beer store. Or wine store. Or even scotch store, where you also pick up chips, a baguette, some blue cheese and the one and only Quebec copy of the Bay Observer.The depanneur is the local convenience store and really, it’s oh so convenient to pick up a six pack, or a bottle of wine, that loaf of bread and fromage bleu. Invariably, during tourist season, I’ll hear someone at the depanneur, almost shouting in English, “hey, they sell beer here. Look.” They buy, grinning wickedly like kids who just got away with something and head off in vehicles displaying blue and white licence plates.
The locals will laugh and hit me “tes amis, Roy?” Nobody here quite understands why any place would restrict beer and wine sales.I know the owner of the depanneur is aware of who slides an occasional copy of the Bay Observer between La Presse and Le Journal de Montreal, but he’s not letting on. I really want to ask if someone buys it, but can’t confess to what I’ve done. (Note to John Best: only very, very occasionally John, when the spirit moves me.) It’s a bit of a language game too. In Quebec there must be an Office De La Langue Francaise regulation demanding all consumer products on shelves be displayed with the French language part of the label facing outward. I’m not joking. Row after row, shelf after shelf, product after product, each label stares at you en francais. I’m also not joking about this likely being a provincial language regulation.
Quebec is a lovely place with almost invariably warm and hospitable people. The label inspector and his cronies are the exception to that rule. They will be happy I’m heading out. I’ll be happy I don’t any longer have to witness them covering the English word on an official road sign with a strip of black tape. “East” is covered. “Est” remains visible. True story. I saw them.
I’m really coming home for only one reason. It’s home. See you soon.