Pilgrimage – Day 2

Date: Saturday, September 11, 2021

Note: No time to proof so likely lots of errors. Janet has taken of the role of proof reader so I’ll have them fixed eventually.

My day started around 5:00 am with my morning poached eggs. All three sons were still asleep of three fold-down futons in the living room. Their soft and shallow breathing rates were almost identical and I’m confident they were in fourth stage deep sleep. If you need a reminder, that’s REM sleep with it’s rapid iris movement. I wonder what’s in their dreams?

I made these three men. It brought a glow to my heart peering at the next generation and knowing I had a hand in getting them ready to face the challenges in their futures. It makes me so proud to have nurtured such talented, wonderful, directed, competent, and capable human beings. The fate of future generations is secure under their tutelage.

Although Adam is between positions, I’m confident that will soon change. He applies everywhere and is getting some call backs. We’re all rooting for him.

Funny, my emotional response looking at my three adult sons sleeping was close to identical when I used to check them at night in their cribs. At that time, their futures were a blank slate with is no longer the case. There are great things to come. There is such joy in parenthood.

I got out of bed around 8:00 an and coffee magically appeared to get things started. After a quick shower and shave, we booked an Uber to take us to Saint Josephs Oratory Basilica. There is a major construction project in progress as the base if the Oratory and the steps you see in the picture are difficult to access. I understand one of the spiritual events is to walk up these stairs with a stop on each step to say a prayer. I don’t know there are that many prayers in me but frankly I’ve come to understand that any communications I initiate with God are good and don’t have to be wrapped in the formality of a prayer. As the morning unfolded, I spoke with God many times and I felt his presence throughout my time at the Oratory. Actually, I think I’m feeling his presence regularly throughout every day. It is simply a matter of taking a moment to reflect on all the blessings I have in my life from one moment to the next.

Difficulty accessing the steps may be one of those blessings. I don’t know that I have the strength to do very many steps anywhere these days much less up the side of Mount Royal. Our Uber snaked up the roads on the property travelling through lush well cared for greenery. Eventually he arrived at the main entrance on the fourth floor of the Oratory. In the picture, that location is on the right but outside the boundary of this photo. It is on the level where you see the doors at the top of the stairs.

What follows are several pictures I took after we left our AirBnB and visited the Oratory.

I cannot find the words to describe my spiritual experience at Saint Joseph’s Oratory. It is a inspiration memory I will carry through the rest of my life but it is much more than that. I felt the presence of God with every step I took through the Basilica, Crypt, and outside. To have this occasion with my three sons accentuated how deeply this euphoric moment is etched into the fabric of my soul. I feel blessed to have my Catholic faith at the core of my daily existence. Today I feel a powerful sense of contentment, calmness, and pure joy and I reflect on how rewarded I am to have a devoted wife, wonderful children, a massive collection of loving friends, and a global crowd of support pillars who provide me with a continuous source of motivation to live every moment as a special instant. And to top it off, God continues to hold my hand and furnish me with the courage to keep the struggle going. I am at extreme and serene inner peace!

I am a big fan of the show You Gotta Eat Here on the Food Network. It highlighted a Montreal restaurant called L’Avenue which can be best described as a “funky diner known for gourmet brunch.”

We waited in line for about forty minutes. I played the cancer card asking for a chair during the wait. I hoped they might move us up in the line but that didn’t happen. Ah well, it was worth a shot.

I had the best French Toast to ever pass my lips. Everyone had meals that were mouth watering with every forkful and a source of joy. The vibe of the place was wonderful, the service outstanding, and the experience ten-plus. It surpassed every expectation I arrived with having seen it on the TV show.

There were many other restaurants on the same block. None had a lineup to get in like L’Avenue so I guess that speaks volumes of how good a place it is to eat.

Like everywhere I go, the quantity of food is more than I can consume. At this location, there were three eating machines in the booth so nothing went to waste.

Mont-Royal Avenue East, where L’Avenue is located was closed of to traffic and it was lined with kiosks and street performers. The individual in the picture was so colorful that I just had to catch his image. His music was rather pleasant.

It is my normal practice to keep a pocket full of loonies and toonies when in the city. I failed to do so on this trip. I must correct that for the remainder of our time on this road trip. I like to reward people who use their creative juices to bring joy to my existence.

It is mid-afternoon by the time we start heading back to the AirBnB. We all agreed after our massive feed, it is right to have some rest time.

As “come-from-away” travelers, it seemed appropriate to include a ride on the subway. A unique feature of the subway trains in Montreal is that they have rubber wheels. This makes the ride exceptionally comfortable. In the beginning, disposal of the tires proved to be an environmental nightmare but my search about that issue surfaced nothing recent so it seems the problem was resolved. There have been many modern initiatives where repurposing of rubber is more viable that a few decades in the past.

The subway was a nice way to get back to our AirBnB which happens to be pretty close to a Metro Station. Regrettably the walk proved to be uphill climb in a tunnel. Towards the end of the climb I came close to asking Chris to take my arm as I was fading. And then we saw the light at the end of the tunnel and I knew I was good. I think this is the longest walk I’ve made for months and clearly I need to do more. I was not winded; I was just simply tired.

We all agreed a little rest time in the afternoon was a needed break and offered an opportunity to plan for the evening. I headed to the bedroom and put on some light and relaxing music. From that location I could eavesdrop on the deep conversations unfolding in the living room among my boys. These are three brilliant young man filled with extensive worldly knowledge on an unlimited number of topics. If they represent their cohort, our future is in good hands even though there are days when I see political driven decisions that make me wonder. From time to time, I interjected a fatherly thought.

We made a collective decision to go to a Jazz Club featuring Dave Turner who was a name known to Chris. Drew called for a reservation. The 7:00 pm performance was sold out but there is a table for four at the 9:30 pm show. Once the reservation was made, we decided to find a Pub for an adult refreshment or two before the show.

Our home base at 1430 Rue Saint-Marc is just a few steps up from Saint Catherine Street West which happens to be closed for a market festival of some nature. The nature of the celebration wasn’t clear to me but it was nice to walk up this usually very busy street void of traffic. There were numerous kiosks with a variety of food but we were looking for different fare. We were not looking to eat; we were still pretty full from L’Avenue but the idea of sharing some Pub Grub was an option. As we wandered east on Saint Catherine Street, it was clear there were plenty of watering holes. For no particular reason, we picked La Belle & La Boeuf which translates to “beauty and the ox.” For me that was close enough to Beauty and the Beast to catch my attention so that became our short term drinking dive in advance of the Jazz show.

At first we thought we understood the vibe in this Pub but as we looked around it became somewhat confusing. It is a smorgasbord of items which reminded me of the pre-school activity where you saw a collection of items and your task was to select which one didn’t fit.

There was a floor to ceiling wall of books which towered twenty feet or more where one would expect to find tuxedo dressed individuals reading and smoking Cuban Cigars. Next to that was a shelf along a forty foot wall holding fifty to sixty old black and while television sets and a selection of antique electronics. Then there was a wall with moose antlers and a full sized moose stature. In the ceiling there was a dance hall mirror ball. The bar “wall” there were hundreds of bottles on a set of shelves that went up about twenty feet and had the kind of ladder that slides in front of the shelves so the bar tender could climb and reach any product order by a customer. In our booth, there was a ships bell almost identical to the brass bell on our boat and other nautical memorabilia.

As hard as we tried, we just couldn’t figure out what theme this Pub had in mind. That aside, it was still an entertaining place to have an adult refreshment and we did order a plate of nachos. We headed out around 9:00 pm to locate the Jazz Club called Upstairs. We knew it was only a few blocks east just off Saint Catherine’s. As we made the walk, I was a little concerned there may be steps I would need to climb given it was called Upstairs.

As it turned out, there was no cause for concern; the club was just a few steps DOWN from street level and as you can see in the picture, there is an interesting orientation of its name.

The stage at the front was a perfect size for Dave Turner’s Quartet. Chris’ was in his element given he’s a Dalhousie Music graduate where his specialization was Jazz Sax. That was also Dave Turner’s instrument.

We were treated to the most wonder 90 minute concert and Chris educated me on how all Jazz music is performed. He was so impressed with how smooth Dave was on his Sax and enthralled by the piano player.

I closed my eyes through most of the selections in an effort to remove all sources of stimulation with the exception of the melodious sounds entering my ears. Although I don’t have Chris’ expertise, I do have a pretty good ear for music. I didn’t hear a single note I thought was out of place.

This is Dave Turner in the picture. Since our time at the club, I checked his recording online. His career spans many decades, many original numbers, and it appears he partnered with may Jazz notables throughout his career.

After the club we headed back to the AirBnB. It was a long day and everyone was tired. We packed a lot of living into today and I’m sure we’ll all sleep really well.

As always, I thank you for joining me on this journey as a support pillar. I hope you’re enjoying my road trip. I’m just at the beginning so there are plenty of moments to come over the next few days. I count on God continuing to hold my hand so I have the courage and strength to make it to through the rest of the trip. Although I miss my wife, girls, friends, and the many who support me and inspire me daily, I’m having a blast.

Peace, Love, and Laughter
Phil

4 Replies to “Pilgrimage – Day 2”

  1. Beautiful visit and so wonderful that you and the boys are enjoying every moment. Thank you for sharing. This makes me smile for you all. Think about you and your family often and always enjoying your writings.

    1. We had a wonderful weekend. Adam and Chris flew home Sunday evening. Drew and I have several stops coming over the next few days. I’m having a blast. Oddly many of our activities are wrapped around eating at excellent locations and as a man missing a stomach, it limits how much I can consume. Regardless, this will continue as a culinary adventure.

      Peace, Love, and Laughter
      Phil

  2. Wonderful story and enjoyed reading every word. I remember being in Montréal for a combined Royal College of Church Organists (RCCO) and The American Guild of Organists and they have a combined meeting every ten years. Montreal has many world class organists simply because the city houses an unbelievable number of some of the best and huge pipe organs in the world. There were a number of concerts at The Oratory and day after day, I witnessed many adherents and pilgrims from all over the world, ascending each step on their blooded knees and hands. I do not know what Catholic event was taking place to explain the hundreds of pilgrims demonstrating their penitence. A week later, one of the many priests working at The Oratory was stabbed to death at the altar of the church that was included in your pictures. A very close friend in Montréal who had been an outstanding student of mine, went on to become the head of sport medicine at McGill. Her top regarded financial advisor whose wife is now Chief of Surgery at the massive Montréal Hospital is the principal organist at The Oratory and his mastery of the organ is truly a gift from God and he is the most humble man possible. Lynn is the God mother to their twins to whom she is as devoted to almost as she is to their dogs. She taught them to skate and now coaches their hockey team but she tells me her God daughter outshines everyone on the team and the God son is more interested in becoming a superstar in The CFL. The Alouettes train and play at McGill so Lynn covers their practices so her God children are often in tow as she is with them more hours than their very busy parents.

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