Michael B.

On a rainy October Friday, I went back to Blume, a flower shop on the Promenade Fleury, hoping that the florist would agree to resume the conversation we had started the day before when I bought flowers for my wife on the day of our anniversary.

At the door, I came across a small note "back in five minutes." So I strolled around.

It was the day after the opening of the hockey season. It was raining. Curiously, in the autumnal gloom, the flag of the Montreal’s Canadien hockey club at the storefront of Le Tablier Rouge was standing out more strongly than on sunny days. In good weather, it looks a bit lost in the shadow inside of the porch. So I pulled out my camera to take a picture of circumstance.

As I pointed the lens towards the front window of the business, a gentleman in his white cook outfit was walking in. Seconds after he entered, a young man came out to ask me why I was taking a photo. I started to explain that I did not have any more specific purpose than to capture the light of the moment. But, since we had started a conversation, I asked him if he would be willing to have his picture taken and answer some questions. This is how chance encounters often happen.

This young man, featured in the photo with his red apron (tablier rouge in French), is Michael B. At his side is Renato P., Chef at La Molisana, a restaurant across the street. Michael has practically grown up in this restaurant opened by an uncle over thirty years ago and now headed by his father.

In his youth, he attended Our Lady of Pompei school on St-Michel Boulevard north of Sauvé. He played a lot of soccer in leagues in the north of the city. With a family background like his, it was natural that he studied at the Institut de Tourisme et Hôtellerie du Québec (ITHQ), where he graduated from the Advanced Culinary Arts program. Subsequently, he traveled to Europe. He studied at the Codignat Château in France with a Michelin two-starred chef, and in Puglia, Italy.

Le Tablier Rouge opened in the spring of 2014. There was previously a butcher’s shop at the same address. Today, the shop is still preparing meat. Its sausages are homemade. But as the store operates, it develops its personality quietly. Now, it offers other specialties made on the premises with fresh local ingredients: sauces, pesto, soups, etc.

Michael seems particularly comfortable behind the counter. One imagines him easily as a barkeeper involved in his customer’s conversations. I had entered a little before the noon rush, and had settled at the counter to take a tight espresso. I was quickly joined by other clients and chatted a little with them. As my appetite was whetted by the plate in front of my bar neighbor, I ended up enjoying a De Luxe burger with fries.

TV screens broadcasted the second game of the Blue Jays post-season. We saw the Jays’ players begin the first half inning as if they wished to finish their baseball season as fast as possible! They eventually lost that game, but have since regrouped, and are preparing, as I publish this article, to play the second game of the final series of the American League Baseball. It is the last step before the World Series.

Hockey game nights are popular at Le Tablier Rouge, with microbrewery beers and burgers at special prices. I wish Michael an exciting season hockey from our Canadiens (locally known as the Glorious). They’re off to a great start with five straight wins!

After all that, I didn’t see the florist that day.

Michael in his shop

Ralph Gregory S.

When I went to the Maison culturelle et communautaire in Montreal North for the opening of the artist Rose-Élise Cialdella’s exhibition, there was a young man with a fine presence that served drinks at the entrance to the exhibition hall. He told me with amusement that people sometimes found him a resemblance to PK Subban, especially when he leaves his beard grow a little!

Ralph Gregory Is called by one or another of his names. I imagine that his intimate friends know which he prefers. Let's call him Gregory for short, at the risk of being mistaken.

After holding a summer job in day camps, Gregory realized he could apply for the jobs offered by the city of Montreal. As a student, he holds a part-time job on call with right of refusal, which allows him to work without putting at risk his studies. His assignments are varied: from welcome agent at the Cultural Centre to surveillance of sports activities.

Born in Haiti, he first lived Ahuntsic after his arrival. He completed his primary school there before his family moved to Montreal North. His father originally came here alone, followed by his mother and then by the four children. Gregory is the third in the family. He completed a Cegep diploma in accounting and management and is preparing to undertake a Bachelor of Management program this fall.

A sportsman by nature, he loves basketball and soccer. He also goes to the gym, primarily for weightlifting. Musically, he prefers soft-rock and techno music. One of his favorite stars is David Guetta. Out of curiosity, I asked him who would be his Haitian idol. I expected to hear the name of a singer or athlete, but after a moment's reflection, he said, "Dany" in reference to the writer Dany Laferrière. This name might well have been the answer of a person born in Montreal asked to name a preferred Quebec personality!

I also asked him if after living more than half his life in Montreal, he felt more a Quebecer than a Haitian. He said he was not yet at that point. He did note however, during his last visit to his native country, that people did not all understand him as easily, although he still speaks Creole at home.

Identity issues are sometimes more complicated than one would think!

Ralph Gregory in Montréal-Nord's Maison culturelle et communautaire

Christiane T.

I noticed Christiane for the first time when she gazed at me over her shoulder as we crossed on a bike path. A few days later, we crossed again briefly at the water fountain in the Maurice-Richard Park, still best known as Stanley Park despite the Rocket’s eight cups! I found her tall. Her inline skates were for something in this impression. We hardly exchanged a few words, but I gave her a card with the contact details of my project, hoping she would later volunteer.

We met for this article on Perry Island. Christiane has been living nearby in Bordeaux for two years. Being a very active person, she enjoyed the cold weather last winter and the surroundings of the island to practice off-trail cross-country skiing on the frozen river.

While talking, we found some similarities in our life trajectories — born in Abitibi, arrival with the family in the West Island at an early age and roughly twelve years each as a resident of Plateau Mont Royal —, despite fairly different routes.

After studying communications studies, she turned to fashion and confection work. She has worked as a freelancer for many costume workshops, theater groups, etc. She has contributed to the creation of masks for Alegria, one of the productions that launched the Cirque du Soleil. It was during this mandate that she discovered a taste for work in three dimensions, such as the development of puppet accessories. She currently contributes to Toruk, the next Cirque du Soleil show based on the film Avatar by James Cameron. This is a big project that will start touring in the fall of 2015.

Mother of two teenagers who were raised in the Laurentians, she managed not to work summers while maintaining regular commitments the rest of the year. It was after her separation from their father that she arrived in Bordeaux. Since the youth are at a local high school, but the parents share custody, a home base in Montreal not far from Highway 15 seemed appropriate as the father still lives in the north.

I thought that the couple lived quite far from the city to come to work in the cultural sector. She then explained that her former companion was working in a totally different sector. When she told me his profession, I realized that he was a friend of one of my brothers! In fact, Christiane had studied with him in high school and also knows my youngest brother.

Small world ... As I have three brothers, she still has one left to meet!

Christiane on Perry Island