Yesterday, Mirjana and I explored a section of Montreal called “Mile-End.” For Atlantans, it’s Montreal’s Little Five Points. I immediately saw a man my age (or older) with his very gray hair dyed red on top! Yep, I was finally in the right place! My gypsy-belly-dancing-opera-singing-daughter loved living in Little Five Points and she certainly felt at home in Mile-End when she was here visiting Mirjana and Una a few years ago. I loved it too and looked for her face in every passerby, at every turn and in every shop. I just knew she was there with us enjoying authentic Italian coffee at Cafe Olympico where more than forty locals sat on the shaded deck watching soccer on the big flat screen TV out of the mid-day sun.

Mirjana’s craving for a falafel pocket sandwich from what she touted as being a great little vegetarian restaurant called “The Green Panther” wasn’t exactly my idea of lunch. I’m definitely carnivorous and was drooling for a tasty fish or meat salad of some sort, but out of respect for the journey and for Ava (who loved vegetarian food), I jumped in with both feet. The sandwich wasn’t half bad! I’m not sure I’ll ever order it again but I did enjoy the experience and the company as well.

As Montreal is very French, I was quite surprised at the used bookstore and shops which appeared more English influenced than French. There were many “old friends” in the bookstore for sale. It was a welcomed relief to all the French street names and menus sans translations! Try driving in a foreign country with a TomTom faking French! LOL It’s been challenging to say the least!

As I’d wanted to have something of a more French cuisine for dessert, we decided to try a little place called “La Crepiere” at 221 rue St. Viateur Ouest owned and operated by a dedicated crepe lover, Catherine Perrot. She created such a beautiful display of my apple and caramel crepe that I wanted to take a picture of it, remembering only then that I’d left my camera behind. My only choice was to dive in, and that I did. It was light and delicious just as I’d expected. It’s a must-do when in Montreal.

We were confident that the $7.75 we’d paid into the parking meter $7.75 would certainly allow us enough time to explore two hours here, we were confident we wouldn’t get hit with their notorious  $45.00 parking ticket but we were so wrong. When we walked directly across the street to get into the car from the crepe restaurant, there it was…all red and white. What a great welcoming. I was just about over the rude drivers who blow their horns way too much (but not as much as New Yorkers…I doubt if any other city blows it like NYC) and display their aggravation at your confusion on where to turn even or that you’re walking too slowly across the pedestrian cross-walk but this was the ultimate unwelcoming.

We’d put in $2.25 and bought 45 minutes of parking. Two minutes later, we put in more money to five us more time. We went back and deposited yet more money now paying the equivalent (buy their own parking meter standards) of 3 hours 44 minutes of which we only used w hours 31 minutes. How outrageous that their parking meters do NOT give you, the customer, credit for the time already paid for into the meter such that every time you put money in, the meter starts over! WHAT A RIP OFF! In the US, you put money in, go back and add more money to the meter and get credit for funds paid. NOT HERE! Note to self, walk next time and leave truck in free parking area!

Ava singing

On a different note, I came to see Una and Mirjana in Montreal not only to help us heal from this tragic loss but to have Mirjana’s feedback and brainstorming help in the development of AvasCorner.org (see earlier blog). Mirjana (daughter-from-another-mother who was Ava’s mentor and big sister) is an accomplished international director and performer as well as having been a professor. Her artistic background coupled with a similar life experiences lends valuable insight into formulating the right format for the site. Needless to say, Mirjana has been instrumental in thinking through the structure of the website with me. Avascorner.org will help performers like my daughter during their time of crisis. Stephanie (a daughter-by-another-mother who resides in Vegas) has been my site angel who volunteered to take on the learning curve for the greater good. It’s my job to stay focused on the big picture and try to raise money for the non-profit organization to fund all I want to do to help performers. After all, they’re willing to spill their guts onto the stage every night just to entertain us.

We should support ALL variations of artistic expression whether it be poetry, painting, pantomime or pictures…it’s all art. Artists have, by nature, a sensitive side the rest of us can ignore or tune out…example…rude drivers are probably not artistic! However, it’s the sensitive ones like Ava who remind us of our humanity to hug trees and care for this earth through recycling and to spay and neuter to reduce the number of homeless or euthanized pets. They, like our artistic forefathers (Mozart, Van Gogh, Modigliani, Jackson Pollock),  contribute something valuable to our system of living and need to feel cherished and have a special need for an outlet of their passions.

And, for those artists like Ava who have mental malfunctions, they need extra understanding, love and support and that’s what we want to provide with Avascorner.org. Our goal is to provide a creative venue for self-expression, reliable websites to educate on how to combat bullying and other inappropriate work interaction, suggested places for healing through music or art and informative sites on various disorders. We also want to give reliable website addresses which provide examples of characteristics exhibited in early childhood which indicate mental malfunctions but, for obvious reasons, can’t be diagnosed until much later, as in Ava’s case. I created the expression “mental malfunctions” as that’s what Ava had. Mental illness indicates positive results from therapy or a chemical remedy, i.e., Bipolar disorders and schizophrenia can be treated with both. Borderline Personality Disorder doesn’t respond to anything but unconditional love.

I’m initiating the site’s focus in Las Vegas because that’s where my daughter performed, amassed hundreds of friends and industry connections, and where the suicide rate is 50% higher than the national average (see http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2012/may/21/remembering-dr-clarissa-engstrom-friends-and-famil/) but our long-term goal with funding and help from performance-based colleges will spread this effort worldwide. We hope to have a launching of the website and Listen Lines by the end of this year or early next winter. Our theme for the Vegas launch is: “Without performers, Vegas is just another desert.”

Happy Trails!

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