James McGill

The statue of James McGill on the McGill campus
The statue of James McGill on the McGill campus

Here is James McGill. Or rather a statue built on the McGill University campus in his honour. After his death, his money paid to found one of Canada’s oldest universities by royal decree. While this statue isn’t actually James McGill, his real body is kept only a couple hundred metres up the hill from where the statue is, along with half of his accountant’s body.

That’s not a joke, actually.

Back in the seventies, when DNA was all the rage, some science students at McGill decided to test James McGill’s remains, which were kept on-campus, in front of the Arts Building. What they found is that there were actually two men’s bodies there, which is in fact, double the expected number. The best explanation that anyone has been able to give is that when McGill’s body was exhumed and moved from what is now the train station to what is now the campus, the people who did it had a hard time distinguishing where one man’s body ended and the body of the next man’s began.

What they should have done is have James McGill taxidermied, and then, when the technology was developed, motorised. That would have certainly prevented the mess-up that ended with him having to share a grave with half of his accountant until Jesus comes back.

New library card

A little set of figures illustrating the evolution of the library card from its prehistoric state to today
A little set of figures illustrating the evolution of the library card from its prehistoric state to today

On Wednesday, after our trip to the Oratory, Pickles and I went to go and get library cards. We found this in a little glass aquarium near the doors.

It’s a bunch of apes with old paper library cards for heads, evolving into a naked man with a modern plastic swipey-card for a head.

I think it’s kinda cute.

Bad day

Here is what a passenger-side window looks like when it's broken
Here is what a passenger-side window looks like when it's broken

Sunday was, without qualification, a bad day.

For a few days in a row this week, Pickles has been waking up with a fever, which goes away by the afternoon. It got as high as 104.7ºF on Saturday and so that night, we decided that if she had a fever the next morning, we would skip church and go to the Emergency Room at Montréal General Hospital instead.

When we first arrived at the Emergency room on Sunday morning around 9h30, it wasn’t too busy, but after a few hours, there were a few more people there to wait along with us. The nurses took some of Pickles’ blood, and put an IV in her with saline. Then when that was empty, another nurse eventually changed the bag for one with some sugar in it. A doctor came to see her, and ordered a CT scan of her bowels, to see what’s going on in there.

While we were waiting, I periodically went out to the car to put more money into the parking meter. I was parked right outside the hospital, within view of the hospital doors. Sometime between 14h15 and 15h35 someone came and smashed the passenger-side window, rifled through our glove compartment, and took our GPS. I know it happened during that time because the parking meter prints out tickets that indicate when exactly you pay and how long it lasts for.

Back in the hospital, a doctor finally came to see Pickles again, to follow up her CT scan. I guess they forgot to call Pickles for her CT scan, or perhaps they didn’t tell the CT scan people about it, because Pickles hadn’t had one yet, which was surprising for the doctor. Pickles went to radiology, where I found her, and told her about the car.

I called the police, who told me to take the van into the police station. This was something of an adventure, as we had become very reliant on the GPS to tell us how to get anywhere. Fortunately, the thief hadn’t stolen our trusty map of Montréal. I only went the wrong way on a one-way street for about thirty seconds. After filling out a report, I went home and vacuumed the shards of glass out of the passenger seat, making it much safer even for me to drive in. This way, I don’t have to worry about pieces of glass going flying every time I make a turn or stop too quickly.

Pickles' elbow, after a long day at the hospital
Pickles' elbow, after a long day at the hospital

Pickles phoned me to tell me that they wanted her to stay overnight. “For observation,” they told us. What that means is that she had to stay in the hospital, and they took her temperature in the morning. I packed a backpack with a blanket, her toothbrush and some clothes for Monday morning and brought it to her. A GI doctor came by in the morning when I came to pick her up.

The only thing that gave the doctor any hesitation about releasing Pickles was that he said they really ought to have done some blood cultures, considering that she came in complaining about a fever. What was strange about that is that the nurse did take Pickles’ blood for a blood culture earlier. As proof, Pickles pulled up the sleeve of her shirt and described the pop-bottle shaped vials that they put her blood into when they took her blood.

The doctor went to a computer to try to find out where the blood went, to no avail. It’s still a mystery, but fortunately the doctor let us go anyway. After a 25-hour visit to the hospital, I took Pickles home and we had a nap for much of the morning. Sunday had been an extremely stressful day.

On the upside, while we were waiting in the Emergency Room, I got to re-read the first 130 pages of Hursthouse’s On Virtue Ethics, which is helping me to clarify my thoughts on some of the bioethical issues that I expect to face this year.

St Joseph’s Oratory

Pickles, having a look back at the Oratory
Pickles, having a look back at the Oratory

Pickles and I went for a walk on Wednesday and stopped in at St Joseph’s Oratory, which is very close to our home. So close, in fact, that we use signs around the city that indicate the way to St Joseph’s as signs to help us get back home.

It is really a very beautiful building. It’s huge, for starters. And it’s built on the side of a mountain, so when you’re up inside the building, and you look out, you can see a lot of Montréal. I could see the Orange Julep building from there!

A statue of St Joseph, with candles
A statue of St Joseph, with candles

When we first got inside, there were a lot of candles. This is only one of the many banks of hundreds of candles. Some of them were just there in rows and columns, but other sets of candles spelled out words. This one spelled something out, but I can’t remember what, and I can’t make it out on the photograph now. Oh, and if you go behind this bank of candles, it will lead you to a tomb for Frère André (who, as far as I could tell, still lives in the small chapel on the site). You can sign a petition to have him canonised!

A weird rock face at the back of the Oratory
A weird rock face at the back of the Oratory

If you go behind the next bank of candles, you can find a weird rock-face with a net over it. I guess it’s there because the Oratory was built into a mountain-side, and so they never bothered to do anything with this part of the mountain. I don’t think I would have either. I think it looks pretty cool.

If you go up a few escalators, you’ll eventually make your way to the Basilica, and one of the things that struck me when I saw it first in high school, that Pickles also mentioned, is that it has a very modern-looking interior. I suppose that is shocking because from the outside it looks like a very old building.

St Joseph's Oratory Basilica interior
St Joseph

On our way up, Pickles saw a sign saying “Basilique” with an arrow pointing up the escalator, and she asked what it meant.

“Oh, a basilique,” I answered, “It’s a sort of giant snake that kills you if it looks at you.”

Three of the apostles, as depicted in St Joseph's Oratory Basilica
Three of the apostles, as depicted in St Joseph

Inside the basilica, one of my favourite things is the carvings of the Apostles. They’re wooden, and huge, and kind of scary, but also kind of weird. Can you guess which three these are? I’ll give you 5 points if you can.

To give you an idea of the scale of these carvings, I don’t think that the top of my head reached the bottom of the Apostles’ feet.

On our way out, Pickles and I noticed a “reserved” set of stairs going up the mountain to the Oratory. If you read the sign, it says, “reserved for pilgrims who go up on their knees.” And you know what? People were doing just that. Old people. They did it while praying.

Maybe this is me being insensitive and too much of a Baptist for my own good, but it’s much easier to go up on your feet. In fact, if you can get up a little further, there are escalators too, so you don’t have to use your feet even that much. I went all the way up and all the way down and I didn’t have to be at all introspective or prayerful.

Stairs reserved for those who are going up on their knees
Stairs reserved for those who are going up on their knees

On the subject of Catholic things that I don’t understand, Pickles and I saw a prayer to St Joseph written out on a plaque for people to use. It was talking about how no requests, if prayed to St Joseph, will go unanswered.

For those of you out there who weren’t sure (like me) the “Joseph” that is referred to in “St Joseph’s Oratory” is the New Testament Joseph, Mary’s husband. So, it’s not referring to sold-into-slavery, dream-interpreting, Prime-Minister-of-Egypt Joseph from Genesis. To be honest, I don’t even know if he’s a saint.

I had an idea of what the Catholic church thought of Mary, but I guess this tells you what they thought of Joseph.

St Joseph's Oratory, behind a statue of St Joseph
St Joseph

… after!

The back half of the library in our new apartment
The "sitting area" of the library in our new apartment

On Wednesday morning, the maintenance man for our apartment building came by and finished the cutting for us in the living room and the bedroom. This means that the apartment is now entirely painted! And I must say, after two weeks of living in a place with all your belongings in cardboard boxes, piled in the centre of every room, I feel good about being able to move things against the walls.

I have a television against the wall. I have photographs in frames on the walls. I have books on shelves against the wall. I have my couch against the wall. Oh, how I love things that can go against the wall!

The front half of the library in our new apartment
The front half of the library in our new apartment

Especially the bookshelves. The shelves weren’t too big and bulky, and didn’t take up too much space, but the books that go on them were very numerous indeed. We recycled so many cardboard boxes after we put the books back on the shelf! And thanks to the Dewey Decimal System, it was nice and quick to get all my books on the shelf in order of subject matter.

Here you can see a couple photos of the library in our new apartment. The paint is still drying in the other rooms, so we haven’t been able to set things up or take photographs, but I’m very happy to have one “real people” room (besides the kitchen).

Creepy statue

Creepy statue in downtown Montréal
Creepy statue in downtown Montréal

I went to the gym by Métro on Monday, and on my way there, I came across this statue. It’s supposed to be a crowd of people. I didn’t read the plaque that explained what it meant. I prefer the sense of mystery.

What is the man pointing at? Why is there a little gremlin person, crouching at his butt? Why is everyone standing so close together? Why are they all white people?

Creepy statue in downtown Montréal
Creepy statue in downtown Montréal
Creepy statue in downtown Montréal
Creepy statue in downtown Montréal

Another interesting thing: This statue was pristine. There wasn’t a bit of graffiti anywhere near it. Maybe this is because it’s right in the middle of downtown Montréal, and people would notice. But still, I see lots of buildings around there that have been vandalised.

Anyway, I like the contrast that the white crowd of people gives to the dark glass buildings behind them. And how creepy those gremlin-people are.

McGill athletic centre

McGill athletic centre exterior
McGill athletic centre exterior

The McGill athletic centre is a maze. I went there on Friday for the first time, and again on Monday, to go for a swim and to use the weight room. To get to the pool, you go through the main entrance off Pins Ouest, and then turn right. You go down the hall until you see a sign on the right with a diagram of a man on a diving board, which says “vestiaire masculin” (men’s change room) and “follow me.” You open the door, then go down a set of stairs, open another door, and follow a winding path of doorways and corridors with low-set pipes running above your head. If I was much taller, I would run into them, I think.

A sign that leads through a labyrinth of hallways with low ceilings and exposed pipes to the men's locker room
A sign that leads through a labyrinth of hallways with low ceilings and exposed pipes to the men's locker room

After my swim, I checked out the weight room. It was very busy, but there were a lot of cardio machines there. I got lost on the way out and had to ask someone coming out of the football team office how to find the men’s change room that adjoins the pool. They pointed me in the direction of a completely different set of twisty hallways that went by a rather large set of loudly humming electrical panels and did eventually lead to the change room where I had left my things.

Sketchy hallway on the way to the McGill Memorial Pool
Sketchy hallway on the way to the McGill Memorial Pool

Oh, and by the way, they’re strangely insistent that you bring your towel to the fitness centre. When I paid for access to the school gym on Thursday, the gentleman who was helping me made mention of it at least 4 times while selling me the gym membership. Not only that, but there is a big sign, saying that you need a towel for entry, just outside the fitness centre doors. Maybe it’s a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reference or something.