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Review: Irma Voth by Miriam Toews

Irma Voth
by Miriam Toews
Knopf Canada

I'd read several great reviews of Irma Voth even before I cracked the book open. I was immediately intrigued by the fact that the story was set in a Mennonite colony in the Chihuahua region of Mexico. The story's namesake is the second eldest daughter who speaks Spanish well enough to communicate with local Mexicans and break out of her isolation. The Voth family has moved from Manitoba to Mexico for reasons that are only disclosed towards the end of the book.

Nineteen-year-old Irma has already disappointed her family by secretly marrying Jorge, who has been lured by the easy gain of the cross-border drug trade. Irma's father is very strict and begrudgingly allows Irma and Jorge to use one of his homes in exchange for extensive farm work. Jorge leaves Irma at the beginning of the book only to return very briefly.

Irma has little contact with her family because she has been shunned. But her 13-year-old sister, Aggie, gravitates towards the action, which is at Irma's side, particularly after an eccentric director and movie crew come into the community to shoot a film. The presence of the outside world in the small Mennonite colony creates some waves, and Irma's father decides that the unwanted influence must leave. Irma's father lays a severe beating on wayward Aggie. Then Irma decides to leave and takes Aggie with her. In a strange twist, when the two daughters say good-bye to their mother, she gives them her newborn to take along with them, upping the story's stakes considerably. Irma sells Jorge's stash of drugs, and with the little money she receives, she buys tickets to fly to Mexico City for possibly the most heartrending part of the book.

Toews' writing is so smooth that at times the story loses its momentum, but it's not for a lack of action.The first-person limited narrative rambles a little but accurately reflects the thinking of a sheltered 19-year-old trying to make sense of the world around her. Irma's thinking and actions create a smooth rolling narrative that belies her harsh existence and the severity of her father. As the story evolves, Irma matures and is finally able to see what her father is and why her mother has entrusted her with her baby sister. The vulnerability of the girls alone in Mexico City adds plenty of tension to the story, but it's the consistency of the voice that makes Irma Voth a moving and chilling read.

There are a few great unexpected twists in this book that make it well worth its purchase price. You might want to add it to your summer reading if only for the satisfaction of discovering that the churchy in this book are not as righteous as they let on to be.

Other reviews

Dogs at the Perimeter by Madeleine Thien
Going Down Swinging by Billie Livingston
Incendiary by Chris Cleave
Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell 
The Girl Without Anyone by Kelli Deeth
Drive-By Saviours by Chris Benjamin
Interview with Author Billie Livingston
Review: The Trouble with Marlene by Billie Livingston
Review: Greedy Little Eyes by Billie Livingston
Interview: Christy Ann Conlin Author of Dead Time
Review of Girls' History and Culture Reader: The Twentieth Century
Dead Time by Christy Ann Conlin

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Cooool Twistin' Summer Shower Gel

After pouring rain waterlogged our festive long  weekend, Montreal woke up Monday morning to a beautiful hot summer day. Figures! Anyway, I have found a new recipe for the summer that is a slight twist, the peppermint twist, on my all-natural non-toxic biodegradable shower gel. I  made some this weekend and tried it this morning. Very cool!

In addition to having a cooling effect, peppermint is said to work as an antiseptic, aid digestion and alleviate stress, exhaustion and depression. I can't attest to all those things, but I can say that it does make you feel immediately cooler. For further reading on the health benefits click here. For contraindications click here.

Although some people may find the initial smell overpowering, the scent quickly fades after the shower gel is rinsed off. Instead of adding almond oil this time, I used grapeseed oil, which is much lighter. After all, no one wants a heavy oil on their skin on a hot day.

Here's the recipe:

The following ingredients can all be found a your local health food store.

Remember all shower gels must have a surfactant, emulsifier, emollient, preservative and humectant)
1/4 cup (125 ml) of peppermint liquid castile soap (Surfactant)
1/4 cup (125 ml) of aloe vera gel (Emulsifier, Emollient and Preservative) Aloe Vera also acts as a thickener. If you like your shower gel thicker just add more. Psst...buy the drinkable kind. It works better and is CHEAPER!
1 teaspoon of glycerin (Humectant and Emulsifier)
1/4 cup (125 ml) of grapeseed oil (Emollient)

Remember Dr. Bronner's liquid peppermint soap can also be used as toothpaste.Check out the website.  Just think! You can get your mouth washed out without even saying "fuck!"

Related posts:
Almonds: Perfect Recipe for Dry Skin
Lucie's Zesty Tester
Update: DIY Cosmetics
DIY: Moisturizer and Shampoo
Cosmetics: the Dirty Dozen
DIY: Home Spa Salt Scrub
Dirty Dozen in my Personal Care Products
Living Downstream by Sandra Steingraber
Airing our Dirty Laundry
The Mile End Buzz around Beekeeping

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Interview with Author Madeleine Thien

Author Madeleine Thien was kind enough to answer a few questions about her new book Dogs at the Perimeter, the story of a young Cambodian-Canadian woman who is haunted by her past.

To read the full review click here.
H I'm always curious about writers' favourite books in their teen years. What books influenced you the most? Were you a fan of Go Ask Alice or more the Jane Eyre type of reader?

MT I did love Go Ask Alice, and later on, I also loved Jane Eyre. But Alice definitely came first. It could be because my elementary school was in the neighbourhood adjoining Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, and so the drugs and the young girls and poverty were familiar, and almost normalized, when I was young. Later on, my best friend in high school was swept away into that world, and I remember that the line between surviving adolescence and being pulled under it was so very thin. I do think that reading saved me; I wasn't afraid of being alone because books gave me somewhere to go, they allowed me to solidify myself against the pressures of the world. I loved Flowers for Algernon and To Kill a Mockingbird, as many young people do. And also, A Separate Peace, by John Knowles, John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany, and Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. I've never really thought about it before, but the question makes me realize that I treasured the books that were about adolescence, the complexity of the encroaching world, and how to meet it head on.

H I wanted to know the significance of the title Dogs at the Perimeter. I took it to mean that Janie should protect her memories of her loving happy childhood in Cambodia. Am I on the right track?

MT Yes, it's two-fold. The line is: "I remembered beauty. Long ago, it had not seemed necessary to note its presence, to memorize it, to set the dogs out at the perimeter." Initially, I think that Janie needs to protect this childhood, this life from before. She wants to remember her parents and her brother, Sopham, as creators of their own life, before the revolution came with its confusion and violence and dehumanization. But later on, this remembering means that all the heartache and violence of the revolution are embedded in her self and in her memories; she is actively guarding these memories against the outside world, and against the life she has made for herself in Canada. I think, for me, the question became: when can Janie let the dogs go? Are they with her forever? At what point does her love for those she has lost, and her responsibility to the past, become a prison?

H Identity is a central theme. The Khmer Rouge reportedly forced children to forget their family ties and former names. For children, their names and their relationships to loved ones, I would imagine, form the basis of an identity. Mei manages to hold on to her family ties, but what about all the other children? I was wondering in your research if you came across other children who, under duress, had forgotten their family ties and former names. What became of them? Did they form new families or did they remain alone?

MT Yes, I came across children and adults alike who took new names to survive the Khmer Rouge time, and they never went back to their old names. In fact, I found that this was incredibly common, especially for those who had lost both parents, or for adults who had lost spouses and children. There truly was a rupture in people's lives, and the self that existed before, and the self that survived the war, couldn't always be reconnected. Some of the "separated children," as they were known, the ones who had lost entire families, came to France or the United States or Canada, among other places, and were adopted. My sense is that they felt very much alone because there was no one in their present lives who could understand, or even imagine, what they had seen and lived through.

H Recovery from trauma is another theme that arises in Dogs. We see that Janie and Nuong, although both are adopted by families in North America, end up in very different situations later in life. Both suffer from survivor guilt, yet one becomes a neuroscience researcher and the other has trouble with the law and is later deported back to Cambodia. From all the stories you have heard in your five trips to Cambodia are these two cases exceptional or are they relatively common among Cambodian survivors adopted by North American parents?

MT Without making generalizations, this was a story that I did hear repeated: that some of the girls became very high achievers, and some of the boys lost their way. I really recommend this reportage, "A New History: Cambodian American Deportation Carries History's Weight," as I think it gives a very powerful sense not only of the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge time in people's lives, but how difficult it is to make a new life and a new future. There is very little room for error and for breakdown. Post-9/11, the United States began enforcing an earlier and, in my opinion, unjust law: "aggravated felony" (including crimes as small as shoplifting) could lead to a refugee being deported. Deportations were in force even when the person had served their sentence. In Dogs, Nuong's crime is that he gets in a vicious fight. Not entirely surprising, given what he's lived through; but the consequences are astronomically high.

H I must admit that I wanted to know more about Nuong and his life, both in the US and in Cambodia after losing his five older brothers in a minefield. I hope you write a short story about him at some point. I also couldn't help but notice that you could have just as easily used Nuong's deportation and his connection to Hiroji as the basis for your story in his search for James. Had you ever considered telling the story through Nuong instead of Janie?

MT I want to keep writing about these characters in some way, particularly Nuong and Hiroji. I hadn't actually thought of using Nuong as the throughway, but you're right, he could easily have held all the disparate pieces together. In some ways, Nuong is an open doorway in this story. He was my way of saying: Look, this story is so much bigger. This story involves an infinite complexity of stories. One third of Cambodia's population died during the Khmer Rouge revolution; two thirds survived and were scattered not only throughout the country and border regions, but across the world. This is Cambodia's story but is also a story of our generation, from the Western presence and interference in Southeast Asia, to the flow of Marxist ideas into Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and the way those ideas were reshaped within the regional political discourse. Until the early 1990s, Canada, along with other Western nations, continued to recognize the Khmer Rouge as the legitimate holder of Cambodia's seat at the United Nations. Right now, something like 300 million dollars/year is sent back to Cambodia by Cambodians who live abroad. One of my beliefs in writing this book is that there is no us and them, we are all entwined and responsible to one another. Geopolitics and the movement of people across borders has made this so.

H How long did it take you to write Dogs? When did you know you wanted to write a book about Cambodia?

MT It took five years, and I travelled regularly back and forth to Cambodia and the border regions. I had always been drawn to the country, for reasons that are not entirely explainable. The first time I went, I stayed nearly two months, and I just travelled. It is, by far, the most beautiful and the most complex place I have ever had the privilege to visit. Modern history and ancient history are ever present. The second time, I stayed for five months, and I knew I wanted to try to write something. Cambodia and the people I met had taken hold of my thoughts. I had so many questions and I couldn't let it be.

H Do you think that you will write any more books about Cambodia? You can certainly draw on some of the extensive research you have done.

MT Apart from writing, I feel that I will always go back there, I feel a deep attachment to the country and the people I met. I would like to write about the present in Cambodia because what's happening there now--border conflict with Thailand, land evictions, a government that acts with terrifying impunity--is very complicated and very haunting. The second war crimes trial is scheduled for this year, and it will finally bring four of the surviving Khmer Rouge leaders into the Court. This trial needs to go forward, but the process has been mired in controversy and is extraordinarily fragile. A good source for information is the website of the Cambodia Trial Monitor.

H Let's talk about the short "Visual Notebook." First of all, this is a beautiful complement to the book. After reading it, I desperately wanted to see some images of Cambodia and Khmer architecture. I feel like this is a lot more than a book trailer. Did you have another purpose for making it?

MT I'm so very happy to hear this. You're completely right, it is not a book trailer. I felt compelled to make this visual notebook because I wanted people to see the images that had haunted me, that spoke to the Cambodia that existed in the 1960s and early 70s. The visual notebook contains some of the images in Janie's mind, an avalanche of memories, never fitting together, hearkening back to a city and a country and a people that were lost; and also images of the Khmer Rouge time that, perhaps, need to be seen to be believed. Janie and her family and so many Cambodians were not a world apart, or all that different from people growing up here, right now, in Canada. Her father spoke French, Khmer and English; he wasn't an exception. Sometime soon, filmmakers John Pirozzi and his production team will release their documentary, Don't Think I've Forgotten, which I know is going to be extraordinary. Their film is about Cambodia's psychedelic rock scene in the 1960s and 1970s, and they try to uncover what happened this groundbreaking recording and performing community. Even now, in Cambodia, you can hear this music everywhere, songs from Sin Sisamuth and Ros Serey Sothea, among others. That music and those images help you see a fragment of the immensity that was lost.
H Thank you so much for your time, and congratulations on a fabulous book!

This interview has been crossposted at Rover:an independent review of art and culture in Montreal
Other Interviews 

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Review: Dogs at the Perimeter by Madeleine Thien

Dogs at the Perimeter
Madeleine Thien
McClelland & Stewart

Don't miss my interview with Madeleine Thien tomorrow!

Madeleine Thien’s Dogs at the Perimeter opens with the disappearance of neurologist Hiroji Matsui. He is the mentor, colleague, and friend of Janie, a neuroscience researcher at the Brain Research Centre in Montreal. Janie is also having some problems of her own and can no longer live with her husband and young son. She retreats to Hiroji’s apartment and finds a clue to his whereabouts, an underlined Cambodian phone number. In addition to their common professional field, the two share the tragedy of having lost family members in Cambodia.

Thirty years before, young Janie had escaped the horrors of the Khmer Rouge, while Hiroji had lost his brother, Junichiro (James), a Canadian Red Cross doctor who had been sent to work in the refugee camps of Phnom Penh in 1972. James vanishes in 1975, like an estimated 1.7 million other people. His disappearance still haunts Hiroji, who failed to locate his elder sibling three decades earlier.

In 1975, the Khmer Rouge evacuated the cities of Cambodia and began its purge of the educated and middle class. In this novel, Mei, her younger brother, and her parents are among the Phnom Penh evacuees. The Khmer Rouge set out to break all societal bonds, making any reference to the past, before Year Zero, a crime. Prayer, grief and nostalgia are deemed forms of betrayal. People are forced to assume new identities, and family ties are erased. Mei manages to escape and is later adopted by a Canadian family who change her name to Janie. 

As a mother and wife, Janie is in a crisis. She cannot reconcile her current life with that of her past. In an attempt to pull all the fragments of her life together, she returns to Cambodia. Through her own memories and connections, Janie is able to help Hiroji find his brother alive, while answering some of her own questions.

Although Thien’s prose appears simple, it is filled with dense detail, moving seamlessly between past and present. In just 253 pages, the narrator, Janie, tells her story and that of five other characters, searching for her own validation in their stories. Given the emotional intensity of the narrative and the dream-like quality of Thien’s writing, this novel warrants a slow careful read.  In fact, my only criticism of the book is that the author could have offered some more description of the physical settings and characters to give the reader a few breaks after some of the more moving scenes.

Dogs on the Perimeter is haunting, profound and beautiful. Although I finished the book a month ago, it took just as long to digest.  The novel offers plenty of food for thought whether about the inner workings of the brain, identity, or recovery from trauma. I found myself wanting to know more about Cambodia and to see images of life before the civil war, or something to replace the war footage I had seen on the nightly news as a child. Fortunately, I discovered Thien’s Dogs on the Perimeter Tumblr account and a beautiful short entitled, “the Visual Notebook.” This is a perfect complement to the book. Not only does it provide the reader with captivating images and links to further reading, but it also gives us an idea as to the depth of the research the author conducted to write this book.  

Dogs is a must-read!

This was crossposted at Rover: An independent review of art and culture in Montreal.

Other reviews
Going Down Swinging by Billie Livingston
Incendiary by Chris Cleave
Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell 
The Girl Without Anyone by Kelli Deeth
Drive-By Saviours by Chris Benjamin
Interview with Author Billie Livingston
Review: The Trouble with Marlene by Billie Livingston
Review: Greedy Little Eyes by Billie Livingston
Interview: Christy Ann Conlin Author of Dead Time
Review of Girls' History and Culture Reader: The Twentieth Century
Dead Time by Christy Ann Conlin

Read more »
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Land of Lost and Found

I really must apologize for not blogging these past few weeks, but it took this long to make an important psychological and physical discovery. As some of you may know, we have finally sold our condo on the Plateau after having it on the market for about 7 weeks. We were naively under the impression that it would only take a few weeks. We had a lot of people interested, that is, coming to visit, but no offers. Visits require a lot of cleaning, vacuuming and dusting, and when you have a loft-style open space with two kids, this is no easy task. In addition, we wanted to move by July 1 when our new place would be free of tenants. Unfortunately, this did not happen, which meant paying a mortgage for two places.

Beautiful musical baubles, $3
I discovered this little velcro ball that rolls around in your head called anxiety, which picks up worries and concerns, both big and ridiculously small. The velcro also makes it difficult to move forward.The manifestations of anxiety are a clenched jaw, sweaty palms, an inability to sleep, concentrate or think about anything other than the here and now, which leave you to ponder the million-dollar question "What if?" all night long! For instance, "What if we don't sell?; What if we're doing something wrong?; or What if we can't move until September? In addition, with all this cleaning up and putting things away, I was forever misplacing my cell phone, security pass, keys, camera and the book I was reading. When I did find the book of the week, I'd invariably lost my page. But I found a fabulous solution at the craft sale at the St-Viateur Church last weekend.

Book Marks, $8
Dominque Bousquet creates beautiful little inexpensive objects that you can attach to your cellphone, camera, etc. so that you only have to shake your purse before you leave for work to see if you have it. In addition, she adds cool little objects like thimbles and bobbins so that you can readily identify what you're looking for by sound and by touch. She also had these gorgeous metal book marks, making it clear to anyone putting your book away, that this is le livre du jour.

Check out Dominique's fantastic creations at her Etsy store.

Other craft-related posts
Some not so crafty undertakings
The Joy of Crafts
A Crafty Take on Nancy Drew
Cara-Carmina's Magical Dolls
*Smart Design Mart: Cara-Carmina and Jackie Bassett

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Mile End Cycling News

Yesterday St-Viateur was closed to vehicles for the annual Journée des bons voisins. Merchants were in the street selling their wares alongside some activities for kids, but my favourite stand of all was that of ABC Cycle and Sports. They manned a stand to show you how to fix your bike and offered some tools and useful assistance. They were also asking people to sign a petition asking for more bicycle parking spaces on St-Viateur. Yes, not everyone rides Bixis these days, and the city is indeed in need of more parking for cyclists.

The neighbourhood has gone cycling mad! Laurier Avenue was made into a one-way street giving half of the narrow road to cyclists. This has been a win-win situation for me and my family. It has already noticeably cut down the number of speeding motorists tearing down our street, and it gives me a safer route to cycle to work. But it has caused a lot of headaches for Montreal drivers. Between all the festivals downtown, the St-Laurent street fair, the annual construction and the now strictly East-bound Laurier, many of Montreal streets have become parking lots. On Friday, we cycled from Georges Marciano's Lhotel in Old Montreal, where we saw some original paintings by Motherwell, Frank Stella and Andy Warhol, to the Mile End to meet friends on a restaurant patio, and it took us all of about 20 minutes. A friend of ours got stuck in traffic downtown for an hour and a half and then had to park five blocks from the restaurant. Bottom line--there are some pretty compelling reasons this summer to leave your car at home and get a bike.

New Laurier Avenue Cycling Path
Let's talk Bixi now. My membership will be expiring shortly, and as you know, I will not be renewing it. I still find myself using one on occasion because of the sheer convenience. Now that Bixi has expanded to four new boroughs, the ridership has increased exponentially. This means that if you haven't picked up a bike before 7:30 am for work, you will be hard pressed to find one that is road worthy. If you're lucky enough to find one, you'll probably encounter some difficulties finding a dock to return it to downtown. I made the mistake of taking a bike downtown at 9:00 am one morning, and I drove to six different stations before I was able to return it. By that point, I was a 20-minute walk from work.

I have a bike now, but I still find myself drawn to bike shops. I'm looking for the perfect comfortable ride. I've always opted for the ugly uncomfortable recycled thang, and now I want better...But we all know people who have bought a really nice bike that stays at home because they're afraid of theft. François at ABC Cycle and Sports told me that bikes are usually stolen at night, and that I shouldn't have any problems if I bring my wheels in after dark. Still deciding...

Other cycling-related posts

The Montreal Bixi v. the Denver B-Cycle
The Path of an Activist
Bixi: Success for All
Fun Way to Track Bike Use and Carbon Foot Print
3 Compelling Reason For A Bike Share Program in Your City
City Cycling: Why Renting Beats Owning
A Review of Montreal's Bixi Rental Bike

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The Rodeo...?

Uncle Gerry, no imitation snakeskin cowboy hat for him!
As some of you may have noticed, I choose to blog about the things I like, particularly the books I like and great family experiences. After all, if I wanted to blog about things that make me feel crappy and jaded, this would be a blog about politics or global warming. But maybe, I should make room for the big, the bad and the hideous, three apt descriptors for last Sunday's rodeo at Jarry Park. In fact, before we actually stepped onto the fairgrounds, I noticed a pair of underwear in the middle of the road, which had been run over a half dozen times. I pointed this out to my daughter, who exclaimed, "That's embarrassing!" And strangely enough that's how I felt after spending 20 minutes at the "rodeo."

If I had to say one nice thing about this Sunday afternoon outing, I could say that the flowers smelled beautiful as we approached the ticket sales and shelled out $9.00 for admission.

The first exhibit was for some rather large motor homes and trailers, which were next to a wide selection of hideous cowboy hats that were all made in China. I couldn't help but notice the pastel pink and powder blue camouflage variety. Then we came to a motionless Shetland pony, one of only two horses we would see. The pony was penned in with a lama and a bunch of sleeping rabbits, which left me scratching my head. The John Deere representative was on hand to sell riding lawn mowers, which my 3-year-old son found fascinating. The pièce de resistance was a bull stationed at the centre of the exhibition. Children were permitted to sit on top for a mere $5. We walked around a little more to some rip-off carnival games with uber cheap stuffed animals to the headache-inducing twang of country music that echoed off the Jarry Park tennis courts. The cowgirls' attire involved tight pastel t-shirts and sequins, while cowboy hats and a beer buzz were the only unifying characteristics among the men.

This was one of the strangest events I have ever been to. I couldn't for the life of me figure out why we had to pay an admission fee to see a man selling hardware supplies or to view the Dukes of Hazard's AMC Charger. What did either one of them have to do with a rodeo? This two-bit dog-and-pony show could not decide what it was. Was it a swap meet, a motor home salon, a country fair or a carny convention?

Disappointment is the result of unfulfilled expectations. "So what was I expecting?" asked my husband. Well, I thought I'd see a few nice horses, maybe a makeshift coral, cows and other barnyard animals and some cowboys and girls with "high-quality" hats and boots, possibly sporting gingham shirts with hicky smiles slapped on their faces. I was not expecting to see "a herd of bison stampeding across the prairie," as my husband sarcastically suggested.

Was there more to this show? I'm not sure. The damn music got on my nerves and I insisted we leave before bitchiness set in.

Montreal, you do so many urban things so well, but when it comes to rodeos, you suck!

Related posts
Discovering Park X
The Continental XL Dance of Joy
The Muvbox: the New Cheap Expensive

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Discovering Park X

On Friday, we finally walked into our new digs to take measurements to revamp our sorry seventies bathroom. Renovating can be exciting. Paying for it is not. Anyhoo! This milestone means the end of our condo in the northern sector of the Plateau. But truth be told, this popular hood has become increasingly expensive and less child friendly in recent years. On the 14th of June, we have another big event: our son will be turning four, and we hope this means that our lives will become less chaotic.

The past few weekends we have been spending more time discovering our new neighbourhood--Villeray, which is definitely more diverse, both culturally and socioeconomically. On Friday, we took a little trip into neighbouring Park Extension to enjoy some spicy food, something our children haven't developed a taste for yet. Unfortunately, our favourite Indian restaurant, the Punjab Palace, was closed for renovations due to a fire, so we ventured out to try another place and discovered Delhi-Bombay Curry & Naan at 989 Jean-Talon West. The lunch special, a vegetarian thali dish, was just $5.00 for a healthy-sized, delicious lunch. I splashed out and had the non-vegetarian thali dish with butter chicken for $6.00. We also had a mango drink, which was fantastic. When I went to pay at the cash, I spoke to woman working the counter. She appeared to be the only non-Indian working in the entire restaurant. She explained to me that she was Greek, and in spite of the Indian character of Park X, it was once a largely Greek area.

Park Extension derives its name from the fact that the neighbourhood is the extension of Park Avenue. From the 1920s to the 1950s, Park Extension was considered the "sticks" of Montreal. Later when there was no more housing left in the Mile End, Jewish families moved farther north to Park X. Another great tidbit of information about the area: Park X was once considered a hot-bed of communist activity in the 1950s. It remained a largely Jewish area until the population dwindled in the 1970s. Beginning in 1960, many Greeks began moving in, and by 1977, it was said that the vast majority of the businesses on Jean Talon West to Acadie were Greek-owned. Although there is still a handful of Greek businesses, the neighbourhood is now home to a large population from the Indian subcontinent, Latin America and the Caribbean.

The most interesting feature of Park X and adjacent Villeray is Jarry Park, where both neighbourhoods meet for sporting and cultural events. Last year, while catching a few tennis matches at the Roger's Cup, I also watched a Pakistani cricket game on the way home. I've been told that the West Indian cricket league attracts more spectators, who come out smartly dressed. Last weekend, there was a crowd celebrating a Turkish holiday, and today, we're going to attend a rodeo. I'll be sure to take some pictures for my relatives in Alberta.

As you can see, I'm very much looking forward to exploring my new neighbourhood.

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