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Montreal journal: Snacktime in front of the Lebanese grocery

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A moment in the diner: Juliette and Jean slumped into a pyramid of dejection - the city too much for them.  After the fizzing green pastoral of the Eastern Townships, the blare of Jean Talon and St. Laurent scared them.  Usually when Juliette is sad or scared, her papa is the king of cheer restored, but this time he was just as disheartened as she was.  After the monoculture of our smalltown east coast village, here was a busy, big city collision of Middle Eastern groceries, Italian charcuteries, subway stops and this diner; a glitter of formica tables and gleaming booths and James Dean and Wurlitzers.  Here were windows and reflections and vanishing points and a thousand Montrealais swirling and ducking and darting, and we ddn't know anyone and no one knew us.  Street energy I love.  But far from the old mill stream and the Swainson's Thrush forest.  Would they be able to handle it?

Jean spied the Jean Talon market tucked behind an apartment building.  Things looked up.  Juliette loved the creamy, whorled mushrooms, the miniature bananas, the edible violets and nasturtiums a girl arranged in transparent boxes.  The dill and coriander, the rosemary in pots.  The bushels of corn.  

We found our new apartment and looked at it from the outside.  We don't move in for another ten days.  It's on a tree-lined street away from the sound and action of the main drag.  It's elegant and tidy.  Women and an old man stood talking in their little gardens - the kind of garden I love these days: a splash of green and red, contained by pavement and a fence: beauty within a limited space. The old man was bent but his eyes burned.

At the Lebanese grocery where Esther has her summer job, we bought olives and flatbread that folds out into a transparent sheet big enough to wrap a box of chocolates in.  Fiberglass strawberries, bananas and carrots hanging from the canopy out front, over the boxes of mango and ruby red grapefruit.  Vats of green and black and brown olives inside: mushrooms marinated in brine and cheese.  We had a couple of hours before Juliette's synchro camp and no place to go.  I said we should lean the seats back in the van and have some bread and olives with our feet up, and everybody liked that.  Snacktime in front of the Lebanese grocery with the windows open to the street.

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