Archive for the ‘Montreal’ Category


July 1, 2014

Catharine writes : How could I resist ? Theres one of my favourites piece by Neil, with his one word portrait of that Schwartz’s pickles.

This post was originally written by Neil and appeared on the BLOG on the February 25th, 2011.

Do share your favourite restaurants with us. Someday we may be in your neck of the woods and will be looking for a good place to eat.

I will divide my three favourites into breakfast, lunch and dinner.

For breakfast you can’t go wrong with Beauty’s (established in 1942) and located on Mount Royal Ave. in the Plateau. Catharine and I often go there early Saturday morning. We have fresh chilled orange juice, a stack of blueberry pancakes smothered in maple syrup accompanied by crisp crisp bacon, all washed down by gallons of rich black coffee. Often there is a line-up but that is small price to pay for Beauty’s.

For lunch or brunch we head out to St. Jaques in Notre Dame de Grace to Cora’s. Cora is a French-Canadian entrepreneur who from a single site has built a chain of restaurants across Quebec and across Canada. We tuck into onion soup and fresh fruit with custard. Yum, Yum.

For dinner we fetch up at the famous Schwartz’s (a.k.a. the Hebrew Delicatessen) on St. Laurent Boulevard just around the corner from Beauty’s. Another line-up here. When we get into the restaurant that goes back to 1928 (and does not take credit cards) we seat cheek by jowel with a group that resembles the inside of a Montreal bus and sprinkled with some gaily dressed tourists. My regular here is a medium-rare Rib Eye steak, sizzling between crisp French fries and a gargantuan sour pickle. This is the real McCoy.

Tell us about your three favourite restaurants.

We’ll tuck them away for the future.


Comments :

Tony Kondaks Says:

1) I am not a big meat eater; indeed, my “default” is to always eat vegetarian. However, if my body “tells” me I need meat (usually manifested as an urge to eat red meat), I indulge. This happens maybe 2 or 3 times a year. And when I do have meat I want to have the best; and this is where my favourite restaurant comes in. In Scottsdale Arizona is a restaurant called “Cowboy Ciao” which, as the name suggests, a fusion of Italian and Southwestern cuisine (although there is hardly any Italian influence in the cuisine as far as I can tell). Anyway, they had a beef short ribs dish that was braised and served with a cherry/brandy reduction sauce, served on a bed of pecan grits and grilled vegetables. They charged $31.00 for it and I never, ever tasted beef like that. It was their signature dish. And the consistency was there each and every time I went.

However, I recently learned from visiting their website that they have changed it! They still offer the short ribs but it is served a different way.

2) I am now in Vancouver and you can’t throw a rock without breaking the window of a sushi bar. There are so many! And this is a paradise to a sushi lover like myself. And there is so much competition that the prices are incredible, ironic in a city where everything else is so overpriced (particularly real estate). Anyway, there is a sushi bar a 10 minute walk from where I live called “Watami” which is not the best in terms of either quality or taste but is up there in both values. But what sets it apart — and why it’s a favourite — is the special it offers: 3 sushi rolls (plus miso soup and endless green tea) for $5.95! And it isn’t their choice of rolls but your choice from a list of about 30! I usually take the spicy salmon roll, the negitoro roll, and the spicy Dynamite roll. I am in sushi heaven.

An amusing aside: with tax, the $5.95 would come to $6.66 but so many customers remarked on the “666″ that they jiggled the software on their cash register so that it now comes out to $6.68!

3) My third choice is really in response to Neil’s listing of Schwartz’s. Again, an unusual choice for me because meat plays such a small part of my life. Across the street from Schwartz’s is “The Main” which is never, ever as busy as Schwartz’s but also makes their own smoked meat and exists probably solely as a “spill over” from the always busy Schwartz’s. But, for some reason, I prefer The Main’s smoked meat to Schwartz’s. And, yes, I am the only person I know who feels that way. Indeed, it is sacrilegious, it seems, to tout any smoked meat purveyor as better than Schwartz’s but there you are. I only order it medium fat, which of course is the only way to go (fat is what makes the bloody thing taste good in the first place, so why deny yourself)?. A side of incredible fries and a cherry coke round out the experience.

So, I increase my cholesterol with my first and third picks and, neutralize the negative effects through the fish oils of my second pick,

Posted on August 21, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Neil McKenty Says:


Thanks for you’re marvellously detailed additions to our restaurant list. I hope to get to that place in Scottsdale.

About Schwartz’s/My friend — and your friend – Jim who contributes
to this blog — told me a long time ago that the place across from Schwatazes was in fact a better place for smoked meat.

Thanks again.

Posted on August 21, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Trev Says:

1. La Friterie in Sainte-Adele: best poutine in the Laurentians. Basic American fast-food done with the panache and concern with quality that only french Canadians apply.

2. Shangrila: if you don’t know this place, get your skates on because this Nepalese-Italian fusion restaurant in Lachine (the up-and-coming edgy suburb of Montreal), at the corner of 25th ave and Notre-Dame will expand your spice horizons and blow your mind. Perfect for west-islanders.

3. The Jersey Giant: on Front Street inToronto, ace nachos and pints of Smithwicks

Posted on August 21, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Liz Says:
If you are a meat-eater you would probably not go to Annapurna, the oldest vegetarian restaurant in Toronto. However, if you don’t mind skipping meat for at least one day I would recommend this place. I am not a vegetarian either but I will definitely head back for another visit.

Posted on August 22, 2011 at 11:29 am

Lady Janus Says:

I don’t have only three favourite restaurants, and I divide them into ethnic cuisines instead of the time of day, but…keeping to the boundaries of the city of Vancouver without including any of the satellite cities, I’ll try:

(1) For Ethiopian food, I go to Axum on East Hastings. It’s a small, homey place with maybe a dozen tables, and the kitchen is easily viewed from everywhere, so you can watch the cook/owner work her magic. The food is redolent with spices and brilliant with colour. The injira is presented on its platter at your table, and then, one by one, the individual dishes — each prepared in their own separate little cooking pots — are laid out on top of it until the platter is covered with dots of colour and mounds of aromatic stews. No knives, forks, or spoons, but for each patron, a small plate full of rolled injira, for breaking off pieces and using as a “mitt” to pick up the food and carry it to one’s eager palate:

Ethiopian meals are a social event, so take your time and enjoy the company as well as the food. Lovers traditionally feed one another the choicest bits on the platter. At Axum, sometimes a dance troupe will entertain. And, if you are lucky enough to be there when the coffee ceremony is happening, PLEASE do yourself the favour of taking part in it! You have never tasted coffee like Ethiopian coffee!!!

(2) For Jamaican/Caribbean food, I found a place on Carrall Street called Calabash Bistro. Also a small, homey place with only a few tables, Calabash is authentically Caribbean, The food is aromatic and richly flavoured, the staff are attentive, and the ambiance is reggae and lively. Take a seat by the large window so you can watch the street theatre, or head downstairs to enjoy the live music while you dine:

(3) And, just for fun, whenever possible, Japadog! Technically, it’s not exactly a restaurant, but a stationary hotdog cart with mobile tentacles. One of the few chains I will patronize, and the reason for that is that they are all different from one another! They all have some standard items (like the Terimayo and Oroshi), but each location also has its own specialty items that the others do not carry. My particular favourite location is the one in front of Waterfront Station on Cordova at Granville, because it is the only one that has the ebi chili dog — a shrimp sausage (!) on a bun, covered with a sweet chili sauce, a cheese sauce, and sprinkled liberally with tiny dried shrimp! They also are bringing in a smoked salmon sausage dog, at the Waterfront location only. Can’t wait for it! Voted THE BEST Street food in Vancouver (even by all its competitors), if you’re visiting here and you don’t try it, shame on you, for you haven’t really been here at all:

Posted on August 22, 2011 at 1:26 pm

littlepatti Says:

I really like Madison’s for lunch where we can split a club done with French-style bread & a nice Baked potato & Slaw.
I also like to split a Baton Rouge’s Grilled Chicken salad with Honey mustard dressing.
In Winnipeg, we discovered “Haps”. A steak house downtown. Open Grill and nice salad & seafood. Exquisite service.
We often go to Chez Cora and it’s consistently good, where ever.
I’ve wanted to go to Schwartz’s this summer, but hesitate because of all the construction. I also like Orchidee de Chine and Piment Rouge-same owner.
Oh! And Hot & Spicy on Decarie!
OMG, I’m starved!

Posted on August 22, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Good bye ! See you next year !!

June 1, 2014




I had to take a day to accept the defeat… But now I am just eager for next year to see how the Team are going to do. Every team have big lost, but for the Montreal Canadiens, that is the motivation. They always ending surprising not just the fan but all the others team. Even all the ”so called” Sport experts media, they almost always get it wrong.

Like after all games I like to read the articles of Jack Todd, in the Gazette. In the article published the day after the games, again I so approved the way he write and explain he opinion, like this part :

”In the infinitely complex mosaic of the 21st century city with its multitude of languages, religions, ethnicities and beliefs, the Canadiens remain the lingua franca of Montreal. We may not speak Pashtun, Urdu, Yoruba, Mandarin or even French and English — but we all speak Habs.

My Syrian neighbour across the street, burdened with the pain of his anguished homeland, found some distraction in the Canadiens’ quest. I know because we talked about it and because every time I glanced out the front window, I could see his big-screen TV tuned to the game. My Iranian communist friend, who pays slight attention to sports only during the World Cup, was watching it with his sons as I watched with mine.

Now the run is over — but what a run it was. It lit up a city, especially when the Canadiens took out the hated Boston Bruins. P.K. Subban and Carey Price, Dale Weise and Mike Weaver, Josh Gorges, Francis Bouillon and Alexei Emelin, Rene Bourque, Lars Eller, Brendan Gallagher and Dustin Tokarski, they were all part of almost every conversation for weeks. Thomas Vanek was a colossal disappointment, but almost everyone else made a solid contribution.”

And it is on this positive note that I am going to wait for the next year Hockey Season.


Writing conversation

May 28, 2014

Today a small text written by Olivier 14 ans. He had to create a fiction news for his French class.


Le Canadiens de Montréal gagne la Coupe Stanley !!

Comme chez nous au Québec, le hockey est une tradition nous étions tous devant nos écrans hier soir.  C’est durant ce match numéro sept (7) et avec le but gagnant en troisième période, de Monsieur Gallagher que le Canadien de Montréal gagna la coupe Stanley 1 contre 0 contre nos pires adversaires les Bruins de Boston.  Cela a été tout un match, Scott Gomez a été gravement blessé et est reparti en ambulance.  C’est avec cette victoire qu’ils inscrivent pour une 25e fois, leurs noms sur la Coupe Stanley.


The Montreal Canadians won the Stanley Cup !!

Like everyone in Quebec, hockey is a tradition – we were all in front of our televisions that night. This was Game 7 – and with Gallagher scoring the winning goal in the third period, the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup with a score of 1 – 0, against our dreaded enemies the Boston Bruins. This was also the game when Scott Gomez was gravely injured and taken to hospital by ambulance.

With this victory, the names of the Canadiens were inscribed on the Cup for the 25th time.


Did you watch the game last night ?

Do you thinK the Montreal Canadians are going to win the Stanley Cup ?

Do you remember last time they won the Stanley Cup ?

Do you have any family souvenirs about hockey ?



Montreal’s atmosphere

May 25, 2014



There is something in the air again tonight. The City is getting prepared for another hockey game between the Habs and the Rangers. The game is in New York and the fans there are getting really excited; people are preparing get together for the games, the bars are filling up their fridges, even the News media are talking about the frenzy you could feel in the air.

I have the same feeling about the Montrealers… I do sense a change in the overall atmosphere of the City. I don’t know if it is because the weather is getting nicer and nicer or that, after this long winter we experienced this year, we are having spring or the new mayor, Denis Coderre, is revealing himself to be quite surprising and, I would add, quite bold. Or maybe it is just that the Canadiens, with Ginette Reno singing the anthem, and that the Fans are enjoying themselves in this new hope for the Stanley cup since 1993. We have to remember that those two teams are part of the original six. All of us coming together to cheer a team that belongs to a City we all love, with her qualities and flaws is part of this joy. But the fact that we could all stand up and sing this bilingual national anthem together with no distinctions between language or culture is vital for all Montrealers. That is the Montreal I love.

Has Jack Todd writ in The Gazette of May 22, 2014:


”It is a very long way, mind you, to the Montreal of the 1960s and early 1970s, when St. James was Bay St., when the Canadiens ruled the hockey world and the Expos were Nos Amours when we could host a World’s Fair and an Olympics less than a decade apart. There are potholes to fill, wounds to heal, minorities to reassure, infrastructure to repair, a new Champlain Bridge to build — but it all starts with an attitude. 

A city is a state of mind. A collective act of the will. We decide to make our lives here, we get married here, raise children, grow old and die here. Our destinies intertwine with Montreal. Its mood is ours.”


I recommend you to go and read the full article by using the link below:


I am a fan of Montreal and the Habs, so I am getting prepare for tonight’s game.


Stephanie P.


Are you going to watch the game ?

Do you feel a change in the atmosphere of Montreal ?

What do you like the most about the City ?

What do you think make Montreal a great City ?


Hockey Night !!

May 21, 2014




Photograph by: Richard Wolowicz , Getty Images

Tomorrow will be the third game between the Canadiens and Rangers. Without Gary Price, who suffers an injury and won’t play for the rest of the season, I will confess that I am even more nervous about the outcome. I am sending all my positive energy to the players and crossing my fingers that they will be able to play with all the drive I know they can have.

I am going to put all my confidence in the coach, Michel Therrien who said :

“When we started the season, there were a lot of people not even putting us in the playoffs. Or, if they wanted to be polite, they’d give us the eighth spot. We caused a surprise to make the playoffs. We caused a surprise against the Tampa Bay Lightning to win in four, and we caused a bigger surprise to beat the Boston Bruins.”

“This is a group that believes in themselves, and we’re going to focus on one game and try to create a surprise for Thursday night again.”

So everybody together : GO HABS GO !!! GO HABS GO !!


Stephanie P.

Small farmers in Québec

May 21, 2014


 Photo : Marie-France Coallier, The Gazette

I was lucky enough to have always lived in a first floor apartment in the city of Montreal. So I’ve always have a small garden to grow some lettuce, green onions, basil, tomatoes, pepper and little more. So when someone talked to me about this article, I thought I should share and maybe it could inspire some.

This article was published in the Gazette about small Farmers in Québec, on the May 16, 2014. Today, even big stores like Loblaws and Metro are now carrying free range meat they say is raised with no antibiotics, as well as organic fruit and vegetables, albeit from beyond our borders. But the big story, in lockstep with the farm-to-table movement, is the new life on Quebec’s small farms.

In the article we are introduce to the Ferme Tourne-sol, who started with 5 students who met at McGill University and decided to farm together. They found a piece of land to rent and started their work in Les Cèdres. They started in 2005; they wanted to offer fresh and organic vegetable and fruit for the community. As Pascal Thériault , an agricultural economics expert who teaches at McGill’s MacDonald Campus in Ste-Anne de Bellevue said, “Historically, our particular program has been in place to train farmers, and we usually get sons and daughters of farmers who will themselves take over the farm. This coming year, 23 of the 48 completed applicants did not come from farms or have only a limited knowledge of agriculture.”

We are also meeting Jean-Marie Fortier (in the picture above), from Les Jardins de la Grelinette in St-Armand, who only uses hand held tools to work his field, “People are super stoked hearing that young people make a living on an acre and a half without a tractor,” he says.

The movement toward small, organic farming is so strong, Thériault says, that many farmers can’t accept more customers for their CSAs. But that doesn’t mean all new farmers will be successful.

“Jean-Martin is a great example of being able to make a lot of money,” he said. “Having a sustainable farm is cool but it has to be financially sustainable. Direct sell to consumer is more work and more trouble, and distributors won’t do business with them, since they can’t guarantee the volumes.”

I recommend you to go and check this article :

Would you decide to make a change and become a farmer ?

When buying your vegetable, do you know where they came from ?

Are you trying to eat fresh and organic food ?

What do you think of GMO ?


Stephanie P.

The Hockey season

May 18, 2014

canadiens boston

I am guessing that every fan of the Canadiens of Montreal went ecstatic when they won the play-off  again the Boston’s Bruins.  I even find myself in front of the television, watching and shouting at the players. I was hoping for a win at every match. I was really happy that they finally won !!! And then the play-off against the New York’s Rangers…  I was expecting  the first game to be a little less, how could I say it nicely…disappointing, out of focus…

I will watch the second game and all the others off the play-off Canadiens VS Rangers and will continue cheering for my team !


Are you a fan of Hockey ?

What did you think about the goal from Boston that give them the win, in prolongation in game four (4) ?

What are the changes for the Canadiens to win against the Rangers ?

Do you think that the Canadiens could win the Stanley Cup, this year ?

Photos :

Stéphanie P.

Catharine writes :

Stephanie, my bilingual goddaughter is now taking charge of the entries to the blog including my own, along with Richard Rice’s input as Richard go to work on a short movie about Neil.

Great team work !

P.S. I was spellbund by the Habs’s team work in Boston, and Carey Price’s incredible saves ! Lets hope and keep cheering.


Montreal Gazette, Clark Davey, Publisher

March 31, 2013

Click below to hear Clark Davey, publisher of the Montreal Gazette, on Exchange.

Aislin: political cartooning

March 27, 2013

Click below to hear the Montreal cartoonist Aislin talk with Neil and the callers on Exchange. Terry Mosher (Aislin) discusses how he gets his ideas and reaction to recent cartoons about the pope.

Highrise Jim

March 20, 2013

Long time friend of Neil and the blog, Jim Reed (Highrise Jim), passed away on March 14, 2013.

REED, Sergeant James CD
Retired, 6th Hussars (15th Armoured Regiment). Member of the Canadian Legion Branch 24-106, long-time employee of Canadian Steamship Lines, left us on March 14, 2013. He leaves to mourn his spouse, lover and best friend, Sharon Elizabeth Sutherland; children Mark and Kathryne; sisters June and Jacqueline Reed. Heartfelt thanks to the staff and caretakers on 5 Main, St. Mary’s Hospital. A memorial get- together will be held on Friday, March 22, 2013 between 6-9 pm at the Collins Clarke MacGillivray White funeral parlour, 5610 Sherbrooke St. W. (corner of Marcil and Sherbrooke St.)

august 2012 ptgs 027


Catharine McKenty writes:

Jim pioneered a unique way of treating depression, that helped change the course of Neil’s life.

In the last chapter of his memoir ‘The Inside Story’ Neil discloses what happens when he makes a phone call:

While picking at supper, I described for Chris as well as I could what a hell hole I had been in all day. Then with a kind of groan and in a strangled voice that came from deep inside me I said to him, “I just want to be real.” Only six words, but they described and distilled a lifetime. I could no longer endure the split of feeling one way about myself but needing others to feel another way. I could no longer summon the energy to bear the mask to maintain that charade, no longer wanted to be a performer. I desperately wanted to be real and needed help to make the journey. Chris said he wanted me to go with him to meet a friend. Little did I realize this friend would guide me on a new journey and save my life.


We drove several blocks, parked the car, walked up a flight of stairs to a mussy second-floor apartment swirling with cigarette smoke, where Chris introduced me to Jim. Jim was a man in his early sixties, medium height, with a moustache, a quizzical if not slightly sardonic expression on his face and the stub of a cigarette in his mouth. Jim lit another cigarette and invited me to come and sit at the kitchen table. I told him what I had told Chris at supper, “I just want to be real.” Jim sensed immediately I was in a panic, perhaps needing professional help, and began to muse about a treatment centre, perhaps in the United States.

I pounded my fist on the kitchen table and said in desperation that I didn’t have time to go looking for treatment places in the States – I needed help and I needed it right now! It was Jim’s turn to pound the table. “All right,” he said, “this is what we’re going to do.” Then, as though he was firing a machine gun, he laid out a program of activity that made my head swim – which is precisely what he intended. He wanted to change the tapes.

First, I was to come to his apartment, on foot, six nights a week at seven o’clock for a discussion; every evening before I came I was to sit down at my desk and write out a detailed agenda of my next day’s activities; I was to fix a reasonable time for getting up in the morning and stick to it; I was to do at least an hour of physical exercise a day, preferably brisk walking; I was to watch for interesting.films – to get me out of myself; I was to sign up for a weekend retreat with a group of Jim’s friends – because their serenity and laughter might well be contagious; and I was to plant some kind of garden in,my back yard so I could get real earth on my hands and stop and smell the roses (or, in the case of my garden, cherry tomatoes).. And that wasn’t all. Jim loaded me up with a stack of books to take home and read, most of them on some aspect of mental and emotional health, many of them based on the spirituality of twelve-step programs. I walked out the door that first night, with Jim’s words ringing in my head: “You’ve been saying ‘no’ most of your life; try saying ‘yes’ more often.”

As I walked home after that first meeting, I felt a twinge – almost imperceptible but still real – a twinge of hope. Jim had given me a down-to-earth program that I could begin immediately, and he also gave me the impression that if I didn’t buckle down to it seriously, he would dump me. So I set my alarm clock for the morning, and to make doubly sure I would hit the deck running, I arranged to have breakfast as many mornings as possible with Chris in a nearby restaurant. I set aside time for the reading Jim gave me, checked the newspaper for entertaining films, went with Catharine to the Atwater Market to buy our tomato plants, and tried to say “yes” more often: for example, becoming involved with Benedict Labre House for Montreal’s street people.

As the April weather became warmer I joined the Meadowbrook Golf Club in Montreal West. Frequently my good friend, Jean Prieur, would pick me up about 7:30 and we would play four hours of golf, no carts, walking briskly all the way. I arranged to take some lessons at Golf Gardens on Cote de Liesse and started to practise for the Madawaska Classic. This was the family golf tournament at Bob and Patsy Fleming’s island summer home in the St. Lawrence near Gananoque, scheduled for the last weekend in August. Thanks to CJAD’s news director, Gord Sinclair, I was still doing the afternoon radio program, only now I walked the dozen or so blocks to the station. Usually after I returned from CJAD, Catharine and I headed to the Westmount pool for a swim. At home again, I sat do\vn at my desk and wrote out the next day’s agenda, a simple enough task that steadied me and gave me reassurance like a security blanket.

And every evening after supper I set off for Jim’s place on foot. Every time it was the same routine. First, we sat down in his den and watched videos, ranging from biblical archeology to the significance of myth, all raising questions about the meaning of life. As Jim told me much later, we were not seeking knowledge but wisdom; be wanted to find what made me tick; he wanted me to discover a new perception of reality. Then we moved to the living room where we listened to tapes, many of them relating to the spirituality of the twelve steps, most of them chock-a-block with humour. He wanted to see what made me laugh and what didn’t. All I remember now is that for a long time, those tapes didn’t.

And then we talked. Looking back now, it is difficult to remember all that we talked about – anger, resentment, arguments, anxiety, fear, shame. There was nothing theoretical about these discussions. Usually they were about my relationship with Catharine, with colleagues in the media, with the Jesuits and the Benedictines, with my father. If I didn’t respond one night, Jim wouldn’t push. Instead he would come at the same issue from another angle six nights later. Often we discussed incidents that had happened that very day, incidents that now seem inconsequential and picayune, but in fact revealed to Jim, and ultimately to me, patterns of behaviour and attitudes. How did I feel when Catharine asked me to get a loaf of bread? Did I usually open the car door for her? What triggered my last outburst of anger and did I see that it was a control issue?

Looking back on those many hours of discussion, I don’t think what we talked about was nearly as important as my growing conviction that Jim understood me and what I had to do to change. He sensed what he called “the football of pain” in my stomach because he had dealt with it himself. He has a spacious and intellectually curious mind – he wants to do a study of the evolution of the Bible on his computer – but when it comes to everyday garden-variety spirituality, he is as down to earth and practical as a can opener. Time after time on those many evenings of two- or three-hour sessions, Jim astonished me at how accurately he could push the buttons that governed my emotional ups and downs. Sometimes he would use shock treatment: “You’ve spent a lot of your life being a pompous ass.” Other times he would ask a simple question: “Do you think your attitude to Catharine is changing?” Presently I realized this was the key. Jim equated attitude change with personality change. My life had been soured by anxiety, fear, anger, and resentment. There was little room for tranquillity, compassion, love, or real friendship.

So night after night we examined the inner dis-ease, trying to reduce the size of the football in my stomach. It was not easy going. Some days I would goof off, give up and head back t© the security of the couch. On such an evening Jim would warn me, gently but firmly, that I was playing with fire, that we could lose all our hard-won gains in a moment of folly. Another time he was tougher. He asked me if I wanted to go back to the Vendome metro station and, this time, jump.

I dreaded going back to the hospital and managed to convince the doctor to give me another chance. I think my fear of going back to the psychiatric ward provided a strong motive to keep me faithful to the program Jim had developed for me. And I added another element to the program. Despite my almost total lack of skill, and mindful of the dictum about starting to say yes instead of no, I joined a small group in an art class given by Jim’s companion, Sharon, an effervescent woman whom I came to know and like. Little did I realize that for our final session I would be struggling to paint a live nude.

After a few weeks Jim had seized my attention (“pompous ass”), expanded my awareness (Catharine was astonished by my cooperation and thoughtfulness), and begun to shift my perception of reality to diminishing anger and resentment, growing serenity and compassion. In a way, Jim was helping me change the lenses through which I had viewed the world and this change was rooted in and related to a spiritual experience.

Because ultimately that is what the depression itself was, a fundamental spiritual experience. I had reached a spiritual and emotional crisis where, for a few critical and decisive hours, the emotions of despair and hope were balanced on a knife edge. There are, in my view, only two paths out of this existential crisis: giving up (some form of suicide) or giving in (some kind of surrender). The Chinese word for “crisis” has a double meaning, danger or opportunity, pointing the way to these two paths. Thanks to a strong instinct for survival which I have had all my life, with the help of divine providence and of many people, I chose to give in, to surrender.

What did I surrender and to whom? First and foremost, I surrendered control, a lifetime of trying to control the circumstances, the people, the success in my life. I even tried to control the most minute detail of daily living, such as boiling over with anger if Catharine was not at the door the minute we agreed to leave for an engagement. Further, I had to admit that I was powerless over my emotions of fear, anger and resentment, that in those areas my life had become unmanageable. I had to reach out beyond myself for help and had to surrender the front, the mask, the persona I had spent so many years laboriously constructing, the persona disguising how rotten I really felt about myself.

In biblical terms, I had to lose my life in order to find it. The depression had driven me to my knees. Jim told me to get on the floor each night before going to bed and each morning after rising and put the day in the hands of God – whether I believed in God or not. With a smile, Jim told me he knew people who were so shy about praying that even though they lived alone, they would go into the bathroom and lock the door before getting on their knees.

As a practical matter, I had no problem about getting on my knees or asking for help, even if I had to fake it until I made it. I knew full well I could not make myself well. So I had to reach out to a power greater than myself, and I had no trouble calling that power God. But I made a bargain with myself. Never again would I make a spiritual commitment that did not ring true, that was not real. I had been baptized and confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church, taken perpetual vows in the Jesuits, been ordained a priest. Never again would I take a step for which the map had been drawn by other people. So when the right time came, I knelt down with Jim in his smoke-filled living room, his Russian cat watching us, and made a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understood God. I wasn’t sure what the words meant or how the decision would turn out. But I had a good feeling about it.

As this program of activities, exercises and discussion continued through the spring and early summer of 1994, slowly, imperceptibly at first, my depression, like a fog on the landscape, began to lift. And I began to see and enjoy experiences – simple things I had not had for two years – a boat trip around the harbour, a sour-cream doughnut at Tim Horton’s, a genuine spontaneous laugh from deep inside. This last was the best because I had not laughed for two years. ,One evening I went out into our back yard and excitedly picked my first cherry tomatoes, imagining how they would shine like red, Christmas balls beside the poached salmon for dinner.      ‘

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

In the process that Jim took me through, I began to see my world and feel about it in a different way. The lonely, anxious little boy sitting on the steps of my father’s hardware store in Hastings had changed. In a moment of profound crisis when I had admitted to myself I was helpless, I reached out and there was someone there. In that very act, totally honest and real, healing began. The interior split between the way I felt about myself and the way I wanted others to feel about me, began to diminish. I gave up the obsessive drive to control. From being fragmented and tom apart inside, I started to feel more whole – a theme that is elaborated in one of my favourite books, The Spirituality of Imperfection, by Ernest Kurtz and Catherine Ketcham. For the first time in my life the ball was hitting the glove, the arrow the target. I felt I was fitting, connecting in a way I never had before with myself, with other people, and with my understanding of God.


Jim Reed


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