Take a bite
Montreal, QC, October 2009 [Click all images to enlarge]
About these photos: We're sharing orange-themed pictures all week long as part of Thematic Photographic. And it doesn't get bigger than Montreal's OJ! Please click here to share your own orange vision.On a busy street corner beside the trench of a highway known as the Decarie Expressway sits a giant building that's shaped like an orange. Officially, it's Gibeau Orange Julep. But no one calls it that. It's embedded itself into Montreal's culture simply as "OJ". Long ago, you'd drive in and hostesses on roller skates served you in your car. Those days are but distant memories now, but pulling in here for a quick bite on the way home is still something special.
The food - mostly hot dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches and fries - isn't really worth writing home about. And I'm sure your cardiologist wouldn't approve of your being here in the first place. But there's something about sipping the flagship drink - best known as "OJ", I think it's orange juice mixed with a bit of egg, then mixed continuously into a frothy mess - while sitting in the car that reminds me of what life must have been like for my parents when they were young. Indeed, it's one of those rare cultural icons that ties my generation to theirs: It was as important a milestone of my teens and early twenties as it was of theirs.
So even though we don't live here anymore, we bring the kids because we want them to know what a truly unique experience this is - and we want them to experience it before the inevitable march of time claims this special place, too. More importantly, every time we drive by here, we find ourselves in need of some happy. That's because this place is barely three kilometers away from the hospital, and we always pass it on our way back home. This has become our comforting antidote to the often jarring visits to a place no child should have to witness except to be born.
In the silence in the car after we first come down from the hospital, I often wonder what they're thinking, how the just-completed experience has changed them. They've been here so many times already that they're old pros - they know when to wear masks, when to clean their hands, when to stay back from the patient's bed, how to behave, etc. Yet still I wonder if being so familiar with illness and endings has aged them somehow, has taken away their grasp of childhood innocence.
As OJ looms in the windshield, I like to suggest stopping there. Even if I'm not hungry, just immersing ourselves - and most notably, them - in the experience of this place helps escape the sadness for just a little while. Over the somewhat greasy fare, we recount the stories of mommy's and daddy's earliest dates here, we speculate over what might be inside the orange, and we muse about the person who concocted this place all those years ago. Their faces light up, if only briefly, as we all manage to forget reality for a few minutes.
I guess we find our balm wherever we can, even if it comes in the shape of a tattered old, iconic orange building. I wish I could take this place with us when we head back to London.
Your turn: Odd, memorable, iconic places. And why they mean as much as they mean. Please discuss.