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Strigberger focuses on the lighter side of travel

Holidays and travel are a goldmine for comedy, legal humourist and author Marcel Strigberger tells AdvocateDaily.com.

All that time interacting with family, friends and strangers in foreign lands frequently adds up to hilarity, he says. 

“When you’re travelling somewhere, there are so many funny things happening it can be hard to keep up,” says Strigberger, who one day started jotting down all the strange, awkward and downright silly encounters he had on trips at home and abroad.

Pretty soon, his little notebook of ideas was brimming over and Strigberger turned them into a travel guide of sorts, taking prospective holidaymakers through the process from start to finish via a series of anecdotes and comedic observations.

The result — Poutine on the Orient Express: An Irreverent Look at Travel — flowed easily from pen to paper within a few months, and is now available in both paperback and e-book formats on Amazon.

But the title was another story: “It probably took me half as long to come up with as it took to write the whole book,” says ex-Montrealer Strigberger, who loves the incongruity of such a messy meal juxtaposed with a legendarily opulent train journey.

“You expect filet mignon, champagne and fancy tablecloths, not this carton of fries, curds and gravy,” he says.

But Strigberger’s take on the iconic Quebec dish may not go down well with the citizens of his hometown.

“It’s toxic. I still haven’t internalized it as being an edible food,” he says.

And he says the allusion to Agatha Christie’s murder-mystery classic is also apt, likening poutine to a murder weapon.

In the book, he also ponders how differently history may have treated the famously difficult-to-kill cleric Rasputin if the dish had been available in early 20th Century Russia.

“If they had just used some poutine, then the arsenic and the pistol and a dunk in the Moyka River would have been superfluous. That would have done the trick the first time,” Strigberger jokes. 

The book explores issues as wide-ranging as hotel booking websites, public toilet locations in Europe, and tipping etiquette around the world. Strigberger also devotes a chapter to deconstructing the contracts signed by holidaymakers when they take a cruise.   

“That’s going to be of particular interest to lawyers,” he says. “Some of the clauses are incredible.”

But his work also has a wider appeal, he says.

“Anyone who has ever travelled will appreciate it,” Strigberger says. “There’s plenty in there for snowbirds and campers, even though it’s something I’ve never done. I’m not interested in sleeping in any place without a front door.

“I’ve been told it’s a nice easy read. You can dip in and read a few pages or a chapter at the cottage, or in the airport to get a little fix of humour,” he adds.

The book is the second published by Strigberger, who has also written sketches for CBC radio and television programs, during a comedy career that took a back seat to legal practice during his 42 years at the bar working in personal injury and family law.

His first book — Birth, Death and Other Trivialities — is also available on Amazon, and Strigberger has begun work on a third, which will delve into the topic of aging in an era of modern technology.

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