Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I'm going to bullet this baby because there is no underlying thread to this underlying thread.

I went out of town this past weekend to celebrate Quebec's Canada Day: St. Jean Baptiste Day. Got in touch with the songs of birds and open fields and small town folk again. Felt good. The air was definitely heavier. Denser. Nearly as dense as I felt at work on Monday after living 'the guh lyfe' - like my man Razor Ramon would say - for the past four days.

- Before the trip, on the Wednesday afternoon, the kid experienced his first earthquake. It wasn't anything major, but at the coal mine, on the 11th floor, we definitely felt the building shake. At first we thought it was construction, but we saw the people in the building across looking a little flustered, as they peered out their windows down at the street. A couple fellow coal miners got word from friends of theirs that they'd felt it elsewhere around the city. From what I read, it measured a 5.5 on the good old Richter scale and was centred about 300 km North of Ottawa, meaning it was definitely something we could feel in Montreal, but we shouldn't be expecting Bono to team up with whoever the biggest name in record-slinging is today to put out a 'Sending our love to MTL' Song, where the proceeds would go to the survivors of the quake. I thought the experience was sort of neat, to be honest, although I won't lie and say that I didn't feel a little bit dizzy about 30 minutes after the 'eight seconds of shaking' when I thought about what had happened. Maybe I can blame my rum-drinking over the weekend on my fragile emotional state in dealing with the natural disaster.

- We started at Baie St. Paul, which is about an hour's drive into the hills Northeast of Quebec City. When we arrived, there was a gigantic fire in the middle of town, visible from the top of the valley hill we had to descend. It seemed like it was three storeys high and I couldn't tell if there was anyone around it. It looked like it was raging out of control, in the middle of this idyllic little town plunked down in between the hills and, surrounded by fields and the St. Laurent. Turns out there were quite a few folks down there. We didn't stop because we wanted to get our own fire going up on the hill at the hostel we were staying at.

Quickly we found out when we got there that there would be no fire. There was 'une interdiction de feu' due to the busier than average forest fire season. I would be missing the biggest tradition of the St. Jean Baptiste, my bud told me: the fire. (Gotta love any celebration where the most important accessory is a raging, nearly-out-of-control fire.)

- That didn't stop us from sitting around the fire pit though as we polished beers and dipped into the Appeltons. We sat for hours around the 'feu pas feu' with people from across the province. A group of guys from Montreal took control and started belting out songs on guitar. While it was a little boring and cliched at first (I find it hard to believe guitar circles existed before Sublime) once the liquor started to flow, the energy picked up and I got the most authentic and well-versed glimpse into the mind of the modern Quebecois I've has since moving nine (damn! nine, already?) months ago. A shorter guy with a chinstrap beard started improvising lyrics over his friends' strumming. It was a revelation. The first song was about how the French (in Quebec, French means 'from France. ' Quebecois are Quebecois or Francophones) were invading Montreal and particularly la Rue Laurier. I apologize that I can't remember any of the lyrics, but it was late, I was tired, half in the bag and still adjusting to communicating entirely in French. The guy was sharp as hell though and had us cracking. The next few songs were dedicated to Gilles Duceppe and the fact that nothing much had changed for the better for Quebec under his leadership (Fun Fact: I am a resident in Gilles Duceppe's riding.) There were a whole let of 'esti' and 'tabernac' and 'colis' littered whenever a rhyme was hard to come by. The guy hit up Jean Chretien and Paul Martin and pretty much anyone who has had any say in Quebec or Canada recently. Anyways, I came away with the sense that this guy feels that Quebec's interests are being eroded by status quo politicians, but their culture and language is being threatened not only by English-speakers, but also the French. I couldn't tell you what I think, because really, this was my first visit outside of Montreal for any substantial period of time (I spent 14 hours in Quebec City last October, on a rooftop drilling in cable trays and running wire and driving around lost) in Quebec and I'm woefully ignorant about a lot of the issues outside the bilingual city I currently inhabit.

- Being true rebel rousers, we did light up a fire at about 3:30 a.m. She was meek, but immediately, it filled the void it made us all feel a little more comfortable. Unfortunately, as it got bigger, and us louder, we awoke a tiny forest dweller with a big beard and ponytail who also just happened to work at the hostel. He dumped a massive cauldron of water on it and freaked out at us. I went to bed laughing.

- I'm thinking a good 70 percent of the towns in Quebec begin with Sainte. And that's a safe estimate.

- Went to a St. Jean Baptiste parade in Baie St. Paul, where they had a 14-foot paper mache statue of Jacques Cartier lead the show. I guess it was the 475th anniversary of his arriving on Canadian soil. Loved the likeness. J.C., as I called him, had his arms folded over his stomach and his eyes were glazed. He looked like he was seasick. It was great and I'm now officially referring to 2010 as year 475 in honour of the homemade statue. Parade was small town. Everyone had a family member in the parade. Kids dressed up as clowns and ran around a school float at the start and, at the tail end of the procession, in the back of a flat-bed, a bunch of old dudes grudgingly drank beer, looking a little hung-over, humiliating a friend about to get married. After touring through town, 30 minutes later, a friend had the observation of the weekend: the kids were tired, slumping around beside the truck, while the guys were just waking up, yelling and offering beer to people.

- My favourite thing to say now is "oopeli," followed by "les boys."

- I found pretty much everyone that I met over the weekend to be exceptionally nice. I say pretty much because the only people who I found to be a little salty were the ladies who run the hot dog, ice cream and poutine stands. We must have visited a half-dozen of them and I really felt like the same person was working them. She was some cloned character. The stereotype is an overweight, impatient, early 40s ladies, who wears her hair slicked back in a pony tail, and has stains all over her apron. She doesn't hear all too well and her beacon-like speech reinforces that belief.

- I spoke French the entire four days. I realized I still have a ways to go. Living in Montreal, you can pass by being able to order food or hold a very brief conversation. When I was in the country, I was constantly meeting people and trying to make a good first impression. I'm guessing most people I came across probably thought I was recovering from a stroke. At one point, I called a meteor show a 'douche de meteor,' which is a severely literal translation. It was brought up more than once over the course of the trip.

It was bizarre though. I realized how many of the conversations you have in the city each day are just short, trite bits of formality and how, in the small town, where things are slower, where there are less people and where there is less of a premium put on time, the conversations turn serious or less superficial quickly. And that's where I noticed my inability to adequately express myself in French. And I found it very frustrating. Many times, I was asked a question, I would say a couple words, stumble, search for the word, and then just say 'bon.' I felt like a simpleton. Often, they would nod and smile politely and then lose interest and start talking to someone else.

Another thing I noticed was how important being funny or making people laugh is to me. Many times I said something funny - or something I thought was funny, which is frequently not the same thing- and nobody laughed either because I was not understood or because I just wasn't funny and I felt like I wasn't clicking or myself and I didn't feel right. I felt like I was starting to disintegrate... or at least my idea of who I was was.

- We visited a town called Trois Pistoles for the weekend. National Geographic, someone said, had called the sunsets at Trois Pistoles the second best in the world, behind some vista in an African country. I can't say I disagree, after catching one on the ferry ride across the St. Laurent, which at that point was half-fresh, half-saltwater and was three kilometres wide. We ate lobsters and smoked fish and swam in a creek and I watched Avatar for the first time (in French, no less.)

Moral of Avatar: playing video games will redeem you and make you a better person. And if you wrap the game, you'll get real legs and get to bang an alien.

- The highlight of Trois Pistoles: Petanque. Boy, did we play petanque. We had to jimmy rig some lights to keep the game going past dark. The couple we were staying with - in their 50s - kept up with us (and even out did us.) The man of the house walked by the petanque pit, dumped a bunch of gas on some old cupboard and dresser drawers stacked up so they spilled out of the fire pit and lit a match and we finally had our St. Jean Baptiste fire, three days late. Under those lights, at a cottage five minutes from the St. Laurent river, on a cloudless, brittle night, we were petanque pros. Each shot bettered the game. I played the Mad Bomber and the Submariner. We were addicts. We played until our hands went numb with cold. We played until we were out of beer and were half done the whiskey. I lost, but I played as well as I could.

- Another feature of Quebecois: they can talk and talk about food at any age. I felt like food was a conversation reserved for middle-aged people. Not here. This is the land of the palette. The arguments over what area, what region, what town, what grocer has the best strawberries, poutine, cheese. We stopped at least five times to have the best 'cheese curds' or 'barbecue cheese' or 'chocolate-covered blueberries.' And they were all damn freekin good every time.

- So we drove back and two of my good friends were leaving town and having a go away party at the weekly summer event where the MDMA heads congregate and we call Picnique Electronik. I'd been putting off visiting the party because it's just a giant techno dance floor outdoors. I'm not much of a techno guy and I feel like I've become a little overexposed to it here in Montreal. But I went down and after being surrounded for four days by the sweet heavy air of the country and the stars and the sounds of birds and empty fields, I was crowded with sweaty techno junkies in the middle of the city listening to the deafening boom of techno bass and drums. It was an exercise in opposites. But, to be honest, it was fun and I think I'll go back.

We spent about four hours there and then scooted back to my place for a quick drink before scooting off to the Jazz Festival, where the Planet Smashers were playing. But as we got to Berri-UQAM, my station, we found another festival - International Drum Festival or something. I bring it up only for two reasons: 1) I know I've already mentioned this, but you seriously can't avoid festivals here. You stumble into them. I won't say it again. But it's uncanny. 2) the performing group we came across was 20-deep, with some guys younger than me with dyed orange hair, spiked belts and lip studs and some other members as old as their grandparents. No joke, there were three ladies in that group that looked like Old Town Grandmas. Like one of those ladies you'd see running a craft sale table or selling tickets for the Rotary in Yellowknife. Wall white hair, jeans pulled up high, they played alongside the youngsters and I just shook my head in awe. What a city!

Planet Smashers weren't bad themselves.

Look familiar, gents?

- And then Monday hit like an atom bomb.

Random observations and trivial thoughts:

- I've decided I want to come up with a piece of punctuation for the rimshot drum that is used after someone says a joke. You know, badum-CHING? Ideas? How about "-_*" No, that actually looks like the punctuation mark for spousal abuse.

- Having to walk to work the past two days, since I was super late, I realized my favourite part about riding my bike to work. No, it's not that I get to work faster, or that I get some added exercise, or that I get to beat some sad-sack car drivers to work in the morning. Nope. The reason I love it so much is that I don't get accosted every five steps by homeless people - the same homeless people - asking me for change. For the record, some of these people are in better shape and are dressed nicer than I am. In a bike, I can just drive right by.

- I was WALKING to meet some friends for a baseball practice in the park the other day and I saw the most bizarre dog walker. Imagine a guy in his 50s, who kind of looks like Lucien Bouchard wearing a hockey-dad track suit coat, caring around a nine-iron. This in Jeanne-Mance park, at the foot of Mont Royal, keep in mind. He lines up his shot as his dog waits patiently and dutifully behind him. The man rears back and uncorks a 40-yard loping shot with a tennis ball, which his dog chases down and brings back to him, as he walks contentedly a few dozen feet.

- I hope there is a special place in hell reserved for Sean Kingston for this four-minute piece of plastic.

I hear this once and it's stuck in my fucking head for two weeks. "Shorty fire burnin ponne dancefloor."

Everyone seems to hate that Justin Beiber kid. How does Sean Kingston get away without any residual hatred? This guy has a lyric that goes "She's as cool as fire." We wonder why we're all so stupid. I hope Sean Kingston has to spend eternity in a 10-foot-by-10-foot cell with a kleenex-less chronic masturbator.

- I missed the whole G8 and G20 fiasco. I'm sort of glad. I don't know what to think about anything anymore. Really. Bankers make me sick. Politicians make me sick. Police officers make me sick.

This thing cost anywhere from $1 billion to $4 billion, according to what media outlet you believe. And we're going to be fitting the bill. $4 billion to put on a three-day meeting? And we just take it up the pooper, no questions asked. Surely, there were some people that pocketed some cash from this whole thing. There is no way anyone is going to be able to account for every penny from this thing, particularly when so much of where the money was spent is shrouded under 'national security.'

That $4 billion could have bought us a lot. A Mackenzie Valley Highway. Hey, maybe if some of that came this way, I could get a family doctor or even see a doctor and get a long overdue check-up and not have to go to a walk-in clinic, which turns people away if they aren't there by 9:30 a.m.

The thing that scares me worse is that the whole security and money spending and protestation and police brutality was all a distraction. These were the things that kept people talking, kept people arguing, kept getting reported by media outlets and kept us from knowing what was actually going on inside. And let's face it, burning police cars are a lot more attention-grabbing than a bunch of comatose, white guys spouting cliches. Like I said, I haven't read up much on it, but I read a Naomi Klein editorial that said many countries agreed to cut their debts in half by 2013, which will affect spending on social programs, including health care. (Hope I can get an appointment by 2013.)

I got the feeling that a lot of people didn't even know what they were protesting. Or they probably did, but everyone had a different cause and the fuck do politicians even care any more about what the electorate thinks when they'll keep getting voted in due to the dearth of anyone real who wants to challenge any of the old thinking. Protests don't work anymore. Not when they can decide where you protest and can cordon you so far away that the insulated Industry Minister Tony Clement can tweet: "Wow, what a successful #G8 + #G20! Lots of substance on economic, security & devt issues. I'm proud of Muskoka, Toronto & Canada" after Canadians were getting their asses beaten for simply assembling downtown. Hey douche, you give me $4 billion and I'll throw a pretty good party too.

That's probably what makes me the sickest: how far away we are from our leaders and how they are able to escape any meaningful discourse about what is going on in the country. It's just an old, boring, played out game they play and these old guys play. They don't ever say anything engaging. They are machines.

I don't think I'll celebrate Canada Day this year.

free agent picks

The NBA champions for the next decade will be decided at midnight tonight with the free agent period kicking off what is sure to be the busiest and most important day in professional basketball history. I've been reading about tomorrow for the past three years and how it will all unfold. Experts have been analyzing, overanalyzing and hyper-picking-corn-out-of-turd-overanalyzing the psychology of Lebron James over the last six months and they have been trying to read his future decision out of every single one of his comments, pieces of body language or salary-dump by another team.

I'm riveted like Howard Hughes' jet.

WIth Lebron, Bosh, Wade, Dirk, Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson, Amar'e and Carlos Boozer all poised to change squads (and Chris Paul and Carmelo both rumoured to be names that could move) I couldn't help but start a little pool at work over who was going where.

Keep in mind, Miami, the Knicks, the Bulls, the Clippers and the Nets have all been holding out for 2010, in the hopes to make themselves instant champs by snagging a few of these guys.

My picks:

Lebron - Chicago
Bosh - Chicago
Wade - Miami
Dirk - Phoenix
Amar'e - New York Knicks
Joe Johnson - New York Knicks
Boozer - Miami
Pierce - LAClippers (not going to happen, but what the hell?)


Saturday, June 12, 2010

helluva helluva day

Why is it that days that are forecasted as rainy, but turn out gorgeous just feel better than outright gorgeous days? It's obvious, I guess, but today is a helluva, helluva day. Woke up for the second straight day to the high-pitched engines of Formula 1 cars on the pull-out bed in the dining room. My mom is in the city. After a night of food, beers and laughs, we set out for the market and really, Montreal felt like the centre of the universe today. It seemed like every second street was cordoned off for this and that. The magic and newness still hasn't worn off. Went to Jean-Talon market and bought all sorts of Italian foods and fresh fruits, like baskets of apples for $1. Wandered down St. Laurent, which was blocked off for some sort of Grand Prix-inspired Italian street festival. The road was lined with Lamborghinis and Corvettes. People were snapping pictures. A couple, each in their own motorized scooters, cruised by at a leisurely pace. The lady, smoking a cigarette, was heard to say: 'regarde cette auto, esti.."

We went into Cafe Italia and had a couple delicious espressos and watched the Grand Prix qualifications on the few screens set up. The place is a must-see if you ever make it to Montreal. The coffee machines really seem like they're engineered by Ferrari or something. And behind the counter, behind a plate of glass, there are all sorts of coffee machines, Italian chip bags and shaving creams and utensils on display for purchase.

We went down St. Denis after and had a very late breakfast (and beer) and people watched. The streets have been crowded for the last 24 hours. Wherever we go. You walk and you wander into a festival. What everyone has told me is true. We missed Bedouin Soundclash playing a free show by one block. We caught a reggae show last night at le Festival Francophonie. We're gonna go see Les Breastfeeders tonight.

I suppose free festivals and the like are a decent trade off for not being able to see a doctor.

It was weird at one point last night, all these F1, Ferrari-shirt or hat-wearing guidos were standing outside a trendy restaurant in the Old Port and one juiced up dude hooted at my mom. Frig sakes.

I'm a little worn out from the sun. I just changed the tire on my 10-speed, which I picked up from the repair shop, Bike Curious, in the village - they do bike repairs and lesbian haircuts there.

UPDATE on Top Ten List:

The fireworks and people talking to themselves inclusions have been reinforced big time the last 24 hours. My mom and I were walking down Duluth at around 11:30 last night and a group of F1 fans put off some fireworks on the side of the road, like they were casually lighting up smokes.

One inclusion I forgot to put on the list though: Chicks liberally talking about their periods. It's not taboo at all here. In fact, two of my friends started talking about that in front of my mom last night while we were having drinks. Fuck the heck?


I just replaced the tube in my tire and locked my bike up to our stair rail. The question: How long will it go without being stolen?

Montreal -- and Vancouver, as I learned last week -- have notorious bike theft problems. My friend bought a $300 bike last month, tied it up to our stairs and within 12 hours, it was gone. She hadn't owned it for a day. I have heard horror story after horror story about bikes being trashed or going missing.

So I want to keep a public record of my beauty 10-speed and put down some odds on when it will be ripped away from me.

My guess? I'm going to say early-July - just about the time where I'll have forgotten to update this goofy contest.

Friday, June 11, 2010

taken for granted

I don't know whether I should be frustrated - my initial reaction - or just embarrassed at my own ignorance.

Growing up in Yellowknife, there are many things I have come to take for granted: the Northern Lights 180 nights a year, being able to eat the fish out of any lake, river or creek you dip your pole in (heheh... joke aside, maybe you don't want to eat anything found in Back Bay,) and, as I found out today, the fact that, if you have a medical issue, you can call a clinic, book an appointment and see a doctor.

The past week I indulged in some good old self-inflicted existential stress, which I am evidently prone to from time to time. While it saps my energy and makes me feel like junk for a couple days, I usually come out of the bouts renewed with ambition and drive to do accomplish some task I've always wanted to do. I'm in that stage right now and I feel good.

But a side effect from these days of trivial anxiety and self-beat-upedness (like that word) is that the rosacea on my face explodes in colour, severity and size. Once upon a time, I had a baby-smooth face, but I believe after working in the arsenic plant at one of Yellowknife's gold mines for six months operating a pump and having to wear a ventilator over my face for long periods of time, I started to develop a small red rash on each of my cheeks. Over time, the rosacea has conquered more territory on my face (MANifest destiny?) to the point where, when it flares up, I look like I have severe acne. (Worse than that 'too many cho-co-lut bars' commercial guy, back in the old days when MuchMusic used to play music videos.)

The rosacea has provided some hilarious episodes, like when the pharmacists in the territories messed up my antibiotics on my first and second re-ups - giving me antidepressants by accident. However, it does bother me and make me feel unhealthy and self-conscious. It also gets itchy and crusty and it feels like I'm wearing a mask sometimes. People think it's sunburn. At work, someone will say, "Looks like someone got some sun this weekend." And I'll say, "Mothafucka, it's been raining non-stop the last three days. How the hell could I get sunburnt?" Actually, I won't say that. I'll say, "Yep, forgot my sunblock. Oh shucks."

With this red, bumpy stuff creeping up my nose to my forehead, I figured, I better go get some meds to fight off the bacterial invaders. It's done the trick in the past and I've been off the drugs since moving to Montreal in October. So I called up a clinic and tried to book me an appointment. You know, because I live in Canada and should be able to do this.

"Who is your family doctor?" the receptionist asked in French.

"I don't have one. I just moved here last year from Yellowknife."

"Okay, do you have a file with us?"

"No, I just moved here last year from Yellowknife."

"Oh, I'm sorry. We're not taking any new clients."

What? New clients? I'm not a client. I'm not a customer. I'm a person who needs to see a doctor. I was appalled and hung up the phone. I looked up another clinic and called and got the same response.

I walked over to my roommate and asked her what the deal was. She said there is such a shortage of doctors in Quebec that no one can get a family doctor anymore if they don't already have one. Fuck the heck?

Also, the only way I could see a doctor would be by going to a walk-in clinic.

For real?

I spoke to some folks at the coal mine... er... call centre over the week and they told me the same thing. They told me I better go in early to get a number. Super early. They said I could go to a private clinic or a dermatologist, but I was like "Fuck that, this is Canada. I'm not paying to see a doctor."

And so it was this morning, I got up early to the buzz of F1 cars on the island, doing practice runs on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for this weekend's Grand Prix. I almost thought I was back in Yellowknife for a second, with the cars sounding like the invisible, invincible mosquitoes that buzz in your ears at twilight and turn you psychotic.

I've got three Fridays off this month (shortage of coal at the coal mine... er... calls at the glorified call centre) and I had pegged today as my doctor's visit day. I made my way to the aptly named Complexe Desjardins, passing old bald men wearing Ferrari hats smoking cigars (almost wrote guitars for some reason?) before 9:30 a.m. It took me 30 minutes to find the clinic once at the building. It wasn't the gastro clinic, or the radiology clinic, but instead a hole in the wall on the fifth floor and when I spoke to the receptionist, she told me they were all full for the day. She didn't even hide the fact that she derived some pleasure from telling me this. I hate those kinds of people. Like, just have sex or something and lighten the fudge up. I tapped my book on the table, took a deep breath and... walked away.

For years, I've heard about doctors shortages. Heard we'd be in trouble. Heard people couldn't see doctors or had to wait hours upon hours to do so... While going to school in Calgary, I never had that problem because we had the University clinic. (I won't say why I visited that place, but I'm sure - or at least hope - everyone's gone to a University clinic for the same reasons I did.) And in Yellowknife, that's never a problem at all. You can book three days ahead of time and get an appointment. With all the neck wringing about health benefits for seniors or emergency room waits, at least you can still get the most basic and important service: a doctor's visit. I know that's not the case outside Yellowknife in the smaller communities, but they have logistical issues to blame.

Montreal doesn't.

Is this walk-in, no appointment thing common knowledge amongst Canadians? Am I a small town buffoon for not knowing this?

Either way, the frustration from not seeing a doc is surely to cause my rosacea to expand even further. I'm gonna have to dig some new trenches against this foe. Scalpel.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Richie Tenenbaum is on Twitter

Don't know who exactly is running this thing and, while it's not really that funny of a feed, I'm glad to see the Baumer is out of his funk.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Got back from Mindy and Ms. Mindy's wedding earlier this week and after crashing for 13 hours in bed, fully clothed, last night, I feel I'm finally back to life.

First, congrats to the bride and groom for a wicked wedding, although we all knew it would be. I can't recall seeing a more chilled wedding couple and, although it was the first wedding I was involved in as a wedding party member, the entire thing was cool and relaxed and, overall awesome.

A few impressions:

-Tofino is so chill that the people who live and work there ask you what day of the week it is.

-Driving through the island, you cruise through a national park where the trees are so big you feel that you've magically been reduced in size Alice in Wonderland style, and you're driving a miniature car through a magically massive rainforest. It's like that one Mario Bros. 3 level where everything is super big. It's jarring, especially when you haven't slept very much.

-Props to Vancouver International Airport. I put a lot of importance into what kind of toilet paper an organization, location or company gives its patrons. It tells me how cheap they are, how concerned they are for their users comfort and how conscientious they are. YVR had some really nice 2-ply, which really is quite unique to airports. Two thumbs up!

-I never thought I would ever surf. I never thought I would enjoy surfing. I never thought I would fall in love with surfing. Regardless of the surf-degree burns I got all over my body (including nipple scarring, skin-on-hand depletion, behind-my-knee rash and a scar on my neck so thorough and deep that it looked like I had tried to off myself) I couldn't wait to get back into the ocean to try to ride waves and stand up on my board. I'm not sure you could exactly call what I did surfing, but it sure was a good time. I can't think of a better hangover cure, as well. I even puked once into the Pacific Ocean on a 6-hour surf day Friday (since I'd only had a gigantic coffee on a massive hangover) which my sister tells me is a surfing rite of passage.

Can't really recall much else at the moment that would be of interest, other than it was a helluva time. I wish Mindy and Ms. Mindy all the best and I'm surer than anything that that is what lies ahead for those two.

So I'll leave you know with the song of the weekend and one of the hundred-or-so songs that set the dancefloor on fire in Tofino last weekend.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

i'm not even close to the biggest outkast fan but...

...anyone who believes in the season of summer needs to celebrate this song.

I'm not going to compare Outkast to the Beatles here (although, they both took common nouns and spelled them incorrectly) I will ask you what group or artist has been more honest and true to you for the past 10 or 15 years. Was there anyone who reached a wider demographic and spread a more positive message than Big Boi and Andre 3000 in the past 15 years?

There aren't too many people, are there?

Outkast... Beatles of the Aughts?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Top 10 List: Things you see in Montreal far more than you would anywhere else

Since that Worst Tall guy list was so much fun to compile, I figured I'd do the same for Montreal and list the top ten things I've seen in abundance here that I haven't in most any other cities in Canada or the States.

I opted away from listing Habs fans, festivals, poutine, people wearing ridiculous clothes or sporting goofy haircuts and French-speakers here obviously, because obviously those were obvious picks.

(Note: This list changed after a visit to Vancouver, where I noted that there are dirty, soulless hipsters in abundance there too.)

Explosions in the Sky that don't make you fall asleep...

10. Fireworks
There are stretches of time where I'll see them whenever I poke my head outside. Summer. Winter. It doesn't matter. I'll walk out of a Depanneur, hear an explosion, duck my head and step back, then crane my neck to see it was fireworks. This place is batty for fireworks. During celebrations on St. Catherine after the Game 7 win vs. the Pens, people were letting off fireworks on the street every few minutes.

Cig smoke: Montrealer for fresh air

9. Cigarette smoking
Efforts to curb smoking seem to be working elsewhere on the continent, but I've never seen people enjoy smoking as much as they do here. It's almost like it's survived as a cultural practice. It's a post-dinner ritual in my apartment. Everyone will get up and walk to the balcony and light up cigs and I just sit at the table alone. When I walk to work in the morning, the front-door of every single government building, without exception, is teeming with folks inhaling their 10 a.m. breaks.

The gangster ponytail?

8. White dudes with doo-rags
I don't really know how to explain this one (and this may be the area that I live in, which is pretty sketch) but I've never seen so many white dudes wearing doo-rags. I always wanted to know what happens to these white gangsters when they grow up. Do they keep dressing like gangsters? Or do they go white trash or biker?

Girl you look good/ You better back that bun up

7. Hot dogs
I've gone entire days here on just hot dogs. You go to some bars and that's all they serve. They're called 'ot dogs' here. I tried asking for a 'chien chaud' once and my roommate corrected me immediately. He was embarrassed for me.

Kryptonite or Coors Light?

Unfortunately for the rest of the world, the fact that you can get a pint of beer from between $3.50 to $5 in most pubs and bars in Montreal is unique. I'm not complaining. The Happy Hour (or 5 a 7) deals are stellar. (My liver is emitting twinges of pain.) You can get a pitcher of beer at some spots for $6. My buddy Jimmy Quinn is the go-to on this one. He's like an iPhone app: you ask him where we should go and he'll list off 10 pubs within walking distance and what the prices and specials are at each spot that night. It's beautiful to see in person. Probably like watching a ballet or something.

Montreal patios now com in two flavours: with or without-douche.

5. Patios
For a guy who once wrote a story in his local newspaper lamenting the lack of patios, the outdoor lounging scene in Montreal is beyond comprehensible. It's downright baffoonery. In fact, it's legendary. Nearly every pub or eating establishment has some sort of outdoor 'terasse,' and if they don't, then they have windows that slide away. It's money for weeks like we had late last month, where the temperature was stuck between 25 and 32. I will go to the crematorium believing that there is nothing better to do on a boxer-soaking hot day than sipping frosty beers 'dehors' and people watching.

Dying to be wild

4. Motorized Scooters
I'm starting to think that once you reach a certain age in the Quebec, the government subsidizes these things for you because they are EVERYWHERE. A couple weeks ago, as I sat on my balcony pondering great things (like what do gay owls have sex with, seeing as owls don't have buttholes? Valid question) I saw a lady on a motorized scooter pulling her daughter (who just happened to be in a wheelchair herself) down the street amid rips of glee. I had to pinch myself. People roar around the city in these things, even though Montreal is probably the least wheelchair accessible city in Canada. I've witnessed motorized scooter traffic jams on sidewalks, where one geezer was beeping at an obese person in his own contraption who was three-point u-turning on a busy pedestrian lane. On a daily basis, I see old dudes with cryptkeeper hair burning down streets about 3/4 the speed of cars, traveling at an unreal velocity so it looks like their brakes were ripped out. I once got into a game of chicken with a guy on a scooter as I tried to cross the street. He swore at me. He was wearing goggles. It makes for great fun.

Former bar owner reminiscing over his past life... (Soon you will understand.)

3. Dudes with ponytails
This stereotype is true about Quebecois. Lots of dudes rock the ponytail. I used to tell this saga whilst sitting in bars here during the playoffs: the owner of each drinking establishment was determined by the length of a man's ponytail. A guy with a long tail would walk in and if it was longer than the current owner's, then he'd take over. And that would continue until a stranger with an ass-tail wandered in like Sergio Leone's 'Man with No Name' and took over the show. I think that would be a great way to determine a lot of things, like who becomes our next Prime Minister. (Note: There are a fair share of phony-tails out there too - ie. dudes who are bald up top, but let it buck out back. Anything say douche more than a phony-tail?)

Is there a person in there? Because if there is, I can't talk...

2. People talking to themselves
This is something I noticed right away, and again, I might be seeing this more than normal because of where I'm living, but damn if Montrealers don't talk to themselves a lot. I'll be sitting in a cafe and the person beside me will be having a full-fledged convo. I won't think anything of it until I look over after they something especially provocative (or incomprehensible) and then I'll sit a while longer when I realize that person is on their own. People mumble at traffic lights, smoke cigarettes while walking and talking and working things out. They murmur and then speak up as a cop car passes. When the Patch came down to visit in November, at two consecutive restaurants, a chatty Cathy decided to sit down near us and we couldn't tell if they were trying to talk to us or anyone else, but they talked the entire time. it was entertaining at first, then oft-putting, then entertaining again. I don't know why that is.

Celebrating her entrance into the new millenium. Welcome to the year 2000!!!

1. Rollerbladers
Yep. Fruit-booters. It's like stepping back into a time warp the way the people of this city take to the streets with zeal on their inline skates. I saw a woman pushing her child's stroller with rollerblades on. She zig-zagged up the sidewalk with her headphones on. Attached to a Walk-Man? I can only hope. She would get to a corner and swing the stroller onto the adjacent street and I held my breath, hoping the baby wouldn't get smashed. It didn't of course. There are people who get all gweeded up in elaborate spandex suites and then hit the streets shirtless with headphones and waterbottles and, yes, ponytails and prowl on people. I love it. I think it's exceptional. Near my place there is a sign that has a 'No Rollerblading' logo. Where do you see that? These signs aren't meant to deter professional or trick skaters. No, it's for the average Joe or Jill.