Sunday, August 29, 2010

what if the neighbour's cat was god?

Our neighbour, I'm told, is an alcoholic. I've heard and seen some evidence to back this up. For instance, there is a hollow area running up from the basement of our triplex to the roof, where there used to be a chimney chute. It's situated just beside the bathrooms of the three apartments, meaning you can hear everything happening in the 'office' below us. Due to this unique architectural quirk, it is not uncommon for me to hear the familiar sounds of retching and vomiting as I get ready to shower in the morning. As well, I've been through the neighbour's apartment to take the fire escape to my place when I've forgotten keys and I've seen the collection of empty bottles. Also, someone who lived there for a time told me stories of his constant self-medicating with alcohol and other substances.

This is not being mentioned trivially because I'm judging him. Who am I to say how someone should live their own life? I only bring this up because he owns a cat, which I see outside our apartment at all times of the day and night. My thinking is that this cat roams around outside for most of its summer life because it may be forgotten or neglected by its intoxicated owner. Or maybe it's not, seeing as cats run wild here and the felines have their own daily and nightly dramas that play out on the street. (Last month, I awoke at 3am to a cat wailing. I stepped onto my balcony in my boxers and see it just laying there in the middle of the street, crying out into the night, while another cat stood next to it. I couldn't tell if it had just been hit by a car or had a train run upon it by the creepy cat standing beside it. I clapped my hands loudly and the sound reverberated down the empty street. The lurking cat looked up at me in a guilty way. I clapped again and louder it started to slink away cautiously. The other cat eventually stood up and disappeared into a bush.)

I'm not a cat guy at all and I'm not overly sympathetic when it comes to pets, but I've really grown fond of my neighbour's tabby. It's white in colour, with spots of grey and beige and if I had to guess, I would say it's spent 80 percent of this summer outside of its home. The only times I don't see it outdoors coincides with the time that the neighbour's daughter comes to visit him. My roommates and I have surmised that this cat probably belongs to his daughter.

Last night, I returned home from a friend's show and found the cat lying on the top step. This is its preferred resting place. I walked up the stairs and it didn't even move and barely acknowledged me. I sat on my top step and pet it for about five to ten minutes until it stood up, wandered down two stairs, looked at me sideways and then walked down the rest of the stairs and slid down under a car and was gone. I fished out my key, slid it into the lock and walked up the stairs into the apartment.

I went to bed and thought about the cat and how unaffected and almost divine it was as I pet it. It would blink slowly and it only turned to look at me as it walked away. It was then that a funny thought popped through my head: what if the cat was god?

What if this cat, which I've seen splayed out on the other neighbour's balcony, on window ledges and in trees, was watching me and judging my character? What kind of conclusions would it have drawn about me? What would it have seen?

I thought back to the various dozens -- or maybe even hundreds -- of times I'd seen it on the steps or on the sidewalk below our stairs and what I'd done. I think it would be safe to say that about 50 percent of the times I'd seen it, I was busy on my way to work or rushing off somewhere else and I barely paid it a passing glance. Maybe a "hey kitty," or quick rub from its ears to its back as I fit my headphones into my ears and tucked my shoelaces into my shoes and before walking away.

God would say I'm not very organized and not good with time-management.

A few other times, I'd seen the cat in some pretty dicey locations, like on a tree branch 10 feet off the ground, or on a ledge 6 feet from the top of our stairs on a second floor window. It would look at me as if it needed some help and I would reach out but not be able to get to it. Then I would pull out my phone, realize I was running late for work and figure, 'well, this cat got itself here somehow, so I'm sure it can get itself back to safety. I mean, they're cats and cats are freakishly agile.' I'd give it one last sympathetic look and then head off to work.

God would say that when I'm presented with a problem, many times I'm not willing to work sufficiently hard and sacrifice enough to solve it.

In a handful of instances, I've seen the cat laying up on the step below my neighbour's door, craning its neck upward to try to see if the neighbour was coming to open the door. It would look hungry or tired or thirsty and it would seem like it wanted to go inside and take a nap. Once or twice, the fur on its back would be knotted and clumped, like it hadn't been combed or groomed in a week. It would let out a few agitated meows. Unless I had to piss, I'd sit there and pet it for a couple minutes and if it really looked thirsty, I'd bring out a bowl of water. The cat would typically walk under my outstretched hand and I'd lower it and it'd keep walking until its tail passed under my hand and then it would turn around and do it again. When I would get up to go inside, it would look at me enviously. On the occasions I brought out the bowl, I'd put it beside my door and try to convince the cat to drink from it, but it wouldn't trust me for whatever reason and it would usually walk down the stairs and then under a car.

God would say that I tend to notice when things are wrong, but I either don't have the time or don't know the correct course of action to make things right.

The interactions with the cat these last three months really don't paint a pleasant picture of myself and I realize that my daily encounters with this pet showcase a general pattern of actions and behavior that were playing out in the rest of my life. This summer wasn't easy, for reasons I didn't really understand until I sat there stroking the cat in the dark, rubbing it behind its ears, while car horns and sirens echoed down my street as they maneuvered through the city scape.

Last night, I spent a lot of time with the cat, stroking and petting it until it had enough and went away. Perhaps it was surprised by this show of attention and affection because it's something I haven't demonstrated in the past three months. Maybe that's why it looked at me suspiciously as it descended the stairs. Maybe it had to go under the car to reevaluate its opinion of me.

God would say I'm starting to understand things a little better.

(Note: All characters in this post are fictional, except myself, the neighbour and the cat. *Rimshot*)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

no details

Very telling action concerning yours truly:

I had a $100 Keg coupon. I had the option of taking someone out for dinner or, selfishly, trying to eek out two steaks for myself on the coupon. Guess which one I chose?

So I was sitting at the bar eating steak #1 this evening, when the guy sitting next to me struck up a convo. He was an Anglo Montrealer and drunk and a regular and he wanted me to tell him a story. He bought me a shot of whiskey. I told him one about my childhood, growing up in Yellowknife and he said it was shit. And it was. I kept going with it and related a bit more about the city and my family and he was touched. He said he had wanted context and I gave it to him. Unknowingly, he reinforced a lesson I obviously haven't taken into consideration in this post: the reason stories connect with people are through the amount and depth of the details.

I left before I let him buy me more beer. He was lonely. His ex-girlfriend died two years ago from breast cancer. He sold everything to save her. It didn't work. He said he'd been occupying bar stools since, but he'd be starting his life back up this fall. I couldn't help but wonder if 'this fall' was last fall or the fall before. We spoke about existentialism. His faithlessness was real. He'd lost something. My faithlessness or what I take it as at the moment? Theoretical. I've never lost anyone very close to me, but still, I can't shake the feeling that sometimes you really do have to trick yourself to make believe that there is something really, truly meaningful in the everyday. I left before I could let him buy more into what I was saying or thinking at that time. It was probably for the best. For him.

I met up with my roommate on St. Denis for a beer and we talked about girls and then I went home. The homeless, surprisingly, were all resting up. They were asleep along Rene-Levesque in stairwells or beside fences. I started wondering if there was something important happening in the morning that they were preparing for. I picked up my pace a bit, before remembering that only crackheads walk nowhere fast. I slowed back down.

I got home and met my roommate and he'd just finished downloading the demo for NHL 2011. I was a little nervous about sitting down and playing it, knowing it would determine whether I would enjoy the next 12 months or not. I watched the demo video and we scrolled through the menus, listening to the game's songs, which we would know by heart and hate with all of our hearts in probably just three short months. I was reluctant to embrace this new thing.

Then we sat down to play.

Quick recap:

- The game is far more of a simulation than years previous. It's nearly impossible to hit. It's nearly impossible to make a clean pass. In other words, it's real hockey. I don't know how I feel about this right now, but I'm sure it will be fine in a couple of months when I'm used to it.

- There is a new face-off option, where you have to set up your player for a backhand or forehand win before the puck is dropped. Then there is a battle for it.

- Players sticks break on slapshots now. Players also lose their sticks. It's pretty neat. Again, this is an option I like right now because it adds to the realism, but I'm sure after playing this game for a couple hundred hours, a pattern will emerge with the stick breaks and I'll think it's stupid.

Monday, August 16, 2010

strokes of genius

In the last real post on here, I wrote about spiders. The cobwebs are accumulating in the corners of my room, between the bars on my balcony, along the steps up to the apartment and apparently, between the growing void between my ears.


1) I recently took out three CDs from la grande bibliotheque because I'm broke. I thought I'd take them out, burn them onto my laptop, burn them out on the CD player and then return them and take out some new ones. Well, four weeks go by and I wake up to a message on my phone telling me, in a French voice surely trained in a conservatory, that my CDs are a week overdue and I'll be subject to pay a late fee on them. I then left the house for three days, forgetting to bring them with me each time to drop them off - THREE BLOCKS AWAY. Turns out that it'll end up costing me just about as much to take out these three items for 'free' from the library as it would have by just buying them.

2) I wrote back in June that I'd be surprised if my bike lasted a week in this haven for bicycle theft that we all call Montreal. Well, here we are in the middle of August, and my bike is still straddled to the guardrail on the apartment steps. And this comes after my roommates' bikes were ransacked, with tires stolen and pulled off. The problem? I haven't ridden the thing for a month in a half. I noticed that every three days, the front tire went flat. I came to this hypothesis when I struggled up a small incline on the lowest gear, while a severely obese lady pedaled past me with minimal effort. Every morning, I wake up motivated to buy a portable bike pump as I walk past my ten-speed on my way to work. Every evening, I return having forgotten to buy the $12 object. I've probably spent $80 - $90 on single-pass Metro tickets over that time, when it would have been a minor-to-moderate bike ride.

3) I forget what else... Blame it on summer. On heat. On sweat. On the periodic existential ennui that strikes at least once a year and takes over every non-essential watt of brainpower.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

antoine dobson

My friend Eli sent me this tonight. I have been listening to the auto-tune version for a solid 15 minutes on repeat. I can't stop myself. It's genius.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Not much going on over in these parts. Nothing blogworthy, at least. Long, sweaty day on the roof, spent reading/coffee-drinking/napping/listening to the Osheaga tunes bounce off the institution beside the domicile. It was No-sheaga today, unfortunately. Finances.

Dog days of summer, I suppose. The kid is a little restless. He shaved his goat off. Just 3 a.m. chillin on the balcony now with the spiders, which are all passed out dead-centre in their webs. At least they've been working hard. Spiders and bees and fleas. Routine has set in HARD. An unsustainable routine, I will say, since sustainability is en vogue these days. Can't do what I need to financially in this routine, so I might need to break out of it. Don't know what that means or where that's going to take me. Haven't regretted a thing about the move out here, but at the same time, I haven't given it my all down here. Haven't pursued the dream, or what I think the dream might be. Been in a holding pattern. Summer ended two months ago, it feels. Lots of ideas, lots going on, no follow-through, no energy. Lots of work, but no hard work. No real work. No excuses though. No real ones, at least. No ridiculous, spontaneous summer nights chasing cosmic invincibility.

I realized again today that I'm someone who thrives with limitations. It was that way in creative writing class. The more boundaries and less license I was given with an assignment, the more creative and expansive I'd get. I'd take an idea so far that I would break the rules and I had fun playing with the definitions of the limitations I'd been given. Yet, when I was given free reign to write a story about anything, I'd be paralyzed by the infinite options offered by the empty, white page.

Montreal is that blinking white page. There is so much going on all the time that either I can't just sit at home and read a book or I feel guilty sitting at home reading a book. It's a Catch-22, really. I don't think I can pay off all I need to pay off here working where I work, so I think I might leave soon. But that means that I might not be able to take advantage of everything this place offers, so I go out and do as much as I can and try to do as much as possible, which makes me spend the money that I'd otherwise use to pay off what I need to pay off.

The spiders know they have to spin webs to catch bugs to live. The bees know they've got to pollenate and return to the hive. The fleas just turn into fleas from maggots and they're all good. Lucky bastards. They don't have VISA debt or student loans and they don't know that they are constantly getting older and that they're going to die one day. I'm on my balcony wondering what it is I've got to do.