Tuesday, March 29, 2011

MONTREAL II: The Lost World

It's true, I went back to Montreal this past weekend, and as I sit here on Tuesday morning (now making revisions on Thursday) I wish I was still there being woken up by the sound of friends making coffee with Patty's trademark stare in my face. I headed out on Friday morning, around 8:30am with a box of just under 50 cd's, a bag of (hopefully warm enough) clothes, directions AND a navigation system, and other miscellaneous necessities.

The drive was beautiful, for the most part, but after making a ridiculous stop in upstate New York for gas I was VERY happy to see the Exit signs become Exit/Sortie signs, it meant I was close. As with the past trip name-dropping McGill is the key to a quick stop at customs. They must assume friends of McGill students are too nerdy to be dangerous, which is fine with me. One of the few regrets of this trip is that I missed taking a picture of the Welcome to Quebec sign that sits at the beginning of Autoroute 15.

When I turned on my navigation system it had no idea where I was, it spent ten minutes telling me I was still in Hillsborough and that it was in fact an hour earlier than it actually was. After adjusting to it's surroundings, realizing it was in a hotel parking lot in Canada, and had missed Daylight Savings, it finally got me through the congested, construction-laden Montreal streets. Once I arrived at Christie's and negotiated parking in the BEST SPACE EVER, I (along with Sarah, another librarian) was immediately put to work assisting in carrying a futon frame and cushion back to the apartment. Eventually we realized the frame was incomplete but the cushion was well worth keeping as it felt like sitting on an ice cream sandwich. At least I thought so. After relaxing for a bit we went to pick up Megan from work and look for an Irish pub to get some dinner. It was great to see Megan again, she was overwhelmed with excitement following the Canadian government's vote of No-Confidence, telling us everything it meant as we strolled through town. Although she told me my positive feelings toward the Quebec flag were "vagrant opinions" I tried not to take it personally, you've got to have your facts straight around Ms. Stecyk. We eventually wandered into some random pub and after watching rugby and waiting 20-30 minutes for a table we got, literally, the best seat in the house. A little Guinness, a little seat shifting to better view televised curling, a little bit of one of the best burgers I've ever had, it was a top notch dining experience. I wonder now if my love of Montreal clouded my feelings on certain moments, but my time in The Pat Quinn Nook (as it came to be known) seems unaffected by circumstance. Maybe it was the budding romantic drama created in my mind between the all-around-great hostess and the suspenders-wearing waiter who seemed to spurn her advances for reasons unknown. As the meal progressed so did their soap opera, she struck a come-hither pose on the steps and he turned up his nose and walked away. I couldn't believe suspenders guy! As we all know, you either totally do, or totally do not pull of suspenders, and he only kinda pulled them off. I'm no stranger to poking holes in my own logic. You do know this is all happening in your mind, right? Megan asked me, pulling me back down to Earth. We spent a little more time in our nook, discussed our nightly options, found out that New Jersey has a better music scene than Montreal and had the dejected yet wonderful hostess snap this picture.

It became painfully obvious that the only real option was to return home and rest. Luckily there were David Attenburrow documentaries waiting for us at home. After being educated on various hawks (some of which hunt monkeys) and seeing just how bloody polar bears get when they eat (no one ever shows you that, it's ridiculous) we crawled into our ice caves and hibernated for the night.

Saturday was an odd day, the evening promised limitless frivolity (kinda), but my daylight hours were to be spent alone, just me and Patty. Christie and Megan shuffled off to work and I sat on the ice cream sandwich wondering what to do. The only real lead on a good time that I had was a record store recommendation from Bri, so I punched up some walking directions from my navigation system, bundled up, and told Patty that I'd be home soon. Almost instantly I realized I was over-bundled, something I truly can not stand. However I forged ahead to Sonik (corner of Berri and Duluth) and it was well worth the trip, easily one of the best record stores I've ever been in, USA included. The punk collection was typical but they had a room of nothing but great garage, 60's, psych, and all sorts of fuzzy odds and ends. After finding The Monks, The Headcoatees, and an Old King Cole Alexander/Bradford Cox split 10" that I didn't even know existed I had to remove myself from the store. I have a suspicion that most of (if not all of) Montreal's homeless are just avid music fans who couldn't resist and became victims of a great selection. Records are too expensive in MTL, but Sonik is the place to indulge. I then headed back home to change and say hi to Patty, and returned to the streets all sweatered and denim-jacketed. The only other moment worth mentioning was getting a constant hard sell from some vintage store owner who said eh so much you'd think his dialogue was penned by an American sitcom writer. As I perused a bowl of rock'n'roll pins he asked, Do you wanna see my...private collection? Absolutely! They were decent, yet overpriced in keeping with tradition. Being the pin maniac that I am I took what I could afford and said so long to the over sized Montreal Rock! and Love Will Tear Us Apart badges and split...but not before asking about and being given (free of charge) the Steve Ignorant/CRASS flyer hanging near the front window.

Then it was a few more stops and back to Patty and the quiet, sunny apt. The next few hours consisted of hanging in the kitchen listening to my latest mixtape on my walkman singing Patty's name in several of today's modern hits. Move on to a little relaxing reading of Ghost World until my two lovely roomies arrived home. Both had eaten (for free?) and I had had stopped at Tim Horton's, so we just hung out until the event which was the catalyst for my visit, party at Bri's.

It was a trek, hands filled with S'mars and gin and board games and cd's and whatever else, we arrived as a larger group than when we'd set out coming across another librarian and a linguist. The party was cool and people were super nice as I knew they would be, but I essentially knew NO ONE. Which of course I was ready for and accepted, meeting someone once six months earlier while watching Jurassic Park or dancing at Mod Night doesn't give you much of a conversational background. I'll thank the previously mentioned Sarah here for keeping me company on the bongos through much of the night before bailing early with a few other librariettes. There is something awesome about being at a party where you are more or less a stranger, you get to meet all kinds of people: ex-Winnipeggers, Philadelphians who know someone from your hometown, UN folk, random people who agree with you about the treacherousness of the basement stairs, some girl from Maine, and another girl who not only offers you gummi-worms but also remembers your name (I believe hers was Tash?? Something like that). It was a really good time and after snagging two seconds with the outrageously in-demand host to say farewell and thank you and then scrounging up bus fare myself, Christie, the linguist and the girl from Maine (Brian and Meg, respectively) had to hit the road. The ice cream sandwich (eventually) felt like a dream.

We awoke Sunday groggy and kind of blissfully aimless. I seem to remember Megan having to work, but I also don't remember her being gone, so perhaps I slept more than I thought. Christie made amazing pancakes and we listened to the CBC (a hallmark of Canadian visits) and just generally loafed the morning away. Eventually the urge to move took us over and Christie suggested we visit Old Montreal, the original city/port to take a look at ships, architecture, get some maple sweetened treats and maybe find some good souvenirs from antiquated Canadian sports teams (one of my all time favorite things). The wind on Sunday was worse than bitter, it was aggressively unpleasant, my four layers were no match for it's FURY! Old Montreal was really nice though, the maple sugar coffee bar we visited had the most ridiculously hip and hunky baristas I've ever seen, I was almost angry that they were also so adept at making hot chocolate. The wind, however, instantly changed my drink into lukewarm chocolate at best. We made our way through the port, past the ships and the Montreal Science Center stopping at a touch-screen event map to see what was going on once the weather warmed up.

To answer your question, yes I was standing on my toes in the above shot. Christie snapped a ton of pics as I discovered a Velcro Expos wallet and Quebec socks in a souvenir store. The most exciting event of the afternoon though was spotting what was either 1. Santa Claus on vacation. 2. God, dressed down. 3. The Lion from Narnia. or 4. A Mayan King. Some dude was dressed in what could only be described as a weird rug robe with a fluffy hat that kind of looked like hair, but also looked like buttered popcorn. He was also wearing jeans, boots, and sunglasses. It was truly abnormal and I feel so lucky to have seen it.

A quick stop at the grocery store and back home to relay the story of Lion-Santa-King-God to Megan and relax a bit more before the evening's pizza/movie festivities. I fell asleep with Ghost World over my face which, I was told, made it look like I WAS Enid. Which is fine with me. Once I informed Bri that I was in fact coming to MTL she invited me to a punk show that was taking place the night after her party. Although I appreciated the invitation and actually really did wanna go (it's been a long time since I've gone to anything heavy) I realized that only knowing one person at the show could turn me into a bit of a pest and as it was a Winnipeg band I didn't wanna get in the way of the reunion. All that being said, I'd like to thank Bri again for being so cool, and if the chance ever comes up again I will be there. So the night was set, Sci-Fi movies, homemade pizza and some dude named Adrian, an old friend of Megan's. The full extent of my knowledge of Adrain via Christe was: He draws dinosaurs. Haha. She may have said a bit more, but that was more than enough for me. He arrived looking and sounding bizarrely similar to another friend of mine named Chris. Over discussion of what to watch it became apparent that we four were in the mood to laugh and Groundhog Day was chosen as the pizza was served. It is from this point (around 7:30 maybe?) to about 12:30am that I and my dining partners do not stop laughing. Seriously, from Groundhog Day to Grandma's Boy (movies that oddly enough both featured songs written specifically for them) to Nick Swardson stand-up to Clone High (a hilarious show that I'd never even heard of) three of us had headaches from laughing by the end. Megan must have known what was coming and taken precautions, perhaps a pre-pizza Advil? It was an unbelievably fun night and a pretty perfect end to my visit. I can't say I ever thought I'd fall asleep while my inner monologue was in the voice of JFK.

Monday morning was weird in that I didn't know how long to stay, I didn't have a train to catch like I did last time, so it was kind of a limbo period. Christie was laid back as usual but I tend to think other people find me exhausting or intrusive, or some word like that, so I'm always assuming I'm overstaying my welcome. I decided to hit the road around 10:30 after factoring what kind of traffic I'd hit depending on other departure times. Looking back, I should have stayed longer, at least taken Christie up on her offer of brunch at some mysterious cafe (Rusty's? I want to say?). My trip home was completely devoid of joy, upon departure I listened to the Monks Black Monk Time all the way through twice and the first Tenacious D cd upon arrival home, the 5-6 hours in between were a mess. At one point I had to dodge garden tools that fell out of a pickup truck at top speeds, like hoes and rakes and all that garbage, hurtling towards the undercarriage of my lovely Civic! Are you serious!? I yelled as I swerved. That, of course, is not what I'm taking away from this little adventure. It was yet another unbelievably pleasant trip surrounded by people who are as considerate as they are intelligent and so fun to be around that it kept me awake on that ice cream sandwich. As I said in my last Canadian epilogue, I write this as no more than something to help me remember truly good times in my life, and to widely thank a varied group of people, think of it as a long winded public postcard that would otherwise read Thanks, Yr the best! opposite a picture of a goofy cat or disgruntled elderly iguana. I don't know, it all can sound a bit corny if you want it to, but I really do feel lucky to know all the people mentioned here.

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