The Great White North, Part 2
8.3.2003 by , every Monday.
In last week's thrilling, laugh a minute (which is not so good a record considering that this column probably takes less than five minutes to read on average) installment of blank, I detailed how to synthesize pure gold out of common household items. And since if you need a recap, you couldn't be bothered to read my last column, you'll just have to take my word for it.
Sunday morning dawned clear, beautiful, and with me sitting bolt upright in bed as I realized that this was likely the bed belonging to Rosemary's roommate, a girl who had moved out the day I had arrived and was throwing up blood at the time. I am not making this up. Unfortunately, I could not immediately clarify this with Rosemary due to her policy of not waking up before lunch. I calmed myself by remembering that I was not throwing up anything, let alone blood, and the sheets were gone from the bed, presumably to be burned.
Later that afternoon, Tim and I left to meet a fellow named Patrick. Patrick is a cool, funny guy, that's a blast to hang out with, but that part of you never wants to be seen with him for one reason- he's way more attractive than you are, giving you the title of “sidekick” or the dreaded “The Funny One.” We spent some time meandering the city, in particular a park, where I saw the such things as a rehearsing acrobatic troupe, a statue of a man no one could identify, and a mostly drained pond filled with abandoned Christmas trees and partially submerged park benches. All in all, a very “Mad Max” meets “Cirque De Soliel” feel to it. Our conversation covered a lot of ground:
Tim owns exactly two pairs of pants.
Tim owns one of these pairs of pants by virtue of an ex-girlfriend with whom he'd had virtually no contact shipping them to him out of the blue one day.
Owls are not as smart as they look.
Patrick likes to climb things.
This was a refreshing contrast to Tennessee, where, lovely as it is, most conversations I can find tend to center around the eternal question “Does this mullet make me look fat?”
We stopped at a small bistro (French for “bar 'n' grill), where I finally tasted poutine. Poutine, for those of you not in the know, is essentially the “Scooby Snack” of French Canadians. It's a large bowl filled with French fries, and topped with gravy and melted cheese. It's available everywhere up there- even the McDonald's have it. “McPoutine” is a crucial element of any Happy Meal. My verdict: Not bad, but I don't get the fuss.
Here we see Patrick demonstrating that not even the very real risk of squirrel poop will stop a dedicated Canadian from snorking down the maple.
Ultimately, we ended up standing on a street corner, Tim talking to Sean on a pay phone while Patrick - I swear this is true - climbed the side of a drugstore. Ultimately, we all learned a little something; Tim learned that Sean would meet us at a coffee house from which we would go see a movie, Patrick learned that drugstores are best climbed with the proper equipment and I learned that my camera's batteries were getting low.
While Patrick's antics were part of the reason my batteries were drained, another was that Montreal has, by my estimate, 17,000 gothic churches per city block, and I tried to take pictures of them all. Apparently many are struggling due to dramatically dropping attendance. Many say this is due to a massive upswing in atheism and agnosticism among Montreal's populace- I say that all the churches collapsed the market. There are only so many people in Montreal.
We killed some time before we met Sean by visiting an outdoor mall, by which I mean “brick-lined pedestrian walks featuring exclusively bars.” Tim mentioned that many of these bars were essentially BYOB: You bring the alcoholic beverage of your choice, and they will serve it to you. He didn't mention if they furnished the glasses. I purchased a small artwork from a street vendor- It's a very lovely abstract image created by unknown means. It's hanging next to my PC as I write this. I often look at it, marveling at its swirls of color and wondering if I bought “Interpretations Of A BYOB Patron Barfing On My Last Canvas, #1.”
Patrick parted ways with Tim and I at the coffee house- I saw several women floating after him as he walked down the street. Tim and I immediately breathed a sigh of relief, then immediately began debating which of us got to take over as the cute one of the party, as Sean didn't count since he's spoken for. (yes, I realize that this does not stop many men. However, Sean is a gentleman, and also knew that his girlfriend would break his heart if he did. Possibly with a spatula.) My argument was that I should be since A) I was the guest and B) I had seen that Tim had two hot roommates. Tim countered that they were only hot until you got to know them, and that I wouldn't be around to date anybody anyway. We declared a truce when Sean showed up, since our slap fight had pretty much made the debate moot anyway.
We went to an incredible movie theater- the AMC 22. This was situated in the Montreal Forum, a former ice hockey stadium. This place is immense. Three levels of theaters, ATM box offices, and, I swear this is true, a store specializing in small appliances. “Watch a movie, buy a toaster” seems to be the marketing strategy here. Sean led us through a maze of corridors, escalators, secret passages and bungee jumps to the theater with our movie, Miyazaki's “Spirited Away.” Let me say here that Sean and Tim are very kind and patient people for tolerating my terrible puns and not jumping to any conclusions about my outbreaks of eye allergies that coincidentally tended to occur during some of the more tender parts of the movie.
After the movie, walking back to the ”Metro” (French for ”underground train”), I met Ash. Sort of. What happened was this figure in black skulked by, giving off a level of angst severe enough to cause trees to wilt. Sean whirled and said, ”Hey, that's Ash!” just in time for him to disappear around the corner. ”Well, let's go catch him!” I said. ”That's not such a good idea,” Sean replied in much the same way one would say that dousing yourself in steak sauce and locking yourself in a butcher shop with Jeffrey Dahmer is not such a good idea. I also got the feeling that the result would be similar. Soon, we parted ways- Sean with his earphones on, walking into the night. Let me say here that Sean is not a music junkie per se, (literally, “French words.”) he's just one of those rare critics who have true insight into musical endeavors, and not just some catty critic looking for a witty way to snark about something. So when he says “So as much as [The New Blur CD] Think Tank paints a certain emotional and imaginative landscape, it doesn't dig too hard at the hues and starbursts that lie underneath,” you can take to the bank that those hues and starbursts are, in fact, lightly dug. Tim and I went back to Rosemary's apartment building, and I was so tired that I fell right to sleep on the Ebola Mattress and slept soundly right into
In which it rains. A lot.
Rosemary, Tim and I all had pancakes with maple syrup. The reason I mention this is because we had milk with the pancakes, and I discovered that milk is packaged in a different way in Canada. In the U.S., milk is typically obtained by going to the grocery and buying a gallon jug. In Canada, you buy a bag. Not a carton, a bag. Inside this bag are three clear one liter pouches of milk which are placed in a reusable plastic pitcher. This blew my mind. It took me several minutes to get across the fact that the U.S. does not really use the “three-pouch” system, but a “one-jug” one. This blew their minds. If the U.S. and Canada ever go to war, it'll be due to milk-packaging tensions.
This was my last full day in Canada, so Sean was busy preparing a bit of a get-together (Canadian for “hoedown”) for that night. I think it was partially in my honor, but I was never sure, and I'm not quite enough of an egomaniac for me to press the issue. Tim and Rosemary were both busy, and my normally accurate sense of direction had shut off not long after I'd crossed the Canadian border, leaving Montreal a confusing morass of twisted roads and adult entertainment establishments. I needed a guide. Enter the Neale.
Neale and I ventured out into the gray, yucky Monday. I had one goal in mind- the huge green dome I'd seen from so manly places in Montreal- St. Joseph's Cathedral. Rosemary refused to go there due to the fact that it scared the crap out of her.
St. Joseph's is as normal looking as a gigantic cathedral that actually dwarfs the hill upon which its perched can look, at least from the outside. The inside, however, is decorated with metalwork that can best be described as “H.R. Gigerian.” Parts of it are beautiful; others are horrifying; and the gift shop is just tacky.
That afternoon, I got to watch Sean, Neale, and Julian sign the lease on the apartment they plan to share. It was like being in the pilot to a sitcom. I can just see them now:
Sean: Neale, have you seen my AIEEEEEE (All three are mauled and eaten by a polar bear)
That night, we all gathered at what I've taken to calling a “metabuffet:” A restaurant where there are a wide variety of different buffets to choose from. There was more floor space devoted to buffet lines then there was to dining. And it was here that I met more Tangmonkey regulars: Scott, of “Underpants on the Outside,” a large (No, not fat. Just large.) and gregarious fellow who has forgotten more about comics than I'll ever learn, Burningsnail, whose actual name I'll not disclose since she doesn't use it on the site, who is, in all honesty, probably both one of the cutest and one of the funniest girls I've met. She and Rosemary spent most of the time at the restaurant being strange at each other.
The Whole Gang of Idiots. Clockwise from top left: Rosemary, Burningsnail, Julian, Neale, Tim, Scott, yours truly, Andrea, Sean, and some bum upon whom we took pity and gave a free meal. He stole some forks.
Finally, I got to meet The Legendary Ash, who was seen at first as an ambulatory Black Cloud of Sulk accompanied by his surprisingly friendly girlfriend, Christina. If you've never met Ash, picture a cross between Layne Stayley and the Fonz, complete with black leather jacket. I considered asking him to say “AAAAAAAY,” but decided to err on the side of not getting his bowl of clams over my head. Ash in person is pretty much as he writes on Tangmonkey- incredibly witty, and from what I've heard, sporadically seen. I thought that he might be a vampire until he showed up in some of my pictures.
After we left the restaurant, we all wandered the city, until attrition reduced us to Neale, Tim, Burningsnail, Julian and myself, all talking next to (what else?) a gothic church. Sean gave me a cool mix CD- you've not lived until you've heard an a capella band sing Radiohead's “Creep.” All in all, I couldn't have asked for a better end to my stay in Montreal. I want to sincerely thank all of you who came. And remember, I have photographic proof, so there's no point in denying it.
THE LONG LONG BUS RIDE HOME
The bus trip wan't a complete ordeal. I met some interesting people- Rusty, the bus driver who was about to retire, who told me all of the things I'd never have known to ask about buses, Alina, the sixteen year old Bosnian war orphan who was adopted by an American family and who was learning French to complement her Bosnian (I'm assuming that's her native tounge, she never said) and near-flawless English. I swear this is all true. She was a lot of fun to talk to, but during the night, I was half asleep and when I tried to shift my position, my hand slid across the seat and ended up under her Personal Luggage Compartment, if you get my drift. So Alina, if you're reading this, I SWEAR that was an accident. I assure you I'm a lot more suave when copping feels.
And I have to say that, after all is said and done, after all that I have experienced in Canada, that I have learned one thing: Milk in bags is just WRONG.