Night things

2001 09 01 - 12:11

I sat in the darkened room looking out my window; watching the sky in its nightness, with the hazy, indistinct blanket of clouds, with the dark spots where the sky breaks through.

It's peaceful; as a lick of wind comes through the screen and cools the air around me.

There's very little noise... a ring of distant laughter, tires on pavement several streets away... sometimes you can almost pretend there's no one else around; or that - at least - you're the only one awake.

Colours are so unreal at night; so intense. They almost seem not even to exist. You expect everything to be dark and dim... a flash of thick green of a lawn under street lamps; the red brightness of brand new bricks; metallic, sparkling blue of cars painted factory-fresh.

Another delicious lick of wind. It's so <i>magnificently</i> cool. I can hardly wait for the fallen leaves of autumn, for the smells of wood fires, the crispness of clear fall mornings. It's the only time of year I almost wish I lived in the country; perhaps near a forest, so I could walk on pine needles and kick through those piles of fallen leaves. Leaf-scuffing is an honourable activity, you know.

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Evening out

2001 08 31 - 12:17

It's a cool night outside; cool enough to call for jazz clubs, low lights, and cozy corners for two.

I walked past the windows slowly just so I could hear the hum of conversations, and see the vague shapes of people on the other side of a tinted window. The only illumination was the orange of arc sodium and strings of Christmas lights around the club's patio.

How warm it looked; how inviting.

Not far from there's another place of warm conversation and adult couples sharing the sorts of evenings adult couples share. Walls covered in old fashioned wallpaper, curtains dividing the bar from the tables, a piano covered in trinkets and various odds and ends.

The sort of place I'd want to be taken out to; the sort of place you wear a cocktail dress to, dine on gourmet-like meals, and make romance in a place conjuring up the aura of long-ago lounges and supper-clubs.

Tall men, lovely women, fleeting scents of perfume, and always, always just the right soundtrack plays just on the edge of your perception; only loud enough to preserve a sense of privacy in a public place.

Conversation is always good in places like these, and evenings always end perfectly; or so my imagination tells me.

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De-fence

2001 08 29 - 12:24

It seems that any institution of any kind, that bases itself so heavily on the rule book, often ends up killing off the spark of creativity. I've seen it happen to people who've gone to art schools even; they get so stuffed up and stifled with the "accepted rules of performing a task" that it puts too heavy a weight on their individualism, disallows a person from "breathing".

That's an exerpt from an email I wrote to someone earlier today.

Art, or any creative process, cannot exist when blocked in by the walls of classification, rigid thinking, proceedure, protocol, stringent rules, and any methodology that restricts growth or change.

Now, there are some forms of expression which rely - to a great degree at times - on pattern. Music would be one of these. There are ways to put things together to create a flow, a tune, and when you remove the method you get the madness of white noise.

But it is the spirit behind what makes that music, the spirit behind what paints the picture or sows the seed, that must be nurtured and aided; not stifled and buried.

I have a friend who hasn't painted in upwards of six years or more; and part of the reason she hasn't is because of a peculiar artistic block fostered by not being able to get out habits beaten into her brain during four years at art college.

Tragic.

There is an immense spirit there, hemmed in by someone else's ideas of the way things should be.

Sure I went to art school and loved it, but I took the things I learned and used them as tools. I recalled techniques, ways to mix colours, how to prepare canvas, etc.; but I didn't take away The Rules Of How Things Are Supposed To Be Done. I completed ignored the Rules that tell you you're not supposed to put this colour next to that colour because of whatever reason.

Creativity comes from life, from freedom, from the need to let out whatever might be hiding away inside a person; things can't grow if you block out the light. People can't breathe if you cut off their oxygen.

Things need to move, change, and grow; and they can't do that if you fence them in.

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Paraphrased from John Forsythe...

2001 08 25 - 12:36

Was watching an interview clip of John Forsythe discussing the making of the film <i>Lifeboat</i>, in which he tells a nifty little ribald story of our Mr. Hitchcock.

Apparently the one cameraman came rushing onto the set one day and asked Hitch if he'd seen the dailies, to which Hitch replied no. The cameraman says that they've got a very big problem, that they might be in serious trouble. Hitch is naturally curious, so the cameraman mentions all those weird angles things have to be shot at for the film, and says that Tellulah Bankhead doesn't wear underwear; so if those shots get used in the movie everyone will see everything Tellulah's got. Hitch "oh dears" a few times then says:

"Well, I don't know if this is a problem for wardrobe, makeup, or hairdressing."

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Musical / Clyde Gilmore

2001 08 13 - 12:39

 Discovering today, that my grandmother likes Boy George, was almost as surprising as the time I found out she likes one or two Sex Pistols songs. (That was approximately fifteen years ago, and I'm still surprised by it. Actually, I think I'm still trying to get over it. Next thing you know, she'll be telling me she thinks Al Jorgensen is "keen", or something.)

My grandfather never struck me as one for too much music, unless it was Stompin' Tom Connors, or came from Cape Breton, even though the radio was always set to the local top 40 station. (COCK - We're comin' at ya! Local joke, don't ask. :&gt;) Yet every Sunday afternoon he'd have Clyde Gilmore on the CBC. Clyde Gilmore had possibly the most astounding collection of music ever assembled by any man ever. He seemed to have everything, from the popular to the rare and obscure. I'm sure, if you wanted to be material about it, what he had could have amounted to a worth of six digits.

It was Clyde Gilmore who first introduced me to Billie Holiday whom I still adore. (Oh, and to the supposed lover of jazz I spoke to a few years ago; Billie Holiday is not a 'he'. Thank you. That is all.)

I can still hear his voice, too; I could pick it out in a crowed of thousands if he were actually alive to be in that crowd of thousands. He's missed by me. he was a reminder of good things from childhood, and one of the few things I can associate with nothing bad. Not directly.

He's also, I'm certain, indirectly responsible for my love of the Ode To Joy; considering it was through him that I had my first taste of classical music.

...and speaking also of my grandfather, I've recently rediscovered my love of Bugle chips. He used to bring a bag from the bar when he'd come home. I loved them. It seems, though, that I have bought the local variety store out of house and Bugle chips. Their supply is dry. Either I shop elsewhere, or go without. Decisions, decisions.

Oh yes, I almost forgot the decent film I did see today. The Lion In Winter starring Katherine Hepburn and Peter O'Toole. Oh how I love Peter O'Toole. I think I've seen it once before, though many moons ago. I used to live for films like this. They're the reason I spent so many late nights in front of the television back when the local tv stations would actually show something that wasn't a bloody infomercial. No wonder things are such a frigging cultural wasteland nowadays. Now, though, I've got access to a couple of movie stations, so I'm watching Prelude To A Kiss. It's turning out to be not too damn bad. The pacing is a tad on the slow side, but sometimes that suits a film just fine.

I was just glancing at something in someone else's journal, something he's writing about going on a journey. Travel is a very important thing, in so many ways. In order to understand your own culture, your own home, and the cultures and homes of others, you have to go outside of the safe world you've always known. You must go abroad and experience life the way someone else experiences it. I think it's a good education to get outside of yourself once in a while. It's certainly good for diffusing social prejudice, for those open of mind enough to discern things around them, to perceive things, rather than just react to what's around them. You must interract.

In order to form a more perfect union, so to speak, you have to meld with what's around you, observe it, feel it, let it become a part of you. it's a different place, and a different world. It's not going to be like home, and you should not expect it to be so. But that's the whole point; living outside of what you're used to; living in another place so that you can learn from it.

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All

2001 08 10 - 12:50

All those things I wanted
The things that end in 'yet'
All the things I dreamed of
And the things that I will get
All the things I tried to be
And all the things I am
All the things I can't do
And all the things I can
All of what has built up
And all of what fell through
All of what has happened
And all of what is new
All of what I asked for
And all the things I fought
All of what's come freely
And all of what I bought
All of what has hurt me
And all of what has not
All the skin I live in
And all the air I breath
All the sins committed
For which there is reprieve
All the things I've tucked away
And all the songs I've sung
All the memories I have kept
And the words upon my tongue
All the pictures that I've painted
And the pavements that I've walked
All the times I have kept silent
And all the times I've talked
All the things promised
And all of what's forgot
All of what's remembered
And all of what was taught
All of what was learned then
And all of what was done
All of what has passed to past
And all of what's to come

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Hamilton

2001 07 19 - 12:53

If I were to tell you about the city I live in, what would I say?

I'd say it's a town built on work; a town built on industry; a town built on the grit of people who either didn't want to, or couldn't, deal with building the city of Toronto (our neighbour by one hour to the north-westish).

I could mention the mafia, the shipping, the steel industry, and Tim Hortons. I could mention punk rock, jocks, and Hess Village on a summer evening.

I could talk about the east end, the west end, Rosedale, Parkdale, Westdale, Jamesville, and the hundred other little communities that make up any city large enough to have its own university, four major hospitals (with two whole MRI units now, yay them), and home to one of the best airshows this side of... airshows.

I could tell you how there are more doughnut shops per capita, in Hamilton, than any other city in Canada (possibly even North America), and I could tell you about the night I saw a cop run a red to get into one of them. I could even tell you about the all-night euchre parties with friends, and the sing-a-longs that nearly got us booted out of one of them. For good. (Who did let the god-damned pigeons in there, anyhow?)

I could tell you about the escarpment that we all like to call a <i>mountain</i>, or how you don't have to be Jesus to walk on water in Hamilton Harbour (hey, we have t-shirts with that on it!), or I could tell you how the view coming into Hamilton from the Skyway Bridge is so ugly (not because of the industry by the lake) because we want to keep the Torontonians out.

I could tell you what it was like to have my highschool graduation ceremony in the Cathedral Of Christ The King (all Catholic highschools in Hamilton do that), or what it's like to go skulking through the Hunter Street train tunnel (it's really not a task for the faint of heart, trust me; especially not when you hear a train coming and barely make it out before it brushes by, inches from your skin), or what it's like to sit on the mountain brow on a night when the sky is lit by fireworks.

I could even talk about the Festival Of Friends, Earthday, the Winona Peach Festival, the Dundas Cactus Festival, the Strawberry Festival (where they serve ice-cream and strawberries out front of city hall), the festival they have down at the harbourfront every summer, or the Canada Day concerts in Gage Park (they don't call Southern Ontario the "festival region" for nothing!).

I could talk about how we are home to what might possibly be the last surviving decent independant record label and distribution company (that would be Sonic Unyun for those keeping score at home; now home to Frank Black's music, amongst others), or how Bela Lugosi and David Byrne once lived here, or the time we stretched a silver mylar ribbon from Stoney Creek's city hall to Hamilton's city hall.

I could tell you what it was like to hang out with the pseudo-goth punky skinhead downtown street kids in the late 80's, what it was like to be friends with the sort of person who'd walk through the downtown dressed as Jesus during the annual Jehovah Witness convention, or precisely how long it takes to get from the corner of King and Nash to McMaster by city bus (hey, they're going <i>your</i> way).

I could tell you how we're perfectly situated and perfectly sized (not too big and not too small, and smack arse in-between Niagara Falls and Toronto), and how the weather is decent during the winter (we escaped the snow-belt by half an hour, yay us), or even the fact that our one peep-show offers a seniors discount.

I could tell you a lot of things, but I think what I'd tell you first and foremost, is that it has become my home. I am a part of it, and it is a part of me; and if I never make that move to England, I can see myself spending the rest of my life here, contently.

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I wake from sleep, and take my waking slow

2001 06 14 - 13:08

So I'm awake after two dreams, one of which can only be described as a particularly disturbing cross between a horrific episode of <i>The Next Generation</i> and <i>The Handmaid's Tale</i>.

The details are already too faded off in the second one, which is too bad. It'd have made a good script. All I remember is it being about a very strange university graduation ceremony where the girls were all wearing these very long red robes, each with a different large, black marking across the front. As they proceeded out to the stage area from behind the curtains, one was stripped, something was done to her. There's a scene of her laying on a table, like an operating bed but without instruments or harshness.

In the other I helped deliver a baby. The child of an uncle and aunt now divorced. The baby had black feet and a white face; as if the child were interracial. The couple were both white, though.

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Modern Female Human Type

2001 06 13 - 17:47

(to the tune of Modern Major General)

I am the very model of a modern female human type
At least that's what they tell me by the status of my genotype
I know I've got the chromasomes to prove my native physic state
And if my parents wanted boys, I only say that it's too late

I'm very well acquainted with the workings of the female form
I understand why, though we're like, we're never, ever uniform
And though there's many forms of what we wear to hide our bits
There's never anything that really, ever truly fits

I'm very good at PMS and ESP and moody states
I've gotten myself into very, very rude debates
In short, in matters of the modern female human form
I'm like the rest, I am unique, but like all the rest, I fit the norm

I'm fairly good at matters of the amateur psychologist
Can plot the paths of people, even though they take a twist
I swear in English, French, Italian, and Finnish too
About as quick as I can quote an ode with cadence quite askew

I'm sensitive to colour, composition, and a rhyming scheme
And find that fevers bring the best things right out of a dream
And though I cannot whistle with the skill of sailors on the sea
I still can hold a tune even though notation is a mystery

My favourite food to eat is garlic bread with cheese on top
I'm the favourite customer of a very, very nearby shop
And one day I may learn to cook, and fix a meal that's gourmet-like
But my skills at things domestical would still appear to be on strike

My favourite sport to watch is cars that go so very fast
There's pictures of the one I drove somewhere in my distant past
And though I really do appreciate the awesome opportunity
I must point out, that in the car, drove a girl who could not see

I was born upon an island that sits out on the ocean blue
Had surgery upon my eyes before I even had turned two
I've been to England, Hungary, France, and the United States
Though I've never been to Greece and broken china dinner plates

I've had clothing made of cotton, rayon, silk, and a bit of wool
My knowledge of the universe is less than what you could call full
I've mentioned it before, I know, and not to make up too much hype
I am the very model of a modern female human type

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Montreal

2001 05 29 - 18:07

I figured a trip to a city that I've never seen anything of but the train station, wouldn't be without its adventures and incidents, but I didn't figure those experiences would start with the trip barely even begun.

Who knew? The bus station in Hamilton has self-flushing toilets.

I also didn't know that the next trip experience would include me developing a head and chest cold on the train to said city. So, my first purchase in Montreal was a bottle of decongestant. Yummy. Never used Robitussin before, and I have to say that it doesn't taste too bad. Certainly tastes better than Buckley's. (Anything would, though.)

We walked from the train station to the hostel we were staying at, and on the way passed St. Patrick's Basilica which is a lovely old church dedicated to, and used by, the city's Irish Catholic population. We visited Notre Dame on our last day, which was very lovely, and very blueish. (I never did get to see its named counterpart when I was in Paris, much to my regret.) I'm not a church-going person by any stretch of the imagination, but I like visiting old churches. Some are quite lovely.

Our first impression of the city was, "Gosh, it's awfully quiet for a big city on a Saturday afternoon."

That impression quickly changed when we headed off to Rue St. Catherine later on. That's one of the main streets, and it seems Montreal retains quite a lot of European style habits that don't seem to exist in other Canadian big cities; namely that all the action is concentrated (more or less) on what (in England) would be called the high street. That street is covered in what one would normally find on a high street; lots of shops, restaurants, a few theatres, and lots of people.

Surviving in Montreal isn't too difficult for non-French speakers, since the city is not only well-used to tourists, but is what could be termed the English city of the French province. One of the best universities in the country is there (McGill), and it's an English university. (Most of it scattered through various buildings lining Stanley Street, which goes up a hill towards Mount Royal. Must be hell in winter.)

Montreal, like many large cities worldwide, has its own Chinatown, which is marked off by these really lovely gates. (Unfortunately the picture I took of one of those gates, got deleted.) The pharmacy there has a pharmacist who can, according to the sign, speak English, French, and six different dialects of Chinese. It's not a large Chinese section, from what I could gather, but it wasn't without its charms. It had what a Chinatown usually has; lots of shops, lots of restaurants (from very Chinese to very catering-to-North-Americans), and lots of people.

The hostel was stayed at (Auberge Alternative du Vieux Montréal), located in Old Montreal near the port and right across the street from what used to be the Central Fire Station but is being reconstructed to be a museum, was quite nice. The people (staff and guests) were friendly, the place was well-equipped, and it was cheap. ($18 per night) I'd recommend it to anyone; and, according to other guests I heard talking, it ranks between 8 and 9 on a hostel scale of 1 to 10.

The metro (subway, tube, underground, etc.) was a metro, but not full of the sort of graphitti one imagines the New York subway to possess. It was clean, and extensive enough. The cars were narrower than the ones in Toronto, but the trains ride quieter, as the cars use rubber wheels. (Fare is $2 per trip, but you can buy a strip of tickets - I think it's 10 - for about $8.50. They also have montly passes and special three or four day passes mainly geared for tourists.)

Though the metro is nice, the only way to see the city is really by foot. It might be a lot of walking, and some of it uphill, but you miss so much of the flavour by staying underground or on buses.

We ate some traditional regional food, of course, but that's one thing you should (in my not so humble opinion) always do when you visit a place you've not been before. There's the smoked meat that the city is well-known for, which is just smoked ham, and poutine. Poutine is french fries covered in gravy and cheese curd. It's really, really yummy.

The city has other European touches; like the proliferation of cafes, and the existance of what the population of France would term a tabac. That's just a small shop, smaller than a convenience store, that sells cigarettes, beer, wine, junk food, and small things like that. One thing you have to bear in mind, though, should you stay in Old Montreal, is that there don't seem to be too many grocery stores or tabacs. There's one five minutes walk from the hostel we stayed at, but there didn't seem to be any others, and the closest pharmacy is the one for Chinatown. It's not that far of a walk, though.

The city has two IMAX theatres, which is very nifty, and has (of course) the Olympic Stadium. Right under the stadium, in a building that was used for sports like handball and such, is a place called the Biodome. This is now used as an indoor zoo. It's an amazing place. It's set up as forests, each room playing host to a different style of forest. There's an Amazonian type jungle room with crocodiles, tropical birds and fish, and a Laurentian forest room which plays host to North American wildlife. (Including a water area with seagulls... seemed a bit useless to add a room with seagulls, the damn things are all over - like pigeons - but I suppose that's the point.)

Another thing to keep in mind, is that sometimes Montreal has what's called Museum Day (not sure how many times a year they do this), and on this day most of the city's museums are free. I think the Biodome has a cost to get in, but it seems that it might be free after a certain hour of the day, since we paid nothing to get in.

It costs $10 to go up the elevator in the tower of the Olympic stadium, which might be a bit pricey, but it's really a lovely view of the whole city.

The beggars of Montreal don't seem to beg; they just stand there with their hands out. It's kind of nice in a way, since you don't have people in your face begging for spare change, but it's disturbing in other ways. I'm not quite sure why. I won't give money to people who don't ask me for it. I'll gladly hand over change if you ask, though.

The city is also well-known for its underground city. These are a series of tunnels under the city that house shops and businesses of all sorts. It's quite nice, but not necessarily an uncommon thing.

There are horse and buggy rides through old Montreal, but we didn't take one. No idea how much they cost, but it probably isn't what you'd term cheap. Horse and buggy rides never seem to be. There seem to be a few places where they start; two spots are in front of Notre Dame and then from a place on the port. (One of the IMAX theatres is on the port, by the way, and the other is on Rue St. Catherine.)

We didn't get all the way up Mount Royal, as it started pouring rain half way through the walk (and I do mean pouring), so we had to turn back. If you like walking, and bear in mind this is uphill, it's a nice walk up Stanley Street, past parts of McGill University, to the mountain. Watch out for the stone steps up the mountain itself, though; some of them need to be redone. Just a bit treacherous.

First thing to do when you hit the city, is buy a map. That's a good idea for any city though. Get a map of the metro, too. We used a highlighter to mark off the train station and hostel, and other points we wanted to go to, so we could keep everything in perspective. The good thing about Montreal is that there are city maps all over the place. (street corners, metro stations, etc.), the bad thing is that some maps seem to be upside down; so I hope you have a good sense of direction.

Take a camera, take lots of film, wear comfy shoes, and go.

It's a really nice city to spend a few days in.

There's so much more to it than what little I've said, but there are some things I didn't see, and then there are things that you just have to experience for yourself.

Addendum:

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