Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Stone blocks on a dog walk

Took the neighbour's dog out for a long walk last Sunday.

A very disciplined marching band. The dude in the front with the shaker is wearing an Urban Jam t-shirt.

On the trail that leads up to Voie Camilien Houde and the lookout, this pile of parks works materials has been sitting for over a year now. Check out this nice piece of granite. I'd love to take that back to my place and do something with it, like, I don't know, stick it in the ground in the backyard and pray to it or something.

I wanted to continue to the summit, but the dog was panting and hot (she doesn't dig the humid weather) and hinted strongly that she did not want to continue the ascent. She ran ahead and disappeared and when I caught up, I found her in this nice little pool built in the creek. She must have passed it before on walks with the owner because I usually don't go down that path and she seemed to know right where it was.


And just to really make it an awesome walk, the butcher at Chez Vito gave me a big chunk of leg bone for the dog.

"Just give it to her. She'll knew what to do," the butcher said. At first she was a bit non-plussed, by the weight of it I think. She tried to pick it up and had some trouble, but then she licked it and after that it was on. She went all Cujo on that bad boy!

lost cat upper Mile End

Spirit and Tech

Came to work to see a huge crane next to the clock tower of the church near where I work (L'Église St-Denis).

It turns out the Parish is renting out the space for some new Videotron cell towers. I'm glad to see the Parish finally getting itself together and finding ways to make some money from all the property they own.

My contact with the Parish told me that the towers shouldn't interfere with the aesthetics of the clock. You can be the judge yourself. They aren't too bad but they aren't helping anything either.



What I was really hoping, though, was that they were going to fix the clock mechanism, put the hands back and get the clock working again. That would really be excellent. It's such a shame that we have these beautiful clocks all over the city and none of them are operational. I'm sure it's quite expensive to get them repaired and not cheap to run them, but it kind of demonstrates how practicality and actual community service does not seem to be the priority for the Catholic Church (and when I say that, I mean the organization and its leaders). The people that run these churches are so out of touch with the times, so stuck in their ways. I'm sure there are some here and there that are a little more progressive and they still do offer a community for the older people in the community. But they are slowly starving themselves with their inability to be flexible and move with the changes going on around them.

Another great example of this is the church on St. Dominique. This side road separates it from a very nice little park, where Santa stays during the xmas season, films are shot and people go and have lunch. The new administration in the Plateau Mile-End borough are on an excellent traffic-calming campaign and they decided to shut St. Dominique down between St. Joseph and Laurier, the one-block stretch that separates the park from the front doors of the Church. They closed the street and painted the surface an ugly green to symbolize that it is no longer for cars. Next summer they are going to tear up the road and extend the park right up to the front stairs of this beautiful old church. What's more, every Thursday there is going to be a farmer's market there, with local produce and some entertainment for the entire summer.

So when I go there last Thursday to check it out, guess what? The Parish is holding a big protest on their front stairs! They (or at least this subset of the Parish and others) were against the road being closed. I tried to talk to one bitter old man who simply waved his hand at the farmer's market and said disgustedly "C'est un dépotoir. C'est un dépotoir!" (it's a dump, it's a dump). It's rare that I am the one being rational and I told him that if he wasn't going to be so, I didn't want to talk to him. I found another dude who was much more rational and pleasant. He was a businessman who had an office just on the other side of St. Joseph for over 30 years and he was pissed about losing the parking place. After some discussion, we politely agreed that we had opposing viewpoints but mutually respected that we had the right to speak out about it. I didn't really get a solid answer out of him about what the complaint of the church was. I would have thought it would be a great opportunity to expose some younger people to their values, maybe throw open the church doors and let people see the inside, with a donation jar nearby. The interiors of these churches are beautiful and a rich part of Quebec's architectural heritage.

What was interesting to note was the cultural divide. Everyone on the church steps were older, true middle and working-class french Montrealers from when the Plateau was a much poorer place. Everyone on the farmer's market side were young hipsters, with a pretty even mix of french and english. I respect the former group and believe they have a strong role in the community here. Mile End would be a real nightmare with only hipsters. It's bad enough as it is right now. I wish there was a way that the two groups could integrate better and it just seems a shame that the Parish has decided to set itself against the carless future that is coming (or at least car-fewer future).

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

lost cat near Marie-Anne and Rachel

Fantasia catalogue is out!

Or it should be. This is the date when the 2010 version of the planet's best genre film festival drops it's schedule, always so agonizingly close to the event itself, which starts on July 8th, giving you like 2 days to go through hundreds of films, at least half of which sound intriguing to awesome, and narrow down the ones you want to buy tickets for. Fantasia is the highlight of my summer and one of my favourite things about Montreal, a big party of movie geeks of all types.

Edit (Tuesday, June 29, 8:20 PM): no it's not! :( The schedule is available online as of this afternoon, but the physical programs won't be in the stores until July 2nd. It's also no longer for sale at the Vidéotron near me, which is a bummer. Some story about how the stores were asked to pay more than the selling price for them. Well that's disturbing, the Fantasia site is now no longer accessible. It was down earlier this afternoon, but I thought that was them uploading the schedule.

Also, I'll be doing some tweeting about Fantasia, using either the #fantasia or #fantasiafest tags.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Urban Jam

I got handed this flyer for the Urban Jam by a shy teenage girl who was part of a long line of the kinds of kids you don't see as much in Jeanne-Mance park. They were from the habitations Jeanne-Mance, a project with lots of immigrants in the no-man's land between the Quartier Latin and the Quartier des spectacles:

View Larger Map

I like basketball and the playoffs had just ended. Plus, I've seen some of the homegrown hip-hop here in Montreal when I volunteered at the Parc Ex community centre and was hoping for some good DJ action. So the following weekend, I went down to check it out and I wasn't disappointed.

Great sound system, lots of joyous chaos and what looked like some promising basketball. I brought a friend down with me on Sunday and we checked out the slam dunk competition and the final game. We left feeling that it was a fun and positive experience, that seemed to do good for the community it served.

The slam dunk competition was actually surprisingly good. I was expecting to be entertained by a lot of hype and general enthusiasm, the only thing left in the NBA dunk competitions, so I was quite blown away to see several extremely impressive dunks. There was some flubbing as well, but there were several classic difficult dunks (like combos of between the legs and spins), solidly executed and a few truly creative and explosive.

Check out my action sports photography:

The guy who won first placed the ball on the ground, ran up to it, did a cartwheel on the ball and slammed it home on the way up. Then he did that while putting the ball between his legs. Both were executed perfectly and require some serious ups, because you basically are jumping from a standstill. But for his last dunk, he really combined both ups, power and creativity. He had the tallest player in the final upcoming game ("Le Géante! Le Géante!" the announcers kept screaming) hold the basketball over his head in one hand. The dude sprinted up, jumped right over his head, snatched the ball and slammed it home. The place went nuts. One dude threw a chair and everybody ran on to the court swarming him. The guy I came with said "what just happened there?"

Here's the dude who won, Jusfly:

Check out the whole contest here, definitely worth watching and some nice chunky beats.

You know, those are some America-class dunks there. We've got a high-quality hip-hop culture hidden away here in Montreal.

The final game followed the dunk contest. As a game, it was okay. There were some nice plays and good athleticism. As a show, it was top notch. Check out the coaches of the Diamond Ballerz.

They were wearing 100% Polo from their hats to their socks. Their team uniform was in black. The opposing team, Les Broyeurs (the crushers), wore white and their coaches were in black, though not quite as full effect as these two:

The Diamond Ballerz won. The game was short, only two halves of 12 minutes each. The sun was setting gently on a beautiful summer day as the game went on.

We closed with a performance by Bad News Brown, who played a pretty strenuous and aggressive harmonica over beats. It was actually quite cool and I'm bummed I didn't get one of the CD's he threw into the crowd. Too bad his site is a flash monstrosity.


Want to know who is the baddest cat on Clark St? You wanna know who's the cat that makes all the other cats run in fear? Yes, it's Françoise. She's small, cute and quite friendly to humans. But she's a terror to my two cats, who have come running home full speed several times now with Françoise at their tails. It's embarrassing, especially considering that Brutus is twice her size.

But check out her will, staring up at me while I take her picture:

"Keep taking that picture human. You think I give a shit? I'll knock that digital camera right out your hands. Now tell your pussy cats to stay the FUCK off the front, you dig?"

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A geological aside

My upstairs neighbour is doing a doctorate in soil and geology and he went down into the construction pit and dug out some dirt. He found a bunch of shells. According to him, the Plateau was once the bottom of a giant lake (Lake Champlain?) about 10,000 years ago. When the waters settled, it left a layer of sand with these shells under it. Cool.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saturday Canal digging

On Friday when coming back from work, I noticed that the pit dug out under my neighbours' house was filled with muddy water. It didn't seem too active, so I didn't really pay it much notice (I also was quite hung over after a post-NBA Finals and Main Madness celebration with some friends on Thursday night). But today, when coming back from my Saturday morning errands, I got into a conversation with Orlando and he told me that it was due to a leak in the original water line and that it was filling up gradually.

There was some concern that it might push its way under the neighbours' house and eventually get into their basement and possibly even ours. So we went over to look at it and my neighbour came out. She had called the city but hadn't gotten a response yet. We talked about it, mulled it over. Orlando used to work in construction and when I suggested we could dig a little canal to drain it into the main pit, he said that would be a good idea. My other neighbour was game and I went and got some shovels. And so we dug away! It was all send recently placed there so it went pretty quickly. I worked away at the end and my neighbour dug the passage.

She's a keeper!


Our street gets a lot of bike traffic and we attracted a fair amount of attention. Here you can see Orlando on the right who oversaw the whole operation. One annoying dude, most likely a McGill student, stopped by and asked what we were doing, when I explained it to him, he said "you should be careful on a construction site." Ladies and gentleman, the pussy youth of today who also feel compelled to share their fear of doing actual work with their elders. Fortunately, we were on a construction site, so after I beat him to death with my shovel, I was able to quite quickly and easily bury him. He will forever rest in peace underneath the new aqueduct. Hopefully he will reincarnate into a context where he can build some character.

What was funny was that my neighbour had to go to a social engagement and she kept saying how she had to change and leave in fifteen minutes, but she started getting obsessed with the canal and kept coming back and deepening it.

And it turned out to be a good thing, too, because as the water lowered, it revealed the source of the leak. An old lead pipe that was part of the original aqueduct. It isn't supposed to have any water running through it, but the valve at the top of the street is so old, they can't close it properly. This pipe must have gotten broken during the work on Friday. Either they knew about it and hammered it off or they didn't see it.

A guy did show up. He was sent by the city, but he's actually the contractor responsible for the temporary water pipes. The city had sent him assuming something had gone wrong with his work. He was a bit gruff but lightened up when he saw that we had managed to drain the pit. He sort of joked at us that we should have closed the leak as well and Orlando gave him a bunch of shit about how we pay taxes and blah blah blah. It was good stuff. Moments like that make me love living in the city. The guy got down and very quickly hammered the lead pipes shut.

So all's well that end's well! Now it's time for some beers on the Main and some Urban Jam.

Getting close to home!

All right! They've finally hit our house. Woke up today to a lot of nearby noise. I stepped out on my front balcony to see that they have practically finished digging out the sidewalk in front of our house to get to the valves and drain. It was really too much visual entertainment to miss and so I ended up getting to work a good hour late as I watched them finish the job.

You'll notice here they whacked off a branch from the tree in front of our house. They've been pretty careful for the most part, though and it must be kind of a bitch maneuvering that shovel in amongst all those trees and power lines. The guy driving it has a really light touch. I imagine it must be quite fun when you get good at that thing.

Then the dude has to get down into the hole and dig away carefully.

Finally revealing what we've all been waiting for so long!

The top part is the fresh water coming in. It splits into two although inside our house it only comes in through a single line. I was told that a lot of the sixplexes here had two (one for each side) and sometimes up to six (one for each condo) separate lines, but that in recent times they have combined them into one.

The bottom part is the drain itself. That's where our shit, shower water, kitchen scraps all flows down into the sewer. The dude cut it open with a ceramic saw and yes there was indeed a pleasant surprise waiting for him. I wonder if it was mine!

(I felt it tasteful to not take a picture.)

And here is my favourite picture so far. The woman across the street waves to me every morning when I come out for work. She always wears black as is the tradition among good guys and Portuguese widows.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Covering up

These guys are moving fast! In the section they dug out, they have laid both the new drain and the new aqueduct and are filling it in.

The gravel comes from a truck parked up the street. The wide bucket bulldozer goes up, gets a shovelful and then comes back and tilts its contents into the smaller bucket:

You can see the new drain with the metal plate blocking it off. Here the bulldozer is dumping the gravel down onto the drain:

Check how close I am to the action! That friggin bucket almost knocked me off the platform I was standing. This is no joke, gentle readers.

And now for some real manual labour. The worker has to distribute the gravel around with a shovel:

And then they bring out the machines. I guess these things force and shake out any space between the gravel to get maximum density and minimize shifting for the road underneath.

One very entertained neighbour:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Nuit Blanche sur l'avenue Mont-Royal

Well it's the day, but here a nice sense of the busy closed off streets. I never understand the merchants who complain about streets being closed off to cars. The stores on Mont-Royal were going gangbusters, clearing out old inventory. They all seemed to have portuguese sausage, whatever their store actually was.

Hook and Ladder

Encountered this fire truck on my way to work, with its ladder extended right up to the roof of the triplex. Didn't have time and didn't want to disturb the firemen while they were at work, so I didn't learn what was going on. Strangely, later that evening when I was taking the dog for a walk, I discovered the entire alley behind the house blocked off, to pedestrians as well. A problem with the power lines? A potential sinkhole? I'll try and find out.

Addendum: word on the street is that it is actually due to a conflict between neighbours over a sagging tool shed/garage in the back. One neighbour wants it repaired or torn down and called the firemen to escalate the situation. Ah, neighbours!