Thursday, August 19, 2010

Updates on street, cat and scammer

Work has been very busy and I'm enjoying these beautiful August evenings too much to be blogging, so please excuse the lack of recent posts. I give you a quick update.

First of all, our street is done. They finished all the sidewalks and did a very nice job. They repaved the entire street in two days, all with asphalt. It radiated heat for a day and half. What are the pros and cons of asphalt over concrete? So the work is all done. Sadly, now all the cars are backed, parked up in every possible space when stationary and racing up the street when not. It's really a pleasure riding the bike on the new asphalt, but the cars are having too much fun as well and I worry for the cats and children. I really need to work on getting the municipality to put a speed bump in place here. Personally, I'd rather use caltrops or launch flywheels into the windshield Mad Max style, but the majority of society would frown upon that.

Second, I have some interesting developments on the orange cat. The porch lady, as she has come to be known, told me that there was another guy who lived on the street who was feeding the orange cat and letting him in the house. I finally met this guy as he was standing almost in front of my house where I was locking my bike and he had the cat in his arms. His name is Louis. Turns out that he was going out to catch a bus and the cat was following him. It had done it before, followed him all the way to Mont-Royal and he was worried he would get hit by a car or lost.

We ended up talking and it turns out that the cat does have a home, sort of. The apartment next door to him is inhabited by a lot of Colombian hippy types who are living there for free while they renovate the upper floors. I guess the landlord is a bit of a hippy himself. They somehow got the cat. So we went over there and talked to them. They seemed like nice guys and did say the cat was theirs. The story goes that two cats were dropped off with one of the guys living there (who was sleeping at the time, which was 6:00 in the evening; whatever) and that one had disappeared and the orange guy was the other one. I offered to get him fixed and they were cool with that and the general notion that it had to be done, but wanted to see what the story was with the sleeping guy. So we said we'd come back tomorrow to figure it out.

In the meantime, another woman, who lives in the apartment above the Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall, came by. She also has two cats that she only lets out when she is gardening so she can watch them. She said there was a young man from her church who was looking for a cat. That came by and he did indeed seem like a nice guy, but he was going to keep the cat in an apartment. Louis and I were both not feeling that idea. I told the younger guy that he can always get a really nice already indoor cat at the SPCA and he seemed happy with that idea. Actually kind of seemed like he hadn't even thought of it before.

In any case, the cat is not ours to give and if we get a good answer from the Colombians, I think we'll be happy to know he has a place to go inside in the winter. I'll get him snipped for sure as well. He's called Ali by the way, as in ali gato. I'll keep you posted. Not totally resolved yet, but definitely some good news.

After that whole incident, I got to talking to Louis and it turns out he is a Mile End VIP. He runs the art vending machines you see in Casa Del Popolo and Le Divan Orange. He is also the organizer of ExpoZine. Finally, he wrote the book A Fine Ending, which is all about the salad days of anglo hipsters in Mile End in the 90s, back when rents were cheap. My wife had read it a couple of months ago and remarked how cats had played such a thematic role (you can read her review here). So a minor celebrity and one more responsible, mellow-minded cat lover on our block!

Finally, yesterday I went across the street as I saw a woman on the balcony of the apartment where the guy had supposedly been locked out of. I spoke with her and it turns out she lives there alone. So the dude was a scammer. Nice to know.

Sidewalk repair porn pictures coming. Have a good weekend everyone!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Plateau Nights

My heart is heavy at 4:00 in the morning on a Monday night.

There has been this very beautiful orange striped young male [edit: cat, I'm talking about a stray cat here!] hanging around the front of the street in the last couple of weeks. He is quite friendly and very vocal. No tags and a magnificent set of furry testicles [NSFW]. I've been trying to avoid him because i'm pretty sure that he is a stray, possibly lost but more likely abandoned after moving day. I spoke with the old woman who lives up the street and she confirmed that he is a stray and that he killed a pigeon and a squirrel in the last couple days. I guess the brazilian student/hippy house has been leaving their door open and possibly feeding him as well. In any case, everybody on this block who might take a stray already has two cats of their own.

So this morning, I was woken up by a furious yowling from the back yard. I went out on the balcony and sure enough there was the orange cat, in the neighbour's backyard in full male cat territorial fighting mode. Wow does this guy have some pipes! Who was his opponent? None other than Tiger White, the reigning stray tom of the back alley. Sadly, this last winter (and it's at least 2 now that he has survived) has weakened TW somewhat and he just isn't as tough as he used to be. We've been feeding him on our back balcony and I do feel a certain attachment to him now.

I'm really torn. I guess the responsible thing would be to get the orange cat and just take him to the SPCA. He really is a nice-looking cat, appears very healthy and is social and friendly. I think he would make a great pet. But he is just past the age of being a kitten and thus has a less likely chance of finding a home. Plus, this is full season at the SPCA thanks to the numerous fucks who get cats without having the responsibility necessary to properly care for them. And the lack of a mandatory neutering program by the city. But I digress.

I just hate to take a living creature and put it in a cage. It might have to be done here, for the best for all involved.

So on the off chance that anybody wants a nice cat, please get in touch with me through the comments or via twitter (olmanfeelyus) and I'll hook you up. I'll pay for the neutering and basic shots as well. If I get a chance to take a picture, I'll put it up here later.

Now that's a fucking nice looking kitty right there!

But what makes this postworthy is that once I chased the cats off, I was quite wide awake. So I went to the front room to work on the computer. It's right next to the front window and as I am watching this awesome classic Kraftwerk video a friend had just referred me to, I see a dude in the light of the streetlamp looking through the doorway of the neighbour's across the street. He does not look anything like the people who live there.

He turns and sees me. I realize that in the dark of night, with my computer monitor on, I am quite visible from the street. He keeps looking and I try to go back to watching the computer. Then he starts waving and comes across the street. So I go out on the front porch.

Here's his story: He got home with Nez Rouge and realized he'd left his keys and wallet and phone in his car. He lives at 4605 (the triplex next to the door I saw him looking in). Nobody is home in any of the apartments (he also said that his parents own the building), but he knows the neighbours next door and was hoping they were home. He asked if there was a garage nearby. He said he worked at Tele-Quebec at Delorimier and Rene-levesque and is working 14-hour shifts ("which is probably why I forgot all my stuff") and that he had got out at 2:00 in the morning.

As I was talking to him, everything seemed on the up and up. He needed a ride, he would pay for gas, he'd gone and talked to the cops at Tim Horton's. The thing was, I am in my underwear, I don't have a car and I had no cash on me. So it would have meant getting dressed and walking to the bank machine with a stranger in the middle of the night. Also, I'd never seen him before and I keep a pretty voyeuristic eye on my street and the neighbours. I don't know any of the people in what he claimed was his place, but I've seen them coming and going many times and I've never seen him.

But the final straw for me was one of competence. If you are not a drug addict or petty scam artist, then how the hell are you going to the bar after work without your keys? He was clearly not drunk in any visible way and said that he had gotten off work at 2:00. It was about 3:45 when I was talking to him. So he is in the bar for an hour and has to take Nez Rouge home? I was also mildly annoyed because he switched into english way early on in the conversation. My french is good enough to have had that same conversation in french and though his english was good, it just rubs me the wrong way when certain francophones switch into english and the way this guy did it was one of those ways.

I finally said "I hate to be cold but I think you are just going to have to walk back to your car and get your keys there." which really is what any real drinker would have done in the first place. It's a beautiful night!

Once I got inside and started to ponder, I am almost certain that he was bullshitting. He may have even seen my light on before he started doing the looking in the window thing. I'll confirm for sure tomorrow, but growing up in the East Bay and catching the tail end of New York's seedy period has kind of set my radar for this kind of thing. It was all too friendly and normal feeling. Made for an interesting night, though. Just various creatures on the mean streets and alleys of the Plateau, trying to survive, doing their thing.

Won't you take me home? I'll be neutered and vaccinated.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Pork, Hungarian Style

The Charcuterie Fairmont on St. Laurent is my favourite butcher. I know it's not good to eat pork, but their pork is just so darn fresh and good! For whatever reason, I had a hankering for a rich pork stew. (It's probably the soups I've been getting over at Bulgogi House.) I went in, waited a bit while they helped another customer and then simply said that I wanted to make a pork stew, enough for 2 and leftovers. The friendly butcher, who has been there for 40 years, trimmed most of the fat ("you like a bit of fat, eh?") off of a piece of pork shoulder for me, chopping it into rough one-inch chunks, perfect for stew. I then subtly asked what was the right way to cook it. I got the recipe I was hoping for.

Heat up some butter or lard (I used olive oil) in a stew pot.

Sauté about a big fistful of chopped onion until it is starting to get transparent (maybe a little longer).

Throw in the pork cubes. Stir them around so they get good and covered by the oil and onion mixture. Grind some pepper over them. Stir and cook at medium heat (you want bubbling, no higher). When the outside of the pork is cooked on all sides, squeeze in a half a tube of Pörkölt and mix it in well.

I wasn't making those umlauts up!  You'll see this stuff and other variants for a buck or two on the shelf to the left or on the counterop. 

Let the whole thing cook, covered or semi-covered (keep enough sauce to keep it bubbling, covering most of the pork) for as long as it takes. Put some paprika in to add flavour or spice. It will be ready to eat in a half-hour at least, but the longer and slower you cook it, the tenderer it gets.

We quite enjoyed it, but next time I'd make it a day ahead of time or at least that morning, as it gets much more tender and flavourful with time. I also found it lacked a bit of bite and I'd either add a lot more paprika or perhaps some other straight hot spice, like stir in some jalapeno with the onions or just some red pepper flakes.

[Update: I went back to the butcher and he recommended the spicy version pictured below, a tablespoon of which I added to the leftovers when I reheated them.  It definitely gave me the kick I was looking for.]

Yes, now that has some kick!

Next time you want some pork chops, faux fillet, pork shoulder (I get half shoulders here for pulled pork) or any kind of meat, come check the Charcuterie Fairmount out. They also have nice dried sausage and fried chunks of fatty bacon in a tray on the counter that you can just snack on.

Out with the old sidewalk

Woke up to some serious noise this morning and saw that the machines had already started on the sidewalk. I have to say, that thing pounding into the concrete so close to the house is kind of freaky. It makes the whole house move and knowing the shaky state of some of these foundations and the ground underneath them, I was very thankful the front part of our foundation was re-done several years ago. You really feel it.

Feeling a bit like Lester Dent right about now

Here is how they left it Monday morning. Very post-apocalyptic. I'd almost like to keep it this way. Makes things that much more challenging for intruders and would cut down on unworthy passers-by.

There was a little circle cut into the sidewalk that I always had to take some time to clean out. I can only guess that it was cut to let an old valve through that is no longer there. It looks like they filled it up with asphalt.

Further up the street, they were already turning the broken pieces over and getting ready to load them into the cart. When I took the picture below, the foreman looked kind of nervous and asked if I was the inspector. I didn't say it, but I was tempted to respond "Dude, do I look like the inspector!" I was wearing flip-flops and camo shorts. Probably due to my job, where I sometimes have to be an officious ass, I have a slightly official air no matter what I'm wearing. Good to know.

They were supposed to be putting the forms in today, but hadn't started when I left for work, perhaps due to the rain.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The Sidewalks are Coming! The Sidewalks are Coming!

I came home from work on Friday to see these blue lines spraypainted along the sidewalk square dividers on our side of the block. I was very pleasantly surprised as this looks to be the vanguard marks of the company actually coming to redo the sidewalks and since the construction holiday ends on the 31st of July, I didn't expect to see anything at least until August. Some super keen worker getting a head start?

What is really cool is that, judging by the lines, where the direction of the arrows indicate which squares will be redone, it looks like not only are they going to be filling in the squares that they tore up for the aqueduct work but that they will also be replacing cracked and damaged squares.

I get a holiday on Monday and while I have to help a friend with his computer, I'm hoping they'll actually start the work then and I can hang around annoying the workers, asking questions and taking pictures.

The real question though is to autograph the fresh cement, thus marking our territory or leave it pristine?