Saturday, October 24, 2009

Blogstar Man gets the North Pole Blues


Now, it's been quite a while since I've posted anything on the blog. I want to thank my half dozen loyal readers for their patience. I've been scribbling in the journal, but haven't posted anything for quite a while. I hope that I can put something up once a week, now that I'm no longer distracted by work in the film biz. I suppose that I could cut and paste anywhere in the journal, but since I'd just posted a video on You Tube, that I'd taken toward the end of September, I'll start there. After all, what is time, in the life of the soul? I forgot who used to say that. It was back in those days when we spent a lot of time on some sort of psychedelics, when comments like that could be pondered for half an infinity, peyote time.
Before I even try to dabble in the metaphysical, as certain people call it, I'll try to cut in the section from my journal. I hope to put up a copy of the video, that I'd taken with a friend's borrowed digital camera, which I had to delicately balance on an empty beer glass, which I placed on top of a paperback version of The Subterraneans by Kerouac, that my kid had bought at the trendy used bookstore in the neighborhood, and lent me. And, I'd like to put up another picture of the church from the apartment window. Although, the leaves on my maple tree have turned and are mostly blown away, this being the eve of Halloween, I'd like to post a mid-summer photo. The next post, I'll try to put in a shot more in keeping with the season....

And now, I’m sitting at the Café Depanneur. It’s the last day of September, but it feels more like the last day of November. We had a few weeks of extraordinarily beautiful summer weather, then an abrupt change. Today, I’m wearing about six layers of clothing and am still cold. However, at this very moment, I’m sitting listening to Catherine singing, along with Oreste on the drums, Adrien on the bass and some young phenomenon on the piano. Suddenly, the morning gloom has lifted through the magic of music. And when I speak of the morning gloom, what could be worse than waking up to a cold and gloomy morning than the racket of a roofing operation moving in next door-the thunderous roar of heavy machinery, a monstrous crane big enough to evacuate the upper floors of a downtown high-rise, along with a generator that causes the building to shake, and a deafening jackhammer, combined with the sickening smell of hot tar.
And, I seemed to take twice as long to get out the door, trying to find some fall clothes, ironing some old pants, then making a breakfast that will fill me up so that I’m not tempted to eat in a resto and spend more of my dwindling monetary resources. So, I chop a few potatoes and throw them in the toaster oven, while making an omelet, with green onions, mushrooms, sharp cheddar from Fromagerie Jose on the corner, and the last tomato from my garden…meaning that I had to stand around for a while paralyzed with indecision over how I wanted to enjoy my last garden tomato, before I’m back to eating those engineered numbers with the labels-(S238748).."I wonder whether I want to save it for a salad, or just throw it in the omelet. Goodbye, last garden tomato, into the omelet you go."
Back home on the coast, I would have had another month of tomatoes, and the garden would have been composted with seaweed and some chicken shit from Mr. Perry’s hens which he keeps under the house so he can sell the eggs to top off his pension. And now, I have a little garden plot, in the middle of a community garden fenced in by the railroad racks on one side, the city equipment shed on one, the ball field on another, and now, a hundred car parking lot on the other…a parking lot that had been a soccer field. But, it’s Quebec, and I can imagine that the soccer moms had bitched about the lack of parking space, so they tarred over the field and painted some white lines and set up a toll booth. The heart of the separatist political elite, adding more blackspace to the area. Maybe I’ll vote green, if they promise to turn the parking lot back into a soccer field.
Then I go next door to the corner store to buy cream for my coffee with my last five, come home and notice that I can’t find the change, which would have been enough for a latte at this café…so, I head off to the bank machine up the street, realizing that I should have worn a winter coat…get to the machine a couple of blocks away, only to see the ATM screen announce-Hors Service-Out of Order….then I have to go off in the direction of Outremont to find another machine, since the bank machines are all located in rich neighborhoods now, or near shopping malls. It’s another one of those irritating days brought on by the realization that all that greenery and color that made living in the city bearable, will soon be stripped away, like a scene from a Lem novel, to reveal the raw ugliness of the human creations. Soon I’ll be treated to the site of flat-topped brick buildings adorned with satellite dishes, the artificial ponds in the Outremont parks will be drained, revealing the asphalt underpinnings. Half the population will be plotting, scheming and conniving a way to spend the winter in some cheap, tropical location, surrounded by the same chain-linked fences that surround my garden plot….
Anyhow, it was just a string of minor irritants, really. I’ve been in worse straights. Whenever I start to feel discouraged, cold, aching all over, prospects of facing at least six months of cold, I try to remember that time I’d been out on a sailboat for a week in a northeast gale in October, a hundred miles off the Atlantic coast, in a boat half full of water, soaked to the bone, with waves breaking over the fifty foot mast. But, sometimes in extreme circumstances, in wild, wet cold, white knuckling the wheel , wind shrieking through the shrouds, lost in the gloom with only the pink glow of the compass binnacle , trying to hold the corkscrewing boat heading due south ….these moments have the potential to experience extremes of joy, exaltation, magic.
In Montreal, the magic, whatever hasn’t been bulldozed and homogenized in the name of corporate progress, is more subtle. Here I am, back at the Café Depanneur, a few years after the reign of Sylvain, the original owner. I even had hung a painting in here then, the self-portrait in oils which Sylvain took down in a moment of paranoia. But, that’s another story. What I’d like to do right now, is to post a new blog, which I haven’t done in months, due mainly to having been body and mind-snatched by my daughter signing me up on Facebook, then MSN Messenger, which Greg bugged me to sign on to, when he really meant for me to open Media Player. Plus, I’d been getting film work for the first time in a couple of years. It’s funny, but when you’re wondering where your next buck is coming from, you really appreciate getting a days work, which will pay at least a couple of hundred for spending most of your time sitting on your butt, possibly reading a book, and if things work out well, chatting up some interesting young lovely, usually a Russian immigrant. More on that to come.
I'll now link up to the video. Just press on the (touch) button.I hope that you appreciate the painting of BB King behind Adrien. Symmetry, n'est ce pas? Of course, there's an Amerindien painting, although looking more like a Lakota Sioux, rather than a Cree or Innuit, or Mohawk which one runs into here. But, that's one of the drawbacks of shopping mall art, the lack of a local (touch).



Thursday, April 9, 2009

Fourth Dimension and Pebble Poops


Now, I've been trying to post the next installment of the blog, but have run into the usual difficulties of someone of my generation who started writing with an old mechanical typewriter and still has no idea what to do with ninety-nine per cent of the stuff on my new Windows program. I have a couple of small vignettes that I've cut and pasted from the journal. The only thread to these is that I often receive a late night call from my daughter, and it's just after I've smoked the ritual late night joint, where I'm trying to salvage a day devoted to procrastination, basic survival, and finding new and creative ways to kill time. I gather from the first piece, that it was about five years ago, when my daughter was sixteen. I have a couple of other posts that are more recent.
Now, I've tried a couple of times to put up the post, and then....well, the last time I was posting, the ceiling light, one of those Made In China dollar store specials, literally blew up, and it being the darkest room in the apartment, I attempted to climb this ladder, some rickety old wooden number that looked like it had been in the landlord's family for generations, and while trying to retrieve the remains of the light bulb from the socket, I ended up destroying the ceiling fixture... and found myself biking up to the local Canadian Tire Store during rush hour, a hair raising ride even in the off hours. Needless to say, the mood was ruined.
Anyhow, I'll try to post the excerpt, along with a picture I took of the view out the window next to my desk, comprising a view of the dome of the nearby church, and a branch or two of the old maple tree in front.


The Fourth Dimension and Pebble's Poops

Anyhow, for some reason, I’m trying this silly program…after one of those very frustrating days…even more frustrating than the other days…in fact, most of my days in this city have been frustrating…starting with the local populace…well, first, this PROGRAM…on the computer was acting up…and it gave me all sorts of grief…the revenge of the machines…as I said on Ollie’s message…or Tom’s maybe…it’s like having this Stealth bomber, but I can’t figure out how to get it off the ground…so, it’s just sitting on the street collecting parking tickets…

That kind of analogy…then, I make a few calls…leave messages…the only two

Computer literate people I know…Tom, the best bet…and Carol…well, it’s Carol that calls back…Carol who was born and raised here..one of a few Montreal Jewish Princesses I know…her father is a doctor…not just a doctor, but Austrian/Jewish- Herr Freud type…and he’s already diagnosed Carol as a schizophrenic…talk about self-esteem issues…

Anyway, I’d been reading the web pages about Time as the Fourth Dimension…and it had brought certain things into focus…about how this erroneous timing..this industrial age calendar…devised, or revised by some Caesar…well, Julius, right…the only thing that Caesar got right was the salad…anyhow, this Time as Money reality is destroying the planet…it’s eating up all of us…like this computer Stealth Bomber…

And, I said to Carol, (all the while continuing my string of Solitaire victories), did you ever wonder why squirrels seem to know, along with skunks and lots of other animals, when to grow their coats longer than usual…

“Because they’re genetically programmed to do it…”

Carol’s response…and it was good for every single case of plant or bird or animal telepathy…genetic program…just like…let me guess…computer programs…and, I tried to ask whether she actually could help me out with this program…well, she didn’t know..

Anyway, she gave me all the local gossip that I hadn’t picked up, since I’ve gone semi-underground…about having a fight with her friend…so and so…whose no longer talking to her…or with Trina, whose no longer talking to her either, because she’s afraid Carol wants her boyfriend…and then into the guys…and so and so…

-you know him…Frank.

-which Frank? There’s a half dozen Franks in the place…

-the one you had this fight with…

-well, not really a fight…oh yeah…he’s one of the desperate newspaper hogs…he’s always scowling, grumpy…

-well, not with me…oh, I hear that Genevieve wasn’t such a nice person…Oh?…yes, I can’t remember who told me..somebody…oh, yeah, Marco…

-Marco?

-No not that one, the Latin guy…

-you mean the scowling character with the pony tail, from Chili…with the El Topo/gaucho cowboy hat, that Marco?

-Yes,…well I know that you don’t get along with him…

-well, Carol, he did once threaten to break his wine bottle over my head, but not before challenging me to pull out my prick to see whose was bigger…”

-yes, I know he can be a bit much, But, he’s Always nice to me…”

-Yes, he does have a thing for the ladies…true…

Anyhow, Carol…have got to run, o.k.….

Off to the store to buy butter…go through a little vignette that would only happen at Marche Latina…it’s a yuppie Depanneur…of course, those who don’t live in Montreal…a Depanneur is one of those corner stores, selling mostly beer, and junk food, along with vastly overpriced essentials…

Anyhow, if you don’t feel like walking a few extra blocks and dealing with the Park Avenue traffic, always horrific, but more so with the bus strike..there, you’ve got cashiers that are more simpatico…mostly girls from East India, that part of the world…Bangladesh…minimum wage, don’t identify with the boss too much…cut you slack whenever you need it…

But, here I am at the Marche Latina…and I’m going to get the butter, thinking what the hell it’s probably about twenty cents more…not worth the extra hassle…so, I go through the bin looking at butter…mostly twenty or thirty cents more for half a pound…but, ah ha, I found one for two thirty nine…forty cents cheaper…walk over to the check-out lines..there are two and it’s crowded, and you have these bobos lined up…as they call themselves…bourgeois bohemians..even a guy with a beret and some kind of Gold Card or something that he’s waving as he makes his witty little discourse on Nietzsche. .meanwhile, this babe, with her hair in a bun, like out of some Merchant/Ivory movie…(the English Patient comes to mind),…and this Valley Girllll voice, says..”Juan could you go and check? I think that this label is wronnnnng!”

Whoops, I slip into the other line, where the check-out girl is this slightly older looking neo-spinster….prairies type…so, I figure, my odds of avoiding hassles are better…there’s this young and very thin East Indian looking girl, maybe a teenager and she has about a half dozen items…artichokes, pickled, that sort of thing..in front of her, is this hefty woman with lot’s of broaches, bleached hair, and three different kinds of packaged meat…so, I kind of cut in, but say to the girl…

-excuse me, I guess I’m in front of you…

-oh, no problem, go right ahead..

-oh, are you a vegetarian?

-Oh no…tee hee…people think that by my purchases…it’s just that I already have the meat at home…

o.k.….

So, I get to the line with my last three bucks out…and Miss Manners, with the bun and Harry Potter glasses says…”oh, that’s a mistake…it’s supposed to be two eighty…this after she rang it up…”

“However”, I interjected…”the tag says two thirty nine…see? And you’re what you Anglo Saxons call ’legally bound’ to honor it…”

“Oh, yes, quite right…

Out comes the extra change…no eye contact, though…

Anyhow, just for a little comic relief, who comes bounding up, like a Labrador retriever with a face transplant…Joe... Joe Di Bari…and Joe, of course gives me an Ollie update…

Variation on the same theme…as Carol has genetic programming as her all purpose response to anything beyond the realm of local gossip, fashion or makeup……

Joe has his basic outline…it’s about Art…Joe’s idea of art..this from the guy who wrote a poem about something that most people tend to overlook in their lives…

what’s that Joe?

The Sidewalk…

Well, yes, he’d seen “my buddy there..”

-Who?

-you know Ollie…

-Oh…

-Yeah, he was loading his car up with paintings to go and sell door-to-door in the suburbs…

-As usual…

-Yeah, and I couldn’t help but notice…typical of Ollie..he had one really nice painting, and five pieces of crap…

(I’m thinking that’s progress for Ollie…usually it’s six pieces of crap)

-and?

-Well, I don’t know why he can’t paint great paintings every time…Me, I’m having a show at the Bistro Bobo next week…

-It’s a theme…I’m calling the show-Just Horsin’Around…guess what the subject matter’s going to be?

-Camels?

-No, horses….

-Oh, that’s pretty original, Joe. Where’d you come up with that Concept?

-Yes, that’s it…a Concept…it’s Very important these days…

-Well, I left the water on the stove, Joe….

-So, I go home. Decide it’s better to just talk to myself…

Later, I try Hugh, who being a former draft dodger, out of Yale, and now a prof of Spanish translation…a writer, poet, and generally well-read sort…I can talk to him, maybe…

-Can’t talk, Doug, you know..

-Yep, it’s the Harry Potter Hour…and he’s got to read to his daughter…Edith, whose at that super cute age of nine or ten…while mine is at that very difficult age, being fourteen and having hit her teens during North America’s Late Armani, Middle Makeup Phase…

And I still save funny little stories that she wrote at eleven and twelve…and now, well she’s too busy most of the time…

Anyhow, she calls…my daughter, Sophie, that is…we chat…could it be that a certain mother is out walking a certain four-legged beast? Yes, of course, she calls me, on certain nights when she’s feeling a bit stressed and anxious and her mother has left to walk the little poodle named Pebbles. Somehow, while she brushes her teeth, the conversation goes in the direction of animal mortality. First about, the last time I’d visited and Pebbles had left this turd right next to the computer, and I’d squished around in it while I was trying to surf the Net…

Well, Sophie was of the opinion that Pebbles was leaving his poops on the floor with increasing frequency, and that it was connected to his advanced age…

-and what age is that?

-Six, I think…she said…well, of course, small dogs live longer..did you know that Razboi the Borzoi is only expected to live about 7 years?

And so forth…into cats, who seem to live longer…

I try to get onto a lighter, or even deeper subject…how about vegetarians…I try to give a plug for the book Secret Life of Plants…knowing that it will pique her curiosity…and tell her about the two girls that caused a scandal in their high school…they were trying to do something non-conformist for a class project, since they’d been reading the Transcendentalists…like Emerson and Thoreau….

And they got up on the table in the lunch room, and yelled-“End Homophobia Now!” then kissed, rather hotly according to witnesses, for about twenty seconds or so…

Monday, February 16, 2009

Blogstar Man- Mid-winter Version

Hello world. I've finally got around to posting another blog. I believe it's the first blog of the year. I hope to put something up at least once a week. Although, I'll admit that I'm still trying to get the hang of the basic mechanics of blogging. I've included this self-portrait since I wanted to mention this other cafe that I went to which is about a block north of my place. It was one of those really cold Montreal January days, where the weather was approaching minus thirty in the wind chill department. I'd gone by the Mile End Mission to check out for some cheap threads. Now, I usually can get a decent pair of pants, or shirts for a buck. A coat will set me back four bucks. I'd found a decent leather jacket a while back, so that I could put it one when my academic friends came to visit. For some reason, they like to wear leather jackets.

Anyhow, I'll have to admit that the pickings are getting somewhat slim at the Mission of late. I can't tell whether the local bobos and yuppies are hanging onto their clothes longer, what with the whiff of financial ruin in the air, or the crowd that lines up at ten in the morning to rush in and get the first grab at the goodies are scooping up more....or if the ladies, who seem to have grown fatter and slower as time marches on, have not put as many clothes up on the racks. Perhaps, it's the Haitians and Latinos with the garbage bags that seem to be at every used clothes emporium in the city these days. Who knows? I do know that it's been quite a while since I've picked up any Abercrombie and Fitch pants, or any Versace sports jackets. Having dropped out a generation or so ago, I've tried to avoid wearing my poverty on the sleeve, so to speak.

So, after leaving behind the gang at the Mission, I made my way up Bernard Street, on the look-out for a new place to put down the laptop and try to scribble. I'd been on the look-out for some place new, since the ambience had gotten a bit strained, what with the arrival of a waitress from the suburbs, who'd been used to the Starbuck's type of military discipline. She reminded me of this young woman whom I'd encountered outside of Stratford, Ontario once. I'd been driving this large rental truck, stuffed with the earthly possessions of this Montreal couple, Paul and Diane, who'd decided to re-locate. It had been an unpleasant trip, mid-August heat wave, having to leave Montreal around rush hour, after waiting for hours, while Paul's packrat wife stuffed the back of the truck with all sorts of things that should have been left behind...things like lots of little plants in pots, and peanut butter and other things, which had all congealed into some fifties sci fi monster oozing out of the truck when I arrived in Toronto at midnight, after sitting in one of those endless Trans Canada traffic jams...

Then, spending a night sleeping in a trucks stop, being awakened at seven by some crone who'd stepped out of a Grant Wood painting, print dress, wire rim glasses, etc.....doing a Maggie Thatcher imitation from an old Monty Python skit, whacking me with her umbrella yelling "get up you bum!" Later I roll into a Tim Hortons after passing mile after mile of picture postcard dairy farms owned by Germans, where you could eat off the barn floor...and I'm in this huge truck, and am looking for a parking space, so I head around toward the back, and there's this Low Clearance sign posted-like Clearance-13'30'' or something, and I had no idea how tall the truck is until the thing, loaded with five tons of yard sale bric a brac, wiped out the sign, a rather cheesy aluminum affair. Out of the donut shop runs this young fraulein, nineteen year old summer replacement whose grown up where you can eat off the barn floor, and she goes into hysterics-"Look what you did! I'm going to call the cops!!!"

Well, I was feeling pretty grumpy at the time and didn't have the energy to grovel so that she'd take pity on me, so I grumbled something like, "pretty stupid place to put a sign.." She marched back into the shop and called the cops... and it turned out that the cop was, well he was a uniformed version of the guys sitting in the coffee shop, stoop-shouldered types you'd see in the comic strip Eb and Flo...anyhow, he shows me the way to the storage shed, kind of like the local cops back home, who'd escorted me passed some outraged citizens a couple of times, pretending to bust me, but basically helping me out.

Then, when I arrived in Stratford, I saw another one of those fifties Saturday Evening Post cover towns, with a nod to Hallmark. It looked like you could eat off the sidewalks, like some Canadian version of Switzerland. And there was Paul and Diane looking worse for wear, trying to catch some zzzz's in the parking lot of a supermarket on the main drag. After about fifteen minutes, the bag boy wearing one of those supermarket hats and a spotless white apron, called the cops on them. Now, by that time, I was pining for the squalor and chaos of Pointe St. Charles, where I was living at the time.

Anyhow, I'd settled in Montreal, with its cold, chaos and confusion, in order to avoid these people. Francophone Montreal cafes are not Starbucks franchises. The Arts Cafe, along with the Cafe Depanneur, are what is called "artisanal"....meaning that you are there for the ambiance, the furniture has been gathered from the alleys on trash night, and you have to learn how to scrunch up matchbooks to stuck under the legs of the tables if yu don't want your cafe au lait in your lap....and in the winter, you might have to contend with a building that is poorly insulated, and whose heating system looks like it was imported from post-war Romania.

So, back to that day, the coldest of the year, I decided to check out the old Cafe Depanneur. As I said, I hadn't been there in a few years. It was back when Sylvain and Genevieve ran the place. Well, they tried to run the place, but not having any background in what is called cooperation, the partnership broke off...I seem to remember a rather dramatic scene, with the police called and such, lots of histrionics...the upshot was that Sylvain was left the sole owner.

Now, Sylvain was quite a decorator. He'd once worked as a window dresser. He had certain emotional issues I recall. This pertains to the portrait, which had been on the wall of the cafe for a couple of months. One day, I'd gone in and noticed that the painting had been taken down....about a week after a photo that a friend had taken was also no longer there. He'd, I heard, become paranoid of my portrait. The eyes were following him around the room. He started to take it personally...of course this information came from unreliable sources, one of the local gossips, most likely.

Now, while I'm at it, I want to clear up a couple of things about the painting. I remember that I'd been working toward a certain effect in the flesh tones. Maria, originally from Italy, was staying with me at the time, and she'd gone to a local art school, where the students had an annoying habit of not keeping their brushes clean...or so it seemed to me. They painted their portraits and nudes with a little too much green in the shadows.

I'd been observing the work of Gustave Courbet, French anarchist painter from the mid-nineteenth century. I was taken by his method of painting flesh tones. This local cop and burned-out Vietnam vet, Manny, had commissioned my to do a nude painting. He had this renovation business on the side, and sold me pot that he'd confiscate from longhairs in VW vans on their way to Cape Cod in the summer. Well, Manny never employed the term "nude", considering it unseemly, affected, etc.... He said bluntly, "can you paint me a pussy painting?" In return he'd give me these phony receipts that I needed in order to collect a check from the insurance company, after I'd fallen down the stairs at a friends place while on my way to take a pee. She'd been an art student, too, at the local public university. I won't go too deeply into the story, since it is beyond the scope of a simple blog entry.

I just added this to say that I'd first painted the self-portrait as an experiment with getting a vibrant effect with the flesh tones. So, I'd not been concerned with accuracy in the execution. I wasn't trying for realism, but a kind of fusion of expressionism and impressionism. At the time, I happened to have this straw hat, and it happened to bear a resemblance to the Van Gogh self-portrait. Now, my place back home, a converted woodshed, had a certain textual resemblance to the Cafe Depanneur... except, that my place had mostly art on the walls, and not the country kitsch collectibles that Sylvain seemed to be attached to.

Now, back to that day, with the temperature around thirty below, I went back to the cafe. Sylvain was gone, and the new manager seemed like a pleasant guy. He'd come in and was vainly trying to put plastic on the window. Since ice had formed on the inside, I suggested politely that he try the next day, earlier when the sun might have melted the ice. I'd found a place to sit down in a corner that seemed to be above freezing. I had to leave on the down coat, but I could remove my gloves if I was suddenly moved to write. The huge picture window in the front had totally iced over. I found the patterns of ice on the window, well, fascinating. The light was good. I decided to use the digital camera to film some musicians playing guitar. I guess that every afternoon they have musicians that come in and play. My type of place. Decent music, and I have only to pay the price of a coffee. Now, I'm hoping to post a video of these guys playing in a style like Django Reinhardt with a country flair. I call the piece The Grilled Cheese Blues, since a freshly grilled sandwich appears halfway through the piece, along with the olives impaled on popsicle sticks. A nice touch, I thought.

video