Wednesday, June 29, 2005

StreetCorner Books

Montreal is a bizarre city, but NDG has its own eccentricities. I really want to buy a house in this neighborhood.

As heard from our waitress at the Old Orchard pub last night (if anyone sees this story in the newspaper, please clip it for me!):

It seems that a blind man who lived alone on Girouard was babysitting over 3000 books for a friend of his for a few months. This was apparently a few months longer than he expected to be housing this many books and he was getting fed up with bumping into the dozens of boxes that were strewn around his apartment.

I don't know if it was the heat or the bruised shins, but he just snapped.

On Monday night, this man dumped over 2000 of these books onto the corner of Terrebonne and Girouard in a plethora of boxes and other containers. Apparently, this collection had new and old books, some dating back to 1910. His friend is going to be pissed when he finds out his book collection has been decimated.

By Tuesday afternoon, dozens of people had already rooted through the boxes and books looking for treasures. Unfortunately, many of them discarded the books into the street to the point that there were books, ripped pages, and torn covers strewn from one sidewalk to the other.

So it was that Zimmerman and I showed up on Tuesday night to see what was left. The destroyed books were no longer littering the street, but there were still a few hundred books left on the sidewalk. There were a couple of people left going through the remains, sadly shaking their heads.

One young man kept muttering how sad it was that the books had been so mistreated. He told me that he and his cousin had come by that afternoon, rescued a few hundred books, and donated them to a local library.

Meeting people like this young man renews my hope in the evolution of the local population. We're not all selfish and self-serving.

There really wasn't much left: trashy novels, psychology books, magazines, etc. But rooting through that mess, I found the following:
  • Watership Down (hardcover) by Robert Edwards. Published in 1974 (two years
  • after it was first published).
  • Greenview Review (it has two original stories by Beckett and Ionescu).
  • Tissue Cleansing through Bowel Management (the title makes me laugh)
The Watership Down hardcover was the true treasure though. I've always wanted to have a copy of that, and hardcover no less!

As I sorted through the discarded books, part of me was dreading to find a copy of our own book (You Don't Know Jack). I wonder if other published authors live in fear of one day seeing their books in the discount bin brushing covers with books that didn't sell like "Tissue Cleansing through Bowel Management" and "Cheese: The Processed Years".

Friday, June 24, 2005

On the Road to Ottawa

Zimmerman and I have had our show accepted by the Ottawa Storytelling Festival, so we'll be putting on The Devil's Details in November. Yay!

This is a show that Zimmerman and I have put together and performed in Quebec city (at the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec), and so we'll be taking it on the road.

This is an hour-long storytelling that features the (mis)adventures of the devil as he hops around the globe, stopping in Quebec (twice!), Cuba, and the Southern States (some say that he's even had children there).

This is a special show for me because it features my very first story of my own creation. Most of the stories I tell are handed down to me from other tellers, but I recently wrote my own version of La Chasse Galerie (a traditional Quebecois folktale) which tells the story of how my great-great-great-great-grandfather arrived from Ireland to a little farming community south of Quebec city.

It gave me great pleasure and satisfaction to have my father and mother hear it for its first telling in Quebec city. My Dad was grinning from ear-to-ear as he listened.

I'm hoping we can swing by Rasputin's Cafe in Ottawa to put on this show (or our original Jack show), sell a few books, and have a good evening of storytelling.

UPDATE: Thanks to Pietro who has a fantastic lead for me to sell some books. He's made contact with a teacher at Marianopolis who is teaching a course on Fairy Tales, and she's reviewing the book right now.

If she decides to get the book for her students, it could mean a sale of 65+ copies. Yay! Keep your fingers crossed!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Summer Solstice

Pietro, Ms. Carotte and I went down to Dorval/Lachine tonight to celebrate the Summer Solstice in a ritualistic way. We set up near the Lac St. Louis, right along the shoreline, and got to work.

Unfortunately, it was too windy to light the candles or incense, so we had to just rely on our intentions. The rain came and went, the wind was steady, and the lightning was surprisingly accomodating. As we went through the motions of the circle cast, the lightning bolts seemed to appear whenever we called out.

I love it when that happens. Synchronicity is a beautiful thing. Happy Summer Solstice!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Rude Awakening

At about 6:30 am today, I was shaken out of sleep by a loud banging sound and muffled yelling. I sat upright and listened. It sounded like two people having an argument, but I couldn't tell where it was coming from (from the side or from downstairs).

Then I heard a front door slam and loud voices from outside. So I threw on some pyjamas and looked out front. Jim (my landlord) was holding a guy face-down on the sidewalk, yelling at him.

I ran downstairs and cried "Jim! You okay? What the hell's going on?" Jim was in his boxer briefs and nothing else, holding the other guy down with his knee, fist raised in a punching position.

"Yeah... yeah," he sounded out of breath. "This bastard broke into my kitchen." Jim had left the back door unlocked last night by accident.

"Nah, nah man," the would-be burglar replied. "It was just a mistake. I thought this was a friend's house. Look... I'm a McGill student--" He started to get up, but Jim shoved him back to the pavement.

"You stay the fuck down, you shit," Jim snarled, turning to me. "Can you call the cops?"

My neighbour was already on the phone, calling the police. Pretty soon, the ambulance and two cop cars pulled up: the ambulance guys gave the perp a bag of ice for his swollen eye and the police cuffed him. The whole time, he professed his innocence, saying that he was just visiting his buddy and that he walked into the wrong house.

Pretty lame story, but I wasn't sure if he was really lying. He seemed to be hopped up on something, so in a stoned haze, he might have made a mistake. Still, even if I showed up at my friend's place at 6:30 am, I would knock to be let in and not just walk in.

The adrenaline was wearing off and Jim chuckled as the cops drove away. "I rushed him with a pillow in my hand. I whacked him a few times with it, then grabbed him by the thoat and pushed him outside. I tried to hold him down, but he fought me, so I had to punch him a couple of times." I remember noticing that the burglar's eye was swelling a bit.

The ambulance driver remarked, "If this had been the States, he could've charged you with assault."

"No he couldn't," I replied. "He was trespassing on Jim's property. In the States, he could be lawfully shot on sight. As it is, do you think he'd want to charge Jim with deadly pillow assault?"

I went back inside and made a mental note to make sure all the doors and windows were shut at night before we went to bed. I don't know if I would have handled the situation as well as Jim did, and it scares me.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Rain in Spain is mainly in the Drain

I'm sitting in my office, wondering when my computer is going to wink off due to the lightning storm raging outside, when I hear a strange sound.

The window is closed, so the sound is muffled, but it sounds like its coming from the pedestrian tunnel next to my house (the one that goes under the commuter train tracks, leading to Sherbrooke). I peer out the window, hoping I'd catch a glimpse of what was happening when I hear a "Kabong!" against the glass.

Newton (the cat) turns out to be just as curious and makes a leap up to the window, only the discover that it's still closed. He lands on the floor in a confused heap, trying to shake the ringing out of his head. Dumb cat.

Suddenly, the muffled sounds stop. I open the window and stick my head out. I notice someone walking out of the tunnel, looking back confused and slightly fearful. I know that look all too well... it's the look you see in people's eyes when they observe someone strange, unsure if they should be amused or on guard.

As soon as the person clears the tunnel, a voice erupts from within, and it's singing. Off-key, but with lots of enthusiasm. Someone is using the pedestrian tunnel as a sound chamber to warm up their pipes, but he keeps stopping every time someone else uses the tunnel.

I love living here. You just never know what the rain might bring.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Sleep Entertainment

I've always known that I talk in my sleep, so whenever I hook up with a woman with whom I believe to spend long-term time in my bed, I give her this caveat:

"You CANNOT use anything I say in my sleep against me, no matter what I say."

It's a simply rule, methinks. I'm not in control of what I'm dreaming and the person lying next to me has no context for what comes out of my mouth in that state, so she's bound to misunderstand. And I'm one of those sleep-talkers that speaks very clearly and audibly, as opposed to those who mumble non-sensical things ("Mumble, brumble, Purple Broccolli, grunt, ZZZZzzzzz").

Once, a couple of years ago, a girlfriend and I went to a party hosted by a mutual friend. We had a good time and then we went back to my place. Apparently, during the night, I rolled over, held my girl tight, and whispered the party host's name in a loving sigh.

I don't even remember the dream that would've caused me to say that, but I could've stored ice cream in that bedroom in the morning, so cold was her reaction. I was not attracted to the girl to whom that name belonged in any way, but I was hard pressed to convince my girl of that. Sheesh.

But this weekend, Ms. Carotte was treated to a few disjointed episodes in the cavalcade of stars that is my mind while I'm asleep. The most memorable one sounds like a line from a Chris DeBurgh song:

"Good evening Gypsy King. Let me take your coat and here is my 35-page proposal."

I'm still waiting to hear back on the proposal. He'll get his coat back when he returns my call. Darn Gypsy King.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Knocking Knees Back Home

I've got my big gig tonight in Quebec city. Zimmerman and I have been invited to tell stories at the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec. The LHSQ does a monthly candle-lit evening that usually involves some kind of art form and they get anywhere from 30 to 50 people.

And yes, it will be performed in English, despite the fact that the show is in Quebec city itself, which is a bastion of French-speaking people. There is an English-speaking community in Quebec city (about 2% of the population) large enough to support six elementary schools, two high schools, and a CEGEP.

This will be a series of firsts for me.

1. I'll be telling a new story that I've written myself (a version of la Chasse Galerie that explains how my Irish family came to settle in Quebec). Yikes!
2. My parents and my sister will see me telling stories in a professional gig setting.
3. This is the first time I'll perform in my home town.

Think good thoughts for me 'round 7pm tonight!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Stroke! Stroke! Stroke!

Le ciel est bleu, la mer est grande.
Ferme ta guele pis rame.

I'm on my third week of Dragon Boating and I gotta say I'm loving it. This is my main problem with exercising in gyms: I hate going to the gym because it's so artificial. It's not an activity that I enjoy: it's a bunch of little activities that bore me to tears.

But challenging myself to a boating race, that's fun. I'm on the water in a teetery-totery boat with 20 other people and we're all working together. It's challenging, competitive, and qualifies as exercise. We practice twice a week and it really feels like a workout afterwards. We've got races in Montreal, Sherbrooke, and Ottawa, so there'll be camping too (yay!).

I seriously doubt we'll be winning any Dragon Boat cups or anything, but I've never been obsessed with first place. I'm happy to compete, do my best, and accept whatever happens after that.

This is the attitude I've developped after spending many hours in that government-enforced hazing ritual known as Gym. Only once did I get the Bronze badge, while the rest of the time I got the "Good on you for trying" pin. That doesn't mean I don't want to compete, but I'm not preoccupied with winning. I'm just there for the fun of it.

It's difficult to see the benefits in Participaction when the strongest kids are firing an over-inflated volleyball at your head in a rousing game of Eliminate the Weaker Members of the Tribe (aka Dodgeball).