To comment scroll to the bottom of the entry. Your e-mail address and URL are optional fields.

2006 01 15
Dribbler™ 3.1 [Product Of Neglect Art Collective Ltd.]
Dribbler™ 3.1

by Product Of Neglect Art Collective Ltd.

Montréal is Canada's Austin, Texas, and we are Korean foreign exchange students living in Vancouver's West End.
-The Yogi Spuzum

My last weeks in the West were spent wandering too familiar streets; new neighbourhoods still empty at night, and superfuture™ parks that offered solace in silence, for now, while Great Aunt Ida provided my soundtrack to the packing frenzy and moments of reflection. In classic vanculture fashion, the Organized Fun petered and misfired, instead showing more cinema in the doorways of the Downtown East Side™ than any censorship rating would care to gauge, and little more to ply the mind. Deflected from the frey of unchecked misery, hope turned home as I made my way through Strathilano to find friendly faces pointing me to a house by the UFO landing site. Some true vanculture was revealed; familiar faces, crashers, scantily clad unsexualized liberation, free flowing libation, and limbs light with rhythm. A night to make me wonder why I'd soon relocate. I would miss the unexpected and unsanctioned fun vancouver can offer, but there are things i need to figure out for my own peace of mind, and for those things i need distance. Even if this search takes me away from jewels i have only recently learned to spot amidst the silt.

The past six years have brought me cultural fortune and frustration, paydirt being the fertile friends who also feel a drive to DO, frustration coming from a social construct whose allen key did not come in the hermetically sealed bag. Why people put themselves in culturestructure only to seethe against their station is beyond me; it's clear the culture economy is obsolete and few manage to make a wage of it, so like Rock and Roll™; it's feast or famine and most positions are filled with preferred candidates. In response, The Product Of Neglect Art Collective Ltd. gave up the game without reading the box top, and looked for a new chance to see how it all goes down, deciding to leave town when our path was paved with silicon.

I aimed at making my last day in vancouver a good "vancouver" day, which would end as a good "Montréal" night, while not trying to make either side of the land mass more exceptional than they usually are. I managed to succeed in this effort so well that to show all the pictures I collected along the way, or even to describe it in text, would take more webspace and time than I have. So a cutaway cross-section of my departure and arrival went like this;

I woke up at 10am Friday morning, roused by the memelab's new tennants moving heavy objects into the space. I didn't get up, i played dead and waited until the crack of noon to walk into the world. A call to Active Pass records took care of the one obligation I needed to get done that day, and the rest was free and clear. I biked into downtown for critical mass; so many familiar faces and frankenbikes. I met with friends and we rode to the granville bridge where I realized that The Cecil no longer welcomes us into downtown vancouver, now there's a whole block or two extra which towers over the bridge introducing the City Of Tomorrow.

I left the ride at Davie and Jervis to say farewell to a friend, then followed the road into stanley park to attend the Tucker unInvitational Friday Beach Party at the end of the 3rd stretch, while american propagandists filmed a romance as close to convenience as they could get. A couple veggie dogs, friends, a frisbee and fridgid swimming for some, curious seals and spectacular sunsets. We moved further inland to 2nd beach to watch the 1930's King Kong on an outdoor screen, but the mosquitos forced me to move on before the ship had even set sail. I rode into railtown and through to the Powell dip where PedalPlay were hosting a party in the street. No permits, just some pylons detouring the johns to other blocks, a sound system, 7 cent wine from a really big jug, and pedal powered chunky margueritas on a hot night. Granny 'Ark played and got people moving while we stared at trains passing in front of the sugar factory. Turns out Granny is playing in Montréal in a couple months, at the same spot I enjoyed Akufen years ago. Good omen.

I dropped my bike with the Pedal folks to bionicycle however they saw fit, and walked someone to a cab to say goodbye for what seemed like the 4th or 5th time, we were well practiced by then. I walked back to the memelab and slid the last things into a backpack, zipped the duffelbags, spacemen were GO. The sun was coming up and it was time to get to the airport. I checked in, took a seat at the gate and was subjected to Germans clumsily mocking me for a half hour until we could get on the plane. I was seated next to an asian woman who wouldn't make eye contact, leaning as far away from me as she could in her chair, and who hid her face behind her hair for the entire flight. Odd, but I ignored it and winked in and out of sanity while Air Canada played forgettable entertainment for people who were shocked to find out drinks were not free.

On the ground in Montréal I found Pierre Trudeau airport's baggage handling and delivery left a lot to be desired. It added 45 mins to the flight just waiting for two dufflebags to roll around the carousel, and when they showed i had to strongarm my way through a pig-trough of travelers trying not to lose their spot at collecting nothing. I hired some transport. The van cabs here are different than out West because the middle seats of the van are gone, so between you and the driver is about 6-8 feet, and you shout back and forth while the cab careens at high speeds, tailgates, cuts people off, and it frightened the po' bucking hell out of me more than any cab ride I ever experienced in vancouver (except one, but that guy was sadistic). When we hit a stop light and I caught my breath, the cabbie asked "where do you want to go now?", which puzzled me since I'd already told him the address I needed to get to. I said I didn't understand and it turned out to be a philosophy lesson of sorts. He went in on what to do when life puts a stop sign in front of you; do you look at the things you could buy in the shops on the corner, watch the "pretty girls", get angry and wait for the green... His advice was to drive like a motherfucker, but when life puts a red light in your way, don't get pissed and wait for the green, take the time to appreciate not driving for a bit, maybe look at some pretty girls, and don't rocket through the intersection as soon as you get a green, go when you're comfy... but then drive like a motherfucker again.

I could see that working.

I got to my first address, where I was to get the key to my temp home, and discovered cabbies here hate credit cards even more than vancouver hacks. So much so that they don't keep credit card slips handy and have to wave down _other_ cabs to see if they have any, which they usually don't. So three cabs later, he gave up and wrote my credit card number on a scrap piece of paper he had in the glove compartment, next to it was a seemingly arbitrary flat amount for the trip and I signed it, he made a second "copy" for me and peeled away like a motherfucker. I picked up the key, then flagged a new cab who flat out refused to take a credit card, so I gave him all the cash I had, leaving a 20 cent tip, but hey, if he doesn't want the plastic, that's what he gets in the 21st century...

The temp home caused some confusion. Security is lax, anyone will let you into the building and the front door lock could likely be opened with a butter knife. You wouldn't even need to put the knife in the lock, just holding the cutlery in front of the lock would likely be enough to scare it open. Once inside, I had to track down the 'concierge' who was in one of two apartments... maybe (according to a sign on his office door). I tried to find the room on my own, my key said 2001 on it. However the elevator showed no floor 20, so I tried 2, but no luck. Eventually the concierge showed me to my room, 2001 was on the first floor, right beside room 405 (?!?!). The lobby of the building is the button in the elevator with nothing on it.

After dumping my shit on the bed and in the bathrooom, I opened the blinds of my window to see.... DJ Noah Pred from vancouver walking by outside. Unexpected, but after picking up a weekly paper I found that he was playing at Montréal's version of Suubees that night, also the paper had a full article on Dandi Wind (playing that afternoon), the PR1M35 had a positive review of their new CD and had played the night before, as had the No Luck Club, The Organ was playing the gay pride festival that weekend. So it seems there's a vancouver invasion going on or something. I'm always behind the trends... I bolted out of the apartment and into the streets to see what a saturday evening looked like in Montréal.

Chinatown sounded very odd. Cantonese was gone, replaced by Vietnamese, but it was still "chinatown", and the Faulong Gong people were out in force trying to save orphans from the evils of mainland China, there was also line dancing by asian seniors to latin music. The area had traditional chinese gates on every street going in and coming out of chinatown, not as opulent as vancouver's gate, but I liked how all roads in and out had one; it had continuity. I bought some chinese pastries for a taste of home, and they had a night market on throughout the area. I then heard Arabic singing and drifted to the waterfront where a huge stage showcased both Indian and Arabic musicians filling the massive crowd with traditional music from their cultures. Strange hearing strains of this as i walked through old Montréal, feeling like i was walking in Zurich's streets with the wrong soundtrack. Old Montréal's tourism heavy economic model made me feel á la Gastown, but I couldn't help thinking it was going to be an amazing area to walk through around 4am, when no tourists were there and Jack The Ripper could be lurking around the extensive network of old roads and buildings. Note to any film makers; want to shoot a cheap film in an old european city, consider Montréal.

I hit St. Laurent and knew that both my new employer and a vancouver ex-pat couple lived on it, so I started walking up the street. Soon after i discovered the stories about Montréal street parties were true; they don't just shut down a street, but rather a five block radius of downtown. The area around the Place Des Arts neighbourhood was closed to cars for the "Franco-follies", and I honestly lost count of how many stages they had, all with pro-quality PA's and lighting rigs, liquor tents everywhere and people having a great time. The security looked like volunteers, and not a cop in sight. Each stage was the size of the Plaza Of Nations, or bigger. The streets were not blocked off for a day either, they shut down major arteries into the late evening, and as i type this after walking through the Gay Pride celebrations (another 5+ block square of anti-car, multi stage sanctioned-fun frenzy), it's 10pm with no indication of when any of the pumping techno/house/electro will end... on a Sunday (and the follies last for a week). I would have stayed and danced but i'd been walking for about 72 hours by then.

But back to earlier in my first day; I walked through the franco-follies, and up St. Laurent to buzz friends, though it turned out they were out of town rock climbing, because you can take the people out of the west coast, but you can't take the west coast out of the people... Deflected from visiting, I discovered a crowd throwing their own impromptu Capoiera festival in a park, playing live music and kicking at each other with their cartwheel ways. Through all the walking I was realizing how close everything is. I thought it was all spread out because last time I was here it was winter and I took the bus everywhere, it being too cold to walk. But until November hits, everything I need will be in walking distance. That's about as perfect as i could want it, being a stern walker and all. Vive Les Pieds!

I walked around more streets named after saints, and noticed that some people were smiling at me on the street, not a smirk (mostly) but rather a friendly appreciation of someone "doing their thing". Others were doing their thing too, though i haven't seen anyone as "out there" as the string-and-knot-robes guy around the Drive, the goose lady, or the man I used to see crossing Granville bridge every day wearing rubber boots, pirate shirt, and a beret regardless of the weather. I'm sure they have those folks here too though. What struck me while walking was the heterogeniusness of it all. An army surplus place is right near a bar which is near a hair salon, which is below apartment lofts, which is by a stereo shop, which is adjacent to a herbal rememdies store down from an office tower just next to a boarded up slum building right beside 200 year old houses next to an upscale lounge with a Ferrari parked out front... Whereas vancouver is the 'city of neighbourhoods', Montréal, or at least the downtown/plateau, is the opposite. You don't have to go to The Drive to get drive culture because you could be in front of a "Robson" type store and walking by is a crusty punk, electro fag, yuppie, fashion queen, student, dyke, Algerians, and right next door is a stationary shop; geography borders don't matter as much to the area. I like that, it means everywhere is fair game for strangeness, and there's evidence others agree.

Finally it got dark and i figured it was time to end my last day in vancouver and first day in Montréal, so i went back to my apartment, waved my butterknife, and went in to sleep. But before turning in I decided to turn on the TV, not having had one for so long. I was relieved to find I understood less than half of the offered channels, and the ones i did understand weren't doing anything interesting, so I'm still not missing anything, and I went to bed.


...Then today i woke up and did it again; discovered more sections of the city closed to cars for different festivals, I stumbled into my first Tam Tam which ROCKED! The only thing better than hearing fifty odd people drumming together well, is seeing several hundred other people turn out to hear them and lay in the grass or dance. This is intermixed with blood curtling screams as the medieval battle hordes go at each other a little further down; full-on gaffer tape and wood warriors who don't do the costumes much, and aren't SCA freaks, they're just there to beat the living shit out of each other every 5 minutes before regrouping and sounding the charge again. I walked in the woods of the mountain and felt like i could get my hiking and park fix in the summertimes there (the city disappeared except for the drums and sounds of battle rolling everywhere). As I stood watching the warriors, I eavesdropped on a trio of girls discussing the differences between Montréal, calgary, and vancouver, and had to agree with them, though I didn't say as much. It was good to hear my own thoughts mirrored by independent study, it gave me a sense of vindication for being in the right place at this point in my life. Even if that right place and time lasted for 5 minutes, it was right. So I walked to a close friends' place for a good reunion, and we had dinner at the all-vegan restaurant that has amazing fake bacon.

Now I'm back "home" in room 2001, resting my feet and preparing to sleep before my first day of work tomorrow, listening to the new Francoiz Breut CD. Strange to be going to work with people who hired me sight-unseen, only having talked to me once on the phone and seeing the games i worked on. Should be screwey. I also start looking for a new home soon. Housing is not much of a problem here, because employment and "separation" is, so I am very fortunate right now, and it's making my sleep comfy. However the race is on to gentrify Montréal and prices on new places without rent control are on par with downtown vancouver, but you get a lot more space.

Oh, one thing that does trouble me though; Instead of being transparent, the tap water here is an unnatural colour of blue. Fill a bathtub and there's no denying it; they're putting something in the water supply.

A couple of days go past in a parade of cinematic moments, so numerous that I gave up trying to document any of it. The city is saturated and all I do is turn my head while walking to be faced with another sight I'd never capture in 3 megapixels, or even 30. A crusty punk in his 40's skateboarding down a deserted nightime residential street holding the lid from a disposable styrofoam cooler in front of him, written on it in black felt marker; "SUGAR MAMA NEEDED". Jean stores with duelling wordplay; "Jeanetics" vs. "Indiana Jeans" (I prefer the latter, even if dated). Indescribable beauty in unintelligable graffitti on every surface, incidental anonymous creative efforts both installation and performance (the giant Val Kilmer heads are also out here), retrofitted classical architecture with super-future add-ons, a vancity skyline mural in memory of slaughtered sex trade workers, big W and all... on and on it goes to the point where the act of walking around is even better than I had thought it might be, and it's free. I guess the heinous winters are the price to pay for these summer moments here, we'll see.

While walking home tonight I decided to veer into the 'gay village' to see how it compared to Davie & Denman, or Church street in Hogtown, and again Montréal delivered to a point where, after ten blocks of non-stop crew cuts and tight shorts staring out from leather bar after tranny joint after bath house, i got exhausted and deflected home. I think I have a better idea now how women/prey feel at The Roxy, and the showgirls of Montréal's "villiage" still continued onto the horizon in jubillent fudge-packery.

I passed by Foufounnes Electriques, Montréal's "Luv-a-fair" museum of alternative culture, and found that in the 16 years since I last checked out the place, it's become as acceptable as a Nine Inch Nails song covered by Johnny Cash played in a passing Volkswagen. I'm sure upstairs in the dance-pit the kids still kick it up with their rubber-studded bracelets (back then i had mine confiscated by cops because of metal screws run through the leather), but downstairs on the post-apocalyptic terrace it was all music video feeds and hot barmaids.


It has been hectic and yet not. Comparing my calendars between July and August is strange; July being rife with daily accomplishments and requirements, everything that had to get done to leave town. August is sparse, almost nothing in there, and yet a lot has needed to happen, and has happened. I now have a phone number and have joined the cell phone revolution (for now). If you want to waste your one phone call from jail you can find me at 514.966.2317, though i use the phone more like a beeper that I can call people back with.

I spent a couple of weeks wandering the plateau and Mile End areas every night, looking for "a Louer" signs. My relocation rep did a decent job, but didn't seem to pay attention to any of the information/requirements I sent before I left vancouver. Rents proved to be on par with the West coast, unless you want to live outside of downtown, but whereas vancouver has plenty of nice areas outside of downtown, Montréal's decent neighbourhoods are all central due to the winters and a need to be able to get everywhere fast. Busses run every half hour and the metro stops around 2ish, so unless you have cash for cabs, living within a 15 minute walk of where you want to be is best. One night while out walking I was given an enchanted tennis ball by a bent old francophone grandma. She yammered a rant in french at me, handed me the ball, and smiled. I offered it back to her but she gestured enough for me to understand there was no way in hell she was going to take THAT tennis ball back, then she blew me a kiss and walked away.

Apparently the tennis ball's magical powers were to aid me in finding a home, and this weekend I signed a year long lease on a "4 1/2", or in english, a 2 bedroom apartment. It's on "Park Avenue" or in French, "Avenue du Parc", in Mile End, on a bus line that runs 24 hours. The location is ideal; 4 blocks from the new Apathy Factory I work in, 2 blocks from a 24hour bagel place which has been making the best boiled and baked dough in the city for about 50 years. A 10 minute walk to Mount Royal park which is like living on the edge of Stanley Park, 2 blocks from a "homemade food" restaurant with free internet, a couple blocks from the best sandwich terrace in town, 2 blocks from a Boite Noire (or in vancouverish, Videomatica), a 10 minute walk from the two venues the Godspeed! conclave runs (Casa Del Popolo and Sala Rosa), 4 blocks from this city's version of (the Sugar Refinery), 15 minutes from Pi (a cafe full of middle aged french people playing chess, no youngsters, and staff who play vancouver indie rock and montreal electronic on the stereo), 10 mins from O Patro Vys/Billy Kun where all the bleeps and blips get played, one block from walking in Outremont (Montréal's Shaunnesy), 15 minutes from Aux Vivres, the all veggie restaurant with the great fake bacon, and right around the corner from a place where i ran into the former Wizard Of Granville, Mr. Stephen Horwood, who now runs a restaurant here aptly named Rumi. The neighbourhood is also a heavy Hassidic community, which means lots of Hebes in Hats and "touch me" fabric coats.

The apartment its self is a bit pricey, and just up the other end of the block is a sketchier building which had 4 1/2's for half the price, but when I went to look into that one there was no superintendent to be found, the building security was even worse than the butter-knife lock on the place i'm staying at now, and the tenants were angry men whose tank tops wrapped around a big gut. In contrast the place I rented looks like a hotel from 1921 in a time capsule, the tennants ride bikes, and play instruments like the double bass. I scooped the apartment out from under an attractive twentysomething lady in red and black, but I am hoping she nabs the 3 1/2 one floor up. So if you want to send me old-fashioned mail, or are in town and need a place to hideout from the hipsters, come by Apt. #36-5352 Avenue du Park and I'll put a pot of tea on.

To celebrate having a home, I took a friend to this city's ONLY ethiopian restaurant, vancouverites should be glad they have 5 or 6 choices of that finger food. The place here, Le Nile Bleu, was good, not as good as House Of Salasi on Granville or Addis on Commercial, but I would say 3rd on my list of good ethiopian experiences. However, Montréal's place broke with tradition, lacking mismatched art on the walls, instead sticking with the local tradition of creating a tailored and unified environment. They had indoor waterfalls and fake african trees, the one bit of strangeness being a skylight which looked up onto entrances of overhanging apartments, so I dreamed of drunken students running out of their apartments and puking onto the skylights above the diners below. People fornicating in their apartment window would also be good, especially if they were wearing welding masks while at it.

So now I have a phone, an apartment, a job, and Quebec health care, everything required for legitimacy in the eyes of The Man. So with that I'll end this too-long first dispatch from Product Of Neglect Art Collective Ltd.'s cultural residency in Quebec. Eventually we'll have our own internet connection, and will send out shorter bits as they transpire.

...but yeah, I miss you people.

Keep well, travel safe, until Then:

Product Of Neglect Art Collective Ltd.
[[ PONACL Dribbler™ ]]

"Product Of Neglect Art Collective Ltd. is an umbrella organization allowing its members to operate creatively with relative anonymity and obscurity. It began unofficially in 1988 and officially began archiving output online in 1994. Based out of vancouver, the collective has been enjoying a residency in Montréal for the past half year, during which the Dribbler™ was repurposed for archiving things to write home about. Besides the Dribbler™, PONACL produces music, radio programs, visual art, and public events, all through the gracious ignorance of the Canada Council For The Arts."

editor: tobias c. van Veen
[email this story] Posted by tobias c. van Veen on 01/15 at 08:01 AM

<< Back to main

Think Montreal
Reading Montreal is an online community dedicated to the culture that shapes our city.
Other Montreal Blogs
Montreal City Weblog
Midnight Poutine