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2006 01 19
Dribbler™ 3.3-3.4 [Product Of Neglect Art Collective Ltd.]

Dribbler™ 3.3

by Product Of Neglect Art Collective Ltd.

Panhandling, like paying cheques in restaurants, is different here. When asked for spare freedom tickets, most people do not politely and sheepishly decline before moving on, instead the request for alms does not usually register any reaction. There are significantly fewer panhandlers working the gutter lanes of Montréal, i suspect due more to weather than the economy, so one would think people would be less desensitized to the encounter. However I found in vancouver despite far more panhandling, victims of solicitation would more frequently interact enough to decline.

Sometimes this invisibility here leads to interesting moments and creative panhandling. Walking by a metro station I passed a man (i assume based purely on statscan numbers) wearing a latex zombie mask and ratty rasta wig, holding a change cup made from what looked like a home-made mug in the form of a skull. He was waving hello and tracking people's trajectories with his mug arm, and he was still remarkably invisible to the hordes. It is kind of sad seeing that much effort being put out to such little recognition, but that's the story of society I suppose. Outdoing him in terms of effort investment is a Montréal human landmark; Spiderman. Spidey is someone of undeterminable age dressed in a Spiderman costume standing on top of an old suitcase dancing to a portable 1980's boom box. Spidey likes to work St. Catherines Street on weekends, and though his music technology hints at possible age, his dancing style lends no clues. Many have seen him, though since he shows up and leaves in full costume, no one has seen him unmasked. Kind of like Santos the Mexican wrestler.

***
Walking my way to work one morning I encountered twenty-something twentysomethings sitting cross legged on a street corner, blowing kazoos, wearing funny mismatched hats, and white t-shirts bearing french scrawled across them in felt marker. Nothing anyone was playing on the kazoo seemed to line up with each other, and the buzzing was sprinkled with one or two people sporadically taking the instrument from their mouth to yell something. They didn't look angry, or spiritual, or even really all that celebratorial. They just were there doing this thing at 8am, and seemed very matter-of-fact about it. I liked that. If they were more jovial it would have spoiled the effect.

A block later I came across a teachers strike at the Cegep, the strikers had parked a van in front of the school building and mounted Mackie speakers on top of it, the kind you usually hear pounding 4/4 music while you stare into the little blue light in a really stoned frame of mind. They were playing a version of The Clash's "Rock The Casbah" mixed with Bollywood Bhangra and some drum-n-bass, freaky loud. The strikers were smiling, bobbing up and down, waving their placards, having a great time of being on the front lines of collective bargaining. At 8am. They know the score; sloganeering is for simpletons, the real message is in the mayhem.

***
Tonight i went to a Montréal art culture clusterfuck at the SAT. The SAT is like a giant concrete church for "New Media", aka DJs and people who do video mixing. The evening featured poorly presented conceptual art that competed with all the other noise in the place, some "large format" digital prints, video projections of a webcam showing something banal, a few mobiles (my favourite being one which looked like a neandrathal had just discovered the concept of balance), and a gaggle of people looking to get looked at. There was a fashion show by the city's forefront "underground/fetish" design collective (a collective of three, and a slew of unimpressed runway models who were less appealing than they thought they were), and a duo played music that Perfume Tree did better. There was a Nobel Prize candidate for physics who DJ'd a breaks set which no one danced to, since everyone had left the room after the fashion show to go art schmooze.

Deadbeat played a brilliant live set of his own stuff, and worked it into a DJ set of dub and rocksteady which was really good, and no one danced, a few people came back into the room, looked around, and lit cigarettes. I didn't care, Deadbeat was playing a warehouse show for me. He watched me dance and I watched him play, and despite an absence of attractive females energizing the dancefloor, I still had a good time. Eventually my feet will fall off and I won't be able to dance all night forever, so who cares if the Montréal dancing spirit has stagnated under the weight of affluent popularity, and I'm the only one out there.

Next a guy who looked like a one-man consolidation of Parliament Funkadelic interbred with a samurai came on stage and it turned out to be Quadraceptor, who you might know from Amon Tobin records. He had some problems with a sound guy who was asleep at the board, but he recovered well, shamed the fader jockey, and then proceeded to blow our minds. Aside from playing a home made guitar thing built from a bicycle wheel, hearing him was like listening to one guy covering The Nylons singing drum-n-bass, or four Bobby McFerrin's on a synthetics trip (which converts to 16 Manhattan Transfers on 4 cups of coffee). Quadraceptor built entire tracks using only his voice and a sampler, or sometimes not even the sampler. Though I was damp with beatsmithing by then, the Montréal crowd continued to Do The Zombie. Amon Tobin got up out of the paltry handfull of people watching the show (the other couple hundred attendees were all still in the adjacent art clusterschmooze) and he and Quadraceptor played together for about 20 minutes, mindbendingly good. A few more people danced when threatened with a large pole. Then Brother Of Quadraceptor got up and they did a beatboxing improv together which was a whole new level of good. The night wrapped up at 1:30am and everyone left for afterhours parties, maybe to finally dance, but I had spent my $15 and got all the dancing i could muster, so I walked home, having to naviagte a neglected construction overpass to get up to my new apartment, but i enjoy those urban bushwhacks.

***
In the local weekly classified postings there's a listing which reads; "philosophers anonymous; menu-eating, laxatives, euphanism translations, rhetoric adjustments, etc. Mondays 8pm, call ahead for location".

***
I made two exceptional discoveries today, the first being the Pillow Queen, the second, my new laundromat. First let's talk about the Pillow Queen. I was on my way up to the dollar store to scope out trash bins, dust pans, and all manner of things household which shouldn't cost more than a dollar since our economy manufactures 3 of these items for every 1 person who can afford to pay the dollar. Sure, if trash bins were still being designed well and made of metal, or if dust bin brushes were crafted from Billy Idol's hair, I could see putting out more than a loon on them, but in this day and age they're formed from oil industry side effects and squeezed out like turds from machines at the hands of exploited 3rd world workers who are unlikely to see social balance in any of our lifetimes (yes, I know this may not be true if we all wake up and help them out, but how much faith do you have in the human across from you on the bus getting in on that... see my point?).

Anyway, along the way to Le Dépaneur Du Dollar, I noticed a storefront stacked with mismatched pillows, fabric, clothing, and items not really "on display" as much as just "put somewhere". I spotted a few decent pillows in the window which I thought might solve my dilemma of a living room with nothing to sit on. Even more so since a sign in the window said "pillows $5". Inside I found a stack of six deep red pillows, dense like they were filled with soil. Adjascent to the stack sat a woman in her early 50's who looked somewhat like a pillow herself, and I asked her in french how much the pillows were, expecting there was no way these were $5 like the polyester flower-print cushions in the window. Turned out they were a bit more expensive because they were a custom job, so....$6. My french soon ripped along its seams and i succumbed to english when asking how late she was going to be open (curse the verb tenses!), because I didn't want to cart around 6 pillows. She giggled and told me in slavic accented english that my french was fine and I should continue trying. Turns out she got here in 1962 knowing only her eastern european mother tongue, and now speaks 11 languages, according to her all you have to do is keep trying, and when you consider human nature and our opposable thumbs, she's likely right. So I went back to french and we discussed that someone was coming by for those pillows, but that she could make me some of my own.

Our languages kept flipping switches, and I asked for some deep green ones, but she was out of green fabric, we settled back on deep red, but I also asked how big she could make them. "how big do you want" was her reply and I felt very North American. For a moment i considered having her make me a futon, but for now I settled on eight 3ft. square cushions, and she told me those would be $10 a piece; insanely cheap when you consider these are the kind of things you'd fork out $40 a pop for on The Drive/4th/kits, plus you'd have to put up with faux african designs, or worse; paisley, whereas she was making plain old one-colour simplicity. She asked for a deposit of "whatever i want" to make sure I'd come back for them, and i paid for half of the pillows right there, then went out to continue running errands.

Since seating in The Ashram was now solved, I moved on to hunt for a bagel toaster, and discovered a place that dealt almost exclusively in them. The proprietor asked me something in french I didn't understand, and I explained that I was a cultural refugee from vancouver and my french was very poor, he then asked "Habla Espaniol?" and I replied "non, soulemont anglais" to which he said "good, i do not speak spanish either". We discussed the merits of a good toaster, and he explained that he was having a sale where the second item you bought was half price. I pointed out that then i would have two toasters and he said that's ok because i could toast 4 slices. I countered by asking if he would sell me a single four slice toaster for 25% off, but he wouldn't. I left without a toaster.

I walked around Mile End and recieved "Bonjour, bon journeé"'s from old men sitting out on their porches, one of them in front of Our Lady Of Immaculate Bathtubs; a makeshift garden shrine to the virgin mary housed inside a clawfoot tub which had been buried upright half into the ground, the curve of the tub acting as the alcove to shield the statue. Something I really appreciate about this place is the presence and interactivity of the old people in the middle of the city. They talk with you because you're there, and the city is not just a place for the young. Since arriving here, I can confidently say i have had more conversations with old folks than adults.

I went looking for a neighbourhood laundromat, but it was looking unpromising since the only one I could find was run by a landlord who had told me a few weeks prior that he didn't want to rent anything to me so i should fuck right off and not bother asking to see his spaces. But since I had some time to kill waiting for my pillows, I went on the hunt. Although my building has a couple washing machines in it, I am partial to laundromats for a few reasons. Since I wear a uniform, and have several permutations of it, laundry can sometimes be a big event, especially if I go through all the items, which takes between three or four weeks, and requires 4 to 5 loads to get done, 6 if i also wash linnen. Laundromats allow me to do all of the clothes at once, getting it done in 1+1/2 hours instead of spreading it across several evenings staying home to tend the wash cycle. I also meet interesting people in laundromats, and it gives me time to do some solid reading. Sometimes during the dry cycle I would enjoy a veggie fried rice at the Golden Penny before it changed owner and started going downhill. Every now and then a loner east van lady would be doing her laundry on the same antisocial friday night as me and it would feel like a gum commercial. Fantasies of us both coyly fighting over the last big dryer, or getting all our blacks confused and me staring at a pair of her panties like "woah, these aren't mine!", but in actuality that never happened. The fantasy part I mean, the loner east van lookers did show up from time to time, but seemed disinterested, or had not seen the same gum commercials as me.

One block from the belligerent land-romat I hit Laundro-paydirt. It's called Blanc de Blanc; Laundromatikafé. Tasty $2 fair-trade cafe au lait, organic sandwiches, a wall-o-tea, a bank of 8 washers and 8 dryers, two patios, the rear one covered by grape vines, staffed by two racially transcended guys who were feverishly working on a crossword puzzle together. Music on the sound system I didn't know but liked a lot. Licensed even, you could get hammered during the spin cycle if need be. Wheelchair friendly, and patronized by adults who looked like they knew what they were doing with themselves, and were happy about it. Closing time is 10pm 7 days a week, and last load is at 9. Your choice of mismatched tables and chairs or couches to sit and read on. The front window is covered floor to ceiling in neighbourhood for rent/classes/lost dog/musician wanted posters. I know where I'm not only coming to do laundry, but also to find my next apartment when the lease is up in a year.

I sat and had a coffee while watching the room go by, wondering why something like this never happened in vancouver, there was Vicious Cycle on the drive, but that didn't last since a) they had no hangout spot and b) the restaurant they were attached to was pricey for people who do laundry in public. Maybe every building in the west end has TONS of laundry in the basement and it's really not needed, maybe the young folk on Main Street are happy listening to bad radio mixed with a TV re-run of "Friends" while sitting under flourescent lights on one of three offered plastic stackable patio chairs. I know when I lived on Main that's all I could ever find for laundromats. Nonetheless it makes no sense to me that this kind of place does not exist in vancouver; I think it would fly like crazy out west. I guess maybe people just don't appreciate laundromat culture there the way I did, maybe there's too much affluence and everyone has laundry machines at home. However, the folks in Mile End know the social importance of laundromats, and they wish you a Bon Journeé when you leave too.

And The Ashram now has ample seating if you come by to visit.

--

Dribbler™ 3.4

I know enough french to get high, and enough english to get ripped off. The perils of park purchased pot payed off yesterday, as a man who said his name was "Oz" made scarce with 35 of my freedom tickets. I suspected he and I were bound for an estranged relationship when he claimed his product was in his "car", this from a man in a tattered red hoodie, whose face hadn't charmed anyone in a long while, at least not someone who didn't need to get paid. Lesson learned; no money up front.

***
Wandering the streets on a friday night, I sat a spell in the European Deli, easily the best cheap slab of pizza for your drunken 3am dollar, also offering minestrone, canelloni, spinach calzones, and a host of what you need, served up under a towering picture of Fellini in the wee morning hours. For reasons I have yet to figure out, the staff usually listen to reggae, but thankfully not Bob Marley, because then i'd never be able to go there. Actually, reggae seems to be a constant in this town, like muzak for the young, the "mmm, chuck, mmm chuck" waling of opression seemingly pacifying an army of young adults wearing Ché Guevara shirts under designer jackets.

While watching out the window at the hodge podge of people moving to or from somewhere they could find liquor and show themselves off, a Gothtastic walked past, necklace in mouth with a large black crucifix between their teeth acting as a pacifier. This wasn't the first time I'd seen this flavour of post-adolescent infantilism, that honour goes to a gentleman in vancouver whose cross was even more shaped like a pacifier, the soft rubber stem where The Saviour™'s legs should be triggering electronics which lit the cross bar up in LED salvation as he chewed on it. This allowed others in a dark room to guage how much synthetic deliverance was running through his pulse, as his jaw worked overtime to metabolize the sacrement.

Some day I will make a field trip to this city's Freak Night™, but so far from watching the comings and goings of its denizens at the gates, I have a pretty good idea what I'll find. Less freak and more sleek, making meek those on a stygian seek. However, in recent moments I have learned to appreciate a past vancouver character from the Freak Night pastiche, sometimes known as The Thing Which Fell To Earth, and understand better her/his/it's place in the social cannon of cata(c)lysm. Playing to that role out here, I am learning more and more the pleasures of unsettling visits, though it is tricky riding the border of ridicule.

***
I'm living on a one way street in a bad part of town and the only place it goes is nowhere. ...Not actually, in reality I am living on a two way street which leads to the Town Of Fancypants and a bunch of dead people. But I like that phrase and couldn't wait until i was living somewhere appropriate to use it.

***
Montréal is semantically sectioned out into The Plateau, and Everywhere Else. Some people may claim that there is a difference between the plateau and mile end, or outremont, but when dollars come to doughnuts, anywhere within a one and a half hour walk is the same part of town (when in a city of 5 million, the radius of neighbourhood walking borders vary with populace). Teetering off the slope of the plateau on your way into downtownsville, just past the Mural Of Missing Women, The Breads Of India offers 2 unleavened loafs and a bargain of flavour.

Le Pains Du L'Indie has two things on it's menu; the chicken option, or the vegetarian option. They are $8 and $7 respectively, but change daily. The chicken might be tikka, or butter, the veggie could be palak paneer, a jalfrezie, or something equally as tasty, but you never know until you order. A little while later out comes the standardized canteen tray with the 2 breads of india (naan and pampa-damn!), a salad, daal, a couple pakoras big as a 5 year olds' fist, flavoured rice, and the main mystery dish du jour. Rarely does all this fight back, such as it does at India All Sweets, but then i guess that's why you pay the extra dollar. However, unlike All Sweets, at Breads of India you don't get all the gulab you can jamin.

The walls have a few India themed paintings, my favourite being a blissed out old guy reclining on some pillows, rocking a stringed instrument while surrounded by women with heavy chests and loose clothes. The women don't look happy, their faces show more a sense of expectant discomfort, or perhaps the old guy is playing really badly because he's too gooned to pick a key. The tablecloths are all embroidered with ganeshi and in the windows up front there's a few short tables with pillows for couples who want to be romantic and uncomfortable all at once.

The place is licensed and has a bar, which serves gin. A couple of times I saw a mickey of rum keeping the bombay blue from feeling lonely, but usually the only option is gin or a lassie. Strangely the lassie is $3, which is on par with most places, and I wonder; how can a whole plate of differently prepared dishes cost $7, and some milk and yoghurt with mango juice thrown in a blender cost almost half that? In little india, just north of an economic borderline the locals call Jean Talon, you can get a veggie thali for $5, and again the lassi is $3. Perhaps the lassi is like an indian restaurant's version of the cola at a fast food restaurant; the markup is obscene to offset the lost-leader, which is the meal you apparently came for in the first place.

***
While having lunch in Cafe Esperanza today I eavesdropped on three women, who "rejoice in their womanhood", talking about how everyone they knew was moving to vancouver these days. Actual Quote: "Well..., that's where it's at right now." One woman had recently returned from the west coast and lamented missing the old streets and buildings of Montréal, but she claimed the "funkiness" of this city had gone away. They all agreed that Montréal was not much of what it once was, but that they could spot Montréalers in vancouver really easily; they were the women who dressed well.

***
Foufounnes Electriques has a night called "Elektronik" and I decided to check it out, to hear what the established underground gets up to when it throws some power at an 808 and flexes it's beatacular legs. However, names can be misleading, and "Elektronic" translated to doubletime death metal. I was happy to have been thrown a curve, so I stayed a while.

A handfull of sullen men sat around the edges of the dancefloor waiting for someone to break the skin on its pudding, but sadly there weren't nearly the number of females required in the room to start a dancefloor (scientifically proven to be a minimum of three). I went upstairs to the balcony and watched an array of youth wander through looking like they didn't know what to do with themselves, which is kind of what youth looks like to me anywhere on the planet these days. I spotted the perennial table with the nightclub's elite slouched around it; a lone stunning female, her alpha prime boyfriend, and a couple hangers on sucking at beer and watching for girls as the pageantry looked disinterested. I moved back downstairs hoping the advent of double kick drums would get someone moving, though i knew with my age, tastes, and heart condition, it likely would not be me.

Two men came to the room's rescue; men who were more hairdo than human; short & stalky, wearing matching clamdiggers, wallet chains, and slightly varied band t-shirts featuring tortured graven hellspawn and pointy fonts. The two follicle mops walked to the edge of the dancefloor and did what I can only assume was a heavy metal ribbon cutting ceremony. Their heads dropped forward as their arms took up position holding imaginary guitars whose imaginary guitar straps hung to the hem of their pants. Then their necks began to work, turning their massive crop of hair into pinwheels of metal mayhem. Headbanging is dead, hairspinning LIVES!

Their hair stayed in perfect circular formation, like synchronised swimmers of röck, locked within an infernal time sync to rapid fire rhythms, as their fingers moved faster than strobe lights mimicing catgut seizures. I watched them from behind, so i can only assume they mouthed the gutteral subtones of Nørwëgiån, or whatever viking language was growling from the speakers like the bragging of demons.

The two continued for a good couple of minutes before their display of unbridled hairfarming had popped the dancefloor's cherry, and a number of other males came out to work their hair too, though in not quite as impressive a manner. Some old fashioned headbanging happened, there was stomping around, a persistence of "bunghole to the devil!" salutes, and I watched the dancefloor try and maintain a half dozen metalheads living large on a saturday night. Then I finished my soda and went home happy.

***
Forgive me if the next dribble is less than politically correct, but politics is a game for mixed company, and I know each mailbox this is winding up in. Rumor has it that women in Montréal are some of the best looking in the world. This would be true if the woman that works night shifts at the photocopy shop across from The Ashram was par for the course. However, I think that Photocopy Woman is one of those accidents of the universe where all the variables line up and make you wish chaos could happen like that more often. That's not to say Montréal is full of ladies who are the libidinous embodyment of dogfood, but i have noticed something important in why people seem to think Montréal women are more striking than women of other Great Canadian Cities.

To be honest, I think vancouver has more beautiful women per capita than Montréal, though statistics can say anything (4 out of 5 dentists would agree), but the qualitative difference that makes people favour Montréal women over vanladies was brought up by the trio of Lamenting Lesbians I overheard in Esperanza; it's in the presentation. Montréal females (and to a lesser extent, males) definitely "present" themselves more, playing their strengths and diminishing their weaknesses with great skill. There is a certain degree of individual expression valued in this presentation, a sense of knowing what you want to say visually, and then saying it very clearly and very eloquently, with your own individual accent. Out west I didn't see this happening as much, both women and men seemed more apt to downplay presentation, or follow a trend, which is to both their detriment and benefit.

On the plus side, left coast females do not come off as high maintenance vanity egos requiring a body of cosmetic products, accessories, and an extensively recombinant wardrobe to put the shine on. In the minus camp, when trying to get noticed like a gem among the silty human river, lefty ladies do not shine like silver polished up with toothpaste in a drawer full of stainless steel. With that in mind, shacking up with a vancouver woman allows for a much better idea what you're getting into; there's less of a maintenance effort, and you can be more sure of what you will wake up beside in the morning, instead of a rude surprise when you find out how much it took to seduce you.

Part and parcel of presentation is also public performace, and here Montréal has it in spades. When a woman here wants to send you a message, it is not sent through the eyes playing a "i notice you, no i don't" protocol, it is sent with semaphor flags, telegrams, shining smiles, and Helen Keller pressing her fingers into your palms to spell out "let's get squishy". For example, I was out at a full moon party my second week here, and found myself playing like a rabbit trapped in a jungle cat's cage, there was no denying the signaling. When someone crosses a completely empty dancefloor to plant themselves directly in front of you, followed by staring into your eyes while removing layers of their clothing, smiling like they just got their braces off, and then display movements full of bezier curve dancing, it's hard not to notice, and I appreciate that kind of forwardness.

That said, when there's no dancefloor or full moon, and you're finding yourself getting another set of nonessential laminations at the photocopy shop, it's a whole different story. The lack of interest from Photocopy Woman can not be denied, and anglo shame is dealt in great swaths from the Qebecer who makes me try my damndest to do business entirely in french. Perhaps this is her appeal; she punches the masochistic buttons running down my psyche, an unreachable toner tart, plying me into her tongue, moulding me to her culture with a simple "C'est ca pour toi ce soir?". Perhaps I am looking at this all wrong... Or else she's not interested, part of the Secret Sisterhood I hear rule my neighbourhood. Considering the haircuts of the rest of the photocopy staff, I wouldn't rule that out.

--

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
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