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While walking in Saint Henri this morning, I saw a father pushing his daughter in a wheelbarrow. He smiled at me; she was holding a handful of flowers.

My family and best friend have come and gone and enjoyed Montreal to the fullest; my cousin has been married in the most beautiful rural spot in Quebec imaginable, and the sun came out to smile on us all.

My girlfriend arrives August 16.

***

And now I must do something I’ve never done before… erase some past entries. The story I’d started on, “The Man Who Talked to Cats” did eventually get completed, but I don’t like it. It was premature to post it here. I think that a story needs a gestation time that is proportionate to its length. A story of 4,000 words needs a month of pondering before release. As for a novel of, say, 80,000 words — I think 6 months would be the very least you’d want to sit on it before showing it to anyone.

Those are just some rules for myself. Other people are different. In this month’s The Believer, Zadie Smith explains that she takes so long making a first draft, revising it constantly, that by the time it’s done, it’s basically ready to be reviewed. I can’t work so painstakingly like that. I work more by trial and error. More error than anything at the moment.

There is a great article by Paula Simons in today’s Edmonton Journal about the need to make cities family friendly. She argues that Alberta has squandered its oil wealth by mostly refusing to upgrade and build hockey rinks, parks, playgrounds in cities like Edmonton, and by failing to invest in affordable housing, new schools, and other social amenities. I’ve always liked Paula Simons as a columnist and she’s dead on yet again today. She has consistently spoken to the missed opportunities in the city I used to call home.

Yesterday, as I was relaxing beside a swimming pool, I talked to a young-ish couple contemplating a move out west. The couple are not fluent in French and hence are not really thriving here in Montreal. So when they found out I was from Edmonton, they were very curious indeed, because it is one of the cities they’ve considered as a new home. Well, after talking to me, I very much doubt that couple will be in Edmonton any time soon.  Or Calgary, which I described as even worse.

Perhaps it is unfair of me to write off entire cities based on my experience of them. I did tell the couple to ask around more because they shouldn’t let my judgement entirely influence theirs. But as I more fully consider how I feel about Edmonton, nearly a year after leaving it, I must admit, I still can’t think of a single thing I miss, except the people I cared about the most.

As Paula Simons describes, the city very much does have a feel of missed opportunities about it. It has become so fantastically wealthy lately, and yet the people I used to encounter usually had nothing but bad things to say about the “benefits” of the money. It really was becoming a meaner, harder-edged city.

Most important though, because this is all a very subjective appraisal of things, is how the city made ME feel. Edmonton made me feel bitter, angry, rejected, and as the years dragged on, very close to entirely hopeless. I felt I was never going to get ahead there; that even if I did get ahead, there was nothing to look forward to except maybe a few more creature comforts.

Above all, I hated the city because when I walked around in it, the place simple made me feel bad. It had the reverse effect of Montreal. All I need to do in this town to cheer myself is simply leave the house. Go for a walk, go sit in a park, people watch. Those equivalent activities in Edmonton would sometimes put me on the verge of blind fury. Such ugliness! So many strip malls! Where were the people? Where were the smiles?

I know this might seem rather incredible to believe, but people in Montreal actually smile more. Someone should do a statistical analsysis of it.

I now have a rather different outlook on life from before. I am cautiously optimistic about the future here. It helps to start from the mindset of actually enjoying life here. I don’t need a fancy European holiday to have a good time. I just a need a day or two off work and to reconnect with my home. And think of all the new people I have met. Meeting people is easy here! They encourage me and share my sense of humour and like to revel in the beauty of this city just as I do.

I am proud to call Montreal my home!

 

 

Many responsible people these days are ensuring that they get prepared for retirement. They invest prudently, budget sensibly, buy RRSPs, and watch their company pension plan, alert to its ups and down on the market. As an HR staff member informed me this week, it is the very height of sensibleness to start preparing for retirement as early as possible. You see, if you leave it for too long, there will hardly be enough money saved up for your later years. When is the ideal time to start saving? Twenty-five is good. Or even better, start saving for your retirement just as soon as you are born. How about you turn your whole life into an investment plan? Save now, cash in 65 years later. FUN!

The presentation on retirement savings was wasted on me. I am 32. 65 is like a whole universe away! Probably an asteroid will hit earth before then. Or, more likely, the planet will be slowly be dying of a toxic industrial overdose. MONEY will be pretty much irrelevant. Smart people will want to cash in their money for CANS OF FOOD and GUNS and AMMO. It’s gonna be like Mad Max, folks.

That’s what I think during my more fantastical moments.

What does fantastical mean???

I am not a responsbile person. I am probably not ready for fatherhood yet. What is my bank balance right now?

A few years ago, when I was more morbid than I am now, I used to have a stock answer for the question, “Do you have a retirement plan?” I’d say, “Sure.” Then I’d make the shape of a gun with my hand, hold it to my head, and pull the trigger. I used to find that very funny indeed.

I’m sure that if I encounter these words in cyberspace in 2040, if there is still such a thing as cyberspace, I am going to rue the stupidity of youth. “Youth,” I will croak. “Wasted on the young! Why was he so busy gadding about, looking at the buildings and parks, enjoying the last of the day’s sunlight, and searching for a quiet bar for his final nightcap? Why indeed? He should’ve been THINKING ABOUT HIS FINANCIAL FUTURE, THAT’s WHAT!”

 

 

It’s been 30 and sunny and humid, and when I went to a party in Outremont yesterday, everyone’s face had that wet sheen as if we were in Havana.  Ten minutes after a shower, you feel unclean. But I really do love this; the thick warm air. It doesn’t much cool off a night either. Perhaps the best place to be is in the Parc Saint Henri, under the shade of the trees, staring at the statue of Jacques Cartier and the fountain cascading at his feet.

Everywhere I go, bars have suddenly opened up terrasses. There were about half a dozen of them on St. Laurent on Friday, where the street has been shut down. Several downtown streets have also closed and yesterday I had a nightcap in the fashion  district — a gin and tonic to be precise.

I am slow and lazy.

I would love the summer even more but there is someone missing… someone very important. I hope she comes here soon. It seems a terrible shame to be missing out on all of this. 

I left Facebook yesterday. I had been on it for a year. I realized that it throws me off emotionally to have to discover things about people via their status updates. From now on, if I want to know how someone is doing, I’ll make a phone call, send an email, or better yet, arrange to meet for a coffee or a pint of Boreal Rousse.

Bye bye Facebook. I wish you well as you fight an increasing number of privacy lawsuits.

In more exciting news, I saw a penis yesterday. (And it wasn’t mine.) I was in bed, sleeping the sleep of the just, when suddenly I heard a loud mewling noise. I tried to ignore it for a while, but eventually I dragged myself from under the blankie to see what was up. Giroffle, my roommate’s cat, was under my bed and he wouldn’t come out. Eventually I pulled my bed away from the wall and hoisted him out. Boy is he heavy. He eats too much. I set him on the bed and he gingerly sunk to his paws and rolled onto his side like he did not want to walk. He mewled again. I picked him up and set him down on the floor. He slinked back under the bed awkwardly, visibly in pain.

Uh oh, I thought.

To cut straight to the penis part, about one hour later I was at the vet. He said that Giroffle has a urinary tract problem. He showed me a cathater and then he showed me where he will have to stick that cathater – not that I had asked for this feline biology lesson. I guess it’s just offered with the $200 deposit.

My roommate Antoine is in upstate New York and is pretty worried about the bill he’s going to get once the full medical procedure is complete. But what price can you put on your feline friends, eh? That poor urinary tract infected cat is the only one left in the house, ever since Ebene ran away up in the mountains and most probably got eaten by wolves.

It’s a tough world out there. For cats, for humans, all of us. Let’s all take care of one another, and pay your vet’s bill, no matter how many computer games you might have to sacrifice.

 

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