You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2009.
From my last round of story/novel queries, all my rejections are finally back. So it’s time to send another bunch of stuff out into the ether. I’ve gone through my work again and done some more tweaking and polishing, some of the results of which I’ve uploaded here on my blog.
“The Kid Who Had It All” has received a makeover. It’s the story of a kid whose family perennially disappoints him. But suddenly, on the other side of the backyard gooseberry bush, he finds himself in an amazing new world of astronauts, ballerinas, as well as a very unnerving laser show.
Blind Spot is a novel that I’ve shopped around for a year or so. An editor at Random House loved it! But times are difficult in publishing right now, and it’s tough to find a market for a book with such a prickly narrator. Nevertheless, meet Luke, who appears here in Chapter 1, which is now fully revised. This is the one part of the book that had troubled me, largely because it had adopted an excessively laconic tone, which was not entirely representative of the rest of the book. Now it is fixed. I hope.
I’ve also started work on a new project called Independence Corner. Who knows how long it will last, given these early and perilous days.
Not on the subject of fiction, I’ve added another article to my publications page. It’s about a drug treatment camp in the Alberta Rockies. Called “Road to Recovery,” it was published in summer 2007.
In Montreal, the only thing that falls on your car more frequently than snow is parking tickets. On Monday, the car I’ve depended on for business, pleasure and moving friends for many years was sitting on my street during the restricted time of 1-2pm. When I realized this, I rushed home, only to find that I was a couple of minutes too late. The parking police had already busted me at 1:09pm.
A couple of days later, I drove down to rue Clark to help my friend move some belongings. There was nowhere available on the street except for a zone reserved for residents. “Not to worry,” I told myself. “I will only be absent from my car for about four minutes. It’ll be OK.” Not even seven minutes later, I exited the building, and already the parking police had left another red and white present.
Then this morning, at about 9:30am, I received a visit from Canada Post. It was registered mail, requiring my signature. I was excited because I thought maybe it was a cheque. I’ve never received a cheque by registered mail but I thought, “there’s a first time for everything.” And after all, I was owed a cheque… Ah, but what a fool I was to think positive! It was, in fact, a letter from the municipal court of Montreal, telling me that I’d failed to pay a parking ticket from last September. They were threatening to suspend my driver’s license, prohibit registration of my car, and moreover, they informed me that to drive prior to paying the fines would be illegal. Immediate payment of $153 was required to clear my name and keep me from becoming an outlaw.
Eager to resolve this terrible oversight of mine (I really didn’t know you had to pay within 30 days) I called up the municipal court. An answering machine told me that all customer service agents were busy and that I should try again later. “That is very odd,” I said to myself. “How can it be that Montreal is so swift to give tickets but so ill-equipped to arrange for their collection?”
I worked for a short while and then tried calling the municipal court again. Same answering machine message. So I called la Societé de l’assurance de Québec instead. After my third try with their bizarro phone menu, I got through to a human being. I explained to the human being my frustration at being unable to pay my fine to the court. She put me on hold and about two minutes later said, “I got through to the court just fine. Try again.”
Maybe she had a special bureaucrat’s phone, because lo and behold, when I tried to call again, I got exactly the same response as before. And fifteen minutes later, the same thing. It was only on my sixth time that I got through. And then, my sole reward of a human-to-human conversation was being told to go to Outrement in person and pay my tickets.
I promptly jumped into my car (driving illegally, I suppose) and headed straight to the municipal court in Outremont. I arrived at 11:54am. There was a sign on the door saying that the court cashier would be closed from 12pm to 1pm.
“So I got here just in the nick of time,” I thought to myself, with a small amount of jubilation.
But my satisfaction was short lived. I ascended by elevator to the second floor, only to find out that in government land, lunch breaks start early. Not only were they not taking any new fine-payers, the little take-a-number machine was fresh out of numbers. I objected about this to a bureaucrat in the vicinity. She told me, as if it were the most normal thing in the world, that they deliberately remove the numbers before their lunch break. I would have to come back at 1pm.
I had an hour to kill in Outremont. I was hungry, but people of my income don’t eat in Outremont. That’s a fact. I walked around instead. When at last I returned to the court, I had the privilege of getting number 58. They were at that moment serving lucky delinquent driver number 47. I waited, waited, and waited.
It seems that many other roadway infractions can occur – cyclists cycle against traffic, skateboards also flagrantly go the wrong way on one-way streets, meanwhile, you’ll often find a car sitting in a lane of traffic, stopping the flow for minutes on end, while somebody who believes himself to be the centre of the universe has his hatchback open for loading up something he just purchased from Rona. None of those things merit fines; I’ve never seen or heard of anybody receiving one.
But if you park in the wrong spot at the wrong time, the wrath of Montreal is one you. Pay your fines on time, everyone. Heaven help you if you don’t.
During an idle 30 minutes or so the other day, I participated in one of those stupid Facebook applications wherein you announce to all and sundry what your favourite albums/films/books are. In this case, I chose books. I felt a brief pang of guilt afterwards realizing that all of my selections were books I’d read 5-15 years ago. Truly, my prime time for devouring books is over. At least for now. But I still find myself reading more than ever – oftentimes off the Internet. There was an article in Atlantic Monthly a while back called “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” It was more sensational than informative, but it’s worth a read. It’s also worthwhile pondering whether our attention spans are shrinking to the point of idiocy anywhere outside of university and college. Or maybe even including university and college.
It takes a long span of attention to get through The Brothers Karamazov. Even a shorter work (and one of my Facebook selections) such as To the Lighthouse, requires a qualitatively different kind of concentration from, say, a perusal of the Globe and Mail, CNN online, or your favourite blog. And it’s the kind of attention that recently I have been unable to give. For that kind of attention, I need two to four weeks of relative inactivity. A long holiday. A period of unemployment. Or I need an academic setting that requires you to give that kind of attention.
I can feel my brain changing during these long periods of time when I’m too busy to read properly. I become geared for efficiency and function. That’s alright in its place, but it does impede creative and critical faculties.
Perhaps this is the point of the consumer society we live in. To burden each person with so much work and so much media distraction, that we can neither discern the big problems that plague us, nor imagine a world that is radically different.
Two neighbourhoods have been home for me here in Montreal: Verdun, and now Villeray. I decided to walk from one to the other today, because that’s the kind of crashing bore I am.
My journey started at metro de l’église, where I stopped to photograph this beautiful church. Then I wandered up the quiet street and stopped at La Belle Province. They seemed to remember me there. I had a portion of fries and, while I waited, the cook complimented my shoes. They are hip hop shoes, yo, made by Phat Farm, and when I wear them, I have to make an extra special attempt not to do something stupid and unhip.
Whilst crunching on my fries, I continued my path northwards, crossing Canal l’Aqueduc, and entering the seldom-mentioned Ville Émard, which is one of the sleepiest, weirdest neighbourhoods in Montreal — at least in my opinion. It’s one of those places where you can’t figure out how any businesses ever survive because it always looks so desolate.
Things get curioser still as one approaches the Turcot Exchange, a maze of concrete highway confusion. I’ve mentioned Turcot Exchange before. I kind of like the picture I took below, which is one of the entrance roads to the Decarie Expressway.
Soon, the intrepid traveller finds him or herself at the Lachine Canal, the birthplace of Canadian industry. I could wander around the Lachine Canal all day long. There are old brick factories flanking the placid green canal, most of them out of use. Some of them look like they will fall on your head one day.
I left the historic heartland after 10 minutes or so and entered Place Sir Georges Etienne Cartier. In summer, the square — which is more of a park, really — has an active swimming pool, a favourite of families. Even on a brisk day such as today, the park itself still has oodles of kids and parents in it. As I sat and recouped for a bit, two kids kicked around a soccer ball. The little girl ran close by and called out to me, “Bonjour.” Is it just me, or have Montreal kids been instilled with less fear of strangers than their counterparts in other big American cities?
Rested, I continued onwards to Parc Saint Henri, which is for my money the most enchanted park in all of Montreal. I didn’t take a photo of it today because there are not yet any leaves on the trees, and to behold this park without its leafy majesty is like beholding a picture of Queen Victoria without her crown. I remembered how Monika and I sat in this park on the day that my cat Mina died. The tranquility of the surroundings seemed a salve of sorts.
Onwards — Westmount, Downtown, McGill Ghetto, and northward, alongside Mount Royal Park — or Parc du Mont Royal, if you prefer. Typically on a warm Sunday, you will find dozens — if not hundreds — of people gathered here for what has come to be known as the Tam Tams, a celebration of dance, drums, and petuli oil. Despite it being a Monday, there were people out today.
The origins of the Tam Tams are unknown. What I’ve heard is that local musicians, years ago, needed a place to jam, and simply chose this place. More people joined in, then more, then more. Voilà! It became a party! Come down with the whole family, and illicitly smoke a big reefer while you’re at it.
After blissing out for a while, listening to the tribal beat and watching the general joie de vivre, I continued up avenue du Parc, through Mile End, then Little Italy, arriving eventually at rue Jean Talon, where I went to my favourite pet store and purchased a large case of food for my cat, Banchi. Then it was back to Villeray, my home and native land!
All in all, a delightful day out. More photos here.
Of all the things I do poorly, poetry is the one I persist with the most and achieve the least success. Bear with me.
My Weekend in New York
Low down dirty clouds break over the East River,
from the FDR highway the city is a hard frown.
I find a parking spot on Grand Street. It’s the best parallel park I ever did in my life.
In the Donnybrook Bar, the model-slash-waitress plans a pin-ups and perverts party
or how about a pin-ups and pirates party?
The actress playing the witch in MacBeth says
“Everyone thinks I’m Jewish, but I’m Roman Catholic. Very Roman Catholic.”
Slurring by night’s end at the fast staff of the Mexican place
a burrito, a taco, a glass of water
to help stave off the pain that’s waiting. But sure enough, next morning, a large part of me is missing.
I’ll go find it.
I walk and walk through the lower east side, drop in at Katz’s to meet somebody
I wait ten minutes in a line, only to learn I don’t know the system. This isn’t the cutter I need.
My bagel, lox and cream cheese will be served by the last cutter down the way.
When I sit down to eat, there’s a huge family in front of me spread out over two tables
Dad is pouring a glass of root beer for each person.
Kids are biting into sandwiches gaping wide with meat.
Smell the grease from this heart attack city.
If in the next little while you visit this blog and things seem a bit screwy and/or weird or broken, that’s because this blog is getting a makeover, and in the process, might suffer temporary bouts of disfigurement. You have to break some eggs to make an omelette, see? Everyone’s blogging these days, and sometimes a blog has to try a little harder to keep its readers satisfied.