Snow Day

It was snowing so much today that I was tempted to blame my lack of blog on it: “Um…yes, it was too snowy to blog. Sorry.” And I almost didn’t even blog about not blogging, but here I am. This morning I woke up to a thick layer of fluffy snow, so I bundled Neptune up in her hand-me-down snowsuit. She looked really cute, and when we got outside she could barely walk because with each step her whole leg would sink all the way into snow. She got tired pretty fast. I made a snow angel at which she was really, terribly unimpressed. She said: “Pussycat?” so we went over and rescued this scary, life-sized cat candle one of the Greek neighbours gave her (pictured in the header above). Then she ate a bunch of show and wanted to go inside.

Now it’s evening and it’s been snowing all day. Murray shoveled the steps earlier and already they’re covered in four more inches of the stuff. I feel like hiding under a hundred blankets. During Neptune’s nap I ate a lot of cookies and drank milk while playing Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, to which I have become truly addicted. Anyhow, I’ve taken a break to blog about it. Don’t we all feel lucky?

Best Veggie Burger Revisited

I just remembered that I had omitted Ontario’s Best Veggie Burger: Weber’s on highway 11. This would be the close second to the Crown Burger I mentioned in my Veggie Burger Blog. When you go to Weber’s you have to get fries and a milkshake, too. They cook the garden patties on a charcoal grill and if you live in the province of Ontario and you’ve never been to Weber’s then you should be ashamed of yourself. An interesting tidbit about Weber’s is that they had to build a pedestrian overpass because too many people were getting hit by cars trying to cross the highway to get their burgers. That’s how good they are.

It’s a Friggin’ Snowstorm!

Having a baby makes you sleep a bit lighter, sleep with one ear open for one cough too many, or for that “for serious” crying out. So this morning, while Neptune was still asleep, my slumbers were stirred by the prickly sound of tiny ice pellets against the bedroom window. I opened the curtain to an intense snowfall. The cedars in the front all weighted down and saggy, and I don’t know if the acacia tree my mom brought from her garden last year is going to make it…the branches keep snapping off. We can’t bully the forces of nature, I guess.

This could be dangerous weather; this could transform into some kind of mini-ice storm overnight. Over the past few weeks, around when I bought firewood for the season, I felt pangs of survivalism, a hanging desire for emergency preparedness. I went to the Government of Canada’s (does that mean I’m cynical?). I think we already have all the stuff they recommended so I didn’t feel so bad. I was a bit weirded out by the idea of making the emergency kit ready to go. Evacuation seems really extreme but…tap tap tap…knock on wood, you never know. The notion of a 72-hour survival kit hurries my desire to move to the country.

Best Veggie Burger

On our travels, we’ve had the pleasure (and excruciating pain) of discovering food the world over. When on tour, Murray and I feel a constant struggle to find vegetarian food that’s not: 1) coated in melted cheese, and 2) disgusting. There have been some triumphs (Excellent Sushi in Vancouver, BC, incredible curry soup and tea that tasted like the Earth at the airport in Kuala Lumpur, Flat Whites with Johnny in Sydney, AUS), acceptable standards (Pret-A-Manger, Pizza Express in the UK), and surprising failures (revolting vegetarian restaurant in Bilbao, Spain).

The most universal quest, however, is the eternal search for the ultimate veggie burger. While in a pinch, you won’t be wronged by a veggie burger with cheese from Harvey’s (Murray asks for BBQ sauce on his), you can definitely do better. So oftentimes Murray and I will find ourselves wandering strange, international places, looking for something our stomachs might rely on. We’ve been cheated far too many times by England’s afterhours kebab shops…our own naivety, I suppose.

The best veggie burger we’ve ever tasted caught us by surprise in, of all places, Salt Lake City, UT. I think it was called Crown Burger. They had their own “special sauce” that killed it. We both ate two garden burgers and even though we were so incredibly full we ordered a bunch and brought them back to the tour bus for everyone else to try. Oh, we had milkshakes and fries, too. We totally pigged out that time.

Montreal’s probably most renown veggie burger is the pinto burger from La Paryse. While strictly not a veggie burger but a bean burger, the combination of cheese and the nutty-beany taste of the patty kills. Aux Vivres has a pretty good tempeh burger, but I find it a little on the dry side…better to go for a sandwich on chapati. Mondo Fritz had a good veggie burger, but they recently closed down all of a sudden (due to the endless third-world war/construction zone Blvd. St. Laurent became over the summer?).

This journey is not over. The search continues.

University: Not Fun Anymore?

I read an article yesterday that said Canada’s university pubs are closing because students are drinking less. They opt instead for coffee shops or juice bars, or I don’t know, reading or jogging or something healthy. Anyhow, not too long ago in my University Lament, I mentioned how drinking was intrinsic to my academic career. I thought that was standard, a universal norm? But then I read this article and it made me sad…not because students aren’t drinking, but because this artcile mentioned that Edmonton’s Power Plant was closing.

The Dears’ first few cross-Canada tours took us through a lot of these college bars, and I can understand why some of them might be closing: Student Unions would pay out really high guarantees to bands (versus local promoters who don’t take those risks), which was great for us, but didn’t seem sustainable for the university. Students haven’t stopped getting wasted – they just go off campus, because campus pubs probably have to abide by too many Student Union rules to be fun. The Power Plant was an exception: we played there a few times, and it was always the most looked-forward to stop on a tour. Big stage, big room, soundcheck in natural light (!), great treatment, and nice staff, things that go a long way after you’ve been sitting in a van for eight hours.

University bars closing is a natural progression. I remember going to Reggie’s at Concordia where they had cheap, crappy pitchers of beer, and I even remember drinking there once while some students performed “Death of a Salesman.” That was weird. Nothing stays the same, and universities are evolving organisms that have to change with their students.

Yesterday, It Snowed

It was the kind of snow that’s very round, like lightweight fertiliser pellets, but that just blows away and is gone forever. I always curse the first signs of winter; though here in Montreal there is only one sign: snow. It dictates the beginning and end of each season. Autumn ends when snow falls; Spring starts when it melts away. So officially winter started yesterday. Suddenly my coat didn’t feel thick enough, I needed a real sweather, and maybe some real gloves. Anyhow, it’s the beginning of the end, time to hole up, get some new video games. Murray might get an XBox 360; I might get the new Zelda for DS. Time to get cozy.

On a totally random visit to Technorati (actually, not totally random, I wanted to check my “Authority” which is still pretty low), I searched for the term “Yanchak” in the blogs. To my surprise, three blogs turned up: one was mine, another wouldn’t load, and the third was a new site called simply The Official Home of the Yanchak Family and Family Reunion. I didn’t know there was an official site, and I was also was unaware of – and therefore absent at – the recent family reunion. These must be a new strain of Yanchak…I wonder where these organised Yanchaks are from? Though the name is from my dad’s Ukranian family, the website’s colour scheme (red and white) and imagery (white eagle), belies a definite Polish vibe.

A more careful search of “Yanchak” reveals…well, a lot of Yanchaks. Fittingly, the web reveals that Yanchaks are mainly either brainiac scientists (like my dad) or artists of some kind (like my mom). I did find, also, an article in which my sister, Laryssa Yanchak, got some big ups for playing a feisty barmaid in the new Brad Pitt movie with a long title: THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD. Her role was described, by the New York Observer, as a “far-from-unenticing female distraction from an essentially male-oriented narrative.” Haven’t seen the movie yet, but seeing my sister larger-than-life, on an enormous theatre screen will be weird.

The Environment

I try to be environmentally conscious. Really, I do. When we moved and had to buy appliances, we bought all of the most enegry efficient ones we could afford. We put in flourescent bulbs in almost every room, and installed all new programmable thermostats to keep our energy usage down. We updated our windows and now our house is somewhat of a sealed tomb against the elements. If we could afford to put solar panels on the roof, trust me, we would have done that already too.

On a smaller scale, we get most of our fruit and veg at the Jean-Talon market, buying local whenever we can. We use cloth shopping bags, or opt to not take a bag at all. Of course there are a million other things we do, or could be doing (next year we plan to grow our own veg in the backyard), but some efforts will just have to wait until we move out to our hobby farm/off the grid compound in the mountains (aahhh, dreams).

Anyhow, this whole train of thought started as I was loading the dishwasher (Energy Star rated) and remembered my recent stint with eco-friendly dishwasher detergent. Basically, if you have a kid, then you will instantly recognise the necessity of having a dishwasher. You don’t know how many pre-dishwasher hours I’ve spent sterilising Neptune’s baby bottles and cups in pots of boiling water, when now I just toss them in with a load of dishes. SO…that eco-friendly detergent? It was basically useless. I don’t prescribe to the “wash the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher” method…it wastes tons of water and defeats the purpose of a DISHWASHER. Just get the big bits of food off and that’s it, in the dishwasher. But the eco-friendly stuff demanded a severe pre-wash of the dishes and I had to ask myself which is worse: using double the amount of hot water or dumping trace amounts of phosphates (we use Cascade, which has 4.5%: 2.2% being considered “phoshate free,” 18% being the most damaging, according to the Gazette) into the water stream? The debate is prominent.

My paranoia escalates as I read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which talks about the industrialisation of food. Already I look at corn differently. We don’t eat processed foods as a general rule (when we’re on tour, we are forced to eat truck-stop crap all the time so when we’re home Murray cooks), we’re vegetarian, and as I mentioned try to eat local produce (even organic foods aren’t as eco-conscious as we think). My friends Bryan and Lis who recommended the book said it would make us bigger food snobs, and they were right! What a true dilemma. My first slip back towards the bottom of the pit happened with coffee beans: social responsibility twarted by flavour.

What happened to the real life notion of the earth as a living organism? Now it’s every person for themselves. Universal misanthrophy is impossible: the earth and its people need each other. Sadly, money and capitalism has obscured our purpose here; it has, in fact, replaced it. North American society has forgone the agrarian ecosystem for success and progress. We are so lost. We would rather drive to Wal-Mart than walk to the General Store, but we’re not even sure why. It’s just been created that way for us. Dependence on petrol has usurped how much an individual is allowed to control their own life.

Oh, wow, this is turning in to one of those beastly posts with a million tangents waiting in the wings. To be continued when I finish reading my book…

University Lament

I stopped for a bottle of water which made me miss my bus. Walking around this area, along des Pins towards the McGill campus, I realise how little I miss my university years. They were alcohol filled days of loneliness and searching that had fun moments and painful ones, too. Eating alone at a restaurant, hours DJing at the back of the Bifteck with a bag of CDs and a textbook that could barely hold my attention. I feel sad and sorry for students, though not all of them will be as lost as I was. Selfish days and wasted time, looking for love, for something in a sea of broken hearts.

Why else would Sassy/Jane and Seventeen (and even grown-up magazines) feature horoscopes or numerology in their back pages? They know youth, they know that when life is uncertain, pepople hope for a sign, some guidance, or for something in the stars to align on our favour. There’s a wonderful innocence about coming of age, the careless fear of an incredible unknown. And beyond that hump is an entire world of confidence, a thirty-year coast balanced by extreme stress and pleasure.

I walked by Condorida yesterday, and it’s all brand new and fancy; not just one giant depressing building lined with dusty carpets like it used to be. From the rainy sidewalk I looked through an enormous aquarium glass to tables and benches filled with students and their laptops, writing and studying. And I got strangely nostalgic for that forced reason to read and learn. Its as if the social experience of uni still exhausts me to this day, but that I’d wish I’d taken the educative side a bit more seriously. It might have helped to have had a nice brand new place to study, a well-ventilated, asbestos-free classroom, some properly lit space to reflect. So this is my message of hope, for tuition fees still under $5,000 for Canadians, for bright young professors who still love their work. Just hold your passions close, and don’t let the compulsory classes (or the 2-for-1 drink specials) get you down.

The Powder Keg

I was thinking recently about the dawning of the internet and also my early days as a writer, which led me to the memory of a BBS I sort of belonged to called The Powder Keg. It was a pretty small group of Toronto-based writers that somehow I got hooked into. I think at the time I was one of the youngest and least experienced writers on the BBS. But seeing as how I thought of myself as perhaps a writer, the confidence of youth propelled me onward.

Wikipedia mentions some interesting facts in its description of the BBS: “The BBS was also a local phenomenon, as one had to dial into a BBS with a phone line and would have to pay additional long distance charges for a BBS out of the local area, as opposed to less expensive local charges. Thus, many users of a given BBS usually lived in the same area, and activities such as BBS Meets or Get Togethers (GTs or GTGs), where everyone from the board would gather and meet face to face, were common.” Seeing the letters “GTG” makes me remember the occasional Powder Keg poetry night held at a local restaurant called Cafe May (now defunct) on Roncesvalles. I never went: I was too young, too shy, and besides, the aged cedar facade of Cafe May, and cavern-like lighting made it intimidating from the outside. The Powder Keg members/writers would do readings, peddle chapbooks, discuss each other’s work. I think the ringleader (SysOp) was named Ian, but it’s so long ago I can’t remember. He also might have had a beard and wore Birkenstocks with socks, and I probably had a foolish teenage crush on him. But remember, it was the early 90’s.

A few years ago, in the midst of some Dears media broo-ha-ha, The Powder Keg – which had before this moment had faded almost completely in my memory – made its reappearance. I received an email from a fellow Kegger, James McNally. I recall we’d connected beyond just the BBS, we’d met at a vernissage or something poetry-related, and I think he was my only real BBS friend. Completely by accident he stumbled onto The Dears, then noticed my name in the credits. You can read the whole story on his blog. He reminded me of some 4-track demos I had made, and basically how I was so explosively creative in those days. That was before I grew up, which I hope to explain here on my blog over the next few…years?

Anyway, the topic of the past few weeks seems to be “Blasts From The Past.” I had another one explode in my face at Neptune’s 2nd birthday party this weekend, which I will save delightlfully for later…it’s related to my zine years. Yeah, that’s right. I had a zine, but that is another tangent to take on the story of my life.