Walking Tour of Park-Ex

Yesterday, Neptune and I walked up to Afroditi to get some cookies with sprinkles for her and some pastries for dad. Earlier that morning Neptune rediscovered her Little Tikes digital camera and, after a brief argument about which way the camera should be pointing to take a picture, she was going nuts on the thing. She took over 200 photos on our walk. Initially I thought none of them would turn out due to a delay on the camera from when you press the button to when the photo actually takes. I imagined 200 blurred blobs imported into my iPhoto. But some of them turned out, and when put together give a very interesting perspective of our neighbourhood. Check out the gallery below…I’ve taken the liberty to omit the blurriest ones (which is like half of them). There are still over 100 pics so give it a minute to load (if your computer is an ancient artifact like mine). My faves: watermelons, beer (hunh?), pink rose bush, bicycle, recycling bins, lips (she insisted she put on makeup before we went out), and the very last one (I took it).

1st Blog of 2009

This year has begun as have many others before it: without ceremony, a few days of lounging around in pajamas before the “back-to-work” flurry of activity hits. This year it was January 5th, back to work, back to people returning your emails, returning your calls. Touring right up into the holidays is a bit anti-climactic: we got home and it was like we had to wait until the next year to finish working on the tour. Which is kind of fine.

Murray played Prince of Persia on the PS3, which I got him for Christmas (later I confessed that I kind of got it for myself, too). He alternated between gaming and taking down a wall in our basement. I forced the band to move out of our overpriced rehearsal space in St-Michel, and into our more moderately priced (i.e. included in mortgage) Park-Ex basement. The location is much better and it’s more comfortable. And we don’t have to deal with metal bands anymore, though they were all very nice to us; especially our neighbours, Unbeing. Anyhow, it’s very comfortable in our newly appointed rec-room and Neptune even likes to hang out down there, helping daddy fix things and tidy up.

Right now Murray is down there, jamming with Yann. They are working on something new; I think that’s what I hear up through the floor boards.

It took me six days to write this first post…and even though it’s technically been the “holidays,” the self-employed never really have holidays unless they are somewhere where their Blackberries and iPhones don’t have reception. And ours was spent accordingly, troubleshooting our professional lives which so fluidly meld with our personal lives. There’s no real distinction anymore: we are so emotionally entrenched in The Dears. We can’t help it. We believe in this thing, in each other, in The Dears 2.0, in our audience, critics and co-workers, in our management, in all of you. We just can’t help ourselves. We are manic about this project…

…manic for 2009.

A Brief Obama Blog

While I have dabbled in the past, I don’t like to get into politics, religion and other things that tend to divide us. Which is why this post is remarkably how Barack Obama is bringing people together…people outside the USA, that is.

Anyhow, I was at the playground with Neptune earlier this week and it was lunch time at the school nearby. The park was filled with older kids…say around 10 or 11 years old, just climbing, playing, you know, being kids. Park Ex is a very ethnically diverse neighbourhood. So much so that when we went for an open house at our English primary school they told us that NONE of their grade 1 students (white, brown or black) have English as their first language. Essentially there were a handful of kids jumping up and down yelling: “O-BA-MA! O-BA-MA! O-BA-MA!” punctuated by one kid calling at the top of his lungs: “Obama is the best!” I was taken aback: not only are these kids Canadian, but they are also about eight years too young to vote.

In classic Canadian bandwagon style, our lame government called an election at the last minute, scheduled to happen just a few weeks before the US election. Stephen Harper (our conservative prime minister) must have thought: “Well, if everyone has election fever than let’s tack our election on to it!” So lame. Point being, that even if these kids at the park could vote, they would certainly not be chanting for the Liberal candidate: “Ste-phane Di-on! Ste-phane Di-on!” because he has zero personality. Anyway, I suggest all Canadians click here before voting in October.

Some Americans would probably be offended by the notion that everyone else in the world would like the US more if Obama was the president. Harded Republicans would be like: “That is none of their G-D business!” Even though without international trade, policy and oil, the US would crumble. Even if the the US had their debts to foreign countries called back, they would be screwed. In fact, $2,601 BILLION is owed to foreign countries, including $24 BILLION to Canada alone. But at the end of the day, when I did the math this foreign debt is a drop in the pan against the total US debt of $9,669 TRILLION.

Now my mind is boggled. Our world is delightfully fucked.

Park Ex in Savfaire

I am definitely a busy-body when it comes to my neighbourhood. It is a super-populated multi-culti rectangle that, in my opinion, is constantly changing shape. So today I delighted in reading this observational piece in new culture zine Savfaire:

Park Ex: I May Never Leave

Obviously, I have my own interpretations of Park-Ex, though I do agree with the “respectful crackhead” notion. There are drugs and drug dealers in every neighbourhood, and at least in Park-Ex there are no panhandlers or squeegee kids feigning poverty. And also I take great, GREAT solace in knowing that I do not have to contend with neighbours blasting The National or Radiohead: here it’s either modernised Greek folk songs, Bollywood favourites or Nigerian Afro-pop. And I adore that.

The main omission, I think, is the family aspect here. There is an abundance of kids, which is a good thing for the future of any neighbourhood. Additionally, as a home owner in this part of town, I am finding a turnover in development: that most single family homes and duplexes are being bought by young families. Most grupsters avoid buying into the “landlord” role, so many buildings with several apartments stay on sale for a long time. But on my street alone, I’ve seen young couples buy and move in to at least four duplexes: basically in every one that goes on sale.

And in the late summer, local indie promoters are opening a new venue on Jean-Talon and Alexandria. Bringing the kids up to our neck of the woods will be interesting…but I see them moving up out of Mile-End already. It’s getting too expensive there, and in Montreal tradition, when your rent is too expensive, go up: McGill Ghetto to the Plateau. Plateau to Mile-End. Mile-End to Little Italy. Little Italy to…Park Ex! All roads lead here.

A Very Boring Fine

Passive-aggressive signage spotted in Park-Ex. If you get this joke, then congratulations are in order.

Park-Ex vs. The World

Sometimes I think I really take my neighbourhood for granted. Since it’s basically a ghetto, and drug-dealers live a few doors away, I tend to undervalue the quality of life here. But a little excursion beyond Park-Ex’s boundaries opened my eyes.

So earlier this week we had something like 35cm (14″) of snow dumped on the city in one day. It took days for the city to clear the snow from our street: I assume they work a system where they clear the major roads first, then whittle away at the smaller streets. So the snow stopped falling on Monday night, everybody’s car was packed under mini-mountains of snow and needed to be dug out. They cleared the other side of our street on Wednesday night, and then cleared our side on Thursday night. I have a theory that our street gets a little priority because a bus runs on it (the only good aspect of having a bus routed on our street…and I can get to the mall in two seconds). OK, so by the weekend most of the streets of Park-Ex were cleared and ready to go.

I also took the opportunity to teach Neptune about the incessant, two-tonal horn honking. She reacted: “What’s that?” And I answered: “That’s the sound that tells you to move your car because they need to plow the snow.” Now when she hears it she makes an urgent, sweeping of her arms and says: “Move your car! Move your car!” It’s pretty cute…just thought I’d share that.

Anyhow, yesterday, all liberated and licensed, I went on an errrand into Little Italy. I couldn’t believe what a mess is was. St. Laurent, a very main artery, still had huge snow banks on both sides of the street, narrowing the two lanes to almost one, and forcing cars to park back into their little, mini-mountainous nooks. Then I missed the store I was looking for and had to loop back down Casgrain: what a nightmare. There was so much snow it was as if it had just come down that day. What is going on with the snow non-removal in Rosemont/Le Petit-Patrie?

Also, has anyone ever noticed that there are absolutely no street-persons or panhandlers in Park-Ex…AT ALL? You’ll never be stopped at the corner of Acadie and Jean-Talon and have some grubby dude with an endearing cardboard sign that reads: “I need $ for beer,” coming at your car. Basically, our neighbourhood is better. OK…except for that really persistent beggar lady that accosted me in the alleyway last summer, and who still hits me up every now and again.

For those of you not familiar with Montreal’s snow situation: the city is responsbile for clearing the streets, sidewalks and – eventually – laneways of snow. It’s a fairly organised system of specialised trucks that work in tandem to collect the snow, haul it away, and use it (I assume) to build a massively giant snowman somewhere in LaSalle. Also of note are the chenillettes de trottoirs, or small snowplows, that barrel along our sidewalks at such incredible speeds, that if you don’t jump out of the way in time (and usually into a snowbank), you may die. Seriously.