Monday, 24 June 2013

Fringe 2013

The Montreal Fringe Festival started this month. I only started hearing about this last year when I stumbled on it by accident. This year I paid a little bit more attention to it and its show schedule. There were a few shows that I actually wanted to see, but it never fit with my schedule. Either they were too late and I had a job interview the next day or I had other plans like helping my dad build a new patio in his backyard. Either way, I feel like I missed out. But, I didn't want to miss out on going to the Parc des Amériques on the corner of Saint-Laurent & Rachel and just hang out and see what happens. Little did I know, I was in for a treat as you'll find out later.

First of all, I took a Bixi bike and rode all the way to the Parc Lafontaine then walked to Mont-Royal and headed west to get to Saint-Laurent. It was a pretty warm evening so I grabbed a homemade iced tea along the way from a local coffee shop and cooled down a bit. Parked in front of the Cruella gothic clothing store was this vintage Triumph motorcycle. As I may have mentioned before, those are my favourite motorcycles. Especially the classic ones. Their shape, the spokes in the wheels and just the style and simplicity of the machine itself make these vintage bikes so damn beautiful. Apparently though, these bikes are hard to ride, especially on long rides because they vibrate so much. After just a short time your whole body gets numb. But, that's just what some stranger said one the street as we were both admiring this beauty. He told me a friend of his built one and that's how he knows. I guess I'll take his word for it.

I kept on walking down Saint-Laurent and got to the park where the Fringe festival had their base set up. I went in and bought myself a beer and a jumbo hot dog and started collecting flyers in case I'd want to go see any of the shows being advertised. When I found as many as I could, I just sat down and sipped on my drink for a while and killed some time.

Then, a band went on the little stage beneath the cement arch in the middle of the park and started doing sound checks and getting ready. I stuck around to listen to them and see what they sounded like. Initially, they announced that their drummer was away due to a loss in his family, and they keep insisting that even though they are going to play their songs acoustically, they are not an acoustic band, but a true rock band and they usually rock out way more than this. I didn't know who they were so I didn't really care. But, when the show started, I was blown away.

Their lead singer had one hell of an awesome rockin' voice. She is an amazing singer and her voice gave me goosebumps! They played a few songs for maybe an hour or so and I really enjoyed their show. I had no idea who they were though. I don't know why I didn't ask anyone. But, a few days later I searched on the Fringe website and found out they are called The Damn Truth and are from Montreal. Here's what it sounded like, but I ask you to check out their website and see their other music videos to see what their normal non-acoustic music sounds like.

 Actually, here's what they usually sound like. Live. I swear they are fucking awesome live.

While I hung out in the park, I found out that as a part of the Fringe fest, graffiti artists painted murals around the Plateau. I thought I'd go and scope out the area and find out where they were and I found quite a few. So, here are a bunch that I shot with my phone camera. After that I went home. I was pretty tired that evening and decided to cut it short and just relax.

Monday, 17 June 2013

The Plateau, Mile-End and Park Avenue.

Sometime this week I decided to go out for one heck of a long walk. I wanted to walk for so long my legs would feel numb. I was lonely and kind of in a funk and I just needed to get away from it all. Kind of trying to run away from my life problems for a little while y'know? Walking was my way of dealing with the way I felt last year, and it's helping me deal with the new problems I'm facing this year. Losing my job was tough. I loved my job; I loved what I did and I was proud of it too. The circumstances under which I lost my job were also very frustrating, to say the least. So, I was in need of a really good long walk to help me take it easy and chill.

I got off at the Berri-Uqam metro station and walked up Saint-Denis. Took a turn on Mont-Royal and headed west 'til I hit Saint-Laurent and went north. I thought I'd visit the Mile-End one more time. I've come to like that place quite a bit because of its neighbourhood feel and because it's still not as flashy and pretentious as the Plateau yet.

But, while I was walking around on Mont-Royal, I saw something incredible: a scooter. Yeah, but not just a scooter. It's the single most awesomest scooter I've ever seen. Here are some shots of the bike and let me explain just why it's so awesome. First of all, yeah it's an old scooter; looks like a classic Vespa. In the first picture, you notice how the owner added a whole bunch of mirrors and lights and horns on his bike, right? It's like the dude just went crazy and decided to put enough mirrors to simultaneously check out the booty of half a dozen chicks he just zoomed by as they're recovering from partial blindness caused by the flash of lights from all the headlamps. In the second picture you see the spare tires and extra chrome pipes going all around the bike. That was not standard on these bikes, nor was it available at all on any stock Vespa. But, the most crucial detail is in the third picture; the one where you see the back of the scooter. Notice, just below the brake light, there's a little bulls-eye symbol there. That is the Royal Air Force roundel. The genuine symbol of the modernist subculture, also called the mod subculture.

The mod subculture originated in London, England after the second world war and became really popular around the mid 60s. Basically, the trend involved tailored suits, bomber jackets, listening to music from bands like The Who and of course, customized scooters. The Royal Air Force logo, I heard, became their symbol because a lot of the kids who followed that trend were from families that served in the second world war and whose father had served in the RAF. Also, the patches added a certain edge to their bomber jackets as well among all the other patches they would put on there. The term modernist though initially came from fans of modern jazz music. Originally it was all about wearing modern Italian clothes, but that changed a bit over time and in the late 60's the subculture was slowly taken over by skinheads. They weren't racist or white supremacists or anything like what we've heard of in the media or in movies. It was a new trend where people would get a really short haircut or shave their heads and where the fashion was inspired a bit more by the Jamaican rude boy street culture. Oh and lets not forget the Dr Martens boots!

How I became aware of this subculture is actually through a graphic novel that I bought last year called The Deadenders, written by one of my favourite comic book authors, Ed Brubaker and drawn by Warren Peece. The story has a lot of mod subculture references, especially among the main characters who are scooter-riding kids in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, stuck in permanent darkness because of an unexplainable dimension-altering cataclysm that happened in the past... or something. Anyway, I highly recommend that graphic novel. It's an awesome story with great artwork.

Anyway, I would've love to meet the owner of that scooter and have a chat. I'd be curious to know how he got the idea and what's his/her background.

A little further in my walk I came across a new graffiti that I hadn't noticed before. It's okay, but the whole stormtrooper-Darth Vader helmet thing is getting a little old. Ok, we get it, Star Wars is cool and it's funny to imagine one of those characters doing something else except getting shot by Han Solo or without a leather suit and cape, force-choking an officer. Seriously, try harder.

When I was walking up Saint-Laurent, I stopped at some point to check my phone for a message and as I was looking around waiting for something to load I spotted another graffiti. This one I know I've seen somewhere in a picture, but I could not put my finger on it. It's the weird mask-face-thing that I recalled from somewhere. I thought I'd take a pic and hope that someone could tell me where this could've been displayed before. It's a sweet graffiti what with the colours of the local hockey team and such. And the way it's drawn is very street, if that's any kind of adjective you can use.

I eventually reached up Saint-Viateur and turned on it until I reached Park Avenue, or Avenue du Parc. Then I started coming back down again towards downtown. I never really walked down Park Avenue long enough to take notice of anything particular. There's a great little cupcake bakery there that I love called Cocoa Locale held by this single young lady who makes the single most delicious dark chocolate and raspberry or orange cupcakes you'll ever have. (I'll walk by it and take pics and talk about it in a later post. Promise!) But, it was late and everything was closed so I thought it would be best to come back and take pictures during the day and talk about that street in a future post.

One place got my attention though. I was walking by this small place in a basement and it had really nice smooth classic jazz music, which I really enjoy and find most relaxing. Contrary to many other jazz places in Montreal like the Dièze Onze, the Upstairs Jazz Lounge or the House of Jazz which are a bit upscale and where I wouldn't go wearing just a t-shirt & jeans, this place was pretty laid back and casual. So, I stepped in to take a look. It was a little vegan café with a small stage at the back for jazz bands to play! It was a nice cozy little place. As I walked in there was the smell of spices like cardamon and curry mixed with the coffee. I decided to take a break and have a cup of coffee. Besides, I still had a long way to go to get back downtown anyway. By the way, they don't serve filtered coffee there; their regular coffee is freshly ground and made in a French press. Now that's my kind of coffee! It was also very delicious to a point that I drank it straight up black. I sat there and sipped on my cup and relaxed to the smooth sounds of trumpets, piano, bass and drums. The place is called Résonance and is located on Park Avenue just at the corner of Fairmount.

After that I kept on walking towards the city centre along the mountain. The breeze was cool and smelled of freshly cut grass. It was very pleasant. But, not as pleasant as the view you get from the Montreal skyline on that street. It's the next best thing to climbing up Mont-Royal at night in my opinion. It was a great view and I enjoyed walking down that street very much.

Eventually Park Avenue turns into Bleury street and you end up at Place Des Arts. But, that night there was a live show for the Francofolies French music festival and it had just finished. So, I headed a little further west on Sainte-Catherine to the McGill station to avoid the big crowd in the metro and get in one station ahead and finally headed back home. When I got to my place I lied down on my couch for a while because my legs were numb from walking. In total, I walked 8km! That's one heck of a walk.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Grand Prix weekend, or The Douchebags are Coming!

Last weekend was the Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix. I love racing, but I really, really hate the F1 racing weekend in Montreal. Why? Because that one event gathers some of the worst people of this world into my city. Rich, opulent douche bags who come here in their high end luxury sports cars to hang out in pretentious bars and restaurants, flash their money and hire escorts and sex workers to cheat on their wife. Well, not all of them. But, a whole lotta them do. Actually, it is a known fact that demand for sex workers increase significantly in Montreal during that event. The worst part is that most of the time these customers will be rough and abusive and violate those sex workers because they're tourists and come from far away. Thankfully, all I had to deal with were a bunch of douche bags in muscle shirts and tribal tattoos and their girlfriends with huge fake tits from Montreal's equivalent of the Jersey Shore: Laval and Brossard.

So, last weekend I totally forgot that during the Grand Prix, Montreal closes up some streets for some activities. I got off at Place Des Arts and walked to Saint-Laurent only to find the street closed off to circulation north of Sherbrooke and a crowd of the aforementioned kinds of people. Actually it wasn't so bad. It could've been worse. It could've been Crescent street.

Anyway, as I was walking up I saw a few fancy cars. I thought I'd share a few. First of all, here's all the supercars; the Lambos and Ferraris and Austin Martins and whatever. And to think some people drove these things in the pothole-filled Montreal streets in heavy traffic. It makes me cringe just thinking about it.

Some others were brought there for show like this horrible camo Ferrari. Oh God, why?

However, there were some pretty classy vehicles from the past exposed there. It was a crying shame that they had to be parked out in the rain. Like this black 1948 Buick Super, or a white Cadillac Fleetwood Series 75.

My biggest surprise that night was seeing that there was some stuff happening on Mont-Royal as well. I was confused because usually they stick to Crescent and Saint-Laurent during the Grand-Prix. But, it was pretty empty. And on my way back down Saint-Denis, I spotted a nice motorcycle and a hot-rod. The motorcycle is a Triumph, my favourite motorcycle brand because they have some very good looking classic bikes. And the hot-rod is an old Plymouth Coupe, with the fenders "coupés", get it? Because "coupé" means cut off in French. Hahahaha! Oh I'm so funny!...

Well, that walk was pretty tiring. I hate large packed crowds. I always feel like I'm in survival mode and on high alert in those situations. Always trying to find my way to the nearest largest empty space so I can breathe. When I saw the barriers on Saint-Laurent, I should've taken another path, but I decided to cut through anyways. Hey you never know what you might see or who you might meet. Anyway, it wasn't so bad in the end. And I got to see some nice classic cars. I love those!

Saturday, 1 June 2013

The Rent-a-Bike and the Ice Cream

It's been WEEKS since I last took a walk around town. I had a feeling that I was missing some exercise and some "fresh" air. (Or, however fresh the air can get in Montréal. Probably not so fresh.) I was very busy with all sorts of personal project and hobbies and socializing with friends. Well, now I have all the time in the world. Especially since I just lost my job last week. That's right. Turns out I couldn't work fast enough and wasn't a good fit. But, It's kinda hard when not only do you not get any training to the stuff you're working on, but also the subject matter expert never has any time to answer any questions you might have and your car gets wrecked by some tow truck on Christmas eve and you have to deal with the city's administration, the towing company, the garage, small claims court and all sorts of shit for months, among other things. With all these things to think about and all the stress, it doesn't matter how hard you try, you're bound to get a little distracted and lose some performance. But anyway, things could be worse.

Tonight there is an activity happening in Montreal called the Féria du vélo or the Montreal Bike Fest. Basically, the city sets up a circuit for cyclists so they can literally bike all around the city. There's one during the day and one at night. There are a bunch of activities along the circuit with street performers and volunteers and what not. It's a lot of fun. The weather was perfect today for that too, it was hot but not too much. So, that gave me an idea. I hadn't done any cardio exercise in a couple of days since I played floor hockey with a couple of friends (I scored 3 goals! WOO!), and I needed to blow off some steam from all the shit that's been going on in my life so I got inspired by the bike fest thing and decided to get a Bixi rent-a-bike, hop on the bike path just north of my apartment and pedal all the way to Saint-Laurent street. The best part is, I got to pick the illest bike in town! A Wu-Tang bike, yo!

Also, I just recently acquired a Bixi bike pass key that allows me to quickly get any bike from any renting station. For an annual fee, I get 45 minutes of usage for free every time I pick up a bike, and a much reduced  fare if I use it for longer. Since I can't store my own bike at home (it's still in my parent's shed), I can just use one of those. The best part is that they're available practically everywhere in the city center. I was supposed to use it to bike back home occasionally from work downtown, but I guess this plan's all gone to hell now.

When I finally got to Saint-Laurent, I walked into the nearest coffee shop and got myself an ice cold bottle of water to cool down. I walked up to Mont-Royal and turned  until I reached Saint-Denis and went down again. I kinda felt like having ice cream on this hot summer evening and I knew a place at square Saint-Louis that has delicious home made gelato. But, on my way there, right on the corner of Saint-Denis and Rue Roy, I saw a craft ice cream parlour called Les Givrés (The Frosted). I spotted a friend of mine from my dodgeball team on their patio so I stopped to say hello. After catching up a little, I asked him how's the ice cream and he said it was fantastic. So I went in and got my own. 

Inside, I saw that they made their own cones. They actually had a machine in the corner, and they pushed the cones into this tube on the ceiling which eventually ended up behind the counter where they could pull them out and put them on display. It reminded me of Futurama, but with cones instead of people.

They had a pretty unusual selection of flavours that sounded really freakin' amazing. A couple that got my attention were one that was camp-fire-roasted marshmallows, and another one was banana-caramel-brownie chunks. That last one sounded amazing so I ordered one scoop on a sweet waffle cone. The first taste just blew my mind! The ice cream was really, really, like really good! One scoop was definitely not enough! And the waffle cone was just amazing. I'm gonna be coming back here often I think. Actually, I'll bike there so I'll have a reason to burn all those calories and indulge myself afterwards.

But, the ice cream is not all they serve. They also have sobets, cakes, ice cream sandwiches, pies and they even make their own marshmallows! Their menu includes a taste platter to taste different flavours of ice cream and sorbets in case you can't make up your mind and want to try them all. Heck, it's an awesome dessert place.

After I ate my delicious ice cream, I kept on walking for a while until my legs hurt and Saint-Laurent street was overrun by the usual obnoxious douchebag clubbing crowd. By that time, the metro system was shut down because it was too late, so I had to bike back home. Thankfully, it's all downhill from the Plateau to my place since that borough is at the foot of the Mot-Royal mountain. So, I didn't have to pedal much. Finally, I took a nice cold shower to cool down and crashed in front of my computer with the A/C full blast and wrote this post. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I spent my evening.

P.S. I went by Old Montreal and noticed that the sticker with my drawing of Milou, AKA Dog Tintin was gone. I sincerely hope that the person who took it is who I think it is, otherwise my heart will be broken. I really worked hard and practised to get it right! :(