Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Outside the UN Conference on Climate Change

I walked out of the house yesterday morning to a spectacular sunrise. The temperature had risen forty degrees over night and melted all the snow. It was a great day to get out and enjoy some balmy weather (despite the rain showers).

As you may or may not know, the UN conference on climate change is taking place here in Montreal this week. Several of my classes are held in a building adjacent to the convention center. When I arrived yesterday, I noticed lots more police and security guard presence. After my lunchtime class, I took a stroll outside to where there was lots of activity by "earth activists".
They had some works of art, banners and costumed protesters. I walked around and looked at all of it. My favorite banner was this one.

They were also erecting a full block long "quilt" composed of panels lamenting our treatment of the earth. Here is a pic of one part of it. I especially liked the "drowning earth" panel.

One of the people kept chanting " Are we really going to let the rich and powerful destroy the planet which belongs to all of us?" And I can't get it out of my head. Sigh.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Song memory #3

I had one particularly charged romance in my life that ended spectacularly badly. It was a short affair spanning the summer of 1986. We went from hello to I love you in a couple of weeks and from there it took a couple months to disintegrate. We had a special song that summer, that summer of love.

It took me a long time to get over my heartbreak. In fact, I may not have ever truly healed had it not been for his death. (I found out from a local watering hole bartender who delivered the news to a dumbstruck me.)

The day after I found out (this was in the late 90's), Serge and I were riding in the car with our friends on our way to Palm Springs for a debauchery junket. I was relating the story of this affair and my sadness of having learned this news.

Ted, who was playing DJ for the drive in the passenger seat, shuffled through his discs while listening. Then he popped in a B-52s CD and selected a song. "Summer of Love" was the song he played. Our song. A non hit except marginally on the dance charts, he put on a 12 year old song, the same song that represented that long ago affair. The hair stood up on my neck and my scalp tingled as I said, "Ted, why did you put that song on?"

"I don't know, just wanted to hear it."

Then I revealed that that was our song that summer so long ago and how uncanny that he would play it.

"Maybe he's just saying hello from the other side" said Ted.


Monday, November 28, 2005

Mini rant plus winter pics

Well the US has lost round 4 of their insistence on taxing wood imports from Canada. Despite what you might be hearing from the talking heads on Fox news, the matter is really quite simple. The US placed a tax on wood imports because they perceived the tax credits given to lumber industries by Canada as unfair. (in spite of similar supports offered by the US to US lumber companies) Canada cried foul and the matter went to the organization charged with resolving disputes involving the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The US has been ruled against 4 times, yet the tax imposition continues.

Yes, the US invites you to sign an agreement with them and then they refuse to respect the agreement.

The result? American consumers continue to pay more for wood. American lumber conpanies continue to deplete a fast vanishing US resource because the US government (in imposing the duties on imported wood) creates a profitable environment for them. (read: gets rid of competition)

Meanwhile, Canadian lumber companies are floundering.

The US has done a classic bait and switch.

When I first came to Canada, I was shocked (SHOCKED) to find avocados for 25 cents apiece. In case you didn't know, avocados don't grow in Canada. California is the US's largest avocado producer, yet I was paying more than two dollars each for them there.

Why? Because avocado imports were not allowed into California.

For a country that places such emphasis on free enterprise and competition, it sure rings wrong in these situations.

Hypocrites. (But we're good people, I don't understand why everyone in the world hates us....)

Now that I've got that off my chest, here are a few pics from the cold weekend we had. Enjoy.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

A new life part 3

If you want a real intellectual challenge, try learning a second language. In case you haven't considered it, let me point out that it took you many years to become proficient in your first language. I don't know why I expected it to come more easily given this obvious fact.

Sitting in French immersion felt like wearing a dunce cap every day. For months, I understood little of what the teacher said. I tried to nod when I thought it was appropriate.

My teacher was Madame Mila. She was a large Russian woman who seemed eternally torn between severity and jolliness. She would never hide her frustration with students' errors and would stomp her foot and shout "STOP!" when you misspoke. (Stop is a French word by the way.) She had healthy testosterone levels as evidenced by her mannish stance and ersatz hairs speckling her face.

I loved this woman. Since I was nearly twice the age of the other students, I found her to be a fascinating caricature. I laughed helplessly when she yelled, "STOP!" while the other students quivered and sunk lower in their seats.

Having paid for this class with my own money, I couldn't be intimidated - something that so beautifully comes with age. I found her extrememly entertaining. Plus, she explained the grammar principles very well. (We still correspond to this day.)

Still, progress came slowly and in fact, it seemed the younger students were better suited to learning the language than I was.

I despised the cassette player and the listening exercises. I envisioned smashing it with a hammer every time she dragged it out. There were many days leaving school when I thought, "It's impossible. I'll never be able to get it." But I persevered. After all, there were NO REFUNDS.

Six months, five days a week, six hours a day....

Once I had completed level 6, I decided to continue private classes with Mila twice a week for the next few months. I was finally starting to get it. I could communicate my ideas and though I was nowhere near error free, I was starting to see that my goal was indeed attainable. There are many problems for an English speaker learning French. The gender assignment for every noun is probably the most difficult. It's also very important because adjectives change depending on what gender noun they are describing. (Did your eyes just glaze over?) Also, the verb conjugations are so perplexing that every native French speaker has a book next to their computer called the Bescherelle which is a book composed solely of verb conjugation grids. Yes, even the native speakers need to check their conjugations from time to time. By comparison, verb conjugation in English is simpler than George Bush.

There's one other hideous (some say "Beautiful", "Poetic" or "Musical") facet of spoken French. And that is that orally, they link all the words together so that you never know where one word ends and the next begins when you're listening. It takes a long time to hear the language enough to develop the ability to "deconstruct" it. I'm sure I muttered more than once, "Bastards and their fucking musicality."

During this scholastic experience from Oct 2000 to summer 2001, Serge worked from home though business was very slow. I grew more and more anxious waiting for my immigration process to conclude. In Jan 2001, I received the approval from the Québec government and in March I had to have a medical review. As I understood it, this was the last step except for the waiting. Soon I would be a legal resident. As the slow drain on the bank account continued, it was time to sell the house in California. The final cord to cut.

(Scroll down for parts 1 and 2, Nov 20th and 23rd.)

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Weekend Update

Winter has invaded. We've had January temps and snow this week which has changed the landscape considerably. The snow is lovely. The cold, not so much. They are now predicting rain all week, so we'll probably lose all the snow before we get some more. I don't mind, a little break from the frigidity is find by me.

I haven't taken many pictures because the camera is much more unweildy when you're all bundled up and saddled with gloves. I'll try to do better with that this week.

The next couple of weeks are going to be hectic. Even though I was expressing gratitude for my employment regime earlier in the week, I am now faced with preparing all the final exams and writing evaluations for all the students. I think the evaluation is really important and I take my time and try to give the students detailed personalized feedback. But this takes time. And I hate things that take my time. Sigh. I wish I had the Samantha nose twitch and could jump ahead two weeks. Childish, I know.

Not to mention the Christmas cards. I've got 5 out of 40 done. I don't go crazy with the gift giving at Christmas, but I do like personal holiday wishes. I hope to finish those this week.

My mother left on a 17 day fishing trip out of San Diego yesterday. Her goal is to land a 300 pound tuna. This is her favorite annual fishing trip out to Hurricane Bank. (Somewhere way out there between Cabo San Lucas and Hawaii.) Yesterday, I called her on her cellphone at 5:30 in the morning while they were at the dock preparing to leave. I could see her on the webcam at the dock. She waved to me. Clever technology.

"How was your Thanksgiving, mom?"

" Oh, I spent it on the boat, here at the dock getting things ready. We had some turkey before bed."

"That sounds nice mom."

"And I slept! I went to bed at 9:30 and the next time I opened my eyes was 3:45. I haven't slept that long in months!"

"Uh, mom? What time do you usually get up?"

"Oh I wake up around 2:30-2:45. I get a lot done in the morning."

The conversation continued. I thought about how we all eventually turn into our parents. I thought about how I get up earlier now than ever before in my life. Best not to think about it.

Alright I've got work to do. Enjoy the day.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Sneaky ketchup packet sucking (say that 3 times fast)

When little K opened up the front door, he was holding a bowl full of Ketchup packets from various fast food outlets. He quickly explained that his mother had gone to pick up his sister at the orthodontist's but they would be back soon. K is one of the Japanese boys I tutor each week and as I removed my shoes and winter garments, we made our way to his bedroom where we do the lesson. He placed the bowl of ketchup packets on his desk and said,

"I like these ones better than the McDonald's ones." He held an A&W ketchup packet, bright orange with black writing, and showed it to me.

"Do you like it better because of the package or because of the taste?" I asked

"The TASTE, why do I care about the package."

"Good point," chuckling, and then I added, "Say, are you stealing those every time you eat out?"

"No, we just save the ones we don't use."

So I got out his folder and started preparing the story we were about to read and I asked him about his weekend while I futzed with the papers. It was difficult to understand his mumbled answer so I looked up to see him sucking on one of the ketchup packets.

"What are you doing?"


"Why are you sucking on the ketchup?"

"Uh, because it's a snack." said as though it was perfectly obvious and normal.

"Ketchup is a snack?" and I started to laugh.

"Yeah." and then he tore open a second packet to suck on.

I was very amused and said, "K, do you know anyone else who snacks on ketchup packets? I mean in your whole life, have you ever known anyone who did that?"

"Well, no." pause "Except my sister."

The kid was snacking on a bowl of ketchup packets and perfectly oblivious to the oddity of this. Just then his mother arrived home with his sister. She came in to the room to greet us and the moment she spied the bowl of ketchup packets she said something that sounded cross in Japanese and whisked the bowl out of the room. She gave me the "what are you going to do with kids" look.

Of course the whole time it was happening, I was thinking "blog fodder, alert alert". So who is really the odd one here?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

"Sometimes Tornwordo, being a sick f%*#k is the only thing a guy has to hold on to."

Happy Thanksgiving

(See how the "Thanksgiving" is clickable? That's because I want you to click there, however, please be advised that the title's meaning will then become painfully clear.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A new life part 2

part 1

We signed the lease and received the keys to our new apartment on stink street. We had nothing, no furniture, appliances, bedding, dishes, all we had were the clothes we had packed and two hard drives. Because it was Thursday, the stores were open late (one of my first rude awakenings was the opening hours of the stores. Only on Thursday and Friday evening do the stores stay open past five. However, this is changing now) and we went to St Denis st to the Futon shop to purchase our bedding, sheets and pillows. Serge got his old tv from his mom's house and we bought a bottle of champagne. We spent the first night in the apartment feeling splendid, the huge chore of finding a residence behind us. We also learned that we only got one channel with the TV antenna.

Now, if you want to have a real test of a relationship, especially a gay male relationship, what I suggest is this. Shop together for 3 days purchasing things with which you will furnish your home. You are starting from scratch, and one of you is charged with respecting budgets while the other is all about colour, quality and style. The car has to be returned in three days, so there is a deadline you must meet. I don't rightly know how we got through this without killing each other, maybe it was the nightly beer consuming. (The beer is strong here. American beer tastes watery to me now.)

(Segues are not my strong suit, but there should be one here.)

In order to live in Quebec when you immigrate to Canada, you must also be approved by Quebec's own immigration department, an extra hurdle to surpass. I received a letter asking me to appear for an interview in Quebec's immigration office in New York at the beginning of October. Both Serge and I were asked to attend, in order to verify our relationship. Woo hoo! A trip to New York. The interview was on Monday so of course we bought tickets to arrive on Friday, and called our friend Tom who has a place in Greenwich Village. Tom, the consumate party boy, had every drug imaginable in his little "goody bag". That was the last weekend that I ever did a number of drugs. What a way to prepare for the all important interview.

During the interview, we answered many questions and then the agent said that we were approved, but since the quota had already been exhausted for that year, mine wouldn't be sent until the beginning of January. I went back to Montreal jubilant again, approved! And went back to my French classes which I had started at the beginning of October. More on that in the next chapter.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Early morning blather

I used to be a go getter. Very ambitious and competetive. I found that if I put my mind and body to it, I could usually succeed in getting what I wanted - better position, better hours, more perks. But as I rose like the proverbial cream, each time I arrived at the place I wanted to be, I questioned why I wanted it in the first place. Money being the dominant motivating factor for many years, I took on jobs requiring more of that which I am most loathe to give, my time. With each new career plateau, the patina of the job title or the company car wore off within weeks of racking up 60+ hours leaving me wondering, what is it I want again out of life?

My parents have stuck it out with the same employer the huge majority of their adult lives and I admire them for that, that huge sacrifice of resigning oneself to the inevitably repetetive nature of our jobs. As for me, I never get too attached to the employer, I often have several sources of income which I juggle. There will be no retirement benefits waiting for me, but I'm preparing for that in other ways.

Nowadays, life is sweet. I essentially have 12 weeks off per year since I teach and there's ample Christmas break time as well as two solid months in the summer. I am in the classroom 24 hours per week. This has of course presented other budgetary challenges, but as most people who know me know, I'm a good saver. (Plus real estate has been kind to us.) Today I am so grateful how my life has led me to today. I am thankful to have more time than money. I feel lucky to be living in a tolerant society with food, shelter and transportation easily acquirable. I know it's only Tuesday, but thanksgiving should be free to come out when and where it happens.

Or maybe this really should have been titled "Some Pompous Narcissistic Crap" You tell me.

Monday, November 21, 2005

On ignorance

I saw an interview a couple of years back with Sean Connery who proudly proclaimed that what bugged him the most about people was stupidity. This he could not abide, this he could not stay quiet about.

Um, aren't we all born starting at zero? And aren't we all raised in different environments, nay worlds? How can you hold everyone up to the same "intelligence" standard as yourself if the person didn't run the same course? (And maybe didn't start with the same model of equipment.)

I can remember many times in my life being mocked for my lack of knowledge in a certain arena. Now, I think this just reflects poorly on the "mocker", though at the time I wasn't smart enough to avoid feeling shitty about myself.

There was the time I was mocked for not knowing fashion when I switched from private (uniform wearing) school to public school in the 7th grade. There was the time I was mocked for talking in a bathhouse (during my first visit). There has been mocking for a lack of band and musician knowledge, mocking for my "taste" in things, mocking, mocking and mocking. (I like that word, can you tell?)

When people criticize or feel ill will toward others due to "stupidity", this is judgemental behaviour that helps no one. Be charitable and help someone learn something new, or laugh derisively at the person to make them feel like shit? Which one do you choose? If it's the latter, why the hell are you so stupid?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

A new life part 1

Sept 6th 2000. We got off the plane and gathered our belongings and our dog who had ridden from LA in the cargo hold. After clearing customs, (I entered Canada as a "tourist") we went to pick up a rental SUV as our plan was to find an aparment and furnish it as quickly as possible. Until then, we'd be sleeping on Serge's mom's floor, a 45 minute drive outside the city. There was one problem with this plan - there was a severe housing shortage in Montreal and every call we made delivered the same response - "Already rented". For three solid days (of miserable anxious hellishness) we drove up and down every single residential street in the city looking for "for rent" signs. We saw none. When the free weekly paper came out on Thursday, we called all seven listings and left messages. We were becoming distraught and ever widening our search area. Every lead we found led to dead end. Then we got a call back from one of the listings. In our desperation, our messages left for the listings came out like this, " We need a place to live, we're a gay couple and we have a dog. We are ready to sign a lease today, Please call back at ...."

The man who called us back said he had received 78 calls for the (tiny 2 bedroom) apartment that day. He said he loved the direct nature of our message. (I think he heard the desperation, and knew we wouldn't bitch about anything - plus the owner was gay) He invited us over that afternoon for a look see.

It was perfect but very small. There was a big back yard for the dog. The price listed in the paper was $750. We offered to sign the lease within a few minutes. When he drew it up, he marked the rent as $450/month and said the paper had misprinted the price.

This was my first experience of what I call the Canadian or Quebecois spirit. Instead of greedily grabbing, integrity seems to count more. My American molded mind thought, wait, he knows we would pay 750, but still only charges 450, that's bad business. Or he's an idiot. Best not to talk about it, since we are benefitting.

At any rate, this was indeed good fortune. A place to live!

It wouldn't be long though that we would discover that the large building up the street was a yeast factory.

A yeast factory, in case you didn't know, creates one of the most sickening odors imaginable. On certain days, one had to cover one's mouth upon stepping outside to avoid triggering one's gag reflex.

Good fortune indeed.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Let it snow

We've got snow this morning, lightly falling, hushing the sounds of the city. Like a giant natural muffler, even the birds seem to be shushed. The dirt and grime of the city that we are so accustomed to has been replaced with pristine white. It's a pleasant illusion.

Too bad it's supposed to rain tomorrow and wash it all away.

Today, I'm off to rent a car for the weekend. We do this a few times a year to shop for big stuff and visit those outside the public transportation limits. We'll be stocking up for winter like so many squirrels. Then we are celebrating Spouse's birthday at his mom's house tonight.

Yesterday, I was invited to play poker at Psycho's place and I punked out at the last minute because I was so hagged out and tired. In fact I was asleep at 8:30 last night and didn't wake up until 6:30 this morning. I'm not really a flaky person, but I just couldn't keep it up last night if you know what I mean. I hope you won lots Psycho!

What else?... Oh yeah, I thought I'd continue the story of the road to Montreal and talk about that first year in Montreal. Because it really wasn't like I stepped off the plane and we lived happily ever after, no, shit happened. And I'm gonna tell you about it, starting tomorrow.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Let me ask you this

Are you more likely to compare yourself to those who "have" more than you or to those who "have" less?

Even though one comparison has the effect of making one feel dissatisfied, I would wager that we choose this comparison far more than the other.

When you compare your situation to those who "have" less, naturally one feels grateful, blessed, lucky, and content. (And as a bonus, a little thing called compassion starts growing inside.)

So clearly, there is a superior choice here.

Why, as human beings, do we choose the comparison that provokes ill-feelings?


Thursday, November 17, 2005

It's not Thanksgiving yet, plus HNT

In my head, I had planned a Thanksgiving post to put up today, but now upon further investigation, I realize I'm a week early. (I'm not blonde, it's just a non-event north of the border)

Today is Spouse's birthday (for you francophones, "spouse" is non-gender in English and can represent either "husband" or "wife") and I wish we could give him a splendid party, alas, today is the magazine deadline at his work, so he will probably need to work late. I'll have a special supper for him tonight. Happy Birthday bébé!

So I guess it's also HNT. What better excuse to expose my sicker side. Thus, I give you, my impression of George Bush.

And because I've little else in mind, and due to the nice compliments from the first batch, here are three more pics from Sunday's walk in the park that didn't make the first cut.

This was another tree bearing fruit. This and the red berry picture from Sunday were both marked as "Crabapples" of which they had many, many varieties.

Here I am in the Chinese garden area.

It really was a fabulous day.

And finally, another one of the gnarled tree.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Bad teacher

I had a lesson with one of the kids I teach the other day, we'll call him Johnny, who I had a regretful thing happen with. What happened was this. We were conversing about hiccup remedies seeing as how I had them, and he talked about drinking the water upside down. I told him about my father's remedy to "push" like you were having a hard time pooping while holding your breath as long as you could, and usually that would stop the hiccups. Then I noticed that the vein was popping out on his forehead and his face was turning red.

"Hey, be careful you're face is turning red."

"I'm pushing." he says

"Well you have to watch it because you can faint like that. I remember showing my father how I could turn my face purple and then waking up on the floor with a big bump on my head from falling down."

"You fainted? How long were you fainted?"

"Oh, about 30 seconds I guess." and I had a niggle of a concern.

Why was he asking me that. Oh wait, the fainting. Right, he's fourteen years old and I've just talked about how to make yourself faint.

The words I had spoken were like a snake that had slithered out and wrapped around his brain. I looked up to see his face turning purple.

"Johnny, stop that. That's not good for you, and we're having a lesson."

He stopped but I caught him doing it again later during the lesson.

When I left, he was alone in the house. I knew exactly what he was going to be doing in his bedroom. And yes I do feel guilty about it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Torn's second meme

1) My mother once: found some underground dirty comic books I had and destroyed them. One of them in particular would have been worth hundreds of dollars today.

2) Never in my life: have I considered suicide.

3) When I was five: Mrs. Jensen was my Kindergarten teacher. She took us on a field trip to her beach house in Laguna, and we rode her private funicular down the cliff.

4) High School was/is: a time when I thought I knew everything but really didn't.

5) I will never forget: seeing the UFO at Lake Mead

6) I once met: Ellen Burstyn backstage in New York. She is the only celeb who ever made me nervous with awe. I was only 17 though.

7) There's this person I know who: doesn't like him/herself and punishes others for it.

8) Once, at a bar: I found an eight ball of coke. That was a bloody weekend.

9) By noon I'm usually: already finished with lunch and in the classroom teaching.

10) Last night I: ate filet mignon with fettucini alfredo and enjoyed it with a crisp yet buttery white wine. Watched 54. Lame movie.

11) If I only had: more time and money, I could do more of the things I like doing.

12) Next time I go to church/temple: good question

13) Terri Schiavo: was evidence of the mental illness of the fundamentalists.

14) I like: bargains, laughter, greasy food, scrabble, weed, and wondering about life.

15) When I turn my head left, I see: a white wall.

16) When I turn my head right, I see: the living room, with the dog parked on one of the couches.

17) You know I'm lying when: Sorry, I don't lie much anymore, it's just so much easier to be honest.

18) In grade school: I sucked on the gravel that covered the playground. I loved the taste of the dirt on the rocks.

19) If I was a character written by Shakespeare: definitely Oberon

20) By this time next year I: hope to have quit smoking

21) A better name for me would be: Cloudwatcher

22) I have a hard time understanding: Calculus, Shakespeare, and racism.

23) If I ever go back to school I'll: take only classes that interest me.

24) You know I like you if: I laugh a lot.

25) If I won an award, the first person I'd thank would be: Depends on what the award was for.

26) I hope that: winter is warmer than normal this year.

27) Take my advice: gratitude and cheerfulness feel better than resentment and hostility.

28) My ideal breakfast is: Eggs San Pietro at the Rose Cafe in Venice California.

29) A song I love, but do not have is: pennies from heaven.

30) If you visit my hometown, I suggest: (assuming hometown means where my home currently is) coming in the summer.

31) Tulips, character flaws, microchips & track stars: lovely, interesting, dull, and sleek.

32) Why won't anyone: shut up about their faith?

33) If you spend the night at my house: do not wear black. Your garments will be coated with beige dog hair.

34) I'd stop my wedding: what a gay question.

35) The world could do without: pedophiles and bloodthirst

36) I'd rather lick the belly of a roach than: eat it.

37) My favorite is: laughing until tears stream down the face.

38) Paper clips are more useful than: staples.

40) And by the way: this took me far longer than I anticipated so I will spare you any possible horror of being tagged.

41) The last time I was drunk: On the cruise ship, we danced til 3am.

42) My grandmother always: surprises and inspires me to this day.

Monday, November 14, 2005

A walk in the park

What a spectacular day yesterday, it jumped back up into the 50's and we took advantage of the respite from the chill by going out and surveying the state of things in the botanical gardens. Now that the season is over, there's no entry fee, and since it's just a short distance form our place, we spent a few hours strolling. Mostly everything looked dead and ready for winter. But here and there, there were still splashes of color.

And now I get why red berries are a holiday symbol too.

There was a special gnarled looking tree we goofed around with. There were people there feeding the birds who would land on the outstretched hand containing birdseed.

Anyway, not much else to report, just wanted to post up some pictures of the day yesterday and wish everyone a good week.

I'll be back tomorrow with more fun stuff.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

I do not look like him

Last month when we went on the cruise, three people came up to me that week and just "had to" tell me that I looked like Pierce Brosnan. I answer what I always answer to that, "Yes, I've been told that before." Usually, the person then tries to clarify, "It's a compliment!"

I'm sorry, but when you compare me to someone who is just shy of a decade older than I am, it's hard not to think, "Really, I look that old?"

Some say also that it's the way I carry myself, with a sense of confidence and knowing, while also being exceedingly polite. This is very attractive to females. It's true, women have been throwing themselves at me for as long as I can remember. I suppose males have been too, I've just got more of a blind spot there.

I got it again last week in one of my classes and everyone in class agreed and said, "Yes, that's it, I've been trying to figure out who you remind me of." Then of course a bunch of James Bond talk.

Maybe there's the slightest resemblance here. I dunno. I must be getting old.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Saturday look back

Ahh, Saturday. The pressure is off, and focused relaxation is on. Though it's been a week pretty much like the last few in terms of job duties and activities, there have still been some notable events. This was the week that all the trees lost their leaves. Where one week ago, splashes of color still graced the landscape, now there are brown sticks quivering in the air, here and there a crow's nest exposed. Remember that picture I posted last Friday? Here is that same tree less than a week after I took the first one.

Then on Thursday, we finally got the first blast of snow here. Well that I've seen anyway, who knows what happens when I'm sleeping. Not cold enough for it to stick yet anyway. But when I saw it, I leapt up and ran outside to take a picture. It was more impressive in person. But I got some on my nose and eyelashes.

This got me in the holiday mood and I went directly to buy my Christmas cards. A bit early I know, but what the hell. I had little to choose from since they were still hauling out the Christmas merchandise at Zeller's (that would be Target in the US).

Mostly what's been happening is that fall has changed to winter in one short week. We had two big squall lines move through this week with lighning, thunder and heavy rain and LOTS of wind. Then snow. And all the shops are decorating for Christmas. The Santa Claus parade is downtown today.

And only 5 weeks left on my contracts, then Puerto Vallarta!

Friday, November 11, 2005

The road to Montreal part 7

part 6

So there we were in Southern California in 2000 working from home and having settled into a life that seemed stable and secure. We had a house, a dog, and a business. We were thinking much less about being discovered.

That year we planned another vacation to Montreal, a two week getaway that would include the Jazz festival. We convinced some friends to come with us for the first week. This was the first time since Serge had been barred in 1995 that we decided to try to fly him in and out of Montreal. (instead of crossing the border by vehicle) We bought a one way ticket to Montreal and then a round-trip Montreal-LA so that he would have proof that he was "going back" to Canada. (Of course, we had no intention of using the return ticket, we treated it as a special tax on our situation) By now, Serge knew how to "properly" answer questions at the border. Five years had elapsed since he had been barred from reentry so we felt pretty confident about our chances.

Think you know what's going to happen? This isn't a movie you know, life is always more messy and complicated than that.

We went to Montreal July 1st. We showed our friends the town. As it turned out, these friends didn't like the city. Too foreign for them I guess. Once they left, Serge and I had another week to enjoy ourselves.

Now, throughout this seven year saga, Serge had always made a point to keep his Quebec Driver's license current, a key element for "proving" his Quebec residence status when crossing the border. Because it had expired, Serge went to the motor vehicle office to renew it. However, Serge had waited too long since the expiration and Quebec regulations required him to take a Driving Class in order to renew his card.

"But I don't understand, I do have a valid license." Serge says to the agent.

"From where?"

"From California."

"May I see it?"

"Sure." Serge takes out the license and puts it on the counter.

"Well then there's no problem. You are only permitted to have one North American Driver's license at a time."

"What? Wait. I don't understand."

"We'll send this one back to California and let them know you've moved back to Quebec. Now you can go stand in line for your photo."

And that was how he lost his only valid form of US I.D. that he posessed. What this meant was that driving in America would be a risk. In LA, driving is not a luxury, it's a requirement. (Remember, the laws had changed and it would now be impossible for him to get another California Driver's license.)

Suddenly, that cozy settled-in feeling was ripped out from under us. Poof, just like that.
By the time we got on the plane back to LA (with no trouble) I had come up with a new plan. Let's pack it up and move to Montreal.

A few months before, we had been invited to a seminar at the Canadian Consulate on "how to immigrate to Canada". I have no idea why we received this invitation or who knew this would interest us. At the seminar we learned that Canada sometimes gave "special consideration" for couples in our situation. In my mind, this became the back up plan if we were ever facing separation again.

I retained the services of a Vancouver lawyer to walk us through the process. He was very encouraging about my chances for acceptance.

In the ensuing six weeks, we sold all of our possessions save two bags of clothes and the dog (we rented out our house, the plan was to sell it if I were accepted to Canada). We said goodbye to California and arrived in Montreal on September sixth to start life over again from scratch. We found an apartment, furnished it with IKEA and I enrolled in French School.

The following August, I would receive my "permanent residency".

Last year, we married at City Hall in Montreal.

Currently I'm waiting for my citizenship application to be approved.

And that's why when someone asks me "Why did you move from LA to Montreal?" I usually say, "It's a long story." Now I can just refer them to the blog.

This concludes The Road to Montreal. I hope you enjoyed it. (And thanks to Psycho, for posing the question in the first place.)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

HNT and sleepwalking

It seems like it's always the same shot, oh well Happy HNT from me and Sara.

I've been sleepwalking again. I don't know what triggers it, or why I do it. Serge caught me the other night futzing with the front door and sent me back to bed. I have no memory of it. And then Sunday, I "woke up" sitting in the smoking room with a lit cigarette in my hand with my robe on. This is worrisome. I don't really know what can be done about it though.

'Nother short post today, stay tuned for the final installment of the road to Montreal tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

More Bible stories anyone?

So Anne Rice has refound Jesus. Upon revisiting her relationship with the Catholic faith, she now wants to "write only" for Him. (I swear, you can read it here.)

I smell a little Dan Brown envy, don't you?

What is up with these celebs who feel they need to push their "discoveries" on us. Hey how about this for a reality show - We lock up Madonna, Tom Cruise and Mel Gibson in a room. The first one's deity to save them is the winner.

Back to Anne. We loved your books hon, but don't you think you're going to turn off your fans who reveled in your tales of debauched vampires? If you want to "write only for Jesus" I suggest you use one of those cute diaries with the little lock on it. Really, we've got a pretty sizable army of men dishing out His story every Sunday already.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Pipe gunkage

Last night, we had a simple dinner. And oh so good. It was a baguette with a box of swiss style cheese fondue. We cubed up the baguette and dipped each one in the gooey cheese and washed it down with some wine. (well, it could have been imitation wine, the bottle did have a screw top)

That's it, so simple, so delicious.

There's a small problem when you have cheese for dinner. Cheese likes to gunk up the works, so to speak. In fact, I've just returned from a 15 minute episode atop the throne. After much huffing and puffing I was still unable to sell the property.

What that means is that later today out in public I'm going to have to unload this ball of wax. Then I'll be faced with the clean up using a smaller and thinner version of kleenex. Come to think of it, I'll just toss a roll of "quilted comfort" in my backpack today.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Song memory #2

Breaking out in song while in one's cups is perhaps a distinctly British custom because in my life I've only experienced it once in America.

It was in the late 90's in San Francisco. The remake of "Killing Me Softly" was at the top of the pop charts. I was visiting with an out of town friend, who had never seen S.F. After doing requisite sightseeing during the day, we caroused at night.

The last night we were there, it was nearing closing time at the bar we were in. (Don't ask me the name, I never remember such things. After all a bar's a bar.)

The DJ played one last song. It was "Killing Me Softly". The crowd erupted and leapt to their feet. We spontaneously joined together swaying along with strangers singing "our lives" with our words at the top of our lungs. Nothing else existed for those three minutes. The magical concoction of the hour, the libations and the song took us all to a place of eternal brotherhood. A perfect moment.

The hair still stands up on my neck when I hear that song.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The road to Montreal part 6

part 5 4 3 2 1

We drove across the country in six days. It had been a big gamble planning for the crossing and had it not worked, I can't say for certain that I would be living here in Montreal today. As it was, those first hours on the road after the McDonald's rendez-vous were of an exuberance difficult to describe. The laws designed to keep us apart made everthing so much more "prickly with life", like every moment from there on out was stolen. Within a few hours though, as night came on, we found ourselves passing No Vacancy signs everywhere and here and there cars that had spun off the road. Freezing rain storm! We had to get off the road quickly. That was how we ended up spending New Year's Eve in a Pennsylvania Truck Stop room and toasting 1995 at midnight, the rumble of bigrigs a constant hum just outside.

Because my car was not equipped with winter tires, we headed due south before heading west. The next five nights were spent in Knoxville Tenn., some-small-ass-town in Arkansas, Dallas, Carlsbad NM, and Blythe CA. The best part of the road trip was the stop at Carlsbad Caverns. Other than that though, it was driving drudgery 10-12 hours per day.

We arrived at Em's house dirty and exhausted and camped there for the next month on the floor of the den. I collected my game show winnings and started looking for a job and apartment. I found two waiter jobs rather quickly and we rented a cute apartment in Long Beach. Serge also began working and changing jobs whenever suspicion was aroused about his status. (Usually, a letter from the Social Security Administration.) 9 months later, with a little parental help, we purchased an old house and began renovating it. Serge did most of the renovating between jobs while I moved into management (again). We added Sara to the family, rescuing her from the shelter. We would call this place home for the next 5 years replete with the trials and tribulations you would expect for a couple of people in our situation*.

The problem with living like that is always the future. Because at any moment your lives could be ripped apart and so it was difficult to think about "next year" because we never knew what that would look like. During those years, we made two other visits to Montreal. Both times we employed a similar strategy for Serge to come "home". Both times were nail-biters.

By the beginning of 2000, we had gone into business for ourselves, creating web-sites from home under the name We were less afraid of being "found out" as all the income for the business went on my tax returns. We were getting used to life there. Little did we know all of that was about to change.

(Final part 7 coming soon)

*Trials and tribulations. While I am trying to stick with events that seem relevant to my journey here, that doesn't mean that years pass inside a vacuum. If you care to read them, here are a few notable asides to the story.

- asked a single friend Natalie, to marry Serge in exchange for free rent in our home for a period of two years. She declined and later felt bad about it when she was still single two years later.

- illegal immigrants are a huge source of controversy in the news in California, we were reminded of it constantly. Laws began becoming more strict in an effort to make it more difficult for immigrants to stay. Driver's licenses were more difficult to obtain (though Serge had his from before the law change).

- a visit to an immigration lawyer was depressing, there appeared to be no possibility of him staying legally, and Canada is excluded even from the lottery.

- a friend of my dad's met a Russian lady on-line, flew to Russia and met her, then married her, and brought her and her 9 year old son back to the states. It all happened in a matter of a few months and she was here working, her son in public school. This was the seed that turned me against my country. Life liberty and the pursuit of happiness? For some, apparently.

- Lots of great things happened too like our wonderful network of friends, the White Party in Palm Springs, the weddings, the new babies, all the goodness of life. The beach and climate, Halloweens on Santa Monica Blvd., the skiing in sweatshirts, the proximity of family. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Lazy blogger

It's the weekend, time to relax and enjoy the fruits of a hard week's work. For me that means doing a little shopping, cleaning, blogging and game playing. Maybe a movie, dinner who knows? We like to play it by ear. Last night we went to visit a friend's new apartment on the 25th floor with an incredible view of the city. He has a pet bird who took to me quickly (as most animals seem to) and spent a good 30 minutes grooming me about the face and hands. Here Coco is atop my head.
What else? Hmm. Going to work on the blogroll on the left there. Move some out and add some others. I'll work on the next segment of the road to Montreal for tomorrow. Take the dog out for a walk. Snack often.

It's fun to post Saturdays. It's the lowest traffic day for the blog, so I can just blather some drivel and move on.

Good weekend!

Friday, November 04, 2005


A splash of color downtown I came across yesterday.

People living in the city bemoan the lack of nature while country folks lament the dearth of convenient services.

If you have low self esteem, that's bad, but if you have high self esteem, you're likely to be termed arrogant and egotistical.

If you're open minded you could be seen as wishy-washy, but if you have strong convictions, you must be closed minded.

We love life and hate death. But one cannot exist without the other.

Big bodies - bad. Large genitalia - good.

In our society we prize independence and individuality and then we turn around and denigrate those who are different.

We expect our governments to be efficient and together when dealing with crises like Katrina, but have you ever visited the motor vehicle department?

Everybody loves Friday, but people don't say much about loving Sunday.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

HNT and a couple of things

Took this pic just now facing the bathroom mirror. This is the robe I got at a sidewalk sale last year, it goes all the way to the floor and is super plush terrycloth. It is quite green, but color is irrelevant to comfort. I'll be living in it at home most of the winter.

When faced with blogging while experiencing a shortage of inspiration, Half-Nekkid-Thursday really comes in handy.

Funny thing on Tuesday, I went to work and after my first class I went to the metro station and there was a guy selling chocolate bars at the entrance. He seemed irritated that I wasn't interested in purchasing, after all it was for a good cause. But what kind of a moron tries to sell chocolate bars the day after Halloween? A profound moron evidently. I've been chuckling about the poor guy for days now.

And yesterday, in one of my classes, a very earnest student said, "I layed on my daughter," (she meant "I put my daughter to bed.") "And we did it together." And I burst out laughing. I had to explain her errors and what she had inadvertently implied. Sometimes I love my job.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Song memory #1

They had just come home from their weekend donut run. Dad came in and put on a Beach Boys album at full blast and set out to do chores in the yard. Mom came in and looked like the life had been sucked out of her.

I ran to the kitchen to see what I had been brought in the donut bag. Mom collapsed on me and began sobbing. She held me tightly and her body shuddered as she cried.

"Mommy, what's wrong," I said feeling scared.

"You're dad's leaving us." she managed to answer.

She continued to grip me and sob. I felt little zings of glee but knew it was best to conceal them. For me, I knew it meant the end of my parents' knock down drag out arguments with each other.

I suppose Dad was feeling relieved.

I can't hear "Help me Rhonda" now without being transported back to that moment.


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

How to screw up something as simple as giving out free candy

Well I'm officially a failure at Halloween. I went out and bought a 100 piece bag of goodies to give out last night, and then on the way home from work I bought another 100 piece bag just to be sure I had enough. There's nothing worse than having to say no to eager trick or treaters.

So how many kids came to the door? Guess. Seven kids. That's right seven. This was because they were all skipping our house. Why were they skipping our house? Because we didn't decorate. I did put candles in the windows to make it look spooky, but that made no difference. Essentially, the kids went to all the decorated houses for candy.

I really love to give the candy out on Halloween. I especially love the little ones who approach the door shyly. When they receive the candy, you can feel the little thrills bubbling up through their little costumed bodies. Unbridled excitement.

I love seeing this because it reminds me of how much I loved Halloween as a kid, it takes me back to a time when a piece of candy from a stranger was a nirvana like experience, something that as adults we feel far too infrequently.

Serge came up with a song last night that he teased me with until bedtime.

"You don't know how to do Halloween,
Na- Na -Na -Na -Naaaaa- Na"

I made pouty lips.

Now I've got to figure out how to unload 193 little candy bars.

And next year, I'll be decorating.