Monday, July 28, 2008

A very long road trip

I had inteded to blog daily while I was in Montreal, but for some reason the prospect of sitting in front of a computer screen while on vacation seemed unappealing. I did, however, take some pretty decent notes in my sketchbooks so I should be able to reconstruct a lot of the magic and majesty of the trip.

So I brought my bike, my skateboard, my guitar, and some clothes on a three thousand mile round trip. I stopped up in Michigan to see my mom, then to Niagara falls, thence to Montreal. The customs agents gave me an amused grin whenever I said "intrigue and adventure" to their "whats the purpose of your trip" question. I drove most of the way with my top down and my shirt off, so I got sunburn that looks like a diving flag: a white stripe across a feild of red. Unfortunately its faded quite a bit in this picture; it was taken a week later. It was bright red for a couple of days.

Niagra was alright, but I should have stayed on the American side where the parks are. I wasn't a fan of the tourist trap on the Canada side. My favorite part was the nature preserve they've got set up in a little tributary to the falls, its got some islands with bridges that connect them, very idylic. I sat and played guitar there.

Montreal is ten hours from there; I finished the first audiobook I was listening to (Empire, by Orsen Scott Card), and got halfway through the second (Rainbows End, by Vernor Vinge) before arriving in montral at like nine oclock. I grabbed a bite and a beer and tried to figure out where I was, seeing as I had no plan in the city or place to sleep.

I took my bike off my car and rode around till I found what looked like it might be a cheap hotel; a couple of old converted apartment buildings near the Place des Artes. The doors were all locked, and I was considering whether or not I should ring at that hour when an older chinese woman came in the front and said "You need place to stay? Fifty dolla a night." Sweet deal, it even came with a place to put my car for the week.

Biking in Montreal is real nice. Bunch of bike lanes, trails, and parks. I spent a big chunk of the time riding from park to cafe to park, reading and napping and eating and drawing. I broke a sprocket on my bike, which was amuseing (if slightly annoying). A really interesting concept emerged for my meme-gene/body-soul idea; I found a way to represent all four words in one ambigram thats legible on both sides of the helix. But since there's real tradoffs in legibility when trying to balance all four, I figured id make it most legible as two at a time, then make it transform as it goes down the spiral. The transformation will end back where it started and make a loop, natch. I don't have anything digital of that idea yet, unf, but I do have a picture of the precursor: a pseudo parquet deformation of the words MEME and GENE, with the ambigram in the middle:

The Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art was very nice. A couple video installations I liked alot, and weirdness on a level I could appreciate. In the bottom they had a theater set up where they were playing music videos from canadian directors, which I thought was really neat. It seems like music videos have the potential to be a really expressive medium, but they often seem to be considered a cheap, chinsey Mtv sort of thing. Cool to see them displayed in a museum. The peice I liked most (not a music video) was a sort of stop-motion video where the camera rotated around a point in the center of a studio and a mirror was dropped from each angle. The frames were all interlaced so that it made one spin around the studio with each different mirror captured in progressive stages of hitting the ground and shattering. The sound that it made was really eeire and strangely musical.

I found a bar with a halfpipe on the second floor, and I was in love. It had a giant metal spider with eyeballs on its feet above the entrance, and the first time I passed it I thought it might be a little cliche. Second time I came by, they were playing a Kill 'em All song, so I had to go in. Turns out the place is seriouly awesome; they played the whole album. Then the halfpipe upstairs: I spent probably two hours watching people skate. The thing was on a semi-outdoor platform, and there were tables and seats all around it. Every so often somone would take a spill and send their board into the crowd; it would bounce off somone, they'de laugh and throw it back. The skaters looked so beautiful; such fluid motion and precarious balance on the edge of disaster... it really made me want to skate again. I'm gonna make a point of going to the skatepark once a week; next time I run into such a place I want to be able to actually skate on it (I would have fallen directly on my face if I had tried in Foufounes).

The language aspect was also really neat. I would overhear people talking in (what sounds to me like) perfect french, somone would interject something in perfect (if northern accented english), and somone else would respond in french. They switched languages as they pleased, seeming to use whichever one was more expressive at the moment. I tried to make a point of initiating conversations with french (saying "excuse me, i don't speak french, do you speak english?") as a matter of courtesy, but it actually seemed to be confusing to alot of the people I talked to. Due in part, no doubt, to mispronunciation on my part; but I think there was also a bit of "of course I speak english, just start in that language if thats what you speak" behind it. Though without rudeness, of course. The people I spoke with were all really gracious and helpful; I got a sample that biases me in favor of the city in general, I suppose.

So I've found another place I'd like to live. I vaugely looked for programs I'd be interested in, and there's at least one that is exactly what I want. And appartently Canada will cover the tuition, so... that will have to be another consideration on my radar.

Back home, I've realized that I can bike/bus to work. It'll only take like fifteen or twenty minutes longer than driving. Plus I'll get exercise and be able to read on the bus. Its like I'm reclaiming a whole hour of my day from the maw of corporateness. Turns out I may not actually need a car as much I had thought. But then, I'm torn between how cool it would be to not have a car at all and how cool my car actually is. oh woe is me.

This week: I learned to play Blue in the Face (an alkaline trio song), saw Gonzo (documentary on Hunter S. Thompson), saw La Traviatta (opera), went to a couple parties. lalala lifes good.

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