Thursday, August 31, 2006

A week in review: dapper leg-flapping and pervy Poles

Back in New York, life has continued much as it always does: intensive spurts of work, many hours of dawdling, and a few brief moments of transcendent leg-flapping.

The first happened last Friday after I attended a fancyartpants Jonas Mekas film screening at the Museum of the Moving Image. Not much to report about that--the crowd was about what you'd expect, the movies were a tad self-indulgent, and someone's feet really smelled. But afterwards? Well.

After a very long march down neighboring Steinway street, I entered this fine establishment, feeling a bit apprehensive, given that on one of my last trips to

a Steinway street restaurant, I was placed in a special "ladies seating area" with my co-diner (also a lady, you see). There we sat uncomfortably distant from the gentlemen and watched a mouse skittle across the floor disturbingly close to our feet. Not this time, oh no. Instead we were instantly greeted by a dapper French-speaking man, who, perhaps thrown by the whiff of Montreal that can still be sensed on my skin, begin speaking to me in rapid-fire French. Of course, this was an error, since I don't speak French--but all was forgotten as the same fine gentleman began dishing up heaps of vegetable couscous, lentil soup and vegetarian appetizers for myself and my bemused co-diner. The place was throbbing with North African disco beats--fine enough, in and of itself...but then the belly dancer came out.

It is always interesting to watch crowd reactions to this phenomenon: men can usually barely contain themselves, women often shift around uncomfortably (or, if you are my dining companion, pretend to be totally engrossed in reading a brochure detailing the September exhibits of the Museum of Modern Art), and some women--like a fetching young lass seated at an adjacent table, who was apparently not quite certain of her own fetchingness--reach over and grab their man's head and forcibly turn it so that boyfriend attention focuses far, far away from the sexual threat posed by proximate hipshaking. Freaking lame, no?

What was not lame was the sudden reappearance of the dapper gentleman, who surprisingly began gyrating himself--an inspirational maneuver involving hip undulations, facial contortions and the most vigorous leg kicks I've seen emitted from a man in a long, long time. Sadly, I was too shy to photograph this performance--it seemed rude--but I did find a photo on said gentleman's website that gives a taste of what went down:

So, admittedly, the leg action isn't quite visible there--but trust me, the spirit of the endeavor is. I developed quite an age-inappropriate crush immediately...which was only heightened upon my departure when the gentleman in question showered me with smooches. Oooh!

This was actually a week when I was smooched an alarming amount: first at Jour et Nuit, then at work (eep), and most alarmingly, upon my reunion with the Polish law enforcers documented in one of my very first posts ever. You'd think I'd have learned my lesson when in their fine country, right? But oh no--instead I agreed to go out to dinner with them last night, as a sort of attempt at reciprocal host behavior since they are in the US for a tour of...I forget what. So during the course of this meal, they discussed what great guys they were since they only have one wife, "joked" about the appeal of university teaching (which seems mostly to revolve around the fact that they get to view scantily-clad female students), and toasted repeatedly to my health while smooching my contorted-with-discomfort face. Freaks.

The lesson I take away from this? I'm not totally sure--but I feel certain that if I think about it enough, I can come up with some sort of sweeping generalization about North African liberal Islam and European conservative Catholicism...but who has the time?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Suburbia always drives people insane (or maybe it's me?)

I spent a lovely weekend in Connecticut this past weekend. Things started out a little bit country:

But then ended a very different place.

It's a proven fact: I am a super-annoying guest!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A walk up the Lachine canal

Like lots of other cities, Montreal has apparently begun "revitalizing" its old industrial sites. A walk from Vieux Montreal to St. Henri (which, if this site is to be believed, is the "next Austin, TX, but with snow") makes this all-too evident.

This abandoned grain mill is still, well, abandoned, but according to a local community activist I met, discussions are well-underway to turn it into an artist space with a revolving cappuccino bar on the top.

(I'M LYING! But isn't it crazy that you thought it might be true, even for a second?) Actually, she said that people have been arguing about the mill for years, so I don't know what it will be eventually...but I wouldn't be surprised if cappucchino was somehow involved.

For now though, the Lachine canal is no longer the "factor that made Montreal the cradle of the Canadian manufacturing industry," but instead seems to primarily be a spot where old folks walk, yuppies with those creepy "jog strollers" run, and various people ride around on bikes. (Including some annoying dude who yelled--in English, of course--"On your left!" as he raced past me in his little cycle shorts, probably hepped up on smart drinks.)

No trains went by as I strolled along, but I did watch the grunt-inducing labors of this fellow, who rode by hauling what appeared to be 7000 lbs of ice cream.

Someone has to feed the sugar-cravings of all those kids being pushed around in jog strollers, I guess. Interestingly, just a generation or two ago, I bet this guy might have had a decent-paying job in the grain mill. Oh well--such is "progress" in post-industrial North America, right?.

Hipsterdom proper, though begins right around here:

I didn't stick around to see it, though, as I got creeped out and fled into the nearby Atwater Market. There my mood changed, dramatically, as evidenced by the switch to color:

The market, admittedly, is pretty bourgsie...but at least it had local produce, and an old gentleman who yelled "Bonjour Madame!" at me, which is much preferable to the cycle shorts, "On your left!" guy.

There were lots of older folks around here buying flowers:

And nearby you even see some regular joes among the swanky lamp stores:

Across town, as the sun set, I took some cliche-type "speeding car and headlight" shots:

Before moving along to investigating more industrial spaces:

after which, I returned to my native land, the United States of America. It's hot here. And people are really loud.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Academia: Not enough poutine and too much Diet Coke

For those of you unaware, my visit to Montreal hasn't been all baked beans and poutine. In actuality, I have been subjected to the horrorshow known as an academic conference, otherwise known as Big Egos (and Small Social Skills) on Parade.

Every year I convince myself that it will be different--that it'll be a bunch of smart people sharing exciting ideas and intellectual inspiration with one another--but instead it's usually just a bunch of puffed egos wearing even puffier (usually khaki) pants puff, puff, puffing themselves into a frenzy of self-importance.

This year has been no different, unfortunately...but at least I have had this:

and this:

and this:

and most importantly, THIS:

to distract me.

That's right--the poutine has been eaten, and it was friggin' monumental. How to describe? Well, the fries are Belgian-style: fried to deep golden-brown perfection, but with a light and fluffy inner layer. The cheese curd was surprisingly firm and flavorful, and the gravy was sort of mild and mushroom-y tasting...but that might have been my vegetarian wishfulness hoping that I wasn't compromising my important values, but being too lazy to investigate whether said values were being compromised by asking what was in the gravy. Interestingly, the whole concoction never melded into a amorphous blob, as I expected. Instead the individual components remained surprisingly individual, even after my dining companion (a brave soul scooped up and carted away from the academic conference) and I had attacked it with frightening gusto.

Now that the Quest for Poutine has ended (and oh! what a glorious end!) I will have to find some other Canadian amusements to shield me from the evils of academia. Perhaps investigating the origins and veracity of this sentiment:

Anyone? Anyone?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

No Baked Beans.

Goodbye New York!

Hello Frite Alors!

Okay, I admit, I didn't actually eat in the Frite Alors! yet. (I was too hungry after arriving at my hotel and just ran to the closest frites joint I could find, which sadly, was not Frite Alors!. But never you worry, the poutine is coming, promise!)

Aside from its obvious appeal as Land of Frites, Montreal is the Land of Confounding Signs. While I'm sure it would help if I spoke French, some of the signage here just defies explanation. So, okay, I suppose a potato distributor is straightforward enough:

But what the hell is this? Perhaps it is just "street art" of some sort...but based on its placement, I imagined that 1837 is the house number, and assume that the residents are arty-types...but what is that vaguely struwwelpeter-esque figure lurking above it?

And this one?

Sure, sure, you are saying: it's a country-western dance club. However, consider the evidence: this sign was hanging outside a totally industrial space, had no discernable entryway, and no evidence of a space big enough for dancing.'s Montreal! In case you can't tell, the lettering underneath the peeling tape actually reads "club privat," which makes the Club Bolo even more mysterious. What is going on in there that is so private, eh? I'm thinking some kind of line dancing/fetish club.

My favorite two signs, however, went unphotographed: the first, which read "lesbian haircuts, $15" had an actual lesbian standing in front of it, so photographing seemed inappropriate. The second, which stood in an abandoned lot I was investigating, pictured an open tin can, lid aloft, with a big red slash through it. Honest to God, the first thought that ran through my befuddled American head was "No baked beans?" before I realized that the Quebecois municipal leaders do not want their citizens to dump garbage in there. But by then I was laughing so hard I couldn't take a picture anyway.

After all this excitement, I needed more food, so hunkered down in a streetside noodleshop on Saint-Denis. Here I captured these two ghostly laughers who passed by my camera (which was conveniently set for a long exposure):

before absentmindedly playing with the candle on my table:

The word "breakfast" floating there in the background is surely a sign--my breakfast is included in the price of the hotel...and I bet it's gonna rock.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Au revoir le blog?

Home again, home again. It's been a strange week, considering it started out here:

And ended up something like this:

That last shot was kind of a trippy mistake--I was riding my bike home from Brooklyn to Manhattan, and was smitten by the strangely orange moon. I thought perhaps I could capture it, sans tripod, by simply balancing the camera on one of the bridge's trusses (or whatever they are called--I'm no engineer, okay?). It didn't work--all the cars on the bridge made the camera jiggle, I got frustrated and tried to put the camera back in the bag before the exposure was even done. That'll learn me!

Anyway, I also had a crisis of blogging identity on Friday. It all started because a friend invited me to the Seaport to see the Hot Chip. (I have to admit that I'm not really feeling the Hot Chip. Has anyone else noticed their alarming similarity to '80s Australio-dorks, Crowded House? No? Maybe I'm just grouchy.) I agreed, as I had recently read about the promising-sounding Spiegeltent and its accompanying beer garden, housed nearby, and I figured its proximity would give me the chance to scout the location for future outings. (Diamanda Galas is playing there later in the month, hotdamn!)

Well, the Spiegeltent does look über-promising, and the beer garden was surprisingly untouristed...perhaps because it is hidden and relatively new, and the fanny pack crowd hasn't found it yet. Anyway, this imposing security guard barred our entrance to the tent itself:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

...but we had a fine time lounging on the bright-blue loungers and drinking apricot beer. Upon arriving at Hot Chip central, however, I was quickly overcome by the crowd, the heat, and the fact that I didn't really like the band. I quickly (and rudely) abandoned my friend and dejectedly ran to sit in the old folks area in the back, where I came to the shocking realization that legions of er, Chipsters, were running around taking photos...probably for blogs. And they were really annoying! It reminded me of something a former boyfriend said to me regarding a mutually-disliked acquaintance: when people start behaving like their life is a movie, there is bound to be trouble. Blogging is kind of the same thing, I fear--eventually you stop experiencing things just in their pure state, but constantly evaluate them in terms of their bloggability...and that's weird.

Anyway, I haven't quite figured out yet if my blogging crisis is permanent. As always when I have some type of existential crisis, I was quickly distracted. This time it was by this hot dog cart:

I wish local hot dog carts sold veggie hot dogs like they do in Canada. Not coincidentally, I am going there on Tuesday where I plan to make a beeline for Frite Alors! to scarf down a veggie dog with sauerkraut and some poutine and a beer. Maybe I'll blog about it! And maybe I won't.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

607 represent! (Part 2)

In addition to all of the dead bats, abandoned buildings and massive bargains I've been enjoying for the last few days, this afternoon I had the fine fortune to attend opening day of the Otsego County Fair. When I was a kid this was the highlight of my social calendar...and it's still pretty fabulous, even as a jaded adult. Why, you ask?

Well, first of all, there are the displays. Local ladies (and some gentlemen) bring out their finest vegetables, flowers, handmade clothing, maple syrup and baked goods, and all the 4-H kids bring their livestock. (What happens to the livestock afterwards is a story that is best left for another day, I suppose.)

Then, of course, there is the food.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Although it may not be the healthiest fare, who cares? It's served up by nice ladies like this, and looks totally delectable.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Once one has eaten a piece of peach pie (or a piece of peach pie and half a piece of blueberry pie, if one is a glutton like myself), there are activities.

Harness racing:

And a strange, and probably exploitive, phenomenon known as pig racing.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The title seems a bit of a misnomer, however, as apparently ducks also race. This little fellow, for example, was in last place...but since he still got a healthy serving of kibble at the finish line, I'm not sure he cared.

Lest you think only the animals suffer for our entertainment, consider these ladies, who totally clogged their way into my heart:

I'm sure it's hard enough to be a clogger in normal circumstances--after all, everyone is so ironic and post-clogging these days--but when you consider that these women totally rocked it in 90+ degree heat and no air conditioning...well, let's just say it kind of puts fashionable pursuits like hot yoga into perspective.

The German people were also nicely represented at this year's festivities:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Which leads me to believe that this

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

may actually be true!