Living in fear and under constant threat. Isn’t it fun? They thrive on it in America, depend upon it in North Korea, and manufacture it out of whole cloth in Quebec. We used to have a garment industry here. It employed tens of thousands and nurtured a robust middle class. Now we just weave a paranoia, double the OQLF budget every couple of years, and cannibalize our own industries so a cocooned middle class can shop at the local unilingual Walmart. Welcome to l’abus provinciale.
The Tohu edifice sits on top of the old Miron quarry in Montreal’s east end, as does the sprawling Ecocentre headquarters right next to it. The relationship between the two, and the play we were going to see, manifested itself in the massive plumes of smoke and horrific noise coming out of the EcoCentre. It was opening night of Robert Lepage’s Pique and streams of us were walking towards the place as if to Mordor. Lepage, the dark master of Quebec theatre, couldn’t have asked for a better entrance.
It was a cold November day when Elise Moser and I met Deanna Smith in the park off St Laurent in Little Italy, around the corner from her place. The sun cast long bright shadows, perfect for an afternoon of poetry. But we froze our little mitts off so went to Marché Milano and pretended to buy pasta for an hour. Actually, we didn’t have to pretend.
The Point is a neighbourhood of contrasts and history, where street names sound like they belong in Liverpool and kids run around speaking a French that wouldn’t be out of place in Les Plouffe circa 1953. I myself lived there for 5 years in the early 90s and discovered that even when everyone and their brother won’t talk to you, the kids always will. Elise Moser and I headed down there to meet Hamilton native Montreal convert Alice Zorn.
It was a sunny day in early autumn when Elise Moser and I visited David Homel in his Mile End apartment. The sun sliced low above the street, on over to the brick wall of his building. He read us a passage from Midway. A dog barked and everyone else had somewhere to go.
Mot/town is the video and literary collaboration of myself, Elise Moser and a handful of Montréal writers. Beginning last year, we called up local novelists, poets, and spoken word artists and brought a camera. These are their streets, our city, their words, our images, their faces, our ears and eyes. In English and French, in focus and not. Take a look.
It was a wet and soggy October day when Elise Moser and I passed through street number 13 1/2 to find P.J. Bracegirdle’s hidden apartment. Amid a constant din of construction noise – every single neighbour was digging their secret dungeon – he told us the story of the town of Spooking.
In 3-inch heels, a bustier and cufflinks, Plastic Patrick takes care of the play by play. Smack Daddy sends Miss Tea Maven to the floor in a backwards shove. But Suzy Hotrod breaks through the scrimmage and wins the day for the New York City Gotham Girls. The audience of thousands goes wild. Arch rival team New Skids on the Block have to wait another year to vie for the world championship. Welcome to roller derby.
Mot/town is a video and literary collaboration between myself, Elise Moser, and some of Montreal’s writers, poets, and spoken word artists. We meet in their neighbourhoods, in their kitchens, on their front stoops, at their work place and bring a camera. Monique Polak, about to launch her fourteenth YA novel, is first in line.
For a neighbourhood that prides itself on community, an inordinate number of parents send their kids to schools outside of Mile End. It’s not that Lambert Closse is so bad (depending on who you talk to), but the alternative schools Nouvelle Querbes (Outremont), Arc-en-ciel (Plateau), or FACE (McGill ghetto), or any number of private schools a bus ride away just seem more compelling. But all that might change thanks to a handful of upstart parents and their École des possibles – a parent-led initiative to start a new public alternative school in Mile End.
When we walk along the street it is impossible to know who is Catholic, who practices yoga regularly, who speaks Spanish, who listens to heavy metal, or who’s thinking about becoming vegetarian. But you always know who is a Hassidic Jew. The hats, the coats, the hair, the strollers, the children in matching clothes. For many people, this creates an impression of a monolithic community who thinks and behaves as a bloc.
Tig Notaro has had a hell of a ride, but it pretty much made her career. She was a relatively unknown comic when, in four short months in 2012, she came down with pneumonia, caught C-difficile, buried her mother after a freak accident, survived breast cancer, and was dumped by her girlfriend. Unable to cancel a previously booked gig, she stood up on stage and just told her story. As they say in showbiz, it killed.
A man and a woman putter on a dark stage dressed like Mad Max at Gallipoli. Two spots aimed at the audience means we don’t so much watch them as squint and look away. A guy in front of me tries to mask the spot with his hands. He moves about and sighs loudly and I think he’s going to walk out of the show only five minutes in. But the music shifts from period tinkling to industrial scraping, the man strips the woman naked, and they chant a raw duo of shouted slogans. It never gets easier to watch, but the guy in front of me stays.
Bettye Lavette owned the stage in silver lamé stilettos. Ninety minutes later, Wanda Jackson shuffled to the mic in comfortable shoes the size of an old Buick. With over 110 years of music between them, they stormed the Metropolis last night with chops that could lead armies to battle. And as each of them revealed in their stories between songs, the battles have been many.