I owe my soul to each fork in the road

28 11 2019

So I was talking to my folks earlier today and my dad said Hey, do you remember Thanksgiving from years ago?

And I’m thinking of how we all used to get together at my grandma’s, my brother, two cousins, and I happily at the kids’ table, the walk after dinner in the cold  Sheboygan night to the bridge we all spit off of, . . .

No, not that memory. Wasn’t that when your apartment was broken into?

Yeah, my first year in Montréal! Thanks for the memories, Pop!

Eighteen years later and I STILL double-check my windows and locks.

Anyway, may you all have had as boisterous or as peaceful a day as you desire.





Jean Béliveau, 1931-2014

3 12 2014

The most fair-weather of hockey fans (of which I am, sadly, one) and the most ardent fans of Montréal (of which I am, gladly, one) knows of the great Jean Béliveau.

Does it matter that I was introduced to him through a Jane Siberry song?

M. Béliveau, who sounds like he was in every way a great and good man, likely would not have minded.

He was 83.





Listen to the music: God don’t like it

14 07 2014

That’s just a great title for a cd: direct, not quite right—God doesn’t like it—but somehow exactly right.

Yeah. God don’t like it. Even an apostate like me can say that.

Speaking of: Holy freakin’ hell, I gotalotta Holly Golightly cds.

This is an almost*-all-Canada post, by the way: I heard about Holly Golightly in Montréal, I think from my St Denis (or was it St Laurent? Damn!) Music Man, and her jangly post-punk appealed to me.

I just hadn’t realized, until I pulled the mid-G’s to listen to them, exactly how much she sucked me in: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 cds! Seven cds! And that doesn’t even count the Thee Headcoatees disc!

I mean, she’s good, but seven? Really? I must have been deep in obsession to have collected so many in such a short time—I’m guessin’ a year or two. (I have a lot of Emmylou, for example, but that’s over decades.) It took me a while to get through ‘am all.

Anyway, Holly Golightly, performs one of my favorite covers, of a Bill Withers (also a short-time obsession of mine) tune. Now, Withers is a peerless singer, so it really shouldn’t work, but it’s one of his lesser  tunes—“Use Me”—and Miz Golightly just strips that baby down to its skittering and frayed wire, then coos and flirts her way across and around the beat:

If God don’t like that, God don’t like nothin’.

The other band is Godspeed You! Black Emperor, a band which, unlike our Miss Holly, is actually Canadian. Music Man might have shoved them in my hand, too, but I think I found them on my own.

Not that I can go all hipster-early-adopter on you: I only started listening after the exclamation point had migrated westward.

Only three GY!BE cds proper, but I also have three The Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra La La Band (tho’ they apparently now go by Thee Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra), which contains a number of Godspeed members.

Anyway, GY!BE is loud, very loud. Very very loud. In concert. My friend J. and I saw them at some Mile End (I think) theatre and even in the balcony (which I, unwilling to be blasted off the ground floor, dragged J. to) we were crushed under the cascade of gorgeous, heartbreaking, menacing sounds. They played two hours proper, then offered up another hour of encore.

I don’t know that I could have stood up had they decided we were worthy of a second encore.

The music, by the way, is strange and familiar and fills the space from the ground to the sky. Highly recommended.

~~~

223. Godspeed You Black Emperor!, “lift yr skinny fists like antennas to heaven!”
224. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, xxx f#a#~xxx
225. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Yanqui U.x.o.
226. Holly Golightly, The Good Things
227. Holly Golightly, God don’t like it
228. Holly Golightly, The Main Attraction
229. Holly Golightly, “Up the Empire”
230. Holly Golightly, truly she is none other
231. Holly Golightly, Singles Round-Up
232. Holly Golightly & Dan Melchior, Desperate Little Town
233. Jose Gonzalez, Veneer

*I forgot about Jose Gonzalez. He’s nice, too.





Listen to the music: the sound of silence

2 01 2014

The weekend after the burgarly, still trying to get over the fact I’d been burglarized, I heard Chet Baker on CBC Radio.

My Funny Valentine—that slow narcotic tenor, simple, soft. A November day in Montréal  and I was bereft.

I don’t think I cried about what was taken—I was too pissed—but I was very sad about the Chet Baker.

Of course, the cd could be replaced, and was. I got to know the Plateau and Mont Royal neighborhoods very well in hitting all of the cd shops, and became friendly with one proprietor on St Denis—got some great stuff on his recommendation.

In that sense, the burglary wasn’t all bad: it got me prowling about some near-east side neighborhoods, made me comfortable with the Métro, and I ended up picking up a fair number of Canadian artists. I’d still rather never have been burgled, but there were pleasures in the recovery.

I do miss some cds which, it turned out, were irreplaceable. Some were local discs I’d picked up in Minneapolis, but one loss in particular pains me: Chris Lowe.

No, not that Chris Lowe, which is the problem.

My Chris Lowe was (is?) a singer/songwriter from New York who played and sang at my friend M.’s wedding. He gave out copies of his cd at the wedding (the artwork for which won some kind of marketing award), and I listened to the shit l out of that cd.

It was a bit uneven—it sounded as if the songlist stretched back a ways—but he had a nice way with a lyric, and I’m a sucker for sandpaper voice. It was lovely and lilting and sad.

I did make a tape of it, and I do still have a boombox that plays tapes, but I want that damned cd—which I can’t find, because my Chris Lowe shares a name with another musical Chris Lowe,  super-famous Chris Lowe.

Well, maybe some night I’ll sit down with a bottle of something and dig my way through the cyberverse until I bump into that eponymous cd and take it home with me, where it belongs.

~~~

Again, this list is a bit out of sorts since I started it before the great cd mash-up, but as I’d only posted once previously on lost cds, it’s only a little disordered.

7. Afro Blue Band, Impressions
8. Chet Baker, in a soulful mood
9. Tony Bennett, Perfectly Frank
10. Bettie Serveet, Palomine
11. Andy Bey, Ballads Blues & Bey
12. Mary J. Blige, Mary
13. Blue Up? Cake and Eat It
14. BoDeans, home
15. David Bowie, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust. . .
16. Billy Bragg, Back to Basics
17. billy Bragg & Wilco, Mermaid Avenue
18. T Bone Burnett, The Criminal Under My Own Hat
19. Cannonball Adderly Sextet, In New York
20. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, The Good Son
21. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Henry’s Dream
22. Exene Cervenka, Running Sacred
23. Bill Charlap, All through the night
24. Barbara Cohen & Little Lizard, Black Lake
25. Leonard Cohen, The Future
26. John Coltrane, The Art of John Coltrane
27. John Coltrane, Live at the Village Vanguard
28. Elvis Costello, Brutal Youth
29. Elvis Costello & The Brodsky Quartet, The Juliet Letters
30. Mary Coughlan, Live in Galway
31. Cranberries, No Need to Argue
32. Celia Cruz, Queen of the Rumba
33. D’Angelo, Brown Sugar
34. Miles Davis, Birth of Cool
35. Miles Davis, Bitches Brew
36. Dead Can Dance, Into the Labyrinth
37. digable planets, reachin’ (a new refutation of time and space)
38. Dire Straits, Making Movies
39. John Doe, Meet John Doe





Listen to the music: No I don’t want to hear it

13 11 2012

Four hundred and sixty.

That’s how many cds were stolen, four hundred and sixty: 407 pop, et. al., and 53 classical. Of those, I replaced 276 of the stolen pop, and 22 of the stolen classical—which means of course, that 131 pop and 31 classical were not replaced.

I’m no longer exactly sure how my cds are arranged—since they’re now all in my wine-box bureau, i.e., hidden away, I’m much less likely to rearrange them by various genres—but it looks as if my jazz, classical, traditional, and perhaps soundtracks are separated from the pop, blues, and electronica stuff.

So, had my collection not been pilfered, I would have already listened to:

1. Dot Allison, Afterglow
2. American Music Club, Mercury
3. Laurie Anderson, Mister Heartbreak
4. Laurie Anderson, Home of the Brave
5. Laurie Anderson, The Ugly One With the Jewels and Other Stories
6. The Band, The Last Waltz

I would have been able to replace all of these from the used bins while I was living in Montreal, but for whatever reason, I chose not to.

Right after the burglary, I was mad to rebuild my collection exactly as it had been, title for title, whether or not I had listened to or even much liked the lost cd. After awhile, however, I relaxed, and while browsing for the gone-away cds would also be on the lookout for new (used) discs that I wanted more than the old-used discs.

I do remember that I wasn’t terribly impressed with Laurie Anderson’s Mister Heartbreak, and while I liked Dot Allison’s cd, there were always others that, on my scavenges, I found more interesting. I can always get that later, I thought.

Yes, I did have renter’s insurance, but there was a limit as to the dollar amount of the cds they’d replace. I bought extra coverage, but it still wasn’t enough to pay for everything. (I’m not complaining: my insurer dealt with me quickly and didn’t contest any of my claims.) Anyway, that my coverage was limited meant that I couldn’t just stroll to the HMV and load up on [outrageously high-priced] new cds.

That was fine, actually, as I preferred with both cds and books* to prowl the used shops. I’m not much of either a shopper or a hunter, but my atavistic impulses emerge at the challenge of trying to find what I want in the bins and on the shelves.

Then there is the added thrill of coming across something that just looks. . . intriguing, and taking it home for the hell of it. Sure, that can happen at a new-goods store, but it seems that kismet is more likely at a hodgepodge kinda joint.

So while I didn’t  replace 162 of the cds (although there are a few I couldn’t find and still pine for), I did end up finding room for hundreds of cds I might not have otherwise.

On the whole, I’d rather I hadn’t been burglarized, but with the music, at least, the loss led to something more.

*Oddly, not one of my books was stolen. I wonder why that was. . . .





That was the river, this is the sea

9 08 2012

Where else would I live, except for New York City?

I ask myself this with some regularity—whether to tamp down my restlessness or seek an escape or remind myself there is no escape or a mashup of all of these, I don’t know.

The question popped up again today, in the cauldron otherwise known as the Bleeker Street station. I was thinking of a thread at TNC’s place a week or so ago in which a couple of us rhapsodized over Montreal; another asked But it’s close enough to visit regularly, isn’t it? He had commented late and I didn’t see his reply until even later, and thus never responded.

But what I would have said was: It’s not the same. Montreal is a marvelous place to visit—you should go!—but it’s an even better place to live, so much so that visiting only makes me sad that I am no longer a habitant of that feline city. I could stroll the Main or hike up Mont Royal or point out a chausson au pomme to one of the ladies behind the counter at any patisserie in Mile End, but all that would do would remind me that this is all just a lark, a recess from my life rather than my life.

Besides, Montreal is beastly in August.

No, wouldn’t it be lovely to be in the Gaspé:

Le parc Forillon (M-EveCoulombe, Feb 2010)

The Gaspésie looms over the top of New Brunswick, the St Lawrence spilling out over the top of the peninsula into the Gulf of St Lawrence. It’s by no means the northernmost city in Quebec (that would be Ivujivk, stationed at the northeast entrance to the Hudson Bay), but its furthest region is called “Land’s End.”

My god, who wouldn’t want to escape from the city to Land’s End?

The most famous feature of the Gaspésie is found in the sea off the city of Percé:

Claude Boucher, 2001

You can kayak or paddle out to the massive rock:

Delphine Ménard, 2001

And yes, it really is massive:

archer 10 (Dennis)

Best of all, the average high temperature (according to Wikipedia) in the summer is 68 in June, 73 in July, and 72 in August.

A high of 72. How perfectly lovely!

Of course, to really take in the climate, I’d have to visit in the winter: the average low in January & February hovers around zero, and the snowiest months are December and January, each pulling in an average of 30 inches.

Ahh, trapped in a cabin with a roaring fire during a howling snowstorm at the end of the year at the end of the land: How perfectly lovely!

I suppose I should mention that I haven’t ever visited the Gaspé, so my longing is pure, untroubled. I can dream of Percé or le parc Forillon or the mountains of Chic-Choc and not wonder what I’m missing, only what’s ahead, only what is there.





Feeling groovy

24 02 2012

How long does it take to carve oneself into a place?

I’ve been in New York for over 5 years, and only very recently has it begun—begun—in some small way to feel like mine.

This wasn’t something to which I paid much attention in my early wanderings. Madison was the first stop out of SmallTown and I loved it unreservedly, threw my whole self into what seemed the far shore of previous life.

Minneapolis? I did not love, less for its Minneapolisness than for the fact that a) it was not Madison (where my friends were having fun in their fifth year of school) and b) it was the location of graduate school, where I was not having fun.

Albuquerque was so brief—11 months—that it felt more like an interlude to life than life itself. I wasn’t particularly happy to trek back to Minneapolis, but I knew the place, had friends there, had more-or-less (mostly less) of a life there.

The 2 bus down Franklin to campus, the 52 back to Lyndale, or maybe a bus to downtown, then the 15 up Nicollet. The bike route past the convention center, through downtown, sneaking up to the West Bank from behind, then over the river and over the bridge to the gym. Or hopping into my car and on to the interstate to get to campus, scoping out the few all-day spots scattered around Riverside or at least trying for a 4-hour spot.

The diners at Cedar-Riverside, the bars at Seven Corners, Electric Fetus for cds and the 3 used bookstores in Uptown, this one good for memoir, that one for fiction and philosophy, the other one for history of science. Walks through Loring Park and over the bridge to the Sculpture Garden. Swimming in Cedar Lake. All of my friends, oh, all of my friends.

I never adored Minneapolis, but at some point I wore a groove into to the place, a path which became my life.

I did adore Montreal, had my routes and habits, but Montreal was so easy that I wonder if I ever really took my life there seriously at all. I could make my impressions—feet on sand, boots in snow—but a wave or a wind and I was gone.

Then again, with my departure built into my arrival, I was free to swim its surfaces, to rove over the island trying to soak in every last bit of its sublime beauty; I passed through Montreal and let Montreal pass through me.

Somerville and Boston? No, no chance, not for me.

And then, Brooklyn. Unprepared and upside down but determined to make this place stick, to make myself stick. I told a friend last night that it might have been a terrible decision to move here but it wasn’t a mistake. I had to know, I told her.

Still, while a part me locked into the city, there were many more parts which were just. . . alienated? uncomfortable? suppressed? I tried consciously to create habits of living, but that felt fake; I acted as if this were already home, but that was a lie.

I wanted New York to be home, and it wasn’t. It still isn’t.

Recently, however, I’ve noticed that my path is, in some places, noticeably smoother. There are places I know, places I count on without knowing I count on them, friends who are true friends.

Another friend told me, before I moved here, that New York is a hard place, and she was right, it is a hard place. But I can run my hand over this ground and feel, for the first time, the ground begin to give.