Sunday, August 15, 2004

Ike's Party

Okay, here's the deal. If someone tells you that they're having a cinq-a-sept party in Montreal, don't believe them, and certainly don't arrive at 5pm. 5 a 7 is the time in Montreal when cheap drinks are had in many bars around town, to attract the after work drinkers, but the term is now used to generally denote an afternoon, or early evening drinking session, also with the implication of cheap or interesting drinks.

So, we're invited to a 5 a 7 party, which, as we're leaving the house, I notice has been changed to 5 a 9 party on the English invite. Odd, I think, I wonder why.

Just the week before the host, Ike, had told me that it would indeed be a brief party.

'Yeah, we'll drink there for a few hours, then all go out.'

'Okay.' I say.

So, we're the first to arrive. Ike looks surprised to see us at 5.30pm. He is, in fact, still cleaning the apartment. We try and leave to come back later, but he'll have none of it.

So we reluctantly enter and proceed to poke around all his empty rooms and examine his furniture and music collection, as one does.

I crack open my first beer. Now, Imagine, I think we'll be home by 10pm at this point.

It gets to 7pm and there aren't many people.

'This is it, Ike.' I joke.

He looks confused, then says, 'No, most people will come soon, or around 8pm.'

Then the truth comes out. The party will be all night, the only reason he says 'start at 5' is to ensure that people come for 8. If he said 'come at 8', then people would come at 11, and cause a small riot with the neighbours.

'Ah,' I say, seeing clearly.

So, we go out to buy beer at Provigo, for the long haul.

Provigo is amusing – it is a taste of the future, and good example of the general stupidity of people.

I will explain.

There are about six 'automatic' checkouts where you can basically scan all your own food, weight your fruit and veg, pack it into bags and pay with cash or card into a mechanical slot.

So what's stupid about that? Well, for one thing, there are hoards of staff there to 'help' people use the system, as no-one understands it. I mean, it talks to you and complains if you do things 'wrong'. So, if there are people there to help you use it, what good is having it at all?

The second, important point here is that people are volunteering to do what people are normally paid to do – work as a checkout clerk for 10 minutes. Why would you do that? Wouldn't you rather give the job to a student who needs the money?

Anyway, I digress. I end off buying 'President's Choice' lager, which was awful – truly bland and watery. If that's really the beer that the President drinks then I'll be mightily surprised, I can tell you.

I use the 'real-life' check-out clerk.

Back at the party, it's swinging. There are cartoons projected on the walls; loud music; people dancing; people talking drunkenly about the nature of relationships between men and women; people talking drunkenly about the future of the modern society given more and more immigration; and there are even people telling the same old stories to the same old people, but the recipients are either too polite, or too drunk, to mention it.

I notice all this, as I'm on my new diet of 'just beer', to the extent of even shunning the tequila shots on offer. This is, in fact, the first time in my entire life that I have refused tequila. It is quite a liberating / mortifying experience, let me tell you.

So, on my 'beer only' diet I observe the party in a way that I never have before – from the perspective of a merely drunken person. I remember almost every word of every conversation, and even recall names and faces today. Quite amazing, in fact.

So then the dancing starts. I sit and create a masterpiece of a playlist on iTunes for the dancing enjoyment of the tequila-sodden masses, which is listened to for two songs and then overwritten by drunkards who imagined that they knew better than me. No, 'm not bitter. No, not at all.

It was marvellously chaotic – which was, incidentally, the topic of another conversation had during the evening I had with Xena, during the course of which I even said something terribly clichéd like this:

'Yes, but Asia isn't really chaotic, everything works, just more slowly, in the west we look at their system and call it chaos, but it isn't really – it's just perspective, you know, our society could function like that – it could work!' And so forth... (You get a good idea about my drunken conversations now. Perhaps, as I mull this over, it is better to forget the next day after all?)

Leaf corners me and asks me to play football the next day. He knows I can't violate my own rule of never-arrange-anything-especially-sports-when-drunk, but tries anyway. I think he is ambitious, but already has at least 5 names on his list.

And, all too soon, as I'm sitting outside smoking a cigarette, the whole world leaves en mass, and there are just six of us left. The fridge, which was so full of hundreds of beer bottles, is suddenly empty.

Just minutes before this I had a lengthy discussion with someone on the ethics of beer stealing at the end of parties – you know, when your supply of beer has gone and you're almost sure that someone must have had one of yours, so you take a bottle that isn't yours to retaliate... A vicious circle, that.

So it's that time. I sip at a very small glass of wine (not really wanting to violate the 'just beer' diet) and then we take a cab home.

At 4.30am we're crashing blindly around our apartment in the dark, swearing, and looking for the light. I'm shouting, very loudly indeed, rather unpleasant things about our house-mate, who obviously turned everything off before going to bed.

'Shhhhh! He'll hear you.' Hisses the wife.

'F**cking good!' I shout, then calm down.

Today I saw Qbert in the lounge and told him that I was cursing him at 4.30am last night.

'That's funny, I thought I heard you shouting something about me...' He says.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004


I don't normally date reviews as I like them to be, ahem, timeless, but in this case, I think it is important, as this bar has just opened. Otherwise, if you read this in six months time you might wonder what on earth I'm talking about. It is August 2004.

So, down a side-street, next door to the 3 Brasseurs in the Latin Quarter is L'Ambassade, a new bar which hasn't even gotten around to mounting a sign with the name of the bar yet. To glean this information you have to peer at the chalkboard outside.

You can tell it's a bar though, as rather loud techno music is blasting out and people are cheering and whooping inside. There is also a crusty looking chap balanced on the chalkboard, doing yoga type postures, rather shakily. He's either calmly drunk, or excitedly stoned. Somehow he manages to not break an ankle, as we walk by and inside to meet Mary and PVC.

The pub is long and very thin. There is a walkway on one side with some tables on the other. The absence of tables opposite the bar signifies the area where people jump up and down and shout (dancing, I think it's called), and on the bar itself, next to a lot of pint glasses and water, is a pair of decks and a DJ spinning his stuff.

The music is great, kind of funky, very danceable techno. It is busy inside, however, and very loud. The girls can't spot Mary and PVC, so they beckon me to return outside with them. We stand on the street.

'What are we doing?' I ask.

They don't know. Shall we wait inside? Will we stay? Is it too loud? Where are Mary and PVC?

Eventually we go back inside and buy drinks after a bit of a battle and wait.

As I wait for the wife at the bar, I roll a cigarette. A man walks by, then pauses and looks at my half-rolled fag.

'Is that weed?' He says.

'No, just tobacco.' I tell him, and wave the drum packet at him.

He frowns, 'Because if it was weed, I'd have to arrest you!' He laughs, too loud.

I smile and make a ha-ha noise.

He hasn't finished - this is a joke, it seems: '... Arrest you to smoke it with you!' He laughs again and walks upstairs to where another floor will be next month (so we're told).

We take a position near the door, in the walkway. I look around. The décor is still unfinished. The walls are bare and new plaster is visible in places.

Ah, Mary and PVC arrive. The look instantly unhappy at the venue. PVC spends less than a minute inside before going next door to the 3 Brasseurs. Mary stays whilst we finish our drinks, and is set upon by an odd man:

He holds out his hand and says, 'Weigh my ring.'


'Go on, weigh my ring.'

She does, lifting his hand lightly. He seems happy.

'Heavy isn't it?' He says.

'Oh, yes.' Agrees Mary.

He wanders off.

Tina turns to me and tells me that this place used to be a water bar.

'A what?' I ask.

'A water bar.'

'What the hell is a water bar?'

'A bar that just sells water.'

I think about this, then ask, 'Did it work?'

Well, obviously not, as the place is now a beer bar. What an idea - a bar selling only water. Perhaps in a desert, but not in Montreal.


1. Address: Next door to 1660 Rue St-Denis, Montreal

3. Map Link: View

4. Nearest Metro: Berri

Keywords: areadowntown metroberriuqam

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

The Great Wave off Kanagawa

This is a thing of beauty.

A two hundred year old, hand carved, block print from the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai. I picked it up on a greetings card last year, and never sent it, as I couldn't stop looking at it, and, in the end, decided to frame it and hand hang it on my wall instead.

Take a moment to examine it, it is called “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”:

Van Gough, Degas, Lautrec, and Monet were all influenced by Hokusai's prints. I imagine them staring at this little picture, as I do now. I like the fact that this little boat and wave has inspired great artists to produce wonderful things.

So, the other day in the launderette I picked up a magazine called 'The Bitch' which is a feminist-oriented publication. In one article, it berates men in general, and a male-dominated advertising house in particular, for using women's bodies to sell a music system. It published technical and account support numbers of the advertisers and encouraged outraged women to call and complain to the poor harassed clerks on the other end who had nothing to do with the advert at all.

Anyway, I get to the back page and what do I see?

Yes, it's the 'The Great Wave off Kanagawa' used in some advertising.

And what thing of beauty is it advertising?

Well, a G-Spot wand of course - made from clear glass or plastic, it curves along the Hokusai's wave. The man in the boat now appears to be peering at this huge monstrosity in the ocean, as one would stare at a sea monster.

I tried to remember the name of the company responsible so I could publish their telephone number and encourage you to call and complain – you could have asked them to stop using beautiful art to sell dildos... but I forget it. I'm fairly sure it's the 'E Glass Archer' though (“Microwave, Freeze and Dishwasher safe!”), you can take a look at it here: