far too much writing, far too many photos

That turning of the seasons thing started with the tiresome elbow prods last week. With the solstice two months in the past, the sun creeps off behind the hills a whole lot earlier than it was just…. er…. two months ago. The songbirds got quiet, robins talking in the evening at the beginning of the week, then falling silent. And somewhere in there, they all caught a bus south, leaving quiet mornings in their wake, the only noise coming from the occasional crow, sparrow or blue jay.

The first (and so far only) true heat wave of the summer hung around for days and days, temperatures finally moderating but humidity spiking abusively to make up for it. Air mild, but so packed with moisture that just breathing started sweat popping out of skin, running down back, etc. Spent that entire week back in Montpelier, it went by so quickly that I can hardly remember any specifics of the passing days apart from what I’ve already laid out here. Spent far too much time online, I know that. Watched the days tilt by. Worked on further emptying out/ organizing the storage compartment where most of the remaining material hooha of what passes for my life got dumped when I unloaded house/land on June 1. Gave some stuff away. Watched DVDs. Ate, slept, etc. The days lurched by.

Sunday morning:: packed bags, tossed them into car, got out on the road, followed it north. Two and a half hours later, found myself back in Montreal, gray, humid vermont weather giving way to a lovely, user-friendly, late August afternoon. The city’s downtown was packed with students returning to McGill University. Piles of trash and unwanted furnishings appeared on sidewalks as old tenants made way for new ones. I’d forgotten how much useful stuff gets tossed at times like that. Folks moved along sidewalks, picking through piles, taking away items. Cars pulled up, parents unloaded bags, stereos, etc., 20ish offspring carted them into buildings.

Next morning, more mountainous piles of discarded stuff appeared along sidewalks. By that evening, not much remained. The morning after that, you’d never know huge masses of possessions had recently covered much of the neighborhood’s sidewalks.

Meanwhile, Monday a.m. far too early — far, far too early — I dragged my sorry carcass to a language school downtown and began four weeks of intensive French classes. Or what I thought would be four weeks of classes. As often happens, plans change. ‘Cause life takes unexpected turns.

[continued in next entry]

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Dusk, Montreal:

España, te echo de menos

frank zappa (an incomplete resume in the form of some sad-ass not-quite haikus):

mountains named billy,
lumpy gravy, dental floss,
penguins in bondage

valley girls, disco boys
chunga’s revenge, a muffin man,
burnt weenies, dog breath

dancin’ fools, sleep dirt,
peaches (en regalia, natch)
and some grand wazoos

nancy and mary,
industrial vacuum cleaners,
the clap, people screaming

men with women’s heads
makin’ jazz noise (from hell)
in orange county

weasals ripping flesh,
yellow sharks, uncles named meat,
dinah-moe humming

men from utopia,
tinsel town rebellions and
doctors named stupid

madge, harry, flower punks,
mother people, bow-tie daddies,
idiot bastard sons

playground psychotics,
soul polkas and barfing out
(waka! jawaka!)

hungry freaks, monster
magnets, brain police and
da duke (of prunes, yo!)

gettin’ a little
at memorial barbecues
for some dead jazz cats

little umbrellas,
poofters frothing, dudes named sam
(w/ showing scalp flat-tops)

mud sharks, thing fishies
girls with names like sharleena
and suzy creamcheese

white port, lemon juice
bongo fury, studio tans and
some black handkerchiefs

gettin’ lathered up
in two hundred motels with
a pimp named willy

one size fitting all,
dental floss (from montana)
and titties with beer

sofas (1 and 2),
modified dogs (named evelyn),
ruben (and the jets)

concentration moons,
the ugliest part of your body,
water turning black

twenty small cigars,
road ladies, bwana diks and
a certain garage

(inspired, for good or ill, by mad haiku)

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Last week — outside the Institute of Contemporary Art, Montreal:

España, te echo de menos

Seen Saturday night, the final evening of competition at the Montreal Int’l Fireworks Festival:

España, te echo de menos

Have been in Montreal now… (pause to count fingers) …six days. Six days of eating well, staying up far too late, sometimes sleeping in, sometimes not.

Vacation. (Such a lovely word.)

Found a gym a short five minute walk from here, went on Tuesday for a session of virtuous suffering. The facility’s in an underground shopping mall, has no windows, no view of the outside world. When I stepped indoors, I left behind a beautiful August afternoon. When I re-emerged an hour and a half later, a near monsoon was underway, skies low and dark, rain slashing down. The wildness subsided quickly, I walked back here, gym bag in hand, streets wet, moisture spritzing from clouds giving way to blue sky.

I made stepped into the crosswalk that’s right near the entrance to this building just as a taxi approached. It slowed, then as I crossed in front of it, it surged ahead, the driver’s foot on the gas pedal, moving suddenly at me — the bumper may even have touched me, I’m not sure. All I know is my body took over, trying to throw itself back and out of the way, feet slipping on the wet pavement, my back landing on asphalt, a loud profanity-laced protest coming out of my mouth through it all. (Not sure I ever imagined myself spewing something censorable in a moment like that.) I thought I was going to be run over, but the car jerked to a halt, the wheel resting against my legs. Brain adjusted to the change in scenario, body hauled itself to standing position, hands brushed moisture and dirt off jeans, heart slamming against the walls of my chest through it all. The driver mumbled a sincere apology as I moved toward his open window, not looking me in the eye, looking nearly as shaken as I was by the turn of events. I thanked him for that and let it go.

I have to say, I appreciate the guy responding like he did, taking responsibility, apologizing, giving a damn. Last time I was in a sitch remotely like this one was in New York City. On my motorcycle in traffic that had come to a dead stop, waiting for things to get moving again. One moment I’m there waiting, looking around, next thing I know my motorcycle and I leap up into the air then hit the pavement. The foot of the cabbie behind me had slipped off his brake pedal, his car had surged forward, slamming into my bike, making us briefly airborne before that hard landing. I lay there for a moment collecting what passes for my wits — the cabbie’s response: nothing. No sign of concern, no indication anything out of the ordinary had just happened, expression blank. I had to get to my feet, stand the bike up, go over to the knucklehead’s window — traffic beginning to move around us — and instruct him to pull over once we’d gotten off the bridge. Then I had to follow him, make him slow down and park‘cause it appeared that he was thinking of trying to bolt instead of giving me his insurance info.

This time around? Much better. In every way.

And then life moved on, skies clearing, sunlight filtering down through tree-lined Montreal streets. Back to the regular scheduled broadcast after a small shot of excitement.

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Alley doorways — Montreal:

España, te echo de menos

The day’s last light — Montreal, this evening:

España, te echo de menos

Last Wednesday: walking out of a building in a small Vermont town. Evening, around 8:30 — twilight, darkness gradually taking over from daylight. Directly ahead of me, a narrow one-lane road extended away, trees on either side. In the bit of open sky above the road, the moon rose slowly. Hanging low above distant hills, big and fat. Butter-colored, glowing brightly, the features on its face drawn so clearly right then, looking like illustrations of the man in the moon that I remember from children’s books growing up — smiling this night, angled to one side, gazing benignly down at this blue planet.

The next night: me returning to my squat late, darkness long fallen. Parked the car, stepped out to find the night air tangy with the faint smell of skunk. Faint but inescapable, present everywhere I went, both outdoors and in. Persistent enough that I could smell it on waking in the early hours. Next morning, finally, the odor had faded away. (Hallelujah.)

The following day, walking downtown in the morning, sunshine pouring down, a beautiful summer day taking shape. A short male approached from the opposite direction. Looking to be in his late ‘50’s, dressed in work clothes, wearing a baseball style cap, brim pulled down, face angled down and away from me. A cigarette held in one hand left a trail of smoke. As he pulled even with me, he burst into a thunderous smoker’s cough, a genuine window-rattler — the kind of explosive sound that could spill water from glasses resting quietly on a table. Left me glad my current life doesn’t include shared time in a living or work space with that kind of soundtrack.

Saturday evening, I pulled on work clothes, grabbed a broom, went out to tackle something I’ve been avoiding: sweeping out the the years’ worth of accumulated dirt, dust and debris from the old garage space that came with my current squat. Raised thick clouds of dust that filled the space and billowed out the door, forcing me to step outside for fresh air every now and then. Had to go through the process three times, concrete floor slowly emerging as layers of filth were swept away. When I’d finished, the hairs on my arms were blond with dust, my workboots filmed with it, wiping at clothes raised further clouds. Need to round up a shop-vac from somewhere and finish the process once my lungs have recovered.

Yesterday morning, I stuffed luggage and laptop into car, followed the highway north across the border, back to Montreal, where I’ve got a small but comfy studio flat rented for the next two months. Once again, up at the top of a high-rise, windows looking out to the west, the city stretching away. Not luxurious, but comfy.

Dragged luggage from car into building, into elevator, up 23 floors (well, 22 — the building has no 13th floor; superstitious gits) and into my temporary squat. Pulled on a change of clothes, threw myself into the Metro, made the ride out to meet a friend at a café. Ate good food, drank good high-test, relaxed, blabbed until the joint closed, employees cleaning up around us.

My idea of a good time.

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Extremely funky used clothing boutique along Boul. Ste-Laurent, Montreal:

España, te echo de menos

Sitting in the kitchen on a beautiful August afternoon. Cut flowers in a vase on the stove, sunlight pouring in the windows, birds making music outside.

Summertime.

August, Vermont

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The following arrived by email, from a friend down on Cape Cod:

“K. and I were leaving Longnook Beach late yesterday afternoon, after a fine time playing in low tide surf and sitting in our chairs. Longnook is [a] beautiful beach, with towering dunes/cliffs… and two steep paths up from the beach to the parking lot that meet at the top. When we reached the top, we saw a woman coming up the other path carrying a rooster. She didn’t respond to K.’s comment, and looked like she was fed up with people asking about having a rooster at the beach. (Why wouldn’t people ask? Why would someone take a rooster to the beach?) We saw her drive out of the parking lot with the rooster on her lap.

“K. said she and her husband once saw someone at Longnook with his dog and a sheep. The sheep was playing in the water. The man — apparently friendlier than the rooster lady — told them that his sheep enjoyed swimming, so he brought him to the beach.

“Go figure.”

Indeed.

España, te echo de menos.

Outside, a beautiful August afternoon tilts toward evening. Indoors, I sit in front of my laptop scratching my head, trying to figure out (a) how in hell it got to be August and (b) how in hell the phone company that provided service out at the house I sold on June 1 has managed to continue charging monthly service bills to my credit card. That same phone company — the poor bastards who took over when Verizon bolted, making it clear they didn’t want to spend one sheckel more on the messy details involved in providing phone service to folks around this green, lovely state — has provoked a blizzard of consumer complaints to the state government. And now I’m one of them. After a phone call to the company itself that went south when they began insisting I needed to start jumping through hoops to get the money back that shouldn’t have been charged to my credit card in the first place, I got ahold of an extremely nice woman at the Vermont Dept. of Public Service who will act as my advocate. We’ll see where it goes from here.

And yes, it’s August. Far enough past the solstice that the sun now comes up an hour later than when I moved into my current squat, the evenings don’t stretch themselves out so luxuriously long and late. But I have no complaints. Enough rain falls that everything that should be green is vibrantly, lushly so, tubs of flowers along Montpelier’s downtown streets brimming over with color, foliage, blossoms. And the rainless days of July and now August (how exactly did we get to that page on the calendar?) feel so good to my bod that the prospect of autumn looming off in the distance is not a source of pleasure. So I don’t think about it. There is something to be said for being in the now.

A few days back, I sat in a cafe working on an iced coffee, watching the local world pass outside the window. A pick-up slowly rounded the corner, a white boxer-mix in the passenger seat, head out the window, eyes half-closed, mouth open, tongue out — expression serious in a blissful way that suggested (to my eyes) a transcendent state of being immersed in the moment.

My idea of a great role model.

España, te echo de menos

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