far too much writing, far too many photos

[continued from previous entry]

Talk continued, along with waves of sensory input from the overall scene — the light from the lowering sun flickering through sheer white curtains made restless by the breeze, the ongoing sidewalk promenade of passing local folk, noise and motion from restaurant activity. At some point, the sun slipped down behind trees and the main course showed up, a lamb thali platter settling onto the table before me. They’d asked for our spiciness preference when they took the order, I’d said medium. After the first course, I was ready for further culinary partying, and dug into rice/curry to find… they’d ignored my preference and given me zero spiciness, the dish tasting like something I could pick up in any decent 1950’s stateside cafeteria. Not bad, but a let-down after the kick in the butt of the initial plate. T. attempted a remedy, calling for spicy sauces. They brought the customary Indian restaurant table-top combo (one hot, one sweet, one weird) — it helped a teeny bit, but couldn’t completely compensate for the curry’s total lack of heat. Ah, well. One out of two plates ain’t bad, and the first was world class.

We stepped back outside as dusk was settling in, decided a cup of caffeine would hit the spot. T. aimed the car toward a neighborhood he liked, we found parking on a side street, across from a small park, a white Greek-style building shining softly in the fading light, couples on benches talking quietly. T. was sure this neighborhood — more chic than his, more moneyed — would be worth wading into, with interesting people and, in particular, beautiful women. (Hey, we’re hetero — so sue us.) And god knows, the scene on the main drag was active, each side of the street sporting restaurants, cafés, other shops, the sidewalks crowded with people walking, the aprons in front of businesses filled with crowded tables, the air humming with laughter and conversation.

We found a promising shop, ordered, planted ourselves at a table outside for further blathering, armed with cups of brew (mine started off with a rough edge, mellowed as I worked my way through it). The sidewalk show didn’t disappoint, happy folks strolled past in abundance — a bit more upscale than in T.’s neighborhood, though not, thought I, any more eye-catching. (Except for one tall, slender, dark-haired woman in a slinky black number, standing by a car a short way down the block. Damn.)

Er, where was I?

And during all this — during all the cruising around, all the chow hoovering, all the liquid sipping — the conversation seemed to concern itself more and more with writing, authors, that kind of thing, T. really hopped up on Chandler, Hemingway, screenwriting, and a novel T. himself had just finished. A novel written very much in a Chandler/Hemingway mode — each chapter a self-contained scene, each scene moving necessarily to the following scene, each one thrusting the story forward. Clean, vivid. Muscular, even, in its way. And somewhere in all the blabber, T. referred to Chandler as the greatest American writer.

Something I appreciate about T.: he’s right out there with who he is. His likes and dislikes are clearly expressed — he loves the things he loves and makes no secret of it. And when he’s focused on something, his gaze is unwavering, he stays with it.

I love Chandler. I’ve been through his novels and short stories a bunch of times. I appreciate other authors who work in the same vivid, austere style, whether I’m a major fan of what they produce or not. If that style of writing has come to represent the best of American scribbling to T., that’s all right by me. At its best, in the hands of good writers, it can produce stories along the lines of Hills Like White Elephants and novels like The Long Goodbye. Big-time material. And it produces passionate, hyper-earnest monologues from T., a brand of talk that’s worth the price of admission.

And that evening talk he did. Which suited the circumstances, me working on about two hours’ sleep, the batteries starting to run low. (It sometimes happens that shuteye doesn’t come easy for me the night before a trip. The night before this trip had been one of those sometimes.) Every now and then, T. would pause to apologize for the ongoing torrent of verbiage, I’d wave a hand in sincere dispensation. He finally seemed to believe me, carrying on in guilt-free fashion from that point.

I’d planned on hopping the Metro back downtown, T. pooh-poohed that, driving me back to my squat for the night like a true mensch. I opened the door to my penthouse cubbyhole as the beat-up bedside clock read 10 o’clock, turned on a light, drifted to the window to the admire the view of this fine city’s nighttime version. The only sounds: vague, generalized traffic noise and a mild breeze, the combo working together to produce a gentle kind of white noise. I lay down on the bed with a book, gradually drifted off as life in the city carried quietly on outside.

All that night I drifted in and out of sleep, the soundtrack of nighttime Montreal sifting through the open windows, quietly constant. The dark bulk of a large office building loomed off to the northwest, its upper form delineated by a simple, continuous line of deep blue neon light. At some point, the sky began the shift from black to blue, sunlight creeping across urban landscape. Intense, orange light at one point, the kind that made the city shine in a mighty photogenic way. I thought about dragging my carcass out of bed, fumbling my camera out of its case, taking some shots. Then I came to my senses and drifted back off to sleep.

Breakfast was to begin at 9 a.m. I planned to be stumbling in the door of the B&B at the stroke of the hour so that I could sit myself down and have a leisurely meal. All of which meant, of course, that I’d need to be awake, packed, showered (etc.) and out the door of my penthouse cubbyhole around 8:55.

Got up at eight, the city coming to life outside, the day shaping up to be beautiful. Was ready to go by 8:30, turned on the TV, skipped around the stations to kill time. Found more French than English-language channels, and one station broadcasting in Italian. (Go figure.)

Stepped out the door at 8:55 and into an empty elevator, by the time it reached the lobby empty had become crowded. Dragged my bags along sidewalks nicely cool in the morning shadows (passing one building where two French-speaking males sat blabbing, one slim and gray-haired, one hefty, older and dark-haired — both sitting in the same spot they’d sat the two times I’d passed the day before, raising the question of whether they’d passed the night there).

[to be continued]


T-shirt seen in Montpelier today:


España, te echo de menos.

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