Mimetic Desire: Track 2 Le Nord Bizarre
It is 9:16 local time. I am again on a train whizzing west through the Montreal suburbs. This train rides looks like a 1960’s public design nightmare. Everything is a strange, vaguely lustrous, kind of metallic blue-green. The panels of once not-quite-matte paint and use-shiny nylon fabric framed everywhere by blunted rectangles of thin aluminum trim. The specter of old piss pervades my car, faint enough to be more atmospheric than unpleasant. The upside is the ride is incredibly smooth, and appears to be rolling at a nice clip. This train, unlike the Amtrak, is mostly empty kind of contributing to the weird old sadness of the ambience. Its like the feeling you get in old “family restaurants” in Florida when the regulars finally go, for their egg whites and turkey bacon, to the Eternal House of Pancakes.
I’ve been mucking around a bit, thinking about other things than the task of writing this blog. Stupid stuff mostly. Ridiculous things that have peripherally to do with the landscape. I just wondered, for example, just how big (in practical terms) is the colossal squid? Would it fit in that grain silo? I wonder what kind of person lives in that farmhouse, and would they maybe have a colossal squid in there? It would be dead though, right? Maybe hooked up to some machines the farmer/mad scientist uses to keep it alive and study its dreams?
Anyway, I left you yesterday mid morning, and not much happened for many hours. Canadians, and would be Canadians were eating microwave chili dogs all day long from the cafe car. What is the deal with chili dogs anyway? I remember them being good, but not that good. Most of my ride through scenic upstate New York, cruising beside Lake Champlain, the sky legitimately azure, the dulcet tones of my least favorite Ryan Morgan song playing on repeat….and the sweet? smell of chili dogs… Once the chili dog frenzy of 2016 had abated, and the sharp tang of tomato sauce and mystery spices no longer chummed the air I was able to secure a table in the cafe car. This was an altogether pleasant development. I was able to freely charge my needful devices, take pictures and look out mindlessly on the most excellent scenery while I made jokes to myself about the magic kingdom of Vermont just there in the distance. In this way most of the day passed, fairly unremarkably (aside from an Austrailian kid getting grilled by a border agent, which was inexplicably satisfying), and as the sun set dramatically in the distance, oozing orange and purple into the humid sky, we arrived in Montreal.
Montreal is an odd place. It’s really like nowhere I’ve ever been. Weirdly clean and quiet it looks like a European city with a few major exceptions. The new stuff looming over mishmashed old stuff, classic Europe. On closer investigation though one says to one’s self, “Wait, this old stuff isn’t really that old,” and “Wait, where is that smell of new bread, old piss, and middle-aged socialism?” and “Why do the homeless guys all have that half-clean, quasi-healthy look of aging rock stars?” I like to invent locally specific games to play to help me remember a place. In Cincinnati I like to play “Firework or Gunshot,” in Atlanta it’s “Roadrage Roulette,” in Cork City: “Let’s Make A Question,” Hamburg: “Ask Prostitutes About Science” (this is very informative btw) and “Hamburger MadLibs,” and now in Montreal “Homeless Man or Folk-rock Legend.”
It was a long walk from the train, down Rue St. This and Place St. That. The statues we’re new, the churches tastefully lit, and the evening was cool and breezy. I arrived at the Auberge St. Paul hostel just 16 minutes late somewhat impressed with myself navigating with only a glance at a map in the Gare Centrale. The hostel was sparse and clean in the a European way. Some 80’s electro soul music (the Jets I think but I can’t be sure) was playing on a boombox somewhere while obviously French gap-year kids sat outside pointedly not smoking cigarettes. I checked in with the pretty brown girl behind the counter, dropped off my things and went in search of a bite to eat and a drink.
As I still had about 4000 steps left to go until I could sleep, I headed off to a street called Sainte-Catherine, that I was told was a good place to go for a beer and some grub. I guess I should have known, but that part of town was some kind of retrofitted red-light district near the university, super pubs, bar-n-grills, McDonalds, and A&W 24hr joints (arguably the home of the chili dog), interspersed amidst 80’s looking sex shops and newstand-esque purveyors of adult reading materiel. Kind of hungry and tired I went into a pizza place beside an pseudo Irish bar-n-grill. As I sat eating my un fromage slice, I was descended upon by noisy college kids. Like a pack of locusts clad in cut up sharpie tagged t-shirts that read “Bon Cop Bad Cop.” They overtook the pizza place. I finished my slice and sought refuge within the bar-n-grill, along with a black teenager who just got off work at the A&W 24. He soon disappeared somewhere out the back. The barman was a stressed out dude with a New York accent, rushing around dodging buxom waitresses frantically preparing pitchers of Long Island iced tea for white skeezers in flat caps and x-tra long polo shirts. I ordered a pint of the local and got Molson Export. Halfway through my pint, the horde migrated to the bar-n-grill. Masses of them in face-paint and primary colors swarmed around what appeared to be two soap-box derby cars that had had their wheels removed. Seated in the cars were were representatives of Blue and Pink, chugging pitchers of Molson clearly feeling the worse for it, but egged on by the frenetic cries of their hive-mates. Under the florescent bar lights I looked on briefly, and finished my pint while an Asian girl awkwardly danced alone in the corner to some pop hit I might have heard in the grocery store once.
Following that I went back to the hostel, took a nice long shower, and satisfied that I had reached 10000 steps went directly to sleep. A completely uninteresting chain of events brings us to now. You…doing whatever your doing while reading this…me, on train…typing…overusing elipses…ending…incompl…