Tuesday, April 29, 2003

The big thaw

At first, I was pleased to find out my new home was near a park. They are welcome outdoor meeting places after eight months of harsh Canadian winter. Being a young and fashionable city, at the first sign of thaw, we venture from our homes to splurge on a new spring outfit to show-off in these parks when the many cafe terraces are already packed. All winter we fantasize about buying beer from our local depanneur (corner store) and stylishly lounging in the sun on the baby sprouts of grass. We ignore the stench of the thawing winter collection of canine feces the dog-owners left behind because they didn't want to trudge through the snow to collect it. That is a serious lack of forethought on their part, and another reason Montrealers welcome the cleansing spring thunder showers.

Eight months is a long time, though. It is long enough to forget what else the community parks attract. Not only are we a fashionable city, we are a kind city. We love to feed the pigeons. We love pigeons so much, in fact, that we like to feed them our leftover dinners. It is through this charitable act that I have discovered pigeons will eat anything but okra. Personally I despise okra, so this is enough proof for me to claim okra is an anomaly of nature. Surely, it would be left decaying on the park grounds if the unleashed dogs wouldn't finish it off.

I like dogs because I like animals, but I don't especially like them. They are the only animal that has ever tried to bite, chase and mate with me. I had forgotten that all the local residents bring their dogs to these parks for their exercise. Now I am not a species-ist. I know they need to run and feel free, but if an owner knows the animal is inclined to attack strangers, perhaps they should take a moment from their cell phone conversation to hold the dog back before it jumps on someone. Once a stranger's dog bares its teeth at me and puts my calf in its mouth...I get a little nervous. What irks me, is that the owner of the dog then gets angry when I motion to yell and swat it. How am I supposed to know the dog wasn't just tasting me before the official sinking-in-of-the-teeth? How am I supposed to know when the owner will finally hang up and help me? Apparently the dog learned its manners from its master.

Unfortunately, the pigeons and the dogs are the easiest animals to deal with in the parks as our little part of the world thaws. We also have a healthy population of drunkards. I don't mind drunkards in the same way I don't mind strange dogs: we can live in harmony if neither tries to bite me.

On my way down the sunny street yesterday, two especially drunken drunkards began 'meowing' at me. Meowing? OK, I endured the barking and howling of Puerto Rican guys in NYC, the hissing in Italy, the marriage proposals in Cuba, the honking in rural Canada and the ass-grabbing in night clubs, but meowing? Did they make that up themselves?

I told them not to be rude and they told me not to be shy. I think we were having a miscommunication.

I arrived at my friend's house in time to witness her afternoon drunkard experience. I had encountered the same drunkard earlier on that day. He was alone on a park bench angrily screaming, "Ma mère! Ma mère!" I think his 'mère' really messed him up. In any case, my friend had just asked him not to pee on the grass next to her house and he seemed willing to defend his right to pee in public to the death. He came at her, arms raised as though he was already choking her and so she promptly retreated and called the police. They arrived in record time and ran him off down the street with a warning. He paused and stared at me, raised a finger and turned to see if the police were still watching. They were, he left, and peace was returned to the quartier. I might be nervous that he had made note of my face for future reference if he wasn't such an inebriated raving lunatic.

But, the pigeons, the dogs, the raving drunkards, they aren't the only seasonal nuisance. Exams are ending. The frat boys are celebrating. Hold onto your hats ladies, and don't walk alone at night.

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