Thursday, June 24, 2004

Prisoner of my own conscience

I want to call my mom. She'll tell me what to do. She loves doing that.

It's Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day here in Quebec - a day of celebration and beer drinking, of hooplah and yahoos, the human kind---and I am trapped in my house, a prisoner of my own conscience.

I'd love to go on a nice bike ride throughout the city, but it's almost Moving Day. Now, it's not me who's moving, but I'm still affected.

Montreal is a city of pet owners and beautiful apartments. Sometimes, the two don't go together. And, when that happens, often pets are left to find their own new residences. One such creature was dropped off outside my livingroom window yesterday. It's currently mewing at me, perched atop my printer.

I thought it was the kitten who lives upstairs that was making all the noise. She's done it before. I'm not sure if her pothead owners believe in spaying/neutering cats. I'm not sure I can tolerate a yowling cat in heat. Regardless, I've become accustomed to ignoring that cat's confused pleas. It wasn't until my downstairs neighbor called and said she'd retrieved a kitten from her yard that I realized who was doing all the cat-calling.

And now, my boyfriend is pumped up on allergy meds and I am caring for this furry infant while the neighbor selflessly searches for its new and permanent home.

A note to the people who abandoned it: May you be neutered.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

How many is better than one? Are you sure about that?

It's in the living room now.

Nothing has been said about it, but I know it's here to stay. Its slender profile and well-designed parts earned it a permanent place in my home. There is nothing I can do about it.

Still, there are worse things than having a bicycle balanced against the 1930s, original finish fireplace. Besides, it makes my boyfriend so happy to greet it there every morning. I do wonder where we'll store it when my sisters and their two 10 year olds come to stay for a few days in July.

My house is becoming too small. Essentially we have three rooms. That loosely translates into: not enough. There are only two fo us, and the big balcony adds a significant amount of space in the summer, but I work at home. My living room quadruples as an office (complete with two computers, a printer, and school books and stacks of files), as leisure space to welcome guests, a guest bedroom and, now, as a bike storage facility.

Remember just two paragraphs ago when I mentioned that there are worse things than one bike in the living room? Well, let me clarify.

My boyfriend of nearly six years has become quite friendly with Ebay. He sells as much as he buys, but as you now know that I live in a three-room apartment, you may be wondering where all of this stuff is stored before it's sold. And, that is an excellent question.

Currently, there are eight bikes stored in our landlord's nearby garage. Out of sight, out of mind. I really didn't care how cluttered the garage might be until we received a phone call from the landlord, just hours ago, telling us she'll need it emptied before July 1st (the controversial Moving Day in Montreal).

So yes, there are worse things than one bike in the house. And it comes in nines.

Why do I allow bikes in my living room?

Well, this boyfriend of mine is an ex bike mechanic, ex bike messenger, bikeopheliac, brakeless fixed gear rider, Alleycat organizer, bike race winner, supplier of bikes to all my spokesless friends, and builder of my beautiful '67 Schwinn---so, it's my tortured way of saying, "I love you."

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Little Man Syndrome is OK when you're little

My nephew is turning 10 today. I remember the day my sister arrived at my front door to tell me she was pregnant. She was totally freaked out. She was married and settled with a house on the lake already, but she was worried about the huge lifestyle change that would be necessary. She began calculating the cost-per-year of his life/development and subtracted that amount from the Vacations-in-Mexico fund.

A decade later, there is this cool little man destroying her house and her yard, providing hours of entertainment and frustration daily. We love him to bits, and they've manage to bring him to Mexico twice already.

I just hope, that in the next 10-15 years, he doesn't somehow become the type of guy that is here in Montreal for the Grand Prix.

God, if I promise to believe in you, will you PLEASE make sure that doesn't happen?

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

What am I doing?

There is something to be said for 9-to-5 jobs. I mean, I don't have one, but I am fantasizing about one. Having contracts is fine. There is a lot of variety in the writing I'm doing, but sometimes what is expected of me isn't very clear.

Having just completed a contract for an insurance company---preparation of all the documents (and a speech) for an upcoming conference---I've moved on to greyer areas. I'm volunteering my media relations inexpertise to help a friend who has recently opened a dance studio, and I'm working for bread-and-butter with a team to prepare a book honouring a major organisation's anniversary.

Now, knowing exactly what was expected of me would make it a little more fun.

Your very, very friendly neighbourhood policemen

My interactions with police are generally unconventional.

Growing up, police were for 'other' people, and television, only. In a town as small as the one in which I was raised, men of law only appeared on Halloween to catch vandals---and they never succeeded.

As a teen---drunk and disorderly---police were the guys you avoided. They were the only people in town you couldn't ask to go to the Liquor Store for you.

In Montreal, I realized that interactions with the police simply can't be avoided. I'm just happy none have been scary. In fact, my personal experience has been that the police are far more pleasant with me than I am interested in being with them.

In 2001, when I, and two friends, were mugged at 3 o'clock in the morning - on a quiet street in front of the wimpiest hotel security guard ever - I called the police for the first time. Actually, I just yelled at the dumbfounded security guard until he called the police for me.

Actually, he ran away from me and locked himself in his car and rolled up the window. It was while he was in the car that I convinced him to call the police.

We waited for nearly 45 minutes before the policemen showed up. By that time, we were starting to sober up, and boredom filled the gaps where adrenaline waned. Then, with renewed fervour, we all yelled our story to the two, young officers...simultaneously. They did the usual run-through. They asked for a description of the muggers (all three of them) and then we signed our statements.

The night could have ended there, but there was a twist! They offered to drive us around while they looked for those nasty criminals. As drunk as we were, even WE knew the muggers were long gone. But still, who can say no to a ride in the back of a cop car?

So we piled in. Three drunken girls on a Friday night in the back of a cop car. The seats were surprisingly comfortable - well broken in.

We really wanted to drive by people we knew, and there was a good chance of that, seeing as we were essentially taking a tour of the party district. And we weren't subtle; the lights were flashing. I had always suspected police to be a little trigger happy with the light switch.

Then the car sped through the middle of a busy park, past kids rolling joints, past people drinking in public and making out, and screeched to halt in front of the only Black man in the park. The officers lowered their window to question him.

You see, the description we gave the police included: Three fairly good-looking teen-aged guys in sweatshirts, big jeans and nice sneakers...oh...and they were anglophone...and Black.

Yeah, I know it's vague. And I am sure you are thinking, "Well that could be anybody."

And you're right. It *could* be anybody. That is, anybody other than a 60-year-old homeless guy - they were harassing him for our benefit.

But, what were we supposed to do? There we were, drunk and disorderly ourselves, in the back of a cop car, witnessing racial profiling and injustice. Well, I'm not sure what the exact right thing to do would be, but we were too inebriated to care. So we just started screaming at the cops. And then they screamed at us to shut up. And, we did.

The bum was left to pass out on the bench in peace, and all was quiet in the back of the car for a minute.

A little later, the police asked us where we lived, so they could drop us off at home. What a nice offer! Except we didn't want to go home. We had been heading to an afterhours party when we were mugged, so we thought we might as well go out and use our adrenaline kick. By this time, the officers were more than happy to drop us off. Perhaps the line at the door was a giveaway, but they didn't mind.

They parked the car and got out to give us all a proper good-bye. We "kiss-kiss" our friends here in Montreal...and since I'd never kissed a cop before...I...well...anyway...ethics, principles and morals be damned!

We got into the party for free. There are perks to having police escort. Policemen really are our friends - if you're a damsel in distress, that is.

And it just so happens that I am, on occasion, a damsel in distress.


Last night, however, my friend was filling that role, and I was her hacksaw-wielding knightette.

The key had broken off in her bike lock, as she was leaving work, and an unattended bicycle in that area would not last the night. Armed with vice grips and the saw, we set out on a rescue mission. We expected strange looks. If we hadn't been so inept, it would have really looked like we were stealing it.

To pull the cable lock taut, so I could saw through it, my friend leaned back as far as she could, pulling with all her weight. It wasn't good enough. So, being resourceful and ever the drama damsel, she layed on the ground with the vice grips in hand. It looked ridiculous, and very dirty, but it was effective. She assured EVERYONE who walked by that she wasn't stealing the bike.

And, in the midst of this...the police arrived, lights flashing. I was unaffected. I know they just like to flash.

I continued to work as both officers stepped out of the car to ask us what was going on. As hard as it was, I refrained from being "funny" and just continued to saw while my friend explained.

They asked for her ID. She showed them her bank card. They were satisfied.

I was the one with the hacksaw, but they didn't ask ME for ID. In fact, one officer showed me a better technique for stealing bikes. He was very helpful. I hope he's not that helpful with all bike thieves.

Now, I'm not saying that all policemen are flirts. Just all the ones I've met.