The Time is Now

Can you feel it? Its coming. Everything is changing. I wish I weren’t so busy, but that’s probably just a sign of the times. Another symptom of the world beyond the periphery of where we are now.

facebook is censoring events and blog posts. They and other websites have also been subtly modifying the design of their sites to make them more about delivering content than about creating it. Notice how you can’t make status updates on your facebook homepage anymore? Last year Amazon dumped wikileaks after US government bullying. Today the media is willfully ignoring a steadily growing occupation movement on Wall Street.

Does any of this feel historical to you? You’re playing a part in history. Right now. How do you want to be remembered? What kind of world do you want your children to grow up in? I’ll give you a clue. There is no way that it will resemble the posh western lifestyle that you and your parents enjoyed in the 20th century. It could be better than that. It could also be much, much worse.

On top of all this I’m working full time to pay off debts that I can’t be forgiven, even though corporations can go bankrupt or get bailouts without even blinking. My credit card colonized me, I should have listened to my parents. I am also preparing to move. Where on earth will I find the time to do what I need to do in my personal life, while also doing what I need to do as a politically engaged person? All I know is that I will. What needs to get done is at this moment crystal clear.

  • taBURNak! the Third needs to happen. The culture and values of Burning Man represent to me the best place to begin building a new culture, a new economy, a new structure. No dictates as to what that will be, but I think that more people need to experience all the different possibilities that are out there and I’m all too happy to bring those experiences to them.
  • I need to work, make money, get out of debt. When I’m in debt, I’m owned. I need to get out, and stay out. This way of relating to money and value and things is OVER.
  • I need to go home for Thanksgiving. It doesn’t matter what work says/wants. This is non-negotiable. Family comes first.
  • I need to join, even if only for a day the Occupy Wallstreet movement in NYC. I want to put my weight behind the wheel of history and change its course.
  • I need to move. The thing that makes life worth living, makes all these other things worth doing is love. Love is also what makes these things possible. I need to be with my lover. Not only that but there are new horizons to explore and new adventures to undertake. I see important work there.

I would love to go deeper into all of these, but alas I have too much to do. I need to get to sleep so that I can be as productive as possible in the coming days. There’s A LOT to be done.

Advertisements

Introductions

[I thought I’d do a few blog posts about my relationship with Montreal, here we go…]

I first came to Montreal in the summer of 2005 for Office Products Expo ’95, a name meant as misdirection from the fact that it was an urban explorer’s conference. I was living in Calgary at the time and visiting were Siologen and Feccie, Siologen I knew from my year with the Sydney Cave Clan in 2001 and Feccie his partner in crime. Working for an airline I managed to get the three of us on a flight to Montreal for the event, not really knowing anything about the city except that it was the second biggest metropolitan area in Canada and that it was French.

We rode the shockingly inconvenient 204 and 211 buses from the airport to meet with… I don’t remember who actually. I do remember Siologen noting on the way in that he was glad to be in a French city because the graffiti was better. At Lionel-Groulx station I recall one of us getting on the wrong metro and playing a bit of musical cars/stations. We connected with another Sydney connection, Chris who was an avid Pynchonite like me who’d shown up at a Cave Clan newbies night and joined with us in adventures involving indoor spool fires, security guard chases and an ascent of the Syndey Harbour Bridge with a thunderstorm in the distance. Sometimes I forget how charmed my life is. Anyways we rocked up to Chris’ apartment three urban explorer gypsies from down under and out west and pretty much informed him that we’d be sleeping on his floor. In retrospect it was kind of rude, but Chris took it in stride and came along for numerous adventures with us over the weekend. Its a good thing his girlfriend was out of town.

As it was an urban exploration conference most of our time was spent in the old malt plant, lectures on credibility props and looking like you belong, a short but exhillerating jaunt through the McGill steam tunnels – “Is that? Shit it is.” “What?” “We’ve been hanging out in front of a security camera for the past five minutes.” “I think we should go… Now!” It was also the weekend that I met Nel58 whom I love and don’t see often enough, and Steve Duncan who becomes a funny connection a few years later. Alex and Rodney were there as well. We threw debris at Avatar-X from the roof of the malt plant, dropped grape soda from the top of the Dow Brewery (right next to the cop shop), Siologen rode an electric cart through the vast halls of the Alstrom rail plant and we shot fireworks in the Wellington Tunnel. An unconventional way to be introduced to a city for sure, probing its abandoned and underground parts, but that’s just the kind of guy I am.

I saw plenty of the regular sites too. Parc Avenue, the International Fireworks Competition (from the top of Dow mind you). I experienced a bit of Mile End culture and after Chris’ girlfriend came back and kicked us out we stayed for a couple of nights on Avenue Mont-Royal before staying in the under renovation apartment of Steve’s cousin Ryan who would later become one of my best friends in Montreal though I wouldn’t meet him until years later. Steve summed up one of the aspects of Montreal that was on all of our minds on the short walk from the pizza shop to the apartment. “I fall in love with a new girl every five minutes in this town!” The girls were, and are, lovely, as was the beer at Brutopia and Reservoir.

Up until this point I had pretty much settled my sights on Toronto as the ideal escape from Calgary. I knew the Burners and the urban explorers in Toronto, it was big and multi-cultural, but after less than a week in Montreal I had already been swayed. While Toronto was big and diverse and exciting Montreal had a certain je ne sais quoi to it that was just much more appealing. Montreal had colour, instead of Toronto’s monochrome black and white reality. Montreal had parcs and grand historical buildings where Toronto had steel and concrete. The pace of life in Montreal was so much more meandering and relaxed, it was clean and fun always seemed to be in the air. There was also the language. For the first time since I was in grade school I was speaking French, it was practical, it was lighting up parts of my brain that had been dormant for years. Language is the software of the brain and Montreal was like a whole new suite of software to play with.

I vowed to live there someday.

The next time I visited Montreal was to check and make sure that I hadn’t been deceived by a trick of the light or the intoxication of too much running, climbing and adrenaline. I flew in for a metro party. Newmindspace was in town running a party on the metro that would ride around as long as it could. I decided to use couchsurfing to find some hosts outside of the urban exploration circles to get a different, more “normal” perspective on the city. The girl I stayed with came with me to the party and we rode the Metro from one terminus to the other and back again before the STM police shut down the show and forced us to disperse. It was a surreal experience taking over a public space like that with such a sense of energy and joy. Nothing like this would ever happen in sleepy old Calgary. We had a blast and so the next day instead of going and doing their thing without me my host invited me to come with them to a Cabane a Sucre in the Eastern Townships.

A Cabane a Sucre is a sugar shack and the event is a celebration of the coming of spring and the maple syrup harvest(?). I ate more sugary goodness, fried pig’s ears and other unidentifiable delights than my stomach could possibly handle, but still I ate and ate. What followed was Quebecois folk tunes, line dancing, haybale rides, a petting zoo and my first tire de neige. It was a cultural explosion, in my mind and in my mouth. That was the day I realized that there was more to Quebec than Canadians who spoke French instead of English, there was truly something different going on here. I became fascinated by a culture that I had only the very beginnings of an understanding of.

Not long after that I was surprised to discover that my application to transfer from Calgary to Montreal had been approved and I would start training for my new position at the beginning of September, only a week after the end of Burning Man. Preparations began quickly. Twice I flew back and forth to Montreal looking frantically for an apartment in a city that I still barely knew, each time bringing piles of baggage that I left at Nel’s house who graciously stored them for me. When finally my apartment was empty and my car filled to the brim my friends ensured that I would be sent off in style by getting me so drunk at the Hop ‘n Brew that I couldn’t see let alone walk by the end of the night. A day later I was on the road for Burning Man, another Australian Dirge in the passenger seat and Brian and Brandi completing the convoy in their rental camper. We would be together all along the I-95 and the I-80, at Burning Man and then after exidous split ways with Dirge and I heading east towards my new home…

Au Revoir Montreal…

This is an incredibly difficult moment for me. One that has been coming for a long time and yet I have denied right up to the end. I have hinted at it regularly over the past few months, but I don’t think I have ever said it outright. Because of that, for some of you this will come as a surprise.

I’m moving to San Francisco, no flowers in the hair.

Now I have said that I’m only moving for the fall/winter, six months or so. That’s my way of sitting on the fence, when the reality of the matter is that its probably for longer than that. Potentially much longer. I like the idea of coming back to Montreal in the spring, watching the last whisps of snow fade into the earth and be replaced by green and every colour of flower. I like the idea of returning to old friends, biking along the canal and wild summer festivals that swallow you up so that you feel like your whole life is just one big party. I freaking love this city and its people and I will return often, but…

Montreal was never intended to be a long term thing. I came here thinking I’d go to school and get another degree (ha ha ha!), four or five years and I’d be off again to experience and explore another magical city like Paris, New York or San Francisco. Yes San Francisco was already on the list of places to live and experience, but that was 2007, this is 2011. Since then I’ve fallen in love, clumsily and unexpectedly with Montreal. What was only ever meant to be a fling turned into something deep and true. She has not always been kind to me, but she was also the first city to truly accept me for who I am and allow me to do the things that needed to be done. First love always leaves an indelible mark.

San Francisco by contrast is something entirely new, at times beautiful, at others terribly intimidating. We flirted a lot, but I have no idea what a more serious relationship with this city will be like. Of course I had no idea what was going to happen with Montreal either. One thing is for sure, both are cities full of passionate people and both are just a little bit different from the North American mainstream.

Its also significant to talk about the real human love that brings me there (as though it were possible to escape that despite the city/love metaphor). Though I love Montreal, its my love of Stella and her love for me that really sustains and inspires me these days. I spend much of my time here wishing that either she was here or that I was there. My favourite moments are by her side and the place where that happens doesn’t really make that much difference. It could be stranded in the Calgary Airport, wandering the night time desert or just sitting at a greasy spoon. How lucky I am then that the place where she’s to be found most often is also one of the most dynamic, vibrant and progressive cities in North America.

While I move for love, I also move for new opportunities. The chance to grow closer to the man I’ve always wanted to be. To try out new career options, new modes of living and organizing and contributing. New forms of self-expression and self-understanding. San Francisco is a city dedicated to newness and the future and I feel like there is a place for me there. A place where perhaps I can do a lot of good.

More than the festivals and the parcs and the depanneurs I’m going to miss the people. Over the past year I’ve been a bit more distant, at least part of the reason for that was the foreknowledge that this day was coming. Even so its no easier to say goodbye, perhaps its worse. Each one of you have been a special and important part of my past four years here in one way or another. Some of us have worked on big projects together, some of us have shared deep and intimate moments, I think all of us have had at one time or another a great deal of fun. You’ve all touched me, shown me different ways of doing things, different ways of seeing the world. Much of what I’ve learned and accomplished over these years would have been impossible without you, and I thank you for that.

I have no doubt that there will be more projects, more opportunities for fun and connection between us in the future. They will just be more infrequent is all. Even if I’m leaving Montreal it doesn’t mean that I’m not still a Montrealler. This city has forever imprinted itself on how I live and how I see the world and that means that I have to come back. Nuit Blanche, taBURNak! or Tam Tams, I’ll be here again from time to time. Nobody can tell what the future holds, but I do know that my affection for this place and the people here will never leave me.

So for this last month that I’m here, I want to enjoy it. I want to soak in as much of Montreal as I can. To bring the spirit of this city with me wherever I go. Je suis Montrealais toujours. J’apporte l’esprit de la ville avec moi dans tout la monde. Parti, mais jamais absent. Merci, et a bientot.