Win Butler: “Shout-out to all the bands still playing actual instruments at this festival.”
Times writer: “Coachella should give up its noodly classic rock ambitions and give into our new wave overlords.”
While I don’t entirely disagree with Win Butler’s sentiment, holy shit, what a pretentious blowhard. Fuck that guy. Really? You have a band with, like, 12 people in it and half the time their musical contributions to a song are best described as a make-work project; your wife plays the tambourine like she thinks she’s curing AIDS. Also, you have red paint on your eyes like you’re David Bowie, and you are not David Bowie.
I am occasionally asked if we have a distinct style in Quebec – a unique sensibility that permeates how we present ourselves and what makes us tick. Beyond the obvious bilingualism, what else separates us from the rest of the country; from BC’s unhurried coastal cool, from Albertan cowboy oil-&-gas swagger, from the quaint modesty of the Prairies, and the seafaring bonhomie of the Maritimes?
The answer is yes, we Quebecois have our own style. It’s called “One notch too far” or alternatively: “the result of overfunded arts programs.”
It’s the bad-ass looking biker dude who sewed “flames” onto his leather jacket. It’s the businessman who chooses to unicycle to work. We take a delicious char-grilled rib steak, and smother it in macaroons. We like to take things too far and ruin them, is what I’m saying.
We are indeed a “distinct society” – one that is distinguished by its lack of taste, tact, and…cool. We just aren’t inherently cool. The latest version of homegrown stylistic sadism reared its bedazzled head the other night, at a boxing match of all places. In fine Quebecois form, the mid-bout entertainment wasn’t the expected rock band or hip-hop DJ. No, it was option # 3: leather-clad rock violinist. Obviously. What, were you expecting something…cooler? Not here homie.
Apologies for the low-quality photos – I was shaking in incredulity throughout the display and couldn’t keep my camera steady.
Monsieur “Rock Violinist” flounced and fiddled his way through 10 minutes of “Le Violon Roquant!” – delivering the whole arena to a dark, awkward place. Why did he have to leap around so much? Why a leather suit?? How many boxing fans were digging this?? (immediate anecdotal evidence at the venue suggested a roughly 0% take rate).
Bittersweet: Eating a delicious homemade croissant at my favourite indie coffee shop, while the hipster owner, a nice Tunisian dude, hands me a leaflet to the vernissage he’s hosting, displaying Palestinian kids’ drawings of life in Gaza under Israeli attack.
If impotence-causing skinny jeans didn’t prove it, this does: Indie cred costs too much.
I want you to know: your awful settlements in the territories aside, you’re still kick-ass. Your beaches, uzi-wielding babes, Western values, history of science and tech innovations, and impossibly huge grapefruits are all awesome. However, your graffiti is WEAK.
Seriously, if these photos I snapped in Florentin, the hipster-est part of hip Tel Aviv, are anything to go by, you are still, clearly, laggards in the subtle art of shit-disturbing. Your game is off, my brethren. Where is the colour? The inspiration – the bubble lettering? And what’s with the obsession with bodily fluids?
I don’t blame you. If I spent the whole of my own short existence fending off rocket attacks and building universities and irrigating land and developing portable lasers that cure sleep apnea or whatever, I would not be the best at “cocking about” and defacing public property. Hey, it took America 200 years before graffiti got good – and they weren’t even distracted by having to develop techniques for subsistence agriculture or defend against murderous neighbours. So I do get it.
It happened again yesterday evening – twice in the span of fifteen minutes: driving through the Plateau, turning onto a one-way street, when a cyclist, unhelmeted and barely visible in dark, non-reflective clothing, shot out of said street, going the wrong way, as I narrowly missed mowing him down in my Subaru. I slammed on the brakes and honked my horn, all to little effect, as the biker wheeled on without looking back. Idiot!
This isn’t a rare occurrence. If you’re a motorist in this city, you’ve likely had a similar experience.
So what’s my point? That Reckless Cyclists are a nuissance, a scourge on our roadways? Brilliant, you say. And in other news, our city has a ton of potholes.
No, my point is the Reckless Cyclist is a specific breed of scofflaw, and he/she must be treated as such. In place of helmets, high-visibility clothing, and a general respect for the rules of the road, the Reckless Cyclist favours smugness and a sense of entitlement for being on a much smaller machine – one that has a Zero Carbon Footprint, dontcha know? It’s an attitude that deludes them into feeling entitled to not just the whole road, but their own set of rules of the road – above those existing rules that motorists and pedestrians are expected to follow.
Sure, some will say, what about the other side of the coin? What about reckless motorists? What of the stereotypical absent-minded soccer mom, chai latte in one hand, iPhone in the other, hurtling down the road, recklessly changing lanes without signalling, in her huge, gas-chugging SUV? Yes, her Range Rover has a truly obnoxious carbon footprint. But at least she isn’t driving the wrong way up a one-way street and burning stop signs and red lights like she’s in her own imaginary Presidential Motorcade Of One. And she doesn’t – nay she can’t – conduct herself with impunity. Motorists are Goliath to cyclists’ David.
Reckless Cyclists do indeed seem immune to public scorn – and that’s the problem. They expertly play the underdog in the ongoing, roadgoing discourse between motorist and cyclist. It’s easy to see why – just look at them: so fit, so economical, so deft – weaving in and out of traffic, flouting the rules and, seemingly, the laws of physics. They look so cool – look at that one there, barely visible, blending in seamlessly with the nighttime scenery in his dark, non-reflective clothes – he’s not even holding onto his handlebars and – oh look, he just burnt a red light.
Let’s be clear: I am not a sociopath. I am a decent human being. I hold the door for people. I send Thank You notes. When I’m on the road, I am courteous, respecting speed limits and using my turn signals, and when I see cyclists, I give them as wide a berth as I can. And I’m all for urban cycling – I use my own bike a lot and I appreciate Montreal’s ongoing efforts to make our roads more bike-friendly.
But it’s always that same scenario: I barely miss a Reckless Cyclist as they barrel the wrong way across an intersection, and then they speed off, unconcerned by the near-miss that nearly ended their burgeoning career of on-road idiocy.
So what happens if I accidentally hit one of these clowns? I have to deal with that guilt for the rest of my life? I wish there existed a ray gun that could blast a “guilt ray” (patent pending) at such offending cyclists, so they might instantly feel remorseful for their lousy road manners. The smart money is on an Israeli – Jewish (we know a thing or two about weaponized guilt) and well versed in “high-tech” – developing this. But until science catches up with science fiction, we need a different, more immediate solution.
And then it hit me: rather than be worried about a potential accident with a reckless, two-wheeled miscreant, I should relax and approach this scientifically. In the most pragmatic sense, a serious accident with a Reckless Cyclist, while tragic, is perhaps a necessary approach to population quality control. It’s Darwin’s Survival of the Fittest theory at work on our local roadways. In simplest terms, if I accidentally hit a Reckless Cyclist, I will have just done the world a favour, eliminating one more wrongdoer from the gene pool.
Hence, I’m now totally cool with Reckless Cyclists. I’m Zen. If the aforementioned happens, I understand it’s just Darwin’s will.
I’ve already experienced backlash from this approach: my girlfriend, for one, was not thrilled with my new laissez-faire attitude. But as I clarified to her, I don’t wish ill upon anyone, and I’m not about to start hunting Reckless Cyclists down, like some crazed vigilante. I will not be retrofitting the front of my Subaru with a Mad Max-style brush guard, fashioned from old, mangled bicycles – though i admit that would look kind of cool. I’m still going to brake for these heedless idiots when I can, but if my braking effort proves tragically insufficient, I won’t feel badly that I failed to prolong a Reckless Cyclist’s career of jack-assery – and neither should you.
So, to the red light-burning, wrong way-riding, helmetless, barely visible cyclists out there, do not treat this as a threat – treat it as a note of encouragement to carry on, dear sirs and madams, per usual.
Sweet jesus in a Cabane-à-sucre. This is, apparently, how the Quebec Toursim Bureau once promoted the sport I love. I realize the 1970′s were a dark period: the OPEC crisis, Watergate, Vietnam, The October Crisis, disco music, but….skiing? Daaamn.
I could see the crack team of creative directors back in 1976 having a brainstorm session:
“Eh, Jean-Yves, we need to promote ski tourism in La Belle Province. What do you think of a picture of a guy performing le Ski Ballet?”
“That’s a great start, Pierre-Luc. That shit is hot right now. But is it homoerotic enough? Maybe give him wings.”
“Mais oui! And make them big. They will connote power and freedom.”
“Freedom from Anglo oppression!”
“Errr—sure I guess. Maybe also give him a moustache – the bushier the better. It will counteract the ballet stance and make him look tough.”
This is a short, true story about a series of choices I made one night, long ago. It is my hope that this story will prompt you to part with some “sympathy” dollars, which, when donated, happen to work just as well as regular dollars, and which you might consider pledging towards my Movember campaign.
Twenty years ago, when I was in the sixth grade, I attended my first weekend house party. I was both excited and terrified, because I went to an all-boys school and I had heard there would be girls at this particular party.
I made sure I had my outfit picked out many days in advance: navy blue blazer with brass buttons, white t-shirt, acid-washed jeans, white sport socks, black Doc Martens. Yes, I thought, this would be the perfect ensemble — classy, but not too showy.
At this point, feel free to take a few seconds to close your eyes and imagine me, 1 foot shorter, 90 lbs lighter, with a voice three octaves higher, dressed like a 1980′s New York City stand-up comedian – or more accurately, how someone from Saskatchewan would have envisioned a 1980′s New York City stand-up comedian.
I made sure I knew the address of the house ahead of time. And I made darned sure I did not arrive late, because that would be very uncool, I thought. It’s cool to be on time, I had figured, and probably even cooler, by that logic, to arrive waaay early.
So I arrived at the house two hours before the party was scheduled to begin. The hostesses (they were twins) ushered me downstairs to their basement and then returned upstairs, where I overheard them complaining to their mom that there was “a weird kid downstairs who arrived super early,” and what should they do with me? Suffice it to say, I was embarrassed. I was actually devastated. I was not “cool” at all, it seemed, and I don’t think the twins had even noticed the brass buttons on my blazer.
I was so traumatized that I honestly cannot remember what I ended up doing in that basement, as I waited those two hours for the other party-goers to show up. I blocked out that memory completely — so painful, it must have been.
I probably sat in the basement and ate the snacks that had been laid out for the thirty other awaited guests. I probably put down at least a few lbs. worth of Cheetos. I remember really enjoying Cheetos back then. Alternatively, I may have just passed out for 2 hours. I do not remember.
Since then, as a result of that mortifying faux-pas, I have often erred on the side of tardiness for many important events.
Which brings us to Movember 2011. It’s already the 22nd of the month, and I am very late to this party. Do you like how I tied this story to Movember? I hope you did.
I have been growing my moustache, or ‘Mo”, since November 1st, as the Movember rules stipulate. So in a way I haven’t missed the party at all.
Attached is a picture of how I look today, Movember 22nd. Not very pretty. I’ve been getting a lot of strange looks from people. It’s not easy having this thing on my face — ask my girlfriend, who hasn’t even cast me a sideways glance since November 15th.
Worse yet, my moustache is only getting longer, bushier, and more unruly. If I can borrow a quote from the U.S. Navy SEALs, whenever they are asked to describe their brutally intensive training course, they famously state “the only easy day was yesterday.” Having a moustache, I can totally identify with that sentiment.
But at the end of the day, my Mo’ is for a great cause, as you can read about here, http://ca.movember.com/about/, so I press on, all the way to November 30th.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and I really hope you’ll consider donating.
I hope this note finds you well. As we are all very busy, I will get right to the point: I have recently undertaken the growing of a moustache, in observance of “Movember”, the campaign to support the fight against male-specific cancers. I have created my own page within the “Movember” website, and I am writing to ask you to consider donating money to it. You can view my site here:
For those of you with a bit more time on your hands, here are some FAQ’s:
What Is Movember? Great question: “Movember” is the annual month-long campaign, always in November, to raise awareness and, more importantly, money towards the fight against cancers that specifically affect men. Movember has an official website, www.movember.com, where you can learn more about the cause and donate money to it. The name “Movember” is a combination of “Moustache” and “November.” That’s right, moustaches are involved.
That’s weird – why moustaches? Another really good question. Moustaches are (thankfully) a uniquely male facial accessory, as uniquely male as the cancers that the Movember campaign was created to help combat. These days, moustaches are also conversation-starters, especially when sported by youthful types who would otherwise shy away from wearing a hairy broom under their noses. The moustaches get people talking about the cause of Movember, and they hopefully get people donating, too. The idea is for people to support your growth of a moustache – in this case, my moustache – by donating money.
Fine, but it’s still weird – and are you really earning these donations? You aren’t exactly running a marathon or climbing a mountain; it’s a bit lazy, no? Look, I didn’t invent the campaign, but it’s a cause that we should all get behind. For what it’s worth, I am trying to eat more iron in my diet, as I read once that iron promotes hair growth (yes, I know, my baldness would beg to differ). So you could say I am doing SOMETHING. That said, I realize that in order to be taken seriously as a fundraiser, it wouldn’t hurt to do something in addition to growing a moustache.
Ok, so what else will you be doing? I’m glad you asked. This is what’s known in the retail industry as a “value add.” For those who choose to donate, in addition to viewing daily photographic updates of my moustache – one that will guarantee me no female attention whatsoever for the next 3 weeks – I will also be writing a daily mini-blog about moustaches within the “Comments” section of my Movember page. I’ll be writing about famous people who had moustaches, why I think they’re great, and anything else that might fall into moustache-related subject matter. By the end of the month (that will be 22 separate blog entries), all who donate will effectively have a bachelor’s degree in “Moustache Studies,” thanks to my blog. When you think of the expense of a “traditional” university bachelor’s degree, it’s incredibly cost-effective, plus you won’t have to wear that silly cap and gown.
What is the target $ amount you wish to raise? In all sincerity, I wouldn’t want to limit your imaginations with a specific number, but however much you would like to donate would obviously be enormously appreciated!
I’m sold. This is such a great idea and you are truly leading by example. How do I donate to this cause? Glad to have you on board! Simply follow this link (http://ca.movember.com/mospace/160429) to my page, and click on the “DONATE TO ME” button – it couldn’t be easier!
So that’s it; that’s my pitch. I would also encourage you to pass this on to anyone else whom you think might be interested in giving money towards the cause. Thanks for taking the time to read this and I hope you’ll think about supporting Movember, a worthy cause that needs all the support and money we can throw at it.
Post tubing, we returned to our suite at the Austin Radisson to sleep off the delirium of the afternoon. We awakened in the early evening, and headed up to 6th street, Austin’s nightlife epicentre – at least for tourists. 6th had about as many bars and clubs as I have remaining hair follicles – that is to say, there weren’t thousands, but there were still a lot – more than enough to entertain you (ok, that metaphor doesn’t work).
We ended up at a place called Pete’s Duelling Piano Bar, which, as the name implies, was a bar that featured open mic spoken-word poetry. Just kidding, it was a bar that had two duelling pianists, playing customers’ song requests. The highlight was a bidding war that happened about an hour into the pianists’ set, when a drunken lady requested – wait for it – Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin.” I don’t know why drunken women love this song, but they do. The song is, essentially, the vodka & cranberry juice of jukebox requests: it’s a safe and obvious choice, it goes down easy, and it gets you up and partying pretty quickly. Much like Vodka & Cran, I used to enjoy this song as a saccharine, guilty pleasure, but it’s just been overplayed and overdone, and I want nothing more to do with it.
Luckily, we had a saviour, in the form of a well-fed, sport-coated feller, who was having none of it. The woman had paid $10 for her Journey song to be played, but Grouchy Von Sportcoat, bless his heart, gave the pianist $20 to stop playing the song, immediately. It was a heroically dick-ish move. Our table cheered, as did most other dudes at the bar. But then, of course, the inevitable happened, and another guy swooped in, like a knight in shining armour (his shining armour consisting of a beet-red face, pleated khakis, and a Blackberry holster), and gave the pianist $40 to continue the song. We were pretty bummed, as I’m sure were the world’s millions of starving children, who had better ideas for how to spend 40 dollars.
After Pete’s, we headed back down to South Congress street and hit up the Continental, on the advice of one of the tubists we had met that afternoon, who was a bartender there. The Continental is one of the, if not ‘the’, great live music venues in Austin, which is kind of a big deal. Playing that night was the Dale Watson band, an Alt. Country Bluegrass act, and they were superb. Dale is a gracefully-aging Rockabilly legend, with the requisite wifebeater shirt, greying pompadour, and tons of ‘ink’. He’s one of those elder statesmen of coolness that you hope you, yourself, will be one day, but know you never will. That’s ok, though.
Halfway through his set, Dale introduced the band’s stand-up bass player as Mike Judge. The name sounded familiar, and then I realized it – Mike Judge, genius comedy writer and creator of “Beavis and Butthead,” “King of The Hill,” and the cult hit film, “Office Space,” was playing bass for Dale Watson. It’s not enough for Mike Judge to be a young and wealthy comedy legend, he now has to play bass – and play it well. That sort of info makes you take stock of your own life accomplishments, or lack thereof. Regardless, I was too excited to be in his presence to really care about such navel gazing, as the picture below indicates.
The owner of the Continental, a nice guy and another hipster elder statesman, was a hotrod collector as well. Being, as I am, a certifiable car nut, we got to chatting about his collection, which included a gorgeous, rusted-out ’49 mercury parked outside the club. Seeing my enthusiasm about cars, he recommended we check out the Austin Speed Shop on our way out of the city the next day, and so we did. We woke up the next morning, checked out of the hotel, and made our way to the Speed Shop.
It was basically like your typical, local independent garage, if your local garage did ground-up restorations of hot rods, from the 1920′s up to the 1970′s, with paint jobs more intricate than what’s found in the Sistine Chapel, and more metal fabrication than is found in some skyscrapers. The cars were simply incredible, and we were pretty excited that they let us walk around to check them out. I couldn’t get any decent photos of the cars in the shop, but if you check out their site, you can see their work. Pretty incredible stuff. Below is a link to their actual shop and their ongoing project cars, including a car being built for Jesse James. Whatever you think of the man, he has good taste in iron:
Anyhow, that was it for Austin, and Texas, pretty much. Following our visit at the Shop, we hopped in our decidedly non-hot rod rental Chevy, and headed back to Houston, and then finally home to Canada. We came, we saw, we ate BBQ, we two-stepped, we fired guns, we floated, we met some great locals, and we departed the Lone Star State with a true appreciation for the surprising cultural variety inherent in the whitest Nation-within-a-Nation we’d ever visited. Yeee-haaawww, indeed.
Our last 24 hours in The Lone Star State would prove to be a lot like the delicious burritos that we enjoyed in the East Austin restaurant, Juan In A Million; they were as memorable as they were densely packed.
After shooting up a storm at Red’s, we drove an hour SW of Austin to New Braunfells to indulge in that most leisurely of watersports: river tubing. This is where you lie in an inner tube, and let the natural current of the river carry you to a point downstream – in our case, a point about 5km’s further down the Guadalupe River – all the while taking in both the splendour of your natural surroundings, and inexpensive beer. Note: you can’t really drink expensive imported beer while you tube – the inherent pretentiousness of drinking imported beer totally flies in the face of the purity and simplicity of the sport tubing. And yeah, I would definitely term it a sport, because in between the long periods of relaxed, serene flotation, you occasionally need to dispense with a concentrated burst of frantic paddling in order to be properly positioned to flow through the rapids. It’s not unlike curling in that regard, except you’re actually riding the slidey thing, and you’re not dressed like your 5th grade lesbian gym teacher.
We did it through a proper tube/rafting rental outfit, and they set us up with all the kit we needed, and some stuff didn’t (see below for examples), as well as lifts to and fro the pick-up and drop-off points. Unless you’re going with well-equipped locals, this is definitely the way to go.
And what a way it was – especially after, about 30 minutes into our excursion, we floated up to a group of friendly, bikini-clad tubists (tubistas?), who were celebrating a birthday in their group, and had their own, makeshift floating fiesta in full swing, so we joined them for the remainder of the 3-hour float down the Guadalupe. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend one’s birthday than to lazily float down a river with your best mates and a few cold bevvies in tow. Texans really do have the important stuff figured out.
For your future reference, here is a list of what’s required for a successful tubing excursion:
- a river
- an inner tube
And here’s a list of optional items that we saw fit to include on our trip:
- bathing suit
- waterproof camera
- sunscreen (you can opt out if you want to achieve that “local” look)
- baseball cap (preferably with camouflage pattern, or logo of your preferred, value-priced alcoholic beverage (bonus points if your hat contains both of these elements))
- resealable container of beef jerky
- beer coozy
- cooler & additional inner tube (for sealed beverage transportation and temperature optimization)
Optional items that we did without:
- inner tube insurance (the outfitters actually tried to sell me this)
- self respect (I actually thought we had brought this along, but I realized I was mistaken when all three of us decided to pee in our inner tubes, rather than do the slightly classier move of “abandoning ship” to relieve ourselves in the open water).
I feel like tubing really needed its own entry. It was that awesome. We’ll wrap up Texas properly tomorrow. Yeeee-haaw.