Saturday, November 29, 2003

How to Cross the Street, Montreal Style

Having grown up in the North America’s most European city, I had to endure North America’s most European drivers. Montreal boasts the most aggressive, dangerous and pedestrian-hating drivers in Canada. However, this hard upbringing allowed me to develop my tried and true method for navigating Vancouver’s streets.

First, a disclaimer. I am all for the smooth flow of traffic, which requires that pedestrians occasionally must cede priority to vehicles. If I cross against the light, or in the middle of a street, or anywhere other than a marked crosswalk, I fully realize that vehicles have the right of way. I recommend this crossing technique for marked crosswalks without a stoplight.

Make eye contact. The first thing you must do is prove to the driver that you, the pedestrian, do in fact exist. Cars are marketed as extensions of ourselves, and many drivers feel their cars are their own private world, with their own music and climate, and whatever happens “out there” is merely a distraction. If you want to cross the street, you must get drivers to acknowledge your existence. Do this by stepping off the curb a few strides, and staring at the driver in the oncoming car. Most of the time you won’t be able to see their eyes, so just stare wherever you think their eyes will be. Stare intently, like you want to make something of it.

After you have stared for perhaps two seconds, start walking out towards center of the street. Do not take your eyes off the driver! This is the moment where the car must cede the right of way to you. The driver will see that it is a crosswalk, and that yes, when it is occupied, they must reluctantly give right of way to you, but they will be looking for hesitation, thinking that you won’t mind if they buzz through and the car behind them stops.

Continue walking out into the street, staring at the driver. By now you should be able to see him. As long as he is looking at you it is unlikely he will run you over, even if it a cab driver. Turn your head towards them as you walk out in front, just to maintain that you are the one in charge here, and remind them it is they who are yielding.

You should be in the middle of the street by the time they slow down. At this point, raise your arm closest to the slowing vehicle and turn your palm towards the driver. Your arm should be bent 90 degrees at the elbow, making a gesture that is combination friendly wave and policeman order to stop. Once you make this gesture, take your eyes off the driver, but keep your hand up, just to remind them that you are the one in control.

There is a lot of paperwork involved in running over a pedestrian. The driver will likely have to submit to a breathalyzer, the car may be searched, and a criminal record check will be done. While clearly it is more of a hassle to be killed or seriously injured by a car (as happened to 3000 people in Vancouver last year), it is enough of life-changing event for a driver to deter them from running you down like a dog. Remember this, and use it to your advantage. They don’t want to kill you, they just want you to let them through before you cross. Don’t give them this.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

I have been run off my feet since last Thursday, and haven't had time to catch up with anyone until tonight.

Saturday night Anya and I went out to Delilah's to celebrate her birthday, then down to the Lotus Sound Lounge to see Jon Delerious. Danced all night until 430am, which is a perfectly civllized time to wind up things at a bar or club. Not so, say some citizensof our uptight city.

We watched the Trial of Henry Kissinger on Monday. Having studied as a youth his impact on the world, it was not possible for me to have more contempt for the man than I already did. That was what made reading the book so difficult. It felt strange that I was not even shocked.

Not exactly uplifting material and unlikely to revive your faith in humanity, it is however required viewing, as an example of what can happen when power goes unchecked.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

There is a wedding ceremony taking place in the vacant room next to our apartment. Originally planned as a fitness room, its only function now is to serve as our strata council meeting room. The wedding was supposed to take place outside, the father of the bride told me, but it was too cold. It’s November 22. Go figure.

Lots of “woo-hoos” and “okay just one more” and “ready, cheese” coming through the walls.

While it is unusually cold for Vancouver, it is nowhere near as cold as it is in Edmonton, where Rob and Derek are watching the Heritage Classic. The Habs and the Oilers are both wearing their old jerseys tonight, Montreal with its classic lace up neck.

Just before leaving, Derek sent me the worst hockey logos of all time. The bad, the ugly and the just plain bewildering.

And this via Michael Moore. I always suspected the existence of such people, so I am glad it is finally being discussed in the mainstream media.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Merv sighting…..

I first met Merv when I was helping Rob move some of his belongings into Maple Leaf Storage on Mainland Street. Merv’s job was to manage their storage warehouse, which did not seem to take much effort. People moved their belongings in, paid Merv the money, and then came back some later date to move them out. He was an amicable fellow, and spent most of the time sitting on the loading dock smoking cigarettes, with his legs dangling over the concrete loading bay.

He spoke with a real hoser accent of someone who had lived their whole life in British Columbia and had probably never left. Recalling a Simpson episode which showed people Lionel Hutz living in a storage locker, I asked him if people ever tried to live in the lockers.
“All da time. Soon as I find out, I tell him you got 45 minutes to get out or I’ll call da boys in blue.”

I asked him why there was a public storage facility sitting on such valuable land. He said the owner just wanted to hold on until he could get more money for it. They had been offered $45 million for it but were holding out for more.

A year later our office moved right across the street from Maple Leaf Storage, so I could see Merv, on sunny days, sitting on the loading dock smoking.

In October, the warehouse was torn down. Would I ever see Merv again? I did this morning. He was sitting outside of Starbucks in Yaletown, smoking, telling a homeless man with a shopping cart that he had won $50,000 in the lottery just 2 weeks ago.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

I am getting so sick of the New York Times that I am considering cancelling my subscription. It's great for keeping in touch with what opinions are being formed by the opinion-forming classes, but as far as actual real news is concerned, it misses the story.
Fortunately for the fans of the montreal canadiens here on the west coast, Saturday night’s Soiree du Hockey always shows les Tricouleurs, thanks to the required bilingual broadcast of our state run broadcasting agency. This means you never have to worry that you'll be stuck watching the Toronto Maple Leafs, because you can always watch the Habs in French.

Even though the game was on in both English and French, I decided to watch it in French, just to keep my skills sharp. The struggling Canadiens were playing the mighty Senators, and the Radio-Canada annonceurs had outlined the three keys for a Canadiens victory:

Payer le prix devant le filet
60 minutes de hockey

Very basic goals, even without the second one, translated literally as “pay the price in front of the net.”

Saturday, November 08, 2003

my hands are so cold from the appartment being 15 degrees. It's not like i don't have heating, or enough money to turn the heat up as high as i want, but the place has been so damn cold lately. i have been in this place for 3 hours now, tapping away on this keyboard, and i think i have been slowly freezing my extremities.

I have not written anything in here because things have gotten so damn depressing since august. Not in my life really, but in the state of the world. But enough about that.

Due to my oversize monitor and our smaller apartment, I have to store my desktop computer in our storage locker. There’s just no room for it up here. Oh, and for a while I had no computer as it was packed up or in storage. Shortly after I moved in I went on vacation. And so I was away from the computer for a long time.

The only thing worthwhile on my 4 year old computer is the mp3 collection, which was getting quite large until this summer. So I have no access to them, and I haven’t bought a cd in years. Tonight I bought my first CD in what must be a year:

Pete Rock, Petestrumental. This is what I have always been looking for in hip hop. All instrumental with funky but subtle bass lines. I guess ‘subtle’ hip hop would be the best way to describe.

I also picked up Air Farina. However when I got home and unwrapped it, the CD case was empty. I wonder how often that happens, that mistakes just happen out there on the manufacturing lines of Asia.

They will make you anything over there. Mark tells me that you can show them any shape of anything and tell them you want it made out of frozen cat food the next morning and they will do it.

Feeling good right now about everything.

I think the tide is finally turning.