13 September 2010

Damn. I am such a good procrastinator.

I've been in Montreal since early August, and I just now dropped off a CV to get a job. Yup, that's right, one CV at one place. I printed up the CV at least three weeks ago, perhaps even longer,and it had been sitting on my floor in a cardboard envelope since then. Now I am supposed to be going for a run, but I am writing this instead.

It is sunny now and I should be running and listening to my iPod (if I only listen to my iPod when I run, maybe I will run occassionally), but this morning it was not. Just as I was about to get into the shower so I could be presentable for my CV drop-off, it started to pour out. I went to Rachelle Bery Epicerie, an organice grocer chain in Quebec, IN THE POURING RAIN, but first I bought an umbrella, so at least I did that. I walked into RB (after a few deep breaths) and got so nervous I almost thought I was going to walk straight out again. It is really hard to be calm and collected in a foreign language that you still don't understand very well. I asked one of the cashiers if there was someone to speak to--mostly because my CV is shit, but maybe it was just as well that there was no one, because I was making NO grammatical sense as I spoke with her. I dropped of the CV, gave her my disponibilité, and walked out knowing I'd never work there. Whatever,they don't have bulk.

Then, because today is all about PRODUCTIVITY, I went to the CEGEP up the street from my house and asked about FLS classes--Français Langue Second. The woman there was really, really nice, my French was nearly flawless (ha!) and she even said, 'You speak French very well...' That had me grinning like the Cheshire while I walked in the the still pouring rain back home. Then I stopped off at a libarie-papeterie to buy an ink pad--they only had black and blue, but I am glad I chose blue. I then ate toast at home and stamped the backs of my latest plan-for-an-income-that-doesn't-involve-CVs-or-real-jobs.

Book pockets I made back in Vancouver. They were fun to make,
and I have loads more to do. I've started getting them ready to sell
just by stamping them. I have a bunch of other little things to decide
about, like what info to add onto them, price, and whether to add
double sided tape so they can be mounted onto something--
the inside of a journal, say--or to add magnets
so they can be hung on the frigo.
Oh, and didn't go for a run, which is what I was supposed to do first. But I had to wait for my iPod to load up Holy Fuck, because they are running with me, and also I *had*
to spend half an hour hair-drying the paint off the wood trim around thedoorway into the kitchen.
It really is like a hairdryer. It makes the paint
blister and is a really slow process. But I prefer it
to chemicals.
Tomorrow, instead of reading my readings for class (but I will at least look at the lectures for Wednesday and even read the lab stuff for 617--or is it 615?) I am going to help paint our dining room 'whipped yolk', or, you know, whatever that pale yellow, nearly beige colour is. I've decided that I've been stressing about school for several reasons, but I wonder how many there actually are:
1. I am worried I am procrasting and that there will come a day--say in two weeks--when I completely freak out and realise that I am SUPER behind and there is no WAY I can catch up.
Instead of reading the other day, I made this!
Cute, huh? It's a licorice candy box from either
Finland or Sweden--who can remember?
But:
2. Most of my classes are incredibly boring and the readings I have to do are so dull that they actually make me LIVID that I am wasting my LIFE reading them. But then I remembered that several people had commented that not only were they not going to do the readings, they noticed (and I did to) that reading the readings is unitarded* because the professors just re-read the readings in class, and if you think reading something INCREDIBLY DULL is fun, try having someone read dull material you've already read to you in a monotonous voice in a dark room just after you had lunch and a pint of really dark Scottish beer. Thank god (or something) that not all the classes are like this.
* I say 'retarded' way too much. So I told a friend of mine that I was going to start saying 'leotarded', like Dan Savage, who was critisized for using 'retarded' too much, so instead he wrote 'leotarded'. Which is pretty retarded. But I think unitards are more unitarded than leotards, and also they make me think of those shameful things, onesies, which cyclists and people with too much misguided style who shop at American Apparel wear. But my friend liked it because 'uni' for her was more like 'university', which is also dumber than hell, so 'unitarded' it is.
3. I also realised that I am feeling impotent at my procrastination because I can't actually DO anything about the projects I have been assigned because I'm either waiting to find out what the topic for the presentation is, waiting to get in touch with the partners I have been assigned, or waiting for the next stage of the project to be revealed. Therefore I am not even procrastinating because there isn't anything to put off doing, so really I am just worrying about nothing. Basically I am a chicken running around with her head cut off, except her head is perfectly intact and a crowd is gathering to gawk at the spectacle.
Also not helping the situation is that instead of sleeping, I am knitting.
I totally scored at the second-hand store down the street from me.
I got a huge amount of beautiful wool--real wool--for incre
dibly cheap.This multicoloured stuff is scratchy, so I'm pretty sure
it's mohair,or some sort of a blend. I think I meant to make it
a little longer so that it could be worn to midway up the palm,
but tant pis. I can alwayschange it later. I really needed to
liberate the knitting needles so that Icould start on a hat
--in white lambswool--since my head has been getting
cold in the early evenings. Maybe I'll do that
instead of going for a run...
Also, school is just getting in the way of exploring Montreal. If I wasn't going to school, I'd be (procrastinating about) signing up for French classes, finding a cool, low-paying job in some unique little café or something where I get to meet interesting people. I'd be (procrastinating about) trying harder to find a place to sell my various made-objects, and maybe even making more.
I think the best way to overcome procrastination is to have a whole list of pressing things to do, so that you can get the not-so-pressing ones done, or, you know, not do anything.
So, since it isn't raining again yet, maybe I'll get that run in. Or maybe I'll just make tea.

26 August 2010

Mattress Day!

Adrien and I went to Ikea today--Adrien is a hero. I don't know that many people who would sacrifice most of one of their days off to go to Ikea. I've only been to Ikea about three times (that being about three times too many), and I always get an instant headache as soon as I walk in. However, I was super excited to have a mattress, so headaches (and cheap, unsustainable furniture) be damned!

We got it into my room (after rather divine burgers at le paryse) and I got down to allen keys and the jigsaw puzzle.


I have no idea what Ikea was getting at with this. There's no need to translate things that don't make sense, so I suppose they saved money on hiring translators. And the gender-inspecific ghost people are supposed to be neutral everything, so no one gets offended while being completely puzzled. I do wish I could speak tool, though, like the in the first panel...


Alright, so, even though I think the neuter ghost was meaning I should do this assembly with someone, after ten minutes, I had the headboard together.


Which lead to the first modification. The vertical bits were cut too big for the design. The bed is meant to have an off-set top bar, but the bars were cut to fit a flush edge. I decided the vertical bars were more ornamental than structural, so I took them out.


Everything went pretty well, even if the extra support legs that run down the centre of the bed don't touch the floor, rendering them rather useless, until I got to the slats. They are fine EXCEPT the cloth ribbon holding them all together was set too short, so the slats don't sit evenly, and don't hook onto the stays, so they may move around a bit under the mattress, though I hope not. I tried to just pull the ribbon off, but it was surprisingly strong, possibly the strongest part of the whole bed...


Regardless, it's done! I think everyone already knows that Ikea does shitty designs, but for 50$, you get what you pay for. Now for my first good night's rest in about ten days. Thermarests are really meant for camping on soft-ish ground, not on hardwood!



21 August 2010

14 August 2010

Montréal

I admit that I am compulsive. A little obsessive. Who isn't? And if we aren't, we try to be. I can't seem to post about Montréal until I've finished with France. Order! It's important. And then the arranger in me shouts: shouldn't we start a new blog? One separate from my cycling travels in France, since the theme and reflection with be entirely different? I'd like to invite my inner librarian to go through the BOXES of half-filled (right--more like one-tenth-filled) notebooks and journals I have started on that impulse. Books for notes on bicycles, books for notes on recipes, on lists for shopping, on books, clothing patterns, knitting patterns, gardening, et cetera to the power of ten. I'm becoming a librarian because I'n NEUROTIC, but that doesn't mean I have to indulge the neurosis.

Montréal...

My last day in Paris was stressful. I wish I had taken a picture of my rudiculousness. But, imagine: One suitcase, two bike bags, one bike, a backpack, and a bike box. But wait, each item has a story, so let's go there...

A few days before I left Paris, I headed to Montreuil, where there is a weekend marché aux puces. I had in mind an older suitcase to fit my smaller bike bags and clothing into, to make check-in at the airport easier. I went up on Saturday evening, just before it closed up, and wandered the stretch, and, as usual in Paris, chatting with the lonesomes. It's Paris, and it's a flea market, so everything was crawling. And you can buy pretty much anything here, from vintage clothing (nice stuff, but way too expensive. I recommend pawing through Free 'P' Star in the Marais--and thanks to Lucy for the recommendation), to sewing notions, old bikes, 'antiques' (if one stretches the definition...) I didn't find anything that night; instead I went to the giant Carrefour and bought 1.5L of Orangina--it had been a while since I'd indulged that addiction.

I went back early the next day and took my time. Military surplus? Nah. New, cheaply made, moderately inexpensive, rolling suitcases? Definitely not. At the end of the stretch, buried in the machine parts and the greasy antiques, I found what I was looking for. A green, faux leather suitcase. I found the guy selling it and asked the price. Ten euro. I handed him a ten euro note. 'You've got pretty eyes,' he said. 'Are you going on vacation?'
'No, I'm going back to Canada.'
'Oh! You're Canadian? Are you coming back to Paris?'
'Yeah, but I don't know when.'
'When you come back, come find me.' Then he handed me a two euro coin. 'Go have a coke on me.'

The bike box I got from Toy's Paradise, just up the street from my hostel on Jules Ferry Boulevard. It was 10 Euro, and, well, let's go back to my last morning in Paris.

So I put my new/old green suitcase on the rear rack, the bike bags on the side, the backpack on my shoulders, my purse over top of that, and the flattened bike box across my overloaded bike. It looked like a disaster. Then I started walking up to Gare du nord. It wasn't too bad, in fact it was easy, until I got to Gare du Nord. The Gare du Nord is a multi-leveled, multi-serviced train station. The metro, the SNCF and the RER all have terminals, all on different levels. I needed to descend, and, once I'd actually found the elevator--after dodging shakily all the arriving and departing streams of passengers--I discovered that boththe elevators were out of service. No info as to where to go to, just a desolée and maybe not even that. So then I found a guy collecting the bins who lead me around trying to find an alternative way down. He left me with directions to the service elevator, but when I asked the SNCF guys (perhaps I shouldn't have?), they told me there wasn't one. I didn't quite believe them, but one helped me down the stairs to the lower level, gave me a salute,and disappeared. Then I looked up and realised I had another level to go down to get to the RER. Long story short, it was getting late, and I was getting a headache.

Once I made it to Charles de Gaulle, I had to stand in line for the elevator there. The slowest, most over-used elevator in the world. This thing makes the staff elevator at the central branch of VPL seem like rocket ship. I must have been standing there for at least 25 minutes, and I'm sure the actual elevator trip was 15.

I found the general area in the airport I wanted to be in, then attempted to assemble my box. The box was in two pieces and gigantic. I didn't even have to take off both wheels to get the bike in, which was a bit of a blessing, because I was really struggling trying to get the pedals off. One came off easily enough, the other stayed on. Leaving the rear tire on meant my derailleur wasn't dangling and vulnerable. But at the British Airways counter, they decided the box was too big. So someone went off to find a ruler, then they had to measure the length and height, then call someone who had to check with someone else before I could get the go-ahead. Then it was extra to take the bike, but when I explained I had purchased my ticket a year ago and had brought the bike with me from Canada for free, they had to call someone else to decide what to do. Except the someone else was busy, so we had to wait for a call back. Meanwhile, I was certain my flight had already left the tarmac.

It hadn't. I met a couple in line at security who were panicking because their flight was leaving in 15 minutes. 'We thought we were leaving tomorrow!' I let them ahead of me, which didn't really make much of a difference, but anyway. I got stopped because of a can of tea in my backpack and had to unpack and then repack everything--man, the stress! When I got to my gate, the couple were on the same flight as me, and the flight had just started bording. Perfect timing.

One thing the debacle did do was firmly remove me from France. I was now in full airport mode, the calm of the last month and a half far behind me, the amour of Paris washed away by the sweat of stress. Forever in Heathrow, (security there parallels American security--full fascist mode) which is just a huge strip mall of WH Smiths and Harrods.
It was steamy and raining in Montréal when I landed. The dream was over, but it felt bizarre, dreamlike to be in Montréal. Not that Montréal was dreamy, but that I was in a fog. North America was under my feet, and Europe was just a postcard place and journalled memories...

06 August 2010

My return to Paris...

Brest to Chartres






Nantes to Brest


Nantes! I went riding on the island Sunday morning to look at the renouned (at least in Nantes) modern architecture and go graffiti hunting. The island used to be industrial, but has since become both residential and recreational. The industrial history of the island has been preserved--there used to be a thriving ship building industry here, and there are several hangars and gigantic pieces of equipment that have been brightly painted and transformed to interact with pedestrians and cyclists. As well, Les machines de l'ile are there...

I could here this crazy low sound like something big running at a construction site, and, turning off the empty roads onto the concrete pad that lines the river, I suddenly had a mechanical elephant headed straight for me!


I think it's from growing up during an era of post-apocalyptic movies (Blade Runner, Terminator, Mad Max, Running Man...) that I am immediately overcome by dread when I see something big, animated, and unaware. There is something strange about robots, machines that resemble living things. It seems they should have some sense of self within them, locked into subservience to their driver, but at the same time, it seems like they are some massive, unaware thing that is out of control. It's both sad and a little frightening. Then I get over it--it's a human construction of pneumatics and levers.


The machines are beautiful. The elephant is the only one active, it was the first built, finished only a year ago, I think. They are building a multi-level carousel with a sea theme, and each creature is a wooden shell around a half-human powered, half-machine powered body. The style is 100% Jules Verne, fantastical and beautiful. There was the most elegant and fantastic carousel at the entrance; unfortunately, my camera chose then to break down...
Nantes was a great break from camping and cycling. I had woken up in St Hilarie-de-Riez to the sound of what turned out to be my tent pole snapping. There was a Decathlon there, so, after a little bit of polite arguing with the woman at the counter--she wanted me to buy a new pole that was expensive and didn't fit the tent when she should have just replaced it--I ended up with a new tent. When set it up for the first time, I immediately christened it 'The Cave'. It was completely black with the smalles windows possible--more like a Vancouver basement suite than a tent. And it was huge! Poorly designed--my Feringo took me less than two minutes to set up or take down, the fly was removable...the Quechua (France's only option--nearly--and comparable to Canadian Tire quality) was finicky to set up, even after I got used to it. I could put all my stuff inside, though...

While in Nantes, I spent most afternoons drinking beer in the sunshine and reading Suite Francais by Irène Nemirovsky--a very beautiful, sad novel. I discovered some great spots: Le chien stupide, L'absence next to the School of Architecture and in the craziest, smallest, bluest building in the world (it must be!), and Le lieu unique, a modern art gallery and community space with a chill little pub/café. The exibition at the time was a retrospective of Pierrick Sorin's work--bloody weird stuff that I, for the most part, really liked.

It was the next day that I discovered that my rear tire was wearing out...I had thought that I'd ridden through something red, until I noticed that the red ran a rather uniform ring around the entire tire...
It took two days and eight bike stores--since I'd left Nantes before I'd realised it's worn state--to find a 27'' tire. 27 is Dutch, not French, so they are more difficult to find.

And onward toward Brest! I went over a rather large bridge, past a typical fishing hut (bad picture, but you can see the thing that looks like a square trailor beside the old, broken bridge--they suspend huge nets from the front of the fishing hut. They are everywhere, and not always for the tourists).

Then on to Carnac, a rather...I don't know how to describe it. It's not stunning, but it's...surprising? It's basically field upon field of large rocks lined up in rows. And it goes on for kilometers!


France is full of crosses--every town has at least one hanging Jesus, suffering at the crossroads. But the style in Brittany is remarkably different. It's almost cartoonish, and the figures are much more child-like, especially Jesus.

On a hilltop heading onto the Presque Ile de Crozon, there was this great church, fringed by hydrangeas in full bloom, and decorated in the Brittany style. I don't know if it's typical of the area, or if it was just this one church, but the figures on the crosses had their left foot wrapped around the base of the cross. The church itself is really old, and devoted to Brigitte, whomever that is (!) It's at the crossroads of what has been a busy trade route for thousands of years.

Then Camaret, which is Cameled in Breton, and makes me think of Camelot, which is not surprising since the Celts/Gauls were present in Brittan and the French Atlantic coast. Camaret was a peaceful place to stop for a day, but really, really touristy. I rode around and saw plenty of WWII scars, since Brest, which is across the straight, was heavily protected by the Germans and heavily bombarded by the Allies. Brest was almost completely levelled durning the war.


I have no pictures of Brest. I camped a little way outside the city, and was really excited to visit it. In the late 40s, some big names and big money were redesigning the city for reconstruction. However, by 1950, the workers had had enough, and held a massive, unprecidented strike. I've read graphic novels about it--the authorities had police pulled in from the surrounding area, officers who had no connection to the people striking, and who would be less reluctant to react with force. A young man in his late teens or early twenties was shot and killed, shocking everyone, and, perhaps ultimately, ending the strike quickly on terms favouring the striking workers.

Modern Brest--Brest Metropole Océan, as it has been renamed recently--is not so interesting. At least not in a day. I really should have been more organised, but there was construction everywhere, and not central hub to the city. It wasn't even particularily pretty, and even looking for a café was a bit disappointing. I'm sure Brest has much more to offer, but it eluded me. I did, however, find a rad little crepe shop in the middle of nowhere on the side of the road. It was someone's back yard set up with little table and lanterns, very informal and cute as can be. I want a crepe stand like that!