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PoliceFriday, July 16, 2004
Hands up who likes the police?
Come on, no-one's looking, you can admit it if you like? No? Any real reason for this dislike?
Well, I'll admit that I've had a few (relatively) harmless run-ins with the police in this lifetime, some of them a little too risqué to detail here, but at least one is a good example of why I have a deep-seated mistrust of even the jolliest and best-intentioned of cops.
How is this connected to Montreal, I hear you cry? Well, it isn't directly – I wanted to write a story about the police here, and realised that it would be skewed by my lack of objective thought, and so I thought you might like to hear my police story first.
So, I used to work in a London pub called The Standard, which at the time was a rather lively rock venue and home to numerous punks who would order snakebite and black in huge quantities. The stories I could tell about the manager of the pub alone would fill a website, so, just to give you a taste of the man he was, here's a quickie:
The manager is wandering, drunkenly back from the stage (where he has just interrupted in the middle of some poor band's act to play five minutes of harmonica solo, which he loved to do after a few drinks), when he spies a punk peddling LSD tabs in the corner.
He approaches and says to the youth, 'I don't want you selling that shit in my bar...'
The youth just stares at him, wondering if he should run or not.
So the manager goes on, '...I wouldn't mind if it was good shit, but it's not, is it? There's no good LSD any more... And I don't want you selling that shit in my pub.'
The youth thinks this over, and says, 'It's not shit, it's really good.'
'Oh yeah?' The manager, a burly and large man, leans over him, and grabs the sheet of tabs.
He then stuffs the whole sheet into his mouth and starts chewing.
'If they're so good,' he says, between chews, 'then come back and see me in half an hour, and if I'm off my head, then you can sell your stuff in here. Alright?'
'Err, okay.' Says the youth, and disappears through a fire exit.
The barstaff, and his wife, look at the manager, dubiously. Someone raises the question that's on all our minds – 'What if it is good after all?'
'Well,' he muses, 'it'll be an interesting night, won't it?'
About half an hour later he stumbles towards the door that leads upstairs, 'I'm just going for a lie down,' he whispers.
So, in this bar, I'm sure you have a good picture now, I'm drinking on my night off, and I get talking to some guy at the bar. He's okay, and buys me a drink, I think he's a bit straight, but nice enough.
'Ah,' he says, 'you like me now, but if I tell you what I do for a living, you won't want to know me any more.'
'Oh yeah?' I say, 'Try me.'
He sighs, 'I'm a copper.'
'Ah,' I say, and stare into my pint.
'That's the problem,' he tells me, 'that's why coppers and the youth are so alienated – how can I be friends with people like you if you won't even give it a chance. You know, when I'm off duty, I'm off duty, I don't care if you smoke pot or drink-drive.'
'Really?' I ask, doubtfully.
'Yeah, and I like to drink, get drunk, go to parties, chase girls, like any bloke. It'd be so much better for our community if we all understood each other more. I've got this idea where we could take people out on patrol with us – the youth, you know, like you, so you could see what we do. Closer integration, it's the future, for sure.'
I think he has a good point. The bar is closing, so I offer to take him around to the late night section where incredibly loud bands play until 2am, for free. He accepts and once around there we stand at the bar, drink more beer and talk about how great the future will be with the youth and cops trusting each other.
Then it happens. The event that killed my faith in cops evermore.
Why, against the bar of course...
I stare, for a few seconds, at him splashing away merrily. I can't quite believe my eyes. It's very busy, but no-one else seems to have noticed yet.
'What the hell are you doing?' I shout.
He looks at me, with disdainful eyes, 'I'm pissing. I can't be bothered to go to the bathroom.'
I walk away and find the manager.
'There's a drunk copper pissing against your bar,' I say, matter-of-factly.
'There's a what?!' He screams, and runs over...
Now, I know what you're going to say – one bad cop doesn't mean they're all bad. Yes, perhaps, but once bitten, twice shy, that's what I say...
On the other hand, I'm mellowing towards cops in Montreal, as I've had no bad experiences with them, yet. They even rescued me (see London Pub) from drunken lost-ness once. I've asked them for directions to places, and they've told me. I've been to parties where they arrived at 4am, and didn't ask everyone to go home.
Now, perhaps, given time... if one asks me to have a pint with him...
Jana's PartySunday, July 11, 2004
Okay, so Jana has another party. Only this time she knows all about this website and even greets me with the words,
'Oh Ralph, I hope you will write about this party. But, I'm not drunk enough yet to say anything funny.'
At this moment it is 12.30am and we have just arrived. We are outrageously late due to many, complex, and difficult reasons:
No, not American football, but real football, where you spend more time using your feet than hands during the game. Leaf had the crazy idea that perhaps it would be good to recreate the European cup in our own way, on the playing fields of Parc Jeanne-Mance, at 4pm.
At first report, I wasn't keen, in fact, my initial reply to his email ran like this:
"Playing football? You mean like actually kicking a ball around and running after it in the sun? I think I will have a sprained ankle on Saturday..."
But, despite all of my alarm bells and spider-sense tinglings, I turned up at the park, bright and early, and even with two other foolish players. But, it didn't start well... After literally two minutes of running around I was red in the face and panting like a Saint Bernard.
My god, I have a stitch, I said to myself. And then to others, 'You know, it's ten years since I played football'. And, that's not really a lie.
There was, unlike teenage footballing years, a queue to take a turn in goal, which was seen as a kind of chill-out zone.
So, after two hours, a pitch invasion, and several gung-ho latino strangers later, we left and went to Le Reservoir for a pint, where we talked about aching limbs and special football moments. No one in the world could have denied that we all deserved a pint at that moment. No-one.
At this point, perhaps the sun, and goal-keeping duties, had an odd effect on my wife's brain:
'At home, I'm going to make a skirt for the party tonight.'
'Hmm.' My stock reply.
So, we go to Santropol for a quick sandwich, and then get home for 9.30pm. My wife then begins to make a skirt whilst I shower and massage my painful legs. At 10.30pm the skirt is taking shape, but I'm dubious. After a small discussion we decide that that skirt-making will be suspended for the evening, and we leave, in alternative clothes.
I first went to a party at Jana's one year ago. I looked for, and found, a reminder - an email I sent to some friends at the time:
...So, to continue the theme, we attended a multi-national party a few nights ago where my shocking memory for names and faces took a turn for the worse when faced with a multitude of names like Oki, Ahmed, Miljana and Xenja - 'Sorry, what was your name again?'
This party was full of the strangest mixtures of people I've ever come across - lots of half people - including a half-Swedish-half-Egyptian, a half-Russian-half-Brazilian, and a few half-French-half-Germans. At one point the conversation waned until someone mentioned Scotland and everyone excitedly told each other how much they loved the Scottish accent. There then followed a very surreal five minutes where all the half-People tried to do the 'lovely Scottish accents', very badly indeed.
To come back to where I started, almost, I was left alone for a few minutes and a rather drunken half-Iranian, half-Canadian woman was suddenly talking to me:
'Ooooh, I love your accent. Talk to me.'
'What do you want me to say?'
'Ooooh! That's it, say something else.'
This went on for a while as I looked around the room for my wife. Eventually, after a few minutes of swooning at my Englishness, she changed the subject:
'I've finished my mid-terms you know.'
'That's nice, what are mid-terms?'
'Ha ha ha ha ha!'
At this point the half-Swedish half-Egyptian man grabbed my elbow and took me to one side:
'She thinks you are professor at the university.'
He winked at me, downed a very, very large glass of Absolut, and wandered away. Confused, I found the company of a 100% Canadian until we left, who would laugh tremendously loudly in my ear, which made me rather wary of saying anything funny at all.
So, with this in mind, we arrive at 12.30am and find a full house. For the first ten minutes of any party I'm never particularly sociable, my mind, as it is, concentrated solely upon making Gin and Tonic.
There is football banter. A few comments about legs, red faces and such. I enjoy being party of this group. There is much back slapping and I am congratulated, drunkenly, concerning a cross that I made, which resulted in a goal. One of my finer moments of the game (in-between cramps).
Then I see the Iranian girl that I wrote about in my email, a year ago. I wander over and someone tries to introduce us.
'Oh, we've already met.' I say.
The girl looks at me and says, 'Oooh, I love your accent.'
I stare, and wonder if she is teasing me, but apparently not.
I confess that I don't remember her name. She tells me and I stare at here for a few moments longer, before saying,
'That's why I don't remember.'
It's a complex name. Well, for me it is. I tell her that I have trouble with Anglo-Saxon names, and that it can take three months to remember someone called 'Dave' for me. So, obviously with cultures that use tend to utilise long runs of harsh consonants in words, it's slightly harder.
As I repeat the name I try to find a visual association to help.
'Think farmyard.' Suggests a man nearby.
That's not bad, I muse, then she says, 'In Asia they used to call me Pharmacy, but I didn't like that very much.'
'No, I imagine not.' I say, and then take my leave, to get another drink -- as I arrived sober, at midnight, I'm drinking rapidly, trying to catch up with the other guests. As an experiment I'm alternating my drinks between Gin and Beer, just to see what happens.
In the kitchen I'm introduced to a sombre looking man, and before I have a chance to say anything he says,
'If anyone else asks where I live, I will cut my wrists...'
This has the effect of blocking my initial questions and I mull over a suitable topic of conversation, whilst a vacant-looking girl wanders up and says, 'So, hi, where are you from?'
I look at him expectantly, but he doesn't go for the knife.
At this point I'm told a joke:
'Did you hear that Saddam Hussein has been given the death penalty? No? Well, he's quite happy about it, as David Beckham is going to take it.'
Then, cruel alcohol, I start to blur and forget. I go to the gin bottle and find it empty. I open the fridge and find all the beers gone. Jana helpfully reveals her secret litre bottle of gin, and the world is fine for a while...
Then the police arrrive.
We thought that all the neighbours were at the party, but one must have been missed, and called 911 – a noise emergency. The police didn't enter, but talked at the door. There was a lot of 'Shhhhhhhhhush!'-ing, whenever anyone tried to talk in the room during this conference, which annoyed me, and I moved to the balcony to avoid being stupidly abusive to people carrying guns.
Why don't I like the police? Remind me to tell you my policeman story sometime, and you'll see.
So, I then I black out, and wake up the next day.
I suppose I caught up quite effectively.
Today my wife says to me, 'So, you were quite drunk last night, at the end. Do you remember going to bed? I had to force you to brush your teeth.'
'Hmm.' I say.
Camping ChecklistFriday, July 02, 2004
• Roll mat
• Sleep bags
• Torch & batteries
• Lantern & candles
• Paper (for fire)
• Roll mat
• Long zip
• Ice Pack
• Long zip pants
• Scarf (head)
• Bags (daypacks)
• Water (Drinking)
• Foil paper
• Veg pate
• Snack bars
• Cute drinks
• Cutting knife
• Road Map
• Mosquito stuff
• Toilet paper
• Dish soap
• Tea towel
• Bite cream
• Water bottles