May 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

The first real summer night.  All of the windows are open; the neighbours straggle on their balconies, subdued by the Habs’ loss.  I don’t follow hockey; I just listen to the alley.

It was too hot today to clean my apartment, which is still strewn with the detritus of last semester.  Hydro bills, lecture notes, hospital cards, union flyers; all are pressed into temporally distinct strata.  I steel myself for the finding of Greyhound ticket stubs and co-authored grocery lists, which I was always faintly compulsive about keeping.  I still can’t bring myself to eat kale.

I go to the fridge, which also needs cleaning, and decide on a bottle of beer.  I bring it out onto the balcony and disappear into the stagnant summer dark.



July 16, 2009 § 2 Comments

Well, as the Montrealers among you well know, it’s been a lousy summer.  The rain is near-constant and falls in showers, sheets, and occasionally violent storms, the last of which flooded basements throughout the city and unleashed a rumoured tornado.  The weather makes it difficult to commit to a terrasse, and even my balcony has lost its allure, being as often as not too cold and damp to enjoy.

The weather does have certain upsides: for example, it interrupts my neighbours’ renovation projects and sends their children scurrying indoors, leaving the alley beyond my window blissfully quiet.  But whatever benefits this silence confers are far outweighed by the feeling of being trapped within four unchanging walls.

When the sun peeked out the other day, I dropped everything and bolted outside with my camera, which, not being waterproof, I’ve had little opportunity to use.  On a whim, I decided that I would document the network of alleyways that Mile End is famous for, which had suddenly come alive in a burst of flowers and billowing clotheslines.

As the neighbourhood has gentrified, the facades of its buildings have lost a certain amount of their charm.  Wood has been replaced by aluminum and steel, which are sturdier materials but also less crafted and colourful, and the decorative flourishes provided by unsupervised tenants have slowly given way to the visual conservatism of owners preoccupied with design concepts and property values.

Still, you can see vestiges of the old Mile End in its alleys, which, by virtue of being less public, have been slower to succumb to renovation.  From the back, the neighbourhood is still a bit funky and lopsided, which is of course just the way I like it.  It means that people like me still live here.

In passing

January 23, 2009 § 4 Comments

Honestly, I feel as dull as a brick.

To begin with, it is cold.  Not as cold as it was last week or as it will be again tomorrow, but still very cold.  After a decade in this city, I still haven’t gotten used to its winters and I realize that I probably never will.

Secondly, I have no disposable income to speak of; therefore, I do not go out.  If I did, I would be forced to spend a substantial portion of the evening huddled against the cold so it’s probably just as well.

Thirdly, I am writing, which is to say that I spend a great deal of time summoning up the courage to write, which may be the dullest endeavour there is.  I also surf the Internet, which is almost as dull as not-writing but not quite.

Sometimes, I imagine myself drinking sangria on a terrasse with friends and I freeze the image in my mind as a promise to myself.  Then, I turn up the thermostat and get back to it.

Summer, 2008

August 12, 2008 § 3 Comments


In the air

June 29, 2008 § 3 Comments

It is wretchedly hot and all my windows are open. A party is winding down in the back alley, and drunk male voices jut out into the night. If my French was better, I might set out to find it; instead, I pick at the last pages of Chapter Two and silently rue the lack of beer in my fridge.

In recent weeks I have learned that two of my friends have aborted their graduate studies, and that two more are on the cusp of the same decision. I am glad for the two who have left, who will be freer for it and immeasurably happier, and who in both cases have talents that far exceed the narrow confines of academia. Still, the work I have resolved to do feels just that much lonelier than it did before.

Of course, I should mention that one of the friends is James.

The party has ended, and a sudden storm is pelting the alley with rain. For better or for worse, this is becoming the blog of a dissertation-stage graduate student. So be it.


June 16, 2008 § 1 Comment

Smoking on the fire escape in the rain. The narrow courtyard hums with air conditioning units; S. is sleeping within the arc of a small rotating fan.

Despite the heat and the near-constant rain, it is good to be here.  More than that, it is necessary.

Close to the edit

June 9, 2008 § Leave a comment


Up late and editing in sweat-soaked underwear. It hasn’t cooled a bit and it’s almost dawn, which doesn’t bode well for sleep or tomorrow.

I’ve been at it for days, hunched over stacks of notes and sticky keys and wondering if any of it makes any sense at all. Meanwhile, the birds are awake and indifferent to the fact that I am behind schedule.

Fucking birds.


April 18, 2008 § 3 Comments

Suddenly, summer.  There is never a transition in Montreal, no slow blossoming to smooth the change.  One day, you wake up and it is twenty-three degrees, and even the snow is caught off guard.

Befitting the weather, I’ve decided to let some air in here.  You’ll let me know what you think. 


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