Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Les autoroutes ne sont pas une piste de courses!  Ralentissez-vous!
- a surprisingly motherly-sounding sign over highway 10
(translated: Highways are not a racetrack!  Slow down!)

My exciting new GPS in-car navigation system, which I purchased on mega-sale so as not to become entirely lost in my nomadic wanderings, DOES have a map for Canada.  But it DOESN'T know how to pronounce anything.  For example, it thinks that the French short form for "highway" (Aut. for "autoroute", pronounced "ah-to-ROOT") is pronounced "AW-tee".  It's a tad disconcerting to have the pushy female voice tell me to "turn right on AW-tee ten O".  Especially cause she gets mad when I don't do it.  I kind of want her to read the giant highway signs aloud, in an earth-shattering voice, and then tell all bad drivers to go to their rooms without supper.

Today is La Fete de St.-Jean-Baptiste, Quebec's holiday.  Yes, they also celebrate Canada Day in another week, and yes all the stores close then too.  Also, yes, this would be like having Georgia Day, where everyone who lived in Georgia celebrated how incredibly awesome it is to be Georgian and wore state flags tied to their butts and ridiculous cowboy hats in the state colors.  Maybe they do have a Georgia Day.  Maybe people dress like this in Georgia all the time.

To celebrate Quebec's holiday, I got up early and did a lot of work.  I finished the rough draft of a new story, made some phone calls, and industriously surfed the internet for quite some time.  Then I drove to St-Basile-le-Grand to watch Marthyna's class performance at 1:30 pm.  I got there, parked, and walked into the small park that reeked of elephant ears and funnel cake; holidays are the same no matter where you are, except in Antarctica, where the funnel cake is actually made from penguins.

When I arrived, Marthyna was worried.  "Half the people have not shown up yet," she told me.  "So we are trying to figure out what we can do and who goes where."

"I'd offer to fill in some space, but I don't have a costume or anything," I said, adding, "ha, ha."

Her eyes gleamed.  She dug into her bag, pulled out some pants, a top, and two scarves and handed them to me.  Then she piled a makeup bag on top.  "The changing rooms are over there," she said.

I was in costume and made-up in about fifteen minutes; not bad considering it usually takes me fifteen minutes to just do my eye makeup, and I had none of my own stuff with me.  I had to put on eye shadow with my fingers, and as I finished, Marthyna came bustling in to the bathroom and carried me off downstairs, where I discovered that many other members of the group had, in fact, shown up.  But what the hell.  I was already dressed, right?

They all did a GREAT job.  Performing is a tricky tricky business, and when more people say they're afraid of speaking in public than dying, you know standing on a stage and shaking it is going to put some serious pressure on.  Some of the girls had never performed before; one was doing a solo for the first time.  And they were peppy and had fun and Marthyna was so proud of them.  I looked behind the stage once and there, behind the chain link, were a whole group of pre-teens studiously trying to imitate the dancers onstage, with furrowed brows.  Boys too.

Not the best performance I've ever done, but I didn't even know I was performing when I showed up and I'd never heard the music before.  Also, the stage was almost literally on fire; it was black and in the hot sun.  Even girls who started with bare feet had added shoes by the end of the show, except for one brave and ultimately scorched girl who didn't have any.

After my brief detour to performance-land, I decided to go wander the Old Port for a while.  One of the best African music and dance performance groups I've ever seen were performing down by the Quai; I've never seen such great, together, athletic performers.  One dancer made me again wonder why curly-headed girls hate their hair, or why anyone could possibly think it's unattractive; if I could have hair that curly, I'd be so happy.  I'd grow it into a huge fro and wave it around my face like she was doing and I would never in a million years let anyone call me "nappy."  I was moderately distracted from their performance by the enormously hippie couple standing directly in front of me swaying to the beat and fondling each other, however.

Also down by the Quai is this fantastic old grain silo.  It's enormous and rotting away, since it's not been used since 1996.  There's a wonderful device there called the Silophone; through hanging amplifiers and microphones inside some of the abandoned silos, it lets you make sounds that are then played back to you through the echoey voice of the silo.  You can do it online too.  Go try.

Wandered back through the deserted downtown, which smelled of money and emptiness.  Gave directions to the second people in two days who have asked me.  Yes, they were correct directions.  Came home.

1 comment:

Ian said...

The Silophone is quite amazing; surprisingly I never heard of it during my time in Montreal.

You may find this somewhat amusing, in relation to the subject of GPS: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2gSYCi7roc