Wednesday, June 9, 2010

avant la lettre - the U.S. chronicles ep.05

the old Troll told us: "I'm gonna tell ya something and you better-a-listen carefully: you guys are doing the right thing. Cause when I was young I went to Mejico on the thumb and by that time twas a whole different story.
But now people are scared and they're scared because they own things and stuff. And all this stuff makes them slaves of money then they fear losing it. But the real wealth is love and happiness and trusting each other in a world of compassion and communism..." And so on, for about two hours. Twas really cool! A friendly Dharma Bum style fellow! He dropped us just on East Sherbrooke Avenue and it already smelled like home. All we had to do was take a bus back home and that was it: the most awesome wild, chaotic, random, unplanned J. Kerouac-style trip ever...

not sure what the pic is supposed to demostrate but, anyway, it's like, ye know...
After that, a long shower and a long night of sleep, I started the big visit of "the rest of the people I knew in Montreal". The tour began with Stéphanie, a Couchsurfer friend I had hosted for one night four years ago, in Toulouse. We met to supposedly just go for a drink and it became a long, beautiful, crazy night wandering in the Mile End, stumbling on street coincidences and random wonders... We had a beer at her place with her flatmates and then went for a walk in the neighborhood. We then tried the best bagels in Montreal : warm and chewy, just out of the oven, perfect according to all NYC standards. And even way better, according to locals... Yummy! We met a friend of hers, whose name I already forgot (was he Carlos? Anyway, let’s call him Carlos and forgive my poor memory). Carlos was having a cigarette break in front of his little bar slash art studio. Carlos was a painter-sculptor slash bar-tender. Carlos was from Chile, probably close to his 50 and he looked pretty much like Gérard Lanvin: a vieux beau ténébreux, with dark tired eyes, a nostalgic shade of sadness floating inbetween his face and the rest of the world, as if coming from both his throat full of heavy tobacco smoke and his mind full of the remembrance of a life that was sure enough tough. Hey, wait a second! His name was Marco! Marco, of course! To start again with the whole description, please follow the instructions: 1) Go back to the beginning of the paragraph, 2) re-read it changing all Carloses by Marcoes. 3) follow his adventures throughout the next paragraph...

Here we go: Marco explained his bar was on its way to be closed. He wanted it closed because he wanted it to become his full-time art studio (no slash anymore, if you want). Basically, it looked like he loved the bar stuff, but he eventually realized the customers were a problem for the slash-artist part of his complex and versatile self. How was that? Well, customers were an issue for Marco because they wouldn't let him paint and sculpt in peace! They would enter the bar slash art studio anytime of the day and night, and ask for strange things, like getting drinks in exchange for their money... So at that point, I asked with a smile if we could get in and get a drink. Well, at that point, he kinda smiled back warmly and showed us in. 

instant magic caught on 35mm film at La gruta, Montreal.
The place was tiny, dark and a total mess. It was called La gruta (the cave) and the wall paintings together with a few unfinished paper-icicles confirmed, if necessary, the very nature of this little hollow of the world: a slash art studio place! Marco gave us some red wine in a couple of coffee mugs and showed us his ongoing sculptures. Real nice, actually. Then we crashed on an old couch and started talking, while he kept staring at his tiny universe, old posters of Quebec art and folk festivals, French existentialist books and some Marguerite Duras best-sellers, a chessboard, a bunch of Art-Déco antique pieces of furniture, postcards from Paris, Nebraska or Valparaiso, and some paper bags of yerba mate from Uruguay forgotten on top of an old piano. A surprisingly un-assorted couple entered and saluted us. She was young, tall and slim, hippy-looking with long blonde hair and a thin dress ; he was older, round-shaped and hairless, rigid and sweating in a grey suit. They were friends – maybe, though not likely, lovers – and sure enough friends of Marco. While they got to the bar to get a drink, a goofy skinny old dude with mad professor's hair and toothless laughing mouth sat at the piano and explained to me in an ol'buddy style that it was his own piano, and yeah! he did know how to play it... an improbable and unsquare schizophrenic pentatonic bluesy stumbl-y improvisation followed. His right hand was trying to escape from the irregular 3 chord frames the left hand was clumsily-but-not-randomly building down in the bass notes. The blues melted in a honky-tonky not-so-funky raggy waltz (and God heard it was good, and God was happy). The tempo slowed down a bit, right before a little souvenir from Chopin popped between his bony fingers. And suddenly, it was over. Nice enough, actually. We clapped and he was so moved as we were and his eyes suddenly glittered with emotion like it had been a while since people last clapped at his piano skills. The un-assorted couple happened to be here with him, on purpose, for their weekly singing session. She knew how to sing. He was shy and didn't seem totally confident with the two of us being here as an impromptu audience. We smiled and offered to leave and they said “No no no, you’re gonna sing with us!” right before they started singing their mosaic repertoire of standards and old folk songs. As we looked at each other in silence with Stéph and Marco (and Marco's eyes said so much more than his mouth), the trio seemed to warm up and something finally raised from our collective music making and silent, attentive support... A lot of emotion, a Jacques Brel’s tune and another wine later, they paused and we escaped after many hugs and loving farewells...

high heel fetish, warm colors and blurry couples: a humble tribute to WKW.
Back on the street, wandering again, we ran into a milonga where a young couple of tango teachers had just given a masterclass. He was from Istambul, she was from Buenos Aires. They looked so young, they looked so beautiful. They had been dancing Nu-Tango together for ten years now, and teaching it for about five. They were amazing. Their students were totally amazing too and I couldn't remember seeing so many great dancers packed in such a small place at the same time. Ever. The music for their new tango workshop was difficult. Not the obvious Gotan Project stuff. I recognized non-conventional covers of Goran Bregovic & Iggy Pop's Arizona dream main theme and Tom Waits' Jockey full of bourbon. Plus a lot of beautiful things I had never heard before. The couple of teachers and the couples of students were so elegant, so sensual, so beautiful. Each one in its very own style and fashion. Each one with their tricks and mood and little routine secrets of dancing, breathing and sensing tango together... Oh my god! It's no big surprise team games gather more people than tango: there is no place here for shouting crowds and their all-you-can-eat philosophy. Conpenetración... How can you possibly reach such levels of sensibility, empathy and sincere expression? Get connected so intimately to somebody and knit with him or her such a beautiful, ephemera piece of moving art? How can music be transcended by four feet, four shoulders, four hears and two souls in one single motion? I'm afraid I'm madly in love with tango... We next had some tapas and red wine, walked on for a while talking and finally had another warm chewy bagel from the oven at the other best-in-town bagel bakery. It was already very late at night and we'd had about enough beauty and magic for one single day and it was time to go to bed.

the Cirque du Soleil at home and at their best...
Spent a few extra days in Montreal, all with nice people and old friends and beers and bike riding and such... One extra thing is worth mentioning, though, if only one : a night at the Cirque du Soleil brand new show, Totem, in their home, in their beautiful fairy tales' resident yellow and blue chapiteau house! Robert Lepage's new show is amazing. The stage is a giant turtle's shell and skeleton, the scenography complex and delicate. The lights and the live music are perfect, the whole design and artwork, beautiful. The performances elegantly linked together on a powerful oniric, highly symbolic promenade along the evolution of human kind. Where ecology and mythology, pure circus and contemporary aesthetics, high flying acrobats and feet-on-earth high-tech wizards meet… Expect nothing but pure enjoyment, dream and wonders! Totem won't be shown in Europe except in Amsterdam for about a month in October. So, I really recommend all my French and Spanish and Austrian friends/readers to book already a low cost flight and a ticket for the show (talking about the ticket, which I reckon is everything but cheap, but so worth it, a huge thank again to Kim for inviting me: you made the kid in me happy and amazed big time...)! Those people take the circus experience so much further than any other. Hey, mommy and daddy, if you have nothing to do in October and don't know Amsterdam yet, go spend five days there, visit around. And of course, go see the show. Honest, it's great!

After that, with the idea that Montreal had already treated me with more than one could possibly expect, I got on a greyhound bus and crossed the border again down to Burlington, Vermont, to breathe its laid-back, arty, hippy feel along the Champlain Lake's bank. Met Laura back there and we went hiking for a few days in the beautiful Green, White and Black Mountains. We met and followed the Appalachian Trail again (even though much farther North than a month before), eventually reaching the summit of Mount Moosilauke, aka the "Bald place", aka the "Gentle Giant". Hot, sunny weather, nice landscapes, great talks and Go playing at a great little mountain lodge (Dartmouth College Ravine Lodge). Oh, the easy and fulfilling life in the wilderness!
the bald place, the gentle giant as high in feet as our Mont-Blanc is in meters ; land'art river cairn: this is a few one my favorite (DIY) things!
We then went camping, sunbathing and doing Japanese-style land'art with stones along a nice although mosquito-y river. We got scared to death at night by a psycho-killer freak walking around the tent, moving branches and doing strange, creepy throat sounds. As there was nobody around at some kilometers and all the gear, baseball sticks, guns, pepper sprays and such were in the trunk of the car, and nothing at hand – not even a swiss knife – we stayed sitting in the tent without moving, exploring the silence of the night with our eyes shut, all ears, looking for any clue about where exactly he was and what he was waiting for to kill us. We got ready for an attack, or a gunshot accross the tent's thin walls, feeling totally helpless... Then the silence fell, again. No feet stepping around us, no throat sounds anymore. Just the silence. Worse than ever, then, right in the eye of: right in the quiet before the storm... Only when the sun rose and the morning came to greet us over the river, did we dare to crawl out of the tent to check around and eventually discover, at some distance from there, a dreadful psycho-killa grouse making through the bushes the exact kind of foot and throat sounds that almost killed us the night before. Ah ah ah ah ah. You're not funny, the grouse!

nostalgia made in Woodstock, aka 3M revisited: music, muppets and moth.
Later that day, we headed to Woodstock, NY. THE Woodstock, I mean. THE one and only Woodstock where all these guys I spent my teenage listening to, went and played about forty years ago. THE ONE AND ONLY F---ING WOODSTOCK!! It is a regular little town stuffed with old hippies who never left and went on living a hippy life, listening to John and Yoko and opening a few hours a day, when they remember to do so, some crappy second hand and tye-dye tee-shirts stores. You can buy Bob Marley's swimming-pool towels, Jimi Hendrix' chewed guitar picks and all the usual hippy goodies and pseudo indian-jamaican-dharma-rastavibes stuff... Summertime and the living was easy (and pretty slow, blame it on weed smoking which apparently is a national sport here). If you ignore it is on the whole somehow a ridiculous dusty cliché, it seems to be a nice place to be on earth. Woodstock. God! Looked for a place to set the tent, thinking it would be easy in Hippylandia and every single ol' hippy would invite us to stay at his place and offer couch and food and pot ad libitum. But nope. It seems they grew a bit - say - capitalist. Or prudent, at least. And on each and every little piece of ground, frontyard or garden, there's a little plastic sign saying "POSTED - PRIVATE - NO TRESPASSING - BEWARE OF ATTACK DOG" and such. Surprising, uh? Wasn't private property supposed to be a robbery, fellas? All of a sudden, this “peace, brother” thing sounds like a sad malentendu, right? Yeah, you can peas’ wherever you want but on my lawn"... I'm definitely too naive. We then spent another day in and around the Catskills National Park, by a beautiful lake whose long Indian name had so many K, H, A, L and Ms I wasn't even able to read the first half of it. Swam in the lake, dived from the cliffs, slept in the sun. Saw birds and salamanders and many golden retrievers and finally drove back to NYC.

another peaceful anonymous lake, somewhere upslake New York...
In nice New Palz - somewhere along the way - we had a beer and BBQ dinner: NP was a deliciously laid-back equivalent of Woodstock, where the hippies were 20 to 35 y-o instead of 70 and the beers, slightly cheaper. During the happy hour (from 5 to 10!), a beer you buy gives you another one for free and each drink gives you a free BBQ burger. In other words, buy a four bucks beer and get two beers and two burgers. In other words, go to New Palz, get more drunk and fatter for less! And make friends meanwhile... Although very late at night, heavy traffic and a terrible humid pressure cooker heat were waiting for us in Brooklyn. This (the heat, I mean) is supposed to be the same for the next few days – say until the end of my adventures here, and consequently of the US chronicles. We went to the Invented Games Festival in Brooklyn, where people presented and introduced everyone to the games they invented, with names like Freesball, Golfketball, Froccer, Soccolf or even Basketsbee. From the etymology, I’ll let you guess what their concept of "inventing" a new game is… Originality and dizziness to the fullest! Wooooh! If not nice, it was a least sort of funny. Sort of. Hem...

Today is June, 9th. It's f---ing summer-hot and sunny on this side of the street Atlantic.
I'm now chasing the last souvenirs* and postcards to take back with me and guess my next post will be from Barcelona. With some inspired conclusions and considerations, hopefully.
So again: take care of yourself and of your beloved ones.
It's been a pleasure having you all with me during this adventure.
Peace, love and happiness to all!

* not the least of these: an Extracycle "free radical" kit for my bike! Had fallen in love with this freaky hauling beauty
after trying Jeme's one during a few days in New Orleans. ;)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

avant la lettre - the U.S. chronicles ep.04

Allo à tous ! This was supposed to be a short post after one short, yet crazy week in and around Montreal. But things went their own sweet way... and one can do nothing but try and follow the flow. Today is June, 8th and this was, in the original version, both episodes 4 et 5 together. Even though I had promised it wasn't gonna be twice as long as usual, it appeared to be a terrible lie and I had no option but to split it in two parts, the genuine ep.04 and ep.05, I guess... Not quite sure where the text was supposed to be cut, did my best, though.

one of the few pics I have from Montreal downtown: a very bizarre fountain.
Hem. Okay. My time up there began with that hot, wild, lonely and summery exploration of Montreal's fashionable and peaceful districts Le Plateau and Mile End, under the sun and on a bicycle. Nice neighborhoods, little brick houses with exterior metal stairs to the first and second floors; lovely tiny gardens with flowers and sculptures; ceramic deers and dwarfs; chain locked bikes. Everybody here seemed to at least have a bicycle, if not to use it. Plus a little garden with a ceramic baby deer (again!) and a couple of old pieces of furniture abandoned on the walkway straight in front of the houses. Desperately refraining myself not to pick everything single crappy upcycled coffee table, old rocking chair or plastic deer (oops!) to fill my hosts’ houses. I was pretty sure I had pictures of the deers and the little houses (on the hill side), but I don't. Rode along several parks (hippy atmosphere and people so glad to see the sun after a long freezing winter that they hardly could contain themselves not to start dancing naked in the fountains), then on random streets with fancy eco-friendly-trendy-nice-laidback-artisan-delicatessen-arty cafés and eclectic but generally charming, Quebec-French-speaking smiling people. I rode up to THE Mont Royal big hill park, after almost buying this broken mandolin from that music store offering such an amazing discount ("Come on, I can discount down to 120$. -But, it's broken, sir. - Come on, 90$ for you. - But, it's really broken, what do you want me to do with that? - I see, you're the tough bargainer, eh! Gimme 65$ and it's yours. - Sorry, I don't want it, it's broken. - Hey dude, can't go under 55$! Come on, 50 and you take it back to France with you! Deal?" Endless... Fun. Ridiculous. Hilarious). The view over the city from the Mont Royal is gorgeous and once the bike is launched down the steep streets and you discover the brakes DON'T WORK AT ALL, the long way downtown is nothing but a short and -on the whole- delicious, enjoyable thrill! Survived long enough to enjoy downtown district, the vieux port and many random unexpected stores and things: mainly churches, parks, fountains, people and cafés. Also got lost in Chinatown after taking a short nap in the sun on the Champ de Mars. Really tired by all these kilometers and lovely cafés, I slept of the sommeil du juste and got ready the next morning for a 5 day hitch-hiking trip with Kim.

the man hitch-hiking: is it such a big surprise nobody pulled to give us a lift?
First part of this week's adventures: the hitch-hiking trip! Here in Quebec, they call hitch-hiking "faire du pouce" or even "poucer". The literal English translation would be "thumbing" and everybody will tell you it works pretty well. Especially Kim. Hem. After 3 hours on the highway at about 20 km from Montreal, right by the village - better say the ugly residential suburb- where Céline Dion was born and grew up (I now understand why she became who she is, poor little traumatized innocent creature), nobody had stopped to pick us, except a policeman to politely, yet firmly, get us out the highway and back to a traffic light where the probability to get a lift to Quebec city was even lower. A guy finally stopped by our backpacks. He was going down to Montreal and we jumped in the bright blue and carbon all-tuned Mitsubishi Lancer to go back home. The guy had a manual gearbox and didn't consider it useful to use the third or any higher gear, although driving at about 90 mph. Fast car, slow brain! Seemed to have nothing else under the reverse baseball cap than a real fascination for the noise of his huge and powerful engine. Shared a pretty interesting (although way too short) conversation. Blame it on the exhaust noise or the short time it took him to drive us home... Hey, I'm kidding, he was a nice guy, seriously. At about 6pm on Thursday, we were back in Montreal: total failure? Nope, Ma'am. For then, we were lucky enough to move to the B plan and I was lucky enough to see A GAME. First adventure paused, to be continued soon, right after... the second one.

a local tradition: the other team's shirt as a rug...
Second part of the week's adventures: THE GAME! Everybody knows how keen I am on team sports... I saw my first hockey game on TV in a bar crowded with supporters, fully equipped with not one not two not three but FOUR giant screens! Unforgettable. Would you like to look out from the game, you wouldn't be able to! We (a small bunch of apparently normal friends) sat at a table by one of the giant screens and hugged our (unknown) new friends slash neighbors slash fellow supporters. We asked for some beer: whatever was on tap, fresh and served in a big container. And some peanuts: a lot, roasted, salted and served in a big paper bag easy to tear off, spreading all the peanuts on the table and sharing them with our new friends slash buddies slash etc... The game never began. It was endless. We had to ask for more beers and more peanuts. And suddenly: it started. It was endless. The rondelle (is it a puck?) was moving so fast from one side to the other, between fights and riots and prison and extreme violence, that I couldn't understand anything, but everybody was shouting and throwing peanuts at the bastards in white on the screens and it was hilarious and a bit stressful and scary at the same time and where the fuck is la rondelle? and GOOOOOOOOOOOOAL ! Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god. Such an explosion of ecstatic collective happiness! Or mass hysteria... My unknown friends-slash-neighbors suddenly hugged me and gave me five and hit their chests against mine several times and, f---! They were all 2 meter high lumberjacks and their hugging did huuuurt. At that point, it is probably worth saying that the Canadians (Montreal’s team) were in the final phase of the East league against Philadelphia’s Flyers. Flyers were leading by 2 games to 0 (the winner is the team that first wins 4 games, it then becomes East champion and plays the big final against West champion). So tonight was either 0:3 for Philadelphia if they won and it would be difficult to come back and that apparently would be a tragedy. Or 1:2 if we (???) won and then everything would be possible again. They/we/the Canadians ran and lead the whole game. It was beautiful. Oh my god, did those guys rock!

the bar, the atmosphere, the joyful chaos and... the flamenco dancer...
I shouted, screamed, cried and laughed. I spent long, intense seconds hugging/hugged by my new friends the two meter-high lumberjacks. Everything was just so weird. They/we/the guys won this game by 5 to 1 and it was so beautiful the way they taught hockey and gave inspiration to the world for the next generations tonight. The score was then back at 1:2 in the final and I hadn't seen so many happy people since that summer when Jacques Chirac and Zinedine Zidane won the soccer world cup main dans la main (and after singing Le bruit et l'odeur, Mr. Chirac singing I will survive, while hugging a second generation immigrant from Maghreb was quite something...). Aaah, the power of sport! At that point, "our" guys had to play a game every other day until one of the teams reached four wins. Everything was now (again?) possible. The beer and peanuts had been flowing in my body with surprising fluidity. Smoothly. I sure enough weighed about 5 pounds more than the minute I stepped into bar Le Normand. Everybody was hugging and kissing and crying. It was wonderful. For a second, I wondered what it would have been like, had they just announced on TV that all wars were over and the definitive treatment for cancer had been found and global warming was about to be stopped? Probably not half the effusion of joy that was growing and spreading from the bar to the street, flowing from all the bars of the street and from all the streets of Montreal. We went to Sainte Catherine to both witness and be part of the riots and celebration. Amazing. For a little while nothing else existed but beauty and magic and love and hockey.

XXL beer and peanuts, like in a dream: they were everywhere around...
Wait a second... Fuck! They almost got me! I almost forgot I hated team games exactly for all these things: this fake and dangerous "we're all bros" identity feeling; this stupid power you give to this stupid game to decide whether you're gonna be happy or depressed; this ability team games have to move hundreds of thousands of people together when not a single cause nor fight on earth can move them anymore: not free Tibet, nor global warming, nor the crisis. Not even peace on earth: the idea of democracy and the price of freedom, art and the witness of beauty, either in a museum or in everyday's little pieces of magic, building communities of peace, neighborhoods of trust, drawing maps of mutual respect, making the world a better place. All this bullshit... Try and move people with such causes... Ha ha ha! Now look at professional team games and think of the millions (billions?) of euros and dollars they move and bring not only to those idiot retarded players but to the smart investors. Think of the impact they fucking have on the trading centers and the health and wealth of our markets. Think of the impact they fucking have on our mood and the health and wealth of our own minds. 

Think anout this easy and subtle way to get so many people to dress the same, paint faces the same, raise arms, sing the same idiotic identity pride (literally speaking: xenophobia) slogans and songs, in a manner that has little to envy to fascist demonstrations of hate-thy-neighbor throughout History. I hate team games because it's so easy to get overwhelmed by such an intense collective feeling, when our century – together with its postmodern plague – is characterized by individuality and selfishness: everybody thinks about nothing but oneself and one's immediate particular interests and needs; everybody's losing the sense of common effort, of a common goal; "solidarity" sounds like a rusty, fossil concept; no random person will help you when you stumble on the street (or when you're hitch-hiking, lol!) or when you really need them at the booth to listen to your paperwork issues and try to solve them, instead of just saying "cannut dou dat, sir" before calling the next number. For we're not even persons anymore! And suddenly, comes that army of retarded idiots with their colored, sponsored shirts. They run after a ball or a puck and everybody feels such a warm and intense collective impulse towards them. Everybody believes it is cool and nice and genuine to experience that, when it's not: it's just the opposite. Let me tell you: team games are lame, disgusting, ugly. If you think watching tonight's game and celebrating with a two hundred thousand crowd of unknown friends was a genuine true collective moment of communion and sharing, then, let me tell you something. This is as untrue as believing what people do at McDonald's is eating food. Or as untrue as thinking what happens in a porn movie is about sharing and pleasure. Or as untrue as trusting that working for the man five days a week, earning good money and spending it at the shopping mall on Saturdays has something to do with life. Well, we may disagree on a lot of things, but it's okay. No big deal, let's live on the same planet anyway! Wait a second, I need to be honest here: I had a GREAT night, I must admit. I swear! That's why it's so dangerous. You feel thrilled, then in communion with others, you experience a collective ecstasy and feel part of a bigger plan. Dopamine flows, the reward is juicy and you want to have that again and again... Like the first time with heroin? Go ask a junky.
a subtlety before you go on reading this: there's a fairly important difference between LA poutine and LE...
Enough about that! Right after the game and the street riots, we went for more beers and some poutine. La poutine is the Quebec national meal. It's basically a load of French fries with melted cheddar cheese and a thick, sweet, greasy beef gravy poured on top of them. Delicious. The heaviest, fattest, greasiest thing on earth. Real nice. Fantastic. Loved it! And so did my blood cholesterol level. After that, I was ready to go to bed for a long, deserved sleep.

Back to the first part of the week's adventures: the hitch-hiking plan, reloaded! Next morning was a Friday morning (technically, around noon) and we were back to the beginning: backpacks ready, stamina loaded, casual, not-too-dirty-not-too-trendy-not-too-sexy-but-yet-attractive clothes on, we tried that again. Took a first ride with Allo-stop, a local covoiturage (car-sharing) website, and got to Quebec city without any problem. The guy lets us before the bridges, at a service area, where we spend a long while standing in the sun, then decided to walk along the highway with nobody stopping to pick us. Suddenly on the next entry, a young (probably just 18, if not under) pale-sad-blue-eyed guy took us. He was driving a nice mustang and said he and his friend were running a car buy-and-sale business. Whole thing smelled bad. He knew a lot about how to get good deals to "buy" expensive cars in the US and to "resell" them here, in Canada. Very instructive, indeed.

after a (looong) while, hitch-hiking can challenge your enthousiasm!
Our idea was to go to the South side of the Saint-Laurent river, Eastbound, as far as possible. But the young little import-export genius was going on the Northern bank to his parents' village because his grandma was very sick. So we just decided to follow the flow, went where he could take us and keep on hitch-hiking from there: several ferry boats cross the Saint-Laurent and the North side is beautiful anyway... Where he left us, we waited for a little while and looked around: the afternoon was already ending and the light was getting softer, the colours brighters and warmer. The hills and trees and the reflections of the sun and clouds on the Saint-Laurent were just beautiful. Two green VW hippy vans with bearded and long-haired dudes in them passed by and honked us doing peas' signs, but didn't even bother to stop and pick us. Fucking stinky idiot hippies! If you don't stop, then who the hell will? Yeah, hitch-hiking can easily get on your nerves and smiling with compassion and unconditional love trying to seduce the people in those hundreds of cars with free seats that keep passing and don't stop is kinda difficult...

I kept smiling and made nice little looks and shows for the drivers while looking for their eyes. I did my best, I promise. Kim was doing the sexy hitch-hiker numéro, waving to the cars with both thumbs up in the air. I felt lucky to be hitch-hiking with a blonde and blue-eyed and good-looking girl: the next three lifts were three young guys, (i) the kayak instructor, (ii) the logger/paragliding professional (handsome, brown-haired hot and sexily unshaved), they stopped and took us onboard, so I letf Kim go to the front seat and went to sleep behind with the backpacks on my lap. The evening was getting progressively dark, the route 138 went East and we finally got very close to the Parc des Grands Jardins, a gorgeous natural forest with bears, hikes, lakes and all sort of exotic things like des émeus*.
introducing the bears, the hikes, the lakes and surtout the émeus*, along the road to the Parc des Grands Jardins.

After a frugal dinner in Saint-Urbain, as the night was already black, deep and cold like a deep, black and cold hole, we got the last lift of the day. "Hi guys, I'm Rodrigue but everybody calls me Rod", said Rod. Rod was another hot brown-haired dude, a fisherman in his late twenties on his way to fish for the weekend at about 100 miles from here. Didn't want to fall asleep and was happy to have some company, he added. While Kim gave him conversation, I studied his fishing gear on the rear seat. As he missed the park's main entrance and didn't really want to u-turn when we realized, he dropped us right there, about 10 miles after the park... We walked a little bit along a desert mountain road, in a black freezing night with no visibility at all and finally decided to set the tent and camp right there, in the dark pines and spruces, between two patches of snow! We hid the backpacks because of the bears, then I put all my clothes on and my rain jacket around my (thin) sleeping bag. That's when I assumed it was so cold I'd never sleep. F---! Sure enough the coldest night of my life, even more than that in a shepherd's stone cabin with D. in the Ariege years ago.
the parc des  grands jardins: lakes, bears, émeus, freezin' cold mornin' etc.
I couldn't sleep: not even a minute. It was so f---ing cold! Kim was quietly "breathing" in her dreams, I wouldn' say she was snoring, but almost. There was nothing I could do but wait and fight the cold all night long. And in the next morning, around seven, as we walked along the desert road between beautiful woods and lakes, Kim had to pay for my bad mood (sorry, sweet heart, it was nothing personal, I promise) until the sun became warmer and brighter and I could finally have a steaming coffee with milk from a lunch wagon at a crossroad. We sat in the sun for a while and I was secretly hoping no car would disturb the warm peace of this moment... Halas! But all of a sudden, this photographer going to a wildlife photo contest gave us a lift to a crappy motel. The reason was he was turning left right there, dont ask who he was meeting there. We just stayed and had to wait in front of the crappy motel, called maybe Bagdad or Fantasia or something like that... We were in the f---ing middle of nowhere and the scene was just ridiculous. I reckon if I were a driver, I’d never give a lift to that bizarre couple standing right in front of this crappy motel where they probably spent a sinful night doing all sorts of crazy shameless things. I’m lucky not to be the driver I - as a hitch-hiker - am waiting for myself. Else I would never get any lift. I should think about that seriously in terms of giving others what I expect to receive and being the change I want to see in the World and… Hey, get ouf of my body, Mahatma Gandhi! Last thought before switching to something else was a bizarre and somehow deranging image of our "wildlife" photographer shooting the kind of kinky wildlife he probably met at the motel. Deranging like in "David Lynch-deranging", ha ha ha!

sign says "private property, do not trespass"... why would you anyway?
Eventually, this other guy stopped and picked us: as I sat on the rear sit, I noticed two rock climbing magazines and as he turned the engine on, the radio started to play J.S. BACH's second suite for solo cello. Aaaaaaaaaaagh! And I said to myself what a wonderful world. No conversation at all, the three of us slept in the car, in the sun, in the music. He was driving, anyway. Or at least someone did, because he took us to this village whose name I could never remember and dropped us there. We had lunch and waited for the ferry boat to take us to the other side. The traversée is about an hour and a half long. And it’s also quite enjoyable, with views and the sunlight and a coffee with milk, bizarre views of closed gates taking you nowhere and oh, the places you'll go! I took some cool pictures of some rusty pieces of that big ol'boat and also one . Then, on the other side, where we landed, it was just as complicated (or as simple, because, hey, after all, there was nothing to complain about, really; not even the cold...) as on the other one. The “other one” referring here to the side we weren't on anymore... So, the thing repeated itself quite same same and, after another while, we got a lift from those two girls who bought us some icecream sandwiches and listened to the game on the radio. We had a super nice ride, although the Canadians lost the game. It was now three games to one for the Flyers and the temperature in the car fell down quite a bit. 
small boat on big boat: if everybody fits on small boats,
why do they use the big boat in the first place?

The girls left us at the Parc du Bic and we hiked around for the rest of the day. We went to the sealions' beach at sunset: it was so beautiful and so forbidden to be there, Ford! There was a sealion dancing in the waves and inviting us to the water but it was really too cold. We tried and shot some pics of this single sealion and that was it. After dinner, it was too late to get off the park and to look for a place to camp outside, so we just settled down in the park, where it was so forbidden and before sunrise the next morning we crawled out trying not to get caught. Since we didn't pay to get in anyway and should not have spent the night inside, meeting someone on the way out would soon become uncomfortable... Hop! Oui hop! Done. We were now along the road and it was soooo early we'd never get a ride and Kim was talking about the reasons why driving people don’t want to take hitch-hikers on. We talked about whether they trusted or not and feared or not and such. She was wondering, in particular, whether a woman with a little child should or shouldn't take hitch-hikers. If she would, herself, as a mother. And then, just on time to answer all our questions, Monique appeared and stopped her car. I'm sorry Monique, I don't remember your real name. You were young, fresh, good-looking, smiling and friendly. You were an anthropologist and went to run a semi-marathon: that's why you were up so early...

the beach of the Saint-Laurent at low tide, at the Parc du Bic.
Oh Ford, Monique! You indeed had the whole package: hot, outdoorsy, healthy, handsome anthropologist running semi-marathons! As usual, Kim went on the front seat with her and I went behind... with her 6-year-old lovely tiny monster. Lucas, or something like that. Why did I remember HIS name? Moreover, Lucas wanted us to be friends. True story. Oh Ford, did he want us to be friend! Really. And he had games planned for us. Tonns of them. Lots of fun. And we were gonna talk, too! All of theses things I would have done gladly with your mom, young Lucas! Plus, I hadn't had my coffee yet and it was early and he was a tiny kid with a strange accent and had three teeth where everybody usually has four. Don't get me wrong: Lucas was probably real cute, but, you know…

low tide land'art at sealions' beach, parc du Bic.
Kim and Monique kept talking about great things and Monique happened to be a Couchsurfer and she'd traveled so many months in Latin America with her backpack and that made her even hotter! We had a deal, Kim: you can't have the whole cake for you! You sat in front with the three hot guys, remember? Come on... My turn! Anyway, it lasted until it was over and I never heard of Monique again. Sigh! 

They left us at a gas station where we washed our faces and brushed our teeth and got some coffee and then got a short lift from I can't remember exactly who. And then another one who was really worth mentioning: the guy was in his mid-thirties, black, wearing a suit and round glasses. Very neat, elegant and polite with a slow, low voice, pronouncing ev ery sin gle word with ap-pli ca tion and li ke it was re al ly im por tant. His name was Jazmin. He was catholic and soooooooo religious. Oh my god. With the Quebec accent I hadn't recognized the voice. But that was it: that was the typical I-love-Jesus-guitar-and-campfire-catholic-extremist's voice. No offense: this voice exists, I swear. You know that kind of dude, a bit too neat? So neat it gets slightly creepy? Picture this guy coming across people on the street with that sweet voice and that suit and that typical: "Bon-jouuuuuur! Vous con-nai-ssez Jé-sus? Non? Noooon? Vous êtes sûuuuuuuuuur? Par-ce que lais-sez moi vous don-ner une bon-ne nou-vel-le: Jé-sus, lui, il vous co-nnaîiiiiit. Eh oui! Pis, il vous aiiiiiiiii-me". He was an absolute freak. Harmless but a freak. Nice and friendly but a freak anyway.

fake fire-starting at sealions' beach, parc du Bic.
He talked about his life and Jesus, then started to explain us how much he loved downloading religious music about Jesus and it was such a pity that on the net, there were so many English religious tunes for free, but almost none in French. Kim politely asked why there was so little French catholic music available online and I politely asked whether Jesus' copyrights were different in the US and France. Jazmin was serious and immune to second degree. He answered "No no no! Nothing to do with that!" He knew why, you know, and he explained it to us: it was because in France, they didn't know about Internet and couldn't use it to spread catholic songs. And that was because in France, instead of the Internet, they used a pretty lame thing called the Minitel. And the Minitel was slow and expensive and the band was narrow and you couldn't download things from a Minitel! So it was because of that: of this ridiculous crappy French machine, that God's word couldn't spread properly from France to the rest of the world. Kim didn't say anything and I had to bite the inside of my jaw so hard not to laugh, I almost made myself bleed... Thank you Jazmin for this lovely picture of France in 2010! After the choir of the petits chanteurs à la croix de bois had sung "Il est né le divin enfant" for the third time, he dropped us at a bus stop in the suburb of Quebec and we made it downtown easily to meet Kim's friends. We all had brunch at a super trendy place. Fusion cuisine, contemp’ art on the walls and the two of us with backpacks and hiking boots, stinking like skunks, uniformely covered with disgusting draining scratches and reddish mosquitoe bites, in the middle of the fancy sunday brunchers. Funny enough! Delicious food and a big bol de café au lait fumant. I'm so easy to please...

As you'll notice, there are no pics after the parc du Bic - blame it on the battery of the camera, so I'm desperately using ALL the parc du bic ones... :p

psychedelic sunset at sealions' beach, parc du Bic.
It was oh so quiet, but soon again, started another big riot: we were on our way back to Montreal. But only two lifts are worth mentioning: first we got to meet Yves, a 45 y-o would-be good-looking seductor. He was a T guy, almost the guy form Ipanema: Tall and Tan and Tattooed in Tank-Top and Tear-off Trousers. Blue-eyed. In a blue Mustang cabriolet with leather seats and a sport pack. Kim was sitting in front with him. I was "sitting" behind (squeezed on the rear seat, blame it on the Mustang). Logical enough. Fair enough. Cannot blame him, I would have done the same. On the back seat, the wind was unreal, impossible, insane. I took my glasses off and closed my eyes, my head banging like the plastic dog’s on the trunk's board of a Golf GTI. And the noise was incredible. I took it like some kind of Vipasana exercise and the sun and wind and movements of my head were like a massage for the soul (blatant lie) and it all caressed my hair and eyelids and I was suddenly so happy and full. Such a magical moment in my life. Plus, everytime I opened my eyes for a second, Yves was talking to Kim, playing her le grand jeu and waving the hand that wasn't on the wheel closer and closer to her leg, til eventually touching it. He was just a perfect cliché, some kind of a professional chicks' picker and I wished I could have filmed it all. I recorded it in my mind, though. When we got down the car and my head was still buzzing from the wind and the sun, she told me Yves was a tree pruner. A vertical artist. He offered to come prune her little garden anytime she wanted (sic! and quite sick, too). Then she showed me the business card he gave her, saying "Call me whenever you want". And the card said: “Yves: put a Tarzan in your garden!” and she tolds me the guy's special trick was to do the Tarzan scream on top of the trees in the gardens where he worked. Apparently, people called him back mainly for that reason, and because he was the best pruner in town, of course!

since Tarzan's business card got lost, here's a little booby prize for you!
I pictured legions of desperate housewives shivering in warm waves of pleasure and sighing, fingernails scratching their living-room window frames, or grabbing the curtain very hard as they heard Yves, the Tall and Tan and Tattooed and Tanktop-wearing Tarzan screaming on the evening sky from the canopy... Yves also confessed her he was a romantic and women often took advantage of him for his money and he was looking for true love, ye know. Oh my god! Yves-Tarzan, thanks for being yourself! Please don't change. Ever.

The next one and last lift of our trip, was a huge white-bearded troll in a rusty Chevy pickup. He was coming back from the Canadian boxing championship where he took his 14 y-o son: "We went to the finals in the under-39kg category, he said, and we're back with gold!". He touched the medal hanging from the rear-view mirror. We both smiled and congratulated the young champion, tired and ridiculously good-looking. So young and he already had all this range of Magnum and Blue Steel looks stuck on his face. The conversation was really fun and nice, the old troll being an old executive, ex-rich and ex-total winner, who discovered very late both true love with a hippy and the absence of meaning, the absolute void of his former life. He then sold everything and changed all his lifestyle because, you know, what do you do with the money once you’re dead? Inspiring! So now, he was basically enjoying everyday's small pleasures: "life's not for later, it's for now!"

The old troll told us: "I'm gonna tell ya something and you better-a-listen carefully: you guys are doing the right thing. Cause when I was young I went to Mejico on the thumb and by that time twas a whole different story. But now people are scared and they're scared because they own things and stuff. And all this stuff makes them slaves of money then they fear losing it. But the real wealth is love and happiness and trusting each other in a world of compassion and communism..." And so on, for about two hours. Twas really cool! A friendly Dharma Bum style fellow! He dropped us just on East Sherbrooke Avenue and it already smelled like home. All we had to do was take a bus back home and that was it: the most awesome wild, chaotic, random, unplanned J. Kerouac-style trip ever. 

Thanks so much, dear Kim, for showing me hitch-hiking definitely rocks and humanity is not totally fucked-up...

To be continued...
(yes, there'll be a 5th episode!)