Techno on the Metro

I think I’ve mentioned my childlike fascination with the metro here before. The trains are blue, the wheels are round, the orange line plays a major chord on the way out of the station, etc.

Anyway, the other day on the way to school, I listened to Quebec Connection’s Bonjour Expo (thanks Will!) on the way in and was struck by just how perfect the music was for the Metro. There’s a certain optimism to their music — which is only fitting for a concept album about Expo ’67. But I also really liked the anachronism of the moment.

–Ingredient One: a very quotidian transport technology that most Montrealer probably find unremarkable, which once held some kind of high modern futuristic promise

–Ingredient Two: A musical celebration of the moment in which the technology was seen as utopian.

–Ingredient Three: “Vintage” 1980s synthesizer sounds, themselves now examples of a decayed, dusty old futurism, used to celebrate a futurism that had itself fallen into disrepair by the 1980s.

Clear? Good. Time to watch CSI on the PVR.

Closer, but not close enough to Movie Nite

Although there are a number of films we both want to see, times were off last night given when we got to dinner, Carrie and I decided we’d do a little quid-pro-quo on movie night and go see something she wanted to see (and then something I wanted to see another time). For some reason, we wound up going to Closer, which she’d wanted to see, as opposed to several others that she was hot to see that I was lukewarm on. I think this may have been my fault for thinking that Closer would be arty while that boxing movie would be another “characters grow while they triumph over inbcredible odds” flick like Sea Biscuit. All I can say is if Closer is about art, then to hell with art.

What a terrible mistake. What a terrible movie — full of terrible characters involved in a terrible story. And the soundtrack was so whiny to boot.

Really, I cannot possibly encapsulate how terrible this movie was in the space of a blog entry. I think it’s supposed to be an exploration of relationships or something, but it combined incredible predictability with almost sanctimonious self-satisfaction that it is revealing some inner “truth” of human nature.

Carrie didn’t like it much either. I asked her whether, if she met a version of herself on the street who had not yet seen the movie, she would advise herself to go see it. She said she would warn herself that it was totally brutal.

The real bummer of it all was that Wednesday is a new institution in our domicile: MOVIE NITE (best to leave out the “gh”). We both finish teaching on Wednesdays, so we catch dinner and get a movie. This was in part because we got tired of complaining all fall about how we never got to see any movies that we wanted to see. We’re still way behind, but at least we’re trying to catch up.

Note to Montreal readers: feel free to inquire about joining us on MOVIE NITE. It is not a couple thing.


Like there’s any point to having “category” in front of my posts here. It’ll be gone when the fabled last days of the site revision come.

Four hours over two nights was very intense, and we’re talking about the most intense show on television. Once again, we learn that

a) torture is okay except (maybe) when it’s the child of a US government official
b) conservatives are tough guys (like the secretary of defense — clearly a republican)
c) liberals are wimps, especially the secretary’s son, whose “Michael Moore” politics are largely youthful rebellion
d) intelligent African American women might be dangerous
e) it’s okay to hold up a convenience store if you’re tracking the guy inside and need to wait until they can get a satellite feed up on him

..and so on. Okay, so the politics stink and the show is utterly unbelievable (especially in its 4th season) and yet it is by far the most effective hour of television in the prime time schedule. It is the only show that makes me physically tense. And for that, I am strangely grateful.

Oh Beautiful Credit

I would say that the two most difficult aspects of moving from the U.S. to Canada have been institutional:

1. Getting US institutions to mail things to a Canadian address is surprisingly difficult. Related to this is the fact that US bills arrive sometimes after their due dates, and only some US institutions accept checks from Canadian banks, even when those banks issue checks in U.S. currency. All but one of our U.S. credit card companies are among the worst offenders in both categories. Another time, I’ll rant about the address thing, because it reveals a lot about a lot of things. But today, we’re onto

2. Getting Canadian credit is also wickedly tough. It turns out the U.S. does this to Canadians who go the other way, so it’s only fair, I guess. Still, I’m going to slap the next person who talks about how national borders don’t matter anymore and capital moves freely.

When we arrived in August, having had credit cards for over a decade, having owned a house for five years, and having earned and borrowed (and paid back all of) a good deal of money over that time, we learned that in Canada we had the credit ratings of 15-year-olds. It would have been impossible to get a mortgage without putting 25% down (though we couldn’t buy anyway since we hadn’t at that time sold our old house) and getting credit cards has been almost impossible. We tried the online application at the bank. No good. We filled out paper applications. No good. Finally, our bank rep actually took about an hour with me entering our information very carefully and practically begging the credit company to look at our U.S. credit histories, asserting various forms of class privilege (“McGill Professors, owned a house” etc.) and so forth — even thoguh we’re not rich. I don’t know what she did, but Friday she called back to say we’d each been approved. Which apparently almost never happens for new arrivals from the U.S. The next option was to get one of those “secured” cards they have for bankrupt people. That would have worked too, but it just seemed wrong.

Part of me hates credit cards. I hate the idea of credit card debt, I hate the way they encourage people — like me! — to live beyond their means. But it’ll just be a lot easier to buy stuff online and pay it off in Canadian dollars.

Anyway, it’s a minor milestone in the quest to become (more) Canadian, and a major convenience. This week, I need to write my high school for a certified copy of my diploma (and send off a bunch of other letters like that) — the next step in applying for permanent residency.

Story of the Lost Wedding Ring

This one takes you back in time. All the way back to the 30th of December 2004, and yes it’s the story of how I lost my wedding ring. It gets a little gross so be forewarned.

But first the story of how I got it. Carrie and I have been together for over 14 years now, but only got married in 1999 when I got a real job at Pitt and it meant that she could get real medical benefits (and an insulin pump, which was like a $6000 wedding present from the institution). We’d had the usual leftist objections to marriage, especially since we’ve got queer family and friends. So it’s not abstract to us. The wedding itself was under 5 minutes, though the party lasted for hours. We billed it as our “encounter with the state,” paired it with my graduation on the previous day, and billed it as a costume party — since all weddings are in effect costume parties already (and since grad students are more likely to have costumes than dress clothes). A few family came, though it was not a big extended-family event. Though it was cool that our families “met” (1) and became friends.

Anyway, given our attitudes toward the whole thing, you can imagine our attitudes about wedding rings. We didn’t buy them. We had no plans to, until our respective parents arrived and reacted with horror. At that point, we headed down to Bogart’s Casablanca, purveyors of fine water pipes, cheesey t-shirts, blacklight posters, and — oh yes — jewlery. We each found a nice-looking silver ring for about $15, and I paid an extra $5 or so to get mine sized right. The plan was to use them for the ceremony and then put them in the drawer and forget about them, like some of our other married friends had done.

Of course, that never happened. And over time, as with many objects in my life, I developed a sentimental attachment to it. Not that I treated it like a normal wedding ring that you never take off. I took it off every night at bedtime. I took it (and my watch) off to write or cook. For awhile I’d also take it off to play bass. I also got in the habit of taking it off when I wash my hands because I don’t like that weird feeling of water caught between my finger and the ring. You can see where this is headed.

Okay, so we’re on the flight home from Minneapolis. It’s been awhile and I need to avail myself of the facilities. So I head off to the aircraft’s rather cramped bathroom. As you may know, I am a large person, so I am acutely aware of the small space. I do my business and then in one move turn to the tiny sink and pull the ring off my finger to put it in my pocket while I wash my hands. Just like every other time I’ve washed my hands for the last five and a half years.

PLOP. It goes in the toilet.

I wish it was a “ping”, because some airplane toilets have those metal doors that only open when you flush. Then it would have been no big deal. Not this one. It’s outhouse style. I look down at the toilet and wonder what to do. The opaque blue liquid stares back at me. And so the question naturally arose: do I put my hand in a pool of other people’s excrement in order to try and retrieve a sorry-looking, banged up, $20 silver ring? The ring was of course more than that. It may have been crappy, but it was my wedding ring. I decided that the blue color of the pool meant that it was so full of chemicals that apart from grossing me out, there would be no other real repercussions to my health. I went for it. I stuck my hand in to my wrist and moved around. I felt nothing except the water. But whatever relief I felt at not touching anything solid or half-solid was tempered by the horror that I didn’t know where the bottom was.

I got up, washed my hands more thoroughly than usual (well above the wrist line), and approached a flight attendant. I explained my situation first and then asked her if she knew how deep the toilets went. She said no. I wasn’t quite ready to stick my whole arm in so I returned to my seat comforting myself with some vague fantasy about the airline designing a device to retrieve rings from their toilets. After all, they warn us about not putting things in the toilets.

No such luck. And to add insult to injury, I saw at least three other people enter and exit the bathroom (it was at the front of the plane) after I sat back down. That ring was gone. It was going to fly around Canada or the northern US with that plane, and then head off to whatever place Northwest Airlines takes its blue liquid when they’re done with it.

Carrie was suitably consoling. I asked her if she ever takes off her wedding ring. She said “almost never.” I thought about that for what seemed like an eternity.

The plane landed and I got on with my life, but because I spent so much time unconsciously fussing with the thing, I notice its absence several times a day, and wonder what I should do about a replacement.

And that’s the story of how I lost my wedding ring. (2)


1 Our parents actually met once before, but only talked briefly about cats. They didn’t really get to know one another.

2 I showed this to Carrie before posting it, to make sure that there’s nothing too unseemly about the toilet scene (it was not modified). She practically fell over laughing at me and claims that I denied putting my hand in the toilet while on the plane. She also says she takes her ring off when she goes to bed. And she thinks it would be fun to take me shopping for a new ring at a jewlery store.