Thursday, May 31, 2007

Ottawa

Someone I know called it "the town that fun forgot". Try to imagine if Sacramento was in the midwest, that's sort of like Ottawa. Let me put it this way, when we went for a walk I saw a guy on the lawn in front of his high rise apartment building, practicing his golf swing. If that's what people do for fun here I know I'd have a hard time spending more than a day. Then, a guy told Brenndan that he wasn't trying to hit on me, he just really liked my hair style, while never once actually looking at me. The best part was we got to park in Pat's backyard and he made us breakfast on the BBQ, showed us the guitars he is building, and loaded us up with treats and flowers. That's some real Canadian hospitality for you, the real deal, eh?.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Toronto

Toronto is fascinating.

When I got here I started making a list of the things I like and the things I don't like. Now I can't remember what I wrote but I know that I do really like the clean and quiet public transportation. I like that the recycling program includes small countertop compost containers. People are friendly, the city is clean, there are a lot of things to like here. However, like most cities it is difficult to escape exposure to rampant consumerism. It seems there are more boutiques than people in some areas. On the other hand, there are plenty of art galleries and public spaces and compared to many places it's much easier to choose locally produced goods.

I overheard a conversation on the streetcar that I found startling. Two girls about 25 years old were sitting behind me and one said "How long do you want to spend shopping?" and the other said "I don't know, I'm not really looking for anything" and her friend replied "Okay, let's get off at Spadina then." It seems that in a city like this there are so many other ways to spend a Saturday afternoon and it makes me sad that a seemingly intelligent person can't tear their self away from the lure of consumption, especially when they don't even need anything. Which brings me to the question "do any of us need to buy anything?"

I personally have made a decision which has been quietly brewing for some time, to cease buying anything new. Of course, there are some cases where it may be necessary but I can tell you with utmost certainty that I do not need to buy clothing, furniture, or most of the crap that goes along with living in North America ever again. I buy almost everything from thrift stores or find it recycled in one form or another. If I could start a revolution for any cause in the world I would do my best to incite people to STOP BUYING THINGS (and also to stop having children but I'll rant on that a bit later). There are people out there that are doing a good job of this already. Here are some links that will direct you to their information.

The Compact

No Impact Man

Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping

Yes, I do buy things I need for my van, small amounts of diesel fuel, coolant and synthetic oil but I feel that some of my consumption can be offset in other areas such as avoiding buying disposable containers and packaging. I tend to think that if we change our habits in areas that we consume greatly (daily coffee drinker? find a re-usable mug!) that individuals can make a difference in how greatly their consumption impacts the environment. I think it's important to present conservation as an attainable goal for even average consumers rather than making it seem like a target of some fringe environmentalist group.

While in Toronto I met this man who was living in an 81 Westy with a cat and living and consuming very moderately, unless you count the local beer reserves. I really like some of the modifications he had made to his van, especially the sunroof in the pop-top.

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I live in my Vans

When I left on this trip I SWORE I wasn't going to get grease on my new Vans.
Well, look at me now.

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Ontario, Again

I left for Toronto Wednesday morning and I had gone about 75 miles when I stopped at the Value Village in Cornwall, Ontario and when I started my van up again I discovered that the clutch was slipping really badly. I called Marc Amsden in Montréal and he said to have it towed to his place and he could look at it in a week. I already had an appointment for the next morning at Alpine motors in Toronto so I decided to have it towed there. I called for AAA roadside assistance and they sent Glen from Glen's towing and Glen brought his wife along so that I would feel more comfortable.

Glen informed me that I was eligible for 200 km free towing with my AAA plus membership so I had him tow me exactly that distance and then I called a second tow truck who only allowed me 160 km in keeping with the fact that I have a US membership which only allows 100 miles per tow. So, in the end, I was towed 440 km (275 miles) and paid $183. The driver left me in front of Alpine motors and I put the key through the slot in the door.

I took a taxi to my good friend Jill's house and made some linguini with tuna and olives and played with the dogs, Owen and Ahab.


On Friday Brenndan arrived in town and Alpine Motors called me to say that my van was ready. The new clutch with labor and parts cost $1300. Ouch.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Marc Amsden, Conversion specialist.

After a week of trying to find a VW specialist to look at my clutch and transmission, in addition trying to find a vegetable oil conversion specialist to help me find the restriction in the fuel system, a friend of a friend gave me Marc Amsden's card. Marc worked for 21 years at the VW dealership in Verdun and now builds vegetable oil conversion systems. What luck! Not only that, he agreed to look at my car on his day off AND only charged $50 per hour for labor. THEN after we talked for a while he said "Are you Chantale Doyle, the cartoonist? I loved your zines." My new favorite mechanic. Wow.

If you need a kind, thorough professional to work on your car in Montréal contact autoeem at videotron dot ca

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Too Many People, Not Enough Earth.

I found this article at overpopulation.org:

In the days of sailing ships, sailors used to leave goats on islands for fresh meat on return trips. The animals bred fast, ate all the vegetation and began to starve. They also screwed up the environment so that native species couldn't survive. The lesson of the goats applies to humans and point out how our "island" has suffered. There is pollution, falling water tables, climate change and extinction of wild plants and animals. We've created this problem because we've had virtually free energy in the form of fossil fuels. Climate change is a sign that we are exceeding the number of people Earth can sustain. Every year, at least 91 million humans are born in excess of those who die. Earth's carrying capacity is thought to be somewhere in the range of 4 billion to 5 billion people. There are 6.5 billion of us. No one is sure what the magic number is. You might have 50 billion, but the quality of life might not be pleasing. If the 1.3 million residents of Franklin County had to live on the resources the county could provide, only about 100,000 would live here. We happily import the vast majority of our needs. The US has the resources to sustain less than half of its current population of 300 million. Americans, who make up 5% of the world's population, use 25% of its resources. If all 6 billion people were to share the world's resources equally, Americans would have to reduce consumption by 80% for each of us. Carrying capacity is tied to the global economy, which has quadrupled since the world's population doubled. That leads to a fear that slowing population growth might not curb greenhouse gas production if more people achieve Western lifestyles. People ask how many people the Earth can sustain. It depends on whether you want to live like an Indian or an American. For example, farmers worldwide grow about 2 billion tons of grain every year. Each American consumes an average of 1,760 pounds annually, mainly because of the grains used to feed farm animals. If everyone on the planet consumed that much grain, Brown said, Earth would support about 2.5 billion people. In India, people consume about 440 pounds each. If everyone else in the world did likewise, the world's grain would support about 10 billion people. Growing 1 ton of grain requires 1,000 tons of water. There are water shortages in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. As water is diverted from agriculture to support growing urban populations. Soybeans are in demand for biodiesel and ethanol production vies with food for corn. By 2008, half of the U.S. corn crop may go to ethanol. 70% of all corn imports in the world come from the U.S. This competition for energy and food will change the landscape. We don't have enough land worldwide to meet those demands for food, fuel and materials that already consumes more trees and crops than are being grown worldwide. Humans are drawing on capital rather than interest, and once that is exhausted, they will find Mother Nature reluctant to make a loan.

Repairs

Ever since I arrived in Montréal I have been having a problem with my vegetable oil system. Thaddeus said that it sounds like there is a restriction in the fuel system and that I should try changing the fuel filter again. I have also been having problems shifting gears so I took it in to have the clutch looked at and the mechanic I saw said the problem is in the linkage system for the transmission. Today I changed the fuel filter at least and will have to drive it for a little while to see if that takes care of the first problem. As for the second problem, so far it's proven impossible to get in to see a VW specialist on short notice.

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Montreal

If I were to make a list of all the things that I love about Montréal and all the things that bother me which one would be longer? Some of the things that bother me about Montréal are the same things that bother me about Canada in general so does that count? Montréal is an incredible city, but often I find the language and culture issues a little ridiculous and I find that it creates a repressive atmosphere in which people seem scared to mingle. I asked a girl last night who moved here two years ago from BC what she likes about Québec and instead she told me what she doesn't like. She said that she finds French Canadians in general very racist, particularly towards First Nations people and asian Canadians. I found that very interesting because it also reflects my experience here, that I found many of the people I met to be more xenophobic than racist but when it is combined with the nationalistic sentiment that was so strong when I lived here (1990-1996) it makes for a scary atmosphere. After the 1995 Québec referendum on sovereignty was defeated the Parti Québecois leader, Jacques Parizeau said (but in french, of course) "It is true, it is true that we were beaten, but in the end, by what? By money and ethnic votes, essentially." He resigned as PQ leader and Québec Premier the next day. The Québec aboriginals played a large part in defeating the referendum as well, with over 95% of the Crees who voted voting against Québec sovereignty because it would violate international law and their treaties with Canada.

I'm not trying to say that all the French Québecois think the same way but I know and have heard from many people who have come here that when it comes to French language politics and social interaction, you're damned if you do, and damned if you don't. The girl I spoke to last night said that when she makes an effort to speak French that people will often just respond to her in English, which makes it additionally difficult to learn the language, or they will react as though she is being rude in making the assumption that they don't speak English. So isn't the easiest thing just to try and communicate, regardless of what language is being spoken?

I've already managed to offend at least one French Canadian with my take on the language used in Québec. I guess that's inevitable when there is so much emotion wrapped up in this issue, but for the sake of that particular argument I'm just going to say that I will take the language concerns in Québec more seriously when everyone here learn to speak Cree (or Innu or Mi'kmaq).

Someone said to me that the nationalistic sentiment here is not an issue of language, but rather a class issue. I believe that there is truth in that and that people who have been oppressed are likely to oppress others so understanding is crucial in our relationships and really, it wouldn't hurt to maintain a sense of humour too, because when it comes down to it doesn't it seem kind of funny to get emotionally wrapped up in this stuff when there is so much other injustice in our world?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Smart!


I had been thinking about getting a small cooler for beer and whatever and then I met Pshaw and Ben from Paper Rad and they showed me how to make this cooler using a water jug, some cardboard and newspaper for insulation. Cool.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Dangerous!

Anni and I went for a walk in the Mile end and you'll never GUESS who we ran into!


The Mile End

I spent the day in the mile end, the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood in North Montréal. This used to be the home to mostly Hasidic Jews, Poles, Russians and Greeks but is now over-run by anglo yuppies and their baby strollers. Rents have increased drastically in the last five years* but you can still buy a bagel fresh out of the oven for fifty cents and get great coffee in a totally non-starbucks environment. This used to be the suburbs to those of us who lived just a few blocks south on the Plateau Mont-Royal, you would only venture this far up Park Avenue to go to the Rialto theatre or maybe get some bagels. I treated myself to some chocolate rugelach at Cheskie's,

a hot bagel from St. Viateur Bagel and a decaf latte from café Olimpico. As I was leaving Olimpico I ran into my dear, old friend Jonathan Inksetter

and we drank our coffee together, then I went to Anni's house on Park and found her and Kate eating fancy cheese and home-made ice cream. I was trying to track down my good friend, Pam Dunns so Anni and I went for a walk and we bumped into Pam's neighbors and gave them the message for Pam to call me. By the way, for the last two days it has been freezing-ass cold and rainy here. People are experiencing all kinds of psychlogical trauma thinking that Fall has arrived and it's time to find a place to live and someone to snuggle with for the long, cold winter. It's seriously hard to believe that it is the middle of May!

* Montréal rents are still dirt cheap compared with most other large cities, you can still find an unheated two-bedroom apartment for $500 or less!

Poutine and Dangerous

On Saturday night I went to a show at SAT (Société des art Technologiques) where Peaches and Lesbians on Ecstasy were performing and I was frying up some samosas outside when Anni Lawrence stuck her head in the van and said hello. The last time I saw Anni was on a beach in Oaxaca, Mexico where we bumped into each other and spent a couple of days playing in the waves. Anyway, Anni and her twin sister, Kate hung out and fried samosas with me then went across the street and came back with a big, greasy Poutine. For those of you that don't get to eat a lot of French Canadian fast food, poutine is an order of greasy fries smothered in dark brown gravy and covered with cheese curds. Yes, cheese CURDS. It is packaged in an aluminum dish with a lid which allows the cheese curds to get all melty with the gravy. I don't know a single person in Montréal who has never woken after a night of binge drinking to find the empty poutine container nearby, taunting them with the memory of their debauchery. It's like a rite of passage.


Just after Anni returned with the poutine and a grilled cheese we all watched as a young man exited the show and just as Anni and Kate were whispering under their breath "No, no, don't come over here, no, keep walking.." our new friend, Dangerous climbed into the van and helped himself to some poutine.

So, we all had some poutine and samosas and then Dangerous stole this girl's silver baby and we all howled with laughter.



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Montreal

Yes, this is really how people talk here.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Ivanhoe

Oh..the perfect respite from cities and driving, Brenndan and I were guests of Josh and Claire on 200 acres of land east on Toronto in Ontario. We made food (apple-rhubarb pie anyone?), drank tequila and lit the fire crackers that I bought in Tennesee. Wow. then we visited Brenndan's mom on the way to the Montréal airport and she packed us a lunch of tuna sandwiches on kaiser rolls, hard boiled eggs and granny Smith apples. Thanks mom!


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Sunday, May 6, 2007

My Boyfriend, Brenndan McGyver

On the way from New York to we stopped to filter some grease and found that the pump for filtering the vegetable oil was not working properly. By putting our heads together we were able to fix it using an exacto knife, and eraser, a plastic bag and a stick.

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Saturday, May 5, 2007

New York


It was one thing to talk about it over dinner with Lauren and Diane but it was a whole other thing to DO it. I made a batch of bumper stickers that read "I heart Global Warming" to hand out to drivers of giant SUV's, Escalades, Hummers and what-have-you. Then I made a bunch of samosas and took the van down to an art opening at John Connelly in Chelsea and sold the stickers and gave the samosas away to demonstrate the use of used fry oil as fuel. People were super receptive so afterwards we moved it down to another gallery in the lower east side and set up there. The next night I did the same thing in front of Cinders gallery and Stay Gold. The restaurant is called Frybaby, look for me at an art opening in your neighborhood soon!

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Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Bronx

Wow! I was so lucky to meet Greg, who invited me to talk to a very special group of teenagers that he has been working with on art, environmental and self-publishing projects for four years. I met with this group at Lehman college in the Bronx where they meet twice a week. They were very interested in the conversion system and asked lots of questions about alternative fuels, recycling and environmental activism. Afterwards we went inside and talked about self-publishing and they interviewed me and and we brainstormed some ideas for the publishing project they are working on. More news about that soon.


Afterwards Brenndan and I went to the Bronx botanical garden and ate Jamaican soul food at Flava's on Third avenue. Mmm..we had fried plantains, mac and cheese, cabbage and rice and beans. It was delicious!

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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Baby Bee

Yay! I picked up Brenndan at the airport today when he flew in from France or Chicago or Toronto or someplace. My sweetie is finally home for a few days! We went to Dumbo and sat between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges and drank a bottle of Crozes-Hermitage that he brought from France and fed some cheese to the rats. Life doesn't get any better.

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