12.1.07

Verdun Unicorns


Stale Urine Yellow No. 52--"Outremont"


In the early oughts ('03, etc) there was an indie-pop band in Montreal that went by The Unicorns and they played fun songs under funny psedenums and sang about ghosts and dolphins and asked serious questions like, "Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone?" We will never really know the answer, as no one has cut my hair since they broke up a few years later, a few years ago.

Let me start over...

It was one of those days where you look out the window when you know someone is watching and suck in through your teeth and shake your head slowly and say someing inane like your grandfather would about the weather where you come from, when you were a kid, way back in the day. So, as might be expected, the unemployed warmed themsleves by the glow of daytime soaps, dart tournaments, and arm wrestling world championships presented several months later on tape delay. Much like the homeless warmed themselves on barrels of burning cats in Rocky, while Rock ran by in his grey sweats and Relic touque to Glass Tiger on his way to becoming champ, and all that crap.

After naps had been had, friends were met to see friends of friends strum unplugged guitar in the corner of quarter full-cafes. Penniless poet, struggling singer-songwriter, starving student, more jobs than time, not a dime, you know the rest, you have seen it all before. Friends are from Alberta. Friends of friends are from Alberta. Friends of friends of friends who strum unplugged guitars in corners of quarte- full cafes while belting out unrecognizable Radiohead covers with her eyes closed (pleasant none-the-less), also from Alberta. Every goddam one of us in this quarter-full cafe is Albertan. We all talk about Alberta over the hums and strums of the Albertan in the corner playing her unplugged guitar. We leave without buying a thing. We are from Alberta, after all (whatever that means).

Bus. Bus. Bus. Bus. Metro. In the depths a man who began white but browned with missuse, like a banana, held out a paper cup at the bottom of the downscalator begging penniless poets and struggling singer-songwriters for pennies we don't have. Beyond him, for his own homeless amusement, when there are no cans of cats to keep from freezing, a differnent browned man heckles the passers-by. All that my ears could make out was the heckle he had for me. A gem. "Kurt Cobain lives." Indeed.

No one knows for sure. Where the friend of a friend is playing more music in another cafe. All we were told was to show up early. We are half-an-hour late. Past Beals, past Subway, past Stop-n-Shop...* The place is called "Blue Monday Cafe." Naturally they are playing Blue Monday. There is no sign of music having been played, or going to be played--so we wait. Half-an-hour late.

The Blue Monday Cafe, were it set in Valencia, would have been the setting of Richler's The Acrobats, being that it was crowded--and I mean crowded--with individuals of similar dress and political vision. Left, left, and further left. The Blue Monday Cafe sells organic vegan sandwichs, soft drinks, and coffees and teas. They have a book exchange on a ratty old shelf against the wall, and the 2007 Prisoner of War on Terror benefit calanders available at the counter for $15. The Blue Monday Cafe is just slightly bigger then the little dank room I find myself glaring at from my air mattress. And by the time we arrive--half-an-hour late--it is filled to capacity with communists and anarchists who are dressed in vintage store finds with similarly styled nests of hair swirled about the tops of their dream-filled head. They are there to have tea and a good time.

We are over-dressed, in our over-coats and over-shoes, and stand in the corner uncertain of how to go about standing in the corner of this crowded organic vegan communist anarchy cafe in far-flung Verdun. We try not to stick out like the sore thumbs we are. But a sore thumb throbs. Before I had time to fidget and crack wise about the wares for sale on the ratty shelf behind me, or for purchase in the cigarette vending machine-turned-local artists' goods dispenser, a young lady who didn't believe in soap, combs, or bras approached me and asked, "are you Sean?" The most I could muster was a timid, barely-audible, "uh...no." Did I say timid? I meant deathly affraid. I have been accused of anarchism in the past, but never had I been at a meeting. I couldn't help but think that my nomination to the supreme court would be blocked in 2034 when photos or a list surfaced of me in The Blue Monday Cafe in Verdun, Quebec on Thursday January 11, 2007.

Eventually the musicians showed up. Musician time is like chain-smoking grandma time, 1-3 hours behind the rest of us with our clocks and watches and whatnot. Among them was a disinterested, quiet, bored, looking guy in a cowboy shirt. A skinny ex-Unicorn in brown pants and rubber boots. And his Chinese girlfriend (that will mean something later). The later was the friend of the friend.

A corner of The Blue Monday Cafe floor is cleared of hip hipster hippies and opera singers (no joke) so that xylophones (or whatever the hell they go by these days), guitars, accordians, violins, and musicians perched upon the few precious chairs could be set up.

The ex-Unicorn began with a short speech about Gitmo, about Gitmo north (in Kingston) about things that can be done, consult the flyers on the cigarette vending machine-turned-local artist's goods dispenser, under the pile of coats created by the ever-growing over capacity crowd. Then he played to magnificent songs about various things I couldn't quite make out. The first one and the best one were both called "Arcade Fire is a Lie." I liked it for that reason alone, forget the fact of how amazing it was before he got to the part about Arcade Fire being a lie. It was political. I should have payed closer attention to the lyrics, but they went through a lot of attentive ears before they got to mine. So you will have to excuse me.

When his songs were through there was confusion caused by the continued onslaught of viewers in spite of the "Capacite plein/Full Capacity" scribbled on yellow paper with a sharpie and taped to the door with green masking tape. In the face of a minor revolt by the 75-odd underwashed revolutionaries, the proprietor with the neck tattoo where her hair line should have rightly been threw up her hands in surrender. At which point the few revolutionaries who sought the compromise of rotating excess patrons through an elaborate wait out in the freezing cold and take turns sitting on the dirty floor listening to lo-fi unplugged music came back in and stood by the door for a song-or-so before finding their old spots on the floor--still warm. Somehow the threat of a large fine from the police in the police car that had driven by several times already this night did not seem to phase the crowd.

Next up was ex-Unicorn accompanying his girlfriend on her accordian. But she was waiting for people from Brazil to show up and crowd into the over-crowded Blue Monday Cafe, so she allowed the bored violinist and the ex-Unicorn to play in her place. They played several songs of various sorts. From original compositions to Romanian gypsy songs tought to young Adam, or Andrew, by his Romanian Gypsy teacher--a great guy.

Reviews of this portion on the metro-ride-home-debrief were somewhat mixed. The bored violinist was accused of being boring. But I disagree with my fellow Albertan friend of a friend. I found the bored violinsit to be disarming and unpretentious. He was likely smarter, better looking, more talented and a better lover than 95% of the audience, but he didn't flaunt it or show off, even though he was putting on a show. He was non-challant in a folksy way. I approve. Not to mention the fact that if you open with a Romanian Gypsy song tought to you by a Romanian Gypsy, accompanied by an Unicorn, to a tiny cafe over-flowing with Communists and Anarchists, you could have a nap on your chair in the corner for the remainder of your time and I would still approve.

Lastly, the accordianed girlfriend played her half-dozen songs accompanied by the Unicorn on xylophone or guitar, depending on his mood and how apt he was to wrestling a strapless classical guitar into submission from a standing position, and the odd wee-waaw of the bored violinists non-challant violin. The girlfriend played the accordian with enough vigour and pizzaz to make it a unique experience. Which isn't really saying much because anytime an accordian makes and appearance or even so much as crosses your mind it is an unique experience. Hell, I lived on a street with an Accordian Studio a few blocks down and it was a unique experience (that might have also had something to do with the building containing a hair extension, trophey, industrial electrical fitting stores and a Tai-Chi Dojo under the same roof next door to me). Then the highlight, of a night of many, happened when the girlfriend began to sing songs in Mandarin. I have no idea but I am sure they were about ghosts and unicorns too.

All they while the blue jeans I was wearing, that I had bought in high school at a discount place for a discount, were marred with a large mitten sized cow shit stain on the shin. A relic from home. I noticed on the metro ride home and it made me smile.


Deformed Medicine Ball-sized Hole in the Paint

*Lyrics from Okkervil River's "The Warcriminal Rises and Speaks." Just so there is no confusion.
Pictures taken by Caroline Area Man 11.1.07, Montreal, Quebec.

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