Sunday, November 23, 2014

zipper shopping in downtown montreal

I needed to buy a zipper but there are no longer any fabric stores in downtown Montreal. This clearly hasn't occasioned an outcry. I must be the only who sometimes needs thread or a button or a zipper.
Sure, there's dollar store thread that a 2-yr-old can break. Or I can head up to St. Hubert and buy an industrial-sized bobbin, but I don't want 50 kilometers of yellow thread, and St. Hubert is way across the city from where I live.
Since when did a few minor sewing repairs become something only people who live in the suburbs do? Please, yes, I would like to petition one of the zillions of Starbucks in the downtown core to open a nook with threads and zippers for people who still do at-home repairs. Or a bookstore like Renaud-Bray or Indigo. They're selling everything else to make up for the seeming dearth of books in the world. Why not add a selection of thread to the woven napkins and mugs?

I looked online and found the closest fabric store near the end of a subway line. I came out at the intersection of two four-lane speedways. Whichever direction I faced, I could buy a hamburger, a soft drink, a donut. There was a mega-grocery store, a Walmart, a Toys "R" Us. I was supposed to head northwest to find the fabric store where I could buy a zipper. However, since each of the four corners looked the same--there are no identifying features to Shopping Land and Parking Lots--I didn't know which way was northwest.
The last time I came to Shopping Land and Parking Lots, I discovered that asking people which way east and west was confused them. I asked whether they lived in the area. Oui. Yes. Could you tell me please--pourriez vous me dire s'il vous plaît...
So forget cardinal directions. I asked if they knew which way was downtown, because even when I was a kid living in the country I knew which way the big lights were.
Downtown? Nobody knew where downtown was either. Who needs big lights when you're in Shopping Land and Parking Lots?
I walked for a long time in what I could only assume was the wrong direction because I never found the fabric store. I decided to turn around and see if it was the other way. Damp sidewalk, grey sky, the roar of traffic and gigantic store lights. (That's not a missing Oxford comma. I mean: the roar of traffic and [the roar of] gigantic store lights.)
I took a chance by accosting a fellow who was loping along, minding his own business, wary of a woman with a question. I begged his pardon and asked if he knew where downtown was. He reared his head as if doubting my sanity. I'm lost, I told him. He nodded behind his shoulder. The direction I was going. Thanks, I said. Merci.
I found the store, bought my zipper.

In other not entirely unrelated news, I started knitting again--after 30 yrs of not knitting--only to discover that pieces of knitting that are stitched together have largely been replaced by patterns that are knit entirely in the round. I wasn't sure I liked that idea--all that weight all at once. However, I'm a few projects along and decided to try. There are several yarn and knitting supply stores closer to the center of the city. Knitting seems to be cool. Sewing isn't. Or at least not cool enough.

For my first try, I did an experiment with a tiny newborn sweater for Baby Larkin!

I was also asked to knit/crochet a beard for a doctor who needed a disguise.

Monday, November 17, 2014

an anonymous author (tongue twister)

Writers react differently to being published. Some tell everyone and then some. Some want only to write and nothing to do with marketing or becoming a public personality. Though, as a rule, even if only when cuddled up in bed, authors are happy to see their name on the spine of a book. That's me! That's me! That's me me me!

Last week I decided to paint my office which meant having to move all the books. Big job. Not impossible but enough of a schlep that I've been putting off painting for years.
1) I bought paint which meant I had to do it, since I can't afford to waste money.
2) I took a few hundred photos off the walls, pried out the nails, puttied and sanded the holes.
3) I moved all the books off the shelves onto the floor of another room.

I group my books loosely under the authors' names. All the A's together, the B's etc. You get the idea. I carried armloads of G's to the next room, armloads of L's, and so on.

I happened to notice a book with no author's name. Not on the spine, nor on the front of the book, nor the back. There is no title page. I can't find the author's name anywhere in the book. The author isn't nobody because she (I decided it's a she) has acknowledged the Arts Council of Ireland and a couple other foundations and writing residencies who gave her financial support during the writing of the book. One of her short stories was included in a collection Haruki Murakami edited. Another story was published in Granta. Most writers would be flinging their name in every cardinal direction.

Now I am wondering about this woman who published a book but did not name herself. Sure, I can find out who she is online because there is a title on a cover page and the stories inside the book have titles. Still. It's curious.

Here's my room, freshly painted, desk pushed back into place. No clutter yet. Books very slowly being carried back to the shelves on the other side of the room.

Monday, November 10, 2014

sea glass / la gaspésie autumn 2014

I told my doctor I was going to the sea and he said to collect sea glass. I'm not sure what bearing sea glass has on my thyroid, but I welcome these forays into non-traditional medicine.

On this last trip to the Gaspé, in late autumn, the water was rougher with whole tree trunks washed ashore. Sometimes we ended up clambering along rocks and still got splashed. 

I don't know if my doc has rules about collecting sea glass. Whether it has to be a certain colour or shape or collected at a certain time of day. He grumbled about the prevalence of plastic in today's world--all too true--and how there soon wouldn't be any sea glass, only junk tossed up.
Indeed, there's always human litter. As small as tampon applicators, as large as car fenders. Sometimes a happy coincidence makes the litter cute. This piece of plastic did a stint as an ad hoc vase. The next high tide washed it away.

Sea glass isn't just broken glass--as in last week's bottle of Beaujolais tossed off a ship. The broken edges have to be smooth, the sheen worn away until the surface is hazed or frosted. For that to happen takes anywhere between 20 and 50 yrs of tumbling about in the waves. There are other factors too--pH, soda, lime... This man, Richard Lamotte, who began collecting sea glass for his wife who makes jewellery, has become a specialist.   

I pick up glass because I do. I don't look for it. I see it now and then, stoop, examine it, slip it in my pocket. Back at the house, I drop it in a milk jug. I didn't bring it back to Montreal, so I hope my doc doesn't need it for further diagnostic study of my thyroid.

I don't take green glass because it's so common on the shore in front of our house. Though I will pick up green if there are letters or it's an unusual shape.

I do wonder where all the green comes from. It's a Heineken or Sprite bottle green, but there can't be that many people out there drinking Heineken and Sprite--20 to 50 yrs ago, remember. Especially in this province where domestic beer in brown bottles is more popular than imported. And where one of the pejorative nicknames for Quebecois used to be "Pepsis" because once upon a time that was the soft drink of choice here. Though who knows from how far away all that green glass washes in? Newfoundland? England? Sweden? Greenland?

The next most common glass is clear, which becomes white from its time in the sea, then turquoise then brown. Rare is yellow. I've yet to find red or orange. 

As always, we walked by the sea. We walked in the woods and hills behind the house.
I look for the last dying colours before the winter comes.

This stretch of coastline is my daily walk. It's low tide so the water is far out. I aim for the yellow house with the red roof in the distance, the perspective of receding hills, each a little more cloaked in mist.

Here's our neighbour's house. It's a cedar shingle house built maybe in the 1920s. Once--only once--she invited us in and showed us which room she was born in and where she slept as she was growing up. She was moved every time a new child was born. The coveted place during the winter was next to the stove pipe where it goes from the kitchen to the roof. She has the original tongue and groove cupboards in the kitchen, though she's painted the slats in alternating stripes of violet, cream, and lavender. I was dying to take pictures but that would have offended her mightily. She lives here alone, though her daughter has invited her many times to move to the city. "Not me." R asked about her husband. She scoffed. "Never needed one of those." 

Work on the upstairs of our house is ongoing. R hammers and saws and curses for awhile, has a nap and picks up a hammer again.

I worked on my writing and went for walks. I'm endlessly fascinated by the slosh and swoosh and smash of the waves. I've been coming to the Gaspé for more than 30 yrs and am still astounded by how high and low the tides are. (Such an inland geek.) Here is a huge boulder of pink granite that's almost covered at high tide. I'm behind it now--not crouched, I assure you. Standing on tiptoe.

On our last day we got a foretaste of the monochromatic months to come. The hills are covered in mist. The snow is up to my knees.