Cone of cold

January 16, 2009

When a similar cold spell hit before the holidays, CBC Radio’s weather folks kept referring to it as a “cone of cold.” Another such cone descended a few days ago, and apparently intends to stick around for another few.  And it’s really cold this time.  When trodden upon, the hard-packed snow sounds like styrofoam.  My left eye (the more watery of the two in the cold) has frozen shut twice, a mildly panic-inducing sensation. I actually put a coat on the dog when we go outside*.  Everyone walks with their head down, the parks are deserted all day, cars make dispirited death-rattles in the morning.  Most of my windows are frosted over, which is actually quite pretty if you don’t think too much about what’s causing it.

I watched an episode of the ridiculous Man vs. Wild last weekend in which our hero descended upon Siberia.  As he leapt from the plane, he warned the audience that temperatures were so cold that you could die within minutes: -20C.  Perhaps he should parachute onto the Main or Crescent Street this weekend and get some tips from the clubbers who want to wear their favourite cute shoes and not pay for coat check.  He could show them his secret of using a dead deer’s leg as a walking stick, and they could… well, buy him a drink at least.

And to clarify: this is not what I like about winter.

*I hate pets in clothes, but she has such short hair, nearly died from pneumonia before I adopted her, and is clearly struggling to breathe comfortably when it’s -36C in the morning.  I can’t get her to wear boots though, which it unfortunate as salty sidewalks dry out her feet to the point where they sometimes crack and bleed.  But she tears the boots off the minute I’m not looking, and I have limited patience for dog-dressing.


So. 2009.

January 7, 2009

I have resolutions this year, unlike last year.  Simple ones, like flossing and washing my face before going to bed, rather than just haphazardly swiping with toner.  “Completing the diss” isn’t a resolution, though, as that has to happen regardless, and if it comes to it, I’d prefer to look back and think “Yeah, I still didn’t floss.”  But since 2009 is now in full swing (i.e. I’ve already finished grading and gone back to writing), not much more needs to be said about the new year.  Or about the holidays for that matter – spent some time with R.’s family, he spent some with mine, everybody liked everyone, I ate a ton of shortbread in defiance of the gift certificate I received for The Running Room.

About the grading: my students’ take-home exam was to pitch their own Canadian film or television series, and to justify their creative decisions by referencing relevant class material.  This made things much more interesting for them, they said, and definitely more so for me.  My favourite line was from a pitch for a zombies-in-Montreal thriller, in which the student was discussing the use of hand-held cameras and linking it to Canadian film’s roots in the realist/documentary tradition: “In keeping with this realism, the zombies will be of the ‘sprinter’ variety . . . ”  Excellent.

It’s been snowing continuously all day, which pleases me more than others.  Each time I pop Alice out for a pee she spins herself in excited circles then dashes headlong into the nearest drift.  I’ve kept a pot of coffee warm for hours, decreasing in inverse proportion to the snow delicately building on my porch railing.  I think both are now nearly done, but as this is January in Montreal and as I’m writing my last major chapter, there will be more tomorrow.


February 24, 2008

I think I’ve had enough of winter. Shocking, I know – me, having enough of winter. It hit me today at Winners (an unseemly number of my revelations happen at Winners). I was there buying sweatpants. Yes, sweatpants. Don’t you judge me. When the weather gets marginally warmer, when the sun is out and the sidewalks are covered in that thin layer of slippery dirty water, my pants get very filthy very quickly, due in large part to splash-back from the dog’s four-legged prancing. I’m sick of seeing brown-from-the-knees-down pants drying in my bathroom, and of doing laundry every other day, so a pair of dedicated dog-walking pants just makes sense. I also eyed some cute hoodies, and imagined heading out early one quiet Sunday spring morning with the dog and a coffee when the reality hit me – sure, I’d wear the snug sweatpants and cute hoodie, but sprawled bra-less on the couch watching Six Feet Under and wondering where I could get a will notarized. I wouldn’t even bother doing up the drawstring on the pants. Because it’s still cold, because it’s reading week and most of my friends have left, are shacked up, or laid up, because I have a stack of essays to grade, a decent stash of red wine and Bailey’s, and a dog who doesn’t judge based on sweatpants.
True, I’m leaving. But briefly: a 36-hour working trip consisting of dinner, lecturing at York, dinner, and then back. It’ll be grey and grimy in Toronto too. Right now I want sunshine and dry sidewalks and wide-open windows and a breeze promising more warmth to come. I want to procrastinate on my porch again. I want to drink beer on patios and nap in parks. I want to leapfrog to the tail end of spring and avoid the need for dog-walking pants altogether.


February 20, 2008

I bundled up and took the dog out to see the lunar eclipse this evening. We headed to the relative darkness of the canal and stood staring at the sky (well, I stood; the dog’s not much for even amateur sky-gazing, but she did dig a few admirably deep holes in the hard-packed snow). Looking around I noticed we weren’t the only ones – more than a dozen other people were strewn along the banks and the bridge, some with cameras, most dancing lightly in place to keep warm. To my right a group of parka-clad teenagers passed around bottles and flasks and tried to impose a countdown on the eclipse. That took me back. The father of the boy I dated throughout highschool had a well-stocked observatory, and we had various astronomical parties with our friends. I watched the moon slowly turn reddish and, like Fievel, thought about my other friends now scattered everywhere marvelling at the same display.
As the last sliver of white disappeared everyone stopped moving. And after a minute we dispersed along well-lit streets, casting backwards glances as we fled the cold. The next total eclipse is in 2010. I wonder where I’ll be, and if those teenagers will still find somewhere to stand and cheer the moon on.

together at last! That’s right, predicting winter’s expiry date may no longer be a male’s job. The times they are a-changin’.

Verdun, somehow.

December 10, 2007

Since the canal paths don’t really get cleared in the winter, I’m back to running on the streets. I’ve spent the past week trying to figure out a workable route, with little success so far, mostly because it seems that regardless of my initial direction I keep ending up in Verdun. Things aren’t as griddy here in the sud-ouest. What I envision as a simple loop becomes a spiraling vortex, with Verdun at its centre. Don’t misunderstand – I have nothing against Verdun, it’s just not where I intend to be when I lace up my sneakers and leave the house.
When I’m not getting lost in Verdun, I’m running along the back ends of factories and warehouses, buildings with high fences and pacing guard dogs. It’s starkly compelling – save for the occasional lumbering truck the streets are grimly quiet and the sidewalks empty, while men alone with their cigarettes watch with indifference from hooded doorways. I like it. Though my knees miss the canal’s softer terrain, and while a map shoved into my pocket would no doubt be useful, I like stumbling onto these streets and knowing I’ve somehow made my way closer to home.