Friday, December 24, 2004

Bah, humbug.

Having succumbed to a brief spell of holiday cheer, I foolishly decided that I would go Christmas shopping today. This act not only annihilated any good feeling I previously possessed, but it also reminded me that as both a Marxist and an atheist, I have no reason whatsoever to give a fuck about Christmas.

I set off for the journey downtown in my heaviest sweater and parka, only to discover that Montreal was immersed in a nearly tropical warm front. In addition to being hideously overdressed for the freakish weather, I found myself wading through slush puddles the size of small lakes to get to the bus stop. As I waited for the Parc bus, it began to lightly rain, which made me curse myself for forgetting an umbrella that I should have had no need of again until spring.

The bus proceeded to crawl down Parc Avenue, which was clogged with lumbering SUVs, and took over twenty minutes to make three stops. Walking briskly, I can travel this same distance on foot in ten. It would be forty minutes before I arrived at St. Catherine Street, which was clogged with lumbering pedestrians so accustomed to driving SUVs that they have completely forgotten how to walk in an urban environment. Even at the best of times, Montreal pedestrians have a tendency to be annoyingly slow; during holidays, they are positively catatonic.

The shops were predictably crowded, and within minutes of entering the Bay I was beaded with a parka-induced sweat. The main floor was festooned with garish Christmas decorations and reeked of a thousand clashing notes of perfume, which, if there was any justice in the world, would be as strictly controlled by municipal authorities as cigarette smoke, if not more so. Gasping for breath, I made my way past a meandering herd of disoriented husbands who stood square in the middle of every aisle, blindly peering into jewellery display cases for some trinket that might inspire their disillusioned wives to give them blow jobs slightly more often, or at least to feign interest in their jobs or professional sports. I circled the accessories department at least three times trying to find the escalators, which finally drew me down into the very bowels of the store—i.e., Men’s Fashions.

Here, I was surrounded by conservative, Canadian hyper-masculinity, all fake oak and thick, shirt-collared necks and almost ascetically formless trousers. Maybe the poor sods’ wives would up the blow-job quota if they would just show the slightest suggestion of ass once in a while, at least on Casual Fridays? As though sensing my thoughts, the aisle I was following led straight to the underwear section, where I briefly fraternized with a small army of Calvin-Klein outfitted mannequins with identical Ken-doll packages straining against their wares. I wondered how many conservative, Canadian men actually wear Calvin Kleins under their tan chinos, and of those, what percentage is gay.

Having secured gift number one, I exited the Bay, whereupon I discovered that the light rain that fell earlier had since become a torrential downpour. By the time I reached HMV I was drenched, which made the experience of shopping at HMV that much worse. It has been quite a while since I shopped at a record store—I’m sorry, multi-media outlet—and having reacquainted myself with the experience I have vowed never to do so again. The mainstream entertainment industry deserves its imminent demise for saddling the consumer with ridiculous prices, lousy selection, and practically brain-dead staff, and as far as I’m concerned it can’t come soon enough. Chapters was as bad as HMV but in a superficially literary way; any bookstore that stocks more self-help books than works of philosophy and literature combined should be rewarded with immediate bankruptcy.

By the time I returned home the temperature had dropped ten degrees, and the lakes of water at every corner had already begun to freeze. Maybe if I try hard enough I can sleep through Christmas and arise, Jesus-like, in the new year?

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