Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Smoking Section has moved!

I am pleased to announce that The Smoking Section has a new home: Please update your links, bookmarks, feed readers, and other blog paraphernalia accordingly.

See you on the other side!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Vila does Yulblog




For the complete lowdown, click here.

For the comic, click here.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


So, it looks like Frank’s going, which substantially increases the likelihood that I’ll go.

What about the rest of you? Will you brave the bone-chilling winds to raise a glass with your fellow scribes? C'mon, you know you want to… (Grins.)

Friday, February 02, 2007

On leaving


Given enough time, a building will start to feel like home. You get to know the cracks, the weak step, the sticky lock. You become chatty with the neighbours. You learn the janitor’s name. If you had to, you could find your way around in the dark. This comforts you.

Then, the restlessness comes, like it always does. Honestly, half of you was already gone.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The drugs don’t work

I’ve been thinking a lot about drugs lately, in large part because other people have been thinking about them. Within the span of a week, I learned that Frank has never done them, that Tornwordo has tried them but didn’t like them, and that spiders weave really fucked up webs when they’re on them.

I also learned that scientists, having unveiled the role of the insula in translating drug-induced sensations into pleasure, are practically tripping over themselves trying to find ways to deactivate this part of the brain, possibly through magnetic stimulation or, alternatively, by pharmaceutical means. Just turn off the pleasure switch and the drugs disappear.

Somewhere in the midst of all this reading, it began to occur to me that the drug experiences I have had in my life may not be as common as I think they are, and that this would explain a whole hell of a lot. But that’s a story for another day.

For now, I want to talk about this extraordinary column by Heather Mallick, which is ostensibly about the Robert Pickton trial but is really about drugs. Mallick begins with a bold statement about the occupation of the murdered women: that prostitution is a side-effect of drug addiction. From there, she discusses middle-class alcoholism, the novels of Edward St. Aubyn, and the parallels between addicts and refugees, before concluding with these remarks:

To think that women died because they didn't have the drug their body and soul demanded, and they were unfortunate enough that the drug wasn't liquor, which they could buy at the corner store.

Why the hell aren't we making all drugs available to all adults? Yes, we'd have another mess on our hands, but it would be a better mess than women's heads sliced in half and left in buckets. It would instantly drain the power of violent criminals. Yes, prostitutes need protection. But perhaps we could make it unnecessary for them to climb into a car and ride into the fetid, bloody pit of death that we will peer into during this trial.

All this for a little heroin, a little cocaine, a willingness to admit that people's bodies and brains need what they need. All these things these women, The Desperates, didn't get from us because they were lumped into an undesirable group of people who need something so desperately they would go anywhere to get it.

Yes, I'd say that's about right. Wouldn't you?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Last stop 'til winter

Originally posted to Metroblogging Montreal, Oct. 5, 2005.

It was an incongruous day. I emerged from my apartment to find the staircase covered in dry, yellow leaves, yet the temperature stood at nearly thirty degrees. As I ran the day's errands I felt impossibly sad, knowing that this is well and truly the last gasp of summer. There is no turning back now.

It is, as every Montrealer knows, harder to be alone in winter. The whole city retreats indoors, leaving the streets and parks to the snow. Warmth becomes a precious substance, one that is forever leaking out through the cracks in things, which are, suddenly, everywhere. Baseboard heaters struggle audibly, clicking and clanking without discernible effect. On certain days, even the Café is too cold to bear.

In winter, the smallest gestures of physical intimacy are survival techniques: the feet that share warmth under a blanket, the torsos that draw closer in sleep. As the warmest part of the body, the belly is transformed into a fetish object beneath its scratchy layers of wool. Extremities don't stand a chance.

In sex, we become as modest as Victorians, finding our passions only under a mountain of bedclothes. If we are clever, we arrange ourselves in such a way as to create a hothouse, which recycles the heat of our breath until orgasm or oxygen depletion overcomes. There is simply no other way, as bodily fluids will freeze upon contact with air.

In the absence of sex, a Montreal bed is as cold as a grave. There is no love in this city in winter, only the will to live.

These are the thoughts that were with me today, until I met K. on our favourite terrasse. Defiantly, I drank a glass of sangria, which tasted as sweet to me as honey.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Paging Dr. Freud

Is that a snake in your blog post or are you just happy to see me?


Environment Canada

Currently Observed at:
Montréal-Trudeau Int'l Airport
2:00 AM EST
Monday 29 January 2007


Temperature -17°C
Pressure/ Tendency 100.9 kPa↑
Visibility 10 km
Humidity 87 %
Dewpoint -19°C
Wind W 5 km/h

I have to leave a bar to have a motherfucking cigarette, but today's weather is smoke? Oh, and there's also a smog warning in effect. Breathe easy, people...

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Fait accompli

Some of you have been asking, so I guess an explanation is in order.

Last week, I stepped down from my position as president of a teaching assistants’ union. I made the decision to leave in November, but I should have made it a year before, when I collapsed in a fit of tears in the middle of Parc Avenue.

Those who know me well know that I rarely lose my composure in public, and when I do, that something is deeply wrong. In retrospect, the fit was a sign that the pressures of trying to complete a PhD while working at what amounted to a full-time job had taken its toll, and that it would only get worse. Which it did.

The problem was, I loved my work, or, more accurately, what my work was for, and I’ve never been quick to walk away from what I love. Even when it’s not especially good for me. In this case, though, I was reminded of the fact that I am walking toward something immeasurably better, or at least, that I’m trying to.

And so, I applied for a student loan, which I had sworn to myself I wouldn’t do again as long as I lived. As I waited for the government’s response, I worried myself sick about the decision I had made and very nearly reversed it. Arit, whose opinion I trust more than anyone’s, put it to me starkly: “Vila, you have to quit your job.” The note of concern in her voice convinced me that she was right.

Already, I can feel a difference. The daily flood of phone calls and emails has slowed to a trickle. There are no more agendas to plan, egos to soothe, crises to narrowly avert. Most of all, I don’t feel like I have the weight of two thousand people on my shoulders, seemingly all of whom require my attention more urgently than I do.

For now, I’m just letting myself exhale.

Saturday, January 27, 2007



Last day


Handshakes, meeting, report. I wish the new president luck, then escape for drinks with J. We talk about climate change, our first boyfriends, the painting she’s working on—anything but work. Slowly, the union disappears.

She asks me if I’ll miss it. I say yes, and no.

Walking home, I think about other, quieter passions and the prospect of time. As I turn the key, I realize that tomorrow is finally my own.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

"It's all gotten a bit glum, hasn't it?"

Peter O'Toole and Jon Stewart on the joys of white wine and cigarettes.

High-definition sex

Why HDTV is bad for porn stars and other living things.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


I went to Husk’s show last night. We found each other before he took the stage, both of us peering through the dark at the back of the room. I asked his name as a question, still unsure. He said, simply, “It’s you.”

At these moments, you feel the contradiction: you are intimate strangers, ideas extracted from bodies and lives and arranged on a screen. Then, suddenly, the idea becomes a person, with a voice and a smile and hands that are warmer than yours.

It takes a little while to sink in, but you’re glad when it does.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Another day, another petition

If you're looking for the petition to save the Spectrum, you can find it here.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The majority rule

From the New York Times:

[T]here is no going back to a world where we can assume that marriage is the main institution that organizes people’s lives.
Well, about bloody time.