The white building in the middle, on the second floor: 2005-2007, me. These are the people in my neighbourhood: Hasidic Judaism (as pictured); Hellenic (Greek) Canadians (my landlord, a lot of landlords); hipsters behind every window. For a number of years now, my brain has deprived me of sleep trying to make a really good 4-H club joke. It cannot be done.
It’s possible that I worked in way too many references to Montreal in the first few classes I taught. You could have made a drinking game out of it. Maybe there was one, some of those back rows got rowdy. I had to cut a huge chunk of this Old is New project on account of it read like a nostalgia-soaked ode to Mile End glory days. It’s wishful thinking. I had no glory days in Montreal. Montreal was a difficult time in my life. I know that I’ve talked about that already, and probably already too much, but how can I not? The person that came out of Montreal bore almost no resemblance to the person who’d gone in. I wouldn’t wish those years on anybody.
I remember Montreal fondly because I’ve always felt that my ruin would have been so much worse had it happened anywhere else. I don’t know really how to explain it except to say it always felt like Montreal’s kindness sustained me, that all the staircases of Mile End kept patting me on the shoulder, telling me “c’est pas grave.” But it was grav. My suffering seemed to me infinite and I did my level best to spread it around: despair for you, self pity for you, nihilism all ‘round. Those who befriended me usually came off the worse for it. “Downbound Train” territory. Wait, have I already referenced “Glory Days”? Idiotically, the past fifteen years of my life has often felt like being stuck in a Springsteen song, possibly all of them. Wait, wait, wait…“When You’re Alone”, last one.
Elsewhere, I talk a bit about “These Days” the Jackson Browne song made most famous by Nico. I really think I’d probably argue that Gregg Allman’s version is best. If it wasn’t for the boneheaded lyric change Allman makes at the key moment. It’s super irritating because there you are singing along saying “Please don't confront me with my failures…” and then, as you’re belting basically the best line of the whole song, where Nico and Jackson go “I have not forgotten them,” Gregg goes rogue and sings, “I am aware of them.”
I am aware of them? Dude, it's a dud! You can hear the sound of the rest of the band grimacing their faces into a fake grin in their employer’s direction. Great lyric change, boss-man! Gregg, you’re the man!