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The Canadian Grand Prix

I had a bad dad.

One lesson my dad did teach me, though — and quite by accident — is how to spot other bad dads and people who had them. What kinds of bad dads? Weinstein bad? Epstein bad? Frankenstein bad? D: All of the steins. Nicole Spector and I were friends on Twitter.

This is why I so despise the F1 weekend in Montreal, I realized. It is a concentrated convergence of grand pricks in wrinkled suits that descend like bad dads upon this otherwise fair city, drinking whisky, smoking cigars, banging hookers, burning rubber, and all right around Father’s Day. This year it’s as if they were astrologically aligned. I shouldn’t take it personally. But I do.

Another lesson I learned later in life was from a film called Shame, directed by Steve McQueen. The British Black filmmaker/photographer, not the White American movie star/race car driver. I sympathize with Michael Fassbinder’s character because we are about the same age, if not the same shoe size. And also because of the brutality of addiction to tame trauma that the story portrays. It’s sex for Fassbinder’s Brandon, but it could be anything: whisky, cigars, rubber.

The family trauma is never revealed in the film. But Sissy, Brandon’s sister, played by Carey Mulligan, indicates its dark sexual nature. She reminds her brother in a moving line of dialogue: just because we come from a bad place does not make us bad people.

So this Father’s Day, if you had a bad dad, I see you. And if you had a good dad — or no dad — be glad. Because unless you’re Roger fucking Waters, coming up dadless is decidedly the better draw.

Ky with HRT and Genital Shame, La Sotterenea, 1 June 2023

There are such things as evil spirits. They can inhabit anyone. One of the most common and overlooked ways that this happens is alcohol.

Recently at a show celebrating the album launch of the Montreal artist Ky, an extremely intoxicated man wandered into La Sotterenea. There was simply no security to stop him. His visage was grizzled from drink and life on the street. His behaviour reflected no vestige of autonomy. He bounced around the room like a pinball, alternately asking patrons for change, and scanning the floor for anything of value.

I was worried for a moment that he may accost someone, possibly me, and an altercation might ensue. But fortunately, or unfortunately, depending upon your perspective, there was exactly nothing for this lost soul in the basement of La Sotterenea. And so he simply ascended the stairs and was spat back out into the night.

There was once a human there. Though his body is now animated entirely by a poison colloquially called spirits. This man was not in good spirits. That is, good spirits did not possess the man.

The Montreal Museum of Illusions

There is, though, some light still left in the world. One place it’s found is in that innocent sense of childlike astonishment at optical illusions. I will never forget a New Years Eve party I attended one year where a group of friends brought their kids. There happened to be a book of optical illusions on the coffee table, and Mrs. Doubtfire couldn’t have made a better babysitter.

The Museum of Illusions, newly opened in Old Montreal, is just such a place. It’s a welcome addition to a previously derelict stretch of St. Antoine, and an excellent way to entertain the whole family when visiting Montreal, or just coming in to the city from the suburbs at the weekend. Ironically, the illusory brings us back in touch with life’s important, real things.

Orchestre Metropolitain, Symphonic Explorations, Maison Symphonique, 11 June 2023

Lately the authorities have been testing the REM network. And one problem I don’t think they anticipated is how loud the things are. It’s a ghostly noise, too, those empty cars gliding back and forth on elevated tracks.

I identified a similar sound in Keiko Devaux’s newest piece, which premiered triumphantly at the Orchestre Metropolitain’s Season Finale concert, and was conducted with gusto by our superstar maestro, the pride of Montreal, Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

Echoes of technology often crop up in contemporary music — cell phone static is big these days — and perhaps it’s where it’s best dealt with. Devaux’s signature glissando, more subdued now, emulates that constant velocity motivating modern life, smearing cacophony into harmony.

Go Baroque! Montreal Chamber Music Festival, Bourgie Hall, 12 June 2023

The kids used to have a phrase: pics or it didn’t happen. So the photographic evidence presented below proves that the sordid tale that is about to unfold is one hundred percent true.

I was greatly looking forward to a performance by the cellist Elinor Frey at Bourgie Hall as part of the Montreal Chamber Music Festival. And I was in awe of Frey and her quartet of assembled musicians pouring their combined lifetimes of practice into producing this beautiful music. Likely never before in three hundred years had it been played so exquisitely, and in such a setting.

It was about three quarters into the evening that I noticed the couple sitting to my left, a man in a blue collared shirt and a woman wearing a black cocktail dress. I noticed because the woman emitted a giggle following one of the pieces and I wondered what struck her as particularly funny.

In part because something like this just happened at the L.A. Philharmonic, and also because I just wrote about it, I realized what was transpiring. It wasn’t a screaming full body orgasm. But the man’s hands were undoubtedly in the woman’s lap, and hers in his. Through their clothes, they were “manually operating.”

You can’t make this stuff up. And of course it has to find me.

I didn’t know what to do. I immediately felt embarrassment at being subjected to this immensely intimate act in public. So I reached for my water bottle and was about to literally pour cold water on the pair. But I also didn’t want to interrupt the concert. So I reached for my camera instead. The images are blurry because of circumstance, but what they depict is clear.

I don’t follow the world of pornography because of the aforementioned. But I wonder if there is some sinister version of a Tik Tok challenge weaselling its way through the dark web, egging on this sort of exhibitionism. If so, it should be unequivocally named and shamed.

If you’re feeling amorous, especially at a Chamber Music festival, get a room.◼︎