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Posted Oct 31, 2010 in Travel | 2 Comments

The Guy Over There (part 1)

It’s Saturday afternoon, and we’ve been at the community center for at least two hours. I know the place well, since I spent most of early 2009 covering this neighborhood. The block is virtually unchanged. The half-demolished railroad overpass is still there, next to the center, right in the dead end where St-Roch comes to a halt in front of the train tracks. Good old Marché Jeeveni still sells vegetables, oils, Tamil papers, and anything else you can think of, just down the road, once you’re past Durocher. The bitter cold makes it all look ugly and sad. Everything is covered in dirty January snow.

We brave the bollock-freezing, thermometer-defying temperatures to step outside for a quick cigarette. We deserve it. Two hours of filming an unispiring “forum” on police violence, which seemed promising but turned out to be a knitting club meeting. The days of the Black Panthers are long gone, and so is the spirit. Bobby Seale and Huey Newton are dead. So is Malcolm X. You don’t take your freedom by force nowadays. You just sit around and talk about it. It’s funny that I’m thinking of the sixties.

Dan hands me a B&H.

“You got a light?”

“Nah, ask the guy over there.”

“The guy over there” is an old man entertaining a group of three forum-goers, who sit around him like children listening to grandpa tell a story. Grandpa is smoking a hand-rolled cigarette, the kind I used to smoke when I was working security. I smoked them out of boredom (rolling cigarettes is a good time killer), but he smokes them because he is 100 per cent man. You can tell. A man can roll his own cigarettes. Grandpa’s styling. He doesn’t even turn as Dan asks him for a lighter. Once our pansy, factory-rolled cigarettes are lit, I hand him his lighter back. Again, he doesn’t turn to face us.

Dan and I smoke, chit-chatting about nothing. Grandpa’s audience disperses. Interesting, talkative old people can sometimes come across as crazies. And no one likes crazies. He turns to us. He’s too old to waste a possibly meaningful interaction with another set of human beings. He knows the meaning of life is all about making bonds. He knows his time is running out.

His name isn’t important. Later on he tells us it’s “Mike”. Mike looks like a gnarled, ancient tree. A very solid, gnarled, ancient tree. He’s got a bushy moustache and beard, both struggling to settle down somewhere between gray and white. Kind of like the dirty January snow that covers everything around us.

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  1. something sounds familiar about this article, can’t quite put my finger on it

  2. lol cuz u waz in it foo!!!

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