RICK TREMBLES ON TV: MUSIQUE PLUS' JOURNÉE 25 ANS DE PUNK! "I HAD THE WEIRDEST DREAM LAST NIGHT…"! LAZY ANNIVERSARY! STORYTIME by ROB LABELLE of the AMERICAN DEVICES: NANNA'S ROOM! SECRET ORIGINS OF GOD'S C*CKSUCKERS!
All contents © 2000-2001, Rick Trembles
UNAUTHORIZED REPRODUCTION STRICTLY FORBIDDEN
November 29, 2001
RICK TREMBLES ON TV: MUSIQUE PLUS' JOURNÉE 25 ANS DE PUNK!
Aaargh! I knew I'd end up agonizing over this after the fact. I got called the day before ShowTime all run down just coming off the worst sore throat I'd had in over a year. My voice was William Burroughs gruff 'n' gravelly as I spoke on the phone to the Musique Plus representative (Quebec's French version of English Canada's Much Music, which is their version of MTV). She told me that Chris Barry, former singer of one of Montreal's first punk bands, The 222s, suggested I might make a good guest on their panel of "Veterans Of Punk" airing live the following day. I didn't really wanna go because I was still sick & couldn't think straight so I called Rob from my band to see if he'd go instead, but no dice. Rob was in arguably Montreal's first real punk band, The Normals, back in the 70's & I knew someone had to end up talking about them, so why not himself? I could sense him rolling his eyes on the phone over how humiliating it'd most likely be. He wasn't into it but he said someone should at least go if only to promote snubdom.com. Early next morning they sent a cab to get a CD & home movie videos of archaic Devices material from me. Bicycling to their studios later, I rehearsed possible scenarios in my head. I don't have cable so I don't know what the typical topics du jour are at that station, but I fretted over the possibility that September 11th might be brought up like it's been by every other media drone under the sun lately. If that were the case I'd tell the Girl VJ, "what are you Oprah Winfrey"? And then I'd play dumb; "uh, what happened Sept. 11th?" After settling into one of their cozy office chairs awaiting instructions, Chris Barry showed up & we started talking old times. Like whether or not Dave the Hose from The Chromosomes died choking on a sandwich or did he OD on smack. "I just turned 40 & I still get zits," I told the receptionist as she insisted on putting makeup on me. Chris Barry & I killed time gabbing some more until he said, "So I guess Rick Trembles isn't gonna show up..." "What are you talking about, I'M Rick Trembles," I muttered in amazement. Jesus fuck, we write for the same paper, we've seen each other at Montreal Mirror Xmas parties, what's with this guy? He was pretty embarrassed. When I chopped off my puffy honky 'fro a few weeks ago, I didn't think I'd be THAT stripped of my identity. The third piece of the panel finally walked in & we were escorted under the lights. The Girl VJ introduced us on TV as the 3 "veterans of punk" & said she'd interview us bilingually. I can speak French but I kept my trap shut because the more translating she'd have to do, the more it would eat away at content quantity, the less I'd have to use my tired noggin responding to inane banter & the quicker it'd feel like this was being gotten over with. Guest 3 started off since he was the most prehistoric. Polo sang for Danger, a mid-seventies glam/punk hybrid & explained how his band gradually gravitated from glam to punk. Chris Barry, whose band was also a mid-seventies glam/punk hybrid, interjected how they listened to The New York Dolls & The Stooges before The Sex Pistols came into the picture so that's what they were more influenced by & back then all bands in the English sector were cover bands. I said, "In The Electric Vomit I used to look up to these guys for their relative slickness & professionalism because we went up on stage without really knowing how to play, so as a result some of our stuff sounded a little "experimental" in comparison. I was listening to "No Wave" too, which is a little more artsy fartsy than the R&B based stuff... " (as if the majority of Musique Plus viewers even know what "No Wave" was. They probably thought I was saying "NEW Wave"). "...so we took that route & the sad thing is," I told them, "we're still together …we never split up!" To that, everyone consoled me & assured me that it's a good thing I'm still wasting my time with music to no avail.
Girl VJ: You still do the same kinda stuff that you did 25 years ago?
Me: More or less.
Girl VJ: Except you know how to play your instruments now.
Me: Yeah, that's the bad thing. It's harder to come up with stuff now that we know how to play better. I was into underground comix before the punk rock stuff & when punk came I saw the same relationship, it was all DIY.
I counted 5 full times throughout this short interview I uttered meaningless acronym DIY (Do It Yourself) like the brain-dead broken record that I am. I kept staring in a mesmerized stupor out the studio's huge wall-sized ground floor windows onto the street where moronic pedestrians smiled & waved at us thinking we were someone important because we're on TV. They showed an ancient lip-synched 222s clip called "Fun Fun Fun" with Chris Barry gyrating a la Iggy & then he explained how things were different back then because people always wanted to beat him up on the bus because of the way he looked.
Chris Barry: Homosexuals got beat up a lot back then too.
Boy VJ: Times have changed.
Oh yeah? Tell that to our guitarist (& singer of Crackpot) Chris Burns. A month ago he got gay-bashed walking home drunk late-night 'round St-Viateur & Park Avenue. And he's not even gay. Without the slightest provocation, a bunch of imbecilic bruisers piled out of a car calling him faggot & pummeled him to the ground before he could hardly realize what was happening to him. A cabby that witnessed the assault saved his ass. Anyhow, we were asked what shows were like back then & I said it was really tiny & regional, touring wasn't in the picture because it was hard enough to get local gigs because of the stigma of violence punk rock had. Like people throwing bottles. Chris Barry & I said we'd both had our share of bottles whipped at us, "it makes you learn how to play quicker." I should have mentioned how I've also unfortunately thrown the occasional bottle at lousy bands myself over the years, something I'm not proud of, but what can you do: the sound byte doesn't offer much room for extrapolation. Polo contributed a violent anecdote about how the singer of Toronto's Viletones used to slash his wrists with a broken bottle before performances. They showed some old Devices footage I'd brought from a 20 minute video transfer of super 8 film home movies taken throughout the 80's. They aired the earliest B&W portion with Phil Nylon singing at a 1980 rehearsal. The video soundtrack happened to have old improv jams I'd saved from cassette recordings that were pretty stream-of-consciousness, so halfway through the visuals they cut to a cleaner instrumental tune off our CD. Audiences probably thought they interjected with some other band to get rid of the previous horrible music. My September 11th anxieties were strangely personified by Chris Barry when, during the commercial break, I got to talking about the "tragic events" because Polo wondered whatever happened to Punk Magazine from the 70's. I told him they just started up again & their next issue's gonna have a special on a fireman who died at the twin towers who was in a punk band called The Bullies. Then Chris Barry looked at me & asked "what happened on September 11th?" I started jokingly explaining, like to a child, "you know those 2 big buildings? You remember on TV when they fell down?" Me & the Boy VJ couldn't believe it. I snickered to the VJ how we should start talking about it when the cameras roll again just to put him on the spot but then finally Barry's brain lapse came back to planet earth after explaining some more & he said "Oh, THAT September 11th." Weird. The best part of the whole show was when they showed a late 70's clip from a 16MM B&W documentary on The Normals. Bassist Scott Cameron was interviewed in French whining how their band doesn't get any feedback & then they kick into a noisy tune with Rob Labelle's vocals illustrated by intertitles; "...got caught in the subway doors, everybody thought I was waiting for you.."
Girl VJ: You all knew The Normals right?
Me: Yeah, Rob's still kicking, he's in my band still.
Girl VJ: Really? Where is he? Rob, where are you? Why didn't you come down today? Hello?
Me: I asked him but he was …busy.
Girl VJ: Aww, OK. We're sorry. You know, punks gotta have real stuff to do too.
Indeed. Hilarious. Then they showed some old 70's MTL punk zines I brought. "Uncollectors items" as I called them. I explained how contributing comix was my introduction into the scene. My acceptance. Then Chris Barry snorted, "yeah, there was a big ceremony, a great big ritual, we accept you in the scene, with holy water & shit." Touché. Sigh. The old stuck up snot bag Chris Barry that I remember from way back. Just like the good old days. I should've made quotation marks with my goddamn fingers & said acceptance into the "so-called" scene rather than just scene. What scene? Barry's absolutely right. The staff of Surfin' Bird magazine was probably comprised of a handful of college students most of which I'd never even met. It didn't last more than 3 issues. But I was 16, I'd never really gotten my comix published before & they had a decent print run & distribution. I guess my point was that drawing comix has always gotten me further than any of my musical endeavors ever could. Getting published has always seemed more tactile to me than music. Music's too ephemeral (especially when you can't afford to release any of your songs). Then they plugged my site in a big way. Mission accomplished. They even included screen shots of the poster gallery filled with "mementos" I've held onto the last 25 years.
Girl VJ: When you were igniting this, did you have any sense that 25 years later it would still be relevant or was it just, "hey I'll keep it, I'll show my kids or grandkids"?
Me: Well, to me the whole DIY aspect (that word again) still resonates. I'm still mired in self-made comix & music & movies. We've done little animations & we're still doing that sort of stuff. So the reason for it was to look back on it & see how we could change, grow from it, not repeat ourselves.
The Girl VJ then proceeded to completely mistranslate me & say that I held on to all that old crap just to keep as souvenirs. They played a hilarious French lip-synched '77 Danger rock clip from an old TV show, full of glam/punk posturing, where Polo wore a Sid Viscous padlock & chain around his neck & a studded bracelet & they had a Brian Jones clone on guitar.
Girl VJ: How do you guys view what people call punk today?
Me: There's still bands out there trying to sound like nothing that's ever been heard before. If you're gonna try & sound new you gotta sound like something you never heard before.
Chris Barry said it felt like more of a statement at the time but now it's mainstream & stressed that he has "no venomous words." Polo plugged local bands Caffeine & One Nine Seven Six. As she was wrapping things up you could see me nervously twirling the wire around my mic because I wanted to blurt out some local bands I liked too. But then Chris Barry insisted people read my "book" because it's really good, so I plugged snubdom's first draft of my "skewed take on things" having to do with today's topic. Truth is, Snub: The Book is pretty self-serving so far. I set this site up a year ago motivated mainly by wanting to draw attention to American Devices' concerns, but anyone with any anecdotes, videos, photos, posters or recordings having anything to do with the early evolution of Montreal punk, please get in touch. Multiple POVs much needed to break my tunnel-vision. Me & Polo shook hands on our way out. He told me he used to draw comix & now he does tattoos. I'd love to score a copy of his old band Danger's rare 70's LP. Overall I thought I looked constipated throughout the interview. I look like I got a flagpole up my ass. I should've chewed gum or something to look more animated. Just wish I could've plugged more other shit like Da Bloody Gashes or Crackpot. But I figure if anybody follows the snubdom.com plug, they'll eventually read about those bands somewhere on this site. I should have at least worn my new Gashes T-shirt (which has "smell my bloody fucking gash ya piece uhf fuk" written on it), but like I said I wasn't thinking straight, fresh off that mean cold. Oh well, better luck next quarter century.
November 22, 2001
"I HAD THE WEIRDEST DREAM LAST NIGHT…" (Pictured below: Rick Trembles' favorite pastime: Sleeping like a log)
"…More than anything in the whole world, I hate people who confide, "I had the weirdest dream last night…" - John Waters, from "Hatchet Piece (101 Things I Hate)," Crackpot, New York, Vintage Books, 1987.
This week's movie review of Waking Life (a film about dreaming) got me thinking about the last few dreams of mine that managed to puzzle me enough to scribble them down...
October 19, 2000…
I had the weirdest dream last night. It was a bright sunny summer day & I was alone on the couch in the living room fretting & jittering, forced into playing with a cat (I'm allergic to cats) to distract it from innocently scratching the shit out of my leg. The irony wasn't lost on me, the fact that the most morbid, depressing day in my life about to unfold had room for play. Nervously awaiting more interrogations, my father came into the house to visit for the first time since the news broke. He didn't seem particularly surprised as if he'd been expecting the worst for some time. Smoke came into the living room from the kitchen so I looked to see what it was. A headless, armless, legless human torso lay on the floor, half-charred & smoldering. The stink was unbearable & made me convulse uncontrollably & sob & choke. My father had dragged it into the room to confront me & judge my reaction. He told me the cops had just dug it up from the side of the house after Pauly Shore had tried to burn it to a crisp when their backs were turned. I honestly had no idea where this body came from. Shore & a local heroin addict/drug dealer I knew, were in the backyard with the cops being questioned. The junkie & I had tried to keep our mouths as shut as possible so as not to incriminate each other any further but we had to improvise our alibis as time went on because Shore kept fucking up & mouthing off about corpses we didn't even know existed. Shore was overplaying the brain-damaged goof/dude character he popularized in several Hollywood movies to the cops. The only body I genuinely knew about was from an accidental drug overdose that the junkie had been involved in. That corpse had been left in the kitchen for days because Shore hadn't taken care of it like the junkie told him to. The deceased was a friend of Shore's so he was lumped with the burden of bringing it to the attention of the authorities. In typical junkie manner, the junkie had washed his hands of any responsibility & left the whole ordeal in someone else's lap. Someone incompetent. So after a couple of days, when nothing had been done & the body still lay there unmoved & putrefying, I had to witness the junkie cut it into pieces & bury the evidence in the basement because too much time had passed & the death could now be categorized as a criminal offense. Shore was revealing to the cops out in the backyard horrifying details about deaths we weren't even aware of. My father & I realized that any minute this whole story was going to blow up in the media, taking me & everybody else down with it. I knew that from then on all the sick & gory comics I'd ever drawn would be looked at differently by people. They'd all say, "I told you so, I told you he was disturbed." There was no way to avoid my guilt as accessory to that first crime but the basement body hadn't even been revealed yet as far as I knew. But in the next few days it was certain that the whole property would be dug up & they'd find it along with who knows what else. Before my father had come in with the burnt body I'd wandered around looking into some of the rooms of the other people that lived there. Shore's & another roommate's quarters looked full of typical counterculture decorations. But at the end of the hall next to the entrance was a room I'd never been in. It was very neat & had archaic mementos & religious icons on the wall. Shore told me the room had belonged to a girl named Josephine who was very impoverished & melancholic & when she went missing years ago it saddened him so much that he decided to keep the room exactly the way she'd left it. This got me suspicious & wondering if Shore was some sort of criminal mastermind playing dumb & could Josephine have been this serial killer's first victim? Were all the bodies piling up today the doings of Shore's sinister handiwork?
May 18, 2000…
I had the weirdest dream last night. I dreamt that this girl I'd had an affair with years ago gave me a big round percodan pill. I gobbled it without question probably because I thought it might help me get into her pants. She seemed addicted to them. But the next thing I know, I'm lying on concrete in the middle of some dangerous prison hostage-taking routine with heavy guns & armor. Two guys on our team shout secret code & then run into position, dodging potential hiding homicidal inmates. After running in, the captain has a nervous breakdown, cries & chickens out so I think my turn will be easy as pie. But I forget my crucial code & try to bluff my way by yelling gibberish so the hiding prisoners won't catch on. Later, I catch shit for this because I was risking lives. I blame it all on that girl's goofball.
December 11, 2000…
I had the weirdest dream last night. I dreamt I was a cartoon CGI firefly in a Steven Speilberg movie running away from a hoard of other fireflies chasing after something. They create such a white hot mass that it starts devastating fires everywhere resulting in massive casualties.
March 10, 2001…
I had the weirdest dream last night. I dreamt that this girl I was dating, illegally touched a recently discovered mysterious, extraterrestrial, miniature, cosmic model of the earth on display in some museum. She'd dipped her finger into its oceanic region & without realizing it, caught an unknown disease from it that she was immune to but was highly contagious to others. Just from touching the sweat off her face I caught the terminal illness & the symptoms were that I'd sweat oceanic water until I melted away & drowned.
November 15, 2001
LAZY ANNIVERSARY (Pictured below: Still from Ben Boucher's Flat & Fluffy)
Happy blatherversary to me. It's kinda Snubdomizer Blather's one year anniversary right now, so I'm gonna celebrate by doing fuck-all else other than plugging other people's shit. So first off, go see Montreal-based animator Ben Boucher's film "Flat & Fluffy" for free online & then vote for his film at the Stockholm International Film Festival's site. He suffered long & hard to complete this 16MM (old-school cel-animated) atrocity & he's just starting to do the festival circuit with it. So go click on the menu where it says "films," select FLAT-N-FLUFFY, then click on one of the buttons to watch either the hi or low bandwidth versions. It's in RealVideo format, so it'll stream, which means you can watch it right away, as it downloads. In Ben's own words: "DON'T VOTE FOR ANYONE ELSE'S FILM EVEN IF YOU LIKE IT BETTER THAN MINE! I feel that it is important that I win by a landslide. Why? Well it's pretty safe to say that I am a megalomaniac. I LUST FOR VICTORY! Thank you all for your support!" The film is online 'til the 18th & you have 'til the 16th to vote.
Speaking of animation, for a complete cubist visual mindfuck rainbow-explosion of interactive kaleidoscope colors, turn off all the lights in your room, then tune in & turn on to this crazy experimental page (click & roll the mouse all over your screen after it fully loads to chase & trigger spaz hues that'll give you vertigo).
Lotta rockin' going on this weekend, just the thing to usher in another icy winter's worth o' chronic cooped-upness. Check out my fave local bands, Crackpot at the Barfly this Friday (4062A St-Laurent, 993-5154), Da Bloody Gashes Saturday at an Alien 8 night at Casa Popolo's Sala Rosa, (with Black Hand & Goa-Gajah), & "psyche-moog" trio The Unireverse who'll be opening for The Centimeters & Sonic Boom/Spectrum (former Spaceman 3 doing moog tribute to former band), also at The Sala Rosa (4848 St-Laurent, 284-3804).
November 8, 2001
STORYTIME by ROB LABELLE of the AMERICAN DEVICES (Pictured below: old Trembles doodle of Rob)
My grandmother's bedroom was at the very back of our house -the lower third of a typical east-end Montreal triplex. The long, narrow hallway which led to her door passed a succession of similarly cramped rooms, creating of our home a close approximation of life on a never-ending train excursion. This effect was enhanced on the hour when the real train passed on the tracks which were only a stone's throw away, a unit of measurement which was, in our neighborhood, with its propensity for broken window panes and a population of maimed stray cats, more than figurative.
I was not a happy passenger. My entire childhood, in fact, was like a mistaken journey, as if some guardian in my distant past had misread the destinations and schedules and had put me on the wrong train. But as with every disastrous trip there was a saving grace, a fellow passenger with whom one could favorable pass the time, that being in my case the gentle older woman at the end of the hall. Nanna's room swiftly became a place where I claimed political asylum, a place where her own status as a protected yet estranged relic of royalty was extended to myself. The mood of this inner sanctum could best be described by its color: a pale, celestial blue, the same blue as the sky into which the Blessed Virgin ascended, her picture accompanying those of various Christs, the most remarkable to my young eyes being one in which Jesus was depicted pulling back His robes to reveal a flaming Sacred Heart.
During these visits to Nanna's room I would lean against the side of her high bed while she occupied the throne-like rocker, or, in later years when she was mostly bedridden, I would simply stand and sway in the middle of the room, moving in closer as a hand rose to beckon me. Much of our time together was spent in her recounting of stories of the people close to her that were now long dead -people identified as "my husband" or "my brother"- never "your grandfather" or "your uncle Georges." This peculiarity made me feel a little as if I were a stranger interviewing her for her biography, a feeling I loved, for it extended the illusion that we were indeed traveling companions, traveling companions who had developed a special bond. Nanna's stories were always told through continuously smiling lips, an expression I was only too willing to assume was directed toward me, but was more likely the result of the bubbling pleasures of memory. I also later realized that these tales were designed to inform me of certain proud facts. "One time my brother Georges came home from the office carrying a puppy," she would say. "So tiny, it fit into the pocket of his suit jacket," this added detail letting me know that her brother must have had a 'situation' requiring 'good clothes.'
The pale, pensive blue of Nanna's room matched on rare occasions the celestial dome above our own street. With its unending line of poor city dwellings, William David was like any other in the vast "east end;" however this distinctly English name of unknown origin was doomed to be given the singsong mis-stressing of syllables typical of its inhabitants. Perhaps it is a tribute to the school system and the daily cours d'anglais of my primary years, through which everyone else either slept or wreaked havoc on the young instructrice, the only teacher at our school not in a nun's habit, that I was able to successfully "pick up" the accents of English vocabulary. "Il a l'oreille," my mother said, reading from my report card, but giving the remark a low, ominous tone, as if, like our mysterious William David, I was a part of that vast world of otherness known as les autres.
It is not so surprising that la différence that I brought to our home should be perceived as a threat. Threats were the main currency of our quartier. Just as some animals possess a distinct physiognomy -the dolphin's 'smile,' the 'wise' owl, or the 'sad' looks of many hounds- each of my family members, excepting, of course, Nanna, were capable of long, unblinking stares similar to the locked stare of a cornered raccoon or opossum who wishes to communicate a warning to his aggressor that another step forward means attack. The only difference between these creatures and my family was that no provocation was necessary for one to become the recipient of a random act of terror.
These started at an early age. A biting incident involving my youngest sister, Guilaine, who was still in her crib, was for me one of the most devastating of these attacks. I remember reaching through the bars -their appropriateness not lost on me even at my own young age- in an attempt to calm her cries and make overtures of what I thought were those of a loving brother. I received for my efforts not one but two swift bites between my index finger and thumb. Her instinctual plunge into this softest of spots produced four little marks, indentations in the truest sense, that remained for some time as scarified warnings of future abuse. There were, indeed, many further bétises perpetrated upon me by my family as well as by other children in the neighborhood, but this event became the 'primal scene,' not only in my own mind, but as part of the litany of my family's recounted stories. It was usually my mother who would say "Tu souviens-tu quand elle t'a mordue?" playfully accenting the rhyme of the phrase, while Guilaine, wrapped in her arms in an embrace which seemed to reluctantly hold her back, stared me down with that same hunted/hunter expression.
My frequent trips to Nanna's room were not the sole escape from these tortures. There was one ceremony at which all suffering parties seemed to meet on even terms: tea. These gatherings around the kitchen table occurred fairly frequently, mainly on fall or winter afternoons, usually just after I'd arrive home from school. My mother's friends would appear one by one at the back door, and the kettle would be filled to the point that drops of boiling water would spurt dangerously across the kitchen floor. The sound would summon Nanna from her room, making a discreet yet regal entrance, her lips lined with deep red. Occasionally these lines would creep up from her lips in tiny red rivulets. To me, these marks were not ugly or funny, but were like the intricate tattoos or markings of remote tribes, which for us may seem strange or bizarre, but within that culture mark its chief or shaman. I would silently follow her into the kitchen as if I were her page, and there would hover around the table for the duration of the party almost unnoticed, as if I were an inoffensive moth fluttering about the plate of 'store-bought' biscuits produced from one of my mother's hiding places. The conversations between the women were nothing more to my young ears than sibilant rhythms of repeated phrases, sounding strikingly similar to the Latin prayers read out on the radio each Sunday evening. Toward the end of the event I would usually receive a biscuit, my favorite of these being a custard and strawberry 'sandwich,' the sugary, red jam visible at its centre. I would slowly nibble my way toward this rare delicacy, picturing, oddly enough, the exposed sacred hearts on Nanna's wall.
During the earlier part of my childhood, Nanna was still well enough to leave the house and was, in fact, much more adventuresome than my mother by insisting on making several visits a year to Eaton's, at that time the city's largest department store. My mother usually agreed to accompany her, although she would usually remark "on a toute qu'il nous faut dans notre coin." For my part, Eaton's represented a distant beacon of civilization, and I longed to go on one of Nanna's trips. Whenever I asked her if I could be taken along (I didn't even attempt to pry my mother with such a suggestion), she always appeared enthusiastic, but my requests were always forgotten on the days when she and my mother appeared 'dressed for downtown' by the front door. Nanna would stand there wearing a distant expression, as if in her mind she was already reaching her gloved hand toward Eaton's polished brass door, while my mother chanted her standard list of 'do's and dont's' to me and my siblings, the group with whom I'd have to spend the next few hours without access to Nanna's room, the door to which on these occasions was always firmly shut.
In spite of all my hopes, the only trip I made with Nanna was to the local swimming pool. This event came about because of a rather singular altercation between myself and my older brother, Jean. Early one morning when my mother appeared in our shared bedroom and lifted the sheets on my brother's bed to put them into the laundry basket, she revealed the sharp, acrid smell of a young adolescent's urine. When she told me "On rit pas!" I stored away the event, entering into the file of much-needed ammunition. As confrontations of some kind happened almost daily, it didn't take long for me to blurt out the words "and you pee the bed!" to him in front of another who lived on our street. This friend was three years older than Jean, about the same difference in age as my brother and myself, causing my cast stone to reach up two hierarchical levels, coloring forever my brother's reputation. As rough and ready as the tribe of William David may have seemed, the calloused exteriors and burnished expressions disguised, as I then realized, jellied interiors reachable through key taboo subjects. The result was my brother's practice of bullying me stopped. The silent watchful eyes that replaced it, however, were, I was sure, plotting a far greater form of revenge. Whether he actually told my other brother and father about what I'd done or whether they sensed I'd 'overstepped the boundaries' -though of these I'd never been informed- a kind of guerre froide descended between myself and the other male members of the family. My father's principal sign of affection, an aggressive frottage on the top of my head, which seemed to relieve some of the grease from his work -worn hands, was replaced by suspicious looks, as if I, his youngest son, had joined the league of agents provocateurs or 'scabs' -that mythical, evil army that seemed to plague 'the shop' and of which he'd often rant whenever we were at the table- transformed from my mother's teas to the mean, daily exercise of le souper. Even by the following summer, the rift between my brother and I was still unmended. One of the results of this state of affairs was his refusal to accompany me to the pool. This densely crowded four hundred square yards of fenced-in concrete lacked even William David Street's minimal laws of conduct, and yet one rule, it seemed, was enforced with all the resolution the park's administration could muster. To protect themselves from possible litigation resulting from stranded bodies found at the end of the season, no one under twelve years of age was permitted entry to the pool unaccompanied by a 'guardian,' which in my case had habitually been my now errant older brother.
As a particularly warm June turned into a sweltering July, my mother, either out of a genuine feeling of generosity or a desire to get me out of the house, suggested that Nanna accompany me to the pool. Off together we set out down the street, my towel and bathing suit in one hand, the money my mother had given me in the other. Nanna, meanwhile, held onto my arm as if I were the prime minister of one of her protectorate dominions, but I worried that in being separated from the rarefied air of her pale blue room she would simply melt or dissolve like the shimmering illusion of wet pavement wavering in the heat before us. After finally making it to the pool gate, I slapped the coins down onto the counter, and the young girl at the wicket, probably no more than sixteen years old, but appearing to me as any other adult public figure, demanded my age.
"Huit," I said meekly. Nanna piped in over my shoulder, saying she would watch me from benches in the shade on this side of the fence. "C'est parce que c'est trop crowdé aujourd'hui," the girl replied, going on to say in her colloquial fashion that it was necessary to have a supervisor in the pool itself.
Nanna and I stood there transfixed for a moment, not quite comprehending how our regal advance was so easily blocked by this first, simple encounter with public authority. It never occurred to me to blame Nanna for not being brave enough to accompany me inside the gates. I understood she could no more have entered that wild throng than an aging courtier from the time of the French Revolution could have been expected pass out petit fours to the starving mob at the barricades. We turned and retraced our steps home. Upon arriving on our front steps, she turned to me and in an almost breathless voice, her rouged upper lip sparkling with tiny beads of water, promised to take me with her to Eaton's as soon as 'the weather broke.' "On va prendre notre lunch au Neuvieme." The Neuvieme, I knew, was Eaton's fabled restaurant situated on the store's top floor and was, according to Nanna, "la couronne de Montreal."
Our great plan never took place. By that fall, Nanna's health had failed to the point that for the next few years she would exist only as the bedridden apparition of her blue room and would only leave the house one final time, completing the long spiral of her descent at Hopital Notre Dame. It is to this day startlingly unclear in my mind whether I made my own solitary first pilgrimage to Eaton's before or after Nanna's death. The key to this confusion seems to rest with the metal domes which covered both the food brought to her hospital room-while the gaggle of her so-called family stood watching around her bed -and the same domes seen at Eaton's Neuvieme. This great, deco hall was inspired, as I learned, by the main dining room aboard the Ile-de-France, a luxury liner from the 1920's. Of course, I didn't dare go in, but it pleased me to think Nanna had on at least one occasion ascended from the bargain bins of the basement level, now called, in a spirit of popular democracy, the 'Metro Level,' to be carried up with the elevator, passing the nine floors which themselves seem to represent nine separate class distinctions, to this divine summit in the clouds. As I stood there rather stupidly at the entrance, gazing in at the twenty-foot ceilings and the great illuminated marble vases, the contrast between my own train-like home and this great ship was not lost on me. This, I thought, was the symbolic mode of transport that really ought to be conveying me through life. At that moment, the gleaming doors which led to the kitchen at one end of the hall burst open and several waitresses in formal black and white french-style uniforms emerged carrying dome-covered trays and looking as if they were delivering to their waiting clients the secrets of the universe.
In Nanna's hospital room, the same metal dome had caught not only my attention but out of a kind of respite from looking down at Nanna's sleeping form, the curious eye of my brother Jean.
"Bon, les enfants," my mother said after several more moments of silent staring. "On va laisser Nanna dormir," as if it were possible at this point to disturb her.
As we were herded toward the door, Jean could no longer resist slipping his finger into the hole on the top of the metal dome to lift it off the tray. Underneath was Nanna's untouched meal -a browned chop, a portion of whipped potatoes and mashed carrots decorated with a limp sprig of parsley, a bowl of broth and a tiny half-pear floating sadly in its own juice. To one side was a paper napkin and a small bread roll accompanied by a pat of butter. I can't believe that Jean could have been quite so insightful or subtle as to knowingly present to me in this display of tired food trying valiantly to be a three-course meal, something of myself. But whether he was aware of what he was implying or not, it was true. The plate seemed perfectly to illustrate the way Nanna, as well as myself, existed each in our own shells, as if we were like those soft-bodied sea creatures whose extravagantly ornate shelters when finally vacated catch the eye of passing strangers and are lifted from the sands. I took the dome from my brother's fingers and gently placed it back over the tray. Silently, we left Nanna's room for the last time.
© Robert Labelle, 2001
November 1, 2001
SECRET ORIGINS OF GOD'S C*CKSUCKERS!
(Pictured right: a still from my short 16MM cel-animated film version of the comic strip of the same name. Entering mystery doorway number one leads to an unbridled orgy of scary YOU-KNOW-WHAT-SUCKERS!)
My SUCKERS SERIES began as deliberately banal & profane sex/violence orgy splash pages for the first 2 issues of Shelly Dion's now defunct late eighties MTL underground comic Core. The first one had no title other than a character's speech balloon exclaiming "Hey, mom, look at all the shit & piss & blood!" (revived for the film version pictured above). For my second "cocksuckers" strip I established the logo/heading I've been using ever since & devoted the page to a local musician I knew who'd just died of a drug overdose. In the mid-nineties I revived the series after submitting the following proposal to Montreal's Galerie Clark (recently forced to move due to gentrification) to put together an exposition of new works of mine. They accepted, offering me a joint exhibition with local artist Anne Ashton, so I got busy & completed a series of GOD'S COCKSUCKERS tableaus & sculpted miniature companion pieces. I even managed to get local amusement park, LaRonde (recently bought out & also most likely about to be gentrified), to lend me one of their original full-sized funhouse cars that I based my miniatures on as an installation piece for the duration of the show (pictured below). Reviews were good. Black & white versions of the resulting paintings can be seen in the Trembles Gallery. The original colored pieces are for sale, as are copies of the GOD'S COCKSUCKERS animated film on video (with music by ONE, TWO, THREE, GO!). Email me for more info.
"The following is my proposal for an exhibition of my work at Galerie Clark. As a glance at the enclosed resume will confirm, I've been cartooning for many years but one recurring theme I've always wanted to concentrate more on is the roller-coaster funhouse ride & it's linkage from one situation to another as the only form of narrative provided. I'd like to produce a series of full color acrylic paintings on board, of fictitious funhouse cross-sections depicting an exaggeration of my everyday routine. I.E.: Tracks mapping out my exciting trajectory to the corner store or the bar down the street, including all distractions or interruptions as propped up obstacles, booby-traps or jack-in-the-boxes designed to "thrill." Maze-like aerial views of typical mundane paths we can all relate to, fraught with fabricated danger-zones. Anxiety inducers can range from hazardous intersections, to the habitat of an embarrassing infatuation or source of conflict with whom eye contact must be avoided at all costs in order to discourage awkwardness, misunderstandings or second-guessing. This railway system is not limited to concrete predetermined urban-pedestrian traffic systems. Sources of inspiration can also invoke travel via television, books, or the pillows on my bed that lullaby me to sleep each night. Each painting will include genuine scale-model railway tracks & their own miniature 3 dimensional sculpted funhouse car (that I've already made plaster molds for to reproduce as many as I want in hard latex rubber). Each painting's 3D track will be able to link up to the next painting so that the finished exhibit will look like one continuous network."
Rick Trembles, March 25, 1993