Monday, February 28, 2005

Tale of a border crossing

There's much I have to say about the last week, but at the moment there's no time so I'll just tell a story.

A few weeks ago, as I mentioned, the McGill sailing team ventured on a skiing trip to Jay Peak in Vermont and then to Sutton in Quebec. We left early on a Saturday morning in two cars: one little suv with all the skis and then a van that carried most of us. I was in the van. At some point the two got seperated, and we in the van were left at the hands of Travis. Travis is a Montreal local and one of the fastest drivers I've ever had the terror of riding with. He wasn't driving today, but he gave directions - the shortcut sort.

Of course, we ended up in Nowhere, Quebec, near the border but not near a large border crossing (you know, the kind with armed guards and stop signs). Miraculously, we found a small two-lane that turned down into the States. Here's where my story comes in.

Approaching this border crossing, I knew it was something else. No signs, no announcements, no warnings or speed signs or concrete blocks. Just a simple country road, and there: a shack, a pickup truck, and a beat-up sign suggesting we stop by to announce our presence.

We pull over, and out steps a grizzly border official well into his seventies, wearing a United States Customs jacket and a Canadian Customs hat. He's just finished a donut.

"Well then, how long have ya been in the United States?" he asks as our driver Jeff rolls down his window.

"...uhh aren't we going into the States now?"

Border official's eyes dart quickly up the road in both directions.

"Mm. Right you are. My apologies... the Canadian guy didn't show up this morning. How long have you been in Canada?"

Removes Canada Customs hat, stuffs into back of pants.

"We're all students at McGill, going to ski at Jay peak. We're the McGill University Sailing Team."

"Sailors, eh? Much sailing these days?"

The rivers are frozen. "No. That's why we're going skiing."
I might remind you that there are no skis in the van.

"Alright, well.. How about you let me see your student IDs."

We pass them forward, and he looks at maybe four. Then he takes another long look at our van.

"Didn't I see you guys come through here half an hour ago? Could've sworn you were going into America. Didn't stop. Goin' real fast."

"No sir, we haven't been here before."

"Ah well alright. On your way. Good luck."

And that is how Vermont does Border Crossings.

Friday, February 18, 2005


It's a beautiful snowy day, I am in awe of snow flakes, and I'm boarding a fligh home in three hours.

More from the road!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


Alright, so I apologize but I feel like I need to yell. Or type, I guess. You'll understand why, and probably feel like yelling yourself. Here goes.

Yesterday, one of my neighbors and good friends sat down to breakfast at the opposite end of a table with three other guys. The moment he sat down, the three guys looked up and, beyond all my comprehension, told him that "this is a WHITES ONLY table." When my friend was too stunned to move, they got up and left.

When I heard this, I was at first more stunned than angry. But the anger grew pretty fast. It's unfortunate that my friend has no idea what they looked like, because god damn. What kind of backwards fck thinks he can talk like that? I feel that sort of comment should get you kicked out of school. Or at least suspended. How dare they try and make my friend feel like he doesn't deserve to sit where he wants?

I am daily forced to realize that ideas like this still exist. And not just among the KKK or whomever: massive prejudice (not just racism) lives on in the general population - in a society I once considered modern. People hate gays, hate women, hate men, hate Muslims, hate Christians, hate Jews, hate immigrants, hate rednecks, hate liberals, hate conservatives, hate the rich, hate the poor.

Well, here's one who won't sink to that level. Here's one who's sick to death of all the ignorance, all the pettiness, all the blindness.

I will never make apologies for those who judge, those who generalize, those who hate.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Fire alarms god damn!

Four in the last four days. That's right, four. One early Saturday morning. All results of burning popcorn, grilled cheese, smoking, and ultra-sensitive smoke detectors. The funniest, though, are the times when the alarm doesn't go off. Like this morning, when our microwave burst into flames as my neighbor Kartik heated pasta. The hall still smells of melted plastic. But did the alarm go off? No! Or when my floor got slightly over-zealous assembling absinthe shots (for those of you who don't know, it involves melting sugar) and lit an alcohol fire across an entire desk. But hey, neither of those fires spread, right? As long as we're safe.

Friday, February 04, 2005


iPod is still the most popular digital music player at Microsoft's Redmond campus. Much to the chagrin of management.

They're ubiquitous at McGill. I know a few people who've started to wear different headphones simply so that they do not "join the masses." But why be ashamed?

Little white headphones and multi-talented professors

Everywhere! It's incredible. Call iPods what you want: symbols of upper-middle class yuppiehood, an integral piece of the generic college student, or even a part of the holier-than-thou neo liberal anti-American movement (according to one source). Never before has there been such a seamless and flexible vehicle for appreciating music. Having one has an interesting and entirely visible effect on a person's musical horizons. With the iPod comes the ability to own more music. Where before you could reasonably only carry so many cds, now all of a sudden you have this space to fill, and with that comes the desire to listen to more. This is especially true on the college campus, where a massive range of music is available across the networks. I may be generalizing a bit much, but this is simply what I've seen: people who suddenly have this capacity (whether from an iPod or even just iTunes or some other easy way of organizing digital music) start snatching new music at an incredible rate. And that's pretty cool.

Related to that, you might be interested to learn that (at least at McGill) the Music Library has unlimited rights over the cds they check out, so if you bring a laptop with you (you can't leave the library with the cds), you can rip as much music as you want. They have a respectable selection of jazz and classical; not surprising considering that's what they teach. At McGill, the Music Library is on the 11th floor of the Blue Cross building, across Sherbrooke from the Music Building itself.

Yesterday, I found out that, in addition to being a world-renowned researcher, award-winning comic artist, comedian, and all around ego fiend, my Psychology of Cognition Professor Daniel Levitin also happens to be a Grammy/Academy Award/Platinum Record winning record consultant, musician, and producer. Umm, ok. He wrote a midterm review song for our class, and performed yesterday. Meetings with people like this make me beg one question: do I ever get to be like that?