Wicked Winter

Ice, ice baby

Did you know that the freezing temperature of dry ice is -78.5 degrees Celsius?  You know the stuff that they use in movies to create bone-chilling fog that rolls in doom, disaster and fear?  The scary smoke they use at Halloween that bubbles out of creepy cauldrons and mad scientist labs?  It is also what they used to use to freeze off warts and boils and other kinds of ghastly skin afflictions before some plucky doctor noticed that liquid nitrogen was clearly the colder, better choice.  Dry ice is the stuff that flash freezes your smoothie blueberries into their purple pellet pods of stuck-in-time anti-oxidants before they even have the chance to scream out their protests of indigo indignation.  And why all the talk of goblins, ghosts and ghouls, you ask?  Because in Montreal it is colder than a witch’s tit, although I suppose if there was a witch’s tit in Montreal, her pointy, witch-hat nipples might plink right off her magical mammaries and skeeter on down the icy-brick-road before she ‘d have the chance to cackle, “And your little dog too.”

Dry ice can cause frostbite on your skin in two seconds or less.

The temperature in Montreal last week was  -27 degrees Celsius, before the windchill, which was supposed to bring the sensory mercury to somewhere around the balmy realm of -45 Celsius.  So that means that Montreal was over half of the way towards the temperature of dry ice….and nearly 40 degrees below freezing.  Now, I am aware that there are other places on the planet where people exist in much colder temperatures than here, however….I am convinced they must have received frostbite in the frontal lobes of their brains, which is the part that is responsible for making any kind of good, rational decisions.

Montrealers are crazy winter warriors.  And no wonder.  Before kids can walk, or even waddle, for that matter, in their head-to-toe snowsuits, their parents have folded up their Bugaboo’s and traded in 3-wheel drives for the two metal rails of some type of sled.  Young, fresh youthful skin at the earliest of ages, has already acquired a shell of hardness and resilience to the biting cold even through layers of skin cream and scarves and snot-crusted cheeks.   The baseball fields are converted into hockey rinks, the joggers trade their running shoes for cross-country skis.  The summer ponds that were once sprawled out with picnics and wine, circus performers and couples making out, are now frozen and etched with whiskey and hot-chocolate, fire pits and skaters, (still making out), albeit with rosy noses and wind-chapped lips.

I have lived in Montreal for nine years, and for a girl who comes from the West Coast where winters might see a sporadic snowflake sprinkled across a street unfit for even the most seasoned driver, I still do not get used to the cold here.  I’m not sure I ever will.  My fashion icon at this time of year is not Alexander McQueen nor Roberto Cavalli, but rather Kenny from South Park, where the only thing sexy you see is his blank, blinking eyes.  And in my mind, if its as cold in South Park, Colorado as it is here in Montreal, Kenny is probably better off getting shot, electrocuted, run over, or eaten by zombies in each and every episode.  His short trip to Hell might be a slight bit more pleasant than the 8 months of the year that I endure the cold.

The temperature this week was plus 10 degrees Celsius.  A thermal roller coaster ride with a 30-degree swing within the span of one week.  And now we’re plummeting our way back down below the freezing line.

But like New Yorkers, who earn their merit badge for a near-manic gauntlet of fast life in a big city, we too, in Montreal have something to take pride in.  We embrace the cold and ride the ebb and flow of the changing seasons like a cowboy clinging his bow-legged thighs to a bull.  We wrap our frostbitten arms around Seasonal Affective Disorder and chomp on Vitamin D as if it were being pumped out of a Wonder Woman Pez dispenser.  We find Long Johns as sexy as lingerie and our asses are strong because we lug ourselves around in clunky winter boots.

And when summer rolls around, we party as if it was our last dying day.  Because we KNOW about living the moment.  We know that pleasure is fleeting.  And we know that what once was warm and inviting, romantic and sultry, will soon become a frozen urban tundra devoid of a soul.

In the meantime, I am counting down the weeks, because I have a golden ticket to Hawaii for a yoga training wrapped in my white, pasty fingers.  Ducking out to join the flocks of fleeing snowbirds, not because I can’t take it, but just because I can.

Hot Child in the City

It’s been weird to be back in the city.  However, I’m not sure if “weird” is the right word.  For starters, we’re in the middle of a heat wave, so “Goddamn-F’ing-HOT!!”might be more appropriate.  A heat wave (after two months by the ocean and now suddenly land-locked) that seems as shocking as the way I imagine that first testicle hitting the water of a Polar Bear Plunge might be to a man.  A heat wave magnified to demonic proportions by the sheer, radiating fact of redundant slabs of concrete ricocheting heat waves between buildings like a rallied match of Pong played with fireballs; blanketed by a down duvet of carbon emissions and exhaust and I feel like I have taken up residence in Lucifer’s Lava Lounge.  I live in a microwave.

All I do is sweat and then try to find ways to avoid sweating.  In between this sweat aversion I teach, sweating more and making more people sweat.  It’s actually a great time to practice hot yoga.  Since you’re sweating anyways, you may as well stretch at the same time.  Actually, it might even be cooler in the hot room than out in that loud, drippy inferno which is now my home.  Certainly that first blast of air conditioning going up the stairs to the studio makes it worth the sticky walk up St. Laurent.

I feel antsy in the city.  On edge.  I jump at the sound of car horns, put my arms over my ears when an ambulance passes, and nearly got run over by a hipster on a ten-speed.  (And since when did ten-speeds become all the rage?)  He yelled something at me in French as I leaped back onto the curb and I’m pretty sure he was not complimenting me on my sundress.  Why does everyone seems so stressed and angry?  Probably, they are as F-ing hot as I am.

It is like Montreal is a city full of contradictions.  On the one hand you have the stressed, the angry, the rushed and freaked out, and on the other hand, you find these little pockets of Peace.  Places where you realize that Montreal operates on a different frequency.  A vibe that is unique only to here.  A place where people are free.  People seem to get “LIFE”.  Where people truly work to live instead of living to work.  A place where people eat croissants and creamy cheese without calorie counting or guilt.

Take, for example, The Pool.  In the city, it is known as the “secret pool” and yet everyone knows which pool you are talking about.  Tucked into the side of Mont Royal, behind the Royal Victoria Hospital.  A pool devoid of screaming kiddies, without worry of a pee-infested swim.  Most pools are surrounded by yet another concrete slab, yet this pool has respectable grass on all four sides.  I pay my 5 dollars to get in, and once I lay down my towel, I am immersed not only in clear, cool waters, but by a social phenomenon that would only take place in Montreal.  Hipsters, the young, the old, the attractive and unattractive (but let’s face it, the majority of Montreal is attractive) all gather to find a reprieve from the Microwave, bringing beer or wine, joints and chips…truly anything goes here.    I try to read or nap, but mostly I pretend to do so while eavesdropping on conversations surrounding me.  I overheard two people, seemingly on a first date, talk about the differences (and benefits) of Moksha versus Bikram.  With pride, it seemed Moksha won the argument.   I watched a girl with enormous, fake breasts pose in front of the pool while her friend snapped photos on her IPhone.  A woman practiced yoga, and an elderly man rubbed sunscreen onto his wife’s wrinkled shoulders.

I walk my dog through Parc Lafontaine and cling to the shady spots.  I NEVER cling to the shady spots.  But it brings me so much joy to see so many people out on their bikes; riding or running, Tai-Chi-ing, slack-lining, juggling, Frisbee-ing, drinking, napping, reading, writing, singing and making out.  I mean, did I just drop into a Toulouse-Lautrec painting??  What level of bohemia have I just landed into?

There is something to be learned from this city.  This city of contradictions.  You have a choice.  You can be angry and stressed out.  Bitter and frustrated.  Tense and annoyed and always the victim; stuck, trapped and pigeon-holed.  Or you can choose to be free:  to sweat your balls off, but to do so with fervor and joy and passion and grace.

In the meantime, I choose The Pool.  Because it is the coolest form of Peace that I can find for the time being; a place where I can tap into the vibe of this magical place, find some silence from all the noise, and for one goddamn minute, stop this incessant sweating!!!!

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