Day 3: “Go make art.” | Disjointed Dispatches from Montreal

Slept in. Got some work done before I had to rush out the door to Startupfest. Got a last-minute steeply discounted ticket because they want more queer women in attendance. Hell. Yes. I go to Old Port. It’s old and there’s a port, and someone is filming there. I’m on a boat! To the conference. I see something that looks like Epcot Center in the distance. Turns out it was the original inspiration for Epcot Center, built for the Expo 67 (“till they stepped on my hair / and told me I was fat”), and is now called the Biodome. Speaking of Epcot, my family went when I was a kid and the Canada pavillion was by far the lamest. We sang this song for years afterward and laughed and laughed and laughed because who the F thinks to rhyme Canada with “planet earth” and fun fact, this song was the first that popped in my mind when I landed here.

I’m off the boat. There is a park and a temporary village built on a small island to host this thing. It’s a diverse startup conference. One of the most diverse I’ve been to. There is food and a video feed of the keynote speaker. She’s talking about ads. That’s my primary form of income, so I pay attention. She pleads for morality and examining unintended consequences of our algorithms. The next guy talks about augmented reality and, speaking of unintended consequences, I am fucking terrified. The future he spoke of was like a bizarre cross between Minority Report and the totally warped last act of Sorry to Bother You. I’m sure people 200 years ago would be just as afraid of today. Still left me with such a massive WTF hangover that I pay scant attention to the following speakers. The pitch competition starts and I’m back in the lounge to write. I’m interrupted by someone who wants to network. We network, I guess. I just wanted to write but you know, I did pay something for this conference so I should probably make the most of it.

I go do some businessy things and attend businessy lectures and feel smart. I talk to a few people who could use Facebook ads. I hope it turns into something. I go to a Q&A about social impact businesses. There’s a woman on the panel, her name is Marika. She used to be in this little band called Arcade Fire. She started a business called Plus1 where major touring acts add a dollar to the ticket price to raise funds for charities. I ask her a question to kill three birds with one stone: 1) talk to a fellow musician who has had successes, 2) tell everyone in the room I do Facebook ads because they’re my ideal client, and 3) ask the actual question. I have a lot of clients who have to choose between bottom line and doing good in the world, and if anyone on the panel had examples of how they navigated that. She said they turned down a Coca-Cola sponsorship because they bottle and commodotize water in areas where water is scarce. That was interesting to hear. Some other people asked and answered questions but whatever it’s all about me. The panel was good. I went up afterward and asked if her team works with smaller musicians or if that would make any sense. She said she really only works with the bigger acts whose tickets are $30+. For smaller musicians, they should use that dollar for gas. She looks me in the eye. She says “go make art.” It’s ok, go make art. The phrase replays as an echo in the just-emptied chamber inside my skull. Go make art. I look around. I’m stuck on an island in the middle of St. Lawrence River and i can’t exactly sit down at a piano right now. I can write, though. Go make art. i choose to make art later.

I sit through another lecture, not making art. I walk to a food truck and get a $15 fish taco that was $5 worth of food, still not making art. I meet up with someone interested in advertising online. I feel creative in helping solve his marketing needs but I’m not making art. I get on the ferry. I’m on a boat. I pull out my journal. Waves prevent me from writing straight. I go back to not making art. I land. Old Montreal is beautiful and someone made the buildings into art years ago that I can now enjoy and remind myself that I’m not making art and I’m likely never having kids so if a Montreal autobus smacks into me today all the songs that remain in my head unrecorded will not be my legacy and I won’t be making any more art. I should download everything in my head to a hard drive for preservation.

Except I think about that terrifying augmented reality talk again. There was a point in his presentation where he asked us to imagine living life with all blank walls and AR puts the pictures on the wall, the chairs in front of us. Imagine a world where we become less materialistic because all objects are augmented reality (which I laughed out-the-fuck-out loud when he said that, because bro, NOT GOING TO HAPPEN BECAUSE OF AR, MY FRIEND, SOMEONE’S GONNA COMMODOTIZE THAT SHIT). Then he gave this example: Imagine a world where women could put on makeup with a magic mirror and everyone would perceive her face with the exact makeup design she wanted to project. He really gave that example. It took everything in me to not stand up and say HOW ABOUT WOMEN JUST DON’T NEED TO WEAR MAKEUP IN THIS UTOPIA OF OURS.

What made the talk terrifying was just how rosy he was painting this scenario that will clearly turn on us. I felt like he was selling us on eugenics or something even more horrifying by asking us to imagine a superhuman race of the future that can do whatever we want as long as the electricity never goes out.

My feet hurt again. I start to be actually concerned. Why are my feet swelling up like this? This was happening here and there a few weeks before the trip but it wasn’t a big deal. I walk to a food truck, the third food truck meal so far in Montreal. It’s a smoked meat sandwich. It reminds me of spam and bologna cured in salt. I wonder if it’s the food truck. I look up possible reasons why feet swell that are apart from walking a lot. The internet says I could have achilles tendonitis, or heart disease, or could be pregnant. The internet tells me to stop eating salt. Too late. It also says to not drink so much water, except another site says to drink more water.

Tomorrow I’m taking it easy. Was planning on checking out St. Catherines street festival but that is one long-ass street and a lot of walking, so I decide tomorrow I’m buying new socks and watching the fireworks. Easy.

I need to head back to Mile End to pick up the records I bought but couldn’t carry, then to see Meklit as part of an African festival in town. So many festivals. I get my records, grab a pizza because the smoked meat didn’t fill me, and realize I left my records behind. I’m going to start labeling all my spare bags and boxes I’m carrying around with “If lost call this number” because i know me and i know it’s a matter of time until this happens.

it’s time for Meklit’s show, and it was a fascinating study on how a multilingual country works. The emcee spoke only in French. The opening act spoke both French and English in her on-stage banter, I couldn’t tell if she was saying the same thing twice in each language, or if she was telling more to one language than another. She also sang in her native African tongue (which I unfortunately forget which language). Meklit spoke only in English and sang mostly in English and Amharic. In every language, it was a fabulous show. Meklit is a friend of a friend, as well as a former TED fellow. She played the pot lid song she mentions here.

It was an excellent night and now my back started to catch up with the pain from my feet so both were crying by the time I got home and had to lay down in the common room on top of a towel so I could properly stretch my back out enough to climb the ladder to my bed. I got home too late to officially switch the beds but my bottom-bunk roomie is checking out tomorrow so that fixes that tomorrow. In the meantime strangers are letting me do whatever I’m doing on the floor which is both relieving that there’s no judgement and concerning because shouldn’t someone ask me if I’m OK? someone eventually asks if I’m ok. i say no but i’m working on it. i work on it. i’m fine. i climb up the ladder. i’m switching tomorrow. i’m taking it easy tomorrow. i’m going to go make art tomorrow. I can’t make art if I don’t have a functioning body. I need to put this as a priority.

Bed.

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