Friday, September 27, 2013

My Friends Are So Distressed

Our friendship started in late 1990, except it wasn't exactly friendship at first: we were sharing a dormitory with 100 other 7th-graders, and his bunk was next to mine. And that fucking Alexandre Paul, known to his friends as Po Paul, was a heck of a snorer. So eventually, I started throwing water at him when he snored - I fought fire with... water.

Maybe the water was an omen.

Anyhow, before the school year was over, we were inseparable buddies, part of a group of like-minded music aficionados, with a tendency bent towards hard rock. Sure, we had our differences - he preferred Nirvana and solo Ozzy Osbourne, I loved Pearl Jam and the first Black Sabbath line-up. Ultimately, though, we could agree on the important things: Guns N' Roses kicked ass.

We also got along outside of school, spending most of our weekends walking day-long treks from my house in the Western part of Montréal, through downtown with countless stops at HMV, Burger King, Sam The Record Man's and Labyrinthe, all the way to his folks' place, in the East end. If the night included a sleepover, we'd watch Saturday Night Live together.

The son of a fireman whose nickname he inherited, Po Paul always wanted to do whatever he could to help ensure he and we would be able to live in a better, fairer, safer, cleaner world, and so it was a match made in heaven when he joined Greenpeace some 15 years ago. From door-to-door canvasser to supervisor to rider of the sea, his ascension throughout their ranks is exceptional.

Then again, he's a pretty awesome guy to begin with.

I'm often asked why Montréal is home to so many activists and great artists, and my answer is usually two-fold and quite simple: it's an awesome place full of utopian potential, yet it was led to being a complete shithole by profiteers who took advantage of the people's good hearts. And so many are fighting to make it - or the rest of the world - a better place.

Po Paul's journey was put on pause recently when he and 11 other activists were arrested in Russia on charges of piracy, for attempting to board an oil rig; they were denied bail and the investigation will last 60 days, though they have yet to actually be charged with anything.

Greenpeace is protesting and appealing, but as we've seen with the Pussy Riot trials and the recent ''anti-gay-propaganda'' extravaganza, Russia - like Russians - couldn't care less about political or outside pressure; they beat to their own drum, and they drum loudly.

Which is the main reason why Po Paul's mom is freaking out, seeing as he's facing a possible 15 years of gulag jail time if he is indeed found guilty. For trying to make a difference, and almost standing in the way of Big Oil.

We'll know in a couple of months whether this farce will taste like Justice or Abuse Of Power, but there are lots of reasons to be scared.

Godspeed, my friend, and best of luck. You've been in our thoughts all week, and we're keeping you there front and center.