The Ballad of Bimbo the Deer
I Went to Montreal’s New Cat Cafe on Shrooms
I have a broken relationship with cats. Once in a while, they take a moment from shitting in boxes and lurking in dark corners to glare at me with indifference or distrust, but that’s about it. Up until now, we’ve been working under the unspoken agreement to not really give a shit about each other. So when VICE asked me to visit the new cat café that had just opened in Montreal, my dysfunctional relationship with cats came to the fore.
Café des Chats is the first establishment of its kind to open in Canada. If you’re not familiar with the concept of a cat café, it’s basically a coffee shop with a bunch of cats living inside it. I thought the concept seemed a little contrived, and the thought of drinking espresso in a room that’s crawling with eight unimpressed and distrusting creatures initially sounded like a bit of a nightmare. But, framed the right way, this could be a great opportunity to face my fears and heal my relationship with felines. Maybe throwing them into our neighborhood cafés is actually a great idea.
Either way, I probably wasn’t going to enjoy myself or learn anything by going in my current headspace, so I decided to take some mushrooms before crossing the cat café threshold.
I spoke with the owner Nadine a few days before my visit, and she agreed to have me come by half an hour before it opened on Friday, at 9:30 in the morning. I met up with Stephanie (our photographer) beforehand to drink mushroom tea and have some grounding, sober thoughts while I still could. I sat on the edge of her couch at 8:45, taking careful sips as the sun glanced off her bookshelf. I watched the cluster of green mushroom bits swirl into the tea, thinking of how the fate of my morning rested in its murky depths.
After I finished my cup, we biked over to the café in Montreal’s Plateau neighborhood, and stood outside to take a photo of me nervously laughing outside.
I was still clear-headed, but knew by the way my fingers were tingling I was on my way to ShroomTown. I watched Stephanie fiddle with her camera and realized that while we were in there, she would be the only other human that knew I was tripping. I made a mental note to remember that if things got out of control.
The co-owner Youseff saw us standing outside and came out to greet us.
“Welcome,” he said. “Come on in.”
The People Who Wouldn’t Mind if the Pacific Northwest Were Its Own Country
The first thing we heard when we pulled into the Finney Farm was the clattering of drums, followed by a high-pitched howling noise.
Suddenly a wild pack of young girls came running out of the woods waving sticks in the air. The youngest, maybe two years old, had sticky berries smeared across her face. She was inexplicably waving a $5 bill in the air. The leader of the pack, maybe 13, suddenly noticed us and halted her group—who all promptly dropped their sticks.
“Oh, hi, I haven’t seen you yet, so I guess you’re new here,” she said. “Well, um, welcome to the farm. If you go way down the forest trail, past the big fallen tree, you’ll find a clearing that I think would be nice to set a tent up in. I dunno. You’ll figure it out.”
Then the pack took off howling back into the woods.
We were here for the Cascadia Rainingman Festival, held on Labor Day weekend at a gorgeous 100-plus acre organic farm in the foothills of the North Cascade mountain range in Washington State. Unless you follow the fringe politics of the Pacific Northwest, you’re probably wondering what Cascadia is, and that’s a tricky question, because self-described “Cascadians” hold all kinds of different beliefs. (The first of many workshops at the festival was titled “What is Cascadia?”)
This Canadian Male Model Has Buzzwords Tattooed All Over His Face and Body
There’s something admirably misanthropic about getting a face tattoo. You really need to be fully committed to having a somewhat shitty life to let a stranger draw something on your face. Whether it’s a teardrop or the name of the softest rapper in the game, having a face tattoo screams: “You may never trust me with your child or gainful employment, but I’ll be damned if I care!”
Of course, there’s the rare occurrence when people with face tattoos have not just succeeded despite their regretful life choices, they have excelled as a result of their facial ink. Would Gucci Mane’s rep as “the coolest rapper in jail” be secure if his face didn’t havea triple scoop ice cream cone on it? Would Miami rapper Stitches’ video for “Brick in Yo Face” be as insanely popular if his mug didn’t look like it was decorated by a tween with an unhealthy obsession for Tim Burton and assault rifles? Could Zombie Boy have parlayed his association with Lady Gaga into his own brand of overpriced bath towels, condoms, and energy drinks if he had just been some random non-skeletally decorated Montreal skid living on the streets? The answer is a resounding: “Hell-to-the-no!”
Enter Canadian model Vin Los, the latest in the honorable lineage of people who have done stupid things to their face because, who gives a fuck? According to his YouTube video—a budget version of that Zombie Boy video that includes the very Quebecois directive to “BE ADDICT”—the 24-year-old’s goal is pretty straightforward: To become the most famous man on Earth. His face and arms already look like a buzzword checklist written by an art student with things like “FAME,” “LICK,” and “BAISE MOI” (fuck me) tattooed in handwritten font all over his toned body—which is hairless unless you count all the tiny fake follicles he got tattooed on his chest.
Objectively, without the tattoos, the man is a total babe. In fact, I admit that—even with the words “ICONIC FACE” scrawled on his cheek—one look into his deep brown eyes gave me a ladyboner. After spending hours caressing his Apollo’s belt on my HD screen, dreaming of the day where my name finally finds itself on his inner right thigh, I decided I needed to see his “iconic face” in person and find out why would a man with such a beautifully chiseled jawline would want to permanently walk around with the words “SEX BOMB” on his neck. Here’s how it went.
VICE: How old were you when you got your first tattoo?
Vin Los: I was about 16 or 17 years old. I got the Le Coq Sportif logo. Then I got words tattooed on my arms, and that’s when I decided I would never get another image or drawing tattooed. Drawings don’t mean anything to me. It may sound like I have bad values or something, but my tattoos aren’t just for me. I want to be an image for people to look at, something that has an impact. Everybody who sees me is bound to ask questions: “Why fame? What’s his life like?”
So you like it when people look at you that way?
Yes. A puzzled stare is one that’s gonna last. I want to create a myth, a mystery. A lot of people ask me if I’m scared I might regret it one day. If I was indecisive, I don’t think I would write on my face.
How do you pick the words or expressions that go on your body?
It’s very superficial. I’ll go on YouTube and listen to all the big hits and I’ll just take words from these songs. For example, “Top of the World” is from the song by The Cataracs, but it’s also what I want. I want to rule the world. As for the city names, it’s to show that we are all on the same level. Borders still exist, but not to the same extent. Whether you’re like, in Zurich or Sydney, I personify all of that. I want to embody pop culture. You could look at me in a hundred years from now and really get the idea of what pop culture was like in the early 2010s.
You say you want to be the most famous man on Earth. Why are you so fascinated by celebrity culture?
I’m still trying to figure out why I’m so passionate about it. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always been fascinated by Marilyn Monroe. And not just people, but also fame which applies to products like Starbucks for example. It’s all around the world. The marketing aspect really fascinates me.
Not everyone has the balls or reckless commitment to absurdity to suckle milk out of cow udders and put it on TV. For Tom Green, it was one of the most unforgettable moments of his unexpected rise to the top. In fact, few comedians have had a crazier pre-YouTube ascension to fame than the 42-year-old native of Pembroke, Ontario.
In the early 90s, he cut his teeth in the entertainment world as MC Face of the award-winning Canadian rap group Organized Rhyme. By the mid 90s, he had transitioned into radio and television, bringing his deliriously weird and offbeat brand of comedy to community-access television in Ottawa.
The show was deliberately lo-fi and antagonistic. Some of the more memorable stunts Tom pulled include painting a comically vulgar image on his parents’ car and dubbing it the “Slutmobile,” attempting to interview anxious, uneasy pedestrians with slabs of beef stuck to his head, and, yes, vigorously humping a dead moose. At the turn of the century, Tom was one of MTV’s most original and biggest stars, and his impact has left a noticeable legacy—you can see his comic imprint on avant-garde, genre-busting shows like Jackass and the Eric Andre Show.
We sat down with Tom over beers for a long discussion of his wild career trajectory, the finer points of suckling milk out of cow udders, and the time Eminem shouted him out in a massive pop song.
Why Are So Many Aboriginal Women Being Murdered in Canada?
In February, the frozen body of 26-year-old Loretta Saunders, a pregnant Inuit woman from Labrador, Canada, was found dumped onto a highway median in New Brunswick. Saunders, a student at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, had been writing her thesis on missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada—in a tragic twist, she became one of the subjects of her own research, the latest in what is estimated to be hundreds of murders and disappearances of indigenous Canadian women. Just this month, the head of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police told reporters that 1,186 aboriginal women had been murdered or went missing over the past 30 years.
The sad irony of Saunders’s death shed light on a human rights issue that has been quietly brewing for years in Canada, a progressive country that is generally known for treating its citizens—including most women—well. The Canadian government doesn’t collect data on the race and ethnicity of missing persons, but a new database compiled by independent researcher Maryanne Pearce documents 4,035 cases of missing and murdered women and girls, 883—or nearly 25 percent—of which involve aboriginal women. That’s a shocking statistic, considering that aboriginal women make up just 2 percent of the population in Canada. While some of the cases date back to the 1950s, the majority took place between 1990 and 2013.
“This is part of a larger phenomenon of violence against women, period,” Pearce said. “It’s such a complicated issue. We have to look at every layer, with a special focus on systemic racism. There isn’t one answer—there isn’t one person or group who can address this. It has to be everybody—the First Nations governments, the provincial governments, the police forces, and the national government. And the Canadian public has a responsibility too.”
How Do You Deal with a Giant, Stinking, Potentially Explosive Whale Corpse?
OK, so let’s say you have a dead whale on your hands. Depending on where you live, this is not as uncommon a problem as it might seem. Residents of Newfoundland, Canada, for example, are currently dealing with a pair of rotting blue whale corpses. These noble giants of the sea were likely killed by some ice, and now they sit rather ignobly on rocky beaches, rotting and slowly filling up with methane gas, which bloats the bodies and could cause them to explode.
Living beached whales are a challenge to deal with in their own right. Occasionally, they can be kept wet and breathing long enough to be guided back to sea, but often they dieof natural causes or have to be euthanized to spare them unnecessary suffering. When that happens, you’re left with the same issue faced by local officials in Newfoundland, where the government has told the towns of Trout River and Rocky Harbour that it’s their responsibility to deal with the whales: How do you handle 60 tons of decomposing meat?
Here are some options:
Let the corpses stay: They might be good for tourism!
Everyone loves a giant dead aquatic mammal. From the Wire:
“People have been flocking to the town in the past week to get a look at the carcass, according to Jenny Parsons, a restaurant owner in town.
At least one Trout River resident wants to take advantage of the large influx of gawkers. She told the Guardian, ‘Right now we have a stream of traffic coming to see this whale, and we would like that to develop further into maybe “What can we do with this whale for future tourism?”’”
The difficulty here is that people like looking at whale corpses, but they really, really don’t like smelling them—the same folks snapping #DeadWhaleSelfies will presumably not hang around to sample the local delicacies when the air smells like bloated, rotting blubber.
OK, but can anything be done to profit from the whales’ deaths? Can people sell bits of blubber as souvenirs?
No, absolutely not. Blue whales are endangered, which means you can’t saw off the whales’ flippers—as one bold Trout River resident did—without breaking the law. And getting close to the corpses means you risk getting all kinds of whale-borne viruses, not to mention the chance of falling into a whale if you stand on its decomposing skin.
We headed to Toronto, Canada to hang with the Momofuku crew, the thriving American restaurant brand impressively stretching its wings into Canada in the midst of a burgeoning Toronto food scene, complete with pressed duck, lobster mac & cheese, and a giant whole rib eye.