by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Charles Aznavour - "Yesterday When I Was Young"

Dear Café Olimpico,

I am writing this letter from under your roof. Every morning I come and sit here, and I sip a coffee like this one, and I ease into my day of triumphs, backflips, heartbreaks. You are my first stop, Olimpico. You are my social club. You are my home away from home. But there is a very serious problem.

The problem is this: Wifi signal

They seem like nothing, these four pretty arcs. Upside-down bowls, an inverted Christmas tree, stream rising from the espresso machine. But these curved lines mean much more than that. They mean: the internet. They mean: email, twitter, craigslist. Ten billion gigabytes of webpages, plus YouTube. We open our laptops, swipe our phones, and suddenly there is a paradise at our fingertips.

Fuck paradise! Fuck that damn paradise! Olimpico was an oasis. In the heart of hipster Mile End, a café without wi-fi, a room without facebook, a place where people sat with allongés and talked. Warm, convivial, filled with the sounds of clinking spoons, new friends, maybe sometimes a Madonna song. You think I am exaggerating? I am not exaggerating! You know I am not exaggerating!

A little while ago, it changed. One day, ping!, free wireless, wafting through the room. At first it didn't seem to matter. But slowly, slowly, like the ticking temperature of global warming...

The rare computer was always okay - some sad soul hermitted in the corner, revising a novel; a student, three lattés, and a marinating thesis. But laptops are not merely common, now - they are inevitable. They are multiplying, like LCD-lit rabbits, and with them the arrival of Arts Café refugees, Cagibi ex-pats, even tourists on day-trips from Starbucks. Getting to Olimpico at 10am, the tables are filled with silent, dead-eyed double-clickers. As it gets colder and the terrasse empties out, the problem of space becomes worse. There is nowhere to sit. There is nowhere to sit, and talk, and just do regular shit, Olimpico, and the tiny laptops' fans are sucking the life from the room.

It is not your fault. I know it's not. It's there in the name of the wireless network: B&M, your next-door neighbours, your damned neighbours, shillers of overpriced breakfast. But surely you can do something. Surely you can go over to B&M, lean on their shiny counter, and ask that they add a firewall, a customers-only password, a something. Men of Olimpico, you make a delicious cup of coffee, and you have also been such fine stewards of your space. Unlike your neighbours a block away, you know the ones, you never installed an open network. You forbade people from even plugging their laptops in! Dictatorial, philistine, almost fascist? Sure! But in this way, you kept the pixel-toting barbarians from the gates. And we were grateful.

Now, listen: I realise that I am a hypocrite. I am, after all, an emblem of all that I rail against. For three years, I have been coming to your café every day, my laptop on my back, to sit and click and clack. I am that sad soul in the corner, with headphones over ears. But I came to Olimpico because it was not filled with nerds like me. I came for my friends, who strolled in, smiling, and interrupted me, who metaphorically smashed my computer across their knees. And I came because there was no internet: no flashing distractions, just my work. Yes, I am a hypocrite; I am pleading - save me from myself.

Rescue us, champions of Café Olimpico. Before it is too late.

I am writing this letter from under your roof, and posting it, but I dream of the day when I cannot.


Sean Michaels


Elsewhere: Brendan's hosting a wonderful house show on Saturday night, for just $5: Zsofia Zambo, Zombé Mugambe, Becky Foon, Space Ghost Cowboys, and Ramona Córdova. That last one is a very rare event.

Posted by Sean at November 11, 2010 12:03 PM

sweet! there's wi-fi at olimpico now?!

Posted by waito at November 11, 2010 12:11 PM

Ramona Cordova ?!? You're making it very difficult for me to not be in Montreal right now.

Posted by garrincha at November 11, 2010 2:27 PM

Olimpico better get this together! I may be moving back to MTL and expect it to be all old school!

Posted by Harmony at November 11, 2010 6:41 PM

Last time I was at Olimpico it still smelled like fire and they diligently enforced the no-plugging-in policy. Times change.

It's interesting and, in a way, sad to see how much laptops have penetrated cafes. I was my neighborhood cafe a few weeks ago and I was one of two patrons NOT on a laptop. Even more radical and/or antiquated, I was reading a genuine newspaper!

Great post and it made me miss their lattes!

Posted by Mike W. at November 11, 2010 6:59 PM

I notice you've stricken "overpriced" from the record. did a big dude come to your house?

Posted by dan at November 12, 2010 12:02 PM

Beautiful song Sean, and a personal, heartfelt rant

Posted by Tom M at November 13, 2010 5:31 PM

always enjoy reading the posts, but this has got to be one of the best ones. i'm in love.

Posted by Denisse at November 15, 2010 12:51 AM

I found out about this blog through a friend in Philly, but the fact is I know your woes all too well since I am an Arts Cafe refugee as you so well put it. Alas for wifi, it'll be the death of cafetalk interaction!

Posted by Tereza at November 20, 2010 10:31 AM

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"And I shall watch the ferry-boats / and they'll get high on a bluer ocean / against tomorrow's sky / and I will never grow so old again."
about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.

Jeff Miller is a Montreal-based writer and zinemaker. He is the author of Ghost Pine: All Stories True and a bunch of other stories. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Say hello on Twitter or email.

Mitz Takahashi is originally from Osaka, Japan who now lives and works as a furniture designer/maker in Montreal. English is not his first language so please forgive his glamour grammar mistakes. He is trying. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Reach him by email here.

Site design and header typography by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet. The header graphic is randomized: this one is by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet.
Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.

Jordan Himelfarb wrote for Said the Gramophone from November 2004 to March 2012. He lives in Toronto. He is an opinion editor at the Toronto Star. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.
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our favourite blogs
(◊ means they write about music)

Back to the World
La Blogothèque
Weird Canada
Destination: Out
Endless Banquet
A Grammar (Nitsuh Abebe)
Ill Doctrine
A London Salmagundi
Words and Music
Petites planétes
Gorilla vs Bear
Silent Shout
Clouds of Evil
The Dolby Apposition
Awesome Tapes from Africa
Matana Roberts
Pitchfork Reviews Reviews
i like you [podcast]
Nicola Meighan
radiolab [podcast]
CKUT Music
plethoric pundrigrions
Wattled Smoky Honeyeater
The Clear-Minded Creative
Torture Garden
Passion of the Weiss
Juan and Only
Horses Think
White Hotel
Then Play Long (Marcello Carlin)
Uno Moralez
Coming Up For Air (Matt Forsythe)
my love for you is a stampede of horses
It's Nice That
Song, by Toad
In Focus
WTF [podcast]
The Rest is Noise (Alex Ross)
My Daguerreotype Boyfriend
The Hood Internet

things we like in Montreal
st-viateur bagel
café olimpico
Euro-Deli Batory
le pick up
kem coba
le couteau
au pied de cochon
mamie clafoutis
tourtière australienne
chez boris
alati caserta
vices & versa
+ paltoquet, cocoa locale, idée fixe, patati patata, the sparrow, pho tay ho, qin hua dumplings, caffé italia, hung phat banh mi, caffé san simeon, meu-meu, pho lien, romodos, patisserie guillaume, patisserie rhubarbe, kazu, lallouz, maison du nord, cuisine szechuan &c

drawn + quarterly
+ bottines &c

casa + sala + the hotel
blue skies turn black
montreal improv theatre
passovah productions
le cagibi
cinema du parc
pop pmontreal
yoga teacher Thea Metcalfe

Cult Montreal
The Believer
The Morning News
The Skinny