Celine Dion Country
I was in Montreal for about a day and a half. Not nearly long enough to grasp a city. This didn’t stop me from shooting off my mouth. On the way from the hotel to the Old Montreal district, passing both pristine, centuries-old churches and listless shops with window displays bleached of meaning by the sun, I said the city was the equivalent of a trust-fund hippie: A kid provided with a rich, culture- and history-filled foundation, which they’ve allowed to dissipate through a carefree spirit that’s sunk into lethargy. By the time I reached Old Montreal, one of North America’s oldest urban areas, covered in basilicas, colonial mansions, and museums along the Saint Lawrence River, my ignorant cracks had, thankfully, ceased. It’s a nice place, one you can easily wander through on foot, remaining active yet relaxed while you explore. Also, it has Au Pied de Cochon, an excellent restaurant where I ate the hell out of some foie gras poutine (poutine, a French Canadian beast of a dish, is french fries and fresh cheese curds smothered in gravy) and a boudin tart (a buttery pastry with hunks of smooth blood sausage and potato, wading in au jus).
Though my time was brief, I did learn something about myself: I am terrified by being unable to communicate. I knew Montreal was French Canadian, but, except for pockets in Old Montreal, you rarely hear English. Of course, anyone you speak with will switch to English as soon as you respond to “Bonjour” with “Bonjour-Hello”, so it’s not really a problem there. However, I felt an anxiety at times, one that went past not knowing the country’s native language, to the deeper fears of being unable to articulate through writing, to getting Alzheimer’s and having my mind slowly cleared like it did to one of my grandfathers. Lucky for me, there was a whirlpool tub in my hotel room and those warm jets are strong enough to melt that anxiety so I could enjoy a fucking vacation.
[One last bit: There were a lot of shirtless motherfuckers up in Montreal. The weather was warm, but by no means warm enough where a cotton tee feels like a shroud of flame. I captured a couple of these types, but missed the greatest of them all, The Shirtless Wonder. This man, who did wear shorts, sunglasses, and a hat (backwards), was clearly proud of his bod, crossing my path five to six times in one afternoon, with a beefcake strut, at a comfortable distance from his wife and two young children. The best was the last time he passed, doing his damnedest to project his Shirtless Wonder, from the back of a horse-drawn carriage. He was dumb.]