Day 5: Meeting friends + the Grand Tour | Disjointed Dispatches from Montreal

Taking a chance to meet random strangers on the internet. There’s always a chance it will be awkward but thankfully Sam and Maxim are awesome.  I know Sam through a mutual internet friend in the marketing world. I know Maxim through a Radiohead fan group. He can’t come to the shows but he can come and hang out today. Explore Atwater Market, have a killer brisket sandwich, walk the canal. A restaurant on a boat, swan paddles, a guy in all-Quebecois garb, and the infamous construction in Montreal reaches even the water. i learn that “moi” was pronounced “moy” here, instead of “mwah” that I had been saying. ‘Scuse MOY.”

Feet were OK until they weren’t. I need a rest and Sam had to take off to get ready before rehearsal. She plays drums in a metal band, which is so kickass it hurts.

Maxim has a bit more time so after we rest in some water misters and Sam takes off we head back to the Metro and wander around downtown. We plan to see the Beaux-arts but then decide tickets were too expensive. Remember how I said I’m tired of pulling out my credit card every time I want to “do” something? I mean it. We walk instead down to the underground city – a network of malls located underground that also connect Metro stations, high-rise office buildings and universities. That way, in the winter, you can stay indoors on your commute. I mean, you still have to travel to get to a Metro station, but it’s a nice respite from the snow and bitter cold. I’ve got to sit and grab a drink. We sit and nerd out over Radiohead. Who doesn’t like Backdrift?! Stupid people. But Maxim and I differ on The Gloaming. I love it, he does not. It is agreed though that staring at a full moon enhances your Radiohead experience no matter what the song is. My feet are OK now. We emerge at Place des Artes and see a street performer and Maxim tells me about his upbringing in the more rural, closed -minded parts of Quebec, I tell him about my Mormon upbringing. He tells me about how music met him at his worst and allowed him to feel, to remind himself to be himself. Music is so fucking powerful. We go to his old university just down the street. We stop and rest some more and talk some more until we have to go. I’m just having the loveliest time and i’m not pulling out a credit card.

back at the hostel to take a nap before a guided bus tour. I enjoy the living shit out of it. I see all the sights without walking and someone smart tells me the history behind them all. I take lots of pictures of lots of buildings and I can’t possibly remember the names of them all for later but they are pretty and so I take the photos that i will likely not upload 98% of them. My dad takes pictures of sunsets. I take pictures of buildings. Between us two there’s nary a human in our vacation photos. I try to throw in a selfie here and there to balance it out.

Things I learn:
John Lennon’s bed-in was in Montreal
Adam Sandler’s Netflix movie is being filmed in Old Montreal which is what I may have run across earlier
The crabapple tree is representative of Montreal because it blooms in May, just like Montrealers
Five major nations helped found Montreal, says the tour guide: Ireland, Scotland, England, France and the indigenous First Nations.
There’s 200,000 bodies buried at the foot of Mont Royal in the cemeteries and I hear Leonard Cohen is one of them
Same guy who designed Mont Royal Park also did Central Park, amongst others
The law says you must have a full meal if you want to drink alcohol in the park, so needless to say, picnics are very popular
The tour guide is native to Montreal and gets ridiculously affordable higher education so she says she’s now a professional student
Montreal has a “forced equality” for English and French. When they built a French language hospital, they were also building an English hospital at the same time. In Old Montreal there was a statue of an Englishman who killed a bunch of French people in one war. Across the street there’s a statue of a Frenchman who killed a ton of English people in another war. They now face each other.
French speaking tour guide says she never once had a beer on Crescent Street. That’s the English neighborhood, she said in perfect English. The French and English love each other here, she says, but pretty much stick to their own neighborhoods.

There’s a bunch more but those were the things I remember. Also we get a face full of bugs on the open top deck of the bus. I am so spoiled in the Bay Area, we hardly get any bugs. But it’s warm and muggy out and we eat bugs and one splats on my glasses. There’s other points of the tour that aren’t so buggy. Thankfully.

It’s an amazing warm evening and I’m hungry and the bus tour ends and I’ve been trying to save my poutine experience for La Banquise, a place more than one friend who don’t know each other have recommended highly. But I’m feeling like cheating. I mean what I really feel like is comparing and contrasting. I find a spot just down the street from where the bus stops. It’s called Dunn’s and it feels a bit touristy and chain-restauranty and that’s OK, I’m going to be comparing their poutine to the higher rated restaurant later. Good god, I never thought that fries, gravy and squeaky cheese curds would work so well together but they do. When I first had poutine, it was back in Berkeley when Smoke’s Poutine opened up their first US shop. It was OK but I’m not the biggest fan of fries, or anything super starchy and potato-ey. So poutine didn’t sound appealing but I knew I would need to give it a try here. I can’t stop eating the massive bowl they gave me. I stuff myself silly. I make sure I order a side of something vegetable-like and the coleslaw just isn’t as good as the poutine.

I overhear restaurant workers make small talk about science. About we’re not getting enough salt in our diets, which I beg to differ, they don’t have my freezer meal diet. Also poutine and smoked meat are practically bathed in salt so montréal folks should be fine. The workers also talk about the medical composition of burning fat. The kid at the table by me repeats the conversation in his own words and sounds like he nailed the chemical composition. I wouldn’t know because it’s all Latin to me.

Except the big reason i can recognize so many French words is because we share a common Latin ancestor and deep down i know more Latin than i let on, or realize.

I finish. I pay. I’m on my way back, but before I continue, I want you to imagine you’re a bug and you fly into a sweaty girl’s face in the Metro. Imagine you’re small enough to stick to the sweat and you’re watching a hand come swat you from above. The hand wipes your small, lifeless carcass and flicks it on the floor and there’s no one to memorialize your passing except for some random sweaty girl who blogs. imagine you have 50,000 friends who also meet the same fate but without the blog part. Imagine how sad.

I’m back at the hostel and I sleep for days, figuratively speaking.

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