Day 8: Playing tour guide already | Disjointed Dispatches from Montreal

The Radiohead shows are over but I have video clips of the highlights and I watch them over and over. I have two days left in Montreal and I don’t want them to be anticlimactic after the shows. But hell, even if they are, who cares let’s do whatever.

I do have to work a bit, write a bit, organize a bit. I spend most of the morning and a bit of the afternoon doing random shit on my laptop that need to get done. In the evening I have plans with a longtime friend who happens to be in Montreal at the same time as me. We’re going to see Old Montreal, see some fireworks, but most importantly, we’re seeing this: Aura.

Jen has been petsitting just outside Montreal and hasn’t gotten the opportunity to explore the city proper. She also is getting into town a bit earlier than expected which is wonderful. So I tell her to meet me near the hostel and I can show her around Crescent Street, where we can wander a bit before the show tonight. She comes and it’s a delight to see her. We haven’t hung out in person for about 10 years, when I was in Boston doing a presentation and she was a resident. She played tour guide back then and it was magical, so I’m excited to return the favor on a city I’ve only known for a whole goddamn week.

We walk up Crescent Street and she oohs and awws and then squeals with delight when she discovers the Leonard Cohen mural and her jaw drops when she sees the art museum. I take her to a cool eclectic cafe down the street with a broken organ as furniture and a turntable with records out back. The fare has a Persian theme. I order anything with saffron in it. It’s delicious if a bit pricey. We sit and talk and we aren’t the type to start with small talk, we’re just going to get straight to the whole meaning of life business and what we want to do with our lives and what’s possible and Jen doesn’t have a home address right now, she just housesits around the world and teaches online. Wow. I think about what I could do and what my life’s priorities are, and it’s with music, and it’s a hell of a lot easier to make music when I’ve got a little home studio set up with my digital piano and relatively quiet surroundings and recording equipment. I can’t really do that well or easily if I’m traveling so often. But… damn, she makes me think.

I found a decent restaurant in Chinatown, just a 10 minute walk from where the show is, and we head over there, get only a teensy bit lost but luckily we get lost smack dab in the African Nights festival so it’s not really lost, is it? We find our way back, I show her the Underground City on the way to the Metro, and we emerge near the international symbol of Chinatown: a Paifang archway.

We wander a bit on our way to the restaurant and stumble on about 50 Chinese folks doing outdoor line dancing, and we’re both kind of swooning over this city and everything we’re finding around corners. We head back to the original restaurant planned, and there’s a line, so Jen points to another place next door, a Japanese ramen place, and I say yes and she says yes and we eat delicious ramen instead.

I get a message from my other Jennifer-shaped friend, my Radiohead pal from Mexico City. She’s bought tickets to Aura for tonight too! Yaaay, the Jennifers shall meet! We walk over, meet Jennifer in line and chit chat about everything we can chit chat about. We enter the basilica and I’m immediately drawn to the stations they have around the main pews. This is the only time you’re allowed to take video so I take video.

The main show starts… and it’s INCREDIBLE. I’ve never seen anything like it. I want to see it again. Jennifer wants to see it again. Alas, both of us are leaving too soon. However, Jen is planning on seeing it at least one more time while she’s here. Take one for the team, Jen!

Jennifer has to leave to pack tonight as she leaves tomorrow, so we say our goodbyes and Jen and I head over to the pier. There’s a fireworks festival here because of course there is. Name a topic, Montreal’s got a festival for it. We try and scope out a good place to see the fireworks and it turns out it’s a mediocre place to watch, actually, but we can see it and it’s magic. We decide to make a video for our mutual friends Sean and Jen, yes another Jen, it’s a thing and everyone’s well aware that Jennifers are awesome.

After the fireworks show we walk up Old Montreal and discover even more magic in the plazas and streets, and there is an accordion playing that stops Jen in her tracks and then she says NO, I can’t, we have to go, if I stop for even one second I will just stay. She says she has an accordion music addiction. I believe her. I tell her she should definitely come back.

We agree that Montreal has the power to charm the pants off us. We also agree that everything must be marked with an asterisk, because… winter. This could be the most fabulous city in the fucking universe but the harsh winter will keep Montreal an amazing flirtatious date with no chance for marriage. This native Californian has been weather-spoiled.

We say goodbye and I emerge back in the hostel neighborhood, and I stop to get a late night snack of some sort. I haven’t explored the neighborhood by my hostel after dark, because, speaking of flirtatious dates, there’s men peddling their exotic massage bars everywhere. Bright neon signs, handing out flyers, they stop other males in the street. “You looking for a good time, gentlemen?” “Girls, we got girls right here.” They’re the most aggressive I’ve ever seen Canadians be. One guy points to the other club across the street, saying, “They’ve got guys, we’ve got girls.” He does this for a group of guys in front of the promoter for the other parlor.

I grab a small sandwich from a little 24-hour joint, full of patrons of said erotic clubs. Erotic massage. What does that even mean. Happy endings allowed? Is this legal because I didn’t think it’s legal here. What is this place? Around every corner, I swear to god, I find something new and surprising in Montreal.


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