August 2021


My grand return to Montréal.

I’m nearing the end of my time in Montreal – it’s been a lovely few days with some nice art discoveries (Kent Monkman — I saw another one of his works today), nice long walks, and some good food.

This is not actually my first time in Montreal – in fact, Montreal was the first place I visited outside of the United States – this was back in the 80s, when I was young. I’d guess that I was 9 or 10 years old.

My paternal grandparents had a summer home north of Albany – nearby the interstate to Canada – and one summer, we headed to Montreal.

I have a lot of scattered memories related to this trip—like crossing the border into Quebec, then stopping at the Welcome Centre to get information about Montreal. The woman working behind the counter – at a welcome center a few miles north of the United States – could not speak English. That was fun for my Dad and Grandma.

Other things that I remember: the Montreal Metro ran on rubber tires and not on metal wheels, as most other subways (e.g. New York City, Berlin, London, Tokyo) do. This is true – I noticed it immediately when taking the metro: it is significantly quieter technology.

We did some shopping at a department store somewhere (I suspect la Baie) and then had lunch in Chinatown, at some restaurant on the second (US counting) floor. This sticks out in my mind because the restaurant was completely empty at lunchtime, when we arrived, and we were the only customers. We were about to leave when they insisted we stay. At the time either my Dad or Grandmother speculated that it was mob-owned, a place to launder money.

But that’s not what stuck out the most to me.

What stuck out the most was a poster that we passed somewhere on the street. It featured a completely naked, muscular, black man. He was holding himself, thus making it not X-rated.

This is the detail that I remember most from the trip – that evening, on my way to take a shower at my grandparent’s summer home, I walked naked from my bedroom to the bathroom, covering myself with my hands. My grandma, sitting in the kitchen between the bedroom and the bathroom, laughed.

That’s probably not why I chose Montreal for the back half of this vacation – at least not seriously. I’d considered a number of other places (Anchorage, Portland, and Winnipeg – to name a few) but landed on Montreal, thus making my trip this week all about French North America.

It’s been a very good, much needed week off.

Comments are closed.