Life

The City Takes A Deep Breath

St-Catherine street MontrealI didn’t get out of the office until 8pm. which was fine. It was quiet, I had some of my favorite colleagues around to talk to, and the company expensed my sushi.

When I left the office, I figured it was a good time to hit the downtown bookstore for a Father’s Day gift for my dad. The city center was teeming with people, and when you work downtown, the crowds get old pretty fast. Tonight was different for some reason. It was good to see so many people out enjoying a stellar summer evening.

In contrast, last weekend was the Grand Prix, which meant that the city was choked with tourists, cars, honking, exhaust, and cheesy paraphernalia. Yes. Cheesy. One of the few times I will utter the word cheese with negativity. The human energy was so aggressive that many locals hid under their beds rather than venture outside.

Last weekend, I took the plunge and waded out into the seething mass of humans with my friend Sue. We ended up at a strange jungle themed loft party. It was packed. It was techno. I enjoyed it even though it was techno.

When we’d had enough, we left and walked up St-Laurent, which was closed to traffic. The boulevard was so incredibly packed with people, that we had to duck down a side street to avoid the throng. Then we stopped to share a sandwich at one of the old delicatessens. What are we, 20? A Club Roll should not be eaten at 3:30am over the age of 35. By the time I had walked Sue home and got myself back to my place, the sun was coming up.

Fast forward to this evening: After I picked up my gifts, I walked a few blocks back to the office where I picked up my bike and started to pedal home.

Ever have one of those days/nights where everything is perfectly synchronized? Even with the humidity, the traffic was patient. Pedestrians waited for st-louis square fountain Montrealthe lights to change. Cars stopped at the lights too, and yielded for those of us on two wheels. Even the other cyclists I saw waited for the lights to change before continuing. It’s as if the city had been hit by a patience beam.

I was sweating by the time I got to the top of the hill, and as I passed the mountain and the park, the air became cooler. I stopped at St-Louis Square, my favorite Victorian park, just to see if this air of tolerance and patience was still present. It was. With a last hint of blue in the sky, people milling about, and the old fountain doing its thing, summer felt pretty alright.

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  • 00dozo

    I've never been to Montreal but heard the traffic there is horrendous at most times. You probably felt like you were in the Twilight Zone or that body snatchers invaded the city. Hope you have more of those, unless of course you see Rod Serling standing on the corner, smoking a cigarette, or catch a glimpse of Donald Sutherland screaming an unwordly sound, then run for your life!

  • Our downtowns are deserted and our bicyclists are morans. Where you are sounds so nice and civilized.

    I can't get over that you were up until the sun rise. I haven't done that in decades.

  • My Mom lived in Montreal for a while during WW2. She adored it and thought it was one of the most beautiful places on earth. I am so glad you live someplace so magical (except for the stupid tourists and we have those in SF too.) Now this date of yours sounds kind of romantic and perfect! Home with the rising sun! Oh my!

  • Really? Never ever? The traffic can be bad, but it's no worse than Toronto. I find Toronto's traffic to be overwhelming because the it covers such vast distances. Montreal has little pockets of chaos, but it's still easy to get around.

    But yeah, it was totally Twilight Zone, and Body Snatchers, and V! I felt like grabbing a stranger ans shaking them: “what have you done with all the jerks and inconsiderates!”

  • This city definitely has some very sweet moments when you can stop to appreciate them, but we definitely have our warts.

    I can't believe I recovered so easily from the all-nighter. It had been eons for me too.

  • Also, on most days the majority of cyclists ride like idiots. I used to feel like a rebel when I biked to work. Now I feel like a rebel when I stop at the lights. When you stop at the lights, you can watch one cyclist follow the next one through the red lights as if they were dumb sheep. It's crazy.

  • Wow, Montreal in the 40's and 50's was a very happening place, and completely debauched, so I've read. I've found San Fran to be equally magical in many ways.

    The all-nighter was an excellent night, and of course I walked my friend home. I would never leave a lady to fend for herself at that time of night. Unless she tries to randomly fleece me out of 20$ (remember my bad date story)

  • mikewjattoomanymornings

    There's something undeniably magical about being in the city at night, and through the night until the sun rises. In my experience, it doesn't hurt to be with a friend named Sue, either. Remember that night for as long as you can, Mike, because as you point out, they're very rare, and wonderful.

  • Why am I suddenly reminded of a Johnny Cash song?

  • Ohara

    One of Montreal's best attributes is the variety of choices. There is no end to the sites to see, events and festivals to attend. I tend to avoid the Grand Prix crowds but otherwise these events are what make up all the fun.
    The best part is when certain city streets are closed to traffic and I can walk around with a beer in my hand.

  • Unless you were with a heifer who was hustling you for $20, I know you are always a perfect gentleman. SF is pretty magical too. I sometimes forget how beautiful my own back yard is. Of course, if I could do it all again, I'd do it in Paris.

  • 00dozo

    Really. Really, really! I've never been to Montreal (warning: I may visit your pockets one day – I mean, “pockets of chaos”).
    😉 The furthest east I've been is Kingston, and that was for a dog show. Oy.

    I made the mistake of driving to downtown Toronto to work one day after I got my first car. Oy. Vey. It was my first and last time.

    Heh heh – “jerks and inconsiderates” – I hear ya! When I moved here, everyone says, “Good afternoon”, etc., to anyone they come upon, whether they know them or not. I used to think this strange and I was wary of being mugged or something. But, really, it is a very friendly place.

  • Thanks for the vicarious tour. I'm starting to long for a little hit of bright lights/big city. An all-nighter would kill me though.

  • I'm surprised that I recovered as quickly as I did. I was sure that I would be a goner the next day. It helped that very little alcohol was involved 😉

  • Paris…now there's a whole other blog post. Paris is magical all the time. I've had a some great experiences in SF too. Now that's one city that I could go to over and over again.

  • I work near some of the big hotels, and I often get the random “how ya doin'?” from the tourists. It throws you off and seems out of place in the city. More people should be that friendly, but then again, if it was like that in a big city, you'd spend all your time talking to people.

  • It was one for the books. Not only do they not happen very often,but they can't be planned either. Sometimes things just come together.

  • 00dozo

    Haha! Like Crocodile Dundee when he was in New York and went for his walkabout – he tried to say “G'day” to everyone on the sidewalk! Nope, you can't really do that in a big city. I guess if you make eye contact with someone, it would be polite to say hi.

  • I want to work for a company that will expense my sushi dinners! But not if that means I have to work until 8pm.

  • Paris is mine. Now, Mike, when you and Nicky move here, you can go to SF every day if you want!

  • What an awesome, beautifully written post! I felt like I was there. Yes, I have had those times when all is right with the world. It is usually at Mom's beach house after a wonderful day in the sun and salt water. Loved your writing!

  • The tradeoff kinda sucks, but hey, I'll do anything for sushi.

  • Thanks Katherine! So much of it has to do with our current state of mind and perspective.

  • Ziva

    A jungle themed loft party? I hope you went as Tarzan. And that you took pictures. But even if you didn't it sounds absolutely lovely. I have every intention of staying up until the sun rises next weekend when we celebrate midsummer. (Then again it won't actually get dark and the sun will rise again before 4 am so it shouldn't be so hard.)

  • 🙂

  • I think there are some official pictures somewhere on the internet. The ones of me as Tarzan are somewhere out there too, but they're not from that party.

  • Drinking on the street really makes it feel like New Orleans on those occasions.

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