Being Hip in Montreal

It’s very rare that I start a story with a title. But sometimes it so happens that someone will say something that catches my attention. It happens even more rarely that I actually have a story that goes with that title.

This is one such time.

Less than a week since I returned from a trip to Ecuador – which I haven’t written about (probably won’t) partially because I can’t find the words, and partially because it probably shouldn’t be recorded- I found myself on a plane to Montreal. Another work trip, but I’m hardly complaining. No, actually I’m not complaining at all.

After a full day of meetings and trainings, our evenings were dictated by the need to identify restaurants for the various meals for our tour. The following is an account of some of the adventures we got up to during these soirées into the mostly empty, soggy city of Montreal.



One night…

We stepped out of our Ville Marie hotel, and trotted off in the direction of Old Montreal. My companion and I discovered our mutual love of walking the night before. We had a couple of restaurant names in our possession, and an occasionally faulty google maps app running.

We didn’t get a chance to look at the map. We were walking down Peel Street by what looked like a Gallery event in a space called Espacio Mexico, and my lively companion walked in with the gusto of someone who didn’t just get invited, but was the main event itself.  I waited a breath to see if someone stopped us, or questioned us. When nothing happened I got busy examining the placards and exhibition to understand what it is we walked into.  The boards were all in French, but Art doesn’t need language.

One particular installation struck me. It was a series of 9 photographs from a Mosh Pit.  The artist Janine Gordan had photographed the absolute release, and abandon of spirit. The series discussed how the mosh pit symbolizes a group creating a safe space for emotional outburst; anger, rebellion. Because more and more our public spaces are becoming sterile and closed to violent, authentic human emotion.  It doesn’t even have to be violent. A child crying, a couple kissing, these displays are more and more rare in our common space because human emotion seems to make humans uncomfortable. This idea struck me like lightning, and even after exploring some of the other installations, I found myself coming back over and over again to the mosh pit.

The lovely waitresses kept our wine glasses full and the cheese and grapes in steady supply. We spent about 30 minutes exploring the art, and expanding our minds before moving along.

We checked out a few restaurants and wandering down a dark street, found Tapas 24.  We sat at the bar and were served by a gorgeous red headed bar tender, who kept my glass of wine full, and the tapas recommendations flowing as well. It was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time. My colleague and I had our debrief and then shared more of our personal stories. Found myself down memory lane, remembering being Partial to Marshall, drunkenness, shenanigans and some of my best stories.  I was raving about the beauty of our bartender (and my obvious weakness for ginger vixens) when Michelle said quietly and with utmost certainty,

“I feel the same way about gingers that I feel about orange cats; I don’t like them. “

It was so funny, and all our evenings were punctuated by laughter like this. At times I couldn’t tell if I was laughing out of hysterics and exhaustion or because we were actually that funny.  


The other night…

After another eventful and long day we set out. We hadn’t left the hotel all day, and the steady drizzle was not going to keep us inside. We were walking down St. Catherine street, looking for a place to have a drink and debrief the day. Suddenly flashing neon lights caught my attention. I couldn’t quite tell what the place was, but as we approached i started to suspect that it was a strip club.

I’ve never been to a strip club before, and it seemed like a learning opportunity in the city of Montreal. Super sexxe was clean, comfortable and the staff was very friendly. We sat down by the stage and as the girls got on and off the stage, swaying and gyrating, I noticed the vacant look in their eyes. They were beautiful, but with a tragic quality, an emptiness that it must take to do the job. One other point about Strip clubs in Montreal, they take everything off. Everything.

My companion and i were laughing uncontrollably about the irony that strippers were making the men feel good, and mostly just making us feel bad about our bodies. We laughed about being chased off the stage if we got naked. We laughed a lot.

Then Maya got on stage. I’m starting to understand why so many hip hop singers make songs about strippers. Maya was beautiful. Maya had the most beautiful breasts we had ever seen, and we spent a good 15 minutes discussing whether they were real or fake. I pride myself on being an expert on boobs. They were real. My companion wasn’t so enamoured by her though, seeing as she doesn’t like orange cats.

The highlight of the night was when no one else was looking, Maya took off the vague, vacant look and smiled at me. For a split second a glimpse of the real girl. I’ll never forget it.

a day later…

I sat at the window of a warm toasty cafe, watching the rain continue to drench the city. People behind me were nattering in French, occasionally i would hear “where is the snow?” and could tell the city was uncomfortable with the warm temperatures. I was reliving the nutty and  hilarious moments I had had in the past few days, trying to ignore the craving for a cigarette.

So I sipped my coffee and started to write down an account of what it’s like being hip in Montreal.



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