July Monkey: Welcome to Montreal

This month’s monkey asks readers to contribute our first impressions of Montréal.

Besides a quick stopover at Dorval Airport when I was nine and on my way to Florida, my first time in Montréal came when I was 11. My father decided to take us kids to an Expos game. We drove 8 hours from Saint John and I don’t really remember seeing the city skyline as we entered the city through the Lafontaine Tunnel, which scared me. We stayed at the Auberge Wandlyn. Does anyone remember that place? I doubt it’s still there and I have no idea where in the city it was.

We stopped on Ste-Catherine to get something to eat. I don’t remember where we ate but knowing my father, a lifelong fan of both Montréal and its sports teams, it probably involved smoked meat. Not knowing any better, I opened my door, which faced traffic. It didn’t occur to me that an oncoming car might, I dunno, tear the door right off. I was reminded by my family that All Montreal Drivers Are Insane And Will At A Moment’s Notice, Kill You. I thought to myself, “I’ll never drive here.”

We stopped in a souvenir shop looking for Expos merchandise because it was cheaper than buying at the Stadium. I looked among the ashtrays, postcards, and ball caps, and notice other Montréal souvenirs such as a big rubber penis and coffee cup shaped like a boob. “Montreallers,” I thought, “Are obsessed with sex. They’re perverted.”

Going to the crowded Olympic Stadium, I was impressed with just how many people were there. I had never seen so many people in one place. These were the days of Gary Carter and Tim Raines, back before people were constantly talking about this being their last season. I saw my first outward expression of Québec nationalism when the national anthems were played. The American anthem was played first, in honour of the visiting team. Everyone stood. When the song was done, two gentlemen in front of us sat down, and they stayed seated for ‘O Canada.’

“So,” I thought. “Quebeckers, they hate us. If they find out we’re English, they’re going to get in their cars and run us all over!”

In two weeks, my father is coming for a visit to our Montréal home, where I drive almost everyday, on the Decarie, no less. We’ll probably take in an Expos game by Metro.

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