My pen is rusty and my head is full of rocks (no, not that kind of rocks). For the last several months I have been so busy building stone walls that I haven’t had a chance to write a darn thing. But alas, my work is finally finished and now it is time to travel and write again. So if any of my internet readers are still out there, please start reading my website again. I promise that new stories will be posted regularly from now until April. I have my ticket and I fly out on the 16th of December. Where am I goiing? Someplace far away that I’ve never been to before. A place with a very different culture and lots of awesome ancient stonework. Can you guess?
But why don’t we start with a warm up trip before the big adventure? Yeah, sure, it’s only Canada but at least they speak a different language in Montreal. Ms. B. and I score a glorious deal on the internet site: air B n B. for a centrally located apartment in downtown Montreal for an unbelievably low price so we decide to pop on up there for a few days to celebrate her birthday.
Crossing the border is a surprise. We are actually subjected to some semi-serious scrutiny and interrogation on our way into Canada. I expect that sort of thing in places like Mauritania or Paraguay. But Canada? Eh? “But officer we’re just going for a few days to celebrate Ms. B.’s birthday.”
“Oh yeah,” he says, “do you have the printed receipt of the hotel where you have a reservation?”
“We’re not staying at a hotel, we’re renting an apartment through airbnb?”
“What’s air bnb?”
“It’s an internet sight for person to person apartment rental. I have the address of the apartment written down somewhere if you want.”
“That won’t do me any good. Do you two have professions?” (or are you vagrants looking to emigrate your sorry asses away from your bankrupt recession squashed third world homeland of the US into our wonderful Canadian homeland of economic opportunity). He didn’t actually say the parentheses part, I merely inferred that from his tone of voice.
“I’m a jeweler,” says Ms. B., “and I’m a stone mason,” I add.
“Are you bringing any jewels or other inventory across the border to sell?”
“No,” says Ms. B.
“And how about you,” he says, honestly he really says, “Are you carrying any rocks?’
“No,” I say with a chuckle. “I don’t have any rocks.”
“I’m gonna have to look in your trunk,” he says.
Ms. B. pops the hatch and the officer walks around to the back and rummages through our belongings for a few moments. It isn’t a serious search and we have no paraphernalia so it is no big deal. He lets us go. The absurdity of nation states and bureaucratic border crossings never ceases to amaze me. But we make it through and reach the promised land. An hour later, we arrive in Montreal and find the apartment.
How sweet is our pad? Oh my god…so sweet. I am definitely not used to such luxurious accommodations. A full kitchen, a nice big bathtub with full on real deal steaming hot water, a glorious big bed, spotlessly clean, nice artwork on the walls and even satellite tv. It’s so nice, we could very easily spend the entire three days inside. Of course we don’t. There is a whole new city to explore.
So here we are in a foreign country? The signs are in French. The people on the street and all around us are all speaking French. I don’t understand a word. Isn’t it wonderful? Of course French isn’t the only language they speak. We learn this in the restaurants. Every time we attempt to spit out a few pathetic French words (bon jour messir, fromage, we we, si si, he he) the kind people from our host country smile politely at our incompetence and immediately switch to perfect, flawless English. It kind of reminds me of that old joke I’ve often heard while traveling.
What do you call a person who speaks three or more languages?
– a polyglot.
What do you call a person who speaks two languages?
What do you call a person who speaks only one language?
Ha ha…but oh so true. The overwhelming majority of the people on the planet earth including the majority of the people in all those countries we often think of as backwards and uneducated speak at least two languages. Indeed, the only people who don’t are people who are born and raised within the narrow confines of the U.S. educational system. Why do you supposed that is? Perhaps because our schools waste so much time teaching a history of lies that they don’t have a chance to teach us anything useful.
Anyway, I digress.
Montreal is delightful. We eat several fantastic meals in some wonderful little ethnic restaurants. My favorite is the Indian place. Ms. B however prefers the Vegan place. I do agree that the Vegan food is rather delicious but it kind of confuses me geographically. What country are the Vegans from?
We check out the contemporary art museum and wander through the atmospheric streets of the old city. The graffiti outside is as impressive as the fine art on the inside. There are small galleries and neat little shops as well. It’s definitely a city where art is everywhere. A light snowfall really makes it feel like Montreal. (thanks to global warming we don’t get much snow in NY anymore).
In the evening time we go on a quest to find some high quality big city entertainment. Rather remarkably, Leonard Cohen is playing at the Bell Center to coincide with this particular random Tuesday that we happen to be in Montreal. Ms. B. and I are both big fans of the old dude so we head on down to the arena to see if we can score some last minute tickets. Unfortunately, all the reasonably priced tickets are sold out and the only ones left cost 116 dollars a piece. Not gonna happen. LC is awesome. He’s 77 years old so he probably won’t be touring for that many more years. But still. 232 buckaroonies to sit in a crowded arena and listen to music… any music… even music inspired by the Gods…. hallelluiah… is just not a realistic value exchange. So instead we opt for a performance of modern dance where tickets only cost 36 bucks.
Unfortunately, the modern dance performance is sold out as well. Oh no. Now what. Will we have to celebrate Ms. B.’s birthday at some seedy bar on St. Catherine street…. Thankfully, no. “But wait. Messr, Madam. Sometimes the dance performance releases an extra couple seats right before the performance starts.” So we wait around for an hour or so to try our luck and the gods of good fortune reward us. Not only are two seats released at the last minute, but the kind woman gives them to us gives for free. Happy birthday to Ms. B. And so we get to witness a truly incredible performance by a visiting group from China called the “Tao of Dance.” Seriously, I like to think that I’m physically fit thanks to my bicycle riding and stonework. But compared to these Chinese dancers I’m a couch potato.
So our trip to Montreal was a glorious success and on our journey back to NY we detour through Vermont and stop to visit the Frog. As usual my very good friend the Frog treats us to a wonderful meal and some really fine entertainment. “You guys have got to check out this new video I just got,” he says, “it’s live concert footage of Leonard Cohen’s latest tour.” So we settle back with some drinks and some weed and watch the concert for free. How good is this life?