Montreal Part Deux: Poetry, Riots, Smoked Meats

I see how people visit NOLA and never manage to see anything but the French Quarter and the Garden District.  In Montreal, I walked all over…downtown (Centre-Ville).  Couple hipster neighborhoods and the large, winding Parc du Mont Royal, and I was looking forward to admiring my new toned gluts after all that walking.  On the plane home, I checked out my excursions on a map, and I was the equivalent of walking around Times Square and Central Park.  Yuck. Sigh.  Lovely city though, from what little I saw.
Monday night, before the whole United 93 French-Arabic fiasco, I was roaming around Rues de St. Laurent and St. Denis, lost in the urban Quebecois wilderness, unable to make simple decisions like where to eat.**  Kept wandering in and out of bookstores and ended up talking for awhile to this young guy who worked in one of them, a sort of red-headed anarchist Jew punk rocker who writes poetry but thinks he might like sociology and really wants to write non fiction from now on.  He gave me a brief primer on the recent revolutionary history of Quebec and Montreal to explain why people here are more “prone to rioting.�  His words, in response to my tale of my high school youth group trip here where we witnessed a riot on St. Catherine St. after the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup.  He and I exchanged blog addresses, and I wrote in my journal one of his quotes, “can there be poetry after Auschwitz?�*** 

Cool guy, and he gave me my lunch place for Tues, and explained to me the smoked meat phenomenon going on across the street from the bookstore while we talked.  (See photos).  Apparently the best in the country, if not North America, if not the world. 


As if to confirm this guy’s point that Quebecois are thus a “little touchyâ€?, my cab driver when dropping me off got pissed at the cab driver in front of him in hotel driveway and leaped out of the car to start with him.  The hotel valet broke them up.  It was bizarre and I couldn’t hear them, and then it was in french anyway, I believe it was that the defendant cab driver was blocking the hotel driveway. 


Then, in the elevator up to my room, one of the guys in the elevator had a handlebar mustache.




Montreal Books & Anarchy

La librairie: employ of the Red-headed Anarchist


Montreal Smoked MeatsTout les Quebecois desirent les smoked meats!

Everybody wants smoked meats from Schwarz’s!

** For example, please detour down another aisle if you see me trying to decide b/w 20 oz and 22 oz glasses in Home Goods.  I will be there for at least an hour, sitting in the aisle, taking glasses in and out of boxes, etc.



3 Responses to “Montreal Part Deux: Poetry, Riots, Smoked Meats”

  1. August 17, 2006 at 2:33 pm

    Hey Leigh– I’m amused and flattered to see both me (not actually Jewish, but the rest was true) and my store making a cameo in your blog, but I must jump in to avoid taking credit for the line about poetry after Auschwitz– that was Theodore Adorno’s, not mine. Alas.

    Also, did you make it to Wilensky’s for a “light lunch”? If you only have a few days in town and much of it is covered by conference duties, it’s a nice way to fit a whole lot of Montreal into a little bit of time.

    Hope you had fun,

    jb., of the bookstore.

  2. August 17, 2006 at 3:42 pm

    Ah, my dear new friend Jesse,

    Thanks for the corrections. I will have to relabel you an honorary MOT, as I am, for your informed references to Jewish history and life in Montreal led to my erroneous assumptions about your background. Keep up the good work!

    To bad re: correct ownership of that quote. Really liked it.

    I did make it to Wilensky’s. Place was a trip! Very old school – was really perfectly suited for my boyfriend – this blog’s infamous M.A.S. – who is a fan of all things old and authentic. Per your suggestion (and because there is really very little else on the menu), I had the Wilensky special with Swiss (for you readers following along at home: 4 salami and baloney patties on some mystery grilled bread, with mustard), and some sour pickles. While I ate, the 5 employees (surely parents, kids, sibs, cousins?), stood around behind the counter. The middle-aged guy (son? brother?) made locale-appropriate comments like, “you know, everyone uses the email these days…it costs $29.95 a month, when you could just call someone up for $15!” Place was fabulous. Thanks for the suggestion!

  3. August 18, 2006 at 1:17 pm

    Glad you liked Wilensky’s. It certainly offers the essence of the place here, though it’s been a long time since I received a call from my friend Bartek (left in this photograph; perhaps you saw him in the elevator?) asking whether I had a “light hunger” that could be satisfied by a “light lunch.” Bart, incidentally, being polish and a gourmet, has fairly mocked my vegetarianism for the five years since its inception. I think he’s just sad that we can’t share light lunches anymore, like the springtime Wilensky’s meeting we had in 2000 that was so delicious that we were moved to celebrate it by immediately going out for dessert, which turned out to be so tasty that we then celebrated that by going out for espresso.

    As for our honourary people, I’m of the opinion that one shouldn’t live in Montreal if one isn’t interested in both learning French and learning the history of Jewish folks in town. The Jews here have been historically at odds with the Catholic French, of course– during the anti-conscription riots during WWII, some of which took place the block of St Laurent containing the bookstore and Schwartz’s, a popular chant was “A bas la conscription, a bas les juifs” (down with conscription, down with the Jews). Folks generally get along better than that now, but every once in a while some wingnut separtist runs off his mouth talking about “les juifs” and their famous control of the media and world politics, etc.

    Actually, speaking of Bartek (now that I think of it, an urban planner like you), he visited NOLA less than a year before Katrina and upon returning home said to me, “You must visit New Orleans before it’s destroyed by a flood (!– I guess everyone knew it was coming). It’s the only city I’ve visited in North America that’s anywhere as interesting as Montreal.” So now you’ve seen them both, but alas, I never made it to NOLA. And from what I’ve heard, much of the elements about which Bart was so smitten were washed away. Damn shame, that. It’s good that there are decent people helping get it rebuilt nonetheless.

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