Jump to content

is there something missing when outside Quebec?


steve_36
 Share

Recommended Posts

PEOPLE WHO CHOSE to leave Montreal acknowledge there's an intensity here that exists nowhere else

 

By MARIANNE ACKERMAN, Freelance

 

In deepest Prince Edward County where I spent the summer, Montreal is a pleasant vacation destination, a colourful rumour but not exactly front page. Toronto being only two hours farther west along Lake Ontario, I'd imagined making one or two quick trips, touching bases with people on my email list, and reading the fat metro edition of the Globe and Mail for an idea of what's really happening in that good city. But from the day my 12-year-old nephews helped me rip up the dingy carpet in the farmhouse where I grew up, time and space closed in. We were off on an arduous reno campaign and city life -even this column -ceased to exist.

 

Until I met Pat Scott. A Saturday night, I headed toward Picton and the Waring House, one of the fancy restaurants that have sprung up since "the County" acquired vineyards, to meet a friend from my high school days, Francine Diot, who lives in nearby Grafton. She was bringing a friend whom she described as a former Montrealer always looking for a chance to practise her French. (A French native, Francine often finds herself in the unofficial tutor role.)

 

As it turned out, a very lively evening did not unroll en francais, although every time Pat Marshall Scott used a French word, which was often, her voice slid into another key, as if the words were set in italics. Thoroughly francophile, she speaks French with the clarified buttery accent of a well-bred schoolgirl, and is still burning candles for a place she left more than 40 years ago.

 

"If you could walk away and let it go, it wouldn't matter," she sighed, trying to explain why she felt compelled to pelt me with questions about what Montreal life is like these days for an anglophone of our generation. "I go back often as a visitor, and now that I'm 60 and able to move, I ask myself, could I live there? If so, where? What's it really like, I mean beyond the beauty of the city, the museums, the parts I see on every visit?"

 

I hardly knew what to answer, but it was a rhetorical question anyway, one I've heard before from members in that large group of people who grew up in Montreal and chose to leave. Inevitably, their life stories include a brush with politics. Pat was born in Granby. Her parents, the Marshalls, moved to Beaconsfield, where she went to high school. As a teenager, she made regular trips into the city and learned French. In 1968, she got into l'Ecole des Beaux Arts on Sherbrooke St., but that was the year the teaching staff decided to go on strike instead of teaching, so she didn't get much out of the experience.

 

Instead, at 17 she headed west, enrolled in the Vancouver School of Art, and started painting. In the mid-'70s, she had an exhibition at the Nancy Poole gallery, one of the first in the then-hopping Yorkville area of Toronto, and ended up running the gallery with a partner until retiring in 2003. Now she lives with her husband on a small farm near Grafton. The main crop is lavender. She holds a festival featuring dozens of varieties every spring. A good life, far from what she describes as the "brutal" world of art and even farther from her youthful roots, yet there is that little something missing. A lingering sense of not quite belonging where she is. It's a state of mind, created by the unanswered question, could I live there?

 

Many Ontarians I talk to imagine that the only possible obstacle to being totally happy in Montreal is their inability to speak French. Pat, who has returned regularly to visit family and trade in the antique market, knows differently. "This may sound odd. But the biggest difference I notice about Montreal and other places is, well, let's call it the lack of politesse. Beginning with the way people drive, it's as though they're all living in some kind of bubble and other people don't exist."

 

Her brother, who didn't leave, provides her a window onto a younger scene. "It seems that in Toronto young people are gung-ho to get a career going as soon as possible. Their counterparts in Montreal are so different. They say, 'Oh well, things will happen. Think I'll travel for awhile and maybe the job market will open up.' " Still, she acknowledges the absence of a certain kind of intensity that seems to exist only in Montreal. What's it like to live there now? she wants to know. "Could, well, would you live elsewhere?"

 

Talk about being put on the spot. I calm her anxiety by admitting how annoying it sometimes is to be the invisible minority, and yes I could live elsewhere. Yet I do know how she feels. There isn't a word for it, but there should be: the feeling outside Quebec of something missing. Like after a loud noise stops, the quiet seems strangely empty.

 

[email protected]

 

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/Something+missing+outside+Quebec/3476663/story.html#ixzz0yshetufo

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 22
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

me i know that this true, leaving montreal when i was 12, and i just moved back. Ontario does not have this feeling like montreal/Quebec does... and its hard to explain what it is.... But it is just the way it is!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

me i know that this true, leaving montreal when i was 12, and i just moved back. Ontario does not have this feeling like montreal/Quebec does... and its hard to explain what it is.... But it is just the way it is!

 

Unfortunately, i have to ask you to specify what you mean and find the words to explain yourself a little better.

 

Maybe you can expand by saying why did you move at 12 and why did you come back ?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We move because we wanted to go out of the city (we lived in Vaudreuil) , and get a farm. We fund one in Ontario, and moved. My parents are from Hearts, and we have all of my mother's side in Ontario...

 

Came back for two reasons: Missed it, and to study.

Like i said before, it is hard to explain what it is... its an energy in the air maybe! today i did more visiting and felt in love even more with Montreal!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

American students flock to McGill for two reasons:

 

!-Academic quality

2-MONTREAL! Some come with French, some learn it while there, others enjoy la vie montréalaise from a distance in English. They graduate and leave Montréal with regrets. Increasingly, some stay.

 

American students could care less about Toronto or Kingston.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So Toronto is to ''americanised'' i guess ?

 

If I wanted to go to Toronto, I would go to Chicago. Toronto isn't inherently flawed, but it's an unremarkable mid-western city. Like the RoC, it's quintessentially American, but with a couple of nominal differences in constitutional law and spelling. I do enjoy visiting Toronto, but I enjoy it in the same manner as I do visiting, say, Philadelphia or Portland or San Diego - touring the ostensibly unique hip neighborhoods differentiated only by the puns used in naming the coffeehouses/microbreweries; seeing the cute, tourist centric waterfront/historical district; riding around on the public transit; and attentively listening to locals lecturing on their city's multiethnic-ness. It's pleasant, but not moving.

 

Me, what I love about Quebec - and by extension, Montreal - is its inscrutability, the intangible air of grandeur and dysfunction that permeate this bizarre, wonderful place. I'm agnostic, but raised in the Catholic faith; I feel that, for better or for worse, the Church left a legacy of theatricality (in architecture, in social customs, etc.) and mystery that survived the Quiet Revolution. The Anglo-Saxon tradition of quiet efficiency and stern rigidity never fully took hold here. In Quebec, I feel comfortable. When people discuss past lives, old souls, nonsense, I call "bullshit" - but if past lives were to exist, I would have had spent at least a couple here.

 

I love falling in-and-out of sleep in the backseat of a car, in the dark of night, in the dead of winter, racing down some empty autoroute, catching the dim glow of small towns passing by... and then, the lights of Montreal... or Levis, or wherever. Come daylight, the landscape is charming enough, but I prefer the hydro lines lurching overhead. I love the menacing-looking pylons, those titanic steel monsters towering over the farmland. I love the endless 735kV arteries that pump electricity down from the hinterland, electricity that - when night falls again - will fuel the nighttime glow of the Hydro-Quebec logo. The Hydro-Quebec building is my favorite building in Montreal. And the weather. The fucking winter. The sun that sets at three thirty in the afternoon. The not-quite-first-world incidents and disasters that occur here. It's a place with soul and character, and, like all great characters, it has a dark side - a dark side which only serves to draw you further in.

 

When I had bouts of insomnia during winter, I would walk up to the Mont Royal belvedere at dawn, hazy from a night of restlessness. The sun rises above Mont-St-Bruno, or Mont-St-Hillaire, and light passes though the steam pouring from the various downtown skyscrapers. The flat Monteregian landscape looks absolutely deserted in that light, and the plains stretch to the horizon. Between the cold and the view, you feel like you're at the edge of civilization. And you are: there's Laval to your north, then St-Jerome, then the Laurentians... and then?

 

It's a magical place, full of crumbling concrete, corruption, shitty weather, and oft-surly locals. Maybe I love it because New Jersey is full of crumbling concrete, corruption, shitty weather, and oft-surly locals - but then again, I don't love New Jersey.

 

Love isn't rational, but Quebec is where I love.

 

:quebec:

Edited by gars du new jersey
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share




×
×
  • Create New...