An Impromptu trip back to Montreal & Speaking French

LeClown is a very popular blogger as I am sure many of you know. He has written many great posts, and many popular posts but the post that touched me the most was a recent post: Say We’d Meet.  Read it . I thought I would post a reply-comment I put and then give voice to somethings that have been stirring in my head.

Le Comment


My grandpere lived in Villeray, actually on Rue Villeray two blocks up from Rue St Hubert. There was a little park in front of his place. I remember we used to take the metro at either Jean Talon or Jarry. For about 4 -5 years whenever was on vacation I would spend it there. A lot of my family moved to Montreal so what I liked about it, was that it felt like a big family, which contrasted my NY life. I havent had the opportunity to visit since his funeral almsot 15 years ago. I’ve been meaning to show my lady Montreal and explain to her why I found Jean Coutu so fascinating. There is a quote from Proust I’ve always liked that really encapsulates my want to return ‘home’ in a way: Le véritable voyage de découverte ne consiste pas à chercher de nouveaux paysages, mais à avoir de nouveaux yeux. I remember when I first day in Montreal, this old man came up to me and said hello and I ran back inside. In NYC you dont talk to strangers especially children, I thought he was a child molestor or kidnapper lol but he was just nice. Every trip we would go to the Oratoire de St Joseph and to Chinatown to this buffet to mangez comme un satan (family joke) – lol I’d say an all dressed pizza, this time around I wont get sauce all over me or the table. I’d be more than willing to let you get the amandine if you let me get the poutine one time. Ive still never had it.

A-la-recherche-du-temps-perduLe véritable voyage de découverte ne consiste pas à chercher de nouveaux paysages, mais à avoir de nouveaux yeux.

There are only two cities where Monsieur Marie could see himself living, NYC and Montreal. For the espace of six years I would spend vacation 2.5 months a year living in the quaint neighborhood of Villeray with mon grandpere Charles-Michel, who we lovingly called Papa Michel.  His father my grandfather was a tailor and took him out of school at the third grad for him to work as a tailor. Over the years papa Michel taught him math, Latin, a rudimentary ancient Greek. When I went to his house there was a Quebecois flag proudly raised in his apartment, and quotes and phrases in latin he had written on the wall. He didnt speak english and my french speaking skills were bad, although it was my first language my parents were advised to stop speaking it to me so I would have no accent when I spoke english.  I had a slight accented and I could not say words like: tea, immediately, moment fatigue like an American. High Schooler teacher called used to call me Frenchy. We understood each other though and would laugh a lot and he when he was feeling up to it would walk with me in Parc Jean Marie LaMonde.

What you may not see, or can tell was that my time in Montreal was perhaps the happier moments of my youth. I had a big family in Montreal, and it was relaxing to be amongst family. NYC was very hostile environment to two immigrants from the Caribbean in the 70′ and for their kids in the 80’s. Don’t let all that hipster bullshit, and gentrification twist the shit for ya, this place was fucked up.  As older brother I had many more responsibilities than I should have. I didn’t have friends, I didn’t play with kids in the neighbourhood, I never slept over a friends house or had a friend stay over mine. I could never take a train and just relax, because it was a rough neighbourhood, I had to keep an eye out for myself and my sister when I took her home or when I was looking after her. There are many other things if we knew each other better I would tell you (yeah you reading this) about that forced me to slowly grow ever increasingly silent, and guarded. Stendhal says that the strongest amongst us are usually the most sensitive, which is why we build an armour to shield and protect ourselves. Actually some family friends seeing how I am with my sister lady and friends have given me the nick name of Papa Bear – probably because I am grumpy, hungry all the time, am a bit anti-social unless its mating season and well you get the rest

Life has been so difficult over the last 6 years that I haven’t thought about Montreal or the happy memories,  I haven’t been there since my grandfather’s funeral, and since that time my aunt has died and my grandfather’s wife. Luckily for me this post stoked up the embers and a small fire started up again,

Either way I hope to visit Montreal again in the months to come.

Just thought I’d Share

that’s it


7 thoughts on “An Impromptu trip back to Montreal & Speaking French

  1. Mr. Mary,
    This post really touched me, because of the way that you remember Montreal. I love my city, I could almost say that I am in love with Montreal, because of its history, its culture, because French and English coexist (even if the two cultures often clash), because of it multi-ethnicity. But. There are so many feelings behind your words, Mr. Mary, that I feel proud that Montreal treated you with love and respect.

    If you’re ever in town, please let me know. And I might even write a post about Montreal, dedicated to you, within the next few weeks. Take care, mon ami.
    Le Clown


    1. There is always a special connection between a person and their city. I couldn’t imagine Baudelaire anywhere else but Paris, or Bukowski anywhere but LA. When I was in LA a few months ago I tried to find the point where one can clearly separate Bukowski the man from the city where we from from. They were so well blended. I could say the same for Joyce and Dublin and of course you and Montreal. I always saw Canada or Montreal specifically as a model for coexistence. I just felt like Dave walking through the city. I didn’t feel like the “black guy”, just some mec walking around doing his thing. I always wanted to if I ever became famous do something for Montreal, they gave a whole lot of my family a place to go after leaving Haiti.I will definitely let you know when I visit Montreal again. I want to show my lady around, she doesnt believe that the trains are as quiet as they really are and that the bagels are better than NYC. I have always appreciated your blogging and tIm glad you continue putting out the material you do !


  2. This is beautiful, man. Enjoyed getting to know you 🙂

    Till now I’ve only always known your shield, although you dropped hints that “times were tough”, during our conversations, but never anything more than that.

    I’m happy, too, that besides NYC you had another “home” that treated you better. Who knows what would’ve become of you, if you hadn’t had a history there.

    And I know how you feel about being “the man of the house” as a youngster. Same here.

    Anyway, I’m RT’ing this. 🙂


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