Some might say that Montreal is over-represented in 50 Canadians.
And, yes, within its pages we do find Leonard Cohen, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Guy Laliberte, Louise Arbour, Oscar Peterson, Jacques Plante, Michaelle Jean, Romeo Dallaire, and Celine Dion. But I only included them because they made me do so.
Fact is, much as I hate Calgary and Vancouver, I hate Montreal more. I hate it, first, because of Old Montreal. Last night, again, we made our way down the hill and wandered along the narrow brick streets to Creperie Suzette on Rue Saint-Paul, where I trotted out my rusty French and we had a splendiferous meal while, outside the window, a light snow began falling. Oh, how I hated that.
I hate Montreal, secondly, because it has Paragraphe Bookstore, one of Canada’s greatest independents. Paragraphe hosts this outstanding reading series called Books and Breakfast, which boasts a huge following of discerning readers. They came to the Sheraton this morning and welcomed Don Newman, Mark Abley, and me so warmly that I began to hate Paragraphe because it is not everywhere in Canada, and especially because it is not, as it once was, walking distance from my home.
That brings me to the third reason I hate Montreal, and this is the clincher: for me, the city overflows with fond memory – oh, and more than that, because not only was I born here and raised nearby (yo, Lake of Two Mountains High!), but my father grew up downtown, and he planted in me all of his memories, dating back to the 1930s and the Great Depression. So his memories come back to me as well. And then there was coming and going to Deux Montagnes from Central Station, and working at Sun Life, and slipping out to Place Ville Marie during Trudeaumania, to catch Pierre Elliott Trudeau among the hordes that came out when first he ran for election. In Montreal, every street corner does something like that to me. And that, as you can imagine, I really, really hate.