(Chah-Mm-Bell-Eena) Once: My Virtual Italian Notebook. Now: Everything I Love.
Also: the best little donut you've ever tasted.
Wednesday, July 06, 2016
My Montreal Journal
about to publish this excerpt of myMontrealjournal, I realize I've included
almost nothing about where we walked or what we saw (the McCord Museum of
Canadian History, for example, the Parc Jean Drapeau, which overlooks the city,
the Marche Jean Talon where we stocked up on lunch supplies for a picnic). It's
all about me and language. Not even sure what to say about that.
out the lovely park on Rue Beaubien Est across from the cinema, I left out the birreria
where Mike lounged two nights of our stay after Leo went to bed. I left out the
Basilica of Notre Dame and the view of the city we glimpsed from the island
park where we had our picnic (and visited a science museum that was not the
science museum we thought we were visiting).
I also said very little (in the entries below) about the market, which is such a
key part of any vacation we take. The Marche Jean Talon (see the picture above
-- we had the most delightful Quebecois tomatoes there).
Italy! Just a quick mention. Three days, as you will see from my gush of
emotion, are not enough to explore Montreal. Not by a long shot. Just enough to
give you heartache.
This is a city that inspires -- probably everyone -- but
definitely me. A city I’d like to call my own (in the way, as a traveler, I
collect cities around the world).
Visits today to the Marche Jean Talon and Petite Italie
We are skimming the surface. A relatively quick,
disorganized, disjointed shopping excursion followed by the pedestrian
equivalent of a driveby to Little Italy. A cultural fusion that even just
briefly left me sbalordita. An American Italophile in an Italian bastion within
a French-speaking city of a largely Anglophone country. Whoa! Anyway you sliced
it – Bonjour madame or buongiorno, I was good!
All of these glancing encounters temporarily fire up my
brain and lead to brief intellectual explorations that must be aborted. To wit:
*What’s Quebecois culture all about?
*How to understand the fight for instilling the French language as the
dominant form of communication in Montreal
*How does Quebecois Italian culture fit in?
*What can the U.S. learn about relations with indigenous
*Click on continua a leggere below to read more...
When we visited Little Italy -- Petite Italie -- I wandered into a bookstore ('Librarie Italienne' look like magical words to me), and the proprietor said, "Buongiorno. Cerchi qualcosa di particolare?" You know, as if the shop were in Rome. Another shop sold the Italian newspaper and a recent copy of L'Espresso (which I bought because Renzi was on the cover with a very clever hashtag headline).
This morning when we woke up, the kittens belonging to the
duplex next door were lined up on the patio and suckling milk from the Mommy
our neighborhood in Montreal and from across the street I peer into a salon
where a small boy is squirming in the arms of his father, crying, scared, as a
hairdresser hovers about his head, trying gamely to snip a few lock. A scene of
uncommon yet everyday tenderness that draws me into Montreal and a mere 36
hours into my stay convinces me I’m a part of the city and it is a part of me.
for theLeojournal: “Rain is like a shower for
animals,” and “It could be funny if chickens knowed how to drive!” Oh dude it
already is funny!
about the houses…they are lovely! They are two story apartment buildings that
sort of look like homes you’d expect to see in New Orleans perhaps because they
have prominent outdoor stairs linking the upper unit to the sidewalk. Stairs
that people sometimes paint pretty colors or adorn with plants. Bikes grip the
railings of every other bottom unit’s front gate. Touches of home, touches of
personality, the sense of home pride….everywhere, everywhere on the facades of
these apartment homes.
journal update: I’ve learned to say bonne
opposed to “bonjour” at the end of transactions, as I’m saying goodbye to
merchants, and given the hum in my step, you’d think I’d discovered the cure
for cancer. Really: big whoop since it’s the same in Italian. Buona giornata or
buona serata (note the suffix ‘ata’) when you’re taking your leave. But
whatevs. I’m re-learning French!Bonne journée!
after dinner as the sun prepares to set, casting my new neighborhood in a
golden glow, as if anything more were needed to render these days in sepia
tones. The sunset’s palette adds texture to an already dimpled urban French
neighborhood. The duplexes, each different, each an opportunity for human
contact – not that I would necessarily be talking to anyone but for research
purposes. I try to divine something or instill some sense of kinship because I
see a flower pot, a bike chained to a railing, a wreath on a door. As if the
eye were begging for variation. Even when the nuance or variation is a vacant
storefront (rare) or a cluttered porch. Somehow these somewhat unpleasant variations
set the stage even better for tender displays of picture-perfect flower boxes,
a family of cats supping on a patio, an aged but stately stained glass window
in a home.
becomes purple as I walk and I crane my neck to see more of the sunset. I even
cross the street to improve my vantage point. I know this moment, occasioned by
the decision on a whim to take a walk when otherwise I would be reading or
working, is special. I was meant to fall in love just a little more with
Montreal, and the sunset’s colorful blanket thrown so perfectly over the
neighborhood is doing the trick. I see people pass me on bikes in the street,
while others push personal fold-up shopping carts along the sidewalk.
I catch a
glimpse of soccer players on a sliver of parkland I spy between duplexes. I’m
writing an ode to something simple yet lived-in, loved-in. Ode to the basic
architecture of a neighborhood that has a bit of everything – as good city
nabes do – a church, a corner store, a grocer, an off-license, a hair salon, a
book shop, a toy emporium, a real estate office, the tax attorney, the plumber,
the driving school(automatique
et manuelle). Plus a glance down an alley is repaid as if a glimpse
into a diary: those back decks stuffed with people’s lives that one spies
between duplexes and humble neighborhood businesses.
again I’m beggared for a reason I get to observe so much. How a five-minute
walk is a passage into the sublime. Nothing wrong with the suburbs or the
countryside. But the myriad impressions of the human stamp become a feast of
plenty. One more pang for someone who’s always searching for the perfect city
and who knows it’s stitched together with a 1,000 imperfect but highly
imaginative, highly personal strands (no cookie-cutter cul de sacs here).
Montreal, after all these years (~three decades),oui oui je t’aime.
absolutely deserves a week, in addition to a repeat visit. The people are
lovely, the city – especially this neighborhood with its rowhouse duplexes – is
a place to settle into, the food a dieter’s nightmare, which is so good for a
foodie vacation spot. I listen now as the family below us – the family renting
us our apartment – is playing out a Tuesday night. Dinner, familiar yelling
between the main house and an out building where they appear to hole up when
this apartment where we are is occupied. My view from the kitchen a cozy, leafy
enclave framed by back veranda. It gives onto the bowels of a residential
neighborhood where 'bowels' means how we live and love and cook and vent.
Montreal Journal. Here it is. In dribs and
drabs. So overwhelmed, so caught off guard, so trying to hold it together so
I'm not submerged into another intellectual obsession.
like these, I see everything through the prism of whether I understand or not,
whether I make myself understood or not.
dangerous to drop an aspiring writer, such as myself, with an incurable
addiction to Romance languages, into a proud Francophone city like Montreal.
Within hours, I’ve hatched half a dozen projects in my mind, including
translating a French Canadian book that would illustrate the culture’s fight
against English-language hegemony. All because I was able to say
"Bonjour" and "je voudrais" and "comme ca" a few
If I look
back, as in if I think for a moment about the days that came before, I realize
Bennington is over. I realize I have my Masters (which for better or for worse
means I’ve now shifted the goal posts so it almost doesn’t mean what it used to
mean). I realize one of the most incredible experiences of my life has
concluded, has changed my life and I’m left watching it recede in the rear view
mirror. Not unhappily – I'm in Montreal and it’s awesome.
some ways I won’t really be reckoning with it until I return home to Atlanta at
the end of next week. I see it as a the real-life equivalent of staring at the
blank page. No work at CNN. No other work of any kind, save one freelance
article assignment. The actual start of the rest of my life.
be on vacation!
dangerous for a writer to go to a foreign city….and by dangerous I mean,
there’s a very real peril of the writer going insane from a linguistic
orgasm…especially if the writer knows even jut a little of the country’s native
in Montreal dumbfounded and ecstatic about being surrounded by French and I
think, almost instantly, what would it take to become fluent? Or semi-fluent?
Without having spoken French since visiting Luxembourg in 1997, I’m able to
tell the waiter that I do want to speak French but I’ve just arrived and need a
moment to get myself acclimated. Then I order my dinner at La Boulette, a nice
neighborhood restaurant inRosemount-La
the little country'). Later, I order ice cream.
soak in the surprisingly foreign vibe of Montreal. A city surrounded by the
English language and its serpent-like hold on communications world-wide. And
yet I feel as though I am in a French version of London. Every sign is in
French and French only. Every transaction is presumed to be in French until you
signal you’re an idiotic American who can’t step up.
architecture of this neighborhood (again, called 'Rosemount-La Petite Patrie')
– a Montrealian’s Montreal nabe, I would say – is just delightful, duplex
apartments with second floor balconies and front stoops overflowing with
flowers and bikes and the odd pair of running shoes oh and personality.
It would take nothing to be sucked into the allure of
June 27, 2016
On the highway, the signs as we near Canada say“hebergement”– lodging! I'm giddy with excitement!
Il sole quando sorge, Sorge piano E poi la luce si diffonde Tutto intorno a noi Le ombre ed i fantasmi della notte Sono alberi e cespugli Ancora in fiore Sono gli occhi di una donna Ancora piena d'amore. (il mitico Lucio Battisti)
Dante's Inferno (opening verses)
Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita mi ritrovai per una selva oscura, ché la diritta via era smarrita. * Ahi quanto a dir qual era è cosa dura esta selva selvaggia e aspra e forte che nel pensier rinova la paura! * Tant' è amara che poco è più morte; ma per trattar del ben ch'i' vi trovai, dirò de l'altre cose ch'i' v'ho scorte.
CANTO I, 1-9
Beach parking lot -- Peschici (FG), Puglia
Few things make me laugh as much as the sign on this building.