Monday, December 07, 2009

oh montréal, you are such a snob.

Carrie Carm and I spent about 5ish years living in Montréal. We are largely fond of the experience. I really liked the fact that my french immersion education was finally useful on a daily basis. Finding paying work was another matter.


And then we got a horrible phone call and very suddenly the whole Montréal experience came to an end.


So we came out here to Vancouver. We live in an area known as Mount Pleasant. I’m almost as pleased about that as when we lived on Parc Ave on the border of Mile End and Outremont. And just like the name, the Mt. Pleasant neighbourhood is very nice. Yup, people smile back, and it is pleasant.



Before we left La Belle Province, we heard from some friends how Vancouver has no ‘soul’ (I’m paraphrasing here, I don’t know that anyone said soul. One friend said that Vancouver has no genitals. I quite liked that statement, though I’m still trying to figure out what that means since East Hastings strikes me as the anus of Canada, so the proverbial genitals can’t be that far away.)


A former colleague told me that I would have no creative/professional future in Vancouver, despite it’s status as Hollywood North. This is the same colleague who promised me much money and fame in Montréal... but when the EI ran out, the promised funds never managed to make the short trip to my bank account. Their are plenty of wealthy people in Montréal. The money just doesn’t seem to flow all that well. I think there is some sort of blockage between Westmount and Mile End.


I’m not entirely bitter about my friends saying these things though. Our sudden exodus was not done under happy circumstances and mostly our friends just didn’t want us to leave.


However, I had already heard much of what Montréalers had had to say about the west in general. Being from Edmonton meant that I couldn’t possibly speak french and that my education couldn’t possibly be up to par. Sometimes I laughed at the ignorance, but it began to grate on me after not too long as it seemed to be tied to how I was viewed professionally.


Clearly a slightly delusional view of their city had clouded their collective brains. When a documentary director I was working with asked a former hassidic jew how he defined himself, he proudly declared that he saw himself as a montréaler before anything else, including jewish, male, human or canadian. I stayed silent, but outraged. There is something ironically small minded about thinking that simply living in a certain city will provide you with an open mind and artistic heart. When people gasp around the world at the Cirque de Soleil, it only adds to the mystique.


Yesterday, Carrie provided me with this link to a video blog done by a cute montréal francophone named Catherine. It certainly has production value. The intro clearly shows Montréal as a party capital. Montréalers tend to think that they are the only folks in Canada having sex, that anglophones don’t even masturbate, don’t know how to express themselves, aren't in the least artistic and are painfully shy.


Well, Catherine certainly didn’t disappoint. Vancouver is described as “a pretty 16 year old girl who hasn’t learnt to drink yet.” I’m not even stretching the truth here. That is a word for word translation.


Furthermore, Vancouverites are viewed as shy, friendly people. Really? Shy and friendly? Can’t say that the evidence even in their video clips shows this. The host goes on to interview Nardwuar the human serviette, which pretty much blows her view of Vancouver to shreds. What a freak! And there is a long list of strange and wonderfully unique people who came from out west.


Somehow Catherine and her interview subjects, two of which are montréalers that moved here, see themselves as open and relaxed artists amongst a bunch of prudes. All this while walking around my new neighbourhood and enjoying the cute, artistic boutiques and cafés of East Vancouver, failing to see how similar East Van is to the Plateau area of Montréal. Sure the architecture is different, but the same sort of comic books and artistic shops exist. The rent is just double.


Yesterday I spent a good hour at an over crowded craft fair selling the exact same sort of knitted goods, belt buckles, artisan chocolates and other assorted gifts. It was only a slightly smaller version of expozine in Montréal. The main difference was that the sellers were friendly and happy to engage in conversation even if you didn't buy anything. Despite the lack of french being spoken, I couldn't really tell the difference between the Mile end craft fair and the Commercial Drive craft fair. See how similar it all is?


I’m a little tired of this incredible regionalism, especially as it pertains to Québec. They are a distinct society, but so is Edmonton, Yellowknife, St. John’s, and so and and so forth. Canada is full of distinct societies. I have been lucky enough to visit and live in many of them and certainly not all. But on focusing on ridiculously pointless facts such as french being ranked at only the 9th most spoken language in Vancouver, what are you really saying? By putting down an entire city as being too innocent to live in the sexually charged way that Montréal does is not only insulting, but completely false.


On one final note, the back pages of the weekly art newspapers out here have just as many ads to cater to the pervert in all of us. Montréal, you are not as distinct as you think, especially in matters regarding genitals, proverbial and otherwise.


You do make a fine, unequaled bagel though.


5 comments:

Anonymous said...

The "video blog" you mention is actually a tv show, Mange ta ville, which airs on ARTV, the french cultural channel. It's essentially about Montreal: places, artists, new music, etc. It's very left-field, choosing to focus on alternative and emerging trends.

Every year, they visit a different city. This year was Vancouver. The whole intro of the show is basically Vancouver trivia. It quotes people and articles. The quote you mention is from Vice Magazine: "Vancouver is a lot like a hot young girl-she looks good, smells good, is firm and soft in all the right places, but is ultimately a naively cocky mess of contradictions that can't hold her liquor."

I don't think that the show is looking down on Vancouver. It's actually trying to show how it differs from other cities - and that's why we like it.

And you wrote: "But on focusing on ridiculously pointless facts such as french being ranked at only the 9th most spoken language in Vancouver, what are you really saying?"

Perhaps they're trying to say that french is one of the many languages spoken in Vancouver? Maybe that's why 5 other languages are mentioned before french is? And how is that a pointless fact for a french show catering to french montrealers?

You are right that Vancouver is often described as more laid-back, although not in a boring way I don't think. A lot of montrealers are attracted by that easy-going side of Vancouver.

You're being harder on Vancouver than Mange ta ville is, it seems. Watch the episode again with a francophone friend who'll be able to translate it for you properly, maybe?

- A Vancouver lover living in Montreal

Pamplemousse said...
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Anonymous said...

Luv it! I'm from TO, currently visiting Montreal, but living in Edmonton! Seriously. And on top of that... I've lived in the downtown East Side. I love how you draw parallels between Montreal and Vancouver as they are not entirely dissimilar. I've attributed this to the fact that both are very young and Bourgeois... Both are highly populated by "mediocre" middle class students. Albeit Vancouver being without winter and industry, tends to be the more uneducated and simple minded of the two. You'll notice the "youth" population in both cities is ginormous.